Thursday, April 17, 2014

Back to where it all began.

Years down the road I will probably look back on last weekend and see it as one of the defining moments in roller derby for me. Ever since I had flunked the last assessment for derby the previous month I was heading down a path I never should have taken. I was so frustrated and disappointed with myself that it built up to the point that the anger started spilling out. I have no doubt I was such a gobshite to be around. I deeply regretted some of my behaviour and knew I needed to change my behaviour quick smart. Once I took a breath and looked at the situation rationally I realised that the longer I continued with derby the more consumed I became with the notion of wanting to finally bout after all these years that I forgot why I joined derby along the way.

I went into training trying to drop some of the intense pressure I put on myself to get to bouting level. I wanted to still work hard and improve but I wanted to enjoy training again too. I pushed myself and worked up a sweat and was happy with how it went. By the end of it Betty as head of the training committee gave me feedback on my assessment on what I passed and didn't pass. It was good to know what I didn't pass, to be honest it was things I suspected I was weak on. I found all the feedback that Betty gave me really helpful and talking with her about the assessment finally allowed me to move on from it and start focussing on the next one especially now that the assessment has been changed.

Roll onto Saturday and it was back to where I really first fell in love with derby - watching a Newy bout. My sister and I made the trek up to Newcastle to watch the Scott Pilgrim themed double header. Both Newy rep teams were in action against pot luck teams made of skaters from around the state. I was wearing Jilla's jacket which I won at the auction last year and I was proud as punch to be wearing it because for me it was the derby equivalent of wearing a Liverpool jersey when I'm watching Liverpool player. If only derby did something like that, I know which player names I'd be getting on the back of the team shirts :)

The opening bout saw the Star Riots and the Sex Bob-ombs take each other on. I was cheering madly for the Star Riots but the Bob-ombs were just way too strong for them across the track, especially Phar Slap who played an amazing bout. The highlight for me was seeing Glitter knock down poor Hazy Demon three times in the one jam with some ridiculously big hits but to Hazy's credit she kept coming back up. The scoreline might have blowed out in the second half but I still loved watching it. It was interesting to see how the new rules affects the gameplay and how teams try to adapt to the changes.

Watching the skaters warm up on the track before the main bout I was once again blown away by Dangerass. I would pay good money just to watch her skate in a non derby environment. I was simply mesmerised by the moves and skills she was pulling off effortlessly. That coupled with her blocking, she is simply a joy to watch on the track.

The battle I was looking forward to the most was between Jilla and Vishious Ness. Two almighty blockers going toe to toe. I kid you not you could feel the vibrations whenever they collided. They both gave as good as they got. I must have swallowed a few flies because my jaw had permanently dropped watching them two in action. It'll go down as some of my all time favourite scenes in derby to date.

It's funny in more recent times I managed to get over my star struck phase with Jill and got to know her well enough off the derby track that I ended up becoming friend's with her. Believe it or not I can actually have a normal conversation with her haha. It's a different story when she has her skates on, I still fangirl as much as I did the first time I ever saw her bout :) She still continues to amaze me with her performances. I have no doubt she'd school me if I ever got to fulfil my dream of bouting against her but how awesome would it be to come up against someone of her ability? I have run out of superlatives to say about her but she did put in another AMAZING performance on Saturday.

The second bout was a lot closer. The evil exes had a handy lead but on no less than 3 occassions Babycakes dragged the Dames back into the contest with some high scoring jams. The Dames eventually took the lead towards the end of the second half and from there they never looked back. Reliving every hit and block on the sidelines and going bat shit crazy on the sidelines cheering on the Dames that I ended up sounding like a tranny by the end of the bout. For me it was another perfect example of why I fell in love with this sport and this particular team in the first place. Overall it was another amazing night. Of course it wouldn't be an NRDL event if I didn't have Tantrum invade my personal space like she always does :)

Just before the Dames bout started I discovered that my league was having a home bout in May so given the fact I'm at the level that I can bout at intraleague level it quite simply meant that I was eligible to bout in this bout. Yes, you read that correctly I AM GOING TO HAVE MY FIRST BOUT. I couldn't get to CAss quick enough to tell her at half time! After nearly 3 1/2 years I couldn't believe it either, I still can't. I feel a mixture of nerves, excitement and disbelief about it all. There is that nagging little thought in my head 'Am I really ready to start bouting?'. I hope I am! I know I will throw everything I have into preparing for the bout. I thought I would have more to say about this news but the truth is I don't know what to think! Maybe as the day gets closer it will get to the point that I won't shut up about it haha. You have been warned!

