The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King
It’s official! I am a member of the Desert Dolls Roller Derby League’s Cherry Posse.
And, it almost didn’t happen.
This has been a goal of mine for almost a year. After attending my first bout last summer, I decided that I wanted to try it. Committing myself online meant that I couldn’t back down. I am notorious for starting things and quickly abandoning them afer being distracted by something else.
Last year, I joined a gym, started working out with a trainer and talked about derby…a LOT. I didn’t spend much time (read, “ANY”) on skates, not really considering how tough that might actually be. It would be like riding a bike, right?
I didn’t sleep well Tuesday night. I didn’t know what to expect the next day; but, the knowledge that the time was finally here made my heart race and my stomach roll.
The first order of business was orientation. The league’s founder, Evol Star, talked about the league’s history and handed out thick packets. There are a lot of forms and assorted bits of administration involved in signing up for derby. We had to provide proof of insurance in about four different places.
The Cherry trainers introduced themselves and spent time going through the handbook.
Finally, it was all done but the skating.
Here it was…my moment to be exposed as a fraud. As I changed into my shorts and Beatles tee-shirt, I started to panic. Who was I kidding? All around me, the other Cherries were putting on their pads and lacing up their skates. I quickly discovered that my pads were woefully inadequate. I had gotten a cheap set, with wrist guards, elbow and knee pads last year. Mine were made for recreational skaters, not suitable for the much more intense protection needed for derby.
I got one skate on, and couldn’t force myself to put the second one on.
The other Cherries all headed for the floor, and there I sat…sweating and near hysteria. One of the trainers, Temper Tantrum, came over and asked me if I wanted to be in the group photo. I couldn’t muster the courage to get out there that quickly. She nodded, and told me to take my time.
After a couple of minutes, I gathered myself up and dug through the bag of spare pads the league keeps on-hand. I found some “real” knee pads and strapped them on.
I gradually worked my way over to the rink. Evol Star and another skater, Honey Badger, were there watching. Evol Star asked me if I was ready, and I told her that I didn’t know if I could do this. She told me to take my time…she even said that if I didn’t want to, I didn’t have to go out. She was giving me permission to quit. Then, she had to leave.
As I stood there, Honey Badger came over and started talking. She told me that I needed to go at my own pace and not compare myself to anyone else there. Several of the Cherries were skaters who had either skated with other leagues, or had taken a leave of absence and come back. League rules stated that they had to go through the Cherries class, regardless of their ability. I looked again at the Cherries now in lines, learning T-stops. I could see girls who were clearly not new to derby; but, I could also see girls who were wobbly and hesitant.
Temper Tantrum checked on me again. She suggested that I just come out onto the floor and skate along one side of the rink.
Honey Badger opened the gate for me and said, “You’ve GOT this, Brandee!”
For the next hour, I skated up and down the long side of the rink as the other Cherries moved on to knee drops. At that point, I was more concerned with staying on my feet than I was throwing myself on the floor on purpose!
Toward the end of practice, Temper Tantrum skated with me. She pointed out that my actual skating form is good, and that I’m much more steady than she would have thought, given my reluctance to get out onto the floor. She told me that they’ve had girls that had to hold onto the wall the whole way around when they first started.
Each of the trainers made a point to come up to me after practice and each said that they hoped that I wasn’t discouraged and that I’d be back the next night.
When I got to my car, I collapsed into the driver’s seat and sat there for a couple of minutes. As I started the engine, I burst into tears of relief, release and complete joy. I had done it…sort of!
Last night, as I laced up my skates for round two, I was determined to get out onto the floor right away and to try every single thing that the rest of the Cherries did. Several trainers congratulated me and said that they were glad that I had shown up.
I skated laps, worked on T-stops (these continue to confound me) and then got stuck on knee drops.
A knee drop is simply a way of stopping. It’s a controlled fall. As you skate, you drop one knee down, like you’re doing a lunge. You slide to a stop on your knee pad.
As often happens, I was over thinking it. Two trainers pulled me out of line and took me down to the far end of the floor. I wasn’t the only one having a tough time; but, they could see that I was stuck in my head. They talked me through it, and suddenly, I drop and get myself back up without putting my hands on the floor. This is a must, as you don’t want your hands down where they can get rolled over.
All through the practice, one of the league photographers, Daddy Skittles, snapped picture after picture. Each time I came around a curve, within his view, I’d get a goofy grin on my face. Hopefully, pictures will show me working hard, sweating enough to look like I’ve been dunked in a pool and having the time of my life.
We ended practice with a game of freeze tag. One person was “It,” and if you were tagged, you would do a knee drop and stay down until unfrozen. As I played, I started to build up some speed and was able to drop when tagged.
We did some ending stretches and then were sent on our way.
This time, I was euphoric. I can see a path…practice will only help me get better. My time in the gym has paid off handsomely in that I’m a bit stiff today; but, I’m not sore or hobbling around like I would have been eight or ten months ago.
I have a long way to go before I’m bashing my way through a pack or jamming. Today, though, I can actually see myself doing this. I would even like to set another goal of becoming a trainer. Wouldn’t that be something?