Monday, June 23, 2014

From Freshmeat to Team Mate: Just Getting Started

So, when I decided to join Pair O' Dice City Roller Derby, I was lucky.  I had two coworkers and another friend already on the team.  It helped a lot on that first night when I got to the rink, bewildered and nervous, to have some familiar faces nearby.  And yet, as I soon found out, I didn't need to be so apprehensive.  Everyone on the team was welcoming and happy to see new freshmeat.

No really. It could have been this big, scary moment to come in and immediately start doing something new and terrifying that you may or may not kill yourself trying for the first time...but that's not how it works.

With today's safety concerns and regulations, there is usually a very strict and structured process for introducing freshmeat to Derby.  At POD, we had to fill out waiver forms and contact info sheets first thing. Then before even going near the skating floor, we had to get outfitted with safety gear.  The dreaded freshmeat gear. I say "dreaded" because this is the (very nicely) donated old gear from all the skaters on the team.  It's sort of stinky and ill-fitting, BUT, it does the job until you can get your own personal gear.

Some of our team's freshmeat gear.
What type of gear do you need for Derby, you ask?

Well, aside from quad skates, every skater is required to wear these items every time they are on skates:
*Elbow pads
*Knee Pads

Without these things, you are not allowed to skate and believe me, they check. They check before practice, during practice, and before and during every scrimmage and game. It took some getting used to and it still takes me about twice as long to gear up as the veteran skaters, but I'm glad to know that I HAVE to be safe when I skate.

Once we'd officially geared up, we got to go out onto the track.  First we covered why we have to wear all our safety gear then we skated a few tentative laps.  I seriously had not been on skates in I sort of felt like Bambi wobbling around out there.  I'm sure it was actually pretty hilarious to watch.

I'm the skater in the striped helmet...
relearning what it feels like to be on wheels. 

Most of that first night after gearing up was sort of a forgettable whirlwind.  We got papers that told us about the team and papers that told us what skills we'd be learning to pass our Level One test.  The only other truly vivid memory I have is learning the all important DERBY STANCE.  This is a skill that you build upon with everything else that you do in Derby.

My post-practice shaky legged derby stance.
I can hear Coach now, "Get Lower!" ;)
A good Derby stance is harder than it looks.  You basically work to squat on your skates. You want to be as low as possible. You need to keep your arms in and your core tight.  All of this helps to lower your center of gravity which helps you balance in everything that you do when you're skating.  

When you're stationary, it's easy, but once you start moving it's pretty easy to forget and start to stand up straight while you're skating.  I know that I still work to maintain a good Derby Stance when I'm skating and I strive every practice to learn to get lower. If you watch really great Derby skaters, they all stay amazingly low and it really does help in their speed, their turns, even their blocking and hitting.  It's a great skill to constantly work to improve.  

Until next time...

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