A teammate asked me to put together a workout routine and I came up with the below. More to come but this is my debut…
(Perseverance) definition: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.
There will be days where I don’t want to push anymore. Days where I’m tired, and can’t feel my legs. My muscles ache, my heart is about to explode out of my chest, and my mind tells me I’m just no good at this. I shove my gear inside my bag like I want to stuff it inside a garbage can. I drive away from practice, replaying every minute I didn’t do something good, which to me was 95% of the time. I’m filled with anger at myself, disappointment that my body can’t move like I want it to move yet. For twenty minutes on the ride home, and then the entire following night, I just beat myself up.
In those moments of doubt, and self-sabotage, I forget I showed up to practice, I geared up and gave it my all. I fought all I could, even if I didn’t do things perfectly. I listened, and implemented the advice the best I could. I focused on my bad habits, and corrected them. I went out there, I sweated and stayed the full two hours.
I’m not paid to do this. I’m not asked to get bruised, to sprain ligaments, or strain muscles. No one is holding a gun to my head forcing me to skate. I show up voluntarily because I love it. Loving it doesn’t mean every practice will be great. Just like a relationship, I’m going to have my “fuck it” moments, but I don’t leave. I let go of the anger, and I keep showing up.
Success is mostly perseverance. Hard work being done in and out of the track, on a consistent basis, whether I’m tired or not. Whether I’m in the mood or not. Whether I feel like I’m going to fly, or land on my ass the entire time. I keep pushing, because I know someday it’s going to click. Something is finally going to make sense, and all my sweat, tears, and cries of frustration will remind me of how much I wanted this, and how much I fought for this, by day and night.
The light shines on those who have been training in the dark for years. The road to success is paved with challenges. What I want to make of those challenges will define my journey. I can’t look at mistakes like failures. I can’t stop pushing when I’m only one step away from breaking through a plateau. I can’t tell myself this is it, because I’m worth so much more than that. Every step forward makes me a better skater.
Persevere through heartaches, life struggles, and personal bottoms. Persevere and leave it all on the track, where no one judges you. Persevere and strive to improve your game. Persevere and thrive. Persevere and win. If you fall, get back up. This is your time.
It doesn’t matter whether it takes hundreds or thousands of tries, I will make it happen, because deep down I know I can do it.
So can you.
“Why do you need to rent a place? Just sleep at the rink!”
Roller derby isn’t just about roller skating. When I joined as freshmeat, more senior skaters mentioned here and there about being involved outside of coming to practice, and in my head, it sounded very much like this far reality that I’d get to see in maybe ten years, if I lasted that long.
Truth is, I started putting in the hours at practice and then was asked to help with bout production, until I saw my name on a committee list and very quickly, my entire life had become roller derby.
Like many other skaters, I have a full time job, I have a family, a house to care for, and other hobbies that don’t necessarily involve roller skating or cross-training, plus, I like to sleep. Oh yeah, I really like to sleep. Gosh knows how important a good diet and enough sleep are to our performance on the track so… How could I do it all without crashing in the process?
Well, finding that balance wasn’t without hitting big bumps on the road. Let’s also note that I’m not rostered on a travel team yet. This post will probably see a sequel once that fun stuff happens.
I had my struggles at home and work, dealing with my newly found derby love, which to many looked more like an addiction. The unmanageability of spending so many hours doing anything derby related and trying to live the rest of my life was rearing its ugly head, and nagging me!
“It’s derby or this!”
Derby really felt like another relationship or commitment no one understood but anyone involved in derby. I felt like I was doing something wrong. There was no way in hell I’d give up derby, but I also didn’t want to give up on the rest of my life.
Roller derby can be overwhelming without a conscious effort to keep the rest of my life as full and productive as possible. I need to make time for my family. I need to make time for me. The line can be so easily crossed, and all of a sudden, yes, derby becomes a time-chugging monster.
What I read and heard many many times, is that derby doesn’t last forever. Right now it may seem like I’m going to spend the rest of my happy life bodyslamming on eight wheels, but I won’t. The time will come, and I’ll wave my goodbye to the derby world to resume my beautiful life… Do I want to resume such life without my house, my family, my job? Obviously not. If I keep this thought in perspective, then I know what my priorities are.