Literally the cherry on top to this massive derby weekend was catching up with Cherry at Skatel on the Sunday morning just like old times when I was learning to skate before I joined up with HARD. The week before she announced her retirement from derby. I was happy for her because she was doing the right thing for her but I was sad for selfish reasons because it meant I would never get the chance to bout with her. We missed it by one freaking month!!!! At her last bout she gave me the dog tags she won for blocker of the year at our awards night in 2012. That and the reason why she gave them to me made me tear up.

What started as me fangirling whenever I was near her on skates turned into a teacher/student relationship and finally friendship both on and off the track. Here we were back again where we first met up and while we weren't just skating she took the time to give me one on one training just like she always did. When we were working on my crossover form she would record me doing it and then we'd analyse it and she'd show me some things to try to try and fix my form and it was really working. Even when we were working on the blocking stuff it was such a massive help and I really got a lot out of it. I was grinning like a fecking idiot the whole time :D

If this weekend taught me anything it's that sometimes you need to go back to where it all began to be reminded why you started something in the first place because it's easy to get lost along the way like in my case. It really was a great weekend, hopefully it continues!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Oh well, oh well...

What a difference a weekend makes. Last weekend it was assessment time  which meant I had to pass one final assessment before I could try out for our travel team. This assessment had a couple of first's for me. It was the first time I was attempting this level of assessment. It was also the first time I was going into an assessment not worried about the outcome. I planned to give it my all but ever since my grandmother's death I had been in a state of numbness so I hadn't felt anything in almost a month.

There was 13 people getting tested over the weekend for various levels so the place was buzzing. Those of us going for the Lieutenant exam had the 20 minute endurance up first. I had never gotten the minimum laps so I needed to do it for the first time that night to have any chance of passing. I tried getting into a bit of a rhythm. Eventually the inevitable 'ohh crap my body is protesting' started happening and I noticed I was slowing down but I made the effort to keep my feet moving and not coast. It eventually ended and I felt completely knackered and after a quick break it was onto the next component...

Push up's, sit up's and planks were next on the list. With a bit of effort I got through the push up's and sit up's but I ended up flunking the planks. I got told to lower my arse a couple of times and on the second time my foot slipped and down I went barely over the half way mark. I knew my assessment was over. Oh well come back and try again in May.

I walked into training on Sunday knowing I had flunked but I still had to do the scrimmage part of the assessment which I still planned on giving it my best shot. Betty came up to me and said that I could re-do anything I flunked on Friday which meant the planking. Out of curiosity I asked how I went with the endurance. To my surprise I passed by three laps (first time ever I achieved that) but I flunked by having shitty form so I had the option of re-doing the endurance too. I got geared up and went straight to where the planks were being done. With some last second tips from Punkie I passed the planking with ease compared to Friday night's attempt. I got feedback on what was expected of me in regards to form for the endurance and lined up on the track with Sam and Te'res. I *think* my form was better the second time around and I completed it but I had no idea if the laps or form were enough for a pass.

Before scrimmage started we resumed normal training with some last bits of assessment for those doing their Sergeant's assessment. We did the 10 minute switcheroo drill we learnt from Canberra which is always fun. The one thing I won't forget is turning around to see where the opposition jammer was and getting nailed by Butters on my right side resulting in a good stack haha.

With scrimmage I felt more at ease in the previous weeks I think because I didn't have in the back of my head 'ok I have to demonstrate this, this and this etc' to the assessors. I moved around a bit more on the track this time instead of staying glued to the inside line which was fun. I did however get called for three majors (elbows, track cut (while jamming) and failure to reform) which was the most amount of penalties I ever picked up in one scrimmage tsk tsk. It was hard to gauge how I went. I thought there was a couple of things I did alright but not so on other things. I gave the assessment my best shot it was up to the assessors to determine if it was enough.

I didn't have to wait too long to find out. I got my results back today - I flunked. I'll get told when I go to training next on what I flunked. My money is on the endurance and scrimmage. It's strange I haven't felt any sort of emotion for almost a month but once it sunk in that I flunked I felt gutted. Yep the first thing I feel in a long time ended up being the feeling of failure. I guess although it didn't feel like it last weekend deep down I really wanted to pass.

