Trials and Tribulations and Track Time

Roller derby is a tough sport. That’s one of the first things a skater might say to a newbie – after saying that it’s fun, and before saying it’s expensive. For me, derby has always been a struggle. Some days I can feel amazing, I can pinpoint exact plays that I think I executed really well, other days I want to curl up behind the penalty box and never come out ever again. I think a lot of people feel that way at least sometimes, even the players who are so good it seems they were born with skates on their feet. I don’t know what it is about roller derby, but it’s tough, and full of trials and tribulations, and we love it anyway.

When I joined my team, the Norfolk Brawds, in January 2012, I was, without a doubt, the worst out of all of the fresh meat who began at the same time as me. That’s not just me being self-deprecating. I had to hold hands with a very kind-hearted Brawd for three weeks before I finally figured out how to propel myself forward with wheels on my feet. Five months later when we attempted Sign-Offs for the first time, the only skills I aced were falls – because I spent so much time on the floor. A year after that, when it came to the sign-off session that would determine whether I’d be eligible for my first mixed opener, the coach took me aside and told me, very kindly and considerately, to not get my hopes up.

In my experience, roller derby is full of moments of doubt. Early on, I would ask myself “why don’t I just quit?” Before that Sign Off session, I thought “maybe I should just not go.” Even now, if I don’t do as well as I feel I could, my thoughts can range anywhere from “better luck next time” to “oh my gosh why do I even do this, is it too late to quit derby and start a new, easier hobby – maybe Pogs?”

For some reason, though, I’ve always stuck with it. I didn’t get my hopes up after the talk with my coach, but I went to Sign Offs, I tried my best, and when she announced after that session that we’d all passed, I had to go up to her and double-check that she meant me as well. When she nodded, yes, I cried. And then jumped around a lot. And maybe did some sort of weird dance. I don’t know, I was very excited.

Not only is derby full of moments of doubt, but it’s also full of speed-bumps - which are really hard to get over in quad skates, by the way. As I said above, sometimes it seems like everything is perfect, amazing, couldn’t be better, then derby comes along and kicks your butt. A few weeks after getting signed-off, I skated in my first ever public bout, and it was great. Then the WFTDA changed their minimum skills requirements, and I spent two months solely practicing nothing but transitions until I got re-signed-off in January this year. I got voted in as B-Team Coordinator for my team, and I was excited to be given the opportunity to help new skaters and progress the league. Sadly, though, everything started to work against us, and the B-Team was put on hiatus. It wasn't anyone's fault, but I got frustrated, I had arguments, and I felt like a failure. It was the closest I came to quitting. Derby’s an uphill struggle, but this time it felt like it wasn’t just myself I was risking letting down, but everyone.

Instead of quitting, I took a few weeks off, and then I came back and carried on. I slowly worked on fixing the problems my frustration may have caused. I let my ambitions take a rest while we worked on advancing our skills, improving our teamwork, and getting more skaters signed-off.

Currently: we nearly have enough for two teams. It’s really exciting. Our All-Stars are tough, and our newly signed-off skaters are improving every week, and have their first bout at the end of this month. I’ve skated in four games as an All-Star, despite a nagging voice in the back of my head which, since January 2012, has told me I might never be good enough. I coach our fresh meat every month, and sometimes they say things like “I’m never going to be as good as you, or her, or him.” I hope that they find this post and believe it. Derby has been a struggle, an uphill climb, a pain in the butt (and sometimes other body parts), but it’s also gratifying, rewarding, and fun. So, everyone who’s ever struggled to do a skill, who’s ever had a fight with a pal over derby admin, who’s ever really felt like they are the worst ever – don’t give up. You’re gonna be rad. More importantly, you’re gonna feel rad. Then maybe crummy, then rad again. That’s derby for you, and I love it.

About The Author

DOB: 10/31/1989
Leagues: Bio:

A nerd.

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