Written by Geralyn aka Stitch Witch
“I felt like a giraffe on wheels, tall and awkward.”
Many weekends of my adolescence were spent at the roller rink. The smell of popcorn, the disco light, trying to do the limbo and falling, racing my dad, making a conga line with my family, my shy excitement when a cute boy asked me to skate with him during couples’ skate. Many memories were made until I broke my wrist during a bad fall. After that, I was too afraid to take back up what I loved. I’d skated a couple of times as an adult at the insistence of my younger siblings, but I felt like a giraffe on wheels, tall and awkward. Until a few months ago, my fear of falling and hurting myself again kept me from enjoying something I used to love.
Last fall a friend told me about roller derby, and encouraged me to come to team practices. I was uncertain, but she told me about the “Fresh Meat” bootcamp to be held in February, six weeks of skills building. I expressed my concerns and lack of skills, and she reassured me by saying the team would teach me how to fall properly so I wouldn’t hurt myself (there was such a thing?). I thought it would be good for me to get over my fear. I’d even get exercise, and possibly make new friends. I had no idea what I was in for then.
“I was mesmerized by what these ladies could do on eight wheels.”
I went to my first roller derby bout as a spectator in December 2018. I studied the “Roller Derby 101” literature in the program, and listened intently to the announcer as she tried to explain what was going on. I still had no idea. The strength, grace, and persistence the ladies in the bout showed during the game floored me. I was starstruck. Even though I barely had a grasp on the rules or how roller derby was played, I was mesmerized by what these ladies could do on eight wheels.
Fresh Meat boot camp started in February. I went to Wheels of Thunder every Saturday in January to see if I had my sea legs after not skating for years. I slowly gained confidence to do the things I remembered doing as a kid, which wasn’t much. I could skate without flailing or falling, I could somewhat control my direction, but I could not stop nor actively control my speed (this is especially nerve-wracking when young children on scooters are coming right for you). I was most excited in bootcamp to learn about falling. I thought if I could learn to fall I would no longer have anything to be afraid of.
Not only did I, for the most part, lose that fear of falling, but I became exhilarated by seeing my incremental progress, and the progress of those around me. Some nights, I would begin practice terrified and nervous about the new skill I had learned and wanted to practice. Trying to muster the courage to do it, my heart would race, I’d feel the adrenaline, I’d take a deep breath, then try not to think too hard as my mind instructed my body to do the things that on the outset, terrified me. By the end of most nights, I’d be having a blast doing the thing that terrified me just an hour before, after much encouragement and support from veterans on the team who took the time to break it down for me, critique my posture and movement, and remind me that everyone progresses at their own pace.
“The ladies on the team make me feel like I’m capable of anything I set out to do.”
One of my bucket list dreams as a kid was to be able to skate backward. By the end of bootcamp, I was skating backward, doing crossovers, plough stops, jumping, and a variety of other skills I never imagined myself doing. I’m continuing to build my skills, and having a great time doing it. As to be expected, I’ve made friends through roller derby, but I never could have imagined the unique kind of support that lives at the heart of derby. The ladies on the team make me feel like I’m capable of anything I set out to do. Each team member is there to help you learn, grow, and cheer you on the whole way. I’m so grateful to be part of this community.
We’re always looking to add to our team. If you’re interested in becoming a roller grrrl, or if you would like to learn about how you may get involved to support Electric City Roller Grrrlz, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on facebook.
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