My 6 Derby Wins

There’s a lot to be thankful for in roller derby, despite the sometimes unavoidable frustration of not being physically able yet to nail that skill perfectly, or win that mental battle. Whenever I feel defeated, I look back at six milestones of my first year in roller derby, and I feel better.

JRG_WEB_freshmeat1- I showed up to first skate

I bought gear, I put it on and I skated. I was terrified, I didn’t know how I would perform, and if I would even like it. I thought, well if I don’t like it, can I still return all this gear? I guess my commitment to derby started as soon as I pressed the “buy now” button on Amazon. I even watched “Whip It” the night before to give me courage to skate the next day.

2- I showed up to the second practice

Despite being so nervous, not knowing anyone, and still trying to figure out if I was meant to do this derby thing. The vets scared me. They didn’t really chat me up, they just watched me from afar, and sometimes told me I did a good job. I was so intimidated. Yet I felt so much freedom. I could glide, and do stuff I never thought I could do. Derby definitely opened that door of possibilities I didn’t know existed.

3- I skated my first 27/5

I gave it my all. I didn’t make the 27 laps. I barely crossed over. But I pushed. I skated around that track for five full minutes! That was such an accomplishment. I felt lots of love that day from my fellow freshies, who pushed just as hard. I felt love from the more experienced skaters, who went through the same motions years ago. I felt like I belonged to the league, and the journey would be just a fantastic adventure.

9812e3efb94b15a9391d48db0d0b24d34- I experienced my first really painful derby injury

I heard, “it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when”. My injury was the typical “freshmeat kill your tailbone by falling really hard on your ass” ordeal. I couldn’t sit down properly for a good month. I destroyed that sucker. Thank God, nothing broken. But still, it hurt. I felt that constant nagging reminder that I had voluntarily enrolled in an extra-curricular activity that would leave me limping and cringing at some point. The tailbone was the beginning. It healed and I bought better buttpads.

Injuries are part of my story even before starting roller derby. No one wants to suffer and break bones. I had to ask myself, do I want to keep going? Do I want to go through the motions of maybe experiencing an injury that will keep me off skates for a long time? I had to be sure I was ready for it. I had to face that reality.

5- I failed my minimum skills

I wrote another post on the subject which you can read here. Basically, I am grateful I failed because I wasn’t skill ready to move forward. Failing gave me the opportunity to work on my basics, and practice until I was comfortable to be out there.

dcd04fbd3613b481d85c3f8896ecdc1c6- I got hit

I held my derby stance, sucked my stomach in, and bam. I got hit. It was a hard hit. Right on my side, sent me flying and I landed straight on my ass, wondering what the heck had just happened. During these few seconds, I made sure I was still in one piece. Then, I got back up as quickly as I could, and I finished practice. I still remember that hit to this minute. It left me breathless.

These wins help me keep things in perspective. They help me stay grounded. They help me enjoy every second on my skates. They push me to be better. They brighten my day. Every time I face a challenge, I think of that moment where it was just me and the track. What did I do? I learned that taking a break to reassess isn’t quitting. I learned that my body is my weapon, and my best asset, and I must be good to myself. I learned that my mind is my biggest opponent. I learned that day by day, I improve.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your wins?

🙂

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Aggression: Find and Nurture your Inner Fire

3550583Roller derby is an aggressive sport.

Aggression is defined as a forceful action or procedure (as an unprovoked attack) especially when intended to dominate or master.

Many people think of aggression as something bad, violent, rageful. They picture Hulk, smashing everything in his path, ruining lives and making little kids cry.

While roller derby requires aggression on the track – there’s no “sorry” in roller derby – this doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be an asshole. There are ways to make opposing players’ game a living hell while not making stupid mistakes and be sent to the box, penalizing your team in the process.

Hitting right is hard. The more I watch and play derby, the more I think of it like a game of chess. The speed of the game forces me to act quick but the strategy behind each move actually requires me to take my time. Calculated hits are the most effective, and they’re performed with the perfect dose of aggression.

How do I become aggressive?

Remember the good old days when asked to hit another skater for the first time?

