Derby has its own language. That’s probably true for most sports. But I’ve never played a team sport before. I’d also never been to a sports bootcamp before. So I didn’t realize that all of my nerves and doubts would fade into the background as soon as the brace put her hand on my shoulder and we sunk low into the tripod. We were learning new things, but I knew what to do right there in that spot, just then.
It didn’t quite start out that way, of course. About 300 times after I signed up for the Montreal Roller Derby’s New Skids on the Block Bootcamp, I thought “what in the world are you thinking, Sparks? You passed MSRs 4 months ago. You been in 1 ½ bouts. You’re gonna go out there and juke with Miracle Whips or block with Surgical Strike?” Apparently, I was.
So, I got myself to Montreal, up bright and early Saturday morning, and went straight to the wrong building. When I finally figured out where I was supposed to be, the locker room was full of people I didn’t know all squished together trying to put on gear with no arm room at all. But I knew they were all derby players and, therefore, my people. I smiled and someone squeezed over even farther to give me a place to sit. Everyone was nervous, I could hear it in the conversations I could understand (a lot were in French, which I could not), I could see it in the way people were having more trouble than usual getting their skates tied just right.
We all trooped out there and got instructions for warms ups. Warm ups are nearly universal, they felt like a sweaty but comfortable t-shirt. And then the first partner drill–but in the language of derby, eye-contact, a raised eyebrow, and maybe a quick point-at-you-point-at-me is usually enough to get a partner. And even in this mixed company, it was still enough.
You don’t even have to speak the same language as your partner to laugh together when your elbow pads stick to each other as you are trying to seam up. Or when you trip again trying to skate backwards on the oddly sticky floor. It’s all just derby.
I left the 2-day clinic with a lot of new ideas on how to improve my skills and gameplay, but more importantly with a larger view of this derby community of which I am now a part. It’s vast, and growing every day. We all have things to teach each other, so talk derby to me.