When you first start playing roller derby you have to learn a lot of things. One of the most important is learning how to fall.
Yes, learn how to fall. And in order to do that, sometimes you have to fall on purpose.
When you play roller derby it’s really important to learn how to fall safely to help prevent injury. How do you fall safely? Always remember to fall small (don’t stick your arms or legs out – tuck into a ball), and keep your fingers tucked in so you don’t get your fingers run over too.
The most important thing you have to learn is how to let go.
Sometimes, when people try to control how they fall they end up too tense and twist in odd ways and when they finally go down they end up getting hurt.
Falling is definitely one of the tougher things in derby to adapt to. You have to have faith that your body is going to hit people or the floor and recover without injury. And you have to have faith that although it might hurt; you’re going to be able to get up and keep going.
Sometimes you have to learn how to fall in real life, too. You have to let yourself go down knowing that you’ll be able to get back up and keep on going. Catching up to life just like you catch up to the pack.
I’d trade the heartaches of daily life for derby bruises any day. Okay, so being a ref I don’t get many derby bruises these days. I have to contend with sore feet from breaking in new skates, a knee that yells at me because skating inflames my arthritis, and an ankle that will balloon up randomly, but it never causes substantial pain? But I love this sport so some Advil and an occasional need for ice packs are worth it.
When I ref everything is easier – life is literally black and white. Sometimes the rules can be gray, but then I huddle with my team and talk about them and it all becomes clearer. There are days I wish I could live on the inside track. Life is so much easier there. Break a rule, go to the box – 1 minute later, all is forgiven. Do it 7 times and you’ll have to stop and take your skates off. Most people don’t need 7 times to learn to not to repeat the rule-breaking habit though – the smart players ask questions and figure out how to change what they did so they aren’t called again. The smart coaches figure it out during a game and redirect their players.
Sometimes in life, you aren’t that smart and it takes doing things over and over and over again before you finally get that saying about insanity. “Doing the same action repeatedly and expecting a different outcome” – or however it goes. I might not know the saying, but I sure understand what it means. It took me a long time to see things as they actually are and not how I wanted or wished them to be. Sometimes it’s good to be trusting and naïve when it comes to life; sometimes it’s not so good. Derby is helping to bring me back to the girl that won’t take any shit from anyone.
One of my brothers said to my mom not too long ago that he wondered where I had gone. See, growing up with four older brothers taught me not to accept the stereotypes assigned to girls. That we had to play with dolls (although I did, I just didn’t tell people about it) and we couldn’t swing a bat or kick a football (which I also did). But somewhere along the road I took, I lost that girl. I changed to become what I thought I was supposed to be to make everyone else happy and over time I realized I was anything but. I forgot that it was okay to have high expectations for myself and of others.
Being part of roller derby brought me back to that girl. Growing up I wanted friends and to be popular, but I did what I felt was right and what made me happy. Derby brought me back to my inner strength again. I’m not as strong on the inside as I want to be, but I’m working on it. And I’m working on my knee and ankle too. I’ve finally remembered that if I don’t push myself to be better, I won’t improve.