This time last year I had just torn the ligaments in my ankle while trying to get vertical again from a knee drop. I was only off skates for a month but given how that was exactly how long I had been skating previously, it felt like forever.
The sprain was caused by my skate slipping backwards as I put my weight on it to lift myself up, causing my foot to flip back as I fell on it. It was a stupid injury, an ungraceful injury, a slow healing injury (those of us over thirty typically have these). It was also an educational injury.
I have a hard time, only a year later, understanding physically how I could of possibility rolled in such a way as to tear a ligament in that location. I think now that I would have to be seriously potted to replicate the scene, given how uncoordinated and counter intuitive of a move it was.
Shows me how far I've come in just twelve short months.
A year ago I was like a floppy derby infant, unable to hold my own weight, my muscles weak and underdeveloped. Now that I have skated a couple of games I feel much more like a scrappy tween. I'm more confident with my body, I am stronger, faster, more agile, but I still am learning how to control myself and what I am capable of. I still have so much to learn.
I anticipate moving into my derby teens next year. I will be brash and opinionated and hit bitches just because they are there. I will skate with a chip on my shoulder and everyone just better get the fuck out of my way or I will pout vigorously around the curves and use gravity to push out my enemies to a black hole of, like, despair and stuff.
When I grow up I want to be a jammer killer.
My first few derby practices, the whole four I had until I twisted my ankle, I was, with just a couple of notable and brave exceptions, the most unskilled skater I have ever known. I would like to thank the Harbour City Rollers for their patience with me and instilling a work ethic that has served me well since.
My first set of laps was 11 in five minutes. Awesome, right? Perhaps it was because they were a new-ish league, or maybe because I was so bad they were trying to discourage me into quitting, despite my incredible speed of snail and inability to, say, stop, I still skated every practice. All drills. Pack skating, jumping (hahahahhaha), snakes, relays, positional blocking, a couple of proto-hitting drills. No exceptions made for total lack of ability.
It was harrowing. Why did I keep doing these things that I had no business doing?
My first practice ever someone said to the group in general, 'You can't say "no" to the coach.' I took this as gospel. If I ever felt like I couldn't do a drill, or really really didn't want to, then I had no business being there. So I never said no. I never stayed down. I never stopped despite pain or fear. Because I really, really wanted to play roller derby.
Me skating pack drills was a really bad idea. Other skaters used to grab my forearms to hold me in place around the curves (this is long before I could cross over) while pushing me much faster than I could propel myself. I was a menace to other skaters. I should of been skating back and forth at the end of the arena, getting used to the skates on my feet, and learning to stop. And then go. And then stop again.
Which, actually, was exactly what I was doing when I sprained my ankle. But anyway.
This is derby for me. Two steps forward, one cut track, fall down, get up and end up just a tiny bit further than when I started out. The rest of the pack is going, and I am in and then out, and trying to catch up again but wait, they've slowed down and I'm here all alone again. Feeling out of play most of the time.
But I've never said no. Doing situational jams during my first practice, despite the fact that I couldn't actually skate, gave me a taste of derby in a way that doing a hundred knee drops could not. It motivated me.
By not saying no, by being way over my head, I've learnt that limits are contingent to the moment. Limits aren't a forever thing. We all have barriers, an end to the road, but most of us stop way before the actual end. We see that 'dead end ahead' sign and pull back because we are scared and don't want to look foolish.
I highly recommend going all the way to the very end. Hit the barrier hard enough to make a hole for the next time. My reason is simple: derby girls are superheros. Why do you think they wear push up bras, skimpy tights and spandex underwear? Superheros do things that ordinary human beings can not. Turning from an ordinary human being into a superhero means going beyond your regular limits. Ipso facto. Superheros can't back down, they can't whine, they can't say no. They always try.
That said, this derby child has to go do some planks, sit ups and tuck jumps. Though I've passed my benchmarks and made a team, there is no graduated. There is always another barrier to reach and surpass. The only way out is to retire, and I have so much derby living in between now and then.