Fresh meat taster day

We had a fresh meat taster day today which was 2 hours of helping the potential fresh meat skate around and get used to being on skates/seeing if they liked it.

Someone from work turned up and totally surprised me as she knows one of the others and it was really strange to see her. The league actually has 2 of us (currently) that work where I do (including me) but there are 2 more who are coming to fresh meat (who just happen to work in my department…) so to everyone else it felt like we were taking over. Although there are almost the same number of people from a different work place so it’s not like we’re taking over (not yet anyway).

It was nice to see the newbies on skates and made me think a lot about how I was when I started (terrible) and we kept telling them that it’s okay if they can’t do something yet as we all had those times. I especially told people it’s okay as according to Bigbird I’m the league’s “success story” so if I can skate backwards now then they can do it too. It’ll just take them time but most (if not all) of them were much better than I was at my first session so they’ll be fine. The first fresh meat session isn’t for another 2 weeks as we have a scrim next week with a different team (but I won’t be taking part in that…).

I’m still not sure how I feel about roller derby at the moment, or rather, the league. I love skating with everyone, well, most of the time I do…I just…I’m just still so frustrated about being 2 frickin’ boxes away from being scrim passed. I’m seriously considering not going to training on Wednesday cause I don’t want to sit around for half an hour but I know that I should go because the 1.5 hours before hand should be good for me…but I’m not convinced right now. Although last week’s training session wasn’t too bad and we did a drill where everyone got to jam for 2 minutes but it was continuous so we had to do the drill for 10 minutes. We were all very tired afterwards.

There’s a league meeting on Tuesday too and I’ll see how that goes, I’m not super keen to go because of one I went to last year that didn’t feel productive/useful in the slightest but this one might and one of the topics is pretty relevant to me so I should be there (even if I’m missing bowling with my friends and his new girlfriend :/) It’s possibly the first time derby’s clashed with something in my non-derby life as I’m usually able to move plans to another day and never really thought much about stuff clashing and causing problems…and I’m not even on the team/it’s not even a real match that it’s clashing with but I already feel annoyed about it.

I’m definitely going to the roller disco tomorrow to work on backwards laps (even though I can pass those, I just need to actually drag 2 team skaters to bloody time me) and knee taps, as well as jumping/hopping and glides. I’ll also try to go to a drop in on Thursday if I leave work on time and if there’s no off skates warmup on Wednesday I’ll get stuff tested if I can.

 

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78%

I’m currently at 78% passed and I’m still frustrated at how close to being scrim passed I am but so far. I’m two ‘boxes’ away from being scrim passed (1 maybe if I actually did pass my backwards laps? I’m sure I did but not sure if I had 2 testers so it won’t count and I’ll have to do it again…) I really wanted to be scrim passed by yesterday as the past week has been more testing focused and I wanted to be able to join in with scrimming next Wednesday. I highly doubt they’ll let me test the last 2 boxes to become scrim passed as yesterday they said I was 3 off but the trainer was like nope, you’re sitting out of this scrim :/

I have off-handedly mentioned this to a few others at how frustrated I’m getting and bless them, they’ve all been so nice to me even though I’ve been such a whiner the past week. They’re the ones who said that I can pass certain things (laps in 13 seconds…) and have been yelling at me to keep going so that I actually do pass it but it’s still annoying. It’s as if the main team skaters don’t care (I know they do, the team is very, very small right now and they’re all really nice people) but it seems like they’re focused on team skaters, which they should be but the next British Champs game isn’t until April so maybe you wanna get some more skaters passed? Just a thought so we don’t only have 9 skaters for our next game…unless they want to lose? (Not saying that they will but if you only have 9 skaters and your opponents have 14…guess who’s gonna be tired at the end of the match?)

I might try going to a drop in skater session in the next few weeks just to see if they can help me with some stuff and the more time I spend skating the better.

