OK, I’m not quite a mainstay in the pace line just yet. I’m still trying to teach my body derby position and slapping the track with my backparts and frontparts a few times each practice. But, I’m getting a little better at each time and I’m not as sore as when I first started. (Still sore though!) My first exposure to real, live roller derby was four years ago when a good friend (and ARG skater) invited a group from our workplace to see a bout. I was hooked from the first jam. Derby is incredible! The speed, the hits, the awesome names, the BYOB, and the atmosphere were exactly what I wanted in a sport; and this sport had it all in a very unique format. Derby drew me in and made me want to have that same amazing experience again. To hear Sweet Willy explain the rules for new fans pre-bout. To watch some of the greatest skaters in the world take the track. To try to drink a beer through a spandex mask covering my mouth. I was lucky to have found a team of wonderful people who let me bounce around the sidelines for them as their mascot, and get the crowd just as excited as I am every time I walk into Shriner’s and see this great sport played. I was accepted into a derby family and encouraged to be creative. It’s 10 lb of wonderful stuffed into a 5 lb bag.
Since then I’ve come to appreciate the sport for its rule set. I now know the legal areas to hit someone. I think I understand when the star pass can take place (?). I yell at skaters when they cut track, and yell at refs when the call it on the Sake Tuyas. I think yelling at refs is allowed. If it is prohibited, then that wasn’t me yelling.
I found myself curious about balancing my weight across eight wheels while jockeying for position against other skaters; experienced skaters. I know it would be really awesome to blaze past opposing blockers or rattle a jammer, but I’ve thought my ineptitude on skates would make that impossible. After a few practices, my groggy-toddler skating style that’s made me thankful for my pads has slowly turned into something resembling derby form. Emphasis on “resembling”. Now, instead of thinking about staying upright, I think about where other skaters are on the track and getting lit up going around a turn. No promises on what the future holds, but I hope it’s me still upright after getting hit. At least once. Someone take a picture for proof if it happens.
At practice, I’ve thought a lot of things. I’m unsteady. I haven’t been doing this for long. I’m slow. I need to react more quickly. My legs hurt. I need to push through the burning in my thighs so I can go further next week. My back hurts. Why haven’t you been doing more core work? My head is covered in sweat. Stop trying to take your helmet off while on skates, Jazzy will yell at you. These pads smell. The pads are going to smell.
But, the negatives end at my personal weaknesses and my weaknesses slip further by with each practice. AMRD is full of supportive skaters, all of whom radiate positivity and are accepting of my complete lack of skill. The other fresh meat and I lean on one another to give feedback and positivity when we see that one of us needs it. The trainers bring a wealth of experience and knowledge which they unselfishly share with us. Now, instead of thinking about trackback and the ibuprofen I’ll need later, I’m focusing on pushing through to 100%. I’m thinking about aligning my nose, knees, and toes. I’m thinking about my fellow meat and how we can get better together. My weaknesses are slowly slipping further into the back of my mind as I push myself forward and accomplish new goals each week. It’s incredibly rewarding for my own performance to improve, but even more rewarding when those improvements are happening for all of us derby hopefuls still in training. The ‘Gents are an incredible group who are even better people than they are skaters. And they’re pretty great skaters.