This past weekend I was in my second rookie invitational, making it my fourth official bout ever. In addition to these, I've played seven scrimmages, three in Oil City, three with RDRDA and one with Rez City. I mention all of this because I had to count them all up when I registered for this last invitational and after all that finger ticking, I had to tell somebody.
While I am no superstar, there was a huge difference in my play since my first invitational in November 2010 and this past one. The first, I was pylon. I hadn't even heard the term track awareness. Right now, I'm feel almost sure I didn't know what a track was. Who knew you were supposed to stop the other team's jammer?
What's a jammer anyway?
This past invitational, well, let's say I figured out what a track and jammer is. I smart now. Okay, I couldn't always hit the damn jammer, though, I did hit that track good and hard.
Still, I had a blast, was sufficiently challenged (particularly by Cherry-oto-Fire, a naturally great skater and unnaturally all around awesome person), and didn't do so bad that I had to come home to my league on my shield.
Not saying there wasn't room for improvement because, whoa, there were moments there when I thought the opposing jammer was actually greased because she slipped through our blockers like rancid butter in a digestive track of an irritable bowl. Thanks to Bunnie Low-Browski I now consider the other jammer my very own personal responsibility and I sorta let myself down a few times.
But all this self recrimination was totally unnecessary since I had a teammate sitting track side, the lovely long and pirate-y Elbowz Smackeroni, counting my every biff, miss, and failure to be sufficiently aggressive, which she numerically noted with punches to my arm. As adorable as it is to have a derby mate behave like a junior high boy with a fist that feels like the fluttering of a unicorn's eyelashes, the whole experience actually taught me more about what's more important in derby than actual skill.
Namely, my teammates.
Until this last invitational, I had little appreciation of how much I rely on my team doing their job. This counts for my own teammates, the very dark and not at all cheerful Nightshades, who would rather peck out your liver than look at you, as well as my league-mates. Playing with somebody you don't know is like playing with yourself. But in a bad way.
Let me say, I am pretty bowled over by the amount of skill and sheer moxie demonstrated by freshest of rookies who I played with this past weekend. They certainly displayed more skills than I did for my first game. And as for the others who have a few games under their belts, I love them. Without them I would of been merely blocker fodder. I think we played together well, considering, and I saw a lot of talent and great derby.
Yet, something was missing. There was no nail to my hammer, no swarm to my bee, no shepards to my goat. There was, in short, no communication. I screamed my fool head off and no one heeded my call. I learned quickly that I couldn't expect someone to be where I thought they should be. I also learned that every league operates under different strategies and assumptions and that when each player has their own agenda and individual priorities, the damn opposing jammer seems as if she was greased.
A blocker isn't a blocker isn't a blocker.
There is no substitute for your own teammate.
Really, you can't really know a girl until you've pushed her by her hips fifty times around the track. You can't know her until she's hit you to the floor a couple dozen times or managed to jump over your not-so-small fall or you've narrowly yet triumphantly avoided impregnating her with your own skate. You really can't know her until you've watched parts of her body swell up to cartoon like proportions and turn the colour of a mid summer sky. You really can't know her until you have a serious discussion about wheel hardness and practice floor versus bout floor and the relative merits of having a mouth guard with full concussion protection opposed to one you can actually talk with.
(Quick quiz: which brand of knee pads feel most like landing on a basket of kittens? Answer: 187 Killers - I <3 them.)
I can see now how derby is a team sport. Okay, you don't have to make a bunch of duh obnoxious noises at me. I have been focused on skill building for a long time and while hitting, obstructing, and stopping very important, it's just filtering in now that working with your team and cooperation is another important skill that I should push to the forefront of my training.
I'm going to get all Sesame Street.
Right now, post rookie invitational, I feel quite privileged to have such a fabulous and dark team to work with and develop some serious communication skills. And, it almost goes without saying, lucky to get to watch various body parts swell and bruise whenever skate or track meets bone.
Dear teammates: I may not know your favorite bands, your natural hair colour, or even your given name, but I trust that you'd throw your body down in front of a speeding jammer to protect my point and that's good enough for me.