Tag: Freshie

Then and Now

By Sparks & Wreck

 

As my league moves into a recruitment cycle and the one year anniversary of my Freshie class rolls around, there are a lot of “then and now” pictures flying around on my Facebook timeline, including my own. All of the pictures are success stories in one way or another–they show progress, overcoming setbacks, confidence, and growth. My picture shows all that, but it also happens to show that between two pictures, my body has changed pretty significantly.  But I really hope that isn’t the only thing that people see.

In my “then” picture I am looking down at my feet, unsure that they will be where I want them to be. In my “now” picture I am mid-chest block in our 3rd bout. In my “then” picture my stance is wide and my arms look uncomfortable. I am alone and thinking only about my own success or failure. In my “now” picture I have my teammates quite literally supporting me. I know they are there and I am counting on them. I am stopping the jammer with them. I want people to see all of that.

Because, whatever those pictures show about my body, it is not telling the whole story. I did not join derby to lose weight. In fact, I joined derby because I saw women of all shapes and sizes playing and succeeding. I joined derby because I figured a big, solid, immovable girl would be appreciated–we are!–in a sport where the “ball” is a person trying to get around you by crashing into you.

Maybe the first thing you see when you look at that picture is the change in my size. I had made a decision just before joining derby, along with my doctor, after finding out I was pre-diabetic with a family history that wasn’t great, that I needed to make some changes. I’m not going to say that the 2-hour practices 2 or 3 times a week didn’t help, or that the necessity of doing some off-skates workouts to help with my agility and endurance didn’t contribute. But derby, and my team, would have been there for me regardless.

I love my sport for its body positivity.  I love my team for their acceptance of me however I come. And I hope that is just as noticeable in that picture as anything else.

Monday Motivation-Avoid the Bench Trap!

By Wild Violet

 

When I joined the Androscoggin Fallen Angels back in spring of 2016 I had no skating experience or athletic prowess to speak of. Sure, I do yoga once in a while and I am pretty flexible. But most of my time was spent sitting on my rump, making art or reading books. I never considered myself an “athlete”. I wanted to change that.

I saw a recruitment post on Facebook about the local roller derby league and attended an info session. While I sat there, observing their practice with info packet in hand, listening as the Angels told us about the league and what practices were like, I found myself wanting to jump right down off the balcony, strap on some skates, and join them. I filled out the paperwork, got my gear and insurance, and felt ready to roll.

A couple of weeks later I showed up for my very first practice, scared out of my mind and thinking to myself that I was insane for showing up and thinking I could do this. Looking around, I could see that I wasn’t the only brand new, “bambi-on-ice” skater. Several others were struggling to stay on their feet as well and I found that comforting. But as practice went on, it became clear that the years of roller skating I did as a kid were not going to translate into picking this derby skating stuff up quickly. This was friggin’ hard!

Practice after practice I showed up anyway. When we did the off-skates workouts, I huffed and puffed my way through. (Wait, what? Jogging!? Burpees!? Ugh, OK.) When it was time to lace up my skates and get out on the track for drills, I wobbled through every one. Yes, I did glance at the clock to see just how much longer I had to endure. I looked at that clock a LOT.

But what I didn’t do, the thing I avoided like the plague, was sit on the bench.

You see, on day one, as I drove myself to that first practice, I made a deal with myself. I agreed that unless I got injured, I was not going to sit my ass on the bench and watch. I wasn’t going to be a watcher anymore, I was going to be a doer. I knew I wasn’t going to be the best skater, I wasn’t going to be the strongest, the fastest, or the most agile. I knew from the get go that roller derby was going to take a lot of falling and failing on my part before I got good at it. But I also knew that I had to make it through that period of falling and failing, and I couldn’t do that while sitting down.

My personal rule was: You have to try everything and you can’t sit out.

And so, week after week, I went, I skated, and I improved. I eventually stopped huffing and puffing so much. I eventually stopped guffawing at the idea that I could be an athlete. I eventually stopped glancing at the clock every fifteen minutes.

