From the helmet of: Tesla
I've got to share something. I've been a little quiet, and I've been a little tired, but I'm beginning to feel a shift. I wanted to write about the importance of friendship, and the impact that derby relationships have had on me lately. Derby saves our souls, we say that all the time, but I'm beginning to realize that it isn't the sport or the self-challenge, or the growth even. Not all the time. Sometimes (a lot of the time) it's the people that facilitate the growth.
Derby brings all different kinds of people together, and everyone has something in them that can help someone else, even if both people don't know it. I've met some people that I have really disliked, but even they have taught me something. The girl that knocked me down over and over when I was brand new really got a lot of my ire for a while, but once I began to feel more comfortable on the track, I realized that I owed her a lot. She didn't go easy on me, and I needed it. It was tough derby love. Some of the girls I immediately disliked ended up being super toxic and awful, and they taught me the most, maybe. I learned how not to act. They taught me how not to handle criticism, defeat, and challenge. The ability to learn from other peoples' mistakes is a blessing.
Then there are the undercover angels, the ones that teach you compassion and drop little nuggets of wisdom, even if they don't mean to. The girl that always checks on me after I fall. The girl that always tells me how great I'm doing, especially when I'm really beat up. The girl that struggles in scrimmage but never, ever gives up. The girl that is always willing to try a new move, even if she might fall. You are my derby heroes and heroines. You make this sport the greatest in the world to me, and even if you never realize it, even if I never work up the courage to tell you, you've saved my soul.
I came home from a really rough pick-up game one night and ate myself sick. I felt I'd done so poorly in the scrimmage that I cried into a bag of potato chips. I don't even eat potato chips! I was a sad sight. I messaged Gravy and off-loaded all of my woes over the night's failures. She reminded me that I'd just played a game with men and women who had years and years of experience on me. She assured me that the only way to improve is to play up, and she said something that I've been holding in my mind ever since: "You're better now than you were before." Something clicked. I had this sudden realization that the MOMENT practice is done, I'm better than I was before it started. I may be beat down. I may be tired and sad. I may cry. Whatever I do or feel, I'm better than I was before.
Every time I feel down now I think about that and it motivates me. Every walk, jog, weight lifting session, yoga hour, or derby practice, I think about that. Every opportunity to skate, even if I know it will be really hard, I now take. I don't talk myself out of things the way I used to, and I accept the bad with the reward. Last Sunday I assessed up to the Advanced level of our rec league. I'm pretty sure I just barely made that cut, and I'm really ready for the challenges the next level will bring. One of the upper level skaters mentioned that the Rec A Team was holding tryouts, and that I should give it a go. Realistically, I have a ton of work ahead of me before I am at that level, but who the crap cares? What a good opportunity to get feedback on my weak points and skate with some higher level girls! Am I terrified? Yep. Have I been throwing up a little every time I think about it? Yep. It's tomorrow. I worked out super hard yesterday and my legs are destroyed. I have a lot of fear coursing through me right now (and advil), but I'm 100% pumped. Bring it on, A Team! Tesla's ready for her beat down.
From the helmet of: Telsa
Merriam-Webster defines the word resolution 5 ways, with lots of finer definitions beyond that. It's a word that can mean so many things, but they all boil down to... boiling down, making something complex simple, making something fuzzy sharp. It is the act of determining. What are you determined to do? And why do so many people this time of year hate on resolutions? Resolution is such a wonderful word!
Scroll through your Facebook feed real quick, you'll see the jaded statuses, I'm sure. "Resolutions are stupid. They don't work." "Strive to be good all the time, not just on January 1st!" You might also see some folks making huge resolution lists full of unattainable goals (yikes), and some making comical resolutions, like, "My New Year's resolution is to take a bath at least once a week! Hardy har har!" Why all the hate? Maybe people are bitter because they've seen the truth. They've seen the gym, full to bursting on January 1st, and nearly empty by January 3rd. Maybe they've failed to keep past resolutions themselves. We all have.
Well, I'm here to tell you why you SHOULD make a resolution. Not a list of resolutions, and not a dire, complicated resolution. Just one simple change. And January 1st is a nice, convenient date. It lends itself to tracking and progression. It's the beginning of something, a big, huge something that we call a year. Yes, yes, time is an unending thing, but we measure it for a reason. We're kinda obsessed as a species with measuring it. Here's what I'm saying: change begins with a decision. A decision is a resolution. So you waited until January 1st. Cool. The OCD in me loves that. Week 1, Day 1. It's so clean and nice. Let's use it. On day 1 we don't have to run a mile. We don't have to eat 1300 calories. We don't even have to turn off the TV and read a book. We just have to make a decision.