This is a genuine question and not a sook - why am I so shit at derby? I try my heart out but it's still not good enough. All jokes aside I seriously think I am in contention for the Guiness record for taking the longest to get to bouting level. It's three years since I started derby and I haven't been good enough to bout yet. I can't hide behind all the injuries I picked up because I still had a decent amount of time on skates between all the injuries. I'm befuddled.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

To pass or not to pass

This week is the week for assessments. Pass and I'll be having my first bout in a matter of the weeks in the opening round of the 5x5 tournament. Flunk and I wait until May for my next chance to take the assessment. This past week I had all these thoughts swirling in my head. What if I pass my assessment, will I be ready to bout? What if I let my team mates down on the track and they had to carry me so they're effectively playing one player short for the jams? I was driving myself crazy over something that won't even happen if I don't pass the assessment. After finally looking at it rationally I decided that just like the Sergeant level assessment I passed last year I'm not going into this assessment stressed and heaping pressure on myself to pass. If I deserve to pass I will pass. I will give it my all and see what happens.

In preperation for the assessments last weeks training sessions were both tailored for the assessment for both the Sergeant and Lieutenant levels. Friday night felt a little surreal for me. While we were going through the Lieutenant assessment components on one track we had our latest group of freshies have their first training session on the other track. It took me back to the first year and a half of derby where I struggled to get past the freshie level from injuries and lack of confidence. It was a nice reminder to myself to see how far I've come even though at times it might not feel like it.

The 20 minutes endurance. I personally love it. The longer it goes, the more your body and mind protest. It's that internal battle of quitting or keep pushing on that I love. I love giving the quitting thoughts a two finger salute and pushing on to the end. I've never achieved the minimum laps required for a pass for the 20 min endurance and it didn't happen on Friday BUT I did record my best ever result and I only pulled up two laps short for a pass. If I fix my technique especially when I start to get tired I think I can pull it off on Friday. I flunked the planks too so it's back to practising every night in the lead up to this Friday to try and improve my time and reach the time required to pass.

Sunday was bit of a rehash from Friday night. It was good to get one last practise session before the assessment. There was one drill where there was a wall of two blockers and they had to leave just enough of a gap for a jammer to step through. When it came my turn to do the jammer role I was as graceful as an elephant. I am anything but dainty with my steps. Power to those jammers who manage to glide through the smallest of gaps like ninja's. Although I sucked at that drill it was cool to experience something I'm not used to doing.

I'm really loving these dedicated scrimmage teams because we're quickly discovering our team mates traits and little things to look out for like assists which in turn will help when it comes to forming tactics against the opposing team. I felt a little more involved in this scrimmage compared to the previous one. I claimed the inside line again and from there I was able to give some of my jammers an assist by opening up the inside line to allow them to get through while holding off the opposing blockers from getting to them. I'm quite liking coming up the side of the blockers and charging them to create the gap for my jammer. My favourite one for the night was holding off Cherry for as long as possible from getting to Sia'Nide and annihilating her. Even though I eventually lost Cherry it was enough for Sia'Nide to get around her and continue on her point scoring ways. I know the guys on the white scrimmage team are going to figure out how I play and it won't be long before they try and nullify me but I'm looking forward to it because it'll force me to improve my play and play smarter.

With a few of us getting assessed this week we were also getting some feedback to help us for our assessment. I got told that when I block someone I need to continue blocking them because I tend to stop. I didn't disagree with that. Despite the size of me I'm not a big blocker I tend to positional block mostly. I don't know why it is but I'm not someone like Butters, Cherry or Jill who will annihilate skaters with huge blocks. Maybe there's a big blocker in me somewhere but I am yet to find it. Taking on the advice I got given about carrying on with my blocks, in the next jam I was in I saw Toad find a gap through our wall so I tracked him through the pack and sent him flying by hitting him on my weaker side. Maybe there's hope for me yet :)

My favourite play for the night had to be when we kept the opposing jammer on her initial pass. Our wall just kept repelling her. We wall stayed strong and there was no weak spots for her to exploit. Those are the sort of plays I love watching from the sidelines, it may not be a high scoring play but it's amazing to watch as you see the jammer get more and more frustrated because they can't get through.