And one magical day, the trainers called out that practice was over, and I found myself not only in disbelief that those two hours had flown by so fast, but also wishing that it wasn’t over and I didn’t have to take my skates off and go home. I was having so much fun that the desire to stop never popped up and I never had to remind myself of my personal rule.

Derby magic.

No, Derby Perseverance.

We all have different limitations and strengths. When we start something new, the person next to us might excel more quickly at it, and it may come to them more easily. In this case, it is tempting to tell oneself that we just aren’t cut out to do that thing, or that we aren’t ready. And that bench looks damn inviting. But the bench can become a habit.

It isn’t a bad place. I’ve had to sit there more than a few times when I’ve been healing a sprained knee or a pulled muscle. At those times the bench is a place to observe and do the mental work, learning by watching. The important thing is not to allow the bench to invite you to avoid pushing yourself out of your comfort zone enough to grow.

Julie Andrews said: “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”

In order to get to that 20th time, you have to push yourself through the first 19. And that means avoiding that bench.

 

Confession of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl: Living Out Of Control


One of the few things you can count on in life is that it will change, absolutely and without question. I like to say that I embrace the idea of change and I frequently seek change. But, I will also admit that I fight for control of change, and that is where my wheels usually come off.

I love to learn, and experience, and grow. But I don’t always grasp that it’s the things I can’t control that bring the most profound and valuable life experiences. I’m usually too busy trying to make them stop, or at least force them to submit to my will. Let me share how this might translate into derby life.

You decide to join a roller derby team which means you gotta learn how to skate. You strap eight tiny wheels to the feet that you have navigated for most of your life without conscious thought and then, well, you roll. Simple.

You envision that you’re going to glide smoothly across a glossy slick floor and go from point here to point there. And you’re going to do that in an upright and graceful state.

Suddenly, the feet, legs, butt, and arms that you routinely ignore as you push your cart down the grocery aisle or walk down the stairs are all in a panic, fighting for control. They yell at you to take charge, to use your brain to prevent them suffering some serious damage.

This is when you begin to realize two things simultaneously. A. You’re about to fail. And B. You hope like hell you don’t.

Fear driven determination kicks in and, with clenched fists and gritted teeth, you will yourself to stay vertical. After all, people are watching and your sense of self preservation and dignity is well developed and almighty.

You become acutely conscious of each action. You fight for control of everything. Toe stop down,  gingerly push. Roll forward. Teeter. Wobble. Accelerate. Make undignified whimper noises. Realize that starting was the easy part before you bend your knees, lean forward, wobble some more. Whimper louder and use your toe stop to try to stop. Hope you are actually stopping. Pirouette around toe stop and manage to keep your balance before coming to a tenuous stop. The trainer blows her whistle signaling to everyone to gather around her. Teeter. Thank goodness you happen to be stopped in the right place. Heave a sigh of relief as you stand, vertical status intact, and take a quick glance around at the cluster of women who have all just danced the same dance as you, aaaaand…

Wham! Suddenly, you’re looking up at the legs and butts of those same women. You never even felt it coming. Those sneaky, greasy, lowdown, $@&#% wheels slipped skyward and you found yourself instantly on your ass. You were just standing there, minding your own business and now you’re sprawled on the floor like your drunk Aunt Mitzi at every family wedding. But that’s not all. You’re about to have a derby lesson about the illusion of control.

First, you haven’t experienced that kind of pain on your backside since you fell off the monkey bars in third grade. Second, you may or may not be able to breathe. Third, various body parts are calling you ugly names. But, the worst, most mortifying thing of all, is your timid, wallflower bladder is cowering “Sorry, guys. I just couldn’t hold it!” Are you serious?

Now you have a decision to make about your so called control. You can unlace your skates and hightail it to the ladies and do some bladder damage control. You can pull up your hoodie, throw on your Foster Grants, grab your gear and control yourself right out the back door.

Or, you can stand up, own your uncomfortably moist situation, and make a mental note to be prepared for future episodes of derby PMS (Peed MySelf).

