Once More With Feeling

This week, I return to my own personal quest to be a derby girl for BBRG. When last we left off, I had failed my evaluations, partially due to a bum leg, and partially because I just wasn’t ready yet. I continued to practice with the team during our off season. Although our mandatory practices were on hiatus for a couple of months, we continued to have Monday night practices, and many of the girls who also hadn’t passed yet showed up to continue working on their minimum skills. I started going to the chiropractor who sponsors our league, Dr. Casey Didio. She is a marvel. She worked with my leg three times a week, adjusting and helping me heal. It took two months before I started to feel normal again. But even now, my leg gets stiff when I sit for too long. It’s a chance we take when we play that we’re going to get hurt. But I still love it, and I was determined to pass in February.

Back at the end of September 2010, the league had their end of season party, which included an awards dinner beforehand. I was honored to be asked to attend, even though I wasn’t a skater, along with Mama Crass, who had also NSO’d with me all season. It helped a lot with making me feel more accepted by the team. Even if I never made it as a skater, it was a sign that I was making a contribution and that they considered me valuable. Watching the girls go up and accept their awards for best offensive player or cutest derby wives was wonderful. A few actually got teary accepting their awards. But the best moment for me was when all the Fresh Meat skaters from the year before were given their league jacket. To explain, the new girls in the league are called Fresh Meat or FNGs (which stands for F**king New Girl, of course). Although you are on the league, until you finish your first season, you’re still Fresh Meat. Then, at the end of season party, all those new girls who played in a bout get their team jacket. The jacket is a sign that you’ve made it, and everyone wears their jackets proudly. It could be subzero weather outside, and those girls will be shivering in their track jackets, because, by God, they’re Black n Bluegrass Rollergirls! One of the girls, Run Amuck, had worked hard all season to improve her skills and was finally placed on the roster at the last home bout, earning her jacket. Each girl held her jacket with pride, and I was all but salivating at the prospect of one day having my own.

So I continued to work. I hounded both of the coaches, I Spyder and Coach T, to work with me both at practice and during session skates. But I was still a little hesitant to fall after the injury I’d gotten. So much of what was holding me back was mental. I fretted and talked Splintercat’s ear off after practice each week, dissecting how I’d done and what I needed to do better. Because I knew this was my last shot. If I didn’t pass I’d be waiting until next September again, and that thought was killing me. I also started referee training with our Head Ref, JoeXCore. It was a way to get me on skates during Thursday scrimmages, and it definitely helped me learn the rules more. Plus, it was a way to let myself know I wouldn’t leave derby if I didn’t pass. I could still be involved by reffing every week, and that made me happy. In actuality, I liked reffing and still will do it when I get the chance. It’s a completely different mindset and helps me to think of derby in a completely different way. It also helped me to respect the refs more. They do hard work, completely volunteering their time and effort. Our refs are mostly from Lexington, KY, so they drive up every week, at their own expense, to help us get better as a team. And our refs are good. They know their rules. They pride themselves on being unbiased. And they love derby as much as we do. Every time Joe yells at me, I know he’s trying to make me better, even if I want to kick him at the time.

But back to skating. I worked with the coaches. I worked with the vets. And February came looming like a root canal. I was sick to my stomach the entire weekend before my evaluation. I chose to do it on Monday just to get it over with, which in retrospect was a good idea. I couldn’t eat, I was so nervous. I had nightmares about making stupid mistakes. I fretted over my previous evaluation form, trying to focus on what I needed improvement on. When the time came, I messed up my very first fall. But they let me do it again. And after that it was all a blur. I came home and called Splintercat. I worried and stewed and crossed my fingers and toes. And then, you all know what happened. I got the call from our captain, Natural Disaster, and was told I made the team. I was so happy I did a little dance in my office, right then and there. I posted on Facebook and told everyone the good news. Congratulations came in from many of my new teammates. It was glorious!

But it was just the first step. Now I needed to make the roster for a bout. I needed to learn all the strategies that Coach T works so hard on. I needed to work on my endurance, which still forces me to drop out of drills sometimes. I needed to work on my speed, which still frustrates me every time we do a pack drill. My first scrimmage with the team, I was sweating bullets. I got out on the track and my mind went blank. I had no idea what to do. I wasn’t watching the other jammer; I was too busy trying not to trip or run into my own teammates. But it was exhilarating and enormously fun all the same. Each time I went in, it got a little bit easier—a little less overwhelming. And when they drew the numbers on my arm with a Sharpie that night, I felt truly for the first time like I’d made it.

I was a Black n Bluegrass Rollergirl.

Next week: The Politics of Derby