Dread and sheer terror.
Those were the most accurate words to describe how I felt in the hours before my first roller derby bout.
There were so many ways things could go wrong. I was so scared. What if fall flat on my face and embarrass myself? What if I line up to jam and can’t even get through their wall? What if I’m injured? What if nerves get the better of me and I don’t even get on track? Worst of all, what if I’m an embarrassment to my league?
I was comforted by the fact that some of my fellow Angels, who were also “popping their derby cherries”, were feeling exactly the same as I was. We were all in it together.
After a three hour drive from Durham to North Wales, we were all ready to burst with nerves and excitement. We spent a few minutes hanging around and exchanging words of encouragement, then went off to meet our fellow Pirates and Ninjas. I was on Team Pirate alongside Laura Lockdown and Victoria Deck’em. Both teams had already been in touch via Facebook, picking captains and skate out songs. All of the girls were great, so positive and full of encouragement.
Taking a few quiet moments in the changing room, I remembered some words of advice our DCRA Captain (Pte Choke-her) had given us at our last training session, “Don’t be intimidated if you get there and some of the girls are looking really flash on skates. You have as much right to be there as everybody else and you’re going to nail it.” So I sucked it up, and said (in the words of that famous sports brand), “Just do it! It’s too late to back out now anyway!”
After some team talk with our bench manager, the lovely Whyte and MacDie, we were ready to go. A pre-game kit-check by the referees revealed my helmet to be too big. Mostly I was devastated by the possibility I might not be able to play, but a teeny tiny part of me was thinking I might just escape disaster! Luckily(?!) the host league, North Wales Roller Derby, were kind enough to find me a helmet that actually fit.
The thought of skating out on to the track and being announced before the game was just as scary as actually having to play. It would have been the worst time to fall over! But fortunately, that didn’t happen, so it’s all good. I was quite relieved when I wasn’t in the first line-up, I wanted to see my fellow Pirates and the Ninjas in action first so I would know what to expect. As soon as the first whistle blew, my nerves disappeared! I was concentrating too much on the game to worry.
It was hard not to cheer for the other Angels on team Ninja. Wham! Bam! Daryl Ann was first to Jam for them. I was desperate to cheer her on as she broke through the pack and took lead jammer! It was all going so fast!
The nerves returned slightly when it was my turn to jam. I was convinced I was going to get pummelled. Plus I was jamming against Bam, who had just nailed it! The whistle blew, and off we went. It’s a bit of a blur when I think back, but somehow I got through their wall to get lead jammer. I remember just skating for my life, hearing cheers from the rest of DCRA who had travelled down to support us, then passing through the pack again and seeing MacDie telling me to call it.
I’m not entirely sure what happened after that. I was calling off the jam with my hands on my hips, and then suddenly I belly-flopped the wooden floor below. The wind was knocked right out of me, and there was a sharp pain in my chest. Strangely, I didn’t feel the embarrassment I would have expected. I’d somehow forgotten the spectators were even there. The jam was over anyway, so I had a word with the medic and sat out for a couple of jams to recover.
Sitting out gave me a chance to study both teams, watching for where the gaps in the wall tend to be, looking for who the big hitters were. After 3 jams, I decided to get back in the game. I didn’t come all the way to Wales to sit on the bench did I? I wanted in! The game was going much faster than I expected. I felt like as soon as a jam started, it was immediately over. Pirates maintained a slight lead throughout, but never got complacent as we knew the Ninjas only needed a couple of high scoring jams to pull ahead. It was a pretty close game, but ultimately resulted in a win for the Pirates. Woo!
It was awesome seeing my fellow Angels in action. Watching the different styles used by skaters from other leagues proved interesting as well. I’d like to think we all learned a little something from each other, as well as popping our derby cherries and making some new friends, which demonstrates the true value this kind of event brings.
Amazingly, I even got “Best Jammer” for Team Pirate! Victoria Deck’em and LellyBomb were awarded “MVP” for the Pirate and Ninja teams too! I was so pleased we had done DCRA proud and could go home with our heads held high.
After much terror and dread leading up to the bout, it was actually a huge success (apart from my injury, which turned out to be a cracked rib, whoops!). I’m so glad I did it, and can’t wait for the next bout.
If I wasn’t already addicted to derby, I am now.
Images courtesy of PSD Images