I’ve gone and done it again. Yes – I switched skates and plates at the start of 2015!
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.
I’m a little bit on cloud nine this week. I have post bout feels and this week I also learnt I was the lucky recipient of the Captains Award for the B team game! So many feels and I even did a happy cry!!
(Let’s just ignore the fact I posted before saying 10 years. It turns out I can’t actually count…..)
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.
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.
Quick lunchtime post… 😀
You know that scene in Waynes World? The one where Garth freaks out? Yeah….
When my derby wife said we would be leading a training session I did that. I feel stupid thinking about it because I have taught skating for a while – however my mind just went to mush. Maybe it had something to do with teaching people my age who may have had more of an expectation than younger and newer skaters.
But we did it. Last night I took 45 minutes of skating and Kara took 45 minutes of endurance.
There were positives and negatives. The negative mainly being my insole wearing through mid 20 minutes of hell which sucked – and I say that whole heartedly as we were not far off completing the drill. 5 more minutes in soles! I could have been proud!
So I think I did poop. 6 days of non-stop has not been great to my mind and body so last night was a bit daunting knowing I was going into the night not feeling myself. But I taught stuff. I had to miss some stuff out due to time constraints and not being as fluid as I wanted to be, especially with my words – my words did not want to come out last night what so ever.
Kara did fab, she has this sense about her in which she commands respect from everyone but she is on the level with people so there is a huge level of comfort and trust there. We had a good run of endurance and at point I asked another skater if it was possible to love and hate someone at the same time… but it felt good! Once I broke through the pain barrier it was smooth sailing – until my insole went stupid.
There was so much more I would have liked to have gone over but I think some of it is best brought up by other skaters, to bring up areas they struggle with. For instance I think working on backwards skating will be of great help to some of the girls! The future holds interesting skating times for sure!
With my insoles going, I am not contemplating what to do. Do I get insoles and buy some cheap R3s for outdoor use… or … do I get a new boot for indoor and use my old skates for outdoor… Hmm. WANT!! Derby cravings…
So mission report – good. 🙂
(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.
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.
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!
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!
I thought hard about how to describe how I came to play roller derby and my background throughout. I wrote this and put it aside, and now I think screw it, I’ll put it up as it is!
Rewind back to 1994, 4 year old me. PapaCidal (lover of ice-hockey amongst other sports) thought it would be a fantastic idea to take me ice-skating – and so myself, Bear and BroCidal all learnt as children very quickly to be comfortable on skates. Growing up I had always enjoyed a healthy mixture of sport and performance, I started out in dance school (like every other 4 year old girl) then moved onto gymnastics which I was actually pretty good at! However it turned that I loved food too much to fit in with the ridiculously low weights they asked of you. So I stuck to figure skating, the performance and the pretty dresses were amazing – until I entered my teenage years. Now? It was uncool, and it was at this point I rebelled a little, MamaCidal and PapaCidal were very understanding and although a little gutted at me having my figure skates already, helped me move on. I really had such a love of being on skates at this point and so moved onto playing ice hockey with Nottingham Ladies. A team sport this time round, still on ice, and required a lot more kit! I met some fantastic ladies at this point in time, but after a while I didn’t feel as though my heart was really in it. Going to practice became a chore and my hip was not dealing well with it at this point. The excitement had worn off, and though it was a team sport and people were lovely, I never really felt like I connected with anyone.
—–Note: In 2006 I had an operation on my right hand hip muscle to shorten and put it all back in the right place. I will write on this at some point, it is always good to share recovery stories—–
So I gradually moved away from sport and chose to focus on my education and music instead. Moving on to 2008, I had finished 6th form and was off to university (yay me!) I had heard about roller derby and had enquired at a few places for more information, just for a fun originally. At the tender age of 18 (going on 19 and the release of Whip It rearing to go for 2009), I entered an emotional experience which both ruined yet made me at the same time, during which I spent much of my time in and out of Birmingham. I looked at the local Birmingham Blitz Dames who were a ridiculously awesome team, luckily I met T.Apple through an acquaintance – who had previously trained with the team. We spoke and she agreed to go back to derby and keep me company on my journey into the derbyverse. She was the girl that put my foot in the door (or my skates on the track) and I am sad to say that due to the circumstances surrounding my time in Birmingham, I no longer speak with. But T.Apple: Thank you. If it wasn’t for you, I probably never would have been brave enough to jump in. Also I would like to take a moment to show my love for the following ladies at Birmingham for teaching me most of what I know about derby and for being just damn fabulous:
Nico Warrior (Immediately helped me out and taught me along with Thump) – Thumpalina (Now CentralCity) – Violet Attack (A role model and general legend, inspired me to aim to be amazeballs) – Mimey Vice (even though you made me do pushups and planks… alot!) – Roison Roulette (The support to push me through the walls I kept hitting – blockers, physically and mentally!) – Kylie Volatile (taught me how to take a hit, by hitting me. Alot)
So I also got to spend some time honing my skills in my university town (Bedfordshire) which housed two local teams, after speaking with Caz she allowed me to come join in with the Bedfordshire Roller Girls and I learnt alot about my strengths and weaknesses in my brief time there. With university and my circumstances in Birmingham, I didn’t continue to go to practice when I should have done. I was a bit of an on-off starter. In 2011 I left Birmingham in my rear view mirror at great speed.
