The Road to Rollergirl How I Stopped Being a Roller Wannabe and Started Being a Rollergirl


The Most Important Piece of Safety Equipment You Will Probably Never Buy

Summer is ending, and autumn is in the mail. While the cooler days are great for practice on city streets and spartan practice spaces, mornings are a little stiff from the cold air breezing in the window next to my bed, flung wide from mid-August to mid-September. This morning, I woke up feeling like someone had punched me in the lower back. It took me a couple of minutes to unfurl myself and stretch away the pain.

What the hell, man, what the hell?

I don't know the proximate reason why I was hurting today in particular, maybe something to do with the way that I slept or the change in the weather. But I know the underlying cause, and even as I type this I'm cringing at my own stupidity.



After the last practice that I wrote about I had a little bit of a ... moment. It turned out that the "package" was delivered C.O.D.:  I had rolled my ankle hard enough to force me to skip a practice. Much better now, thank you, but at the time I panicked and called a friend. Basically, I was a little worried because pack work was so difficult and it's such an integral part of the game. How the hell am I supposed to play if I can't skate in a pack?! What is going to happen when people start hitting me if I can't even stay on my feet?! #@%#*&!!!

I think we have all had that experience with someone who just doesn't understand your values/anxieties/perspective.  Her response was just the teensiest bit lacking in social skills. Basically, she said "it can't be that hard, don't let them get you down." Of course, when you're off skates, "it can't be that hard" means "you just suck too much," which is more than enough to throw anybody into a tailspin of self-doubt.

Then, in rapid succession, I had a few of revelations that really helped set my attitude back in the right direction:

  1. One of the girls that I had been practicing with over the summer remarked how different Fresh Meat training was from the very basic skate training we had been doing before. Even though it was run by derby girls and had derby in mind, it was very rudimentary and focused on building from the ground up one block at a time. We covered skills at a much slower pace, doing them over and over, whereas FM is more fast-paced.
  2. One of the vets on my team, whom I consider to be really speedy, told us that we were doing a good job and that when she started out, she was always the last girl in the pack. Now her footwork is so quick and she is one of the fastest girls out there!
  3. I was randomly reading information about tryouts and came across the following nugget of wisdom: Push your limits as you become comfortable so that you are constantly teetering between comfortable and uncomfortable. This is how you know you are progressing!

This last thing really made it click. As far as the individual basics of skating are concerned, I'm in a fine-tuning stage -- I can always reach deeper on crossovers, or stop quicker on t-stops and plows (or not fall on my ass during a tomahawk!). But as far as working as a team, pack awareness, and interacting with other players doing unexpected stuff, I'm just at the beginning. It's getting harder because I am doing well and the bar is being raised, and it will probably be like the for the entirety of Fresh Meat and likely even my rookie season. It only gets easier by plowing straight through it.

So for you beginners reading along, don't get alarmed if it gets harder before it gets easier. And for the vets - hey, if you have any lived-experience advice on close skating, I'll take it! Especially if you had a moment where you were like "OH! THIS is what I'm doing wrong!"


Toe Stop Two Step

I'm just going to put it out there.

Toe stops are the bane of my freaking existence. It's like a bad love affair. They taunt me. They say, here we are, use us to stop with! It's so much easier than that ugly t-stop or a plow stop. What's a little ankle sprain between friends? And when I need them, they flat out abuse me. Trying to run? Try flinging forward straight onto your chest! Trying to jump? Flat on your back for you. Maybe I'll throw in a tailbone bruise.


Hello, nemesis. Do you hear that siren song?

Unfortunately, I can't break up with my toe stops. We are going to have to learn to work through our differences.

My plan of attack so far has been to practice walking around on my toe stops as much as possible. Every running start I take, I vow to take at least two toe stop runs before I hit the duck walk. I try to hop from one foot to the other on my stops.

Even with all of this, I just always feel like my wheels are getting in the way. If I lean where I feel I should, I roll on the wheel and fall backwards to my doom. If I lean slightly more forward to avoid the wheel, I fall forward to my doom. This should not, to my understanding, be the case. I'm using Carrera toe stops, which seem to be pretty popular among skaters. They're round (well, one is -- the other met with the side of a hill the day of my outdoor downhill skating lesson). THIS SHOULDN'T BE A PROBLEM!!!

This is where you come in, dear readers. Tips? What could I be doing wrong? How far out do you have your toe stops set? Are they close in or far out? HALP!


Maybe it is a bruise after all…

Remember how I said it was a shadow and not a bruise?

now THAT's a bruise

mmm, sexy...

Well, I feel pretty badass. Or soreass. Meh, all part of the process.


Speaking of ass fractures….

I took my first spill, I feel all official now. I was trying to get the feel of turning while skating on just one foot, and I guess I leaned a little too far to the outside and...

a little road rash


That's just a shadow there, not a ginormous bruise. Oh well, if you're not falling, you're not skating.


Progress! One ass fracture at a time…

I bet you think I forgot, didn't you?

I didn't! At various times I thought about maybe not doing this because I'm a busy person and all that, but I decided not to sell my self short and go ahead and try. I think that the worst that could happen is that I try out, I suck, and I get over it. No harm, no foul. This isn't middle school anymore, after all.

Anyway, my progress for the day was my first roller skating lesson. It was outdoors, which I have never done before, but is it any fun if it's not terrifying?

You know what? For probably the first time in my life, I wasn't the worst person out there. I have the very slight advantage that I skated when I was a kid, so I was a little ahead of the folks who looked like newborn foals with skates on their feet. I can go forward and backward a little. I can stop (!), and I can do that fancy cross-over turn. That's it, but you know, baby rolls, right?

I am proud to say that I only fell once (wasn't that bad because I'm not good enough to go fast just yet), and I managed to totally save myself from a wicked crash too.

More on Wednesday. I'm so excited to actually be working toward my goal. I think I also need to start doing some running for endurance and core training for balance. I say those things like I have even the foggiest idea what they mean.