OK! Enough with the heavy stuff. ONE DECISION! You can do that, right? One year I resolved to learn how to paint my nails. Yep. That happened. And I did it! I painted them a ton, and I got super great at it. I documented it all, too. That resolution didn't rock the Earth, and it wasn't heroic, I just kinda decided I wanted to learn how to paint my nails. I decided. Even if it was dumb, who cares? I did it. I also lost a ton of weight that year. There was something about setting an attainable goal that really got me motivated to set other goals. I did way more than learn how to paint my nails. I changed my life. With all that weight gone, my resolution for 2014 was to get stronger. I did floppy push-ups and sit-ups until I could do real ones. I didn't do them all the time, and I didn't go to the gym. I started derby in the summer, and really learned my own potential and strength, I learned mental strength and toughness. I got a concussion in October and learned how to be strong in other ways. Despite sickness and struggle, I can look back at 2014 and say that I did it. I got stronger.
So, what about this year? Why not take today, January 1st, to make a decision? Just one! Make one you don't have a problem keeping. Resolve to make dinner at home more. Resolve to read a few books. As you begin to reach those attainable goals, you might just realize how empowering it is, and you might want to make more resolutions. They won't be your "New Year's Resolution," but they will be decisions. What are you determined to do?
This year, because I now have derby in my life, I will make two resolutions. WOO! TWO! One for my derby life, and one for my regular life. But, you know what? I'm not gonna tell you what they are. I think that's where some folks fall down. Don't promise the world you're going to run a marathon by December, promise yourself. Pick something you can do, a goal you know you can reach, and start walking toward it. And don't be afraid to change your mind. No one else knows your determination, so who cares if you switch it up? Journey's aren't easy, and no one is judging you (because you don't have to tell anyone, remember? If you look at your path in February and realize it was off-course, then change it. The destination is growth. It doesn't matter much how you get there. A resolution simply means picking a direction in which to travel instead of wandering aimlessly. See how big I wrote that part? It's important.
Do you have a resolution in mind? Good! Now boil it down. Make it simpler. Break it into its parts and find a common denominator. Here is an example of how to break down a decision into an attainable resolution: "I resolve to lose 50 pounds!" Ok, great! You want to lose 50 pounds. Sounds a little daunting. Losing weight = getting your health in check. Getting your health in check has a lot of parts. Pick a few parts on which to work earnestly. How about education, awareness, and food? Three simple parts. Your resolution, instead of losing 50 pounds, could be to read a book about nutrition. I bet reading that book on nutrition will open your eyes a little bit. It might inspire you to get moving, go for walks, maybe buy a fitbit and start tracking steps. It might change the way you see food, what you buy at the grocery store, and how much you eat. It might even lead to you losing some weight. Don't focus on the number on the scale, focus on the journey toward health. At the end of the year, don't ask yourself if you lost 50 pounds. Ask yourself if you experienced growth.
I can imagine someone getting to the end of this article and wondering what the DEUCE it had to do with roller derby. Everything. It has everything to do with derby. Set some goals this year. Bite-sized, attainable, helpful goals. Can't do stops with your left foot? Resolve to try left-footed stops equally with right-footed. Feel super winded in the fourth minute of your 25 in 5? Resolve to skate for 7 minutes instead of 5 each time you try. Feel sluggish, or need to improve your form? Resolve to take a speed skating class. Resolved to try some weight-lifting or cross-training. We can always improve, all of us, but we all need to see progress to stay motivated. Resolve to do something that you know will help you make positive changes. And quit hating on resolutions! Being determined isn't a bad thing.
Derby injuries make us table-flipping mad, yo.
So you’re injured. This is a full-contact sport, after all. And even though you exercise and eat right and do everything you can to take care of your body, shit’s gonna happen, seemingly at the most inconvenient times. But really, when is an injury convenient? “Oh, you want to assess up to the advanced level of rec league? Here! Take a concussion!” “Oh good, you just made Texas’ premier league? Better break your rib!” So while we sit here whining about the unfairness of it all, woe are we, everything is terrible, etc., we want to help you maintain your sanity while dealing with injury. We both got hurt within a day of each other, so our timeline so far has looked relatively similar:
Day 1: Everything is fine! It kind of... hurts a little, but it’s totally fine. A week TOPS and I’ll be back in the game!
