Getting your ass handed to you

I watched a bout tonight with a final score of about 320 to 60.

“Yikes,” I said to my new teammate, who sat next to me.
“Yeah. But they’ll be twice as good tomorrow,” she said.
“Been there,” I told her.
“We all have.”

The ass handing. It happens. In derby-land, all the time.

In fact, this happened to be almost exactly one year ago, at my first bout. It was my entire team’s first game ever. We lost 266-62. The next day, we were twice as good.

That night was tough. Every jam a struggle. I think I jammed five times and scored nothing. Just got beaten and beaten and beaten to the floor. And I had a blast.

“I HAVE NEVER BEEN HIT THAT HARD,” I remember saying. “I didn’t even know girls COULD hit that hard,” I told my teammates, who shook their heads in agreement.

And that’s when WE started practicing hitting that hard. It was the first time we thought about “walls” or, dare I say it, strategy at all.

My old team recently beat that old team in a tournament. And although we won that tournament, and therefore beat 10 other teams, it was that game — not even the championship game — that we were proudest of. Not because we beat that team, we loved that team, but because we beat our old selves. We learned what we already knew somewhere: We weren’t those same girls anymore. And a lot of it was due to that first asswhipping.

Call it a loss, but we’ll see in a year 🙂

Thing I’m proud of: I was the only blocker for my team today at one point, against 5 opposing skaters, and I held their jammer until my jammer came back. Really proud of that. Three things I’m grateful for: I’m grateful there is so much derby in this city to watch and learn from (four bouts this weekend!), and for my newfound hemp/cactus protein powder my loving girlfriend bought me, and for my new teammates who saved me a seat at the bout tonight.

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Sick days

When freshmeat (new skaters) come to derby, it’s often about fun, friends, fishnets. And at some point through fall drills and endurance laps and enough scrimmages and bouts, those who stick come to love derby not as a game or a hobby, but as the sport. And that’s a tough adjustment (but that’s for another post).

With that adjustment comes the “me” part of it. If you’re playing a sport, you’re an athlete.  Athletes don’t eat like you ate before. They crosstrain. They watch lots of derby footage to scope out other teams. They do lots of things that the girl you were at tryouts wouldn’t have dreamed of doing. Or eating.

Yesterday I was sick. Labyrinthitis. It means I was too dizzy to stand up yesterday, nevermind drive to the rink or skate. I missed practice. If I’m not better by tomorrow, I’ll miss another.

Other skaters will sympathize, because somewhere along the line not roller skating and not doing planks and pushups and endurance laps became a punishment. Weird, right? Because for me, eating this much spinach and eggs and doing that many minutes of squats used to be the grueling part … not lying in bed watching WFTDA.tv …

Time to rest and heal.

How to play “watching roller derby”

As blog followers know, I was on a 30+ day road trip. No Internet … during regionals … all the regionals. I’m still catching up. Some people have drinking games, I have a derby game.

Here’s how you play my game. I call it “watching roller derby”:
First half: plank first 30 seconds of every jam
Second half: do five pushups at the start of every jam
Official time outs: bicycles.

Because what’s more motivating than watching the thing you’re working for (being a better athlete) to get you to crosstrain? I like planks and pushups because I don’t get a lot of arm work in my regular skating practices. I also like it because if I set the laptop on the floor at the right height, I don’t miss a thing while I’m doing these exercises.

You can usually get in 50 push ups and 10 minutes of planking in this way … per game.

Some recent games I’d HIGHLY recommend:
Texas v Atlanta (HOLY!)
Nashville v No Coast (hooooo!)
London v Philly

They’re all free on WFTDA.tv. Get strong, get smart, get up-to-date on our ever-changing sport.

You have got to see V Diva play in the London/Philly game. Here she is hugging Teflon Donna on WFTDA.tv

Grow.

I had a rough night.

I recently transfered to this new league. It’s a ranked league that’s often seen at nationals. I came from a tiny tiny league in a small town on the coast of Maine. A big jump. Despite this, and despite warnings at the rink that “it’s very competitive,” and despite only having skated for 1-2 bouting seasons, I was sure my new league would find me “hometeam-ready.” They didn’t. And I was very disappointed. I did make the league, officially.

But, suffice it to say I was very sad last night. I gave it my all and I thought I would be allowed to skate with the home teams.

But it’s a new day. It’s the day I have to put on my great attitude and be a good athlete and true derby girl. Today is bounce back day. And I am. I feel better. I’m going to train harder. I’m now with a whole new bunch of women who are more experienced than I am and who are going to teach me a lot — and that excites me. I’ll be doing that  in “the pool” (non-drafted skaters and fresh meat) for a while. And that’s OK.

Actually, it reminds me of trying out for Footloose at my high school. It was my freshman year and I was cast as Alice. (There is no Alice in Footloose, by the way). “Is Alice an extra?” I asked the drama teacher. “Yes,” she said. “Oh. Great. I’m going to be the best extra ever,” I told her. She smiled.

I just have to be the best “select grade” transfer ever now. 🙂 I mean — I got onto a very good league with only a couple of bouting seasons under me. That’s something to be proud of.

