Recently I was perusing derby blogs, as one does, and I came across Every Bunny Loves Derby. Written by Circle City Derby Girls skater Bunnie Low-Browski, it’s a treasury of eight-wheeled wisdom from a woman whose passion for the sport shines through in every word.
We’ll come back to Bunnie and her blog later.
Meanwhile, here at Varsity Derby League, we’re a sort of motley crew, come from all kinds of backgrounds to learn how to be kickarse derby skaters.
We are not super athletes. Not yet, anyway. In our ranks we have skaters who’ve trained with other leagues, while some of us haven’t played sport since we were in high school. Some have old injuries to contend with, while others have young families, or work full-time, or are students choosing between Indo Mee and Mi Goreng for dinner while saving up the dosh for some sweet new skates. Many of us fit into several of these categories and more.
The point is, we are all coming into the world of roller derby from different starting points. The thread tying our rapidly-growing family together is our love for this incredible sport, and our determination to be just as good as the derby girls we spend countless hours watching on YouTube and at local bouts.
Training for roller derby is hard. Most of the time you feel yourself getting better, and fitter, and stronger, but then you’ll have a training session where you feel like everyone else is picking things up more easily, or skating faster, or able to stay in derby stance longer than you.
Comparing yourself to others is unhelpful but inevitable, and sometimes a terrifying thought creeps sneakily into your mind: What if I can’t do this? What if I’m not good enough?
This kind of thinking is a killer. This kind of thinking kept me lying awake last night.
I want to be a bouting derby skater. I want to be able to tear up the track as a kickarse jammer. I want to be a great blocker, able to give the kind of hits that silence the crowd. I want to be a pivot who seems to have eyes in the back of her head. I want to be really good at this amazing amazing sport, and I want it so badly I could burst. The idea that I might not be capable of it is heartbreaking.
When I first read her blog, one entry in particular stopped me in my tracks. Lesson Twenty-Four: No shame in my game. You should go read it. I just want to share a few of Bunnie’s words here.
“I wish all the time that I had a video of everyone’s first practice. Just so you know- everyone sucks at first. Even speed skaters have to learn to juke. Jam skaters have to learn some strategy. Everyone has to learn how to hit. And yes. There will always be someone better than you, but they weren’t always. They got that way the same way you will- practice, practice, and more practice. Hold your head up and know that this is a very hard sport. There is no shame in learning. With a little patience and a lot of determination you are well on your way to derby greatness.”
Hear that, sneaky self doubts? Everybody sucks at first. But you WILL get better. It’s science, baby. So keep gearing up, keep working on the things you need to work on, keep encouraging each other, keep learning, keep skating. If you want to be a roller derby skater, you will be.
All of us will face the Self-Doubt monster at some point during training. But it’s up to us how we respond. You can decide that the commitment and drive required to learn derby skills is too much. You can get back on the I Give Up bus, and go back to thinking that you’re too uncoordinated to ever do anything as physically taxing as roller derby.
Before you do though, I want you to do something for me. Next time you’re at training, take a look at all the other skaters around you. Look at her, skating backwards crossovers. Remember when she could barely wobble a few metres on her own? Or that woman over there – she’s only been skating for a month, but today she had the courage to try a jump. She fell, but wasn’t it one of the best four-point falls you’ve ever seen? How great was it to see her get up so quickly and keep skating?
Look at all your league-mates and think about how far you’ve all come together. Makes you pretty damn proud, doesn’t it?
Now, what makes you think that each and every one of those skaters isn’t just as proud of you and what you’ve achieved since you first strapped on skates?
Lady, you’re an Amazon. Own it. Now go make Bunnie proud.