Close your eyes and take a journey with me back to my first real bouting experience. At the time I had only been skating for a few weeks. I understood the game, most of the rules, and knew I was in love with the sport. I was so excited, heck I am still excited. For those of you that have experienced the awesomeness that is Roller Derby, this is an easy task. For everyone else, try to think of the first game of the season for any sport USA. Your nervous, excited, a little confused, and not at all ready for what is about to happen. Your heart is pounding, your senses are heightened, and you know enough to know this is AWESOME.
The whistle blows and the pack starts to move. To my left, a teacher, this is the girl whom has taken your hand and led you through the dangerous dark alley that is learning to derby. To my right, the bad ass, the girl who you still avoid at practice because she hits so hard. I can only smile and think of all the Oscars you would have won (for falling) each and every time she remotely came near you. Those poor, poor unsuspecting girls on the other team have no idea what is about to happen to them. You feel if you should warn them, but hey… no one warned you. Next to the dark alley bad ass is the fourth blocker, another fresh meat newbie who looks just as scared, excited, and a bit like she might throw up too. It is an amazing mix of new and old, vets and newbies.
Life is good. I am still on my skates, our jammer is through the pack, and I am holding my ground. This is amazing! I am over whelmed with all I have learned over the last few weeks. Stay low, head on a swivel, stay with your partner, and hold the wall. The crowd is cheering and the announcer may or may not have just said my name for the first time. I feel like a super star, like a warrior, like I can do anything. Just as my ego is about to explode, it happens.
I make eye contact with my teacher. This woman, whom I greatly respect and admire, must have seen my awesomeness blossoming. However, it was not the mental high five or “at a boy” look on her face I was expecting. Instead I found myself staring, almost hypnotized, into the craziest crazy eyes I have ever seen. I still to this day remember that look of determination and shear bad assery on her face. Oh God, what is wrong, a sudden wave a panic fills my body. Then like an action scene from a movie, everything is suddenly in slow motion. Crazy eyes grabs me with one hand and then the other, shouting into my face… “HIT THAT GIRL!” What girl? Why are you spitting on me? What is happening? With a deep exaggerated breath she leans back and shoves me with all her ridiculous might. Okay, I still have NO idea what is happening. I finally whip my head around to see the jammer sneaking by trying to take the outside edge of the track. Ohhhh….that girl! I am hurtling towards the jammer at the speed of sound, thanks to the not so gentle or subtle shove from my role model. I got this, I am going to hit this girl so hard and make my teacher so proud, when reality sets in. I have only been skating for a few weeks and I am still super clumsy on my skates. I am desperately trying to stay up right as I scream towards the jammer. God I wish I could have been in the stands to see the look of terror and shock on my face as I was thrown from one side of the track to the other. The Jammer must have seen the horror on my face, for she juked and avoided my flailing with ease. Well, that was anti-climactic, I thought to myself, just as my skate catches the edge of the track and I am suddenly air borne.
As the ground rushes towards my face, I have to admit, my feelings were hurt a little bit. Then as I make contact with the ground my whole body was hurt, just a little bit. As I try to get back up, I am consumed with disappointment and failure. Am I that bad of a roller derby player that I need to be thrown at another person in order to effectively block? My balloon was burst. When I finally got back to the bench, I was greeted with high fives and good jobs. At first, I thought my epic failure as a blocker had been thankfully missed by everyone. But alas, everyone had seen me tossed like a grenade. They laughed and told me I will get her next time. Again, I had no idea what had just happened.
It wasn’t until the after bout party that I came to understand the awesomeness of being tossed like a bean bag. Like a roller derby rite of passage, nearly every player has been thrown at another person, at one time or another. It wasn’t that, I was not good enough to get there on my own, though I am sure that was part of it; but rather that any die hard derby player would throw their own mother at another person to win. It was about being competitive! It was about winning!
I learned a lot from this experience. First, I need to be more aware of my surroundings. Second, I should always know where the jammer is. Finally, if someone yells ‘HIT THAT GIRL”, I should just get low and enjoy the ride.