When Your Heroes Retire 

Retirement. In my opinion, one of the ugliest words of the roller derby vocabulary. Hearing it makes my heart shatter in little pieces, knowing your favorite players won’t be playing anymore. Retirement marks the end of an era, the final word to the chapter of your favorite book. Retirement feels like the last mile of a beautiful ride, or a sunset. I also like to compare it to eating the last bite of a really delicious chocolate cake. No matter how retirement makes me feel, I have to accept that retirement is unfortunately part of roller derby, and cannot be ignored. No one lasts forever.

When world renowned skaters hang up their skates after years of shaping the sport into what it is today, I am sad because I loved to watch them on WFTDA.tv. Thank God the footage is here to remind me of their incredible athleticism. I was fortunate enough to meet Bonnie and OMG while they worked at the Five Stride skate shop in Brooklyn. I stood near legends. The most humble human beings too.

When league mates retire, I am sad because I am not going to see them at practice anymore. The level of intimacy is obviously different. I remember being just a freshie and feeling so heartbroken when some of my favorite skaters decided to retire. I looked up to them like they were goddesses, and they were goddesses. They had everything I wanted and then some. I continued my journey from freshie to rookie, and another wonderful skater retired. I looked up to her too. And then a couple days ago, it happened again.

The more I grow within the league, the closer I get to veteran teammates. They inspire me to keep pushing. They share words of advice with me. They provide so much love and support. They are the big sisters I never had. They are larger than life women who push me to get better. When I did not know what I was doing, they told me to just keep skating. They had faith in me before I had faith in myself.

I hate the word “retirement”. I hate to think I am not going to see these amazing women as often anymore. I hate the fact that this is my last piece of chocolate cake, because I was not finished with the cake! I also know everyone has a life. These women gave their all for years. They reached the top and became legends in my starlit newbie eyes. They paved the way and made room for the next skater, the next legend.

Despite the sadness, I am forever grateful and blessed to have shared the track with these heroes. Always know that your love fueled my fire. As much as I made you smile because I reminded you of you when you were just a newbie too, your words of encouragement made me fight harder. So yes I hate to see you go, but I wish you the best of luck and even more success in your next adventure.

You forever remain my inspiration, and I cherish deeply the memories we made.

❤ Keeks

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Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

Reinvent Yourself

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photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah

Well here we are. The season 2017 has begun. After taking three months off, I am more than ever ready to tackle this year as efficiently and intelligently as possible.

As a freshie, I did not really think of derby as this long term commitment, almost like a job, that I had to adjust to, and treat like I treat everything else in my life. My family, my professional career, my own self-care routine, everything is on a schedule. I have to be well rested, well fed, because I cannot survive derby half-assed. This was in itself something new for me.

I had never played a team sport before joining roller derby. Heck, I had never really played any sport before joining roller derby. I am not the first one to say this. I joined derby because I wanted to try something new. I wanted to learn new things. And the ladies on the league looked badass and cool enough that I wanted to spend some time to get to know them, and then spend a lot of time with them several days per week.

In the past, I tried things, but never really committed to something. I went in cycles, maybe dedicating one or two years to a hobby, then giving it up and forgetting it all about it just like another failed relationship. I was not made for it, I thought. Some people were better at it than me, and that was the end of it.

I am not the first or the last to say roller derby radically changed my view of team sports. I honestly did not think I was cut to be a team player. I am awesome on my own. No boss, and no rules, except my very own, and all the time in the world to slack off. Only thing I could do well was work out in my living room in sync with Shaun T and the dreadful beats of his Insanity videos. I am made for challenges. I welcome competition. I thrive when put under conditions that push me to my outer comfort zone, and force me to improve. Get stronger, faster, smarter. Jumping by myself on a yoga mat, imagining I was training for something big, something important, something that would change my life for the better, I worked out relentlessly with my personal coach on TV for two years. Occasionally, I ran too. Jogging is something I picked up in my early twenties and really fell in love with, but a stupid treadmill injury made me think I was not made for that either. Haha, what a joke.

Deep down though, I always had this dream of skating. Gliding effortlessly and doing tricks. I picked up roller blading in my late teens, never to really graduate to do more than use the flimsy brake on my left heel. When I worked up the courage to finally transition once, I fell so hard on my tailbone I just decided I was not made for this either.

Now fast forward to when I am 32, and I see these badass women on a flat track, hitting each other, opening their hips and skating backwards like they have been doing this since birth. I hear loud screeches on the rink, and I do not get the rules at all, but I do not care. The ad on the flyer saying the league was looking for people, and I did not need to know how to skate to join, convinced me to take the first step and just like that, I joined roller derby.

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photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah

First skate practice, I am padded up to the forehead, my skates, pads, outfit and helmet are all color coordinated like I am going to a roller derby pageant. I look new. I look inexperienced and plain clueless. The first steps I take are scary as hell, and do not compare to the first steps I took in my living room the night before to quiet the anxiety of a first time. Rolling on quads make me feel even less balanced than on inlines, and I am not really sure of anything except I really want to try this. I want to glide and I do not care if I fall. I am committed to giving it my all.

The journey started here. What I learned along the way was that commitment is the first step to a roller derby career, just like anything else. Discipline and consistency come next, just like anything else. Balancing responsibilities, job, family obligations, pretty much life on life’s terms, disrupt and distract but as long as I keep the focus on what is important, I am okay. I can juggle it all.

Of course, there are also moments of doubt, so big they can crush you into giving it all up again just because you tell yourself you are not really cut for it.