You can accept that falling happens, that eventually you’re going to get hit, and that it’s probably going to hurt. You can decide to look forward to your first derby kiss and hope that it’s a lovely dark purple so you can show all your friends how badass you are. You can decide that it’s okay that you’re not in control. Yet.

Falling on your ass hurts. It’s a complete and utter lack of control. It’s humiliating, but the first time is the worst. It does get better. But if you embrace the pain and the failure you’ll be rewarded with something priceless that comes from inside you.

Falling means you’re pushing, you’re persisting, you’re persevering. It means you’re finding the thrill of the skill every 

time you push yourself off the floor. It means that soon you’ll know what it feels like when you skim over the floor. You will know the feel cool air on your hot, salty face as you push to do your 27/5. You’ll get to feel a body buzz when you nail a killer turn around toe stop in your new, powerful and (dry) upright derby stance. No one can give that to you but you. And no one can take it away.

Life has a way of throwing some pretty brutal hits. You can be standing there minding your own business and then, without warning, you’re on your ass, and it hurts like hell and you wonder “What the hell just happened?” Maybe you need to take the bench, catch your breath, and pull yourself together. You can even hit the ladies to change your shorts. But, then you have to decide, are you going to sneak out the back door, play it safe, try and get control of the uncontrollable? Or are you going to get back up, live out of control and skate?

Confessions of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl: Falling

One of the great side effects of derby is increased confidence. Each time I get on skates I am nervous. I feel inadequate. I feel a little intimidated. Then I start to feel the wheels, and my legs warm up and my heart starts beating and I stop thinking about what I can’t do because I am focusing on what I am being challenged to do. I am skating forward. Awesome. I am picking up some speed. Hurray. My crossovers are smoother and more rhythmic. Yippee. And then, a new skill is introduced and suddenly I am skating backward or doing transitions or sliding to a stop on my toes, and each new skill that is introduced brings a momentary slight panic that it’s something I can’t do. But then the next thing I know, I am listening to the trainer or a vet give me pointers, breaking everything down, and making it look so easy. All I can do is focus, listen, and try it and then, ta-da! I fall on my ass. I get up. I stumble through it. Maybe I fall on my ass again. But, eventually, it comes.

So, here’s the amazing thing. Falling on my ass has been one of the best things in the world for me. Because, when I fall on my ass, there are a team full of girls there saying “Great fall! You’re really pushing yourself!” and they really mean it. Falling in derby means you’re learning. It means you’re living. And it means that you can take the bump and get up and keep going.

Something happens when you hit the floor and you bite it hard. Hard enough to rattle your bones. Hard enough to make you pee your pants. You feel pain, and sometimes it is a lot of pain. I have fallen so hard my legs turn to jelly when I stand back up again and it takes a few minutes to skate it off. But those things are just a part of it. Taking a digger, feeling the pain, and getting back up again triggers an emotional and mental response that I have never experienced before, and it’s the reason any derby girl will proudly show her “derby kisses”. You begin to feel your strength. For me that was a feeling I didn’t recognize and it is addicting. You begin to understand your personal power when you get up, shake it off, and get back to work. You skate the practice out, finish crusty, salty, achy, tired, and triumphant. There is a high that I feel after a good practice, when I have made it through the whole thing and did something I didn’t know I could do. That feeling has filtered through derby practice and has started affecting the way I feel when I am not on skates. It feels good. It feels like something I have missed my whole life. If I take nothing else away from derby, that in itself is priceless.

 

Confessions of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl: First Day

 

Have you ever wondered about roller derby? Like, seen a picture or an article and had a little flutter of curiosity and a flash of derby fantasy? If you’re like me, it was more than a flutter, and, like me, you probably daydreamed “Whip It: The Sequel” starring (insert your name here). And then, like me, your grown up brain kicked in and said “Was that light green or did we just blow through a red? Wait, is it only Wednesday?” (Yaaaaawwwwnnnn)

Well, give your adult self a cookie and put her down for a nap. You’re going to grab your inner (wild) child by the arm and drag her to the Lewiston Armory to see what this roller derby business is all about.