Needless to say, I dedicate a lot of my free time to roller derby, and I love my league and teammates like a family. I also understood that having balance in my life was extremely important so I could be fully there for my league. The last thing I want is to grow any kind of resentment because “derby is stealing all my time”. Drawing the line of “too much is too much” is tricky though, and is different from person to person.
In the long run, I make a priority to be happy. As long as I’m aware of my obligations and fulfill them to the best of my abilities, I can do pretty much anything. The rink remains my natural habitat but I still spend time doing other fun things, like gardening, watching a movie, or hitting the skate park for instance. 😉
I must remind myself that derby will be there when I tend to my other obligations, and I’m not the only derby girl out there who has to deal with life emergencies. There are chores we all need to do-like laundry!!- but derby hopefully isn’t one of them.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you balance your life and roller derby?
Yesterday during practice, a vet asked me if I had ever heard of the “friendly side”. I shook my head, because that thing was new to me. Just like “eating the baby” or “trapping a goat”, the derby jargon sounds like it was born in a fantasy novel.
She proceeded to explain the friendly side to me. In short, as a jammer, I should always look for the blocker(s) who’s/are on my team and use her/them to get me through the pack, instead of ramming into the opposing jammers, and potentialy getting trapped or desperately trying to move them with my mightiest power, and wearing myself out in the process. I knew the concept of “don’t go for the opposing team” sounded logical, but in practice, especially when looking for holes at the start of a jam to get out of there quickly as lead, my first thought wasn’t to go for my blockers. My first thought was: how the heck do I break through that impenetrable wall of opposing blockers, who are looking at me like they want to crush my soul, and make it out alive?
Picture my Eureka moment. The friendly side is a pretty good tool to have in my derby kit, especially when I can use my own blockers as shield and weapons to move through the pack.
Obviously, as I’m looking for holes, I also need to be aware of where my blockers are. If they’re not anywhere around, I’m going to get my soul crushed a little bit. That’s where sharks and seals come in.
A great video to watch and learn about sharks and seals is the one by Bonnie D. Stroir, where she refers to sharks and seals to understand the strategy about navigating the pack, and staying pretty much alive as the jammer-seal is being hunted by these bloodthirsty blocker-sharks. The strategy makes complete sense.
Don’t let the sharks win!
And like that sticker says… yes, I asked myself the same question when people started talking to me about the dreaded 27 laps in 5… MINUTES!
I honestly wasn’t scared of the 27/5 until everyone mentioned it like it was the worst thing in the world. Mind me, I read so many forum and blog posts, as well as watched a plethora of YouTube videos on the subject, I began to freak out too. All of a sudden, skating 27 times around the track as fast as I could had become the hardest thing on my to-do list.
In theory, the 27/5 shouldn’t be the hardest thing to do, given there are skills out that are much harder to pass. See, the secret lies in form, and the mental game yet again.
- Skate that diamond: Quadzilla has an amazing YouTube video on the subject, link here.
- The diamond looks like this:
- The diamond allows you to go around the track without losing speed. If you don’t skate the diamond, you will lose momentum in the turns, and spend way too much time tiring yourself out trying to regain that speed in the straight-aways, which in the end will be completely counter-productive. I remember how my leg muscles used to lock and hurt so much from me pushing like a mad woman trying to get that speed back, while braking in the turns so I wouldn’t fly into the wall, or skaters nearby. The pain was atrocious. I’d burn out so quick, I couldn’t believe it.
- Cross over the entire time: coasting will kill you. Crossing over the entire time will definitely keep you going at a nice pace of 5-6 laps per minute. Just stay low, move your arms, and push with that under leg.
- Breathe: Inhale. Exhale. Keep it steady. Keep it calm.
- Don’t freak out about other people on the track: When taking the 27/5, you may not be alone on the track. You not only have to worry about skating that gosh darn diamond, you also have to be aware of your faster and slower peers who share the track with you. I stayed stuck behind people a lot. Just skate around them. Seriously. You’ll lose a little bit of speed in the process, but if you stay focused on crossing over, it won’t hurt you in the long run.
It’s a lot to think about. Wait, there’s one more thing, probably the most important.
