Personally speaking the last few weeks have been an absolute crazy rush that my brain is still playing catch up. When I've had a couple of seconds to just stop and think I've come to realise how different a person I am on and off the track to the one who first joined a derby league in January 2011. On the track I've gone from being scared to block someone and living in fear that every step would almost certainly result in injury to now absolutely relishing coming up against some of the best blockers in the game and giving it a crack. Those that knew me from the very beginning will remember I barely spoke a word and did my best to not be noticed. As time went on I got my writing role with RDAU, made friends with people from other leagues, did bout commentating once, got a general members position on HARD's board, along with Mischief Managed got selected to become a co-benchie with Poz for our travel team The Camokazi's, and now Big Kahuna has asked me to help Viva La Derby cover the upcoming 5x5 derby tournament. Derby has been the most trying but rewarding experience for me as a person and a skater and I'd do it all again, injuries and all if it meant I'd feel the way I'm feeling right now.
Despite feelings being at an all-time high, there was still one issue that kept me from getting too carried away. The strained medial ligament in my knee is still a cause for concern. My physio worked on it again during the week and told me not to stop exercising otherwise I'd just weaken the muscles. Instead I could still train but I'd need to take more breaks and drop the intensity a little. I'm sure I could live with that.
So the training sessions with NRDL completely changed me as a skater, it literally felt like a switch got flicked inside in my head. I noticed I was training more confidently but I've been getting a few of my team mates and even our President Poz come up and tell me how much I've improved after the blocking training with NRDL which is nice to hear. The 8+ hours I spent driving to and from Newy those two Sunday's were worth every second!
I mentioned last week that I was aiming big this year and try to break the pattern. With all the injuries and setbacks the last couple of years, I've progressed one level each year. I know the majority of people would have gone from freshie to bouting in the space of a year and there's no point comparing myself to others, everyone's situation is different. I think I've finally cracked the mental barrier I've had that held me back just as much as the injuries did. This year I'm putting my focus into not just making it to intraleague level but to become a Camokazi on a skating level. I've got the assessment guides for these last two levels and I've virtually memorised them. I've already noticed the difference with my approach to training. I still have a laugh when something funny happens but I'm a lot more focussed and squeeze every last second I can out of training. When it comes to doing certain drills I've traditionally struggled with, instead of feeling the usual dread I stop second guessing myself and just go and try to do it. It's going to be an intensive year, we'll just have to wait and see where I end up by the end of the year in terms of these two huge goals :)
The biggest thing I got out of training on Friday night was when we had two packs on opposite end of the track. One pack dictated the pace whereas the other pack had to mirror them for speed so that both packs were separated by equal distance. Not only that we had to deal with a jammer joining the other pack on certain whistles and try to make their way through the new pack. It was a great chance to work on awareness on the entire track and not just in the main pack. The couple of times I was calling out whether to slow or speed up our pack, I stuffed it up plus I got so caught up in what the other pack was doing I'd forget to release our player to go off and take the jammer role. It was a valuable learning experience though. When I had to jam and get through the other pack I virtually got through but bloody Cherry was at the front of the pack and try as I might I couldn't get past her and she then put me on my knees hehe.
