Wednesday, April 24, 2013

If at first you don't succeed, fix it and keep working your arse off.

The big weekend finally arrived last week and for the first time ever that I've been assessed for derby I was feeling calm and not the slightest bit nervous. It was all thanks to that disasterous scrimmage session with NRDL, I think it consumed all my nerves, so I suppose that was one good thing to come out of it. Just to side track for a minute, there were two big reasons why I was so shattered by how the scrimmage session with NRDL went. Firstly, I hate letting my team down. It felt like all I was doing was skating and had bugger all contribution on the track so I ended up feeling as though my team were skating a player short whenever I was on the track. Secondly, you know when you want something so bad for so long and when it finally happens you get stage fright and waste the opportunity? I'll be the first to admit I'm extremely harsh on myself so when I get into one of those moods I stay away from people because it doesn't matter how much rational things they tell me, I won't listen. I'm one of those people that needs to sort it out on their own. Once I calmed down and looked at the scrimmage session again, I picked up a lot of positives out of it.

Back to the assessment. There was no nerves but it didn't take too long to notice that the floor was pretty slippery. No way was I going to use that as an excuse because any good skater will adapt to different track conditions. I knew it would make things like endurance and stops that bit more challenging but that's life. Betty, Ru and I were getting tested for the Sergeant's level and there was a few Corporal level one's who were being assessed for scrimmage level. First up was endurance and I flunked it. My technique and how I handle bends more than likely slows me down and ends up putting extra pressure on my left quad which causes stabbing like pains when I'm doing endurance. I was also starting to get the strained muscle pains that I was getting last year up my right leg but I was only feeling it when I was doing endurance so I must be doing something wrong. Although I knew I hadn't got the laps I needed I still wanted to try and pass everything else.

The rest of the night went pretty well with things like falls, alternate crossovers, stops, transitions etc. The one I was most happiest with was the paceline work, I felt pretty comfortable with that and didn't hesitate going both forwards and backwards through the paceline. We got tested on everything except the scrimmage part because that was going to be assessed on Sunday.

Once it was over I was curious more than anything on whether I had passed everything else besides the endurance. Betty and I were informed that the assessors were letting us have one more crack at endurance because we had passed everyone else. This time it was only the two of us with Matron joining us to set the pace because she can do 25 in 5 in her sleep. I gave it another go and the same problems flared up and I flunked again. I just couldn't crack 22 laps once again. Once it was over and I started skating cool down laps I felt nothing but acceptance, no anger, no disappointment. I knew that I did everything I could have possibly done to prepare for the assessment and I gave it my all but it wasn't good enough to pass. That and the fact that I didn't want to let my team mates down in a bout because I couldn't keep up them and that they would have to slow down to allow me to catch up because of my poor endurance levels. Do I want to bout? More than anything, but I won't put my own selfish bout dreams ahead of the good of the team so that was another reason why I accepted it without sooking about it. It just meant I had six weeks to work on it before I tried again and it ruled out any chance of me bouting in our family and friend's bout next month.

Wedged between the testing weekend was NRDL's home season bout between the Smashleys and the Bogey Rollers. It was the first time the sides met in a bout. No surprise I was cheering on the Smashleys. Both sides were undefeated going into the bout. It was an absolute cracking bout where the result was never certain. If the Rollers called a timeout with seconds left on the clock who knows they may have come back and won it. People were going about Jilla's performance in the second half but she just as effective in the first half. She gave Danger an absolute torrid time when Danger was jamming, forcing her to commit quite a few majors and put her on her arse with some amazing backwards blocking. Her defending on Champain right at the end when the bout was still in the balance had people out on their feet because she thwarted Champain at every attempt and you could see the look of frustration and resignation on Champain's face. Once again her performance highlighted why I've been such a fangirl of Jilla's since October 2010.

Having been to so many of the NRDL home bouts I've gotten to see skaters start off their bouting careers and progress with each bout. One of the biggest improvers I've seen has to be Glitter N. Gore. Ever since she became co-captain of the Smashleys she's improved out of sight. She looks so comfortable on the track, it's been great to see. Other skaters to look out for are Multiple Orkazms, The Dutchess, Missy Tuff.It, and Hollie Funck who are progressing really well too. I finally got to have a proper catch up with Mon and Mick since they moved up to Newy which was nice. While we were having a long woggy good bye in the car park of the pub one patron who was intoxicated reversed his car straight into a parked car so that made the night even more interesting haha.  
Looking back it probably looked funny at the time but the second I saw Jac who came back to training after having a few months off, I literally dropped all my gear, ran up to her and hugged the crap out her. I'm not really the hugging type but that's how much I've missed her. I've always loved blocking alongside her on the track during drills but we've never scrimmaged together. Matsacre ran our training session on Sunday and he did such an amazing job that I really hope he runs more of them. We learnt a lot of new drills which were great, especially for pack work. I was spewing that I missed out on doing the GodJilla drill because I was on the sidelines getting my leg taped up by Bede because that strained muscle in my leg reacted badly during the pyramid drill. I was so thankful to Bede because my leg stopped hurting once it was wrapped up with the strange looking tape he used.