YOUR MENTAL GAME
The first time I tried the 27/5, I had no expectations. I skated around the track, and I didn’t care about the diamond, crossovers, my breathing and people around. I just skated. I pushed as hard as I could, and when the five minutes ended, my result was 21.
Everyone cheered. They said for a first time, it was awesome. It is awesome! 18 laps are awesome too! So are 15 laps, 13, 11, even 1. I strapped wheels to my feet and went around that track as fast as my legs took me. I did it! I was so pumped I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.
However, that moment of pure derby high came to an abrupt halt when the all so expected “let’s compare myself to others” moment made its gleeful arrival. It’s a completely natural thing to look at the number of laps you did, and then compare yourself to what others did. Let me tell you, I did 21, and then someone did 26, and I immediately felt like the biggest piece of trash on earth. I didn’t care that it was my first time. I didn’t care that I couldn’t skate at all one month prior. I only cared about that number. 21. I said to myself, next time, I got this in the bag.
Roller derby is an amazing sport as it teaches me patience. The stuff I want doesn’t happen on my clock. It happens on the Roller Derby Gods’ clock. The 27/5 is a perfect example to prove that.
My second time, I told myself I was going to push harder, and I skated 25.5 with no crossovers, no diamonds, and trucks and cushions so tight and hard… I had no clue what I was doing. 25.5 was amazing. A few years back, I would have passed and called it quits. But no. Now it was 27! Argh! So close.
Okay, third time, I did what I could but my mental game wasn’t there at all. I freaked out about all the people on the track. I freaked out about my form. I freaked out about everything. No matter the amount of cheering, I executed 23 laps.
I was so mad at myself. How could I do this? I had it. My trucks weren’t so tight anymore, and I quasi-skated that diamond, and quasi-skated crossovers. I hydrated, ate properly and my muscles were still locking but I pushed and pushed and pushed… My amount of determination was so high, I had to try again that same evening. Fourth try, I did 24.5.
Alright. I didn’t admit it to anyone, I kept a smile on my face, but deep down, I beat myself up so hard, I was dying. Why couldn’t I pass?
Months went by until the next try. I kept skating and improving, and every time I took that track to practice my laps, I worked on my form. My crossovers were slowly getting there. My diamond looked better. I still stood too straight, and didn’t lean enough into the turns.
The fifth try came. I freaked out about it a lot. I wanted to pass so bad. Instead of beating myself up though, I told myself I could do this. I pictured myself skating these laps. I pictured myself making it to 27.
You don’t have to skate perfectly to achieve 27 laps in 5 minutes. Many skaters achieve 30, 32, 35 laps later on. 27 is not a hard number to hit. It is a hard number to hit if you skate with the wrong state of mind though. How many skaters out there repeat, day in and day out, to just stay confident! Progress is slow, but is there if you keep at it. Some folks pass the 27/5 after the second try, some after the fifteenth try. It doesn’t matter. The amount of tries doesn’t matter.
Remember these four elements, which can be applied to anything else by the way… not just the 27/5.
- STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
- GO BACK TO BASICS
- WORK ON BASICS UNTIL YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE
- PICTURE YOURSELF ON THAT TRACK, AND WIN IT.
My mental game can make me or break me. It can make or break any one of us out there. Stop feeling like you’re not going to master this thing. I eventually passed my laps once I stopped telling myself I was a failure. I did the 27/5 again during FM assessments, and I passed again. My form was okay, it could have been better, but what helped me pass was my state of mind. I was 100% there. I was 100% focused. I pushed, I breathed, and I didn’t doubt.
Is the 27/5 hard? Yes, it is just as many other skills in roller derby. Your life doesn’t stop at a number. Your worth doesn’t stop at a number. Just stay confident.
Believe in yourself. You got this.
Ah minimum skills.
The Freshies on my league have their mins testing on Monday. Watching them get ready reminded me of how I felt as I went through the same motions only a few months ago.
Yep. My freshie testing was November 19, 2015. My first testing was sometime in June of 2015, I can’t remember the exact date because I didn’t pass.
I say that for a reason. I didn’t pass the first time I tested. Did I die? Was my life over? Was I finished with derby? Nope.
