Roller Derby mom of 8 inspires with World Cup selection
Terrace's Sasheen Wesley, a.k.a. 'Bash-Full', is off to England to play for international Team Indigenous
When she was little, other kids at school gave Sasheen Wesley a nickname.
"They started calling me 'Bashful' because I was so shy," the soft-spoken 33-year-old said from her home in Gitaus, northeast of Terrace, B.C.
Twenty-five years on, the name has stuck. Only now, Bashful has evolved into "Bash-Full" — a fast-skating, hard-hitting roller derby star and mother of eight who has just been named to international Team Indigenous.
"I was very shocked," says Wesley about making the cut. "I couldn't stop smiling for days."
The newly formed team is set to debut at the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester, England on Feb. 1.
Wesley is one of 20 women selected. The others come from elsewhere in Canada, the United States, Argentina, New Zealand and Samoa.
In the tradition of the sport, they all have awesome roller derby nicknames: Smoka Hontas is Ojibwe and Dakota, and SiouxperNova is of Yankton Sioux heritage. Victoria Deckem is Tlingit.
Bash-Full, a.k.a. Wesley, is Tsimshian Nation, and has never travelled farther than Alberta.
So, travelling to England won't just be the biggest trip she's ever taken. It will also be a beautiful moment in what has been a long and sometimes difficult personal journey.
Athletic childhood, tough teen years
In elementary school, Wesley played basketball, volleyball and soccer. But things changed when the high school years hit.
Wesley dropped out of school and had her first child when she was 17. Somewhere in the blur of raising young children and enduring an abusive relationship, alcohol became a problem.
Her first, fleeting exposure to roller derby came during Terrace's Riverboat Days parade in 2012. Players from the home town North Coast Nightmares skated by, decked out in their signature red helmets, striped socks, fishnet stockings and black eyeliner.
"I thought they were neat," recalls Wesley. "I've always liked anything that's unique."
A few months later, while attending a trades class at the local college, she happened upon a flyer advertising the Nightmares' Fresh Meat program for new recruits.
Fear of falling
A competitive instinct that had been buried for years sparked back to life. Despite some nervousness, she signed up.
"I was scared. I had never skated on quad skates before ... and I was worried about falling," she said.
"But they teach you how to fall safely, and then they encourage you to fall with style. And everyone cheers for you when you fall, which doesn't make it scary anymore."
After four weeks in the Fresh Meat program, Wesley was given the opportunity to join the team.
She jumped at the chance to become a Nightmare.
No saying sorry in roller derby
Nightmares' head coach Chris Thomas remembers doubting if Wesley had the right stuff for roller derby in those early days.
"It's a full contact sport and she was a fairly timid skater ... very reluctant to hit people and apologetic for doing so," Thomas said.
Just like there's no crying in baseball, there's no saying sorry in roller derby. Equal parts speed skating, football and pro wrestling, hitting — and being hit — is essential.
Despite those fearful first strides, Wesley stuck with it. The more she skated, the more her confidence grew.
She also started working out regularly and paying attention to nutrition. And she stopped drinking.
"Battling addiction was hard but when I became focused on derby I would actually rather work out or get to derby practice than drink with my friends," she said.
Roller derby is played five a side, with each team normally putting four blockers and one jammer on the floor.
After two years, Wesley's skills became strong enough for her to switch positions, moving from blocker to jammer.
The jammer's job is to break through the opposing team's blockers, scoring points by lapping opposing players. It's a role in which Wesley's quick reflexes and small, five-foot, two inch frame can come in handy.
"A lot of the women are bigger and taller than me but … sometimes they can't see me and they can lose track of me," she said.
It also helps that Wesley lost the need to say sorry all the time.
"She's quite aggressive now and it's excellent to watch," says Thomas.
Juggling the demands of derby and a blended family with eight children ages 11 months to 16 years is not for the faint of heart.
But the Wesley clan has gone all in to support her passion.
The abusive relationship from years earlier is over. Her new partner is trying to figure out how he can get to Manchester to cheer on Bash-Full and Team Indigenous in their world debut.
The four oldest children have joined the Nightmares' junior derby team.
"My children are proud of me and happy for me and wanting to follow me into roller derby. That is so much pride for me," Wesley said.
Team Indigenous hasn't met in person, but players have been Skyping regularly and trading competition video to get to know each other's playing style.
The women already feel connected, and for reasons other than roller derby: Wesley said they all struggle with the tragedy of missing and murdered Indigenous women in their communities.
The team has pledged to donate 10 per cent of all its fundraising to a MMIW organization.
The women will come together as a team for the first time in Manchester on Jan. 29, two days before the tournament begins.
"To compete at the World Cup and show the world who we are, that's a big deal."