(New) Beginnings – How to grow as a skater

Keep pushing forward (credit @Quickdraw photography)

Hi all!

Well, it’s been a while since I put pen to paper, and wrote about my derby experiences. I had a very interesting season last year, and am just starting this 2018 season so I thought it’d be a good time to check in.

Last time I wrote on this blog was one year ago. At this time last year, I had not played as part of the travel B team yet. I was figuring out how to skate safely with my wonky right ankle that I kept spraining over and over and over and over, and I also needed to fix my plantar faciatiis in my left foot. We had our first home game, and I played despite having pulled a muscle in my groin a few days earlier, so I did not perform great that night. In the grand scheme of things though, I honestly wasn’t sure if I was cut for derby, or if derby was cut for me. I always felt a bit out of my comfort zone, not because I couldn’t sustain the physicality of the game itself, but mostly because I did not see progress in my own performance. I questioned a lot whether I should primarily jam or block. I did not see results that reinforced or built any kind of confidence as a jammer, and I did not really know how to block, so I felt like I was stalling.

Obviously this kind of self mental assessment of my growth as an athlete within the league left me extremely scared. I would not say that I had lost my motivation, but I had too many questions which did not have answers, and I found it hard not to know what to do. I went to a league mate, and talked things out with her. She had more experience, and understood my doubts and fears. She told me straight off the bat to keep working as a jammer. I had the endurance, I could move my feet and run on my skates, and I had proven in the past that I could be a valuable asset to the team and score points. The rest, she said, would come with practice.

You know I always feel defeated when I watch other skaters around me progress faster than I think I am progressing. I really truly feel sometimes like I’m skating the same. Whether it’s a home game, or an away game, even a scrimmage during practice, I had to learn to reset my brain, and shut up the voice that kept telling me I was not good enough.

Everything starts with your mental game. Whether you are a freshie, and learn transitions or are desperately trying to pass the 27/5, or you have been skating for years and are prepping for a big tournament, if you keep doubting yourself, you won’t go anywhere. Skills take time to perfect. They take practice. Yet, it’s not just your physical skills that require practice. Your mental skills require time too! And they probably need more attention that you think they do.

I can judge my performance all day long. I can be hard on myself all day long. I can ruin an entire practice or game just by focusing on all the negatives. Meanwhile, I’ve grown so much as a skater, and I forget how much. Three years ago, I could not skate, less hit people while on skates. I could not stop. I could not turn around. I could not go backwards. I could not exercise for hours, hitting, doing laps, jumping… What do you mean cross-train? I thought I was fit when I joined derby, pfffft. Give me a break.

I forget all of those things, and I take them for granted, instead of looking at them like gains, positives, things I should be proud of. I focus so hard on the results, instead of the journey, I can destroy hours and hours of work in a matter of seconds. I found myself time and time again wanting to quit all together because I did not feel up to par with that imaginary player I attempted to be in thirty seconds.

It’s been three years, and I am now starting to feel comfortable on my skates. It’s been three years, and I now enjoy skating outside, any surface, any terrain, anything skateable I’ll skate it. It’s been three years, and only now do I not hyperventilate like a maniac before a game. It’s been three years since I decided to do this thing, and I’m only now starting to hit my true potential.

Do you think I would have hit my potential on week 2 of Freshie practice? Do you think it would have been wise to quit after failing Minimum Skills testing? Do you think I should have packed my gear away after not making it to 27 laps in five short minutes?

There are times where I want to kick my helmet across the rink. There are times where I feel so down, because I know what I can do, and I didn’t have the chance to showcase it. I feel so stupid, so slow, so negative… I have to stop. I have to consciously tell myself to shut up.

There is no perfection in this sport. There is no perfection anywhere. The secret to awesomeness is practice. The secret to having a grand time is to shut the negative voice up, and be present. Be in the moment. Practice that move countless times, and think of it as if it were the very first time you were doing it. Feel the response of your body with every stride, and gather this information as a learning experience, not as a “let’s see how much I can beat myself up today” experience.

Take a breath. No matter how advanced you are as a skater, you will never stop improving. You should never stop improving. You should never rest on the laurels of past achievements. And I’m saying this because you’re going to have good and bad days. One team is going to be easier to beat than another. One night you will feel like you have energy for days, and another night you won’t even want to put on your skates. You will get injured, and have to rehab from that. Recovery will take time, a lot of time, sometimes too much time.

Just embrace it. All of it. Don’t stay stuck on stupid. Don’t tell yourself you suck, and quit. If you love this sport, you will stick around. You will overcome doubt, fears, frustration. You will cry with your teammates, or alone, you will laugh and hug, and jump, and you will get pissed off, but you will experience all of it, and you’ll learn from it.

