Baby’s First Bout

I had made the roster for a home game! I was giddy, ecstatic, posting all over facebook, and generally being an annoying pain in the butt about it. But I couldn’t help myself. I had talked to some of the other new girls who had already played in a bout, and they had mentioned how nervous they were beforehand—how the first jam was a blur they couldn’t remember. I couldn’t wait for my own first jam!
By this point I had taken on the responsibility of making hospitality bags for the visiting teams. When teams visit us, they get a bag of goodies: water, snacks, bandaids, chapstick, little trinkets, etc. And in return, when we visit another team to play, they give us a little something for making the trip. The process of making the hospitality bags has now been refined and goes a lot quicker, but for those first couple of bouts, it was a disorganized disaster. People came over to help, but there was so much to be done that by the morning of the bout, I was still scrambling to get them finished. Plus, I had to wrangle my 4-year old, who wanted to help, but in the meantime got completely in my way. I was waiting for my mother to show up to watch him so I could leave, and of course, she was late. We have to be at the venue at 4:00 on bout days. So, here it was, 3:45, and I was still trying to get into my uniform, comb my hair, put makeup on, and get all the hospitality bags into my tiny car. Hot mess!

Once we get to the venue, we have to do things like help lay the track, clean the floor (so we aren’t sliding all over the place), give out the hospitality bags, clean our wheels, fix our hair, and so on. I was already sweating by the time warm ups started. I had put on what would become my trademark: glittery, red lips—like Dorothy’s shoes. I had also gotten the idea to put some glittery decals on my eyes—something I’d seen another skater do on South Carolina’s team when we played them a few weeks before. This was a mistake. As I sweated, my sweat ran into the decals and into my eyes. When I rubbed them, glitter got in my eyes and they started burning. By the time our bout was getting ready to begin, one of my eyes was completely bloodshot and blurry. It wasn’t boding well.

B team played second that night (the teams switch off who plays first at each bout). I realized I had forgotten to eat, as my nervous energy had kept me running all day. I tried to stuff down a hot pretzel, but found I wasn’t really hungry. So here I was: bloodshot eyes, slightly sick to my stomach, bouncing around like the Energizer Bunny. I couldn’t even watch the first game for more than a few minutes at a time, because I was unable to sit still. The time came for us to line up for equipment check. At equipment check, the refs make sure that you are properly geared up, for your own safety and the safety of those you’re playing with. I pulled my uniform down one last time (they ride up a bit), took a deep breath, and joined the lineup.

Once equipment checks were finished, I rolled over to the bench, where I saw, for the first time, my name on the back of a seat. MY seat!!! Then it was time for the introductions. Honestly, my biggest fear at that moment was that I would fall during my introduction. Each skater takes a lap and smacks the hands of all the fans standing around the track after her name is called. I was worried I’d miss my intro, or fall, or generally make an ass of myself. But then they called, “Number 42. Kung FU Hussy!” and I took off—slowly, hitting each person’s hand as I went by. They were smiling and yelling, and I felt amazing! I made my lap (without falling, thank you very much) and joined my teammates in center track waiting for everyone to be announced.

We got together for a quick pep talk, put all of our hands together, and yelled a loud, “BBRG!” And then I sat down in my seat and watched the game from a whole new perspective. I didn’t go in the first few jams. I had the least amount of experience of the skaters that night, and I wasn’t expecting huge amounts of play time. But then my back got tapped by the bench coach, “FU, you’re up next.” Oh god. My heart leaped into my chest and my stomach dropped about 50 feet. I started tapping my skates on the floor. When that jam ended with four whistle blasts, I stood up, shakily, and made my way to the pivot line with three other teammates. As I stood there waiting for the 5-second warning, I took stock of the other team. They looked confident, strong, and determined. I gulped a little bit and tried not to fall over. The starting whistle blew and we rolled. One of the other team’s blockers immediately slammed into my shoulder and I fell on the inside of the track. That’s when muscle memory took over. I jumped up and caught the pack. And I don’t remember a thing after that until the jam ended. I have no idea how I did, if we stopped the jammer, or if I had contributed at all. But I had finished my first jam. When I sat down, I was shaking from the adrenaline.

The rest of the game was a blur. I didn’t play in every jam, but I got a lot more play time than I expected. I made mistakes—a lot of them. The jammer would pass me on the inside because I wasn’t looking. I would get distracted by the other blockers hitting me. I would get pushed into people. I fell. A LOT. At halftime, some of the A team skaters, including Red Emma, gave us hugs and told us we were doing great, but also tried to give us some pointers. I tried to take it all in. The second half went by just like the first. I was disappointed in myself as I made each mistake, mentally beating myself up over it. I was almost in tears by the end, angry that I wasn’t better. But somehow, despite my failings, my team managed to win!

At the afterparty, I took stock of myself. I realized that I needed to stop being angry that I hadn’t done better. It was my first bout, and I needed to cut myself some slack. I had accomplished so much, and I had gotten to play more than I expected. I had a ton of fun, when I wasn’t yelling at myself, and I felt like a true Black n Bluegrass Rollergirl. But I also promised myself I’d work harder and do better next time.

Next week: To Everything, There is a Season