Wednesday, November 16, 2011

zero to so-so

Roller derby, for me, has been as much about my psychological growth as physical.  I have spent so much time feeling out of place, out of shape, out classed and out ranked at derby that it's really a wonder that I'm still doing this.

For the first year of derby, every single practice felt like this.

Now only every second practice feels like that. 

Over my just about two years now in derby, my body has reshaped itself (without losing a single damn pound). My mind has also. I believe now that I am tougher, harder to please and less susceptible to cowardice. My language is rougher, my friendships more unpredictable and fun (with a higher tendency towards bruise inducing behaviors) and I actually touch people now. I didn't before, I had a serious aversion to contact. Especially hugs. Hugs made me gag. But now, these days, I sometimes hug people just to say 'Hi, it's nice to see you!' That is how much derby has changed me.

(I realise that that last confession just opened me up to a world of gratuitous hugging amongst those who claim to be my friends and teammates, but it's still better than the frenzy of ass-slapping I endured at tonight's practice. What is with these people?!)

I am still in a bit of awe at myself for sticking with this derby thing.  It must be a drug they put in the wrist guards because from the very beginning I've felt more vulnerable and filled with self-doubt than ever before in my life but I keep coming back for more.
My very first derby practice ever I fell down on my head and barrel rolled myself across the track so many times I was worried about driving home with my double vision.

My second practice we timed our twenty five in five and I achieved a whole eleven laps in five minutes of skating.  

My third practice I tore a ligament in the top of my foot trying to get up from a knee drop and had to rest it for a whole month.

I clearly wasn't made for this. 

It was a whole eight months before I was ready to benchmark.  Transitions took six months, crossovers three months, plows a whole seven months.  I do not have a blogging record on much of it because it was so painful to write about.  Not painful like my ass, thanks to tonight's bizarre gang-spanking, but painful to my ego and psyche.  I can sum it up for you, though: sweat, humiliation, and playing zombie sniper with those nagging self doubts.  Every time one of those little fuckers tried to work it's way into my brain BAM!  I knew if I let even one of them in, I'd be all over for me.

You know, it must be said, that benchmarking is not the achievement I thought it would be.  It was only the first step in many difficult steep steps.  My first post after benchmarkingI am clearly underwhelmed with myself.  I wish that this story right now would be ending with some triumphant, climatic crescendo, where I win over a serious lack of athleticism and self-doubt to become champion of all derby everywhere.

But, of course it doesn't.  I am quite firmly an intermediate level player.  I'm now just beginning to be comfortable enough on my skates to almost forget I'm wearing them sometimes.  I've achieved my mediocrity and brief hiatus from self consciousness by participating in five or six practices a week.

That seems like a lot, even to me, but it's what it's taking to move me up to so-so player level.

About now you are wondering why I am telling you this sad tale of lameness.  So am I actually.  I'm kind of bumming myself out.  But, oh yes, why I persist in something I am so bad at: I'm having just a shitload of fun.  I like being more fit.  I like pushing myself.  I love every tiny bit of confidence I've worked for on that track and absolutely cherish every knock down and jammer push out I do.  I like having started doing eleven laps in five minutes and working myself up to over thirty in the same time.  Working so hard for something makes the reward even sweeter.   

Which is why I believe that if you are feeling overwhelmed, fearful and unfit for derby, you should stick it out anyway.  You don't owe it to your coach or your friends or fellow freshies, but to yourself.  This is you growing muscles and attitude and nobody can do the work for you.  Relish the challenge.  It's what makes mediocre feel like winning a gold medal.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Super Widower

Behind every great derby player, there is an even greater wife.

I have completely failed to find myself a derby wife.  Somehow, maybe somewhat explained by Bonnie D. Stroir's foray into untangling the hidden sociological mechanisms behind derby politics, I just haven't gone through with that particular rite of passage.  I just don't get on that well with the ladies.

Or perhaps I'm being fussy, holding out for that special someone that may not exist?  I've overly romanticized the perfect wife, one whom will hit with me, hit me, hold my hair back after the after-after party and let me air my gear out in her car on a tournament weekend, and my heart beats only for this perfect creature who lives exclusively in my derby dreams? 

Actually, no, that's not it.  I think I have failed on the derby wife front because I don't really give a rat's ass.  I'm just a bit too old for that brand of social corralling and I'd rather just get on with playing the game.

Plus also I already have a derby mate. 

Tonight, I was talking to my widower, The Man, about derby - what else? - and he was breaking down a certain player's style for me, giving some insight to his skating habits and suggesting what I can do to successfully block them.  See, he does this.  He watches the games and instinctively recognizes patterns and behaviors exhibited by players and comes up with a counter-move to kyptonite their asses.  He has helped me before during half-time when I've been up against difficult foes and recently gave his brother, Buster Beaton, a bit of advice that helped him juke out one of the best players around these parts (you can try to spot it by watching here).  I think The Man has an excellent derby brain and would be valuable to our league. 

So, tonight I tried to convince him - once again, with a complete lack of success - as always- to join derby.  I said, 'Come on, you already know the game, you like skating, you're already going on a damn derby road trip without me, why don't you just admit it, come out, and sign up already?'

And The Man says, 'But dear, I'm already very involved with derby.  Who cares for your orphans?  Who brings you sandwiches when you're all day officiating at boot camp?  Who listens to you talk about it for hours everyday?  Who makes sure your gear is aired out and you have clean fishnets the game?   Who slices fruit and vegetables for the half time snacks?  Who comes to the bout to sit with family and friends and explain what's happening to them?  Who comes with you to the after party and hangs onto your ass all night?'

And then I realize, omg, I DO have a derby wife!  A real one!  One that cooks, cleans and does laundry!  And gives strategy tips!  I'm not going to ruin a good thing here by encouraging him to actually get on the track, oh no, he's doing just fine, keeping to his place.

So, who needs a derby wife anyway?  Honestly, I trust my teammates to be there for me on the track and the after party.  I skate with a great group of people, players and refs alike, and what good would come from singling someone out?  I'm thinking that either I marry the whole lot of them or none. 

Of course, I can afford to take this lofty position on derby courtship, because I know I'll still have clean fishnets when I need them. 

I know I wouldn't be able to make the time and energy commitment this sport takes if it wasn't for The "He Who Shall Not Have A Derby Name" Man.  So, to the guy who not only brings me bout food, airs gear, washes fishnets AND reads my blog:

Thank You <3  

And, I forgot to mention, I have an extra practice or two this week, if you don't mind...

(Btw, to check out a little media spot for RDRDA, my Nightshades Vs. Gas City, and an interview with three Team Canada players, click here.)