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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Derby Diary #2 
Challenges Thus Far 

This is an occasional series chronicling my start in roller derby, presenting both perks and challenges of the sport. Today focuses on some of the initial challenges I've face when training to be a full-contact athlete on roller skates.

In case you missed it, here's my first entry.


Photo credit: Derby Baby

Starting anything fresh almost always has its challenges.

Most 16-year-old drivers aren't parallel parking experts. Professional athletes rarely become professionals on natural talent alone. Accomplishing most things, whether its career or personal goals, takes practice, patience, motivation, among other things. Sometimes it's even a matter of rethinking goals.

Back to relating these various challenges to roller derby: The learning curve in this sport is steep.

It starts with learning to skate. It sounds simple enough, but it's not just being able to skate in a circle at a rink. There's learning various stops (T-stop, plow stops, turn-around toe stops), how to accelerate (via crossovers), how to turn around while skating (transitions), backwards skating, and jumping over objects. There's also training for laps, essentially the sprints of derby. We're expected to complete 27 laps in five minutes by August in order to to be drafted onto a home team.

The first six weeks of our training was dedicated to skating alone. Adjusting to being on skates, learning derby stance (essentially a never-ending squat), was challenging enough. My knees ached in ways I have never experienced before. (Solution to knee aches? Fish Oil supplements, cardio cross training, and tons of stretching pre- and post-workout.)

Last month, I passed non-contact testing alongside 17 others in my fresh meat class, which was a great accomplishment. The keyword here is that I passed. I'm certainly no expert on wheels yet. There are still occasions when I fall over simply from losing my balance while standing.

On top of everything else: None of us are in high school anymore, when athletics and the trial and error lessons are fairly common. Many of us are learning a new sport in our 20s, 30s, even 40s.

Despite those challenges though, the group I've been working with has been so encouraging. Many of the ladies are from rec leagues, so they've mastered a lot of the basics. Others are like me, learning everything for the first time.

Transitions and turnaround toe stops at times are still very difficult for me. It mostly depends on my state of mind. And I know my crossover form (crossing one skate over the other to accelerate) could be much better. But I'm light years ahead from where I was in January, when I tied on skates for the first time in probably more than a decade.

I'm learning just how cerebral this sport can be. It's being able to training your mind to say you can when it seems impossible.

We're now learning various contact skills, another layer to add to our new found skating foundations, which includes a lot of hip checks and shoulder checks. It's all derby fundamentals we'll use in future bouts.

One thing I do seem to have a natural knack for is taking a hit, much to my surprise. Learning the contact aspect has been one of my biggest fears, but as it turns out, I'm much better at blocking than I thought I would be for just starting out.

Learning to hit others is the challenge I'm finding in contact. Knocking others over, or hitting others hard enough to get bruises and welts, is frowned upon most other life situations. On our fresh meat forum, some of the ladies are sharing pictures of their bruises like badges of pride. This kind of cultural sadomasochism is something I'm still not quite used to yet.

The other big challenge so far, albeit a bit less essential, is getting my lap requirements. While I've improved, I'm falling short of the 27 laps I eventually have to make. It's been frustrating. And I know part of that frustration comes from seeing others who can accomplish it so easily.

But like in anything else, comparisons are fruitless. We all learn at our own pace. That's perhaps the biggest challenge of all for me to learn.

Another meatie also has a blog with a feature about her roller derby experiences. Read her blog here.

1 comment:

  1. This is so interesting! It sounds like such a cool journey!