First night back on 8 wheels at the new derbyhome

If you read my last blog post, I noted that myself, Kara and Jevo were moving to the Nottingham Hellfire Harlots. And last night was our first time with them – ooh!!

I will be bluntly honest. I was cacking my little derby panties. I was very excited but also scared at the same time. My satnav offered me two addresses for the location, I was already panicking and at this point my body went into manic panic mode.. well done body..! Got there within a 10 minute journey – not the 20 minutes Google told me. Turned out it should have been the other address around the corner. Doh! But thankfully Nic was at hand to guide me round and wave me into the right place, at which point I joined my bestest in the carpark. My mind was bonkers – instead of putting down my ME on the medical form, I instead chose to write about my allergy to mushrooms… bravo brain… I applaud you..

The practice itself was fantastic! A great warmup, good solid drills and coaching, if this was the beginners group – I cannot wait to see what they have in store for the next level up! Which, when the normal hall floor has been relaid fully, we are allowed to join! Exciting stuff! And we are allowed to hang around in the meantime and work on our skating with the beginner skaters – who I have to say really impressed me for being part way through Fresh Meat! It was such a warm and welcoming atmosphere where we all felt supported and just happy! Totally won over and we are definitely happy to call this league our new derbyhome and derbyfamily.

Yet throughout the first night, I felt crap. Not about the session, not about the league, but about myself. Last night it really hit me just how much my confidence in myself and my ability has been crushed. I was not stable or my usual self on my skates. And me of all people – scared of landing a hit. Usually queen of the track is my favourite, last night however I just lost all ability and confidence. And it sucks. It really sucks because the people and environment offered no threat to me as a person, no attacks or the likes would take place. I should have been Holly on skates and I was essentially (and a term I did not think I would use about myself) a shadow of my former self. Where the hell is my confidence? For the first time in a while, self doubt has taken over. 

So I guess there is an interesting mixture of emotions. On the one hand I feel totally stoked and happy with the choice to join HH. On the other? I am upset and dissappointed in myself, for letting myself become this person, letting others break me down and for having lost my confidence.

A new challenge? Maybe. For a while I will slog it out and get upset over it and at some point things will get better. As such is life and I guess I am a little numb to it all. Keep rolling on.

(Scheduled)

Only the freshest meat will do.

In just over 2 weeks time, my league are starting a new fresh meat programme.

I have never personally/officially undertaken a fresh meat experience. I guess part of me feels a bit like I missed out, and why I’m so excited about being about to teach our new fresh meat with my derby wife. In our last wave of fresh meat – Autumn/Winter 2013, I caught some of their practice time and got to know them later than most of the team due to the committments of a house renovation (still a while to go).

Thankfully our FM are all lovely ladies (and Ben) and have been more than willingly to get to know us all and learn what they can as well as bond with current team skaters. They have become part of the fold and it seems crazy to think that not so long ago we sat them in a hall with daunted looks on their faces as we introduced ourselves and they had their first moment on skates.

Because I missed out on this experience, I put the idea out to some of our fresh meat to see if anyone would be interested in sharing their stories so far. Luckily they were fantastic and put together some pieces on their derby experience to date. Reading through their stories before posting these has made me so proud of them and I feel so happy to be able to share these with you – I have seen them really come into their own and I think the next few months will see them become quite a force on track!

So now for some of our last FM ladies to pull up a seat and tell you about their journeys!

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Gemma AKA Bette Grinch #84
My Fresh Meat Experience Dec 2013

For a year or so, I had been looking for something, some kind of hobby to suit “me”. Me being “me”, it had to be something slightly crazy!

I’d heard friends mention roller derby, so I curiously looked up the Mansfield team, who coincidentally were having a fresh meat intake. With no hesitation whatsoever, I was there! I used to love skating when I was a kid so how hard could this be? I’ll just put the skates on, wobble, and off I go… Right? WRONG!!! It was tough, learning to skate your knees bent is painful. The fresh meat program is intense, crippling, exhausting but sooooo good. I feel I’ve made great progress thanks to our super coaches and teammates.