When it was time to scrimmage, the three of us being assessed were split. They were on one team, I was on the other team. Considering we were being assessed we had to spend the most time on the track. You know how sometimes you just get a feeling that 'it's on' during training? That's how I felt on Sunday. I had a quick chat to Mat and got some tips from him before scrimmage started. The team I was on was an absolute pleasure to be a part of. We had a good mix of players and I thought we played really well together. At one stage I was sitting in the penalty box for a track cut while I was the jammer, my guys set up an impenetrable wall at the front of the pack that the elusive Foggy couldn't break through and I managed to get lead jammer when I came back on. Personally I felt quite comfortable during scrimmage. I tried to get involved, get my body in the way when necessary, called out when the opposing jammer was coming out and just tried to listen to my guys. I'm not a particularily strong blocker in terms of sending people flying, my strength tends to come from counterblocking. For some reason things clicked on Sunday and I sent a few people to the floor, I guess I was just in the zone. With only two jams left I got told that I needed to show that I could hip check/booty block so I was trying to pick targets when I could. Along came Ru who was skating along the outside line. I traditionally struggle against shorter skaters, it's a common sight to see me dominated by them. I lined her up and hip checked her off the track, right in front of the assessors hehe.

I'd like to take the opportunity to apologise to my team mates. My team mates probably think I'm pissed off with them when I scrimmage with them because this is the facial expression I tend to have for the entire scrimmage session

I promise I'm not pissed off with anyone, I'll tell you if I am :) My problem is I get so caught up concentrating on what's going on that I end up looking angry hehe.

Lastly, I just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone for their help and support with my Sergeant's assessment both on and off the track. It really has blown me away. Whether it was my team mates or people from other leagues or my trainer. I even had Danger come up to me at the end of her bout on Saturday offering to help me with my technique for endurance the next time I went up for the NRDL social skate. If she makes it this Saturday I'll get the chance to work with her. It's still a surprise that someone as shy as me had so many offers of help and encouragement so THANK YOU to each and every one of you :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lesson learnt

The week has arrived, it's testing time this week. If I pass the skills assessment this weekend I'd still need to pass the written test next week to move up to bouting level. I also discovered last weekend while having breakfast with some of my team mates that you can put your name down to be assessed for mor than one level so I could be tested for both intraleague and interleague bouting levels. I thought why not, it would be good to know where I'm at for both levels.

Friday night kicked off the first of five consecutive days of skating and training in the lead up to my test. Butters ran the session. It covered a good mix of drills and skills that would be included in our testing, stuff like transitions, backwards snowploughs, scrimmage related drills.

The game we played at the end of the night was pretty good. We were split into two teams white vs black shirts. One side would randomly draw a name from the other side and they would have to try and force out or knock down that skater during the two minute 'jam'. The skaters on the other side had no idea who was targetting them until they started getting hit once the jam started. It was good because it forced you to pay close attention to your surroundings because you had no idea who was going to target you. I struggled against Matron, once she knew she was my target she hid behind other skaters and it was hard to go back through the pack without getting pulled for direction of gameplay blocking. She got the better of me in that drill!

The last part was fun because both sides picked a name out so not only were they targetting another player they were also being targetted. Funnily enough both Cherry and I picked each other out so that a nice tough battle to end the night! She pushed me off the track a few times. The biggest problem I have coming up against her is not the fact that she's Cherry but once she gets in front of you, it's so bloody difficult to get in front of her because it doesn't matter if you try to get around the inside or outside of her she covers both sides with ease with her carving. The bloody smartarse forces you to take the inside line where she strikes with full effect as her strongest block is coming in from the outside line. 

I headed up to Newy social skate on Saturday night to work on some stuff with Cass. Being tall I've often struggled with shorter skaters because I don't get down low enough and often get dominated by them. It proved to be really helpful, we both got the better of each other and while I was blocking Cass I started refining my blocking technique, I started cutting out some of the use of elbows and started making better contact.

I've mentioned Marilyn Tantrum here once before. She's going to be something special on the derby track if she keeps improving the way she is. She's going to strike fear into the heart of opposing skaters with her blocking. I asked her if she got block me as a bit of preperation for my test. It was good because she was forcing me to use agility to try and get past her. Cass was once again great, we worked on a few different things which was all really helpful.

