Dear Fresh Meat: Don’t give up!

(Comic from Losing My Bearings derbylove comics)

A little more than a year ago, I joined the Cornfed Derby Dames. I had just turned 30.

The 10 years before derby are somewhat elusive.  I had always been a rock solid athlete all through my youth and trek into young adulthood. I was just naturally good at things. You know, the girl a lot of people hated because I played varsity sports as a freshman and walked on the cheer-leading squad with no previous experience.

Then I “became an adult.” I didn’t remain active through my twenties. I really didn’t take care of myself at all. I drank like a fish, did drugs and got lazy.

By the time I decided to start derby, I was 40 pounds overweight and discovered I had a thyroid problem. But I laced up some skates, skated onto the rink, hit a wall and fell. Then I got up again, cussed at myself and fell-again.

Derby was the one thing that just didn’t come naturally to me. (And my out of shape body wasn’t helping.) During my first month as fresh meat, I had it stuck in my head that I’d learn it all and be great before my 90 days was up. Then reality sunk in. I really sucked!

Only I didn’t suck, and thankfully had a team of women who supported me, were patient with me, taught me and knocked me off the “I’m so awesome soapbox.”

I think my fresh meat experience  taught me more about  patience and confidence than it did skill. I find myself passionate about helping the new girls now, and I have a message for them as well, “Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up.”

Last year it took me more attempts at passing my 25/5 than I can count or remember. I was always just a little shy. (And I struggled to just get to that point.) A year later, and I still struggle. It’s not my strong point, but I will make it. (And I know there are other skills I excel at. (Bad skills + good skills = balanced athlete)

Last year, I failed the first WFTDA test. I couldn’t lateral. I was always off during the pace lines. Hell, I couldn’t even keep up with the pace line. I got the annoyed looks and sighs every time we were in one. It made me cringe. It made me cry. It made me angry. I just didn’t get it. I could swizzle, but it was ugly.

During one practice when we were racing two at a time in an “S” and could only swizzle, I fell on my face. I literally tripped over my own feet and fell face down. No really, I was in the lead, getting cheered on, feeling all proud of myself and then BAM! I bruised my boobs. Then there was the weaving drill. I had to keep my feet together and bob in and out of the cones much like a skier skies the moguls. Um, no! I barely had any speed and after three attempts, scraped by on passing.

Don’t get me started on plow stops. I looked like a constipated person trying to push one out if you know what I mean. If there was a line that you had to stop on, I was guaranteed to pass it by five feet.

My hits were awkward and weak. I avoided being a jammer during drills at all costs. It took me an entire season to break through the pack one time as a jammer during scrimmage. I even fell on my butt during a pre bout warm-up.

Roller derby gave me nightmares! It gave me fairy tale dreams of being awesome too. I held onto the latter and used those day dreams as positive visualization.

Then a new season started. I found myself showing others the things I couldn’t even do myself just a few months before. As I saw myself helping, I smiled. It started to feel natural and fluid. OMG! I finally started to get it. Then I had a breakthrough at a recent practice. I didn’t throw up or feel like death after the 25/5. I caught my breathe and stood up ready for more. I cheered for myself. You should cheer for yourself too when you have a moment like that. This is going to be a good season!

So, don’t give up fresh meat. You’ll get it. You’ll smile. And you’ll teach someone else some day to do the same.



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