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Published on May 1st, 2012 | by DerbyLife

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Game Day

By Vicious VaGenda, River Valley Roller Girls, Ft. Smith, Arkansas

Didn’t sleep well last night, for the chanting of “endurance, focus, power” running through my head. I face the mirror tired, excited, and anxious. “You got this,” I tell myself over and over.

I drink my tea and start the day with a protein shake and toast, and draw strength from my inner chant. “Endurance, focus, power,” my brain repeats over and over again. The only thing that matters in this moment is “Endurance, focus, power.”

My stomach turns with nerves as I start my game day rituals: clean my pads, scrub my wheels, lube up the bearings, pack the car, double check my skate bag, don my lucky panties, pack an extra pair of socks, clean my mouth guard…all the while keeping up my steady inner dialogue “Endurance, focus, power.” I reflect on my teammates – who is in my pack? What are their strengths? Where can I support, contribute, excel? Who will I pair up with if the wall splits? I am grateful for my teammates. Knowing who is in my pack calms me some and I am able to eat a small lunch.

I’m chugging water, knowing that at the bottom of each glass is more endurance, more focus, more power.

I kiss my husband goodbye. My kids tell me “good luck” and “no superman-ing Mommy!” I agree to try to play safe, and leave. I leave behind the mommy, the professional, the thoughtful neighbor, the wife, the gardener. And take with me only the warrior.

I meet my teammates and we roll out. Out to the opposing team’s turf, out to a new city, a new floor, and new derby friends waiting to be made by intimate introductions of blood and bruising. Endurance, I remind myself. Focus. Power.

We drive, sometimes 1 hour, sometimes 7. We talk strategy, we gossip, we remind each other of our strengths, we relive past games, we eat gas station food. My stomach is in knots – Endurance, focus, power.

We arrive, bonded in a mutual desire to wipe the track with our opponents. We check in, find our locker room, smile at fans and opposing skaters alike. The camaraderie isn’t fake – in this sport you hope that you will get a chance to knock down each of these women whom you care about, and you wish them luck in their attempts to knock you down. A good hit, from you or an opposing teammate, is a good hit – to be excited about. You hope you bruise, and you claim guilt for others’ bruises. The internal chant continues “endurance, focus, power.”

We warm up, careful not to expose too many of our strengths, careful not to point out any of our weaknesses. The skates give us power and confidence. The world looks different in skates.

It’s almost time. My stomach turns through introductions and I worry that I might have to use the restroom for the 40th time today before the game starts. We line up, run a mock drill, and still I chant “endurance, focus, power.”

Later, my husband and non-derby friends will ask me if it’s worth the stress. If the game day stomach and the anxiety are worth the 60 minutes of play time, the cost of travel, the absurd cost of derby gear.

Someone lines up next to me. Unfortunately for her, she is wearing the other team’s jersey. The whistle blows, the pack starts to move. I get down low as I see her coming for me. As she gets within range, I ram my shoulder into her chest, and scoop my hips up and into her leg and send her flying – grinning as she hits the track hard. Hell yes, it’s worth it! Game on!

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