From the helmet of: Tesla
Summer. That's how it began for me. A new coworker at my job turned into a derby godmother, and within a month I'd bought skates. Adult women roller skated? Recreationally? I had no idea what derby really was (there was a movie, right?), but I knew I had stumbled upon something pretty great/terrifying. I had skated as a kid. A ton. When my mom talks about it now she says, "Oh, she lived in skates. Refused to take them off," at which point my husband says, "Yeah, some things don't change. Lately I think she'd sleep in them if I let her."
I feel pretty open and relaxed about my status as a rollergirl now (four months in), but it didn't start that way. I bought skates in May 2014, and the summer session of the Texas Rollergirls Rec League didn't start until June 1st. My coworker told me I should go to speed skate practice at the local roller rink to get my bearings. It had been 20 years since I'd worn roller skates, and time isn't always kind. I also have a bit (ok, maybe more than a bit) of a social anxiety issue. I may play things off okay sometimes when I'm feeling nervous, but on the inside I'm usually on the verge of a meltdown. I made up my mind to go to speed practice. I borrowed gear. I obsessed over the driving directions and traffic. I drove there after work. I sat in my car. I continued to sit in my car.
Really, if my husband hadn't pulled up next to me in HIS car and dragged me inside, I may never have gone in at all. When he inched his car into the space next to mine I had a death-grip on the steering wheel, my gaze fixed on a nowhere point ahead of my bumper. I was dug into my VW like a tick, and fear was coursing through my veins. "There are gonna be roller girls in there!" "Why does everyone walking in there have inlines? No quads?" "What if I can't skate? I'm gonna pass out." I didn't even realize he was there until he opened my car door like a ninja.
Yeah, I may over-analyze just a bit. What would have happened if he hadn't decided to come? But he did, and I DID go inside that roller rink... and I could skate. I could still cross over, turn around, and skate backwards. I even remembered how to crossover backwards! I didn't fall once. Jackpot. Now, stopping was a different story. Let's just say I rolled into a lot of walls and people that first day. I rolled into another rollergirl and made a friend. Turned out, rollergirls were pretty nice people. Jackpot numero dos.
I spent the next few weeks going to friday night speed practice, watching derby bouts on YouTube, and trying not to puke myself whenever I thought about signing up for Rec League. Hubby told me to sleep on it until I was sure, so I waited until the very last day and then pulled the trigger. No choice now. I had bought gear. I had invested. Time to walk the walk! The first level of our Rec League is called Primer, and it's a non-contact basic skills level, and it's where I met Gravy for the first time. She certainly didn't belong in Primer, but was going through the motions since she was new to Austin, and to the league. I took lots of notes. There are assessments about three times per session in which you can try to get to the next level. After three Primer practices, I decided to assess "to get the feedback," I said. Yeah, right. I wanted to skate with the big girls! Sorta! I had no idea. I passed that assessment, and headed into what the league calls a mixed-level scrimmage intensive. It's not a regular practice session. It's drilling followed by scrimmaging every single practice. Every. Single. Practice. Scrimmaging. Ever seen a bright-eyed freshie do a hitting drill? I'm pretty sure I looked hilarious. Ever seen one try to scrimmage without knowing a thing about the game? YouTube didn't prepare me for this. And the HEAT. Holy hell was it hot. Texas summers aren't exactly cool, mind you, and we skate in a big warehouse/oven with no AC. There are a few gym fans, though, and a trash can in which to puke when the heat doesn't agree with the breakfast taco you hastily shoved down your gullet. Basura.
And so it went. I was gung-ho... and then I was beat down. I was encouraged, and fussed at a little. I kept having to say, "I'm new! I'm sorry!" Some girls would help and give feedback, and that was the best part about skating with girls in a higher level. Some were more of the tough-loving variety and knocked me down every single chance they got. Sometimes that meant real, oh-shit-I'm-broken injuries. I must have had a sign on my back: "Hi, I'm Tesla. My fear response is to stand up, and I'm not short, so go ahead and slam me to the ground!! Teach me a lesson!" Despite my best efforts to stay cheery, I got pretty down on myself. I got hurt, tearing some muscles in my rotator cuff. I got sad and frustrated, and began taking every hit personally. Maybe derby wasn't for me? Moving into the Intermediate level may have been a bad choice.
I decided to make my self-doubt known to the league coordinators and some of the girls, and I got lots of positive feedback. I also got a few links to some blogs about mental toughness, and a pep talk about owning my athleticism. No more excuses about how I'd never played a sport before. I'm playing one now! Time to own that shit. I went back to practice the next week ready to take on the world and keep smiling. I just did it. I took that stupid jammer panty when it was handed to me, and I got back up every time I slammed. I smiled through some pain and pushed through some exhaustion. I could do this. And the girls noticed. I got butt-slaps and high fives! I got congratulated on getting lead jammer! Wait.. I got lead jammer?! I hadn't even realized.
By the last practice of the summer session I was a rollergirl through and through (and threw). I had started derby to have fun and get a good workout. Pfffft. Silly freshie! You don't do derby to get in shape, you get in shape to do derby. I had never worked out before, but I was now squatting while I brushed my teeth and doing push-ups while the oven pre-heated. It didn't take long for it to become one of the most important things in my life. Three months from terrified to hook-line-and-sinker in love. And that's how I got here. I just want to share this derby love. I hope you'll like what I have to say.
Tesla and Gravy
Just two rollergirls trying to share the rollerlove from Austin, TX to the world.