This is not just any derby night, it’s your FIRST derby night. You, fresh derby diva, have just begun an exciting new adventure with the Androscoggin Fallen Angels Roller Derby League.

You’re early because you’re excited and nervous.

When you step into the Lewiston Armory you mentally kick yourself for being too eager. It’s awkward. Super intimidating. You see women of all shapes, all sizes, all kinds, and they are gearing up.

These are the vets, the badasses, the ones who have already clambered over a bunch of derby hurdles to form this fledgling team. They are laughing and talking, busy doing their derby girl thing. You hear things like “which wheels are you using tonight, 94s?” and “look at this bruise!”  “Are we doing 27 in 5 tonight?” You have no idea what they’re talking about

Your eyes scan the wide open gymnasium for something to stand behind before one of them notices the new girl. No luck. You’ve got your new derby gear in your old canvas tote (so lame) so there’s no hiding, no backing out. Suddenly, you remember exactly what the first day of high school gym felt like and exactly how terrifying your gender can be to it’s own kind.

But, you only shake in you sneakers for a split second before a friendly face appears to welcome you and show you the ropes. She explains the gear, checks your mouth guard and helmet for proper fit, and reassures you that you don’t have to know how to skate to do this.

You sit on the bench and finish gearing up, watching the vets out of the corner of your eye to make sure you’re not committing any derby faux pas. Girls pass by, saying hello, introducing themselves with fantastic derby names and you wonder if the names you have been thinking about are cool enough or whether everyone will think they’re silly. Maybe, you say to yourself, you should just forgo the derby name. But so far everyone seems so friendly and down to earth. Maybe this will be okay.

New girls start to trickle in, and you see on their faces how you must have looked a few minutes ago, waaayyy freaked out! You try to relax and take it all in. Butterflies are out of control.

A couple of team members are all skated up and gliding gracefully around the track, warming up. Most of the skaters are finding the newbies to welcome them and give them pointers on how to make sure gear is secure. You’ve already got your gear on so now you can watch and listen.

“I don’t think I can even stand up on these things!” Nervous laugh. “ No kidding! I don’t remember how long ago I last skated.” Someone nods her head as she struggles to figure out which way her knee pad goes. “Did you get butt pads? They’re not required but I’m afraid I’ll break my ass!!” More nervous laughter. “I don’t want my ass to look any bigger than it already is.” “I don’t know about wearing those tank tops. All my fat rolls will show.”

You recognize your own thoughts in the chit chat. As you listen you begin to realize, this is how we women try to fit in, get comfortable with meeting new people in an intimidating situation. We tell everyone how pathetic we are, give them a heads up, before they have a chance to do it for us. That way, when we fail, at least we can save face by saying, “See? I told you I suck. You can’t say I didn’t warn you!” You laugh, and throw in some self shaming of your own. You don’t want to seem like you’re too full of yourself.

But maybe in your not- too- distant past you would have judged some of these women in just the same way they are judging themselves on your behalf. It’s what we do in our culture. We judge each other, we judge ourselves, and we accept and internalize  judgement as though it was our birthright as women.

You start to really look at these women who are just as crazy as you are and just as flawed as you are and you have an epiphany. If you apologize for your self and your imperfections, then you’re telling everyone around you that not only are you not worthy, but neither are they. Because how can you hate your own rolls, or bony knees or clumsiness without, in turn, hating someone else’s?

You ponder this during your first practice as you struggle to stay upright, to shake off the burning in your legs and back, to catch your breath, keep up with the girls, wipe the salt out your eyes.

Then, BAM! You fall, and you take out a few other girls in the process. You’re mortified. Did you hurt someone? Break something? Pee your pants? You can’t even get yourself up and you’re reaching out to help your victims. “Omigod, are you okay? I’m so sorry!”