Although I am back on skates I'm still not '100%'. I might have stopped crying two days after my grandmother died but ever since then I've felt numb and empty. With derby I've noticed that I've found it difficult at times to get my head into training. Last Sunday was a perfect example with the first drill of the night. I just stood there. Cherry must have realised something was up because she got me to join her on the other track and skate laps while she finished her warm up. I don't know it feels like my brain slows down and it takes me that big longer to make a decision especially if I'm doing a drill or during scrimmage and it probably shows. I don't know how long this is going to last but one thing I do know is that if I don't pass my assessment this week I won't be using this as an excuse.

If the last few weeks have taught me anything it's that there's more to derby than just the sport. While I had no shortage of offers from family and friend's for a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to I pretty much passed up on every single offer because I'm not the type of person to lean on someone for support. There ended up being a few times where I even surprised myself and took people up on their offer at various times these last few weeks. Although I could never thank them enough I'll never forget Cass, Cherry, Jill and Karen being there for me while I went to pieces. There might be some dickheads in our sport but having people like these four in our sport easily outnumber the fuckwits.

Ending on a happier note my other league are having a fundraiser to try and get a permanent venue since they lost their venue last year because it was being transformed into a trampoline venue. Depending on the amount you donate there's different rewards you can get. I'm doing the one where you get to be trained by an NRDL skater of your choice for you and up to 3 other friend's. I know you're all going to be shocked but I picked Jill haha. Naturally I picked Cass to join in and I'm going to see if any of my team mates want to join in and find out why I've been begging both leagues for so long to have Jill come down and train us :) All the details are here if anyone is interested.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When you fall the only way back is up.

It has been a little while between posts. A couple of weeks ago my grandmother lost her third and final battle with cancer. Despite her poor health it came out of the blue. She was well enough that she was two days away from being discharged from hospital when she suddenly developed internal bleeding and from there she never recovered. In those last four days it broke my heart seeing her struggle to breathe and unable to talk from all the medication. The one thing I’ll never forget though is still seeing her fight to live right up until the final time we saw her alive. That’s the biggest lesson I can take out of this huge loss. Hopefully I can show some of that fighting spirit in derby and life in general too. 

It was back to derby training last week. My league is in the 5x5 tournament again this year so the training is tailored towards preparing the kazi's for their first bout on the 29th March. It was good getting back into the swing of things again. We had a new team mate join us Myna Bingle transfered from WSR and it didn't take long to get stuck into training. She's certainly a welcome addition and I'm looking forward to training with her more in the future. 

One thing that stood out for me was my lack of speed especially when we were doing pack work. I'd slowly drift to the back and then struggle to catch up when the pack sped up. It's something I'm going to need to work on. Continuing on with my hopes of finally making this my bouting year I made the decision that this year I really needed to step outside my comfort zone so whenever we have to pair up with someone I'll pick one of the more harder team mates to come up against for that particular drill like lining up with Foggy for the fast feet shuffle which left me feeling knackered but extremely challenged by the end of it!

At the end of training on Friday night I found out the next assessments are on the 7th and 9th March which means NEXT WEEK! I need to pass one final assessment before I can try and fight for a place on the kazi's. I don't know if I'll pass this time but the worst that'll happen is that I attempt the assessment and flunk. It'll just mean that I have to keep working hard and try again in May. It's also hit me that if I pass this assessment I may just be bouting next month in 5x5 and then it all felt so sudden. That's probably the last thing anyone would expect me to say after getting up to three years and still not bouting. With the chance to bout maybe not that far away it's made me question myself whether I really am up for it physically and mentally to start bouting. The one thing that sticks in my head is what Glitter once told me 'bouting is just scrimmaging with people watching'. When you put it that way that's a pretty accurate definition, that and you're bouting against people you don't train with so there's the element of surprise too. Even though I'm not bouting yet it's a good thing to remember.

One of the things I loved about training on Sunday was training with Toad. I'm loving the fact that we get to train with a guy because they play the game differently in some ways. The beauty with Toad is that he gives as good as he gets so I'm absolutely loving the physical aspect of it because I fully expect to be hit as hard as he does. One thing most of my team mates have said once they started bouting interleague was being shocked by how hard they were being hit by opposing teams. It was a lot harder than what they were used to at training so it's something I have kept in mind to try and prepare myself as much as I could so it wouldn't be as much of a shock to the system when I do eventually start bouting. Besides coming up against the likes of Toad and some of the harder hitters in our league I've also started doing boxing with my brother in law by getting my body used to copping impact.

