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Published on June 21st, 2012 | by DerbyLife

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Becoming Smart, Strong, and Amazing

By: Hot Mess Express

It was January 9, 2011, the first practice back from winter break for the Carolina Rollergirls. Our training director, Roxy Rockett, stood in front of the group of excited and revitalized skaters and laid out her plans and expectations for the coming year. At the conclusion of her speech, she asked us to close our eyes and repeat after her, “I am smart. I am strong. I am amazing.”

Simple enough, right? Only I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say those words and I had no idea why. I opened my eyes and looked at my teammates, sure that they were all just as confused as I was, but all I saw were smiling faces repeating Rockett’s words. At the time I brushed it off, chalking it up to the fact that I am shy and speaking in groups has always been difficult for me. But as the weeks and months went on and CRG adopted those very words as our mantra, the fact that I was unable to say them out loud became a problem. Eventually I had to face the fact that I couldn’t speak the words because I didn’t believe them- not a single one of them. I had never had an issue with confidence in my real life, so realizing that I was “that girl”- you know, the one who hangs her head and slumps her shoulders and doesn’t look you in the eye- in derby was a tough pill to swallow.

Looking back I can see how I started down this road of self-doubt. I am from the Whip It generation. I showed up at the Carolina Rollergirls practice space in November 2009 with shiny new R3s and Pro-Tec pads that I put on upside down. When the speed coach called me to the center of the track to tell me to work on my crossovers (my response “What is a crossover?”), I could neither stop beside him nor turn toward him, so he had to chase me down and hold my hands so that I didn’t roll away backwards while he spoke to me.

I was a hot mess from the very beginning and as I learned to skate the problems just compounded. I was naturally scared of everything- people skating near me, people falling, people jumping, people looking in my general direction- and now people were going to HIT me? On skates? I skated out of bounds to avoid hits, I fell out of sheer terror when a blocker was coming toward me, and my feet completely froze when the jammer star was on my head. I had signed up for something that I was totally unprepared for and every practice I attended further reminded me that I was very bad at this roller derby thing.

But I wanted it more than I have ever wanted anything else, so I went to every practice possible and skated on every semi-flat surface I could find. And I got better. I made the league and my first B-team roster and by January 2011 I had plenty to be proud of- but I couldn’t say those words.

2011 turned out to be a big year for me. Despite the fact that I silently mouthed our team chant for at least six months, I was chosen to be on our All-Star team. I was surrounded by an amazing group of captains and coaches who refused to let me wimp out of something that I was obviously meant to do. They wanted me to be a strong player, and what’s more, they wanted me to jam. I cannot count the number of times that my coach responded to my eyes pleading with her not to give me that jammer star by saying “If I didn’t believe you could do this, I wouldn’t trust you with the star.” Earlier this year in my very first All-Star game she handed me the panty and my captain DVS, a woman of few words, caught my terrified stare. She told me “You can go back behind the bench if you don’t want to do this. But I think you can do it” and I knew that she really believed I could.

I can’t say that there was one defining moment- not one practice or game when I stood up and shouted “I AM SMART, STRONG, AND AMAZING!” But in the last year and a half I have tucked away every word of confidence my teammates have given me, every smile and nod that meant that they knew I had what it took. I hang onto them because this learning to have confidence in yourself is a work in progress and I don’t know if I will ever get it right. But last weekend my team was invited to scrimmage against Windy City and my coach handed me the jammer panty. As I stood on the jammer line with legs shaking so hard I was sure my kneepads would bang together, looking at players that I recognized from watching WFTDA championships online, I heard a quiet and calm voice in my head saying “I am smart. I am strong. I am amazing.” And I’m starting to believe that she is right.

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