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Lessons in Roller Derby (w/pics!)

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

In case you somehow haven't heard me blabbing incessantly about it, I decided to try out for the local flat track roller derby league!!!

What made me decide this, you ask?
Umm... a whim.

Someone told me a couple of weeks ago that there IS a local roller derby league, so I googled it, discovered that there was an informational meeting that coming Sunday for potential newbies, and immediately decided I was going to do it.

Never mind the fact that I've been on quad skates maybe 10 times total and the last time was probably 20 years ago, I was going to do roller derby and I was going to kick arse at it!!!!!

I immediately began diligent work on creating a roller derby name and researching entry level skates.
(I'm still deciding between Shreddy Ruxpin - #85 and Phenoma Blond - #007)
The informational meeting went great, the women there from the league seemed super nice and welcoming, and I was even MORE determined to be a Monterey Bay Derby Dame!!!

When the first opportunity to actually get on some roller skates finally came around the next weekend I couldn't be more excited or more nervous. I got the boyfriend and a couple we are good friends with to go with me, so I wouldn't be so scared, and just couldn't wait to step out on that floor. I was last in the group to put on my skates, but with everyone else so many years out from their last skating adventures and so confidently moving around the little putting on of the skates area, I was sure I'd be great.

And then I stood up.
I was not great.

Standing in those rental skates with such vivid memories of having them slide right out from underneath me as a kid was terrifying. I was like a baby giraffe on ice, and I wasn't even moving or off of the carpeted area yet.

I waved my friends away and assured them I just needed a minute to get used to the skates and would join them out on the floor. They all tore off a wee bit wobbly but quite confidently into the general flow of skaters... I nearly fell at least 47 times in the 5 foot trip from my chair to the entrance to the rink, and stepped gingerly out onto the tiles of the actual floor.

How did anybody manage to move around on these things? Who the hell thought putting wheels on shoes without any kind of device to keep you from tipping over backwards was a good idea? Couldn't I play roller derby on inline skates?

I dragged myself hand over hand along the wall, despairing.
In what conceivable universe was I going to be able to get from this state to trying out with just 3 Saturday evenings of open skate to practice in?
I'd never be a derby dame.
My dreams were crushed.
I wanted to cry!

And then the first turn came.
Those sadists had set up a little blocked off area at the end of the rink where people could practice things other than moving in a general counter clockwise direction, which meant I had to make it all the way across the vastyness of the hockey rink without a wall to clutch.

I was pretty sure I was going to die.
Or be run over by a mob of jeering 8 year olds on spiked skates and mad maxian garb and THEN die.
But death was, in any case, eminent.

I can do this.
Deep breath.
One foot in front of the other in a general slidey type motion.
I can skate, I skated, I even owned a pair of neon pink roller blades with mint green buckles and orange wheels. Sure, I had to run into parked cars or signs to stop, but the going forward was never a problem. I know the mechanics, all these other people seem to be making it across this expanse unscathed. I don't see a single spiked skate in the vicinity.

Let's do this!!!

It wasn't pretty. I wobbled and almost fell several times, but I DIDN'T fall, and I kept going, and I MADE IT!!


And then this girl that I'm pretty sure was born with wheels on her feet whizzed right past me and did a nifty twirly maneuver to go with the music.
I was startled and distracted. I lost my balance, I was going down!!!
Thank goodness I'd made it to within clutching distance of the opposite wall!

Okay, so not quite the master of roller skating, but I wasn't QUITE despairing anymore.
Discouraged, yes.
Disappointed, definitely.
But determined! I want this! I am going to find a way to make it happen for myself!! I am not going to let a little thing like being terrified of roller skating stop me!!

Half an hour or so later I was able to do 3 loops around the rink without touching the wall EVEN ONCE!! Sure, I was maybe 8 inches from it and going about the same speed as I would be walking, but I was doing it! I was skating!!

A few of the girls from the derby league had come in and were hanging out in the little sectioned off area, waiting to show new league hopefuls the basic skills needed to get into what they call "fresh meat" training.

Dear boyfriend came over and encouraged me to join in, but no way did I feel ready to work on anything but not falling down, was he crazy?!

