Roller Derby for me has always been a balancing act of the greatest thing I’ve ever done and the most difficult and terrifying. In light of the upcoming Try-outs for DRD I have been asked to think on my ‘experiences’ to share with potential newbies the highs and inevitable lows I have personally encountered. It may sound like I’m being negative but to truly appreciate how great and rewarding Roller Derby as a sport can be I think it’s very important to acknowledge the lows as part of it!
Starting from the off I think it only fair to point out that I am not sporty in any way (or rather I wasn’t!) I was that person in PE who seemed to always be last, that person as a young(ish) adult who started classes and joined gyms for a few weeks and then tailed off, and that person who would shy away from any physical activity just because of the long-standing mutual dislike between us. Even non sporting activities were very varied but none seemed to have the staying power required, I went from activity to activity relishing the initial buzz of learning something new but soon getting bored and moving onto the next.
So in September 2013 you couldn’t blame my family and friends for laughing and rolling their eyes when I announced I was trying out for a Roller Derby Team with the obligatory comments of “another fad Helen?”, “How long will this one last?”
I am now coming up to my one year anniversary on skates and recently had a conversation with some non-derby friends who admitted their surprise that I had stuck with it so long, and not only that but that I had consciously made other lifestyle changes (yes including physical activity outside of practices – who’d have thought it!) to help make me a better skater and be a fitter, healthier and ultimately happier person.
Having such a frank discussion about my lack of sticking at things made me wonder what it was about this sport in particular that had made me keep at it. It wasn’t that I was brilliant from the start; in fact every skill and challenge that I have been set has been an uphill struggle (sometimes quite literally!) and my mantra (thanks to my amazing coaches, captains and team-mates) has evolved (even if it took a while) to be “It’s not that I can’t, it’s just that I can’t right now”. So many times I have been driven to distraction at not being able to nail a skill right away but I’ve learned that it’s all about perspective!
It’s great looking forward at what you want to be able to do but you need to remember where you have been. Never forget that even the best skaters had to start somewhere and regardless of anyone else’s abilities you must remember that as a skater and as a human being you are unique and as such you will learn in a different way, manner and speed to anyone else. The things that come easily will be taken for granted, and because of that you don’t value how much you have achieved – never lose sight of the fact that you will improve every day – be that gaining a new skill or even just improving on an existing one! Which brings me to another pearl of wisdom drilled into me from day one; “nail the basics and the rest will come”. I have come to realise and accept that in order to be able to do something you have to just keep trying and eventually it will happen sooner or later!
So getting back on track to why I have stuck with it despite the ever-present self-doubt, the difficulty and always wondering whether I measure up to my team-mates. The bottom line is that everyone has these uncertainties, you are never alone with the insecurities and there is always someone ready, able and willing to help you see past your own perceived inadequacies and to offer help and support to nail the elusive skill sets we have to achieve.
The bond from skating with some of the craziest, funniest, most loyal people I have ever met and the support and encouragement missing from the other activities I have started and quit, has meant that even in the darkest times of feeling useless, quitting has never been an option! I will not lie and say it isn’t one of the hardest things I have done in my life, but I can’t explain how rewarding it is on your first scrim or open bout to think “I’ve earned this, I deserve to be here”
As a team DRD is supportive and has a great team ethic but it’s all underpinned by an individual motivation to be the best you can be and see and respect Roller Derby as the sport that it is. It’s a cliché but as I have progressed as a player (I still have so far to go! I am still an infant in skill and experience) I have seen the sport permeate into every aspect of my life, in the hope and dream of being the best I can be.
If you feel you have the commitment and drive to push yourself right to your limits and beyond then you really should sign up for try-outs, I guarantee you will surprise yourself! If I can do it then you most certainly can, I really hope to see you at try-outs, I’m always looking for new crazies to involve in activities!!
Written by: #393 Pinkney