It feels like it’s been a hectic three months since my last post but it probably hasn’t. I’ve missed quite a few training sessions due to holidays/being ill so I feel like I haven’t improved as much as I wanted but also know that I can’t beat myself up over it.
I’m now 99% skills passed and only have to pass my 27/5 before I’m completely passed and it feels pretty scary, actually. To be so close to actually playing on the team, it felt ages away when I first started and now I’m just one skill away from passing! Although now that just means that (almost) every practice someone will turn to me, stopwatch in hand and say ‘you can do your 27/5 today’ which is sometimes before either of us have kitted up. I know it’s just their way of helping and I’m not yet at the point where I don’t want to do it but I’m so close that I think everyone just wants it over and done with (currently I’m on 24.5-25 laps).
Our fresh meat course finished just after my last post and the new pre mins have slowly started integrating themselves with the rest of the team and attending normal practice. I think it’s been a bit strange for everyone, the team sometimes feels a little disjointed with everything as we have new skaters (or new people to the league in general) and the ones who’ve been around for years, maybe even since the league started and some are quite resistant to change. Or were, I’m not sure anymore but hopefully we can get our team back to where it used to be but nothing stays the same forever.
Helping the new fresh meat is really interesting to me as I was in a similar situation to them not long ago and I get what everyone means by it’s easy to see someone else’s progress but not your own. I honestly hope that I help the fresh meat as much as I think I do because I do really want them to succeed and play with me (someday! when we’re all passed) but I also wonder if they have more fear/insecurity/doubt than I did as for a lot of things I just threw myself into them, even though I knew I was terrible and probably couldn’t do it but I tried (and failed a lot).
Our newest fresh meat intake has just started (this morning!) and the taster session last week was really good – almost everyone who turned up was already pretty good at skating (or maybe they’re average? I don’t know but they were way better than I was when I started) and they were doing t-stops already! They were just as good today so Fire said she’s going to have to rethink her plan as they covered a lot of stuff today. One of the fresh meat recognised me from the roller disco! She said she’d seen me around with my knee pads and everything but I wasn’t wearing my team shirt today so I think she thought I was just another person from the roller disco who just turned up to learn more about roller derby.
Team practice was also good today (I have 2 new bruises but not sure from who) and despite there not being a huge amount of us it was a lot of fun and I think we all enjoyed it a lot. We did a lot of one on one blocking and timed to see how long we can hold someone right now with the aim of doubling that time by the end of the month. Then we did some track awareness drills, which I think are fine for me as I don’t find it that hard to see what’s going on but that might be because I’m not so good at the derby so I pay more attention to everyone else than to myself. I’ll have to work on that more but also still keep up with my track awareness.
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.
The final block of fresh meat involved more blocking and learning more about the rules of roller derby, as the scrims are so fast that we don’t really have time to process what happened and the skaters are too busy switching roles to explain it to us (sometimes they can but that depends on how many people there are).
We did more pace line drills, but making the gap between each person smaller so you had to really focus on actually weaving around the people and not just blindly skating through. We usually had two pace lines (one for fresh meat and one for team skaters) and we also had to avoid crashing into the other pace line which was harder than we all expected. We did pace line races too (who could get through the line the fastest).
Our final fresh meat session included transitions which we hadn’t done much of before. I’m okay going one way around but going the other way is almost impossible at the moment as I end up just falling over for some reason but it’s mostly likely due to me not being balanced. We did a jump transition which I wasn’t good at on either side but again I think that’s due to my lack of balance as I can’t land on my skates very well (I recently lowered my toe stops so I’ll see how that goes with stopping as I’ve not been using them that much so far).
We had a few practice scrims too, where the team skaters would mix in with the fresh meat and guide us through strategy and how to block better (stay low, hips and shoulders together…) and a few times we got to watch the team skaters do an actual scrim and they’re so fast it’s amazing (and they also know what they’re doing too).
That’s it for fresh meat! It felt like it wasn’t that long but my house mates kept saying that it’s 12 weeks which is a long time. I think it did give me the foundations though, I still can’t do crossovers but it gave me an idea of what it’ll be like if I carried on (I’m still skating so that’s a good sign :D)
I had to miss the fifth session due to a work trip but I was told it was about introducing blocking and some contact drills.
