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 benchmarking, I 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.