[Photo courtesy of the amazing Rollergirl.ca, my favourite skate shop!]
This essay comes from the pen of one of the greatest supporters the derby community is lucky to have, Shawn Sanders, aka Delilah Decider. If you’ve ever looked for derby advice or support in a Facebook group*, chances are, Shawn’s been there to pick you up and dust you off, point you in the right direction, and share resources to help you on your way. She’s an all-star volunteer and NSO as well as a skater. Decider’s wise words to all new skaters entering a Fresh Meat program this fall are just as relevant to those of us who have been at this derby thing for years.
Enjoy the journey.
Don’t spend your valuable time thinking yourself “less than” because it might take you a little longer to get skills down. You’ll get them, too. If you’re struggling, don’t be shy about asking your trainers for help with the ones that give you the most trouble. They would be more than happy to take a few minutes with you before practice starts or after practice is over to work with you. A small tweak in your form that you may have never considered can make a huge difference.
Don’t spend your time thinking something is wrong with you because the people you started training with may move up faster in the ranks of your league. There is nothing wrong with you. Derby has no timetable. There is no rush or expectation that you have to be at a certain place in your training at a specific time, other than demands you place upon yourself.
Don’t worry so much about how you look in front of other people when you are on skates. First off: no one is looking at you, I promise. They are more worried about how they are going to do when it is their turn in a drill than throwing any kind of shade your way. Even if they are looking, they are most likely encouraging you, either in their heads or out loud. None of us were born with skates on our feet. When you see skaters that make everything look easy, take into account: all of the hours they put into making themselves the amazing skaters they are today; all 49 times you didn’t see them falling and busting their asses before they finally stayed on their feet for the 50th try; their frustrations and their tears, the same as you and everyone else who has made the decision to take part in our sport. We get to see the end result, forgetting that we also have to put that same effort to be better and do the work both on and off the track, both mentally and physically.
You’re going to struggle and get frustrated because your brain and your body seem to not be on speaking terms with each other. Then one day, you’ll have that moment where you finally nail the plow stop or the well placed positional block or the transition on your challenged side or make your 27 laps… and that joy makes it worth all of the sore muscles and the empty bank account from wanting to do this thing we enjoy so much.
And here’s the gag: once you finally pass all of your skills, you still have to learn how to play roller derby! That is going to start an entirely new learning curve that you will be on until the day you hang up your skates. You’ll have to deal with team tryouts, making it onto rosters, learning strategies and keeping up on the rules along with knowing what to do when you’re actually out on the track. Everything you went through as Fresh Meat doesn’t stop the day you become skills cleared, it’s the focus that becomes different. Not something to stress too much about right now, though, if you’re not there just yet.
Your experience in roller derby is entirely yours. You have complete control over how it goes. No matter how long it takes to get where you want to be, the time is going to pass no matter what, right? Do you want to spend it miserable and down on yourself? I would bet every dollar I have that you don’t. Are there going to be difficult days? There most definitely will, in just about any endeavour that you take on where you have to challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Your greatest lessons as a skater are going to come during those times and it is how you get yourself through them and come out on the other side, still smiling and still rolling, that matters.
YOU CAN DO THIS. I believe in you. You should believe in you, too.
Good luck, and be safe!
Big thanks again to Decider for allowing me to re-post this here for all to see!
xo Booty Quake
PS: Today is the last day to get in on September’s Pump Up Your Jam training program at the Early Bird price! Price goes up tomorrow (Thursday). The fun all starts on Monday, September 14th. All the details are right here.