San Jose, California's Premier Roller Derby League

IMHO: Confessions of a Derby Wannabe

Posted on January 28th, by demonic in IMHO, Roller Derby. 7 comments

This post comes from SVRG's Absolutely Scabulous, who passed bootcamp at the end of last season and has become a full time derby girl. Currently she is serving as Head of Bout Production and doing a fabulous job...come see the product of all her hard work (on skates and off) at our first home bout on March 6!

by Absolutely Scabulous

It's been 8 months, folks. 8 months, 3 two-hour practices a week, and all the additional heart and soul I have been putting into the sport of roller derby. If you would have asked me last April where I would have seen myself in 8 months, I think my arrogance would have gotten the best of me. I was convinced that I could possibly be the missing link in roller derby, the undiscovered gem, that finally, I may have found a sport that I could be the front runner! But here I sit post-practice, a deflated medium. I am an average roller derby skater.

There were a lot of surprises I could have never predicted when entering the derby culture. I never expected the costs associated with it and how much it would really factor into my budget. Skates, pads, helmet, workout clothes, even how the hell am I going to carry my skates since they don't fit in my cheap-ass bag I got from Ross? That extra top from Forever Hoochie and those new black flat boots from DSW were bumped down on the priority list--I wanted a set of G-Rod wheels so could actually grip the track; I want a better fitting skate with higher quality hardware so I can count on it when I'm out playing (rather than worrying about losing a toe stop around turn 1). The financial commitment associated with derby wasn't necessarily a burden, but simply a new way of prioritizing my expenditures, and in turn, my lifestyle. I'm learning that my purchases are a lot more meaningful than what they used to be.

I don't think I understood the human element of it all, the personalities and interactions between skaters. I don't know who I thought this group of women were (no really, I didn't have any clue who would be passionate and involved in this insane sport). In most life situations, I find myself the loudest/funniest/popular-est of the bunch and I usually can charm the pants off whoever is around. But this group was different. I feel myself being shy and awkward in situations where I would normally be extremely confident--it's truly an ass-slap to my ego, making sure I don't get too comfortable and really pushes me to stay focused. And since I'm not the top dog skater, I'm literally forced to listen to the more experienced girls and attempt to absorb as much strategy at all times. THEN I can allow myself to socialize. Playing derby has challenged me to stretch my own comfort level, be a teammate rather than an individual and begin to learn a new side of my own personality. It's been a humbling experience for me as I've had to let younger girls teach me and learn to take huge amounts of both positive and negative feedback. For me, that's actually a huge growing area--I'm not one to run out and ask for feedback (c'mon, who really is?).

And then, the derby learning curve. Oh you mean, long and slow learning curve. So you wanted to run a marathon? Sweet! Just follow this training plan. Oh you wanted to swim for varsity? No problem, you'll be captain after a year! And then there's roller derby: quite possibly the only sport I've ever attempted to play where I truly am starting from zero knowledge. Besides knowing how to do basic skating, I am learning this sport utterly and completely from the ground up. This isn't an innate skill, you aren't born with skates on your feet (even though I think some of the A-team girls were, along with mouth guards and came out of the womb screaming "JAMMER! JAMMER! JAMMER!"). And what I'm learning the most, besides not to let the opposing blockers distract me, is to be patient with myself and this process. There are rules, positions, strategy, and intuition that all must be practiced, and practiced and practiced some more, then finally learned.

So here I sit, post-Wednesday practice, our scrimmaging practice. The entire drive home I attempted to process the wave of information, advice, and feedback given to me. And I couldn't really digest it all until I started writing. It's okay if at this practice I only did one single thing better than I did yesterday. It's completely okay that I might have sucked at something tonight (or many things!). Even if I tried my best and did one good block, or avoided a hit, that's one skill I wasn't able to do at the last practice. Be a little squirrelly, be a lot nervous and for the love of god, forgive yourself for all these things. Most importantly, never forget that you're playing on roller skates--how the hell can you not have fun on a pair of skates?

7 Responses to “IMHO: Confessions of a Derby Wannabe”

  1. Thu says:

    Hi Ab Scab!

    I'm Thu, one of the current bootcampers. Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts - I'm going through a lot of ups and downs with the learning curve right now, and it helps me to know that even skaters who have passed the tests and are on the team still feel the same way.

  2. Pia Mess says:

    The amazing thing is... we have ALL been there!
    And in this sport you will never stop learning.
    The rules change, the strategy changes.
    I love this sport with all my heart and the derby family that goes with it!

  3. That's the great thing about roller derby -- it's the great equalizer. You can come in not knowing how to skate, and in a few months, you can be as good as anyone if are willing to put in the effort!

  4. Mistits says:

    I remember when I started. I was horrible! But something about sucking pushed me to get better. I remember girls knocking me down and I'd think to myself " Just wait... one day imma knock YOU down!". I never wanted something so bad. And when I finally had the chance to go up against the girls who tortured me a few years before, trust me, nothing had ever tasted so sweet.

    Tittie Tittie Bang Bang

  5. Zootown says:

    Yes, derby is definitely not a sport you can just pick up and master in a year - it's hard work baby! The ups and downs will always be there; in the end, it will payoff tenfold!

  6. Becky Rose says:

    Hey AbScab,
    I've just made the SVRG Team and found this article while searching through the forum. Without a doubt, this is by far the best piece of information and advice that I could have come across! With my first official practice being only two weeks away, I have felt my nerves begin to multiply. Thanks to your willingness to share your experience, I now feel more at ease with my own personal feelings. It's good to hear that when it all comes down to it...we all feel/felt the same way in the beginning of our derby career.
    Once again, thank you for sharing and I appreciate your openness. :)
    Becky Rose

  7. Imp Eden says:

    Love love love this post. It's definitely resonating with me right now. Thanks to Scabbie for writing it, and to Babydoll for linking to it.