I'll just go introduce myself....
I teetered over, and introduced myself, and explained that I was really just at the work on not falling down stage.
And to my amazement no one seemed even remotely surprised by that, or skeptical that I could be ready in time for try outs 3 weeks later.
Well alright then, show me all of the things!!!

And then something amazing happened.
I stopped concentrating so hard on not falling down, and started concentrating on learning some basic stops and how to cross my feet over eachother when turning.

When I stopped trying so hard not to fail, I did great!!
Sure, I ate it pretty hard a couple of times, but I ate it doing a pretty darn impressive cross-over if I do say so myself.

By the end of the night I was out on the rink skating and appropriate speeds, crossing my feet over eachother, weaving between slower skaters, I didn't have to look down at my feet.


My own skates came in the mail later that week, and the following Saturday I was doing all the basic moves necessary to make it into "fresh meat" well enough that they started teaching me NEW things, things they teach after one makes it into fresh meat.
By the end of my second Saturday night out on the rink I was able to keep up with the "real" derby girls and didn't fall once (other than when learning the correct way to fall and doing it on purpose, of course).

I stopped grasping at what seemed safe and familiar but kept me more or less stationary.
I stopped concentrating so hard on what was directly in front of my toes, blaming every little bump and warp in my path for my stumbles.
I stopped putting all of my effort into not failing.
I started doing things that felt new and awkward and scary.
I fell down, twice, and it HURT, but I got right back up and tried again.

I know I'm going to fall a lot more. I'm going to get some pretty impressive bruises, and it's going to hurt, and the things I learn will often seem difficult, even impossible at first, but I will learn them, and I will learn to be great!

If you want to share this or any of my blogs outside of sparkpeople, I'm honored! But, please do it from my blogger page. I put some fairly personal things here on my sparkpage, and it's a little weird to think of non-sparkers reading it, but this has just the funny stuff!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Back in the days of the 2nd part of the last century, I learned to skate. We were able to afford to go to the real Roller Rink about once every two months, depending on how many soda bottles people through out along this stretch of "Super Two" by our house. The rest of the time we sidewalk skated. We had a "llooonnnggg" block with a sidewalk all around it. It also had a 20 degree incline, so once around the block - up one side and down the other, was a solid half mile.

    Only two people could skate side-by-side, so some of the races became very interesting and we all suffered from knee scab syndrome and palm scraped syndrome - but it was adrenaline pumping fun!

    A broken back with crushed disc's mean I no longer even think about skating.
    I miss those old Roller Derby shows on Saturday morning.
    1950 days ago
    Found your blog entry searching for derby people here on spark. I totally relate to your adventure, especially because I became quite intimately familiar with the floor attempting to do a cross over last night. I did pick my foot up and cross it over the other foot before I fell, so I count it as a success! I really need to embrace what you are talking about and stop worrying about falling and focus on the skills.
    2054 days ago
    I totally want to do roller derby. You have encouraged me to look more into it.
    2091 days ago
    Great job! Perseverance pays off! :)
    2099 days ago
    WOW, Lulu,

    And I thought I was fearless in trying new things. Not sure I'd try roller derby - but I'm never gonna say never!
    2101 days ago
    Oh! LOL. I posted on the last blog that our coastal scene looked like Monterey. Darn am I good or what? emoticon
    2112 days ago
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    2125 days ago
  • MAIM138

    I've missed a LOT in my Spark hiatus!

    YAY for you derbying!
    2130 days ago
    I love your pictures and your story. When I was in my late forties I went skating with our grade school kids. I was wobbly at first and stayed close to the sides. After a while I got back my confidence and was back to the same kind of skating as a child. I only fell a few times. My parents thought I was crazy for skating. I went to have a good time with our church school children and their parents. Great going! I like your courage and spunk.
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    2141 days ago
  • ELISELA2011
    I love your skating adventures! I had one once, for my 23rd birthday, I was determined to have the skating party I never got as a kid. I ended up with 2 sprained ankles and a twisted knee followed by an ice storm and loss of electricity in most of the town. EPIC! emoticon
    2142 days ago
    Love it! As a former "disco queen" at the local skating rink in the 70's, I remember gliding through the air on skates, the music blaring, effortlessly dodging small children, and jumping from going forward to backward without even thinking about it ....oh, the good old days (laughs)!!!