An Angel glides up to make sure no one is injured. She is smiling as you’re still apologizing for causing the crash, and she says “There’s no sorry in derby!” You recover. Push through the embarrassment and you skate out the rest of the practice.

Maybe it doesn’t sink in completely, maybe it’s not a light switch moment, but maybe, on your first night of roller derby, you learned something that had nothing to do with skating. You learned you can give yourself permission, at least for one night a week to just be, in all your glory and with all your flaws. No apologies. No sorry. Who knows where that might take you?

 

 

Confessions of a (Nearly) 50 Year Old Derby Girl

Introducing Cherri Boom, who will be writing a regular column for us about her real time journey learning roller derby skills!

Several years ago, at my brother’s dining room table in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, somehow the topic of Roller derby comes up. There is a local team, The Jackson Hole Juggernauts, affectionately nicknamed The Juggs. We all talk for a bit about what an awesome thing it was and I distinctly remember saying, with sincere but rationalized longing “Oh! I wish we had a team back home. I would do it in a heartbeat!”

Even as I said it, I was already dismissing the fantasy of myself in roller skates and fishnets busting up a pack of girls with black eyes, missing teeth, and tattoos. Well, maybe not entirely dismissing it. Knowing full well, that at the age of, erm, forty something, that ship was never even coming into my port, my inner Walter Mitty invented a single derby name before curling up for a nap in the corner of my mind. Amanda Crush took a few glorious laps through my imagination and then she too slipped into hibernation beside him.

Now, jump ahead to December 2015. I’m headed out the door to work. I don’t usually read the paper, but I happen to spy the words “roller derby” on the upturned page of the newspaper on the kitchen counter. I’m late but I stop to read it anyway. I can’t believe it! Lewiston has had a roller derby team right under my nose!

I run down to my car and start searching Facebook. Voila! There it is! I contact the team and send a message. I’m sure I am gushing fan girl mania but I don’t care. This is fantastic!

In retrospect, I realize his was nuts since I hadn’t been on skates in my adult life. At all! For some reason I had this delusion that I would be able to pick up where my 10 year old self had left off and just skate. Did I mention that I was forty-something. Like, not even the first half of my forties. I’m not sure where that confidence even came from. I certainly didn’t have any experiences to base it on. But irrational doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing does it?

I got a reply that day and an invitation to observe a practice. I was elated! So much so that I went to several sporting goods stores (in January, mind you) until I found a lone pair of sad little roller skates. They were white with purple trim, ankle boot style. Purple plastic wheels with matching purple laces topped off the Shirley Temple vibe. They were definitely NOT roller derby skates, despite the bold pronouncement printed in curly script on the label. I knew nothing about skates otherwise I would have known that $35 was about $34 too much to pay for them. But! I had wheels for my feet and a hardwood floor to try them on. I was unstoppable!

I brought the skates home and immediately started skating through my apartment. I nearly brained myself several times but I didn’t fall and for some reason that was enough to bolster my ridiculous certainty that I could do this derby thing.

A few weeks later I finally met the team and observed a practice. At the time, the Angels were a handful of girls who had been skating together for about a year. Some were good. Some were really good. They were all friendly and seemed genuinely glad I was there. They let me stand in the center of the track while they worked on the 27/5, (skating 27 laps in front CR minutes) and I was hooked.

This is how my derby love started. I finally got an honest-to- goodness pair of roller derby skates, along with helmet, pads, and mouth guard and soon I was on the track with some amazing women learning how to skate again. It hasn’t been an easy roll. I’ve had my challenges and disappointments, but I’ve been lucky, too. Derby has been there waiting for me to work through my challenges, celebrating my little victories with me.

I have a goal. It hasn’t changed although my timeline has been adjusted a few times. I want to be on the track, with my team, playing this amazing game called roller derby. I’m forty nine. I will be fifty in November 2018 and I have promised myself a pair of red and black sequined booty shorts when I pass to scrimmage eligible status. I want to be able to wear those shorts by my fiftieth birthday. Wish me luck!