Teammates are a huge help and support and definitely inspiring. The team spirit is admirable and a true sisterhood that even the boys are in on.
So now I’m facing our first bout in less than 2 months. I have no doubt that with my sheer determination and team help, I’ll be on the track kicking ass with the other Misfits. Bring it on!!

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Clare AKA Stormy C #L13
“Fresh Meat – OMG what’s that” asks my colleague at work “that sounds horrible!”

Ola, I’m Stormy C, I’m 45 and I’ve just completed my 12 week Fresh Meat programme. I came to Roller Derby through another colleague at work who’d mentioned Roller Derby on her Facebook page. I remembered seeing “Whip It”, I don’t remember how long ago and thinking “Yey I’ll give that a go” although must admit being a bit freaked out by the angle of the track. I’d missed the first ‘meat’ and introductions but contacted Little Miss Chief via the Misfits Facebook page as I was concerned I was too old… she said no worries, just to come along, they’d find me some skates, helmet etc. and I could see how I went. You are only as old as you feel. Well I don’t feel old so……..

I arrived at 5:45 and was sorted out by Gore G’eous, skates, knee-pads etc. and ready to go…. But imagine my surprise it’s not quite “Whip It” it’s Flat Track Roller Derby so not quite so freaked out as I had been. We did an off skate warm-up first as Dorny Darko said warm-up was really important. Then down to the main stuff get kitted up and on track….. Well that was a barrel of laughs… I’ve not skated since being about 14 so there were a few wobbles as you can imagine. I’d missed the skating basics in the introduction session so “falling small” was a ‘you want me to do what’, and “sticky skates”… ‘say again???’ All phrases you will learn and pick up.

Our FM sessions were on Sundays from 6-8. We did six sessions learning all kinds of stuff, like moving on wheels to begin with (sticky skating and crossovers – I remembered those from ice-
skating), different ways to stop, blocking, skating in a pack, how to fall safe and the holy grail – the “27 in 5”…. I’ll explain later. Then we had a mid-term assessment to clear us for ‘contact’ which I think we all passed. We then went onto “contact” – how to block, how to give a hit and take one, learning how to give and take a “Whip”. After so many weeks attendance we were allowed to join the Misfits properly, which meant we could finally chose a Derby name and we could attend Thursday sessions too along with the “Real Misfits” to get more experience on wheels and join in with the scrimming….

In terms of our FM batch, we’ve got girlies like Bette Grinch who is totally “mad for it”, Hawkeye who has been skating with a busted wrist for weeks and didn’t tell anyone (pain, what pain!), NikaBlocker Gory who whizzes round the track like you wouldn’t believe, along with our Emma whose just got new wheels and was flying round the track last night, don’t be put off my her slender frame she hits hard and Fire Lily who puts my plough stops to shame!

Right then “27 in 5” – basically gives you shaky legs…… The aim is to “skate the diamond” round the track and do 27 laps of the track in 5 minutes. Nikablocker is nearly there, she’s got the fastest feet I think and the rest of us aren’t too far behind. Apart from crossovers all the way, you just need to remember to breathe….lol. Get the oxygen into your muscles and “push them legs”.

We’re all different personalities, we all have other hobbies outside of Derby but with us FM and the original girls we make up THE TEAM. Why not come and join us, you may get a few bruises but you’ll have a ball.

We’re Lean, Mean… Purple and Green… Go Misfits!

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Nik AKA NikaBlocker Gory #1710
“Mommy! You are on a big team photo!”

One Sunday night, just four months ago, I found myself in a car full of friends heading out for a new adventure. We were going for a trial session with Mansfield Misfits. Until that night I hadn’t given roller skating in any form a second thought having never skated in my life. I just have a really bad habit of agreeing to most social invitations. This one was a bit different!

Arriving in the hall was exciting, daunting and a big challenge. I knew we were going to be supported as non-skaters but I couldn’t fathom how I was going to be close to getting around the track at any rate that would benefit a team!