Some skaters expressed how life changing derby is; I’ve expressed the same. Some folks who participated in team sports in their youth also expressed how hard derby was compared to whatever discipline they were into before. I can’t really speak about team sports as derby is the first team sport I’m in, but I can speak about sports in general and the disciplines I was into. My biggest one was skiing, and guess what? My biggest disappointment happened when I didn’t pass one of the skill tests, because I couldn’t turn while keeping my feet perfectly parallel.
I must have been twelve years old. Until then I had always passed everything on the first try. So imagine my little heart broken to pieces when told I had failed! I cried behind my goggles and they fogged up. I was so angry at myself. How could I be such a failure?
My life wasn’t over though.
I didn’t quit skiing after that unfortunate episode. I eventually managed to ski with my feet parallel, and I looked very good. My coach told me I should start doing competitions. Ah, I just wanted to have fun so I said “thanks, no thanks”, and I kept on skiing and enjoying myself without further testing.
This was the first of many fails I would deal with in my life, but that one was important because it didn’t involve school, relationships, or work. It involved sports. What did I learn from that experience? I failed, but I didn’t give up. I did what I had to do to succeed. Timelines didn’t matter. I just knew I’d pass if I wanted to pass and worked hard at it.
Fast-forward twenty years later. I’m 32, and have decided to start roller derby. I already tell myself I’m too old for this. Why should I break an ankle? I’ve hurt myself in the past, playing sports, and also just living life, and injuries suck! I do Insanity workouts! I’m fit and strong. Derby is just a whim, right? Yeah, I’ll just learn to skate and then I’ll give it up. I’m not into competitions anyway. Too stressful. Yeah, at 32 years old, I have enough stress in my life as it is. I’ll just take it easy.
What no one told me is that derby was more, much more than just skating in circles. I realized that very quickly. I fell madly in love with the sport, and suddenly, being 32 and having stress in my life didn’t matter anymore. I wanted this. I wanted this so bad.
I started FM in April 2015. The first testing happened in June 2015. By then, I could barely transition. My balance was okayish. My crossovers needed work, lots of work (see my amazing crossovers below). My jumps looked sad. I achieved 23 laps in 5 minutes.
The day of testing, I went in that evening with the biggest and brightest fire in my heart. I told myself I’d give it my all, and if I passed, I passed. If I didn’t, I’d try again.
I pushed so hard I thought I’d break. I really believed I had a chance. Then the results came the next day. I hadn’t graduated.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little sad. My derby sisters I had started with had moved on to the next level, and I was stuck in a corner. Very quickly though, I shushed the negative voice. I had started barely three months prior. I couldn’t skate three months prior. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t do anything. Well I could roll and pray. That I could do.
I remembered how I felt after failing that ski testing. I remembered how hard I worked and how much I kept pushing. I remembered passing. Feeling strong on my skis. Going fast down the slope, knowing I could stop. I could be in control, safely.
That’s what the mins are all about. SAFETY. Veteran skaters want to make sure you’re not a danger to others, and yourself. It has nothing to do with pride, self-worth, and how badass you think you are. It has nothing to do with “if only” and “but”. It has nothing to do with your intelligence or your understanding of strategy. STOP FREAKING OUT. The more experienced skaters want to see if you’re in control of your skates, if you can change direction, if you can stop, if you can balance on either foot and navigate the track as safely as possible if someone falls in front of you.
Because let me tell you, once you’re cleared for contact and can scrimmage, there’s other stuff to worry about. I watched a video of one of our scrimmages yesterday, and despite me thinking I looked like a lost giraffe the entire time, I also noticed I fell small, I recovered quickly, I stopped when needed, I avoided downed skaters, and I could keep up with the pack.
I’m not a pro. I have barely one year under my belt. I’m insanely grateful for having failed my first mins though. If I hadn’t worked on the basics over and over, I couldn’t be on the track with 9 other people, two of them going at crazy speed and slamming into the wall like they want them dead. Okay, it is maybe exaggerated. Jammers don’t want blockers dead. They just want to skate through, meanwhile blockers want to prevent them from doing just that.