In early 2012 I met The Man who came out of no-where and just changed it all, he gave me something to really live for and enjoy. I finished my degree and moved back to the Cidal family home in Mansfield. I then moved in with The Man in Nottingham and we’re temporarily there until we finish our house in Mansfield. I told him about Derby and he talked me into going back to it. As I lived here I started looking at the local Nottingham teams, though as we looked to move to Mansfield I found out Mansfield had a fairly new roller derby team. So I got in touch with the head honcho (the rather kick ass Gore G’eous) to say I had bought a house and was moving back, a conversation later and I had learnt that I would be moving in just two doors down from this woman! Speaking with her really inspired my love for the sport again, and she allowed me to come along and train in general sessions with them. My first practice with them was a little scary to say the least. I was trying to find my feet and felt a little bambi-ish! I was definitely not in as good a shape as I used to be! But I was welcomed with open arms and cheeky grins on faces, I already knew Gore, but it turned out I had been friends with two other girls when I was younger! It seemed a mad blur of coincidences but it seemed like it had all fallen in to place. Next practice, I was back to the derby me, skating ability and all.
So with this new team and bunch of girls, I learnt to love derby all over again. It really fell into place. Since earlier this year, I have been attending all practices which are not affected by work committments, even though this has meant the half hour drive each way just to come practice whilst I finish mine and The Mans house in Mansfield. Meeting and becoming close to these girls has really helped in keeping me going, they give me confidence and love, and often bruises (though I prefer “Derby Kisses”). The rules and skills may have changed since I last played but I passed all skills straight away thanks to my history of skating and the rules test took time but I kept asking every practice to take it again and again until I did it. The Man has even been coming to Sunday practices to watch and help our NSO where he can, maybe he will become a wonderful Zebra one day – who knows?
I think I will add a page at some point detailing my teammates, these girls really have become my family in a ridiculously short period of time! With my Misfits, my family and my Man by my side, I feel invincible whatever gets thrown my way! Yes there are down days, but I have a support system there and someone who can always help out, or just give me a hug.
So as an individual and a team, we have similar goals. To better ourselves as skaters and how we work together as a team (Gotham’s hivemind…we will have you!), hopefully 2014 will see us bouting and getting out there, making more derby friends and building cross league relations. My goal? I want to increase my fitness and core strength. I want to hit 35 in 5! (Currently at 29 and a half in 5… and I don’t eat well – at all – or crosstrain – at all. May be optimistic but if I can improve my fitness, this seems like it may be reachable. Atleast it is a goal to really aim for!). Whilst I am happy with my skating ability and feel I am a strong skater thanks to my years of generally being on skates, inline/figure/hockey/quad or otherwise, I am a strong believer in the saying:
There is always room for improvement
There is always going to be something I want to be better at. I’d love to be a stronger more solid being and be able to push walls harder as a jammer. Because of my natural ability, speed and agility I feel more comfortable as a jammer, I’m constantly moving (unless I’ve been knocked on my butt) and thinking about how to get through the wall. I want to keep improving my skills as a jammer, but I want to be a triple threat skater. I want to be able to block more effectively, work better in walls, increase my confidence to pivot and be able to do so effectively. Part of me would also like to learn to ref – but sometimes I look at situations and feel as though I would rather go one on one with Beyonslay than have the pressure a zebra has!
So this seemed like a really long post to write, looking back it seems like a short story. I found roller derby, trained with some great teams, met some wonderful women and now couldn’t be happier!