    The last time I went skating? Really skating? A couple of us decided in our twenties how much fun it would be to go skating, and off we went. It was fun while it lasted, but ended way too soon with a trip to the ER. I fell and broke my arm...yikes!

    I took my son once to try and teach him how to skate, and he would have no part of it. I went around slowly...(is there a word that means slower than slow?) and headed home. It did feel good to do those couple of slow laps even without any major zigging or zagging...oh, and the music?...Eh...don't the kids of today know that you have to have DISCO music to skate?? How you "skate" to today's music is beyond me!

    Since I broke my hip, my skating days are definitely over. One fall could cause serious consequences that I am not willing to risk. But, I would love to go out there one more time, hair flowing, moving to the music, oblivious to everything and everyone around me and just let go.......

    (**also...don't know if you will need this piece of advice or not because it sounds like you are picking it up pretty quickly, but you can tighten down the "trucks" on the bottom of your skates just a little, and it makes your wheels a little tighter, and not as free spinning. Definitely a good idea when you are learning to skate, or just learning to stand up in them).

    Hugs! And thanks for the memories!
    2143 days ago
  • ARGENT690
    Omg, that was a great story! I wish I could have gone. It sounds like it was a great time. emoticon
    2143 days ago
  • KIPPER15
    emoticon I could never make it as a derby girl. I look forward to reading more soon.
    2143 days ago
  • COUPONS0216
    I LOVE your blogs, they are so real, down to earth and funny. I ALWAYS smile or laugh when I read your blogs and not only are you a talented artist with words but your drawings are awesome too! Have fun with your new challenge! You go girl! emoticon
    2143 days ago
    I enjoyed your blog very much! As I was reading I couldn't help but think that your experience with the roller derby skating is so similar to my spark journey! AMAZING!
    2144 days ago
  • DIXIED88
    Oh My Goodness!! I have not laughed so hard at a blog in FOREVER!! It's mostly because you just described me last August.

    I'm going to be a ROLLER DERBY GIRL! Why would I let a little thing like not being able to skate get in my way??

    Now I'm on a team and trying to up my endurance. It's amazing and I LOVE it.

    Good luck!!
    2144 days ago
  • MARYM1962
    good for you! I can not skate at all - I have no ligaments in my left ankle and one more injury will require surgery, so that is NOT for me! You showed courage and determination in doing what you wanted - keep up the good work and good luck out there in the rink!
    2144 days ago
    okay and good luck!
    2144 days ago
    Ouch! You go, girl!

    You couldn't work LuLu into a derby name? I like the choices you mentioned though. Let us know which you choose!

    I'm assuming you've seen the movie "Whip It" [

    2144 days ago
    That is so cool!
    Good for you for going after what you want. That's awesome!

    Keep us posted on your Roller Derby experiences.
    2144 days ago
    I am so jealous of you. I want to this but I'm a bit scared about doing it. I don't even know where to start looking to see if there is anything in my area for it. Way to go you.
    2145 days ago
    That's fantastic! Way to reach for your dreams.
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    2145 days ago
  • NERDS333
    I've been wanted to be a Derby Girl too & have not had the guts to go try (yet). I'm even on the local mailing list! Thanks for posting your story, I think next time they are having tryouts I will go. You rock!
    2145 days ago
    There are even Roller Derby teams here on Spark!

    Your courage is really inspiring!
    2145 days ago
  • KLONG8
    OK, you are now my idol. You're fearless!
    2145 days ago

    2146 days ago
  • 3016DEBRA
    That's so COOL!!! It's not the falling down that matters - it's the getting back up that really counts...HOORAY FOR YOU!!!! emoticon emoticon
    2146 days ago
  • COUPONS0216
    You go girl! Have fun and kick butt!
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    2146 days ago
  • NADS1959
    sounds like fun and exercise- great job. How did u draw the pics? Very good there.
    2146 days ago
    Way to be brave!
    2147 days ago
    Wow!! Loved your blog! Best of luck in reaching your derby dreams! sounds like a blast!

    2147 days ago
    Go Lulu!
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    2147 days ago
    I hadn't heard of flat track roller derby leagues before (perhaps we don't have them in the UK?) so don't really know what you're embarking upon but your determination and courage are inspiring. Well done!

    I look forward to hearing how you get on.
    2147 days ago
    Sounds fun! And love the ending, be more confident and throw all cautions, I think you will do great in the tryouts!

