We’ve had a lot of changes in the past year at BBRG, and one of the most important is our move to the Bank of Kentucky Center on Northern Kentucky University’s campus. Everything we’ve done as a league over the past year has been leading up to May 19th, when we finally make our season debut at an area! I can’t tell you how amazing and frightening it is to even think about being in an arena in front of a thousand fans or more. The work that went into it was exhausting, especially for our Executive Directors, who had to contemplate for the first time that our league would be basically broke once we signed up to do this. Because here’s a secret: it takes money, folks. A lot of it. I mentioned in a previous blog about fundraisers and asking friends and family for money. We are looking for sponsors too, to place ads in our programs, as well as to be overall sponsors. And we are doing all of this with the hope and belief that our fans will help us earn the money at each game to help us pay for the next. I’ve said it before: we pay to play. Every dime that our league uses either comes from players or the hard work of the players getting sponsors and doing fundraisers. I feel sometimes like I’m not doing enough, and I know others feel the same way. But we pitch in where we can and we’re crossing our fingers. So here’s my plea: support us! Come to our games. Buy our merchandise. Tell your friends about your local roller derby team and how far BBRG has come in the last 6 years.
Another thing that we are doing to prepare for the arena is practice, practice, practice. We have upped our practice schedule to 4 times a week, now that we have the private practice space to do it. We are picking up games with teams all over in an attempt to get better. Our head coach, Coach T, is refining strategies, drilling them into our heads, and forcing us to get better. There are still some days, as a relative newbie, that I can’t keep up. I may not be an FNG anymore, but I still struggle, every day, to make my body and my skates do what I want them to. I have good days and bad. When I started back in January, I felt like I was starting all over. I was so out of practice after two months off with no skating. In February, with only one month practice under our belt, our B team was invited to play in a B team tournament, the B Cup. I figured I wouldn’t get to play much, if at all, since I was one of the newest players who was attending. At a tournament, you are allowed to turn in a roster of 20, but only 14 can play at a time, just like a regular game. Plus, I had a flu/sinus infection and felt like crap. My 5-year old, who was supposed to go with me, had developed pneumonia and had to stay home with his dad, and that too made me feel like crap, because I felt an obligation to my team to attend, but felt like the worst mom ever for leaving him. To my surprise, we had players get injured before the tournament, and others who had to drop out, leaving us with only 15 eligible players left from our roster. That meant I was going to play in at least one game, and I was pretty nervous about it.
I played in the first game against Naptown’s Third Alarm, the top seed in the tournament, at 8am (not the best time for derby girls). We were seeded 8th out of 8, because at the time we weren’t a WFTDA team like the others (although we are now!). I didn’t go in much, by my own request, because I was frankly getting the crap knocked out of me every time I went in. I was slow, off balance, and every hit felt much worse than it usually would. Naptown made me a goat every jam I was in and fighting your way out of being a goat is exhausting and tough (a goat is a blocker that gets trapped behind the wall of the opposing team, so that they can control where the pack is). It gives me more respect for jammers than you can possibly imagine. But we made an awesome showing, becoming the talk of the tournament by coming back from a huge deficit at the half to losing by only a few points difference. I was so proud of my team. Because we lost, we weren’t expected to play again until the next day’s losing bracket, and I took advantage of it by drinking NyQuil and spending the entire rest of the day in bed. The next day, I bench coached, instead of playing, and although it was my first time bench coaching, it was worth it. To me, having me play would have just brought my team down, since I couldn’t perform at all. We won both games we played on Sunday and ended up 5th in the tournament, which was amazing!
So I had made it through my first tournament, but my contribution was small. On top of that, assessment time was looming again in February, and I wondered if I could make it through. My biggest weakness (and I’m the first to admit I have many) is my lack of speed and endurance. So the biggest challenge looming over my head each year is the 25 laps in 5 minutes requirement. I started practicing for it a week before the assessments. At the end of last season, I had made it with 5 seconds to spare, which was amazing enough for me, considering I hadn’t been able to do it previously. So, imagine my absolute horror when I tried twice over two days and couldn’t do it. Not only did I fail, but I failed miserably—a whole lap down from 25. I was heartbroken and dispirited. It was all I could think about. I called my derby wife, Splintercat, crying. In desperation, the night before assessments, I changed some of my wheels from grippier Poisons to my slicker Lowboys. And I stayed awake all night with my stomach cramping from anxiety. Would I pass?
The day of assessments, I actually went and got a massage, trying to lessen some of my tension. I ate lightly and drank more water than I usually do. I was hoping to be put in the group that did the laps first, wanting to get it out of the way, but was randomly chosen to start with hitting skills. Then my group did basic skating skills, meaning my laps were last. Usually we do laps in groups of 3, to avoid overcrowding on the track while you’re skating full throttle. I skated up to Coach T and said, “If you never do me another favor, please let me go first and get this out of the way.” To my relief he agreed, and I lined up with two of my fellow FNGs from last season. The timer started and we took off. My nose began running 3 laps in. I did my best to keep up with the girl in front of me, knowing that if I could do that, I’d at least have the same number of laps as someone else. My stride was sloppy. I looked like Phoebe from Friends running through the park, and I didn’t care. I was gasping, trying in vain to control my breathing, periodically wiping my nose with my wrist guard, my legs burning while I quickly lost my own count. I could hear other skaters yelling encouragement in the background, but it was barely sinking in. I felt myself slowing down, losing my initial burst of speed. The girl in front of me was slowly pulling away. Lap by lap, she got further and further from me, and as much as I pushed, I couldn’t keep up. I began to despair as sweat rolled down my face, and it felt like I had been on the track for 20 minutes. Finally, I heard Splinter, who was keeping time, yell, “STOP!!” I made it to the inside of the track and collapsed, exhausted and barely able to move my legs for a minute. And then my sweet wife dropped down next to me and said, “27!” I looked at her, eyes open in shock, “Are you serious?” She nodded, and for the first time that day, I felt like jumping up and down. For veteran skaters, the 25 in 5 may be easy and may be you can’t understand why it was so hard for me. But for me, it was a mountain to climb and reaching the summit was absolutely amazing! Not only did I pass, I went 2 laps over, which I have never, never managed to do before. As some of the other skaters congratulated me, it made me realize how far I’d come in a year. Now, I have to use this season to get even better!
Next time: I Declare a Thumb War
-Kung FU Hussy