NRDL's home season kicked off last Saturday woohoo! I was having withdrawl symptoms :) Jilla could be switched to another home team (but I'm secretly hoping she isn't) or the Smashleys might never win a home series but they'd still be my team. With the introduction of a new third home team this year, some players leaving and some skaters moving up in the ranks to make their bouting debuts both sides were quite different to the ones I saw last year. I was on reporting duties for RDAU so I wasn't being rowdy on the sidelines for once. Ignoring my bias the Smashleys were AMAZING that night, the best I've seen them play. They were in total control and never dropped the lead but Brig dragged the Hellcats back into the bout with a 20-0 point jam. It's so hard when one of your favourite players is on the opposition team, you cheer them on when they do something amazing but at the same time you're thinking don't make the Smashleys lose hehe. I had a quick chat to Glitter and Jilla at half time. Jilla kept her end of the deal when she said they'd win the second half too. Boy did they! I'm working on the write up from the bout, it should be up this week just in time when the new RDAU website goes online. I've said it before, and there's no harm in repeating it: 2013 - the year of the Smashleys :)
Training on Sunday was action packed. We covered quite a few different drills like the Texas waterfall and we did some one on one time trials too. My favourite was the blocking paceline drill. Starting from the back of the paceline we had to carve each person off the track on our way through. Given how many there was of us, it took a while for everyone to have a go but we probably did more endurance work than we realised which is always a good thing. Since I started off the drill at the front of the line, I was the last one to block my way through the line. I had plenty of practise getting down low and waiting for the carves. All that training with NRDL paid off because quite a few of my team mates either didn't move me at all or gave up trying to push me off, Cherry and Butter Scream pushed me quite easily though. When it was my turn to block, I noticed that my recovery time of getting back up to speed with the paceline once I blocked had improved which made me happy. I thought my blocking improved and I was blocking some of my team mates off the track a lot quicker than I had in the past. My biggest scalp? Forcing Cherry off for the first time ever!!! In my excitement and celebration at the feat I ended up off the track too oops :)
I was hoping all night that there would be enough people to scrimmage that night and when Matron said we were going to scrimmage, I went completely hyper because it was my FIRST EVER SCRIMMAGE!!! I didn't care if I was the biggest dag and my team mates laughed at my excitement levels, it was finally happening!! Putting on my scrimmage shirt and arm bands was a big deal for me, I'm sad like that. Both sides were fairly evenly distributed with experience and inexperience. Being on the same side as Cherry, Matron and Butter Scream was a big help. Sitting on the bench and listening to what they wanted us to do calmed me down completely. I've said before I'm competitive so I was completely focussed on doing what we were told to do. For my first jam, I got told to take lane 1 and guard the inside line with my life which I did. Cherry pretty much did all the work for us so it wasn't too difficult of a jam but it was nice to finally have that first jam out of the way.
It took a few jams to get a more involved because I was trying to get my head around the fact that I needed to have a 360° awareness of what was going on around me. I was pretty happy when I stuck my arse out to hold off an opposing blocker which created space for our jammer to go straight through the middle. There was a massive focus on staying with your partner and I quickly realised the importance of working with a partner and how much easier it makes things. Cherrry asked me if I wanted to jam. I'm the world's worst jammer but I would really love to work on becoming a reliable all rounder, so I said yes and put the jammer panty on. I was the only jammer lining up but I was getting down low like I was getting ready to engage in a foot race. What can I say, I take my sports seriously. I don't know how it happened but I somehow got lead jammer. I was so happy, I was celebrating on my way around the track and grinning like an idiot :D I was struggling a little with getting through on my points scoring pass. I saw a gap on the outside line and took it but Betty tried forcing me off. I was skating on one skate trying desperately to stay on the track but I track cutted. My first ever major - a track cut.
Dee experienced my competitive side. She was lining up on the jammer line when she told my team 'Be afraid bitches, be very afraid'. Nothing like a little harmless trash talk to lighten the mood even further so when she looked back in my direction I gave her a death stare. Playful of course and then my team smashed her hehe. I'm not a dirty or nasty player, in all the years I played soccer I never received a yellow or red card. I do love competing though.
I was getting more comfortable and more involved and in my last jam for the night. My last memorable moment was taking a leaf out of Lady Quirkinator's book of last line of defence defending. I was at the front of the pack when Katie who was jamming got past the pack on the outside. I chased her and threw myself in her direction. I took myself out and rolled on the ground but I forced her off the track just as the whistle to end the jam blew. I went back to my bench and attempted a double knee slide in celebration but my knee pads didn't slide on the floor so I went splat on the floor instead and laughed.
It probably won't be the toughest scrimmage I'll ever be in but it definately was an eye opener and experience. As I gain more confidence, I'll no doubt get more involved and maybe even live up to my derby name! I certainly wasn't great but hopefully I performed ok enough that the training committee think I'm still at scrimmage level. I took scrimmaging quite seriously but I also had fun and enjoyed it to the max and played with a smile on my face. Hopefully we get to scrimmage again this week!