|Parts of our current Fresh Meat Class. Top: Portia, Bobbijean, Front: Maya, Annie, Denise, Simone, John, Courtney.|
For many skaters, the Fresh Meat program is a terrifying experience. Try-outs and that first day of practice are very much like that first day in High School. You are standing around with other freshies, feeling rather unsure of yourself, but having heard of it before, or read about it. You might know someone who has been there for a while, but since they are “upper classmen” you will not mingle with them for a while, and are left to try to find your own way in this crazy new world. The first week is always rough, filled with new people, new environments and sore brains (muscles, in derby). You wonder what the hell you have gotten yourself into, you feel confused, overwhelmed and those scary SATs (assessments) everyone is already talking about already thinking about and preparing for feel like an insurmountable, terrifying hurdle you will never be ready for. First week of derby feels almost exactly the same way, only you had to go to high school, you CHOSE derby. For some insane reason, you decided that voluntarily working yourself to death, smelling like a dead skunk and falling on your ass twenty times in a practice was a good idea. Many others will think you have lost your mind.
The thing is though, for those of us who have gone through fresh meat, it was one of the best decisions of our lives. Yes, it is smelly and incredibly difficult, but you make friendships to last you a lifetime and become stronger, physically and mentally and you learn to do things you never thought was possible. This week, to give you an insight into the world of fresh meat, we asked our current fresh meat class about their experiences. This is what they said:
Portia: I grew up spending my Friday night & Saturday nights at Rol-A-Rink in High Point. It’s where some of my favorite memories are just hanging out with friends, playing video game like frogger, donkey kong, pole position, drinking suicide drinks, grilled cheese sandwiches with a hershey’s bar melted in it, trying to get put in the penalty box so you could make out with boyfriend, staying up for the “all night skate”… Once I got to high school it wasn’t cool to go skating anymore, so I stored my skates in my old purple skates case loaded with 80’s hair band name in it. My skates come down very rarely for a kid’s skating birthday party and it always made me smile. Last year one of best friends tried out for the Charlotte Roller Girls team, I didn’t even know roller derby existed. Over the past year I cheered her on trying to make the team and kept up with her posts about it. She was having so much fun and making new friends, so I decided to swallow my fears and try out for the Greensboro Roller Derby. Fresh Meat try outs was a scary day full of doubts. I was really afraid I’d be the oldest one and make a fool out of myself. Turns out I wasn’t the only one that felt that way and there were others over 40 and 50 years old, Thank God! So I strap on my old skates, which by now are pushing 30 years themselves, and hit track. We’re asked to skate around and do little drills. I realize quickly this is nothing like skating at the Rol-A-Rink and how did I get so tired so fast? I can do most of what they’re asking, it’s not pretty, but I’m hanging in there. After we skate around and finish the drills we’re given the good news and the bad news. We passed!?! I’m nervous, happy and scared to death all at once. After fresh meat try outs I hung around to help with 2 scrimmage bouts. Wow! I can’t believe what I’m watching. I’m in a new world, I feel lost and excited at the same time. They look fierce and intimating! The longer I’m there the more comfortable I feel. All the girls are friendly, even the opposing teams are nice to each other. I’m in my 7th week now of fresh meats. I’m getting better and enjoying this new adventure. But my favorite thing about derby, is the new friends I’ve made that I probably would have never met!
Bobbijean: I had been watching Roller Derby for two years, and from the first time, I saw it, I knew it was something I wanted to do . . . I had to do. When my life took a dramatic scheduling change and time opened up and my husband and children cheered me on, I knew the time had arrived. When I showed up to try-outs I had only been on roller skates maybe 10 times before. I am not athletic or tough and tryouts alone nearly killed me. But I was committed. I am still committed. Once training started, I was sure I was going to die. One night I dry heaved for about 20 mins in the grass, only to get back in the warehouse to skate again and then run into the bathroom to actually vomit, then got back on the track. Did I mention I am not athletic or tough? I am really not. But I lay in bed at night and I dream about walking into the warehouse and them showing me a skill and when I try that skill, I am amazing. This dream keeps me coming back to training. I am sure that there is something out there that I will learn and it will click and I will be amazing. So far the closest I got was when we learned to “slalom.” I could feel my body click and find the rhythm needed to do this. It only took three tries and I had shaved off nearly a full second from my first time. I then ended my third and most glorious attempt with a failed plow stop and injured my tailbone. People outside Derby and outside my home are amazed when I tell them I am planning on going back once I heal. It’s hard for me to explain that at my age this is the first time I have spent quality time with my body. I don’t know my body. I don’t trust it and I don’t have any idea of what it is capable of. At first I wanted to do Derby because it looked amazing and I had such high esteem for the women I watched play it. I am still star struck, like a little girl, by all of them, even my friend who started playing last year. My reasons for wanting to play now are still those but all something different too. I want to play now because I like how I feel when I am doing it. I like the culture of body acceptance. I like these dates I go on with my stranger body, where we get to know each other for the first time. It’s hard! It’s so hard, like dry heave, vomit hard and everything I have ever done or tried to do has come easy to me, because I am outgoing, hardworking and friendly. The track doesn’t care how outgoing and friendly I am. It just wants me for my skills and my hard work. I respect that. I want to give the track that and the little girl in me still gets giddy when I think about being a teammate with all of these super stars.
Maya - Acceptance. That’s how I can describe GSORD. From the 1st day of freshmeat training they accept anyone straight, gay, white, black, purple, green, blue. That’s a plus because you can’t find that anywhere else. You get to meet people from all walks of life. It’s a great experience. I am still a beginner skater and fresh meat is 50% physical and 50% mental. Weaknesses I have are my backwards skating ability is nonexistent and my speed. What I can say is last fresh meat I couldn’t even do crossovers or any of the basic skills. Committing and working towards getting better and getting better at a skill is bitter sweet. It’s taken me a year of roll a bout and skate land trips and falling down. I never played a sport growing up, I was a theatre kid. You have coaches, vet skaters, others in fresh meat that push you to your abilities that make you a better skater and a better person. I’m currently in my second round of fresh meat and I won’t give up I love the sport and the people involved and still have so much to learn!! I like that its always changing it makes it fun and exciting. It helps you off the track as well I mean I have killer legs now and a nice bum. It’s also interesting to see how this sport is evolving and to be part of this is amazing. When I tell anyone I’m in fresh meat they will say oh so you are beating people up and it’s the exact opposite this sport is involving this not an act we are all athletes I mean there is so much necessary training to prepare you. I say we want you! If you’re looking to be a part of something that will change your life on and off the court to definitely come out. Everyone’s accepted and that’s pretty damn fantastic. I’ve pushed my body to breaking points. Derby effects the mind body and soul. I still have a long way to go as an athlete. Attitude is a key thing. In my first fresh meat class believe me if I say I can’t do the 27/5 I’m not going to get it. If I say I can’t learn to tomahawk stop or backwards crossover I will fall and that’s that. I’ve changed my attitude to I will learn this, I can do this