I just started derby about three months ago. I say “started” instead of joined because technically I’m not even on a team yet. Rather, I‘m a member of a group of derby novices that has been lovingly labeled “Fresh Meat.” (Sounds inviting, right?) The last time I skated I was sporting a pair of pink and white Strawberry Shortcake quads sometime circa the mid 80’s. Before tryouts, I bought a $40 pair of kids skates from a used goods sports store because I wasn’t entirely convinced that my body would remember what to do when I put them on. That being said, it could only have been by some freak force of nature that I made it past tryouts. Perhaps that same supernatural phenomenon deemed me derby worthy solely to reinforce some timeless lessons that were initially learned at about the same time that I first started to skate.
Currently, my fellow “freshies” and I are in the initiation stage to the sport of derby that I like to compare to what Catholics call limbo, or “the edge of hell.” The variations in the utter and absolute pain experienced during this part of the process are endless. Back spasms, muscle cramping of all kinds, random bruises found in the most obscure locations, skin abrasions, a plethora of knee injuries, the multitude of torment is boundless. We are talking serious trials and tribulations; derby is not an easy sport. Inevitably, at some point, you will get hurt and you will want to quit. A good number of freshies do. Which brings me to Lesson #1 : PERSEVERANCE.
The first day of practice was probably pretty similar to what it felt like the very first time that I swung my leg over the cross bar of my first big kid bike, decorated in a Rainbow Brite theme with her caricature on the seat, rainbow colored streamers, and complete with training wheels. While I can’t really remember the sensation of gripping the handle bars tight and hoping that I don’t eat sidewalk after my dad lets go of the seat, I can imagine what it must have felt like. Learning the sport of derby is just like that. Everything is new. At every practice there’s a new method of falling or a different way to come to a stop. Maybe you’ll learn how to catch air the next day and jump your first obstacle, or figure out how to skate backwards without falling on your tookus. Last, but certainly not least, maybe you’ll experience the satisfaction and adrenaline surge that directly follows learning how to drop a shoulder and pound a fellow freshie. Lesson #2 : CONTINUING EDUCATION.
I don’t really know many of the vets. I know their names, both derby and by birth, but I haven’t actually had a conversation with the majority of them yet. I have, however, had the privilege of witnessing most of them in action during vet practices and at local derby bouts. Every freshie has their favorite vets for various reasons and I’m no different in that respect. Betty Rumble constantly maintains a carefree demeanor with ease in the midst of air born bodies and derby violence. General Sew’s fanciful footwork never ceases to fascinate freshies and fans alike. East Pound-Her Down’s hits will keep even the oldest of vets looking over their shoulder. But hands down, my all-time favorite vet to watch skate is Elizabeth Hauntgomery. It’s something about the chick’s game. She plays with grit, with passion, and she’s so well rounded. She can block, she can pivot, and God help you if you’re on the opposing team and she’s on the jammer line. As for me? At this point in my derby career, I can safely say that I am really stinkin’ good at falling. In fact, I’m downright awesome. But I’ve got dreams and ambitions, man, and I’m going places because of the importance of Lesson #3: GOALS.
OK. That’s all I’ve got today, but more than likely you’ll be hearing from me again. Hopefully next time it’ll be accompanied by a badass derby name. But for now, my name’s MB and I’m proud to be a freshie for Greensboro Roller Derby.