    I remember my own experience when I was a kid and I wore our traditional clothes Baju Kurung which sort of like knee-length long sleeve blouse with long skirt so just imagine trying to get balance in that outfit LOL Good thing I was just a kid so any embrasssement that might occured when I fall down was stamp down with my kiddy happiness, hehe.

    By the way, I love name Shreddy Ruxpin :D
    2147 days ago
    Oh Girl, you are a hoot! Good for you for taking on such an endeavour!
    I wish you luck! Let us know how it "ends up"! LOL
    Hugs and boo boo kisses!
    2147 days ago
    I am so afraid of bruises and pain... I don't think I could do it, but I am so excited to follow your experiences and live vicariously! What fun! You have to post EVERYTHING!!!

    Good luck at tryouts!
    2147 days ago
    Wonderful blog! Last summer I got on quad skates for the first time since I was a kid and joined a roller derby team and it was very intimidating, but it was also one of the best things I have ever done. Roller derby is a great sport and the derby women are always so supportive of one another. You are going to have the time of your life :)
    2147 days ago
    Ooohhhh - I wanna do that - I'm a 46 yr old mom and pastor's wife and I wanna do roller derby - so much fun to be bad.....maybe after a few more pounds come off I will sneak away from kids and try out. Your story was so flippin hilarious - loved it!!!
    2147 days ago
  • BHODGES865
    When I found out we had a roller derby group here, I seriously considered joining since I was a skating demon when I was in junior high (many many many decades ago). I am impressed that you went out there to try out. I look forward to hearing about future skating endeavors!! And I've been thinking of going to the local rink and this has convinced me that I need to go for sure!
    2147 days ago
    Yay!! emoticon That's so great! You should be really proud of yourself for getting out of your comfort zone and conquering that fear. Good job! You're gonna be an incredible roller derby girl!
    2148 days ago
    I just had a flashback to the last time I skated. But it was on ice though. Roller skating was for kids under twelve or the Derby folks. I fell a few times but it was fun!

    You are one brave cookie to get out there and do it. emoticon emoticon
    2148 days ago
    HAHAHAHAHA - Oh my gosh - I came back and read this again - and am still laughing!! HAHAHA! ;-)
    2148 days ago
    I'm dying to learn to skate. You blog is funny and poignant. Great job1
    2148 days ago
    Sounds like you could have a lot of fun doing this! Good luck!
    2148 days ago
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    2148 days ago
    Great job, and after you are thru fresh meat, I hope you're drafted. I am a member of a local league here, I don't skate but I'm friends with many roller girls. I have a lot of fun, with them. So WTG on going in the right direction towards playing Roller Derby. I can't afford the due's or WFTDA insurance myself otherwise I would so be out there skating with my friends.
    2148 days ago
    Excellent!!!! It's great that you are trying something new and have such a positive attitude about it! That alone will bring you far. Best of luck to you! emoticon
    2148 days ago
    Oh you bragger!!!! How I envy you on those roller skates. It's been years since I've skated, but I remember the feel of my hair whipping in the air as I skated faster and faster....never mastered anythig outside of that, though, and when I wanted to stop I just aimed for a group of stationary skaters to catch me. Now I'd be afraid of breaking a hip....heck, I'm afraid of breaking a hip just walking down the sidewalk to our mailbox.

    Your blog brought back such fun memories, not only of my own adventures at our local skating rink, but also of me and my friends sneaking into the high school fieldhouse, where roller derby and wrestling exhibitions were held. I remember Joanie Weston, the blonde bombshell from the Bay Area Bombers. She had a long ponytail that the other skaters would grab to whip her off the track. It was great! My parents had a fit, thinking I'd quit school to join this sport.

    Roller skating would be such fun exercise if I wasn't so afraid of falling. I envy you!
    2148 days ago
    emoticon Sounds like lots of fun. WTG!!!! I can see myself doing exactly this. I loved skating every Friday & Saturday night as a kid (my cardio, lol). Skating is something I would love to get back into. You have just inspired me to look for a league in my area. emoticon
    2148 days ago
    Once again, entertaining AND insightful. I look forward to your blogs and reading about your progress.
    -Sharon emoticon
    2148 days ago
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