Day 4: Still feeling overwhelmingly terrible, but it’s nothing a few more days of rest can’t fix, I’m sure of it!
Day 7: HOLY SHIT. I CAN’T TAKE THIS.
Day 12: This is never going to end, is it? My derby career is over. Done with. Kaput.
Day 18: Okay, I’m gonna skate today! I can’t wait! I’m totally ready!
Day 19: I’ve made a huge mistake.
Day 25: [sits in tepid bath, sobbing]
Sound familiar? Self-pity can come on strong and swift around week 2, and most serious injuries take 6 weeks to heal at the very least, if you behave and don’t struggle (spoiler, we’re both super bad patients). Concussions and broken ribs have something in common: you really shouldn’t be doing much of anything during recovery. Just breathing with a broken rib hurts like hellfire, and everything you do on a daily basis, derby or otherwise, involves your core. Guess where your ribs are? Your core! Concussions mean rest of all kinds. No moving OR thinking. For people who are used to thinking, making, doing, writing, reading, moving… well, it’s just torture for us. How are we supposed to come out on the other side of this without a screw loose? Here are a few tips we hope you’ll find useful.
What we learned (and are still learning):
· Go to the doctor. If you have to ask, “Should I see a doctor?” then the answer is YES. Don’t be a dumdum.
· When you’re at the doctor, bring a list and ask lots of questions! Do not leave the doctor’s office wondering about something that you easily could’ve gotten an answer about or it will drive you crazy. Wear that doctor out.
· If you are like us, you let your skating talk for you and hide quietly in the corner when the skates come off. Do not be upset if it suddenly seems like your community is disrupted, it might just be that people never knew that you actually existed (Just kidding. We think).
...okay, that’s a joke, but it’s easy to feel that way when you’re suddenly ripped out of your pack. If you’re able, stay active in the derby community. Go to practice. Participate by blowing a whistle or holding a stopwatch. Volunteer yourself for things, like NSOing at scrimmages.
· When you feel unnatural and confused because you aren’t allowed to skate, that’s when you know it’s become your lifestyle and is truly a part of you. Like a good kind of leech. Or The Hypnotoad. ALL GLORY.
· There was life before skating. Maybe some things you love to do got left behind when you took up derby? Try those out again. You might just find that you’ve missed them!
Gravy and Tesla
From the helmet of: Gravy
2014 was a whirlwind year. And a banner year. Just whirlwinds and banners everywhere, with me floating around somewhere in between. I was an academic. And a bum. I moved to the other side of the country. I lost myself. I found myself. I lost my mind. I found that, too. For now. I skated and skated and skated. I skated to forget. I skated to remember. I skated for the hell of it and I skated with a fiery purpose as if nothing else mattered.
In 2014, I gave my all. To everything. Mentally, physically, every part of me was used up and spit out. But it was replenished and replaced with strength, toughness, and voracity. Anyone that knows me for an extended amount of time knows that I’m very good at overwhelming myself. I want to do it all! right! now! So when I moved to Austin and the magical world of roller derby mecca opened up, I couldn’t handle it. There was SO MUCH to do and I wanted to do ALL OF IT. Scratch that, I was GOING to do all of it.
Two days after coming in, I skated. I wasn’t sure how to handle the heat and got heat exhaustion. Damn, Texas is hot. And damn, the Blood Shed is hotter. I started skating in the first level of rec league. I tested up to the second level. I started going to Austin Anarchy practices with my boyfriend, who skates for them. I joined Bat City Rebellion. I tested up in rec league again. I went to speed skate. I joined a co-ed team. I went to clinics. I went to Friday Night Lights when there were only 5 other people there. I went when there were 40. I officiated in bouts and scrimmages. I went to the gym. I PRd and PRd and I felt good and strong. I did hill sprints and I hated every single second of it. I bench-coached a few teams. I went to lessons. I tried out and made the top level of rec league. I skated 20 hours in one week, including 6 hours of clinic and a co-ed bout in one day. I tried out for TXRG. I made the New Girl program. I volunteered at Charleston playoffs. I learned the importance of off-skate warmups. I skated 6 days a week for 3 weeks. I did a million box jumps. I got drafted! I became a Hell Mary (Hell Yes!). This weekend we’re driving to Champs. And in December we’re volunteering at the World Cup.