“Come on, hit me! I can take it!” the vet said to me with a big smile.

I was a shaky mess. I rolled slowly, and prepared myself for contact. I aimed at the hips. When the time came to actually touch her, I stumbled. My stance was shaky, and my balance wobbly. I had no power and no momentum. Deep down, I was looking hard for a reason to get mad at her enough I wanted to hit her. I barely brushed her with my hips and didn’t feel powerful at all.

While I struggled, the vets were really excited to hit us freshies. They didn’t look mad at all when they hit us. They actually were smiling, and looked very relaxed. We stood like chicken awaiting slaughter, and they came at us hard. One hit sent me flying. Woah, so that was what it felt like to be hit on the track… So we thought. Later the vets said they had hit us at 25 percent.

What must it have felt like to be hit at 100 percent!?!

Fast forward to scrimmage. Hits aren’t tempered anymore, and I’m feeling the full effect of being smashed into like a pinata on Cinco de Mayo. Woah. I never thought my body could withstand hits like that, and not immediately shatter like a porcelain doll.

As I learn to hit hard and effectively, I realize that aggression comes with commitment. Hesitation will kill me. I commit to hit a blocker and I don’t stop until I’m done hitting her. I focus all my energy and power toward that hit.

Aggression also comes with repetition. Muscle memory is my best friend. I have to hip check doors and walls to understand how low my body has to go and how my hips move to hit hard and legally. I work with my body to perfect the move. I try to go as fast and as hard as I can every time.

Aggression comes with control. I won’t be effective if I’m scattered. Like a car racer trying to pass an opponent, I must know myself, including what I can and can’t do. Throwing myself without any control will result in penalties, injuries, and possibly, an expulsion from the game.

Aggression comes with confidence. I know exactly how my body is going to move as I’m preparing to hit. I keep my stance low and use my hips to achieve the biggest hit in a legal target zone. I don’t give into fear.

The best way to find and nurture your aggression is to channel that angry energy and work on your skills. Learn to hit in a legal target zone! No one like headbutts and back blocks. A vet skater once said that aggression comes after you’re fed up with being hit all the time. This part is true. I noticed it myself, I really don’t like to be hit without hitting back as hard as I can. This took time though. I learned to brace myself at the beginning, and I took hard hits in weird places that left me breathless for a few seconds.

When the body is strong, and the mind focused, aggression is like this fire that burns bright and bold on the track. You affirm your dominance over your opposing players, and provide the best weapon for your team. Once the game is over, you hug and congratulate everyone.

Hitting people is also pretty awesome. So what are you waiting for?

If you want to read more on aggression, Treble Maker wrote a great post on the subject, available here.

🙂

M5s2T

Exercise Mindfulness to Be a Better You

61a6fed4121cd8c456ca5fdf3351b2a0Mindfulness is defined as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis” (Webster Dictionary).

Simply put, mindfulness means awareness.

How does awareness help in roller derby?

Ever watched these kung-fu movies where there’s a blind character, whether it’s the hero or some badass sidekick, and he can kick ass as if he possessed a million eyes? The guy is usually super chill, but one blow from him can send you flying into outer space before you know it. He can also fight better than people with 20/20 vision.

We won’t go as far as playing roller derby while blind, but we definitely want to send people flying while remaining as calm and focused as possible, and perfectly AWARE of what’s happening around us. Whether we’re blocking or jamming, we need to process countless thoughts, feelings, and sensations at once.

Successful athletes of all disciplines practice mindfulness to reach their full potential. Simple breathing techniques can lower anxiety, and help with clearing the mind and body of negative thoughts and emotions, such as fear. A composed skater will always perform better than a scattered, short-fused one.

How do we turn into killing machines on the track?

Let’s take a minute to travel back in time to the very first day you (and I) strapped skates to our feet. If you never skated a day in your life, needless is to say the endeavor felt freaking weird. We weren’t born with wheels!  Some impressions about the pads? They were bulky. The Velcro stuck way too much to your clothes. Your knee and elbow joints were in that angle you couldn’t keep your legs and arms fully straight anymore. The wrist guards prevented you from using your hands and seamlessly uncapping that bottle of Gatorade. You fell backwards a lot. The contact with the floor was hard, very hard. Your muscles and bones hurt in places you didn’t know it could hurt like that. Holding the derby stance for one full minute made you want to vomit. Your leg muscles felt like jello. You were stiff, very stiff, and while veterans told you to relax, you got stiffer! What about your breathing? Do you even remember how you breathed?