The training committee announced they had formed two set scrimmage teams. We'll be in the same teams each week so that it'll hopefully allow partnerships to form and give the training committee a chance to see how works well with who or not. The aim is for it to hopefully to lead into home teams for proper bouts in the second half of the year EXCITEMENT! I'm relishing the challenge of being in the opposite team to the likes of Cherry, Lola and Posh. That's going to a massive challenge for us to stop to those three on a weekly basis. I can't wait :D

During scrimmage on Sunday I discovered my best position on the track - covering the inside line. Bugger all agility - check, not that easy to be forced off the track - check. I found that this position plays to my strengths. I can postional block and hold my ground while protecting that inside line to stop any opposing skaters from getting past. It may not sound glamorous but if doing that role means that my team mates can trust me enough to do it so that it free's them up to do their jobs on the track then I know I've done my job. It gives me a foundation to build on and help improve my skills so that I can hopefully become more versatile on the track and be of more use for my team in the future.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

And we're back! (now with added bursitis)

The feeling was building up all day from the moment I woke up and only intensified as I left the house to go to the first derby training session for the year. However terribly cliqued it may sound I was genuinely excited to be going back to derby this year. The first year I was shitting myself, the second year I was a little jaded due to injuries and setbacks. The interesting thing is between my previous post and this one things went horribly wrong for me that my preseason plans were derailed and things still aren't 100% but despite it all the experience has given me a new attitude to take into this derby year.

The first sign of trouble was over a month ago. The further along my preseason went the more I exercised. At the same time I was getting a sharp pain in my right hip with any sort of movement. The pain was getting worse so I hit up my physio and she identified it as bursitis. I was suddenly restricted to just pool work, weights and rest which sucked because I was starting to some positive results with my fitness. The physio part not only physically hurts but I also have to expose more of my arse than I care to because she needs to work on all the tendons connected to the bursa so I close my eyes and wish for it to be over. The things you have to do to try and get yourself fighting fit again!

While I was dealing with the injury in the off season I also had to deal with my grandmother ending up in hospital. To cut a long story short she has cancer again for the third time but this time they can't operate on her because her heart wouldn't last the surgery so it's spreading. Her immune system is wrecked from all the medications she has consumed for all sorts of medical issues over of the years that her organs are starting to give out. She ended up in hospital because she got pneumonia. Her condition is stabilising but ultimately it's a losing battle as her health deteriorates. I'm close with my family so it has hit me hard especially as I see her condition get worse and I can't do anything to help her. Despite the really shitty situation my grandmother has taught me a massive lesson. She's had health problems for over 25 years and in that time she's pulled through situations that no one should have the right to because she refuses to quit. She has more heart and fight in her than Rocky Balboa. Although I'm struggling with her situation I decided to take a leaf out of her book. She accepts what's ultimately going to happen and she isn't fearing it but she sure as hell will be going out fighting. This year for derby I will be turning cannot into can regardless of how many falls I have in the process I will keep getting back up. There will be no quitting on my part. I am my grandmother's granddaughter.

Butters ran our first training session for the year on Sunday. It was really great to see my team mates again and train with them. I am one of those 'lucky' people that if my exercise levels drop even just a few days my fitness levels all but disappear. I felt a little off with my skating for a while and by the time we were doing paceline work my quads were protesting very loudly but my new sassfit compression shorts were trying to tell them to shut up. My blocking was a little off and rusty but if I keep working at it it'll come back. My agility shortcomings were hugely apparent and I made a mental note to work on that in my own time.

It was blocking week so we were working on a lot of blocking drills which I really enjoyed. Butters tested out a new drill which was quite fun and educational. When I was in the same line with Cherry she pointed out that I needed to try and slow down the jammer more instead of gaining speed. I also discovered that it has become so natural for me to resist when someone pushes me on the track that I'm even doing it to my team mates if they're trying to push me onto an opposing skater. I'm not exactly small so if someone like Butters struggles to shift me then someone like Rex has no chance! It's something I need to be mindful of. When I had to jam I liked the fact that I started thinking about how I was going to try and split the wall and get through that way.

