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Published on October 14th, 2012 | by DerbyLife


Pushing Past Your Inner Critic

By Jasmine Banks Brown

There are some lessons in life that you have to learn in the moment. They aren’t things that people can tell you and then suddenly you recognize the value in the lesson. You have to bleed, cry, fall, break up, or be embarrassed and you experience the “aha” moment.

I had a moment like this last night.

A few weeks ago I went to a NWA Roller Derby bout. I watched as Jett and JoAnn kicked ass. They bent low and fixed their focus. They shuffled through fully geared skaters with a kind of precision that was almost poetic. The crowd behind me and the people who invited me became invisible as I zeroed in and studied every movement of each woman. Mouth guards. Strong legs. Power. Determination. I was stunned when Cosmic hit the floor and then bounced back up like she hadn’t even been touched. There have been very few moments in my life where I watched something and had an intense compelling feeling to be a part of it. When that feeling comes to you, you know if you don’t pursue it, you’ll always wonder “what if.” SO I went to the Sunday derby boot camp. I wanted to be a part of what those women have.

Fresh Meat

I walked into the Fayetteville Starlight Skatium and introduced myself to the stocky woman with a smile as she responded. “I’m Wop!” She grinned, “We call you fresh meat.” I tied on my skates, hit the floor, and surprised myself with my ability to skate. Jam skate sessions from junior high/high school years began to resurface and remind my body how to move in these awkward quad skates. Karma introduced herself to me and I felt encouraged that both Wop and Karma commented on my (limited) skills.

Wednesday Mixed Practice

My skates arrived last night and I was super eager to lace them up. I began practice excited and feeling centered. I was totally unprepared to experience one of the harder lessons of my life. You see, I have a gift for being naturally talented at a lot of things. My competitive and perfectionist nature means that I watch intensely, I study the experts, and then I figure out a way to replicate the formula for myself. I like to be instantly good at most things I do.This is not the way derby works. I found myself struggling through a drill.

We formed a line.


Jumped up.

Weaved in between our teammates.

Then lead the line as we all skated uniformly around the track.

My lower back muscles are still being conditioned to be in a squat for so long and my muscles screamed. My skates were killing my feet. My toes tingled and my legs wobbled, still trying to acclimate to this new form of working out. My mind raced and that little voice we all have inside our heads took a shot of tequila and started talking shit: “You can’t do this. You can’t… you keep falling behind. You aren’t as good as her or her or her.”

I couldn’t make it through the line. I pulled away from the drill and hunched over on all fours. I breathed in. No. I GASPED in. I pushed my head into my helmet and pushed my helmet into the floor. I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I felt like a failure. Ego—->meet reality. I cried. Disheartened and feeling sorry for myself I could feel myself shrinking back from the rest of the practice embarrassed at my lack of ability.

I wonder what they think of me. I wonder did they know I tried hard enough. I. I. I. I.

Here is the hardest lesson I learned last night:

Most things worth doing aren’t going to be perfected in a night, or even four nights. The work I saw those amazing women doing during that bout was the product of intense dedication to getting the fuck back up and trying again. The biggest battle to be waged, in derby or in life, is the battle that you have with yourself. It is the war with “the voice” that places a mirror in front of you and points out all the ways you can’t, shouldn’t, or won’t. I am in a competition with myself and no one else. Rusty grabbed my shoulder and with a deep sense of “I have been there,” she half smiled and said, “this is about what is going on in your head.”

And it is.

Your body will skate that 25 in 5 if your mind lets it. You will be that Jammer, regardless of size, if your mind lets you.

You will fail over and over and over again… and what matters most is that you take responsibility, stay dedicated, rally yourself, and try again.

This, I think, is what sets the best athletes apart: The successful ones are the ones who push through, don’t apologize, and keep going. I am going to be one of those. So I am strapping on my skates tonight to break those bitches in and I am ready to do that drill AGAIN, and AGAIN, and AGAIN if I have to, until I get through it.

Even though I might cry…

There might be crying allowed in Roller Derby… but be assured that giving up is not allowed.

For more writing by Jasmine, visit

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