Two decades on skates!

(Let’s just ignore the fact I posted before saying 10 years. It turns out I can’t actually count…..)

Yes!

20 years!

In 1994 I first began my skating journey. It seems crazy to think about it being 20 years – two whole godamn decades!

In the last 20 years, I have trained and grown as

  • A figure skater
  • An ice hockey player
  • Roller hockey player
  • Roller derby skater

That seems manic. Time on ice, time on roller rinks, time on sports courts. Time on blades, time on in lines, time on quads.

It also seems manic when you think about how, although the principle is the same, there is still a fine art to the abilities learned, grown and refined in each of these skate-based sports. Differing weight distributions depending on the surface or skate type and the fluidity of movements or strength and finesse required.

To think at one point I was prancing around on the ice, in lycra dresses, performing solo and group routines, competing against other very talented skaters. Then at another point spending time with strong ladies and men having enjoyed ice-hockey for years suddenly learning to play the game from the teams standpoint, hitting a puck around, scoring angles and defence plays – heck even pulling the goalie for the last few minutes to freak the hell out of the opposing team confused me for months when playing! Then to adapt the skills learnt playing on ice to briefly playing on in-line skates. The sudden difference in effort used in pushes, crossovers and ability to dig in with hockey stops! Then the move to roller derby – the sudden change and difference in being on quads rather than inline blades/skates. Again the same principles yet so different!

Sometimes I look at this and contemplate why I am still not at a place where I feel happy with my skating ability.

Other times? I realise that I have been on one hell of a crazy ride.

I still own hockey skates. I probably still have my figure skates somewhere in my parents loft! I have seen my old lycra dresses somewhere at my parents. I have a file of rosettes and shelf of trophies from figure skating. I still have my Nottingham Ladies ice hockey jacket which to this day I wear with pride! (And also as it is so comfy and so warm and toasty!)

I have come quite a way. From that first day my parents put me on skates at the local ice-rink and sent me off to lessons, to learn how to skate and then gradually grow into this (not-so) graceful ice-dancer. Then somehow move into contact sports, team sports.

I have met so many wonderful people through skating in the last 20 years. I have had so many experiences. Experienced a variety of emotions. At times felt like I wasn’t good enough, times I felt I could take on the world, and other times I just stopped and asked myself what the hell was I doing.

Even though I have spent 20 years skating, I am still learning. Finding new and different ways to skate, new moves, new styles. Meeting wonderful people who inspire me as a person and skater, learning from them and using their experience to make me better. I have reached a point in my life where I can really look back at what I have achieved in the last 20 years. But I know that I still have a way to go.

Even after 20 years of skating experience, my laterals to the left? Like a hot knife through butter. To the right? A little less refined. Yes. I had the hip operated on. But it is about learning again, building strength and having the finesse to finish it off. I had my operation in 2006, and it essentially put me back to square one with anything involving my right hand side, though it is still – somehow – my stronger leg? But it has been learning with baby steps as any new skater would, how to lateral right again, how to distribute that weight, the strength you use to push, the way in which you turn sections of your body.