I can definitely say that the last half of 2014 has been way better than the first. But the last few weeks specifically have been amazing. Being chosen as a New Girl and then having crazy intense practices 3-4 times a week was a dream, being taught by seasoned Texas Rollergirls and Texecutioners. I loved every minute of it. My body, not so much. She started wearing down in the third week, just because I wasn’t sleeping well and was having trouble eating enough (those things are important, guys!). But I made it through. And I know that nothing my body could’ve told me would’ve made me stop (again, bad, don’t do that), but luckily that was never an issue. And I’m so ready to give myself to my new league and to soak up as much as I possibly can.
It’s funny to think about where I started and where I am now. I bought a pair of skates before I had a place to skate. The guy said something about not dropping a lot of money on your first pair of skates because you might quit. And I was like, “OKAY WEIRDO.”
So then I found a league April of 2011 when I moved back to Huntington, WV – the Jewel City Rollergirls. Sometimes we’d have 5 people at practice. Our league never had more than 20. Everything was hard. Finding bouts without a home location to hold on. Getting people to come to practice. Doing business things. Branding ourselves. It was all a struggle. All of this while we were learning how to skate and be competitive. Learning how to be athletes for the first time, to work as a team. Trying to understand how a body could possibly hurt this bad. Am I dying?
And now, here I am a member of the Texas Rollergirls, lifting weights multiple times a week, and refusing to wear pants that don’t stretch. I look back at those fresh meat pictures and I’m grateful for everything that has happened to bring me to here. I’ve grown up a lot. I’ve made a lot of friends. I found my niche and found where I finally feel like I belong. It has been a crazy journey full of strange moments, bad moments, and life-changingly wonderful moments. The great thing about roller derby is that if you want something, the power to have it is in your own hands.
From the helmet of: Tesla
Excuses: I'm fabulous at them. If they were a minimum skill, I'd pass that portion with flying colors and extra credit. If you've ever skipped practice due to anxiety, not worked out because reasons, not gone to bed or woken up on time, or eaten a whole pizza without a second thought, then you're likely a whiz with excuses, too. Excuses go hand in hand with honesty and responsibility. When you make them, and tell yourself you believe them, you're not taking responsibility OR being honest (with yourself and others).
Excuses are sly. They comfort and coddle you. They slip soft fingers into your cold hands and fill you with that warm whiskey-drink called rationalization...
"It's too hot outside to exercise. You can't go out there, you'll pass out! Oh, it's kinda nice out? Well, you're out of Nuun."
"You'll do better tomorrow." What a wonderful promise of hope and renewal. Tomorrow is a new day! Tomorrow is also the day most people quit smoking, start their diet, and clean the house. Tomorrow is convenient. I mean, it's always there, as long as you live to see it. Some people don't know if they will live to see it, and it is from those people that I think we need to take a cue. We are not promised a tomorrow. We don't deserve it. We're not entitled to it. Live today like you might not get one.
How does this apply to derby? Well, it may not apply to you. Maybe you're a rockstar that eats whole, healthy foods, commits 100% on the track, works out 5 days a week, sleeps 8 hours a night, and stays away from alcohol and tobacco. More than likely, though, you're a little on the excuse-y side, at least once in a while. You've read this far, so you must have a reason for sticking around. I'd like to admit something: I am terribly unfair to myself. I don't give myself a fair shot. Every single day, EVERY SINGLE FLIPPING DAY, I have the chance to make good choices and make progress. I have the chance to go for a walk, do 20 push-ups, jump rope in the driveway, pull out the yoga mat. I have the chance to drive to the grocery store and buy fresh greens and proteins instead of heading to grab to-go food. I have the chance to sit down and draw up meal plans, workout agendas, and goals. No one is holding me back. I choose not to do all of these things. I even get a great discount at the gym right down the road, and I don't choose to utilize it. I mean, that gym has a HOT TUB! But there are people at the gym. People! Does any of that sound familiar?
