What a frustrating, frustrating day.
A few months ago, I went to a rec league practice with the Rollergirls. I had a miserable time, mainly because I discovered I didn’t know how to block or hit, partly because I realized I’m gonna get knocked on my ass a lot, and a little bit because I felt like the class was going too fast for my feeble little brain to wrap around the concepts. We were partnered up, and I couldn’t help but to feel that my partner (who is an amazing woman, by the way) was just way, way better than I was. I felt like I had made a mistake by trying to do derby.
I was so rattled I didn’t skate for two weeks.
Fast forward a couple of months to last week’s boot camp. Lo and behold, it was the dreaded partner skating. I felt my stomach turn a little (this could have been the result of the previous night’s drinking) but I put my head down and powered through the morning.
And guess what? It wasn’t that bad!
When I said it was frustrating (See: first line of article) I actually meant for everyone else! There was lots of yelling, lots of groping, lots of falling, but I enjoyed every fucking last minute of it. The chaos! The tumbles! The shouting! So exciting.
I saw a few people leave the rink in frustration. I saw some people give up. But I just kept going, kept taking deep breaths, and willed myself not to take anything personal. It worked.
Basically, we were practicing having better awareness while skating with a partner or in a pack. We paired up a bunch of times and took turns shuffling, stepping, hopping and grapevine-ing across the track. Sometimes this got weird because you can easily tell when your partner isn’t paying attention – so I had to be “assertive” and say things like “Hey – you’re going the wrong way” and “Hey – we’re supposed to be crossing the track, not skating forward”. I found that communication is a HUGE part of derby, and it’s all in the way you say shit. I’m not gonna scream at anyone and I’m not gonna lose my patience – this is what I kept repeating every time I got frustrated.
We also did this exercise where we took turns pushing one another – except the girl in front has her eyes closed and you have to tell her where to go. You can’t touch her, except to tap her shoulder or hip. It was really hard, but I actually made a new friend during this exercise! We took it seriously but had a lot of fun, and we didn’t kill each other or anyone else! Hooray!
We finished it up with a really scary exercise called the Gotham Paceline, which was named after the #1 derby team in the world, the Gotham Girls. We took turns weaving through a super long paceline while partnered up with someone. This is where the screaming got intense, and I saw a lot of people get frustrated. Me and my partner decided that we wouldn’t move without making eye contact with one another first, and our pacing was fucking PERFECTION. BOOM. (Ok maybe it wasn’t perfect, but we didn’t end up screaming at each other or moving separately so it was a win in my book.)
I actually liked doing the paceline, which makes me very happy because I think that’s a huge part of roller derby league practices (I think – don’t quote me on that). Starting to feel like I just may be a rollergirl one day! Ha.