I was like a kid on Christmas morning when they said we were going to have scrimmage. I didn't care that we were short of players which meant we would have to play multiple jams WE WERE SCRIMMAGING! Both sides were evenly split in experience with some team mates scrimmaging for the first time which was awesome. Cherry might not talk much on the track but in between the jams she was a wealth of knowledge pointing out things she picked up or different tactics to try. I really enjoyed scrimmage, personally it felt like one of the best ones I had had up to now. I was working on offensive blocking trying to break up the opposing teams walls to help my jammer get through which is something I hardly attempted last year, I was very focussed on defensive blocking. I even attempted wriggling my arse to break up the wall behind me without doing direction of gameplay. It was such a good learning experience especially when Butters caught me winding her up for a block and sidestepped me which highlighted the need to do quick, sharp blocks. Butters and I jammed against each other in one jam, she got lead but I chased her down and we had a bit of jammer on jammer action going :)

I got a massive compliment for Butters. She annihilates opposing players for fun on the track and in one jam she came up on my inside and tried to take out our wall to help her jammer get through. She hit me but I hardly moved. She then said that I was hard to move, coming from her that's a massive compliment and I couldn't help but smile :D That scrimmage finally cemented in my head that I finally found something I was good at in derby - counterblocking. I'll fight my ground so if you're going to get me out of the way it better be a good one. Although the likes of Cherry still gets me off the track I think it takes her a bit more effort to do so :) Throughout the scrimmage I had opposing skaters lining me up to try and take me out and more often than not they bounced off me and fell. I was just standing my ground. I feel as though I've finally laid my base in derby now I can really start to push on from being so one dimensional and become a better all round skater like working on things like my lack of agility.

There are so many amazing bouting opportunities coming up this year starting with 5x5 kicking off next month. I'm still one level away from being able to participate in things like that. It's so hard not to be excited about this year even about bouts that haven't been confirmed like us against the Harbour Harpies (yep I'm not giving up on that one!). This year has the potential to be my breakthrough year for derby. I'll certainly put the effort in to make it happen, anything is possible!      

Monday, January 13, 2014

The year of smashing derby goals.

Pre-season. In years gone by I've made all these grand plans of skating, working on my weaknesses etc so that I'd be full steam ahead at the first training session for the year. The reality was I'd go to one or two sessions at Skatel and spend the rest of the off season on my arse watching DVD's and then of course struggle with my lack of fitness when the new season kicked off. I knew that wasn't going to cut it this year so I had to change my approach. Not only did my pre-season start before training finished for the year last year it also came at one of my lowest points in derby.

Last month as derby training was slowly starting to wind down for the year it finally confirmed that I wouldn't be bouting which meant I wouldn't fulfil the one derby goal I was desperate to finally achieve last year. Those two knee injuries aside I had thrown everything I had into the year to try and achieve that goal and still fell short of achieving the chance to bout. I felt completely empty and didn't have anything left in the tank to pick myself up and keep going with derby. I had allowed myself to be consumed by the goal of bouting that I had burnt myself out that the only viable option was to be a piker and walk away from derby. I really wasn't as strong a fighter as some people thought I was.

This is where my derby story would have ended if something unexpected didn't happen. For most of my life I've pretty much internalised everything. I don't want to be a whinging, pain in the arse offloading my problems to everyone even though I have no issue if someone came to me with their problems. I'd always try to help someone out. This time I actually voiced my frustrations to two friends who have become more than just derby friends to me. They got me to see common sense in regards to my derby situation but the thing that got me the most was that they actually had belief in me. I wasn't used to that because usually I'm quite cynical and would dismiss it but I trust these two to be honest with me. If others had belief in me why couldn't I see it in myself? I did a whole lot of soul searching only to realise that I had to stop being a dickhead and make myself see I belonged in derby no matter how shit I was or how SLOOOOOOOW my progression was.

Once I was back on track with derby I knew that I had to have a proper pre-season plan because without structure my pre-season would be wasted with excuses just like in previous years. First thing I drew up a list of all my derby goals for 2014 which looked something like this:

A couple of them were carried over from last year's list since I didn't achieve them, mainly the bouting and Jilla ones. I know I harp on a lot about Jilla in this blog but this training and scrimmage wish has nothing to do with my fangirling. Having had the chance to be trained by her a couple of times last year and having the chance to scrimmage against her I got so much out of it. I would love for my league to get the chance to experience that too.