The sixth session was more of that, and incorporating it into our pace line drills. There was one named the ‘toilet’ drill because you kind of wipe your ass across the person as you slide past. I kept missing the people and just weaving as if it was a normal pace line whereas some of the others got super close without crashing into anyone.
I don’t remember much of the seventh session (or rather, I don’t remember what I did in which week) but we had more blocking as walls with a jammer who came up to test how strong the block was. We could be stable by ourselves but when we had to wall up we were pretty bad at the beginning, mostly because we didn’t have enough points of contact (shoulders, hips) so we weren’t very stable as a whole and the jammer knocked us over quite easily.
I was ill for the eighth session (I drove for 3 hours back to where I live and then went straight to sleep until work the next day) but I was told more blocking happened, especially with jammers who were actually trying to get through as opposed to just testing how strong the wall was.
Throughout all the sessions, whenever there were enough team skaters they would scrim for the last five minutes to show us how everything works and to give us an idea of what we could (hopefully) be doing in the future. Then we’d all ask questions (a lot) about what just happened and the rules as there was usually one ref around who also tried to introduce some hand signals too.
I should have started this blog when I started the Fresh Meat program but it’s too late to dwell on that now. I’ll review each ‘block’ (four weeks) in a post and then attempt to do (regular) updates of my Pre Mins life.
There was an initial taster session a few weeks before Fresh Meat started but there weren’t enough skates so I didn’t get a chance to try it out and I’m probably fortunate that I didn’t since two people collided and broke their legs! So I turned up to the first Fresh Meat session ready to get on the skates and go and I was awful. I missed most of the first session since I couldn’t even stand up on my own and one of the team skaters was with me the whole time, trying to get me used to being on skates. At one point I had two team skaters with me making sure I didn’t fall over (but I did and wow did it hurt). My accomplishment that week was going across the gym we practise in without falling over.
I felt like I was terrible (and I was) but I’d already signed up for the rest of the sessions so I wasn’t going to give up. I was going to make it to the end of Fresh Meat if it killed me (which it fortunately didn’t).
The second session was slightly better, I joined in with the main session this time and managed to do a few laps and sort of get the hang of actually moving (albeit not quickly). We also started practising falls (one knee and two knees then knees, elbows) which I was fairly decent at (falling is one of my talents…). We did our first pace line drill too which I was nervous about, mostly because I wasn’t skating very fast and thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up but everyone was really nice and slowed down for me. Weaving in and out of the pace line was difficult too despite there being quite a bit of room for me to move, I’m putting it down to still being quite unbalanced at that point.
The third session introduced glides. My right foot was ten times better than my left foot, I could almost make it around 1/4 of the track on my right foot but barely a few feet on my left but I was told that it’s normal to have a dominant leg and that I just have to work on strengthening my left leg. We did more pace line drills and the weight shifting we’d been taught earlier in the session really helped with leaning around people when they were quite close together and there wasn’t enough room to actually skate around them.
The fourth session was the final one in the first block of Fresh Meat and introduced crossovers. Crossovers are my current skating nemesis. At the time we were just practising the movement whilst standing still but I couldn’t even do that without rolling forward/to the side. Some of the others picked it up really quickly and it made me feel kinda terrible. I know it’s not their fault that they know what they’re doing but I was annoyed that I couldn’t do it. Even by watching the team skaters I still couldn’t quite get the hang of what the hell I was supposed to do (I still can’t do crossovers but hopefully that’ll change).
My first block was fun though, despite being so terrible at everything. There were 15 of us in my group of Fresh Meat (which was a lot since the one before only had 6 which is now down to 2) so I think we developed a good community between us? One thing that made me feel less terrible about everything was the people that I skated with. The team skaters stop and break something down if you’re not getting it and all the freshies motivate each other to do better and keep going and it feels really good to be part of a team. I’d just moved to the town about 4 months before I started Fresh Meat so I didn’t know many people but roller derby introduced me to loads of new people who are all so different but no less amazing. I would have never met them without roller derby, and even if I didn’t make it through Fresh Meat, I would have still enjoyed it because of the people I met.