Scrimmaging For Newbies

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: 

Yep. I could see myself, on the big screen, epic and majestic like Scald Eagle or [insert your fave player’s name here]. Yeah. I looked good. 

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. 


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