Since most of my goals are bouting related it quickly became obvious that the key to achieving most of these goals was passing my final level for derby the Lieutenant assessment. Although I can bout in home teams being at Sergeant level we don't have home teams yet so really my best chance of bouting was passing the assessment and then fighting for a spot on the travel team. With that in mind I decided to tackle the assessment piece by piece. I got a copy of the assessment criteria and then broke it down into each criteria and wrote down what I needed to do to pass each criteria so that way I could plan out my pre-season and hit the ground running when derby training resumes on the 2nd February.  

I knew that skating, studying rules and analysing NRDL bout footage wasn't going to be enough so I started looking outside of derby to help make me a better skater. I started doing crossfit last month. I post the worst results in each class and I'm the only fat kid in the class while everyone else is super fit but I've learnt to not care because in the one month I've done it I've already noticed improvements in what I can do and my overall fitness. Crossfit is super tough and I feel completely fucked after each class but I know it's going to help me in derby especially with not quitting and lasting until the very end. I've also started running by using the couch to 5k podcasts. I love running and I'm sure all this extra cardio will help with the endurance part of my assessment. I have been feeling inspired by all this non-derby training especially while I am running that I picture myself like Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky movies when the reality is I look more like Eddie in Absolutely Fabulous :)

It hasn't been all work and no play in this off season. In between all the exercising and studying I've been filling my time with some great motivational movies (I'm a complete sucker for motivational movies). I've been rewatching all the Rocky movies. My favourite scenes are the ones where he's training for his big fight at the end of each movie. I even downloaded some of the songs from the movies off itunes to put on my ipod to listen to while I exercise. I've even incorporated some boxing drills like skipping and movements to help me with my derby fitness.  

The longer this pre-season has gone on and the more exercise I do I've been to realise that I've caught the exercise bug. I seriously can't get enough of exercising! I was up in Newcastle for a few days before I had to go back to work and while I was up there I even joined some of the NRDL folk at the gym for a few days. Each session was challenging but what made me happy was that I coped with each session pretty comfortably. I knew I was heading in the right direction with my pre-season.

The thing that has pleased me the most is my exercise regime has gotten longer and harder with each week but my knee has coped with it all pretty well so far. I'm hoping for more of the same for the rest of the year and that this song won't be my theme song for derby anymore :)

Another thing that has kept me on my toes is reading all the other derby folk posting on Facebook about their pre-season. So many people out there are working hard preparing for the new season so the last thing I want to do is drop the ball with my fitness.

If you want to be the best skater you can be then learning from the best in the business will surely help. I've asked three skaters if they could help me out throughout the year by working with me one on one on various skills I want to improve on. Cherry has already been helping me out at Skatel on things like more effective blocking, crab skating etc. Jilla said she do some sessions with me whenever the NRDL social skates start up again. Lastly I asked Dangerass from NRDL if she could teach me the amazing arse blocking that she does and she said yes :) Right now I'm only really good at counter blocking. I love to learn and improve so getting the chance to work with these three is an amazing opportunity. How lucky am I! 

Will I finally get to bout this year? I fucking hope so! This month will be three year's since I started derby. I'm throwing everything I have into hoping that it finally happens this year. I'm pretty happy with the work I've put into my pre-season so far. It has easily been the most productive one I've had to date. I hope everyone else's pre-season is going well :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Getting out what you put in.

I must have the worst timing in roller derby. It's approaching that time of year that leagues are starting to wind down for the year but I of course have appeared to gotten over my injury problems for the year and am now ready to kick on, typical! This past month I've been riding a wave of momentum and you know what I'm actually enjoying this feeling for once. In the past whenever things have started going ok I've told myself that it's only a matter of time before things go back to being crap again. Negativity and I went hand in hand. It's taken me a long time to get to this point but I've finally got to the stage where I'm a bit more relaxed, fearless and just happy at training and I think it's reflected in the way I've been at training recently. I've fought to get to this place so I may as well appreciate it :)

Thunda ran our training session on Sunday and it involved tackling some more advanced skills like backwards skating/blocking EEEK! If you're going to be thrown out of your comfort zone you may as well go all out so I partnered up with Cherry and boy she didn't disappoint! I think now that I've been able to come up against the likes of Cherry and Jilla a few times now and also backing myself a little I don't automatically think they're going to put me on my arse. Cherry made me work so hard when she backwards blocked me, it was taking all my strength to try and force her backwards but it was a lot of fun and I was feeling more confident doing it.

