This weekend I had the absolute honour and privilege of skating with my team, the Nottingham Hellfire Harlots, in our first official WFTDA tournament in Ghent, Belgium – A Skate Odyssey (SKOD).
When I wrote my last post, I was travelling back to Nottingham sat in a car, I couldn’t wait until I reached home to write. I was full of emotion and happy and on a mega derby high! When we got back, I filled my belly with lots of food and then had a bath (after letting the food go down of course!) Laying in the bath, soothing my bumps and bruises and resting my wankle, I reflected on the days events.
As I sat there, it all hit me. I was well and truly overwhelmed thinking about my day and playing for Team Metal Legs. I won’t lie, I cried. But it was a happy cry. For the first time in a very long time, I felt proud of my achievements on skates.
In the changing rooms before the game, our TML captain Rosie gave us a pep talk and she had us each go round the room and say what we wanted to do today, our own little goals. I was not too sure what I really wanted out of the day, as my first bout back post break and first real time to get stuck in as a blocker and a jammer, I mainly wanted to survive the bout. At which point a few who didn’t know it was my first time back were so lovely and were both nervous and excited for me which made me feel in good company, one who really helped me out had played in the last Team Metal Legs game, and that bout was her first bout back post break so it meant a lot to have her support and understanding! My other goals were to be able to block hard and work together with people, as well as get my confidence back up to jam. I have lost a lot of confidence and belief in myself recently with some down days and unfortunate situations, so the nerves were definitely there, at one point in the warm up I suddenly thought that I could not do it, I simply could not play, I was not good enough to be there and I was going to let everyone down…. just a maddening sickening rush of thoughts. But we went on, warmed up, skated out, got ready in first line ups. As I sat there waiting in line ups, it hit me how lucky I was to be skating alongside these ladies. Each girl was filled with so much positivity and excitement, the support was more than I could have asked for, and without Team Metal Legs that day I think I would have found it much harder to come back mentally to the game.
I started out blocking, finding my feet again, digging down and getting used to hits again. Some of the ladies had played together in the last TML bout together, some of us were new to the team, but the way in which we all found a way to skate our own way but together as a team was actually pretty damn beautiful. We were all able to talk to each other, listen to each other, do what the jammers wanted us to do, do what our bench wanted us to do, all of this whilst skating to our own individual strengths, the way in which TML came together as a team was just amazing to be a part of. Off skates for TML we had the lovely LUM Charlotte, who had stepped in last minute for us, thrown together last minute line-ups with new additions and changes as well as keeping us rowdy bunch in check throughout the game! And our surprise bench Mimey who had simply come to watch and support the team! SURPRISE BENCH! Big love to Phoenix our original bench who had sadly had to take another trip to hospital, serious love to you and I really hope that you heal up soon and we see you lovely!! Early on, Charlotte handed me the jammer panty. I was nervous about jamming, but as a team who had few specialised jammers, it was only fair that we all did some time. So I jammed. And it was incredible! I felt so comfortable and at ease, letting my instinct as a skater and jammer take over, my laterals, spins and turns were there, I even managed to push the opposing blockers – which is pretty hard when you are playing Hulls Angels A Team! I have to hand it to H.A.R.D, they have a strong blocking line-up and they really gave us everything they had with no letting up, so to be able to push three blockers along the straight (and even watch it on video!!) was something that I had been trying to build my confidence in and have in my arsenal. After my first jam, Charlotte threw me the jammer panty quite a bit more. And I have to thank her for doing that. I needed to remind myself, show myself that I could jam. The feedback from my teammates also hit me hard, the fact they supported me and gave me such positive feedback about my performance just made my heart swell. With a strong blocking team who held H.A.R.D’s jammer back and gave me some amazing offense, I was so proud to say I was part of that team! And being able to block with these blockers, help our jammers out, working on my offense and defence, making sure I was communicating and listening to my pivot and teammates to make sure we were a unit, it all helped me to really strengthen my ability and skills as a blocker. Of course there are moments I look at and wish I had done different things, been better, played a little bit smarter, I had a few learning curves but as Rosie said, it was for funsies. We played for funsies and I came out the other side with more than you could ever realise.
It was just an amazing hour of roller derby that really did finish way too soon!
Rainbow Smite, Rosie, Skye Bruise, Bob, Mother Mercy (or Hammer, depending on where you look!), Dr Jean Knockout, Hurrikane Katrina, Shock N Awedrey, Greek Frightening, Feral Fairy, Pyscho-Sis, Charlotte & Mimey. Thank you all for believing in me when I didn’t even believe in myself, thank you for being there, thank you for the support and the love, thank you for just being you. You badasses.
So to you, my Team Metal Legs teamies, I have this to say.
You are a group of absolutely beautiful ladies, who are way too modest, who are so genuinely friendly and welcoming with wide open derby arms, who have endured and fought through the physical and mental hell that has been thrown at you, you have conquered the world to return to the sport that we love so passionately even when it doesn’t always love us. You are not only amazing people, but you are all badasses on track. You ladies inspire me. You inspired me when I saw you play for the first time as Team Metal Legs, two weeks after I got my cast off, two weeks after I didn’t think I would be able to brave skating again, the two weeks it took me to have hope. And you inspired me even more when you skated alongside me, supporting me, screaming for me. The fact I also got to do that for you too, meant the world to me, I felt like I was able to give back what you gave to me. Many of you were there for me when I was broken, you read my messages, my rants, cried with me, made me laugh, posted crazy cat photos and told me bad jokes, and when you told me that it gets better. You never lied to me, you always told me that it isn’t easy, but coming out the other side makes you a stronger person. And you were all there for me when I came back. You made my heart swell a thousand sizes on December 14th 2014. That day will stay with me for a very long time. The day I returned to bouting, the day I got my derby back, the day that it was all down to you ladies.
Team Metal Legs, I freaking love you.
Let’s do it again yes?
Today was a big deal for me. Today was my first bout back post break. I won’t lie, I was nervous and worried about letting the team down. But I was also excited and determined to block and jam to the best of my ability!
The ladies of Team Metal Legs are just fantastic, so understanding and just awesome. They were great throughout and made me feel more comfortable and relaxed. Funsies!
So I did it. Today I blocked and I jammed. I followed my gutt instinct and just let my body do what felt natural and the best way to move around track. And it was AWESOME!!
I stopped jammers, worked well with other blockers, communicated and didn’t get any penalties! I jammed my butt off, juking and pushing, I got back up anytime I found myself down, I scored points, I called it at the right times with bench assistance, and did I mention I didn’t get any penalties?!?
I went there with the aim of just having fun, getting back into skating in a bout situation, learning from other skaters and working with new skaters, generally surviving the bout. But the fact that I got so much out of it in terms of confidence in myself and my own ability, the fact I now better appreciate the ability to adapt to new skaters and situations as well as appreciating the skaters I am used to working with, it has just given me such a boost. I can still play roller derby and I can still play well!! The fact that I had fun and gained so much on a personal level was awesome, BUT we did a win too!!
So there is hope, and something that seems scary can really turn out to be a huge turning point in the way you see yourself and the things that you are capable of doing. I skated hard, I skated for me – to prove to myself that I can still do this! – and I also made new friends along the way.
I have a lot of love for Rosie today, she has consistently believed in me and my ability, and today I skated not only to make me happy, but to make her proud also. She always pushes me to be a better skater and player, she supported me throughout my break and coming back to skating post break, and she has just been an awesome beast!! Without her I probably wouldn’t have agreed to play in a TML bout, but I am bloody glad I did!!
Thank you Rosie!
And thank you Team Metal Legs! Who know a broken ankle would lead to such a positive and loving place.