I don’t know if I want to move leagues or if I’m being unreasonable and incredibly childish about everything…but I’m not as happy about roller derby as I used to be. I still want to go to practice every week, when I’m at work on training days I’m usually itching to leave and put my skates on and go but…I don’t know if I enjoy it as much as I used to. Is that something that comes with getting better but hitting a plateau? Up until now I’ve been improving on most things, if not everything but now that I’m stalling a little…it sucks. It sucks so much. We have a care committee as part of the league who you can talk to about things and I know she is super nice (she’s off skates at the moment but she’s one of the best jammers we have) and when she’s been at practice she’s usually the one who throws me in the deep end (‘you can totally do scrim drills but not scrimming’ is her favourite phrase to say to me). Maybe I just need to throw myself into it a bit more and work harder off skates to get stuff done, and get things tested in the 15 minutes every Wednesday before training starts (due to people being late), go to more roller discos and free skates, do a bootcamp or two…

I don’t want to give up, that’s not going to happen as I want to be skills passed by my birthday this year but…do I want to stay with my league? Do I want to go somewhere else? Will I just move from here completely and start again? One of my housemates is moving back to Belfast because he’s quite far from home and I think he has some family things going on too and it’s made me think a lot about me moving back to my hometown too…even if it means leaving my (fairly) good job and my league…

To top it off, I was going to go to a roller disco today but it’s been cancelled and I’m too sore to go to the gym so I’ve literally done nothing today when I wanted to do some more off skates things to get my double knee taps down 😦

Stalling

Tonight was the last practice before the team’s game on Saturday and most of the skaters who will be skating were there so practice was heavily focused on strategy for Saturday etc. Crusher and I did some stuff at the side on our own for a bit whilst they were doing a drill and then we joined them again for a different drill but it felt like I was just stalling or coasting through this session.

We did a HIIT cool down but that felt like the part where I’d worked the most, despite jamming during one of the scrim drills I didn’t feel as engaged as I have been. I know it’s not the trainer’s fault, or the team’s but if they do this before every game then the new pre mins aren’t going to like it and I wouldn’t blame them. Maybe when there are more it’ll be different because they can do their own thing in a small group but Crusher said she can’t wait for fresh meat to start so that we’ll have that 1 hour a week to really hone in our basics (grapevine for me…crossovers for her…). Hopefully I’ll be scrim passed soon so that I can join in with scrims (although it seems a little scary!) and keep developing as a player.

Next week’s training should be better but we shall see!

“Normal” practice, week 2

Training was cancelled yesterday due to the hall being used for something else so I could only make today’s training session this week.

My team has a British Champs game on the 11th Feb, so a lot of time was spent on walls + reforming and starts/strategies with the skaters who are rostered going in one group so they could practise playing/blocking together before the game.

For some reason, I’m a little…sad? Bitter? Annoyed? Frustrated? about practice today. We tried a drill where the wall had 10 seconds to do offence/defence and then we’d reset and start again. It got a little messy as everyone was moving quickly and I fell over a few times – the skater taking the session also sort of injured herself and everyone freaked out a little since she’s playing in the game and is one of the better blockers that we have. We then took some time out to calm down and reset but I don’t know if that worked well or not because when they moved to scrims it was better and less crazy but still a little crazy? Maybe less due to having more than 10 seconds and scrimming like usual.

I think the main reason I’m a little annoyed is that I couldn’t join in with the scrims. I’m not scrim passed (but am close) so I ended up being a jammer ref and also jam timer (which I had just about enough hands for omg). My other fellow pre mins (Crusher) watched from the middle and I think talked rules/strategy with the skaters who were sitting out? I for some reason was a little keen with my willingness to do everything and whilst I did enjoy being the jam ref, I also kinda wanted to watch so I could compare it to the all the games I’ve been watching on Youtube (thank you WFTDA for putting them all there).

Throughout the entire session it felt a little like Crusher and I were sort of being ignored so that the team skaters could practise. Which is fine. They have a game and I get that it’s important and I probably should’ve asked if I could go into the corner and do some skills on my own but I didn’t. I guess I got too used to being split into pre mins and team skaters but now that there are only 2 of us it’s not quite as important (I know it probably is but it didn’t feel that way today). It almost makes me wonder if I should go to training next Wednesday when I know that they’ll probably do the same thing again. I could be doing something else, or I could leave early when they scrim (although that’s not really in the spirit of things) but I don’t know if the team skaters always realise what they’re doing.

There was one drill with 3 jammers and we rotated for 2 minutes each but had the same blockers (who had to do 6 minutes) so Crusher, Fire and me all said we’d jam. I don’t know if it was just me but it felt like they weren’t really watching us/paying attention that much. To be fair, the 4 blockers in the wall did say I did well afterwards and gave me some tips but I don’t know if anyone else saw me (or maybe it was because I jammed last and everyone was bored, who knows?) but it’s not inspiring or encouraging at all. I guess I felt like the trainer should’ve said something (even if she was timing too but I was jam timer and a sort of jam ref so…) but any feedback would’ve been great – even ‘you’re bad at x, y and z and need to do a, b and c’ would’ve been better than a blank face.

