Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Roller Derby Really Can Save You

This entry is dedicated to our new crop of Fresh Meat who showed up in droves at our interest meeting last week, and will be coming back for tryouts in October. I'm so happy you've all found us. Roller derby can and probably will change your life. Let me tell you what derby has done for me.

At my very first visit to watch a Greensboro Roller Derby practice, I saw a girl with a pair of shorts on over her tights. The shorts read "Roller Derby Saved My Soul" across the butt. I remember wondering what that meant to her, and wondering if I would ever feel the same way. I was in a pretty low place at the time; I was sedentary and deeply depressed, and joining GSORD was my way of shaking things up because I knew they weren't going to shake themselves up by magic. At 35, I was finally tired of being tired. I decided to do something for myself.

I also did it for my children. I realized that I was sending a mixed message to them about health. "Be active!" I told them, but at the same time, I couldn't get my own butt off the couch. I was taking them to soccer, basketball, aikido classes, and expecting them to want to play outside at home, but I was not modeling a healthy active lifestyle to them. I knew that nothing they learned in their activities and classes would stick if it was not modeled for them at home. I needed to prove to them that I was willing to do these things, too.

In theory, I had so much to motivate me: my own health, my children's health, the allure of happiness and confidence. Despite these things beckoning me, it still wasn't easy to choose derby. I was always an observer and a watcher, never a doer. I had never played any sport, and in fact I had gone out of my way to avoid sports all through school and settled firmly into inactivity as an adult. I've also spent a lot of my life being ruled by fear. So many fun or meaningful opportunities passed me by because I was afraid to try. I was tired of fear (and the subsequent regret of not having tried) being my defining feeling. So when my friend Lita Revolution (who has been a part of GSORD since it started) posted a link to the information session last January, I decided I needed to do it.

I went to the info session, where I saw the girl in the salvation booty shorts, and then the bootcamp, where I thought I was going to pass out and/or die. But I didn't allow myself to give up. I had help with that. Already the group of girls was busy supporting each other. Girls organized workouts and meetups at open skates together. I showed up because something was telling me that these were girls who, once we knew each other well, would go to bat for me. (They would, and I would for them.) So I returned to tryouts. Somehow, I wasn't laughed off the rink, but instead I was welcomed into the fold. Thus began my roller derby journey. The same one you're just beginning.

Nearly eight months later, I can say without a doubt that roller derby has saved me. I mean that literally. I have a heart arrhythmia (congenital, so not my fault) and high blood pressure (probably entirely my fault, though I have a family history of it). Being a fatty couch lump was even more deadly for me than it is for most people. Before roller derby, I got winded and heard my heart pounding in my ears just taking a single flight of stairs. Now I can hop up many flights before I start to fatigue, and it's my muscles that need a break, not my heart and lungs. I'm not in the "elite athlete" zone (yet!) but I'm a far sight fitter than I was before. Derby did that. I had tried to change my habits many times on my own before and always lost my momentum. There's something about strapping wheels to your feet that gives you a little extra oomph.

(I feel the need to make a disclaimer here: if you have a health issue, please see your doctor before you start anything as intense as roller derby. I did, and he told me that it was one of the best things I could do for myself--"We can fix broken bones, but we can't fix the damage done by years of inactivity"--but your situation might be different. Please be careful. We wear pads on our knees and elbows, but they don't make a pad for your heart.)

But roller derby hasn't just been good for my body. It has been healing for my mind and soul as well. Derby has a way of making you face your issues- mine are lack of confidence, feelings of inadequacy, and a tendency to give up to avoid failure. All of these things have reared up in my face many times over the course of my derby journey. Before, I would have run away to avoid the feelings. But I love roller derby and my leaguemates so much that I haven't allowed myself to do that. So I have no choice but to face the feelings those issues bring up, and by facing them, I deal with them. I believe derby does this for everyone, whether they realize it or not. It is, without a doubt, a form of therapy. I don't know anyone who isn't a better person now than they were when they joined the sport.

So please, stick with us and see how you can change. You will be amazed at what you can do that you never thought possible.

Derby <3,
St. Knives

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Deal On Wheels

Perhaps you are new to the world of roller derby.  You just bought your new skates to try out for your local team and they came as a package deal with wheels and all.  More than likely, these wheels will be great for a start but ultimately, you'll want some of those really cool wheels you saw on your favorite skater's boots.