Lately I've been pulled aside by a few fellow skaters and told I have tons of potential, but I'm holding myself back. They are always so encouraging and nice, and it makes me feel really great, but also a little sad. They see me not applying myself. They hear me laughing and saying I'm only in derby for the fun, and it frustrates them a little because they think that if I only wanted it more and pushed myself, I could be really great. That is a stellar vote of confidence from some strong ladies I admire, right? So, why does it feel so awful? I am only doing derby casually, for fun, right?
Doubt creeps in. When I watch the Texas Rollergirls skate, do I feel only admiration, or do I feel aspiration? ::looks around innocently:: Me? Do I want to be a Texas Rollergirl? Do I want to be on a world class team like the Texies and skate at that level? I can't bring myself to speak the words "Yes, of course I do," because I don't think I'm capable of making it that far. I watch girls try out and and fail, and their failure is so much more skillful and spectacular than my greatest tries. I would never compare my beginning to their middle, that's just ridiculous, but I do compare my drive, focus, and determination to theirs, and I wonder if I'll ever get there. I see determination as something that comes on later, way after you've struggled. I don't seem to understand that I could be determined now if I wanted. I see how long they've been skating and how hard they've worked for their sport. Do I have what it takes to do that? Do you?
If you are just in derby for the fun, I want you to ask yourself the same questions. You might have to admit to yourself that you DO want it. You want it so bad you could just make yourself sick, but you give up before you've begun because you know you don't have a chance. You're just being realistic (that's an excuse). You are defeated before you've even tried. We all deserve a fair shake, right? A chance at a dream. If your secret, innermost dream is to be a pro-level skater, listen up: You have all the power to try. You have this one life and this one body. Don't watch everyone else skate by and not give yourself a fair chance. Those rockstar skaters didn't get where they are by whining about their life from the sofa. You know what you have to do, and so do I. If you don't want it, that's fine. But if you do... what are you waiting for? You think we have to skate for years in order to find our reason to strive for greatness? We could start right now.
So, here I am. I have a decision to make. I can continue to have a fun, flirty relationship with roller derby, or I can be a fucking committed derby skater in the greatest derby town in the world (yeah, I said it). I can eat potato chips, or I can do core exercises. I just have to decide what I want out of life and where I want to go, and then I have to take action. You don't have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started to be great. I don't know who said that, but I like it. Let's do this. Greatness starts here.
From the helmet of: Tesla
Oh, Tesla. When we are unhappy, we usually know how to become happy. We know which direction we need to travel, which mountains to climb, which floors to sweep, and which closets to purge. We know the effort we will have to make, and how to accomplish the tasks. Yet, it is at these moments when we often feel the most lost and desperate. Why should we feel this way when we know the answer? Because, the answer is hard. The tasks are tiresome, grueling, and uncomfortable. Because sitting idle is easier! It's so hard to start something when the task is large and you feel so small, but it's hard to finish something you aren't willing to start.
This is why you need to go to practice. You need to get up off the sofa, put down your smart phone, and go to practice. You need to shake the idleness from your bones and awaken your will. Being quiet and still is wonderful, but it is not productive. Sometimes you need to get your head straight and your space organized so that you can enjoy the quiet stillness. You have to wake up! You have to move. You need energy and drive to be the person you want to be, to live the life you want to live. How can you not feel alive on the track? How can you not feel life's heartbeat when you're pressed against the racing heartbeat of the pack? You'll remember your strength when you brace for impact, when you push yourself forward and inhale deeply. Your sofa may be nice, the voices and echos of your home may be comforting, but you need to go to practice.
Inspiration isn't found lying around the house. You can't find it on the bathroom counter, or in the refrigerator. You can't earn it in hours of seeking it out. Inspiration is born of experience and reflection. It hides just outside your narrow comfort zone, waiting for you to feel something, even if that something is apprehension or pain. We need inspiration to keep going, to keep creating, to keep giving, and we need all of those things in order to thrive. We need the cold eye of a stranger, and we need the warm smile of new friend. Sometimes we need those two things from the same person, to remind us of the good there is still in the world, and that we are still able to find it. You won't find anything if you don't look for it. You won't earn anything for which you don't work.
So, get up and go. Put on your sneakers, gather your gear, and go. Do something that scares you. Do it with all your heart and don't look at your feet.
Tesla and Gravy
Just two rollergirls trying to share the rollerlove from Austin, TX to the world.