Saturday, May 21, 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Falling Down

I'm in the gray shirt, on the right, behind the woman in purple.
So, October.  I tried out for Roller Derby.

For a couple of precious days, it was really exciting.  I psyched myself up to do it, even though I hadn't skated since grade school, even though I was out of shape, and even though I didn't own a single thing with skulls on it.  The tryout announcement said "no experience needed," so I decided to go with that, and not be intimidated by the skills tests I was reading online.  I checked with the organizers, and they seemed friendly enough.  I even checked with Ravelry's roller derby about the no-skulls thing, and received reassurance.

It's hard to see in the pictures, but the Dr. Seuss "One Fish Two Fish" T-shirt was the most ironic bad-ass thing I owned.  I believe I broke out the pink cammo "Boot Camp for Socks" for the other night.  Oh, yeah, I was ready for this.....

That first night - an optional practice - was surprising and educational and scary and fun.  When I showed up at the door I was welcomed, rather than being greeted with confusion or some sort of "are you sure you want to be here?  Did you know this is roller derby?" remark.  I remembered how to skate, which wasn't a given.  And best of all, I learned how to stop on skates - something I'd never learned in all my years of occasional recreational roller, ice, and inline skating.  (Bumping into a wall usually worked.  For the inline skates, I always wore knee pads and just looked for grass to fall on, or a fence to grab.)  So I got my $7 worth out of the evening regardless of how the tryouts went, as stopping moving forward is definitely a useful skill!

I had a little bit of hope for the second night.  I sort of got the skills - not well, but I made a brave attempt.  I was touched by the willingness of the skaters to work with us, individually, on the various skills, and the general level of friendliness.  I was stunned by the nerve of people who would stand on a slick gym floor and say "OK, skate towards me, then stop."   And I had fun.  I was tired and flagging by the end of the night, but I had fun.  I thought that maybe, just maybe, I had a chance - if determination, nonprofit work, or a sports history background could substitute for skating skill.

As it turned out, the MissFits preferred skating skill.  I didn't make the team.  Friends and family (most of the family, anyway) cried out in facebook disappointment on my behalf.  But I wasn't really surprised, since there were obviously many better skaters than me.  I was just really, really sad.   The more I learned about derby, the more I wanted to do it.  And now I couldn't.

The e-mail encouraged me to come to future tryouts, and suggested I volunteer with the team in the meantime.  I thought that sounded fun, so made tentative plans.  A few days later I was at a local restaurant and heard someone say "hey, weren't you at roller derby tryouts?"   One of the servers turned out to be one of the skaters, who said, "did you get that bruise from skating?  cool!"  (I did, but only because I was screwing around trying to stand on my toes and fell backwards into a metal staircase.  But that story isn't as cool.)  I have never in my life felt so absolutely cool as I did at that moment - to be recognized from roller be recognized by a derby skater after tryouts.  The friend with me thought it was great.  And after something like that, how could I possibly give up trying?

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