There is a purpose to the mins, and if veteran skaters think you’re not ready yet, don’t take it personally. It’s not a competition. Everyone does it on their own time. It’s as simple as that. Just skate, give it your all, and keep moving on.
Last words of advice: shush that negative Nancy voice, and keep showing up to practice.
You got this.
Congratulations! You passed your mins, you skated your 27/5 and you got 80% or more on the WFTDA rule test. You’re ready to play roller derby!
Now what happened in my mind when I could finally scrimmage was this:
Reality looked more like this:
Courtesy of one of my teammates for the memorable picture. I look cute. Like a tiny dinosaur trying to break her way through that wall of blockers… I didn’t make it through that day or any other scrimmages for a while.
Um. Yeah. Well… Here’s one truth about roller derby: embrace the look of confusion and the awkward stance, the dumb mistakes, the falling flat on your ass when you get hit, and that feeling of sheer inadequacy settling down in your newbie brain. Don’t beat yourself down. I repeat: DON’T BEAT YOURSELF DOWN.
I watch derby. I read blog posts and articles about how important the mental game is. I work out to be stronger.
I’m going to look like a lost giraffe at scrimmage and I won’t understand the chaos around me.
I go to open skate to work on my weaknesses. I wear my skates like they’re my new sneakers.
I’m going to make the dumbest mistakes while performing a drill that I’ve been doing at least twenty times.
That’s roller derby in a nutshell.
But get that: I scrimmage against an entirely different team, my coach gives me the star panty and tells me I’m jamming now. I don’t really know how to jam. I’ve watched it done more than I’ve practiced it. The team counts on me. I tell myself I can do it. I get myself in position. The whistle blows.
In less than five seconds I’m through that wall as a lead jammer.
Remember that fleeting moment trying to feel like Scald Eagle?
Yeah it’s happening guys.
I don’t do it perfectly but I do it. I have bad jams. I have bad scrimmages. I have bad practices. It’s okay.
I repeat: IT’S OKAY.
I’m only human. This game is intense and requires constant adaptation. No matter where I am in the lineup, what I’m asked to do, I do it as best as I can. It’s okay to screw up. It’s okay to make stupid mistakes. My teammates are more supportive than I am of my own self.
Yeah, I want to perform. I want to be the best. I also have to remind myself the learning curve is there, and it’s a team sport. I have to not only be aware of myself but others too. I have to listen. I have to be present.
That’s a lot to do, don’t you think?
So here’s what I try to remind myself before every scrimmage: if I give it my all, there will be no failure. There will be no disappointments. I will learn something new and my game will improve.
Just stop telling yourself you suck. Because you don’t! You’re doing something that the vast majority of people out there are scared shitless of trying!
You are a star. You will skate like [insert fave player’s name here]. You will be what you dream to be.
Give it time. Be patient. Show up.
Believe in yourself. You got this.
When I started roller derby, the first two things my FM coaches told me were:
- wear your roller skates until they become an extension of your feet, and
- watch roller derby.
To feel less like Bambi and more like Bonnie, I therefore decided to clean the house, full gear on, in my roller skates. I took them off once I had to sweep the staircase though. Well, at least I didn’t kill myself, so I considered this challenge a successful one!
Once the house was clean, I sat down with my computer and navigated to the all mighty WFTDA.tv channel. The amount of games was a bit overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start! My league vets told me to watch only the past two seasons, because of the rule changes and all that fun stuff. I didn’t know the rules yet, but I believed them. So I narrowed down my quest to the 2014 and 2015 championships.
Well, let me tell you, the first game I watched, I paused every few seconds to ask: Ugh, what happened there? I could barely follow the jammer of one team, let alone, both teams. Blockers looked like a muddled body pile, and I certainly didn’t understand offense or defense, out of play, no pack, and penalties, gosh all these penalties!
Deep breath. The first time I watched football, I didn’t understand either. And don’t even ask me about baseball, rugby, hockey… Yep. No matter the sport, it gets better by watching a lot.
So here’s how I did, and am still doing it. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but at least watching derby now feels less and less like rocket science.
- Before you push play, decide which part of the game you’d like to focus on. You want to watch jamming, follow the jammers. You want to learn blocking, follow the blockers. In particular, follow the skaters whom you think are close to your body type, or skating style (at least what you’d like to eventually achieve). Watch how tall girls make it out of the pack versus smaller jammers, and how blockers of all shapes and sizes move from one side of the track to the other while maintaining their momentum, and hitting without getting penalties.