Setting aside bodily sensations, how did you mentally and emotionally handle these new challenges? Did butterflies fly havoc in your stomach? Were your palms sweaty? Did you talk to yourself on your way to practice, and convince yourself it was a good idea to show up and gear up? Did you talk to yourself again after gearing up and setting foot on that oh so slippery rink floor? Did you suffer from anxiety? Did you cry? Did you laugh? Were you excited? Did you experience a high from accomplishing something you didn’t know you could do before?

If any of these sound familiar, you exercised mindfulness. You were fully aware of what was going on with you that very day.

Sadly, our fast paced lives force us to be on auto-pilot for most of our daily tasks. We just don’t take the time to be aware of simple yet essential things such as breathing. As such, maintaining a high level of awareness takes training.

How do you train your mindfulness?

Start small.

Set your timer on one minute, and close your eyes. Find a quiet place, where you won’t be distracted by people or noises, and adopt a comfortable position. When ready, start the timer, and focus on your breathing. Push any distracting thoughts away by being solely dedicated on your inhale and exhale. When the minute is up, assess how you did. Did you feel pain or tension in any part of your body? Did your mind wander?

It’s okay if you achieved only ten or fifteen seconds of pure focus while the remaining forty-five to fifty were spent trying to get there. That’s perfectly normal. Like anything, mindfulness takes practice.

The purpose of the exercise is to focus on one thing, your breathing, to allow yourself to be completely present and aware of your body and mind. As you get more accustomed to the exercise, you can gradually increase the time.

Now the one million dollar question comes.

How do I exercise this mindfulness amidst all the chaos on the track?

Baby steps. It’s gonna take work. The way I practice it is whenever I get a quiet moment, on my commute to work, at work, as I take a walk, I focus on my breathing, and try to shut down any distractions. I find it easier to do with headphones on, but the exercise should be practiced in natural conditions too. This allows me to fully feel my body. It helps me clear my mind.

I practice mindfulness as much as I can outside of derby practice during daily routine activities, so when I’m at practice, it’s almost like second nature. I practice right when I wake up. I let my mind wander, and gently bring it back to my initial point of focus, my breathing. I practice when I wait in line, or when I’m stuck in traffic. I choose a cue (my commute really allows me to be focused) on my way to work, and shift my brain into mindful mode.

Someone on my team much more skilled than me, and with more years of experience, once told me that being aware is like opening a door of possibilities. I let go of all the crap the day has thrown at me, and the crap I throw at myself too, to be fully there during a jam, for as long as two minutes.

Once the whistle blows, it’s like the timer I set. If I’m aware of the present moment, I can better control my reactions. I can be responsive to my teammates yelling orders. I can move to where the OJ is coming, or if I’m jamming, to where the next blocker is.

The key is to start small and practice often. Countless scientific studies have proven that mindfulness helps balance our activities, thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions to minimize stress so you can become your best self.

paradise-state-of-being

Perseverance

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This meme had to be shared. 🙂

(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.

pic 9

Life & Roller Derby: Find Your Balance

pic 3“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? 

Into The Jammer’s Corner: The Friendly Side, Sharks and Seals

pic blogYesterday 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!

Crush that 27/5!

5421a67fa071b67285e10cbe8bcc1dcc

Courtesy of Etsy

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.

YOUR FORM

  • Skate that diamond: Quadzilla has an amazing YouTube video on the subject, link here.
    • The diamond looks like this:

      RDA-derby-diamond

      Courtesy of Roller Derby Athletics

    • 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.

Minimum Skills: Stop Freaking Out

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Courtesy Sean Hale Photography. @seanhaleyeah

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. 

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Courtesy Sean Hale Photography. @seanhaleyeah

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. 

Keeks

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.