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Published on May 30th, 2012 | by Hot Quad

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The Pursuit of Derbyness: Draft

The time had come. I was sitting in a nervous huddle at the gaudy yellow tables and benches atop the unwashed bright blue starry carpet in the corner of the Everett Skate Deck with 10 women that I’ve come to know and respect over the past several months of Jet City’s new skater training program. We were waiting to be told who had made teams and who would remain in training. You could have cut the tension with a knife. Finally, one of the league skaters solemnly walked over and affixed a large piece of paper to the wall indicating skaters and the teams that had chosen them. I searched frantically for my name. It was there! I was going to be a…

The dream world dissolved around me. I looked at my phone: May 14th. Three days until draft and I couldn’t even get away from it in my sleep. When the draft had been months away it had been easy to believe that I would have a certain shot at one of the teams, but as the date drew steadily closer, doubts began to raise their ugly head. I may have been dreaming of glory, but most of my waking moments were spent reliving the mistakes I’d made in recent scrimmages. Why did I take the cut instead of going behind that opposing blocker when I easily had the opportunity to do so? Why did I let the jammer by on the outside time and again? How could I be so easily distracted from my wall?

It was at about that time I got a text from a friend of mine, asking how I felt. When I told her this was her response:

Remember what someone very wise & AWESOME once told me. FWD: Oh! And don’t think about the things you did wrong. Remember what you did right. It’s easier to replicate something you already do well and focusing too much on the things you missed virtually guarantees you will make the same mistakes again.

It was advice I had given her after our very first scrimmage in January. Good advice. So then I started to think about how far I had come since then. After all, in spite of my best efforts, the true accomplishment of those first scrimmages was that I managed not to cry. Everything else was incidental. That I could even acknowledge these other difficulties now was an indication of how much I had grown.

Time continued its inevitable forward progression and the 17th arrived. There was nothing left to do but wait. I had skated my laps, played my scrimmages, given my interviews, worked my way through injury and generally given everything I had. Somewhere scrawled on a piece of paper was a frank assessment of my abilities as they currently stood and there was no changing it now.

Which brought me back to the Everett Skate Deck – in real life this time – nervously huddled with my 10 fresh meat teammates on those horrible yellow tables, waiting in an out of the way corner of the rink while general announcements were made to the rest of the league on the floor. The team captains lined up to face us and after a brief pause they began to call names. Time stopped. My emotions froze. When they called my name I hardly recognized the word, “Slater.”

I was CarnEvil! I was to join that glittery purple group of carnies, our only evil team. A flurry of hugs was followed by the announcement to the league as we walked out to greet them as teammates for the very first time. In the midst of another round of hugs one of my new teammates whispered into my ear with emotion I could not doubt, “I’m so glad that we got you.” There is no better compliment. Wasting no time, my new captain handed me a purple tiara and asked whether I could go to Canada next month. Without bothering to ask when, where or why I told her yes, absolutely.

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In the relative calm that followed I took some time to look around and reflect. It was 353 days since I walked into Fast Girl, head in my sneakers, and quietly asked whether I could try on some skates. When the owner asked whether I was going to play derby I told her “no” in a fit of intimidation. Probably not. But could I try on some knee pads anyway? It seems like a lifetime ago that I was desperate to conquer the ever-so-difficult T-stop and was taught to do so by a seemingly random roller girl I met while practicing in a parking lot. (http://dev.derbylife.com/articles/2011/08/pursuit_derbyness_fresh_meat_new_skates_check_what_next) She now stood to my right, a leaguemate. To my left was the very first person who ever welcomed me to Jet City; an A team player who now wore purple, same as me.

There was a time when I believed that this day would feel like crossing some sort of a finish line but it actually feels more like the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. It brings to mind the day my fresh meat coach looked me in the face and said, “You have a long career ahead of you.” I know it’s true and that someday, I’ll look back fondly on the days before I knew what the hell I was doing, but I’m hardly out of the woods yet. This so-called “pursuit of derbyness” is far from over.

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