It Starts Now

My thumb hurts. Yesterday was supposed to have been the culmination of a year and two month's hard work - my first roller derby bout. I would've finally had a chance to see what I was really made of and whether or not the training had made me capable of bouting in public. Instead, it snowed a lot more than expected and stalled all the normal derby activities that usually occur.

Along with one active and one inactive rollergirl, I spent a scary amount of time driving to the bout venue, navigating trapped cars and trying not to slip too much on the ice ourselves. When we arrived, I got to participate in the dreaded setting up of the track - an activity I'd heard referred to many times and dreaded as some part of rollergirl initiation. See, our league doesn't have its own arena or track to use solely for the purpose of derby. So we practice at roller rinks and bout at an arena normally devoted to soccer. So that means that on bout day, volunteers have to show up hours before the start to lay down our rollerskating track. First there were rows and rows of 3' x 5' plywood that had to be lined up, shoved together, and aligned with a mallet. I put my hands in the wrong position the first time I shoved the plywood together and -- *yeep*. My thumb twinged and moved in a way it wasn't supposed to. "Thank god this is derby, not thumb wrestling," a passing rollergirl chimed in. Next, we slid slabs of skating track off of a pile and, with the help of a partner, carried it out to distribute on the wood planks. I found the slabs unwieldy and kept nearly dropping them, but luckily my partner was forgiving. The underside of the slabs was full of plastic hooks that should've made grasping easier, but instead hooked onto my thighs and threatened to de-pants me. Looking around at all the people working away - rollergirls, rollergirl fans, rollergirl spouses, volunteers, announcers - I wanted to make sure I at least did my part to help with the manual labor. This is one hardworking goddamn league.

After a little over an hour, I left with my rollergirl carpool and made the trek back home to get ready. I heard more advice on what to do and what not to do in my first bout.

"They're going to go after you, because you're new, so be ready for it from the start."

"Trust me, they hold back in scrimmage - you're going to feel what it's like to really be hit by them now."

"Make sure you don't eat too much or too little."

"The floor is definitely different to skate AND fall on - make sure you warm up as much as possible on it."

Luckily the return trip was shorter than the initial trip to the arena, because I was already full to the brim with terrifying warnings. My stomach tied up with nerves and I started wondering why on earth I ever decided to do this. Sure, it's been fun and absolutely thrilling so far, but maybe - just maybe - my derring-do wasn't going to pay off. Maybe this whole becoming a rollergirl thing was just a stupid idea.

The snow continued to fall, and the bout was cancelled. Clearly, I have mixed feelings about it that I hesitate to admit to other people, but overall I was relieved.

  • I started learning how to rollerskate in October '08.
  • I passed try-outs and made the league in August '09.
  • In November I passed my first assessment - proving I was safe to scrimmage.
  • A week and a half ago I passed my second assessment - proving I was safe to bout.
  • Last Wednesday I was drafted to a team.

It's all so thrilling and sudden and although I was so ecstatic to be drafted in time to play in our first bout of the season, I was a little wary of being drafted right before. Days before. I've barely gotten to know my teammates, and I've skated with them once in scrimmage. So, yeah -- I'm grateful for this extra time to get slightly more used to things before skating in front of hundreds of people. Thank you winter! (But shh -- don't tell anyone -- everyone else is pretty pissed we had to cancel.)

Thus begins my first year as a rollergirl rookie.