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Published on January 25th, 2012 | by DerbyLife


Becoming A Gotham Girl: The Tryout

By Violet KnockOut

It’s one thing to go into Gotham tryouts with your given name, new to derby, starry eyed with low expectations. It’s quite another to go in there with three years under your belt, having just left your beloved league with mixed emotions with the realization that if you don’t do well, you will not play derby this year. That was me, Violet KnockOut #4, formerly of the Long Island Roller Rebels, now Gotham Girls Fresh Meat class of 2012.

I separated from my league in the best way I thought possible. I went to the majority of my league individually and told them I was trying out for Gotham. I lived in Queens, then Brooklyn for the past three years all while commuting to Long Island for practices and bouts with no car and a limited budget. I was barely making practice minimums and killing myself getting home at 2 am to be up at 6 am on weekdays. They all knew this and most of them understood and gave me nothing but kind words of encouragement,(“I can’t wait to come see you bout!”) which made me breathe a little deeper.

So, now I actually had to make it. Um, shit. I guess worrying about telling my old league had consumed me so much I hadn’t really thought about the skating part. My only option of staying on skates until tryouts was practicing with the New York Shock Exchange men’s derby team every Sunday. They were gracious enough to let me practice alongside them as they geared up for their MRDA championship tournament in October. Skating with guys isn’t a whole lot different than skating with girls, especially since I’m pretty much the same size as most of them, if not bigger. That being said, they are strong, smart, and athletic and would knock me on my ass at any opportunity if I let them. And they did. A lot. I couldn’t think of a better way to train for Gotham tryouts then to train with these guys. I’ve always played better with guys, anyway.

The first day of tryouts came. It was over super quick and my head was spinning. I got my callback email later that night. Callbacks the next day were intense and although I felt confident, I was really nervous. The interview portion came first and I was asked questions like,”We’ve seen you skate, why do you get so many penalties? Why do you talk back to refs? Why do you get ejected so much?” Sigh. Even though I kind of knew this was coming, I wasn’t sure I would be able to explain myself. My first thought was, “They really don’t like my attitude on the track and I may not make this league because of it. Does all of GGRD coaching think this?” I honestly didn’t think anyone knew who I was, much less would remember my skating behavior. Feeling embarassed and thrown off guard, I took a deep breath and started to explain how that is not the kind of skater I want to be. How incredibly confusing and embarrassing those penalties and expulsions have been and how I know that I’m better than that. A couple more deep breaths. The bottom line is, I believe that Gotham can mold me into being the best skater that I’m capable of becoming. My interviewer told me that she’s pulling for me, with a smile. The callback email for the last round of training came later that night and I knew I would have three weeks ahead of me before the last cut to show them that I belong there.

I have my first “oh shit” moment the first day of training. Some of these girls are good. Actually, most of these girls are damn good and while I’m confident I can knock most of them down, I’ll have to catch them first. I make a living being a personal trainer and I pride myself at being able to muscle through pretty much anything physical while relying on my natural athleticism. I’m not technical. Ask me what bearings I skate on. No idea, someone gave them to me. Wheels? Green.

I looked around and saw these girls destroying me in footwork drills. Girls that have speed skating, figure skating, and hockey backgrounds, who can skate backwards and leap laterally across the track on one foot while still looking graceful. I just learned backwards crossovers and 360s a few months ago, and they’re nowhere near mastered. I’m really not as good as I thought I was. I kept waiting for the hitting drills, and when they came, I was still screwed because all they focused on was controlled hitting, hitting a specific way that I wasn’t used to. What do you mean I can’t just smash through people? My critiques were, “Violet, stop hitting,” Come on! The one thing I thought I did well I quickly realized I was going to have to learn all over again.

I felt like all of us were having “oh shit” moments throughout those three weeks. We all talked about it over beers. We talked about our derby experience thus far and what leagues we came from, as most of us were transfers. We even started admitting to each other how starstruck we all felt (and um, still kinda feel) being trained by Bonnie Thunders and Suzy Hotrod as well as seasoned GGRD coaches like Raggedy Animal and Ginger Snap, who I deeply respect and look up to. I have to admit, it’s a derby dream come true, and that’s been my standard answer to anyone who asks me how training is going. We’d ask each other, “How many girls do you think would kill to be in our places right now?” I know we’re not supposed to say stuff like that and if I heard someone say it, I’d be annoyed. But, I can’t help being so damn excited to be a part of the best roller derby league in the world. I’m starting to think that this was the best decision I could’ve made for myself, and it just keeps getting better.

So, getting that final congratulations phone call telling me I was officially in the GGRD Fresh Meat class of 2012 was pure, unadulterated joy. Like, almost breaking my phone because I was spazzing out, jumping around, half-screaming, half-crying joy. Like, interrupting my boyfriend multiple times mid-sentence to inform him that I am now a Gotham Girl kinda joy. I get to keep my gear at the GGRD practice space and I get my own cubby hole with my name on it! I get to invite my co-workers and clients who don’t leave Manhattan to finally see me skate! I get to have Suzy Hotrod as my “bruise director” aka vet derby big sister. Woah. Who wouldn’t be excited?

So what’s next for me on my re-born fresh meat journey? What happens when I start practicing with the rest of GGRD? What home team will I be drafted onto? Will I be able to shake and smooth this rocky reputation that I’ve crafted over the past three years? And, most importantly, will this new league ever feel like home? Stay tuned…

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