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Published on February 27th, 2012 | by DerbyLife

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Becoming A Gotham Girl: First Scrimmage

By Violet KnockOut

Have you ever been hit so hard in the chest that you literally cannot take a breath? You can breathe out but not in, and you keep expelling more and more air in the hopes that one of these times you will be able to suck some in? If you play roller derby, you probably know the feeling. It’s a legal blocking zone, and quite a delicious one for a blocker who has you lined up just for that. That was me, on the floor, yellow Bronx Gridlock jammer star on, in the middle of my first GGRD team scrimmage.

No, I’m not on a team yet, and won’t be officially drafted for a few weeks, so when Gotham had their first home team scrimmage of the season, all the meat were placed at random to fill in the four teams. I was put on Bronx Gridlock. I remember during my first season in 2009, watching Kandy Kakes skate for Gotham A team and becoming mesmerized by her aggressive and consistent skating style. She became one of my favorites to watch and one of my first derby influences, and now I get to form walls with her. So. Damn. Awesome. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I was standing there in a pre-scrimmage huddle listening to a pep talk from Co-Captain Rushin’ Revolution. I got the feeling that even though this was the first team scrimmage of the year, these girls have lots of pride for the gridlock, and there’s an air of competition already. I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Now, I know better than to take the outside as a jammer coming up on turn three, especially when there’s a fierce wall of Manhattan Mayhem blockers in front of me. But I’m the only jammer on the track, and I must get through. I see this small space open on the outside line, giving me about a foot and a half to sneak through. My plan is skate at full speed, turn sideways, possibly a full 180 if need be, while doing a bit of counter blocking to clear the outside and juke my way out of the pack. This plan was formulated in about three seconds, as decisions often are mid-jam, and this one wasn’t my best. As I turn my body left, chest exposed to the inside of the track, I see Anne Frankenstein slide about two feet across the track and drive her shoulder up into my sternum. I go flying. My skates leave the floor. I land on my side, hard, and roll on my back and moan for a couple seconds, then realizing I can’t breathe, I immediately roll on all fours and try to focus on inhaling. I can’t. I panic a little, the way most do when they get the wind knocked out of them. Breathe, dammit. The room is quiet, I’m still the only active jammer and everything has come to a halt because I’m off the track and still moving and seeming as though I’m trying to get up. I will not make them call the jam. I will get up. Breathe. Finally, I get a small wheezy breath in, then another one, and another. I take about five of these and pull my feet out from under me and stand up. Everyone starts clapping and cheering. I skate backwards to go in behind Frankie, who has been waiting patiently on the outside line right where she hit me out. I take a couple toe stop runs onto the track, and with the help of my team, slip through on the outside (the outside, really, Violet? ) and break through the pack for five points.

I’m not sure what happened after that. I was pretty dizzy and my face and fingertips were numb from lack of oxygen for a couple jams after. But I went back in when I was told. Hell, I even jammed again. And that’s what I’m going to continue to do when I feel knocked down by some things in this new league. Like during endurance drills when my legs feel like they’re going to give out and I can feel my lower back rounding. Like when we’re doing a footwork drill that requires us to run sideways without rolling forward and I know that I’m not digging my edges in enough, but I can’t seem to push harder. I remind myself that this is supposed to be hard, and this is what I wanted. I tell myself how strong I know I am physically and mentally and that I belong here with this group of athletes. To focus on what they want from me, and perform to the best of my ability. To believe in myself as much as I do this sport.

These past couple weeks, I’ve been practicing with the rest of the league, and there is such a feeling of competition and hustle that it’s hard to not push yourself. I look at these women around me and every single one of them busts her ass throughout all these practices. I see some who have injuries that have taken them off skates, and they come to practice and work out in the corner with modifications. After practice is over, girls are lifting weights and doing squats off skates. I felt so good scrimmaging with the Bronx Gridlock, they encouraged and welcomed me with open arms, I’d be honored to be wearing yellow this season.

So which team will it be? Bronx Gridlock? Brooklyn Bombshells? Manhattan Mayhem? Queens of Pain? No clue. But I’m quickly falling in love with this league, and I can’t wait to wear one of these team colors with pride.

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