- Once you’ve decided who you’re going to follow, that’s it. Don’t try to multitask or you’ll lose track, and maybe get discouraged. You can watch the same game over and over and focus on a different element each time. That’s the beauty of having these games online. You can watch the same game a hundred times and find something new each time.
- At some point, you’re going to have to know the basic rules. What it means to be in a power jam. What it means to have lost the ability to become lead jammer, or lost lead jammer status. Watch how the lead jammer controls the jam. Watch how the jammer communicates with her blockers. Watch what happens when the jammer is stuck behind a wall for a very long time, and cannot seem to get out. Will she pass the star? Will she stash it? Understand the role of the pivot. Why is the team taking a time out? What’s an official review?
- It’s helpful for some peeps to write their questions in a notepad, so these questions can be answered later, either by studying the rules, asking a vet or coach at practice, or watching another game! I don’t keep a notepad, but I usually ask my questions at practice, or in Facebook groups. The resources are there, and people love to answer questions. Just ask.
- To strengthen my knowledge of derby, I’ve also taken on NSO roles at many of my league bouts and scrimmages. Being an NSO helps tremendously because the rules you’ve just read on the WFTDA website finally come to life on the track, and you’re witnessing it live! I’ve kept score, I’ve timed penalties, I’ve repaired the track… Whatever I can do to help when I’m not playing gives me a solid foundation of what happens on the track. When I watch a game later on, I see similar moves, and formations, and tada! Lightbulb moment!
To me, becoming a well-rounded derby player is a three part exercise:
- There’s the physical component of derby by practicing on and off skates, and improving overall physical conditioning;
- There’s the mental component of derby by learning the rules, watching games, and NSOing;
- The most crucial element which is to put physical conditioning and mental preparedness in action together once you’re playing the game.
Physical conditioning without knowledge is like punching a brick wall, and trying to make a hole in it. The wall might break at first, but there will come a day when the wall will stand and how hard you punch won’t help a bit. On the opposite, knowing the rules by heart without any practical application won’t really achieve anything either. Once you mix the two together, magic happens!
Watching derby has definitely helped me, and is still helping me greatly, because I get to study the best teams of the derbysphere right from my couch, and then I try to apply what I learned at practice. It might work, or not, but watching opens so many possibilities. There are teams out there who are absolutely masterful at certain skills. Watching them is learning from the best.
I also read it’s good to watch derby on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be a full game, just fifteen minutes of it can make a huge difference in your day.
The big O is around the corner! This tournament promises some great roller derby! So what are you waiting for?
If someone had told me one year ago I’d be playing roller derby, I would have told them they were out of their gosh darn mind. I had no clue what roller derby was about, but in my head it looked like WWE on crack. Girls in fishnets and on quads, slamming into each other like they had a score to settle, bruised, bloodied, some with broken bones… How could any of this sound appealing?
Sure, I had, and still have, my angry moments. Sure, I liked to fight in elementary school, and even had a few episodes in my adulthood. Sure, I dealt with substance abuse issues, and treated my body like it was meant to die, fast, hard, without a foreseeable truce between my stubborn self-destructive nature, and the overbearing lack of self esteem smothering me like a loveless mother desperate to kill her newborn child… but couldn’t muster the courage to do it. Plus, there was the shame I felt to even be alive. There were days I woke up and cursed the world for letting me see one more morning of dread, and pain, dragging my feet like they weighed a ton, not knowing how or when I would be put out of my misery.
Escaping hell, and coming back to the bright side of the world, was quite a lifetime experience. I didn’t think I’d experience anything like that again. Recovery gave me a purpose, and I was fine, really I was, without roller derby.
Sure, I was clean and sober, and everything in my pretty mundane existence was going swell. I had the boyfriend, the house, the job, my meetings, and yes, I was doing okay. See, I was lying to myself a little bit. I hadn’t unleashed my true potential yet. Who knew strapping eight wheels to my feet would help me accomplish just that?