The league isn’t very big right now and in my opinion they need all the skaters they can pass/find. Sure, train for the game but don’t forget that if skaters like me get annoyed/fed up (I realise I’m whining because I do really enjoy going to practice with my team and they’re all lovely) and if it goes too far…I could always find another league, whether they have the same problem or not, who knows? I just know that we don’t have a great retention rate of skaters at the moment but that might change as older skaters leave and newer ones come in to change the rules and shake up the league a little bit.

We (hopefully) will have a fresh meat intake starting soon and I think that’ll help me a little because I can really practise the basics (grapevines, anyone?) and get them ticked off so I can be scrim passed and join in with full contact scrims. When they finish fresh meat it’ll mean more pre mins too so training will have to alter accordingly – at one point last year we had more pre mins turning up to training than team skaters if that says anything about the league. I think they know that they sometimes forget about that kind of thing, but if they never get new skaters and retain them…then the league will go down.

Hopefully next week I won’t feel so whiny but I guess that depends on me and what happens at training :/

 

Skills, skills, skills

Fresh meat started just under a year ago (if I don’t count the first taster session where I didn’t even try a pair of skates on) and out of my cohort there are about 9 of us who’ve continued until now. Two of them (Mercy and Damage) have just become full skills passed and one other pre mins who was in the fresh meat intake before us (Fire) has also passed. There’s another skater (Bigbird) who only has to do her 27/5 and then she’s passed too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy that they’re passed and can play and scrim and that I can cheer them on at bouts (but not when I’m NSOing…) but it’s just…a bit sad? I know I’m nowhere near as good as they are at skating – I can’t step forwards and backwards or glide and even though I’m not too far away from being skills passed it still sucks a little. I know I’ve come a long way since I started fresh meat where I couldn’t even stand up on my skates without holding onto someone else (and in one case, two people had to hold onto me) but I still feel like I haven’t progressed as much as everyone else. Thistle even said that she remembered the first time I came and couldn’t make it to the hall without falling over (I actually did that at Tuesday’s practice, guess who’s gonna be showing fresh meat that we all fall over and it’s okay?) I suppose in terms of how far we’ve come I might be the winner for that since the others could actually move from the start and have just needed to learn the skills to play derby.

We’ve just come back from the off season and it was honestly one of my favourite things (Red, you were totally right). Two months of unstructured training was awesome. I got to take my headphones and skate with music (to the annoyance of my teammates who had to yell very loudly at me to get my attention) but it really helped. I need music in my life and being able to skate to it helped me cut out a lot of distractions and noise and just do things. I got quite a lot of skills ticked off too, including my contact ones and transitions (finally!). I’d been practising transitions for ages by myself in the corner and then gradually moved to trying them on the track. There was one practice where I’d spent every second of a break practising transitions on the track which irritated Bigbird when I said that I wasn’t ready to test as she’d seen me “jumping around like a ninja all morning”. She asked someone to test me and what did I do? I tripped and landed on my face. Real smooth.

Some of the skills I passed were things that I didn’t think I could do but apparently I can (the team skaters are incredibly encouraging in that respect, they’re the ones who’ve said that I can and then they test me and I pass to my surprise but not theirs). Bigbird especially is super encouraging/terrifying because she just yells at me that we’re testing something and then I pass and she yells a bit more before moving onto the next skill. I wouldn’t have passed my contact skills without her yelling at skaters to get in a pack and start hitting me.

I guess I was nervous about being tested. I hate being watched when I’m doing something despite the fact that I and everyone else know that I can do it. I’ve mucked up a few times where we all know I can do something but as soon as someone watches/looks at me I fall over and bam. No passing for me. I did that with my double knee slides too – which are now my favourite thing to do besides transitions (oh the irony) because they’re so fun and I’m actually not terrible at double knee slides. Who knew? I hadn’t tried them before but got Red to show me how to do it and then watch me. Even some of the team skaters hate them but I don’t?

I just need to tick off 6 more things and then I’m scrim passed and can join in with the scrims we have at training. Red marked 6 things that she thinks are easy to do and I can do but I’m pretty sure I can only do 3 of those. Oh well. I’ll have to practise more off skates to get those skills down (damn left ankle with no strength) and see how it goes from there!

Pre mins skills so far

To be able to actually scrim at full contact/eventually be considered for a spot on the team, I have to pass the minimum skills that the WFDTA dictate (hence being called pre mins since I’m ‘pre minimum skills’).