Oh yes – the team bit! I have NEVER, never, ever played a team sport, never done a contact sport and never really publically exercised. I ride a bike, swim, jog, go to the gym – all very solitary hobbies. This will explain my Californian husband’s surprise when I told him of this new venture. That and I didn’t have time to YouTube Roller Derby beforehand as he suggested. My bad!

Sounds disastrous? Well, we can now fast forward 4 months and here I am juggling my thoughts between the design of my next two tattoos and my Roller Derby experience so far. It has been a Roller Coaster (there’s a pun there!) and my stomach doesn’t churn as much at the prospect of training anymore! That is because I am surrounded, literally, by some really good friends! The Misfits are tight but they let you in their pack, share their group hugs and kick your ass without the usual judgements or reservations a room full of girls might bring.

This is a whole new lifestyle for me. My family are adjusting to me changing family routines so that I get to practice on time. They are getting more used to me walking round in small shorts all of a sudden (because that is how we roll) and we are making plans for a family outing to enjoy the Misfits first bout. I want my kids to meet my new mates! And tonight, I showed my family some photos of a recent session (the first time I have seen myself as a Derby girl) and my daughter exclaimed with pride “Mommy! You are on a big team photo!”. So I am

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The fine art of skating

(Auto publish for Friday 31st so please bear with the blog whilst it does it’s funky auto update thing!)

I feel skating skills are of great importance.

I have noticed lately, more leagues are talking about a higher focus on general drills rather than skating ability, and I have over the years observed and heard complaints that some leagues were undertaking higher level/ability drills with a mixture of skating abilities involved. My main issue with this… is the lack of thought for skater safety. To be able to safely and effectively take part in these drills, skaters must first have the ability and confidence in their own skating skills. Without this – leagues are endangering not just the less skilled skater but also the skaters around them. As my own league has seen, it does not take much for a skater being taken down by those in the pack around her to cause a serious injury.

Part of my feelings surrounding skating ability stems from my many years on skates and the styles of skating I have done. From figure skating, to ice hockey, to roller hockey and to roller derby. All require the same key element, a sturdy skating ability and confidence in your ability. These two parts combined contribute so much to a skater to the point I now feel that you cannot really have one without the other to be an effective and able skater. A low confidence level can greatly impact on a skaters ability and I guess again this refers back to my post on mental wellbeing and the walls we put up in our own minds. Take for instance the skater I mentioned earlier who broke a few bones in her lower leg, whilst she initially wanted to come back, her mind changed once she had thought about life outside of derby and the impacts derby can have on that – which is a brave and hard decision to make. Many of our skaters saw this particular incident and the first couple of sessions following that night some of our girls skating abilities visibly decreased.. why? They said they were scared. Suddenly they are faced with the brutal reality of derby and the consequences it can have. And whilst confidence is pretty damn easy to take down, it can take a while to rebuild.

Infact. I would probably go as far to say that skating is 50-60% ability and the rest is confidence. I believe this is backed up by watching teams with poor morale and confidence at certain points in bouts and the difference between skating skills at this point and at more positive points. With skating lessons, I feel 2-3 are sufficient for the understanding of movement on skates and how/why you do things and they work/don’t work… it’s kind of like with driving. When you learn to drive for your test that is all well and good, but only when you pass your test do you actually learn how to drive.

 

So ok… problem is sort of established. But.. how do you work with this?

There is no real solution which is straightforward and an easy fix for everyone on the planet. Everyone is different and this is something we must accept and learn from.

