….Though the real question is how DIDN’T I discover it before!?
It had been over 15 years since I had really been on roller skates (save for some inline skating about 10 years ago), but some of my favorite childhood memories were from putting on my aunt’s old roller skates in our garage and pretending to be the next Nancy Kerrigan on roller skates.
Then when I hit my tween years, I managed to earn a few extra bucks cutting the lawn to head up to the local skating rink with some of my peers at school. I wasn’t allowed to do it very often, and I couldn’t really stay late on Friday nights or the All-Night skates like my friends, but I LOVED going to the rink and watching all the kids who got to spend countless nights there on the floor shuffle skating, speed skating, and even a little couple skating… (which at 12 is a really big deal folks!) I wanted so much to join the speed team (when they were actually still on QUADS and not inlines… boy, I’m old!) but the parents really weren’t very accepting of that idea.
High school came and quickly thereafter adult life… and though I missed skating, there aren’t too many opportunities for going skating as an adult that doesn’t include a child of some sort. I think we may have tried once in my early 20’s to go back to a rink and skate for nostalgia sake, and felt ENTIRELY old bag loserish. That pretty much ended any ideas of me skating again until maybe I ended up with a kiddo of my own one day.
Then in late 2008, I read a few updates from a local Huntsville Twitterer about skating. Intrigued, I asked what she meant and where was she skating that was adult-no kids friendly. She told me about the Dixie Derby Girls… the local women’s flat track roller derby league. Color Me INTERESTED…. a place where adult women can not only skate, but play a badass sport like roller derby?!? Really? In HUNTSVILLE, AL?!?
It took me all of a week to show up at my first practice. I was mucho worried about the fact that I hadn’t been on skates in over 15 years, but its supposed to be like riding a bicycle, right? On with the rental skates and some borrowed league pads and I was wobbly rolling around on my first night (Photo is actual first night evidence of craptastic rentals). I wasn’t wall-hugging bad, but I wasn’t exactly the picture of poise and grace. Good thing that derby is wonderful about teaching the basics and making you relearn the right way how to skate.
So about three months of Freshmeat training ensued… learning how to stride, how to stop three different ways, how to fall correctly four different ways, crossovers, stepping, stance… you name it, we learned it. And a brief vomit-inducing assessment later, and I was scrimmage eligible.
And that’s where the hand holding ended. It was straight into scrimmage with some fiercely intimidating chicks who showed NO quarter for a newbie. I became VERY acquainted with the floor. In fact, the floor just might’ve been my best friend for much of the first half of the season.
I know every team has their powerhouses, but I can objectively say after skating an entire season that I truly believe that Dixie has an entire TEAM of powerhouses. The hardest hits I’ve ever taken have been from my own players in scrimmage… at first it was brutal. But, in the end, it made me so steady on my feet that hits from other teams were weak in comparison and while it still slows me down, at least I’ve managed to NOT stay crawling on the floor any longer. I may have even learned to put a few on the floor as well along the way.
Now, a full season later, I’m wondering how I didn’t know about the sport before. I’ve met incredible people, had extraordinary opportunities to skate with some great competitors, and have learned a whole new sport and adopted a whole new lifestyle. I’ve even managed to recruit a few freshies of my own… my cousin in Ohio just became scrimmage eligible and I’m still working on my baby sister getting out there to skate too.
The 2010 Recruitment cycle is about to begin, and its really come full circle for me… now, I get to happily watch as I move out of the rookie shoes into the seasoned vet group and another group enters into the discovery and wonderment of roller derby. They have no idea what’s in store for them, and how greatly the sport will impact every aspect of their lives.