Not long after the season opener home game last year, I was rostered to play my very first game as part of the travel team. I was on the ALT list, until a jammer couldn’t make it, and I took her spot. I jammed that night. I got two back to back track cuts during my first jam, then I didn’t get lead, and then I got lead twice, and scored twice. Do you think I should have stopped after getting these two track cuts? I was scared to death. I really thought I couldn’t do it. But I took a breath, and I said to myself to shut up and try again. Start fresh at the next jam, and try.

You won’t win every time. You won’t be spectacular every time. But you will grow oh so much.

I am a Fresh Meat mom now on my league. I teach new skaters how to skate, how to fall, how to do all the basics. Looking at challenges from the perspective of a brand new derby player, reminds me of my own, and shows me how much progress I truly made. This is not a competition of who can show off their skills the best. This is an opportunity for you to learn to trust yourself, and love yourself, because your body can do so many amazing things out there.

Keep moving forward. You got this.



A Shoutout to Derby Wives


Photo credit Sean Hale @seanhaleyeah

Joining roller derby, I did not think of getting married. Well derby married.

A derby wife has many definitions, but here is one I found and truly identify with: “A derby marriage is a declaration of close friendship, but more than that, it is a commitment to support one another both in and out of derby. A wife is a person who always has your back. She will never insult you by taking it easy on you at practice. She will notice your improvements and make sure that you notice them, too. She will work with you to help you excel in areas that you previously felt were weaknesses. When/If you get injured, she’s the one who takes care of you and worries about you. She’ll even back you up at the after-party.” I stole this definition from Charlottesville Derby Dames’ blog. 🙂

At the beginning of my derby journey, I heard the term and did not know how to really go about it. I did not have friends per se in derby. I only started to get to know people, and was more focused on learning the ropes at that point.

There was also something a little nerve wracking about derby marriage since it was a marriage, especially when the “’til death doeth part” echoed in the back of my head like an ominous warning. How did this work? Did I have to get dressed up, and have a ceremony?  How did I even find my derby wife? Were we supposed to get engaged? Did we get rings? What if this did not work???????? Speaking from life experience, and having gone through a marriage that ended in a divorce, I was not too hot on getting married again, especially when I did not know what this marriage entailed.

Guess what though? Derby marriage is actually not as bad as it sounds.

Derby marriage is a special bond. A derby wife will stick around and support you through thick and thin. She is your best bud, off and on the track. She gives you hug after hug and says you can do anything you set your mind to. She inspires you day in and day out. You miss each other when you are not together at practice. Your heart breaks for the other when you or she gets injured. You can talk about anything, and you never get mad at each other, but you also stay true and honest, and say it like it is when necessary.

I was probably the last one to think I would ever get derby married. It was okay by me to be derby single. Teammates made official announcements of their derby weddings, and I was happy for them. I read in a lot of places that you do not need a derby wife to have a happy derby life.

My wife getting married, and I watched it all on Skype! ❤

I guess the derby gods had other plans for me. The wife and I were not really sure how to go about it, if we needed to do something formal, and all that jazz, and we decided not to. We just agreed to be wives. She actually proposed to me and I said yes. LOL Other than that there was no ceremony, no dress, no rings exchanged, no vows. We are best buds, and we support and care for each other. When I took a leave of absence, she asked me if I was quitting derby, and she even said her heart would break if I quit. I reassured her I would not quit derby. I needed a break to heal from a stupid injury and manage my crazy life, and she understood and respected my decision. She is always there to talk to and to vent. We share laughter, and gossip. We talk derby. We talk life. In good and hard times, we are there for each other as much as we can. We share happy moments. I attended my wife’s wedding via Skype while on vacation in Europe (I know how funny this sentence just sounded – but it was amazing! Thank you technology!). We make the best of recovery time when one of us gets injured. We miss each other dearly when we are not at practice. Most importantly, we stand on the track, whether as allies or opponents, and it is always a privilege to play together.

I would like to dedicate this post to my derby wife Pixel Bloq. She has been a tremendous source of support and love I did not think I would find when I joined derby, but I was proven wrong once again. Derby is really full of surprises. I have also read stories of derby wives traveling across the globe to help each other, and this is the best thing ever (this is a wink to my teammate Knox).

It is also okay to have multiple wives, and to switch wives, so derby marriage is not as strict as a real marriage I realized. 😉

What about you? Do you have a derby wife?

❤ Keeks


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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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