I grew up with an interest in team sports. I tried volleyball, basketball and badminton… and sucked at them all. Even though I attended workshops and sports camps, I was never good enough to make a team. I wanted to badly to be part of a team that I even asked to attend team practices so I could keep learning. No matter how hard I tried, I was easily embarrassed and I became very self-conscious, especially when I had to demonstrate my skills in front of everyone. I don’t know what makes me so different than everyone else. Despite my experiences, I’m still eager to try new things.
Last fall, I finally decided to take the plunge and register for roller derby. I hate to admit it but the movie Whip It inspired me to look into it. The movie painted roller derby in a positive light. The derby community seems really close-knit, positive and supportive. I realized that these things seem to be true about our local league, Anchor City Rollers.
Each year, ACR holds a Fresh Meat program that teaches people how to skate (don’t get me started on the term “fresh meat” haha). You don’t have to have any experience to join. They teach you everything: how to skate, fall and stop, how to take care of your gear, and how to be safe. Graduates from the Fresh Meat program become intermediate skaters and if you continue to work hard and pass the tests, you might be drafted to one of their teams.
Before Christmas, I got fitted for my gear at the Cocoon Boutique and placed an order. I was so excited to pick it up before derby. Amy was very friendly and I gave her some control over what colour gear she ordered in for me. I wound up with some beautiful red wheels on my vinyl skates. Unfortunately, the boutique is closing soon. I wish I had discovered it sooner.
The first thing we did was put on our equipment and skated laps around the gym. I’m used to skating without any gear on. Having knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, a helmet and a mouth guard can really impact how you skate and it takes a while to get used to it. After that, we learned how to fall and practiced it. Then we learned and practiced our derby stance. I am so lucky that I lifted weights. Falling and getting back up takes a lot of strength and derby stance is like being in a continuous squat. Because of my training, I didn’t find this practice strenuous. I was pretty sore though. It did take a toll on my thighs, glutes, hamstrings, inside of my legs, abs and ankles.
Then came the dreaded drills. I was awful. Absolutely awful. I managed to laugh at myself though. At one point, I had an epic fall in front of everybody. They clapped and cheered. I smiled, waved and got right back up again. If 14 year old Sam had just taken a fall, she would have been super embarrassed and would have dreaded having to do another drill in front of all of these people. Twenty-six year old Sam is different now. Or so I thought.
Week 2 was hard and I wasn’t off to a great start. I managed to get lost, twice, on the way to the arena so I was a few minutes late for practice and getting lost made me very anxious. I was much steadier on my skates but I seemed to have gotten even worse at plough stops, which I didn’t think was possible! Before I knew it, we were put into groups for a “shopping cart” drill which involved pulling and then pushing a chain of people across the gym and plough stopping when we got to the other side. Pulling 4 other people was harder than it looked and I was super slow. Trying to plough stop at the end of the arena? I couldn’t make it happen. At one point, I ran into a beam because I couldn’t stop and got an awesome bruise on my hip. Ugh. That was HARD.
We started learning cross-overs too. A few of the seasoned skaters who volunteered to help the skaters gave me a hand with those. Even though I couldn’t quite do them by the end of practice, I felt way more comfortable skating on one foot, which I hope is going to help with my T-stops.
I have bowling immediately after derby. Balancing the two has been a little difficult and it makes for a long day.
Our third session is coming up shortly. I’m super excited to get back into my skates and I am also a little nervous. Hopefully, I don’t get lost again. That would be bad.
That’s all I have to say about derby right now.