I feel trust between team members plays a strong role in skating education. To be able skate side by side and learn from someone without the fear of being tripped up or injured even though you know really that you will fall over again and again, is so important. As is taking a few seconds just to say well done to someone who needs to hear it. Yes, sometimes you will bump wheels and fall over doing the silliest little things, but having that trust in the person you are working with is imperative – especially as a team on track. This trust allows a skater to have a better comfort level when skating and practicing drills, going at a pace to suit themselves. Yes – at the end of the day it is nigh on impossible to teach to all standards/levels of skaters in your league, and differentation can be hard because you do not want team skaters to lose out on practicing key drills yet at the same time you do not want to throw the weaker/newer skaters in over their heads. But you can try to take measures which aids the development of all skaters on the team by simply taking 30-45 minutes every other month or so just to go over the basics of skating and understanding how your body/skates react to movement. Even if just to get some feedback, who knows – that fresh meat skater may be able to impart some knowledge on your team skaters on how she learned to skate a particular move. Just time working on being comfortable on your feet, this allows higher level skaters to further improve on their skills and lower level skaters time to get comfortable and start to make headway. When you feel comfortable, move onto stepping through movements, going through the motions and allow people to understand why this is useful and how it will help them in the future. For instance, a few simple things that do not take long to go over:

  • Stepping and stepping cross overs – this motion gets you used to the crossover movement, but can also be used to move from a slow speed/standing stop to get a small boost in initial speed.
  • Gliding crossovers – more for jam work rather than pack work. Having skaters understand how the long gliding crossover holds so much potential power for pushing and for speed is pretty crucial if they feel they would like to put that jammer pantie on.
  • Edges – Have skaters work on their edges, getting used to transitioning the weight onto each side of your feet, on both feet and one foot. Starting by going to the left/right seperately then merging the two edges. Skaters need to understand how the ball of their foot/pivot point really allows them a larger range of movement than they realise.
  • Derby stance – Teach them to get into derby stance but whilst keeping their feet firmly in one place, have them move their upper body then move hips without losing that balance on their feet. This teaches them about their core strength and how if they are in the correct stance they should have a full range of movement without losing their balance.
  • “Crazy feet” – just the general ability to pick their feet up off the floor and an ideal way to move into juking once skaters are comfortable with moving their feet. The ability to transition from gliding to crossovers to crazy feet and back again will be of great use on track.
  • Pushing home the point that skating is part ability, part confidence. The reason I skate and move the way I do is because I have been skating for so many years, but I am confident in my skates/on my feet. I know from playing around and trying different things on skates that if I move my hips slightly too far into an edge that I will go over. It is comfort and confidence that plays a large role.
Wrexham Rejects crossover

Wrexham Rejects crossovers page

Of course the trust I talk about does not happen straight away, the time on the fresh meat journey is important for them to bond with other fresh meat but also team skaters who they will hopefully join one day. Infact one skater made my day, after one night in which I simply offered to help and partner with her to let her go at her own pace and tried my best to make her feel comfortable, I recieved a thank you for simply caring about her. And I was already proud of how well she was doing that night and the little jumps she was making in her ability. And this thank you took me by surprise, because I do not want or expect to be thanked, I simply do what I do because I want to help my girls any way I can in the derbyverse. Yes we are friends/family but let’s face it, the derbyverse can be a tough world at times with you being your own worst enemy.

The relationships on and off the track can play a factor, it can increase or decrease the level of trust but even though I have struggled with things like this I am a strong believer in leaving it at the door when you come into practice. If you let anything outside of derby into derby, it will cloud your vision on the track and will not be healthy.

Keep Calm – Trust each other!

 

 

 

So I guess my main message with this really is that no matter what you are doing – be comfortable. Push yourself to work harder and toy with your comfort zone, but do not at any point do anything which you are not comfortable or fully confident with. Work up to it, build on it and talk to those around you. Skating requires 2-3 lessons to teach you how/why you do things, but real track experience to actually learn how to skate – and do not forget that confidence is key so keep your heads up and skate your little hearts out. We are all in this together!

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A note to the more experienced skater – Remember when you were fresh meat and you craved so badly for someone to teach you the ways of skating and derby? Now is your chance to be that person for someone else. Take everything you know and have learnt throughout and use that to help someone else in the derbyverse. Derby is about sharing and caring too you know!

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!