To the fresh meat skaters, to the vet skaters, heck – to the referees and others involved in skating (which ever style you skate or sport you work hard in) – wherever you are on your journey. Take a moment to look back at how far you have come. You don’t need to be at my 20 years, you may have been skating longer, or are still working things out in your early days, weeks, months, even year. But look at it and be proud. Every move you mastered, no matter how easy or hard, big or small… even simply standing up on skates – that is one thing you could not do before. Work through the frustration, the upset, annoyance and the obligatory swear words. Don’t let that one bad day, the move you didn’t make or the fall you took that night ever stop you. Get upset, cry it out, but do not let it stop you – get back up, try again. Keep falling, keep going wrong, keep trying. One day you will get it. Do not hate yourself for not being where you want to be, take the time, don’t over think anything and just breathe. Most importantly breathe. Steady yourself and compose yourself before you move that foot, relax and allow skating to just be part of you. One day you will reach a point you no longer think about what you are doing, skating will become a natural thing, it may not seem like it now, but one day you will be looking back wondering why you worried so much. And that moment, the point in which everything clicks and falls into place? It doesn’t always happen as soon as you think, it sort of just creeps up on you. It could click early on, it could come to after months or years of work. But work hard and believe in yourself. In the last 20 years, I have experienced emotions where I felt like giving it all up, but I have worked too hard to throw it away. The ability to skate. The joy of skating. One key piece of wisdom I would pass on to you today? Enjoy it. Relish it. It sucks but one day, your body won’t let you do the things you want to. So yes, work hard! But make sure you experience the joy it brings you. The smile you get when after weeks of trying you finally master that transition. The warmth you feel when you help others who are learning and see them progress. The strength you feel when you overcome your fears. Enjoy those moments, they are fleeting moments but do not let them pass you by.

One day you will be where I am. You will be standing, looking back, figuring out where you want to go. If you look around you, you will notice you are surrounded by wonderful (or in some cases not-so wonderful) people – one day they were you. One day they didn’t know how to skate. But today they may be skaters who you look up to, sometimes envy and hate that it all seems to be so easy for them. Once upon time, it wasn’t easy. Yes, some people find it easier than others but it does not mean that they personally didn’t find it a personal struggle. Do not ever once think that you are alone, do not hate yourself or envy others because of ability, we all skate the same path no matter how many different ways it takes us to get there. We have all learnt, struggled and overcome all the challenges we faced. And when you reach this point, take a moment to look at the people around you. Heck look around at them now! Offer help and support in a positive sense or even ask for help and support. I like to think a majority of people on skates are kind-hearted and will remember when they were struggling and still learning, sometimes you may hit a wall and experience rejection, but do not let that deter you.

You are constantly learning. And will continue to learn. Even when you feel as though you have reached your peak – climb it. At the other side of a hill, there is a mountain waiting to be conquered. No matter how hard it seems, just go for it.

 

Damn I’m gushy today.

A male derby player is born : “The Tankerbell Story”

So in my last post about my derby wife, I mentioned one of our friends – Tankerbell. Now this is one of those names you should really avoid underestimating! Tankerbell came into our lives minus his derby name, his derbybaby eyes so wide and curious, still much to learn in his journey through the derbyverse. Now I will not get into the debate over mens derby vs womens derby/should men be allowed to play etc… not right now. Infact right now, I want to share his story. I asked whether he would be up for writing something about his experience and the start of his derby journey – especially as Tankerbell did not join a mens team initially, he has seen behind the veil that is womens roller derby from day one!

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Dom. AKA: Tankerbell. #74

Tankerbell74

I have been asked to write about my derby experience… where do I start?

In The Pub
I was out having a quiet pint one night in the local biker bar, when a woman with bright purple hair covered in tattoos came bouncing up to me, and said “ ’ello, you look like you want to play roller derby!” I was more interested in my pint to be honest as I didn’t have a clue what she was on about.
This continued for the next 6 months, same drill when I saw her.
One night I finally asked what it was all about? Being a large lad (18st) and doing weights and martial arts I thought you got to be having me on! Mucking around on roller skates! I’m nearly 40!
So when a few more pints had been dispatched I said “Every so often you got to do something out side of your comfort zone…………..go on then I’ll give it a go” I resigned myself.

Next week I bought some skates and went down.

The Renegade Rebels
I turned up and what looked like half my local came in, it was all rock chicks! Awesome I thought!
So I got padded up (I never needed this much protection for full contact fighting!) strapped on my skates and flew, my feet went to shoulder height and I fell like a lead balloon. So glad I did all that martial arts training! All the break falls I had done came in handy that night, I can tell you. I spent most of my first lesson air born; the girls were laughing so much they couldn’t skate at all! I’m so glad it wasn’t filmed as it was more ridiculous than any slapstick film you have seen. After 2 hours of “flying” and with tears from laughter still in their eyes the girls bid me good night and I went off for a good soak. I was hooked.

