It’s that moment right before the bout that is the most unnerving. Being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable in those pauses in-between is something I’ve been focusing on. Waiting around is never something I’ve been comfortable with, even after a lifetime of performing on stage. This time I would be displaying brand new skills in an unfamiliar context, so I had no idea what to expect. I had traveled to Bloomington Illinois to help the Chicago Outfit Shakedown take on the Missfit All-Stars, not to mention make my team and myself proud. But first, I had to take plenty of deep breaths.
Immediately the floor made me nervous. A teammate said not to let the floor psych me out. Was she reading my mind? After the next turn, I pushed deep into the floor and stopped faster than at home. It became clear that my skills were translating fine to a new space. All was well.
As the national anthem played to the occasional dog woof, excitement began to squash my nerves. Anytime doubt or fear would try to creep in I would remind myself of how happy I was to be there. I could have let my anxiety overrun me but instead soaked in each moment knowing this would be something I’d never forget, my very first bout. With my head in the game I hardly noticed the crowd was there. It was almost jarring to catch a glimpse. No longer was I focused on my insecurities but rather present to the task at hand. And then there were those magical jams where everyone flowed seamlessly together. It was such a fantastic, indescribable state of presence.
We hit a rough patch in the first half but fought hard. Right before halftime I went in for a hip check and wiped out onto my left thigh, where my sciatic nerve had flared up a couple weeks earlier. (I’ve still got the bruise, but I’ve landed on that same spot a lot this week.) Quickly shaking it off, I was back in. Throughout the second half we all brought our strengths to the game even more intensely. Although the Missfits claimed victory with a score of 162-117, each Shakedown skater did something she should be proud of that night. Channeling different Outfit coaches, I was amazed how my training kicked in as I busted a move. Not only did I hit the opposing team and get in the way of a jammer but I “sat” on an opponent. I thought Helsa would be proud when I heard the frustrated skater yell “get off me!” It was all in good fun. The McLean County Missfits were very friendly and welcoming. I’m not sure how common it is for the opposing team to chat and smile at you right before knocking you around, but they did and I thought that was awesome.
Their kind hospitality continued at the after party where they supplied pizza, cake, and tunes. I didn’t have a beer because my stomach was a little queasy from all the excitement. So I just downed my coconut water and ate another banana. Near the towering pizza boxes the amazing Ice Hurt, MVP for the Missfits, made a point to compliment us stating that they had to really fight for their victory. As I walked through the room one of their fans gave me a high-five when he found out it was my first bout. His positivity was contagious as he thanked our team for delivering a fun game that was never boring.
I felt good knowing that I had accomplished what I set out to do: be a good team player, be solid and confident, and give the fans a great time. The entire experience was better than I had expected and it made me feel officially initiated into the league. Hugs from my teammates, followed by some saying how proud they were of me, completely made my day. True, I was proud of myself but I wanted to be a good teammate too. This is not just about me. When I can help others feel good and we all have fun together it makes life worth living. To me that is a huge win, and in a way we all won that night.
*Catch a little video of the game here!