I fell in love with roller derby the summer after I graduated from college, when I watched a friend, Bleeding Rainbow (a la “Reading Rainbow,” get it!?) skate in her first bout, which her team lost by a whole lot of points. At that time I didn’t get the strategy, I didn’t really understand the complexity of the whole thing, but I realized that there was a game just for getting around people!
This is a good time to admit that I pride myself greatly on my ability to maneuver my way through crowds, whether they are jam-packed high school hallway crowds or public transportation all trying to get on the same train at the same time crowds – I have always been good at finding the holes and getting through them and being early to class/the first one on the train/better than everyone else. Just sayin’.
So that’s what roller derby looked like to me, a game of being the fastest, weaviest, and getting points for every person you passed. Oh yeah, and you’re on roller skates. And there are 4 other girls, maybe even 5, who are all trying to knock you down. You know, minor details.
The abbreviated version that takes us from then to now is: I learned to roller skate and spent a LOT of time clinging to the wall at a skating rink in the Hudson Valley and sort of shuffling my feet. I bought cheap-o skates and sort of learned to skate in them. I bought nicer skates, passed Level 1s, and fell and hurt my knee the next day. I learned to be fast on crutches (even on public transportation! still the best!) and how to coach. I fell in love and got a dog and stopped skating. A year later, my now-fiancee pushed me into filling out the application and going to tryouts, and here I am now, having survived three of the four cuts and waiting for the draft on Sunday.
One thing that has surprised me is that I don’t really like jamming. Or at least I don’t like it as much as I thought I would. You spend a lot of time just going as fast as you can, trying to not get knocked down, and then going as fast as you can some more. There’s definitely a gleeful feeling when you pass someone – but by the time I’m on my second round, I’m thinking, “is this over yet?” and my lungs are burning.
But when you block – you get to move people, you get to yell, you push people out of the way, you move around the track. Your mind has to be in five places at once and your body has to keep you and your teammates up. It’s AMAZING.
Sunday is the draft, and there are three teams picking something like 17 people out of a pool of 21. Three or four of us won’t make it. At this point, we’ve been skating together for coming up on four months, and we’re all at a similar skill level. We mostly all like each other, and we’ve been through a lot together. No matter what happens, who makes it and who doesn’t, it’s going to be really hard.
I can’t wait for and am dreading Sunday.