The training committee told me it shouldn’t take me long to be a hometeam skater. They told me the skill I need to work on is my speed skating form. Of all the things that could have been said to a skater, that’s pretty good, I think. Attainable. It’s not my blocking, jamming, speed, endurance, attitude … tough things to work on.  I plan to show them my enthusiasm and how I welcome their input. I’ll find a buddy with great speed skating form and work on mine. I’ve emailed my local skate club and asked if they know anyone who would be interested in giving me some speed skating lessons.

Derby is about endurance. This is something to endure. Derby is about falling down and getting back up — quickly. This is my time to brush off any pain and put on my skates and get low until I’m drafted. Until I’m a better athlete. A better person. Wiser, more patient, more skilled. This is me, about to grow. And growth hurts and is fulfilling. All we can do is give it our all, try our best and leave it all on the track with no regrets. That’s what I plan to do next. I’m ready.

This is me brushing it off [and getting ready to work my hardest].
One thing I’m proud of: My bounced-backedness … resilience? Three things I’m grateful for: A community of readers I know will empathize and not criticize, time to work on my form, the [earned] privilege of being able to skate for this new league.

Roller derby: Saving lives

Today, a shout out to Bangor Roller Derby, a team I once skated with.

BRD made it onto PostSecret with this gem. 

BRD just got off the ground and recently started scrimmaging. They’ve fought hard to keep girls skating through venue-shifts and drop outs, so it’s nice to hear that BRD, like lots of derby leagues, is helping people through hard times.

I moved to my new town a week ago. I miss my friends and the comfort of home, but yesterday someone added me to my new leagues fresh meat private facebook page. People have commented on my arrival including, “Welcome to the [North West] Dash, u have a built in family here!”

And it’s true. I don’t know these ladies yet. And, to be clear, I don’t need someone to save my life, but that sense of belonging, community, friendship, camaraderie of lots of women working toward a common goal feels like home. I recently took a long road trip through the United States and Charm City in Baltimore let me skate a practice, as did Bay Area Roller Derby in Oakland, California. And after weeks of not showering, of sleeping in my car and eating peanut butter on bread day after day (OK, that actually felt sort of normal), having my feet in sweaty skates and touching the skater in front of me’s back in a paceline felt like a refreshing wave of normalcy. Of home. No matter where I was. I’m glad this lady found that sense of home and love and support in Bangor Derby.

For me, derby didn’t save my life — it made me a better person (that’s a blog post for another day) — but it’s nice to hear (and re-hear) that it’s saving someone else’s. It’s a hard lesson to remember in minute 80 of endurance practice that the attitudes we have and the love and support we show our teammates on the track matters — it could be life or death.

Love each other,

—Dash

(One thing I’m proud of: Enduring one hour of strength training and one hour of endurance practice yesterday; three things I’m grateful for: A support system of women from my last league, the acceptance and enthusiasm my new league is showing me, my best friend and derby mentor Mistress of the Knife for getting me this far.)

Celebrating wins

Bonnie D Stroir gives a great pep talk. So does this guy [sort of] who studies happiness and says, “See what we’re finding is it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, … we change your happiness

Progress is success.

It’s super hard to remember this. Especially as a roller derby player. The women I have skated with never seem to realize how awesome they are. When you tell them they did a great job, they often shrug it off. Bonnie talks a lot about this too (sorry, but this is a very Bonnie-inspired post).

At a tournament I went to a few weeks ago I saw a jammer slide right through a pack of six blockers — and only two were on her team. She came in for a second pass and picked up a couple points, but not all four — overall, adding to her team’s score. But the girl tugged the jammer panty off her helmet and started berating herself at her teammates. In my head I was yelling, “You got lead jammer and scored two points with only two of your own blockers in the pack, that’s fantastic.” But I could hear her saying she got only two points and she sucked. Did this “I suck” attitude help her play the next 45 minutes of the game? Did it make her want to excel and help her teammates and believe in herself to score more points next time? Probs not. She was scolding herself for success.

And we do it all the time. This happened to me yesterday. It was my second transfer skater tryout day for my new league. I won Most Valuable Player for my team in the scrimmage. The way this league works is that I prove myself in two days and then they tell me my placement, which determines which teams I can tryout for (if any). When I came home and told my girlfriend I won MVP she said congratulations. I said, “Thanks. We’ll see if it counts for anything.”

Oh, Dash. Was MVP not good enough for you? On your SECOND day of practice? I too need to learn to celebrate my small victories. Because happiness is something we practice. And it’s a weak spot of mine right now. I see my goals: make the best placement, make the travel team this year, make it to nationals next year, make it to Team USA after that. But if I can’t be happy about allllll those billion things along the way, what makes me think I’ll be happy if I ever do wear a Team USA jersey? Just like my jamming and blocking and endurance, I need to practice being proud of myself and happy where I am now.

SO, as a staple on this blog I will have at the end of each post: one thing I’m proud of and three things I’m grateful for.

Today it’s these: I am proud of myself for winning MVP of the scrimmage yesterday. I am grateful for my girlfriend who supports me. I am grateful for my healthy body that allows me to skate. I am grateful for this team for allowing me to come into their family as a transfer.

Later skaters.