Minimum Skills, the heart-breaking bane of my existence (Or, How I learned to put things into perspective…)

So I started roller derby on November 14th, 2010. Almost exactly 8 months later, on July 9th, the girls from my fresh meat ‘class’ were set to take our minimum skills. Now, there was a lot of us who started out in November, but our numbers had dropped significantly, which probably only 6 or 7 of us regularly attending the Freshie practices each week. For the few months leading up to minimum skills, I was absolutely dreading them. I was not ready, I was always in pain, my skills were not at the level of the other girls in my class. I was freaking out. I did not want to be the only girl who didn’t make it through.

In the weeks before minimum skills testing, I spoke with our head coach. I was hemming and hawing about whether or not I should do them. Down the wire, the week we were set to test, I had to make a decision. I took 30 seconds to run through the pros and cons, was over taken with a sense of confidence and opened my mouth to say “Yes! Lets do it! I am a badass roller derby player with mad skillz!” Before those words could actually leave my mouth though, my coach announced “I think you should wait until the fall.”

I felt like I had been kicked in the gut.

I nodded okay, and said I understood completely. That I was fine with it. That it didn’t matter. That I agreed with her. But inside, I was devastated. On the way home I called my partner, and cried. Then I called my mom, and cried. Then I got home and talked to the cat, and cried. I felt judged. Was I really that bad? My partner told me that it just meant I needed to really commit myself to working harder. I got angry. I was working hard! I worked my butt off every practice! Kindly, my partner pointed out that yes, I worked hard at the practices. But I only went to one practice a week. I never skated outdoors despite buying outdoor wheels. I never worked on conditioning outside of practice, even though I said I would.

All of these things are true. Does it mean I don’t work hard? That I am not committed to derby? Absolutely not. I have just mistakenly believed that eventually derby would be easy for me.

Derby is not easy for me.

This is an uncomfortable realization. Though I am not a typical athlete, I am a smart girl who picks up on things quickly. In my every day life of academics, I am a high achiever who doesn’t do much because it comes naturally. In my dance class, I rarely struggle and the movement comes easily and fluidly. I haven’t had to work hard to acquire new skills in the past. This is not the case with derby.

This realization, helped me to be at peace with the idea of not testing. Instead, I congratulated my derby sisters, who worked hard these past 8 months and who left it all out on the track on testing day. Of course, it wasn’t all zen. Because our league is short on skaters, these girls got to bout almost right away, an unusual occurence for our league. I had been comforting myself with the idea that even if I tested in the fall, we would all start bouting together next season. So I pouted for a few days when I learned this, and then I committed myself to putting in more effort. I am attending my first league practice this weekend, practices I previously avoided out of fear and anxiety of skating with and being judged by the more advanced women.

I am also committing myself to putting in 100% effort at every practice. To let go of fear of looking ridiculous. I am also taking the opportunity to appreciate working with the new class of freshies. We are reviewing skills I’ve already learned, but I am focusing on getting a better grounding in the basics. Getting low. Concentrating on foot work. And recognizing that I have come so far since that first day in November.

Each practice I am going to make a habit of recognizing an achievement I have made. Last practice, it was the realization that I didn’t fear falling anymore because getting up is easy now. I don’t have to struggle or try a million times or put my hands on the ground. I just do it.

For some girls, derby comes easy. For me it doesn’t. And I am learning to be okay with that.

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About Alicia

TV addict. Activist. Burlesque Dancer. Political Economy MA. Queer Theorist. Feminist. Cat Lady. View all posts by Alicia

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