Or maybe you have been skating for a while and if you're like me, you are in search of the perfect wheels.  Those that make you feel like you're rolling on air.  Those that give you optimum speed but a good grip, as well.  The problem is there are only about 400 kinds of wheels out there.  Well, I could be exaggerating, I haven't actually counted.  There are many questions to ask yourself, like; what brand do I want?  Do I want slim or wide?  Grippy or hard?  Hollow core nylon, solid core or hollow core alloy?  Do I want the same 8 wheels or do I want 4 of one type of hardness and 4 of another?  Does color matter?   See what I mean?!  Eventually you find yourself staring at your computer in a daze from information overload.   Do not fret; there are ways to get the answers you seek.

The easiest way to go about making a decision or at least narrowing it down is to find one of your fellow skaters close to the same body type and build as you and ask her what she prefers.  If she's really cool and wears the same size skate as you, she may let you try them out.  If she's even cooler and doesn't wear the same size skate as you, she may offer to let you put her wheels on your skate and try them.  Either way, it will give you a great idea of what you may be looking for.  Some wheel manufacturers, like Atom, offer a chart on their website that's based on your weight and the type of surface you're skating on.  That can point you in the right direction, too.

As far as having different wheels on each side of the skate, that's really a personal preference.  Some skaters prefer the grippier wheels on one side for getting a good push and the harder wheels on the other for speed.  I have found that I like the combination of grippy and harder wheels.  Again, this is something you have to figure out on your own.

Check out this link to Atom's chart and you should find it quite helpful.  Even if you don't purchase their wheels, you'll at least know what to look for in your quest for the best.

Happy Derbying!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What Would a Roller Derby Girl Do? (Or, WWRDGD?)

I like to skate fast, and hit hard like the rest of ‘em, which is probably why I am sitting here with my foot in a cast protecting the ankle I broke two weeks ago during practice. So while my leg’s elevated and my mood’s at ease, I am sort of forced to “slow my roll” and spend more time thinking. Recently, I was considering this:  If anyone else (outside Roller Derby) were in my position, what would they do during their recovery time? Then, that thought led to this one: What would a Roller Derby Girl do with her time?  That question will have to be answered in a different blog at a different time, because that thought led to this one: What things have I seen MY Roller Derby sisters do from time to time that define who they truly are?

Not everything I have seen is appropriate to mention, (you’ll have to attend after parties at your own risk) but there are some actions that I have witnessed or am privy to that shed light on the true nature of a Roller Derby girl…

Here are just a few:

A Roller Derby girl is the girl who shows up before 8 am on a weekend to coach you through a difficult component of the minimum skills requirement, waits patiently for you to try and try again, then comes running over and tackles you to the floor with a mind blowing hug when you achieve your goal.

She’s the girl who looks over her shoulder and sees you falling behind in a pace line and reaches out her arm to give you a whip so you can catch up with the rest of the team.

She’s the first one to celebrate the fact you threw up at practice today and reminds you it isn’t a good practice til someone throws up!

She’s the one who has the ability to produce an ice bag out of “thin air” for those painful bumps and bruises acquired from time to time.

She’ll gladly pass you her last few strips of duct tape to hold your worn-out gear together.

She’ll be the one who loans you the last $20 bucks she has in her skate bag so you can make it to payday.

She’ll be more than willing to beat anyone senseless with her skates if they attempt to harm anyone of her team mates.

She’ll be the girl who texts you at 11:30 pm to let you know you’ve been drafted to her team and she’ll always have your back, but she won’t have a problem telling you when your gear stinks so bad it’s gonna make her puke.

She’ll be the first one by your side to hold your hand and crack dirty jokes when you’re on the floor injured, then cheer from the sidelines as your wheeled out in a stretcher, sit beside you in the Emergency Room without wincing as the doctor resets your bone, then show up at your house the next day to paint your toenails in your team colors cause you can’t.

She’ll be the one who walks through your door carrying a pair of custom crutches also painted in  home team colors so you can sport your badass cast in style.

She’ll show up at your doorstep with a bangin’ hot meal and a basketful of your favorite goodies and movies when your significant other is forced to take care of the household while you recover from injury.

She’ll be willing to get all artsy, design, create, and order hundreds of humorous t-shirts, sell them, and give you the proceeds to help you pay your hospital bills (even for non-derby related incidents).

She’ll keep reminding you through IMs, text messages and Facebook statuses that your injury is temporary and soon you’ll be back on the track kickin’ass.

And when you are back, you’ll know exactly what you need to do!
Derby love,
Thistle Killya