I was not immune to the doubt. I was not immune, despite all the love I have for this sport, to feeling like this was not my thing. Once the pink cloud vanished, I was left with reality, and reality sucks.

The love was everything though. I had to dig deep inside and cultivate that fire so that I would keep going despite failures, disappointments, and physical setbacks such as injuries.

Whether it was the first practice, or training to pass my minimum skills, my first scrimmage, my first bout, my first time at doing something new, I had to dig deep every time, and find that love, to use it like a weapon. I am cut for it. Giving up is easy, and then what? What do I have left? Memories? Regrets? I absolutely love being on roller skates. Whether it is roller derby, or outdoor ramp skating, that stuff is hard, and I do not care what outsiders have to say, we are not born on wheels. Just like anything else. We are not born to do much of anything. There is always a learning curve.

Of course, you can hate what you do, and then why force it? But why give up if you truly love it?

That is what it came down to. That love was and is everything. During those moments where you think “meh, this is way too hard”, just tread patiently and skate. In those moments where you think you will never get it, just skate. Forget the drama, the voice in your head, or the voice of others who might enable you to quit. Forget the bitterness, the harsh self-talk and the comparing yourself to others bullshit that doesn’t serve you at all. Forget the “I can’t do this” broken record monologue.

Just focus on you right now. Be present. If you have to take a break, take a break. Go do what you gotta do and come back stronger. Come back more in love than you ever were before. Come back confident and ready to learn. Reset your thinking and apply yourself. This works wherever you are in your derby career.

A long successful career is just an accumulation of days. Days where you practiced, played, maybe dicked around, and laughed. Days where where you fell, cried, smiled, lost focus and gained it back, hugged and high-fived your teammates after an awesome move. Days where you took a breath, sat down, and got back up. Days where you decided to give it your all. Days where you gave your all. Days where you were tired but still tried. Days where you doubted but just fought harder. And then there are days where everything just falls into place, and you feel like you are straight in heaven.

This sport will ask a lot from you. It will make you question everything you thought you knew about yourself. It will drain you and fill you up. It will fulfill you and put you in the driver seat on and off the track. It will teach you courage, unconditional love and patience. So much patience.

Today is the opportunity to just reinvent yourself. Put on a pair of skates, and be your own hero.

You deserve it, and tomorrow is already too late, so do it now.

❤ Keeks

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When I don’t derby, I ramp skate! So much fun!

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Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef

My ten 2017 Resolutions

road-908176_960_720Happy new year to all! I have been absent from this blog during my 3 month LOA, and missed it dearly. A break was much needed. My foot was injured, work got out of control and I needed time to just relax, and not stress out. This small break helped me greatly, not only physically but mentally, and for this new season, I’ve made a few resolutions so I can enjoy myself as much as possible.

1- Be in a good mood at practice

I admire one of my teammates because she is always so upbeat at practice. Her energy is contagious, and I have made the conscious decision to learn from her and be upbeat too. I’m not going to practice to be grumpy. I’m going to have fun, and guess what? You learn when you have fun. You fall and you laugh. You have a good time, and this motivates you to keep practicing, and keep showing up.

2- Get out of your head

I have also made the conscious decision to not overthink anything. I am an overthinker by nature, and this has played in my disfavor more than once. This season, I am not thinking. I am doing. The voice in my head is my enemy, and I am not listening to it.

3- Push yourself

This is pretty much a given, but I’ve noticed even when cross training, I get comfortable at a certain level, and it is truly a chore to push harder. I consciously tell myself that I’m not going to die, I’m not going to pass out. By now I know my limits, and I know I can push. You only grow as much as you give at practice, so do it, and don’t hold back.

4- Try new things

Don’t be scared to experiment. I skate outdoors as much as I can, and I always tell myself to just try things. If they work out, they work out, if they don’t, they don’t. At least I know what I need to work on. With enough practice, most tricks can be done. So try new things, and practice!

5- Be patient

I can do a lot of things, and I cannot do a lot of things… yet. That’s okay.  This isn’t a race. And it’s great, this way I can appreciate my progress, and look back and amaze myself.

6- Be kind

To yourself and to others. Go get that massage. Relax. Stretch. Do yoga. Take care of your body, you only have one! Smile and laugh, and tell your teammates nice things whenever you can. The words of my teammates have lifted me up so many times, even when all they said was “Good job”. They kept me in the fight, when the little voice told me I couldn’t fight anymore. Love yourself. I cannot repeat that enough.

7- Take a break

Don’t feel guilty if you have to take a breather. If something hurts, just pause and assess whether you can keep skating or not. Injuries are not a joke. The smallest, most insignificant aches can become real pains in the butt if you don’t take the time to properly heal.

8- Inspect your equipment

Need new wheels? Need new cushions on your plates? Need to change your bearings? How are your toe stops looking? Take a few minutes to inspect your skates, and make sure everything is at the right spot and everything looks good. If something feels wonky, ask your teammates. One of them will be an equipment nerd and will help you. I am an equipment nerd by nature, got the tools and all that stuff. If your equipment is not up to par, you can injure yourself and your teammates, so a little maintenance won’t hurt.

9- Eat well, and enough

During the day, and especially before practice, make sure to hydrate a lot, and eat good things that will help your body sustain two hours (or more) of intense practice! I’m not going to suggest what to eat because we all have our routines, but make sure to be in 100% condition before you go in. Your body will thank you, and you will enjoy yourself so much more if you have energy. Also, take naps before practice if you can. Power naps are awesome.

10- Smile, you’re at derby!

Yes. Smile all you can!

Keeks

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Follow me on Instagram @kikindateef