I went with an open mind to a bout. I watched girls, some wearing fishnets, slam into each other. I admired their determination. I envied their courage. I watched them endlessly, not understanding a single rule, but wanting what they had. Deep down I was scared though. Could I do what they did?
As a teenager I had attempted roller blading. That episode ended with me falling on my butt so hard, I bruised my tailbone, and decided the fun was over.
I like challenges though. My whole life revolved and still does revolve around challenges. You ask me: can you do it? I will probably answer, no, but I want to try. Roller derby was no different. I picked up a flier and read: we’re looking for skaters, no experience necessary. I asked myself: can you do it? And my other self answered: heck yes, you can.
I pulled the credit card, and spent $500 on beginner’s gear, because I was dead on determined to give this roller derby a try. I showed up to my first skate session, terrified, butterflies going hog-wild in my belly, and veteran skaters watching me like they wanted to devour me, but also hug me and tell me everything would be okay and I had nothing to be afraid of. What I was going through, they went through it as well. I had butt-pads. I had pads. I had a helmet and a mouth-guard. Nothing bad would happen to me. I just had to stay low, and bend my knees, and I’d fall, yeah, but falling is part of learning. No, I shouldn’t freak out if I overheard anything about “broken ankles” and other delightful war stories. The broken ankle wouldn’t happen to me. I was fine. I had butt-pads, and purple skates that shined like casino lights, screaming “Fresh Meat”. Arguably, I was ready to be (b)eaten to death.
I skated that first session with the idea I needed the world’s stamp of approval that I could actually do this thing. Clearly, after two hours, the world was still the same, but my world had been flipped upside down. I was hooked. I fell in love with the pads, the skates, the locker room smell and the veteran skaters watching me with their eagle eyes, seeing the potential I didn’t know I had.
Fact is I didn’t know I could do this until I did it. I showed up to practice, and skated like my life depended on it. I found freedom. I strapped these wheels and I embraced the moment. I was in the now. My love life, my job, the frustration of the day, everything went.
I just skated.
I asked myself: can I transition? Can I do a turn around toe stop? Can I skate 27 laps in 5 minutes? I ate derby. I dreamed derby. I lived derby. I read countless blog posts, and books to learn to develop my mental state as an athlete. I developed new workout routines. I hip checked walls, and subway doors, and doors everywhere there was a door to be hip checked. I stood on one foot while brushing my teeth, washing my hands, blow drying my hair. I squatted on my lunch break. I hopped and speed skated while waiting for the bus. I analyzed games, and fantasized I was Bonnie Thunders. I could skate on one foot, jump like a gazelle, and my grace and strength would blow everyone away.
I eventually passed my skills. I passed my laps. I started scrimmaging. I blocked. I jammed. I didn’t know if I could make it out of the pack ever. Darn these blockers must have hated me because their wall was impenetrable. Guess what? One day the wall wasn’t as impenetrable anymore.
Every time I unlocked an achievement, I felt like a superhero. The high kept me going. Every second, I said “thank you”. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to find myself, to love myself, to treat myself with respect and share these amazing moments with beautiful people who love derby just as much as I do.
One day, I asked myself: is derby my new addiction? Am I going to go out of control with this? Is derby going to ruin my life like drugs and alcohol did?
I got scared. Then I remembered the sweat, the blood, the bruises, and the tears of joy, the hugs. The love, that love we all talk about and non-derby aficionados don’t understand. The same love I found in the rooms when I stopped killing myself, and non-addicts don’t always understand either.
The sport is evolving at the speed of light, and I’m a part of this journey. Among the thousands of opinions, the workout routines, the advice, the tales of success and failures, there is my story. The life of a 33-year old girl whose world became richer because of a pair of roller skates, and a league of larger than life women who fight side by side to write their own story. I read every day how roller derby saves lives, and gives women and men that spark back. Roller derby makes me hungry to be better, to perform, to become that hero I always wanted to be as a little girl, but never knew how.
Through hard work, I’ve been able to face my fears, slap them in the face, and find faith. Faith that I could do it. Faith that everything would be fine, because I had pads, a helmet, a mouth-guard and the heart of a warrior fighting the battle of their dreams.
I am Kiki’n Da Teef, and I am a derby girl.