Having to borrow your pads was a new experience for me, as some weeks you could smell it come in the room when you were down the other end of the sports hall. I found the only way to get rid of the smell was go fast! The wind is your friend! Its only when you stand still will the smell woft back up to your nostrils, with a scent that can only be described as Satan’s jock strap! It didn’t take me long to get a full kit.

It was with the Misfits I learnt most my basic skills. It was then I thought I could swim in a bigger pond….

The Mansfield Misfits
After several months of training with the Rebels I was offered the chance to go and “scrim” with the Misfits, great I thought! Chance to put all those hard earnt skills to the test. They were a bigger team than the Rebels and would be good fun. I went down with the lady (Walnut Whip) who started the same time as me with the Misfits, as she had gone down before to the Misfits and it was nice to have a familiar face there.

So I was all kitted up, ready to get my butt handed to me.
No.
They had a guest coach in for the night, it was artistic skating. Oh joy… I looked at Walnut who burst out laughing, “Just go with it!” she said……

Arabesques and all sorts they tried to get me to do, I looked like a buffalo on skates. I found all the girls really nice and helpful, giving me hints and tips, as I was massively out classed by all their skating abilities. I was asked if I would like to come back and have a go again, without the artful bits I hasten to add. And I spent a good few months training with the lovely ladies of the misfits.

Not only did it make a big jump on my skills, having pack work and scrims to do. I learnt about team work. Having done martial arts and the gym for years it’s all solo things, competing against yourself to become better.

From the Misfits I saw true team work, they all went out and partied together, looked out for each other all the time, and the one bit that drove it home was when they were doing 100 laps as an endurance drill. Most finished around the same time but 1 was left skating on, not giving up, determined to finish as she wasn’t as fast as the rest. One Misfit shouted up “How many left?”, “20” came the reply, and as one (me included) we all got up, without a word being said, and we all got on track as we wouldn’t leave one of the team to skate alone, and we all went round to finish the remaining laps with her.

It was a truly humbling moment for me to see that kind of kinship and bond between a team.

The Super Smash Brollers
There were local games going on, and the local boys’ team were playing on a double header, so a few Misfits and I went to watch them. The first thing I noticed was the boy’s game was sooooo different to the girls. The girls use tight walls and tactics always using their backs to slow the jammers. The boys would stop a train with their faces!
It was like a rugby scrum on wheels, they kept turning round and skating backwards and going chest to chest with a speeding jammer, and they moved the pack so much faster than I was used to!
That’s it I said, I need to do that! After the bout the Brollers announced they were doing a fresh meat intake, I was straight up and after joining in!

I was still training with the Misfits and doing fresh meat with the Brollers at this point. I saw the Broller fresh meat becoming better, some over took me as they took to it like ducks to water. It was ace to see. I knew if I wanted to play in a bout one day I would have to join up with them, but I still loved scrimming with the Misfits. A couple of months later the Misfits announced they were closing doors to non-members, so I couldn’t skate any more with them. To prove how awesome they are, I still get asked to their social do’s. and they’re still my favourite girls team! They have gone on leaps and bounds, and have their first bout soon! So proud of them!

Now I’m trying to remember all they taught me and all the new stuff I have learnt from the Brollers.
The lads play a much harder game, its faster, more manic, but you got to love it!
I’m hoping to go in for my first bout soon as well! Can’t wait!

Spread the derby love!

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As Tankerbell wrote, we still have such a good bond with him and we are all very proud of how hard he has worked and how far he has come! We are keeping our fingers crossed for a date when we get to go see him play his very first bout with the Brollers, we will make awesome signs and be there to kick his butt/cheer him on. Who knows – when he has survived his first bout, maybe he might be up for writing again to update you on how he finds the experience! The Tankerbell Story : The Return?

Thank you Tankerbell!