Mary Hatchett (#911) said learning to play roller derby is like being in Driver’s Ed and hitting the road for the first time. I don’t think there could be a more fitting analogy.
The first time you get behind the wheel and hit the street can be totally overwhelming. There are other cars – some traveling alongside you, others heading toward you. There are also motorcycles, people on bicycles, sometimes there’s a police car or an emergency vehicle. And there are lights and signs to obey, different speeds on different roads, and even distractions within your own car – the radio, your passengers, your drivers ed instructor! It’s mayhem!
My first foray into a derby scrimmage under my superhero name, Fronzarelli #1316, was much like that – seemingly a million things going on all at once. Each time a jam began I was fine for about 2 seconds. Get with your wall, line up, whistle blow! After the first contact it seemed like all hell broke loose. Bodies everywhere, getting hit from any and all sides – I just focused on blocking and staying upright and I was sometimes successful! After that initial contact though…. I could best be described as a bewildered deer in headlights. Skaters going seemingly in all directions – where did I go next? What was I supposed to be doing?
Thankfully veteran skaters seem to be hip to the newbie and would shout my name or even physically grab me snapping me out of my dumbfounded haze. I was particularly thankful for those times a vet would just grab me and shove me into position. It’s hard not to feel like dead weight to your teammates when you’re wandering aimlessly but for me, it was so easy to get mentally bamboozled by what appeared to be mass confusion. A vet skater shouting my name was often the thing that snapped me back to reality.
Each time I scrimmage things get better. There are days I’m knocked to the ground more than often than I hold my ground but each time is a learning experience. I find more and more times I actually know where I’m supposed to be and when! I might not always get there, and maybe my timing is off and I miss bumping that jammer out of bounds but I focus on the fact that I tried – I saw her coming and made an effort to get there even if I missed.
At The Outfit we’re lucky to have the majority of our scrimmages recorded. Seeing yourself and your actions on film is invaluable. There are times where I smack my head in shame when I see myself standing upright, just ripe to get knocked to the floor. But there are other times where I see myself and think, “wow! Look at that! Look what I just did!”
I’m an impatient person. I wish I could look into a crystal ball and see footage of me skating a year from now. Will I have a better understanding of strategy? Will my attempts at playing offense be more successful? How much will my timing improve?
Looking at my performance thus far I assume I’ll continue to improve and hopefully have less and less time spent in bewildered mode. Until then, I’ll just keep practicing and having fun. Oh, did I forget to mention that part? Derby is hands down the most fun you can have on eight wheels!
(Photo credit: Erin Kwiatkoski, #269, Braise Seitan)