Finally Rolling

Dolls Group HugThis past weekend, I realized a goal I’ve been dreaming of, working for, and yes — dreading — for a year or more. Those who have heard me talking about derby for the past year may be wondering why it took so long, but there’s a method to the madness. When I tried out for Charm City Roller Girls, passing the tryout just meant I was allowed to practice with the league. I was not yet cleared for contact (i.e. hitting/blocking), nor was I eligible to scrimmage, be drafted, or play in a bout. After months of training and several rounds of skills assessments, I became eligible for the draft and got onto the Junkyard Dolls. Getting there took eight months, a lot of patience, much ego checking, and countless hours of practice.

Finally, on January 24, 2015, I played my first roller derby game with the Junkyard Dolls.

I wanted to tell you what it’s like to play your first roller derby game, but truthfully, I remember very little. It was a blur of noise and wheels and bodies. Going into the game, I was convinced I’d forgotten everything I’ve ever known about derby. Coming out of the penalty box, I was afraid I’d do something wrong and frantically asked the people around me, “Where can I come in … behind the pack right? Behind everyone?” Yes, Dirt. Behind everyone. In theory, I know the rules. In a state of panic, not so much.

My performance was what you could expect from a newbie: not glamorous, but I showed up.

My teammates, on the other hand, were better than I could’ve asked for. They were tough. They gave me instructions. The pushed me where I needed to go. They high-fived me when I did well. They forgave me when I fucked up. In general, they rocked. The Junkyard Dolls won. By a lot.

My biggest fear going into the game was that if we lost it would be due to my personal failure. By the second half, I realized it wasn’t possible for me to be the sole cause of our failure if we did lose.

As for what made us win, that’s a more complicated story. We played against the Night Terrors, and I think of them as being a great team because they have quite a few skaters I admire. However, they also got the most new recruits during the November draft, so for the moment at least, they seem to be in a rebuilding phase. This being the first game of the 2015 season, lots of people on all the teams struggled to get enough practice hours to qualify for Saturday’s game. The Junkyard Dolls were apparently the only team whose skaters all met the requirement, therefore we were the only team with a full roster of our own players. That’s a pretty obvious advantage.

At half time, we talked about what was working and what wasn’t. Holly thanked everyone for making their practice requirements because preparation really was our greatest advantage. That moment made me realize even good teams with great skaters can’t succeed if all their players aren’t engaged, not just on game day but for the month leading up to it.

In an interview on the CCRG blog a while back, Fed mentioned that the Dolls all have a ton of heart and really leave it all on the track. I think that’s another way of expressing the same thing — the Junkyard Dolls don’t just show up and expect to be great. They keep showing up until they get great … and then they do it some more because being great for one game isn’t enough.

As for me, greatness was not on my agenda this weekend. My primary emotion during this first game was fear, and my goal was to face it. I did that. Box checked. Now I get to work on the next thing, whatever that turns out to be. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Hello, I would like to derby please.
How One Gets Called "Dirt"

2 thoughts on “Finally Rolling

  1. It takes a long time to settle in to this sport and feel confident in your knowledge of it, especially in a large and established league. You’ve worked hard and I love watching people make progress even when I am blind to my own most of the time. Working towards progress never stops – which can be daunting but part of what keeps bringing me back even with some pretty exemplary excuses not to.
    I have not actually played many more games that you, I have officiated more than I have skated(still.) What amazes me every time is how little I actually remember while skating. I remember a few key moments, usually when something surprised me, maybe I executed something, maybe I missed. I felt like I was smiling non stop but none of my photos have reflected that yet! It’s a blur and I’m not sure how long it takes for that to go away until you are fully present and aware. But I think like most of derby, you just keep working until something clicks one day.

    1. <3 Throttle. There were a couple moments I remember well, like when I managed to keep a jammer behind me for a little while. At one point, someone was like "You did good! Great job!" and as far as I could tell, the only thing I'd accomplished was staying upright. Also, when someone was chatting me up on the jam line and I was thinking, "I don't wanna be rude, but if I even think about responding to her right now, I'm not going to know what hit me when that whistle blows..." I figure it's all a process, and luckily, a pretty fun one.

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