When it came to me backwards blocking her it was a different story. Since I haven't done much work dishing out the backwards block I still shit myself when I attempt it mainly due to the fear that I'll be sent flying on my arse when I get charged at. There were a few times where I thought my heart was going to come flying out of my chest but Cherry was bloody awesome with her help. She was showing me the best way to counteract the skater depending on which way they came in and that helped a lot. I still need to work on putting just enough pressure on my toe stops to slow the skater down because I put too much pressure on them and end up stopping which is all sorts of wrong.  After watching Jilla doing her best moonwalk impersonation when she alternates on her toe stops while she's backwards blocking I often practise just rolling backwards and getting used to using alternate toe stops. It's these little things that will help get me backwards blocking properly one day.

We were working on backwards skating  and Cherry was giving me a lot of help on how to navigate the track with correct form. My right leg doesn't move as freely as my left one but it got to the stage where I wasn't 'freaking out' in my mind that I was skating backwards I was just doing it, that's the first time that's ever happened to me. I'm happy that I'll get to work with Cherry on a regular basis on the weekends at Skatel because I know that'll help me even more. Exciting times ahead!

If all that wasn't amazing enough I ended up having my first scrimmage since I first injured my knee back in April. EXCITEMENT!!! Both sides didn't have enough players so we were all playing a lot of back to back jams. Welcome back to scrimmage haha Even putting on my scrimmage shirt and arm bands was ridiculously exciting, it's funny how even the smallest things can mean so much after so much time away. Considering how long I was out from scrimmaging my only focus was to listen to my team mates and just do the basics right, no need to try and be a hero. I picked up a couple of majors that night which left me feeling like I let my team mates down.

It's funny there was a lot of close pack work but I wasn't in near constant fear of wheel clips and massive stacks which usually plagues my mind when I scrimmage. At one stage I even balanced on one foot to avoid flying over the top of a skater who had fallen. I was lucky enough to have some awesome team mates on my team it calmed me down and things went pretty smooth. After such a long time out I ended up being surprised by some of my team mates on the opposition, guys like Kate and Betty have improved so much with their positional blocking, they gave me a torrid time stopping me from getting through the pack.

I put my hand up to jam in one of the last jams. I lined up against Sharni. I must admit I love jamming because it provides a whole set of new challenges than what blocking does. I'm not good at it but it's something I'd love to keep working on so that I can become a better all round player. My guys were fucking awesome they kept repelling back Sharni which left me to worry about making my own way past the opposing blockers. If anything I could do with being a little more agressive on the track, not to the point that I'm reckless but I might find some more opportunities appear on the track. I bided my time trying to find the gaps to get through and somehow I did enough to get lead jammer!!!! I had a quick celebration and kept pushing on. It was more the same, perfect blocking from my guys and biding my time and somehow getting through. By this stage I was knackered, I've got so much respect for jammers blocking feels a lot easier haha. When I came back around again I played smart. I'm not an agile skater but one thing I have gained from all the time I've been off injured is all the bouts I've gotten to watch which has allowed me to pick up certain traits skaters have. I saw Apple on the inside line, I know she can be caught out on the inside line by leaving a gap plus she stands pretty tall so I made my way for the gap she left on the inside line, got lower just before she went to block me and counteracted her block which sent her tumbling and allowed me to pick up another 5 points for my side!!! The jam went for the full 2 minutes, my guys stopped Sharni on her initial pass and I picked up 10 points for my side. That's the most I've ever scored in a jam. That whole scrimmage and not just that jam felt like I was finally having a win with derby. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face :D

It's not just me that's currently having good fortune with derby. My mate Cass has finally done it. She's been selected to be in her first ever derby bout!! I was over the fucking moon for her when she messaged me about it. It's funny that the same week I wrote this article for Roller Derby AU Cass got the news she'd been waiting for. Both of us have taken the path of most resistance to get to bouting level and no one deserved this more than her. We bonded and became good friend's as we've both struggled to get to bouting level so it's no surprise that I'd do everything in my power to get to her first bout and be her biggest fan on the sidelines. Unfortunately the bout this Saturday against Port Macquarie is a closed door bout so no spectators so I got my thinking cap on to see how I could get around this when it hit me. I messaged Port Macquarie and asked them if they wanted Roller Derby AU to do a bout write up. Guess who is going to Port Macquarie to do the bout write up :D Derby can be an absolute gobshite sometimes but sometimes awesome things like this happen that it gives you that extra boost to keep trying and push on with your own goals. Derby sometimes you go alright :)