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Published on August 29th, 2011 | by Hot Quad

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The Pursuit of Derbyness: Fresh Meat: New Skates? Check. What Next?

After about six weeks of skating once or twice a week my friends and I decided we were ready for some sort of instruction. After all, I had all my gear, I no longer felt like I was going to fall on my ass every time I stood up, and I could do crossovers while skating counter-clockwise. I wasn’t exactly sure what was supposed to happen next.

Fortunately Seattle is a town full of derby resources. Our first stop was One World Roller Derby. I had heard a little about One World and the general conclusion around town was that it wasn’t for serious derby girls. “Rec League,” they said “not our speed.” I went anyway because nothing else was happening on Monday night and my friend Riley said she would come with me.

One World is run by Hot Flash, a former Rat City player and true veteran of the game. She has become a sort of personal hero for me. When I’m in my 50’s I hope to god I’m starting my own derby league, cruising around Seattle on a motorcycle wearing leather chaps, sporting awesome tattoos and a cool quarter inch of gray hair for ease of helmet use. Her derby philosophy is simple: Roller Derby is fun. It should be accessible to anyone who wants to do it whether they’re 10 or 60, man or woman, flat or banked track. If you don’t skate well before you start to play you will get hurt. If you need a drink during practice go get one. If you need a break, sit your ass down.

You might then form the opinion that the practices are somewhat more laid back than they otherwise would be. Wrong. It’s a two hour no-group-breaks marathon in a poorly ventilated sweaty gym. I like the practices because after a skill is taught we have time on our own to practice them, not once or ten times but as long as it takes to get it. There’s a lot of instruction but somehow also very little time spent standing around while receiving it. Hot Flash envisions a rec league where practices are only required the month before a bout, there is no committee requirement and teams compete on three or four levels according to skill. I hope this comes to pass. People who can’t commit an inordinate amount of time should be able to play derby too.

I, however, can commit an inordinate amount of time to derby, so the decision was made to add PFM to the schedule. Potential Fresh Meat is a practice squad that skates in the same warehouse as Rat City (no affiliation). To attend a PFM practice one must first pass their new skater orientation. Two weeks ago I walked into that practice fairly confident that after several weeks of skating 5 nights a week I would be able to do whatever it was that they wanted us to do.

You can imagine my surprise then, when the end of practice came and they called the names of my two friends, but not me. I then experienced a fairly predictable range of emotions:
“Fine. I’ll be fine.”
“What do you mean I need to work on balance and T-stops? My balance is pretty good.”
“If I had only known that that’s what I was supposed to be able to do I would have been working on it all along.”
“…Fuck.”
“OK. You want to see better T-stops, I’ll come back next week and give you the most beautiful fucking T-stops you’ve ever seen. I’ll make you eat my T-stops.”

Which brings us to the next ideal practice location: the parking lot. About two hours after said PFM practice I found myself at a reasonably flat and smooth parking lot tightening up my outdoor wheels and inexplicably watching yet another derby girl do drills with what appeared to be her husband, or at least some very committed man friend. They were wonderful and immediately invited me to join them. After about five minutes of trying and mostly failing to do their drills I headed off on my own to work on basics. Advice was offered and taken. Improvements were seen. One week later the folks at PFM kept commenting on how great my T-stops were.

Damn straight.

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