Each league does the testing differently, mine does testing twice a month on Saturdays with the possibility of getting more ticked off at a different session depending on the number of pre mins at that session/if there’s something you’ve wanted to tick off for awhile but haven’t had the chance to.

I’ve only passed a handful so far (the super easy ones, like skullcrushers and skating with ‘good form’) but am working my way up to some of the harder ones and the pack section too (which requires other people to participate).

At training last night I learnt how to do a T stop (required but I’d never had it broken down before) and then we were also taught how to derby stop (not required but useful to know) and then at the end the pre mins had to show off their derby stop to the team skaters (I fell, by the way) but one of them said they liked my jump and I don’t really know how I jumped but it must have been when I was transitioning round. Anyway, it made me feel a bit better, even if I did fall over because I’d been afraid to use my toe stops up until then and I’m still not 100% confident at using them (toe stop run, anyone?).

I might take a long time to pass my minimum skills, but learning new things and being able to tick off a few at a time is enough for now (until I have more time and can practise more).

NSOing

Today I was an NSO for the first time (it was also the first time I’d ever been to a bout and watched the team, and since it was a home game, who was I to pass up this awesome opportunity?)

I was a penalty box timer and the head NSO had gone through everything with me a few days before and given me some things to read through but I still only felt mildly prepared on the day. A penalty box timer times a penalty for one particular team, but not for the jammers, the penalty box manager times the jammers but I had to write down the number and team/position of that skater. A penalty is 30 seconds long and after 20 seconds they stand up and then wait until we tell them to leave. If a jam stops whilst they’re in the box, they serve the remaining time once the next jam has started (unless it’s half time in which case they do it after the break). They can’t talk to the team but their bench knows that they have a person in the box so they send in one less skater (or however many are in the box) for the next jam.

First I had to help set up the venue though, setting up tables/chairs/merchandise/signs which was about an hour before doors opened. My friend who got me into derby was setting up the track and what I didn’t know until near the end of the day was that they put rope underneath the tape so the skaters know when they go off track which I thought was neat. (There’s also more merch being sold there than I thought!)

The NSOs then had a meeting about who was doing what and to get the paperwork and go over any questions we had, we then had about half an hour to look at merch/get ourselves ready for the rookie game.

I’d been told beforehand about there being more penalties in a rookie game than a normal one but I still underestimated a little how many that actually was. There was one point where we must’ve had 5 out of 6 chairs full and at one point someone got sent around because we didn’t have enough chairs for her. Two skaters got 6 penalties and were classed as ‘hot’ (7 penalties counts as fouling out and they can no longer skate as part of the team). Some were also given a warning for crashing into the chairs (it happened twice and one time I very nearly got squished) but there’s usually a ref there who gives them the warning. One time the skater got an extra penalty (the time I nearly got squished) as she didn’t do it on purpose but it was kinda dangerous. It was a little confusing then as we had both jammers in the box and when this happens, they serve 10s each but since it was the end of a jam and the 2nd jammer had a 2nd penalty, the 1st jammer got to go on the whistle and then the 2nd jammer just had to serve her usual 30 seconds (took me a few minutes to get my head around that).

We swapped teams (there are two timers) at half time but we don’t always need to do that, next time I might not as it got a little confusing. I kept calling out the wrong colours but the skaters understood me although I felt bad for messing up :/

There was a break between the rookie game and the next one so everyone counted up penalties and made sure we had the same numbers before going off for a break.

The second game was a lot less hectic than the first one, I only had about a dozen (well, a baker’s dozen) penalties in the first half and they were less likely to crash into the chairs (not sure if it’s a control/toe stop thing or just because they’ve had more experience?) This meant I got to watch a bit more of the game though, and it was really cool to see the team in action (even if we lost 😦 but let’s not dwell on that). There was one jammer on the other team who was amazing, she was almost always the lead jammer and I don’t know how, but she always made it through the wall. Everyone else put it down to her being small (there’s a small skater in our team but she was even smaller) and could fit through the tiny gaps the wall had. Every time she was on, she’d zip past, score some points then call it off, sometimes before our jammer had a chance to get around to score points. There was one instance where there were 4 people in the penalty box but it wasn’t my team so I didn’t pay much attention to it (but the other timer and penalty box manager had a bit of a hassle with them).

Overall I think it was a really good day out (it was almost the whole day) and I learnt a lot about the rules/penalties/how a game is actually played. It was really cool to see the team in action too as it’s not quite the same when they’re scrimming in practice.

Hopefully we’ll have another home game soon and I can NSO again and learn even more 😀