Your derby heart.

Every week you attend practice. You warm up, catch up with your teammates, learn new skills and improve on older skills, improve on your skating and playing, piece by piece.

You work hard and you are rewarded eventually with the amazing feeling you get when you finally master something you’ve sweated, cried and bled over.

You scrim and you bout, you attend boot camps with other leagues or under guest skates, gaining experience wherever you can. You have some great times! But you also have some not so great times.

Recently I endured a not so great time. A friendly scrim, that for a multitude of reasons both mental and physical (many bruises/burns/scratches in places where they have never appeared before!), really broke me down.

Something I have mentioned in this blog is the same thing that we as derby girls and guys all battle, ourselves. I personally hold myself to very high criticism, I feel I should be doing more than I am doing and working even harder, I should be performing at a higher level, I don’t want to let my team and teammates down. I want to always prove every time I go out on track that I belong there and that they haven’t made a mistake by giving me each and every chance they do. I am getting much better at not putting so much pressure on myself, however for the 9 good days, there is always 1 bad day. A slip up if you will. There are times when I accept defeat, feel as though I don’t deserve to be on my team, that I’m not a good enough jammer/blocker – times where I feel that I let the team down by not being good enough. I have been playing roller derby on/off (due to university) for over 5 years. Things are still clicking into place for me. So you, fresh meat derby girl or guy who is still pootling around the track with frustrations over stops or transitions, know that even some of the more experienced skaters still have their bad days.

Thankfully I am surrounded by a truly fantastic derby Ohana. In the midst of my blubbering, hoping that my wankle and shin was ok and wanting a hole to swallow me up – our bench for day Ford (OH to a fantastic derby girl I am lucky to call a friend) sat me down. He told me to look at my skates, and then tell him  – ignoring derby right at that point – how do I feel when I have my skates on. Why do I skate? Why do I derby? This, my little blue monsters, this is where I remembered my derby heart. I remembered why I put myself through the physical aches and pains, the mental and emotional ups & downs that come with derby.

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You start out in roller derby, wide eyed, ready to learn. Sometimes people leave roller derby. And that is OK. Roller derby isn’t for everyone. But for the ones that stick at it, you experience amazing feelings, your body goes through physical transformations, your mind grows with derby knowledge and in the majority of cases, you grow as a person. You also gain a new family (or Ohana) and friends that you will count yourself lucky to have in years to come. Throughout this derby journey, you have this heart warming feeling of joy when you strap your skates on, the feel of the air against your face as you skate around the track, and the rush you get when you jam / block. You create your own derby heart, your central point, the place you return to when things get rough.

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Your derby heart is why you skate. How you feel when you skate, when you play, when you win or lose, all these things help make up your derby heart. And for everything we do, learn, the new friends we make, your derby heart grows. You need to hold on to that every moment you are on skates, every moment you are off skates maybe when you NSO or help with league work. Most importantly, it is the place you go to when you start to lose hope. Some people fall out of love with roller derby, for some this is the end of derby, but for others just temporary. If you lose sight of why you do something, you start to do it for the wrong reasons and at this point you may as well just give up. If you can remind yourself of why, then you can hold on. Take a step back from that negative moment, take a breath and focus yourself. Think of the positives; remind yourself why you are there, remind yourself of the positive things you have done that day – no matter how small it will have affected the team in some way to help! Remind yourself that you are surrounded by people who believe in you, even when you don’t.

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Ford and his lovely lady Bettie have been ridiculously supportive as part of my Ohana. From Bettie abandoning her car to jump into mine and listen to me bawl my eyes out when I was at my worst, to Ford kicking my butt for being mean to myself and reminding me to believe in myself every time I needed to be reminded. This couple are a couple I am thankful to have in my life. This couple have also been behind the creation of “It’s Tiki Time.” Going into the second part of the scrim, Ford said these words to me, and after centring myself and reminding myself why I endured all the bad involved in that day, those words reminded me to believe. To have faith in myself that I can do this. To have fun and enjoy skating, because that is why I skate. Skating makes me happy. Roller derby also makes me happy. So it wasn’t one of my good days, but I got back on track and skated anyway. I skated because I love to skate, I love my team. I love skating with these ladies, playing through thick and thin regardless of what is going on around. Things were out of our control; we accepted that and just skated. It challenged me mentally. It challenged me to keep playing smart and clean, to keep my cool – even in the circumstances. I even did a good offensive thing!

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Trust in your derby heart and whatever happens, you will be ok.

Til next time little blue monsters x

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