As always the NRDL social skate was a great help. If I keep this up I'll probably get as used to some of their skaters like I am with my fellow HARDies ;) Here's an interesting bit of trivia whenever I've gone up to skate or train with NRDL before a derby assessment I've ended up passing the assessment. I'd laugh if the same thing happens with my Sergeant's exam.

A few of us rocked up to training an hour early on Sunday to work on endurance. There was the option of 20 minutes and 5 minutes depending on which test you were going for. I was a few laps short for both in terms of testing requirements and was knackered by the end of it.

It was another great training session. This weekend quote a few of the bouting skaters turned up to help us bouting hopefuls whether it was making us work hard in drills or offer helpful advice. We had a mini scrimmage going on with both sides evenly split in terms of experienced and non experienced skaters. Personally I was happy with how I went. I thought I was more controlled and getting in opposing skaters way to slow them down withouth having to resort to try and knock them down. When it was my time to play jammer the middle of the pack opened up, Matron started skating backwards and almost came to a complete stop, she was my final obstacle from getting through. I sized her up and charged at her. I completely collected her but I unfortunately used my elbows when I connected with her. The hit revved me up and gave me more confidence for the rest of scrimmage.

Last night I had a pretty massive opportunity and got to fulfill a derby goal in the process. I got to scrimmage with NRDL! I was struck with nerves driving up there that I almost pulled to the side of the road to throw up. The nerves didn't abate when I was on skates and as such it reflected in my performance. There's no point in sugar coating it, I was really shite last night. I'm pretty sure my grandmother probably would have done a better job.

The pace they scrimmage at caught me be surprise because it's a lot faster than what we do at HARD. The whole session felt like a level higher than I was used to so my brain just switched off which left me completely lost on the track. The best I could do was just try and get in the jammer's way if they came behind me or yell out if the opposing jammer was coming up to the back of the pack.

Yep there was a couple of times that I came up against Jilla but because my mind was all over the shop I didn't act all fangirly whatsover, my biggest concern was trying to do the right thing for my team. At the time I didn't even fully appreciate the fact that I was actually scrimmaging against the first derby team I fell in love with.

The drive home was full of self deprecation questioning myself whether I was deluding myself with derby. I wasted such a great opportunity by bottling it etc. I tore myself to shreds. I slept on it and although there was still some disappointment with my terrible showing last night I began to look at the bigger picture. It's so easy to get caught up in the romance of bouting that despite making some decent improvements this year last night demonstrated that I've got a fair way to go to get to bouting level. Last night and Sunday highlighted what I really need to work on. Even if I do pass the Sergeant's test this weekend I won't be putting my hand up to bout in the family and friend's bout because deep down I know I'm not ready. It's a big step from scrimmage drills to scrimmaging to bouting. Regardless of how painful last night's session felt at the time I'm actually glad it happened then and not in my first bout. Sometimes you need a reality check to make sure you stop from getting ahead of yourself. I won't be wallowing in self pity, instead I'll learn from last night and work hard at lifting my game. That dream I've held since October 2010 of bouting against the Dames is alive and well (it might just take a while to happen) ;) 

Monday, April 8, 2013

All roads lead to the 19th.

Saturday night saw round 2 of the 5x5 derby tournament with my league hosting the double header this round. A few of us got there earlier to help set up and it all went pretty much like clockwork that we had some free time before doors opened.

I missed most of the opening bout between Inner West and Blue Mountains as I was hanging around the 'kazi's while they prepared for their bout. It's been an absolute pleasure working with them the last few weeks as they tried to bounce back from the bout against Blue Mountains. They've worked hard at training and it's been great seeing them employ different tactics. When they did their off skate warm up for the bout even us benchies joined in, yep we train as one at HARD :)

I wasn't benching that night but I wasn't doing any write up's that night so I could actually watch the bout and see what was working and what wasn't. We only had 10 players that bout and we were actually leading at one stage. The guys executed their pre-determined strategies extremely well and it was a tight bout in the first bout before CCRG scored a 30-0 power jam in the last jam of the half. The 'kazi's ended up scoring in the first half what the scored for the entire bout against bout. Plus in that bout they were already over 200 points behind at half time. Their defence was a massive improvement which was awesome to see.

In the second half it got a little sloppy and a couple of power jams took the bout out of their reach but they still kept battling to the end. In one jam they completely knackered out CCRG jammer Hazy Demon who was skating so slowly behind the pack that I initially thought she was injured but she was knackered from trying to get through our wall! There was lots of encouraging signs from their display and I can't wait to see the further improvements they make in their next bout.

At the bout I chatted to Babycakes, Danger and Jilla. I had a pretty good chat with them. Jilla laid the marker down that night :) It all started when I asked them if they had any interstate bouts planned this year (they're the only league besides HARD that I'd travel interstate to watch bout). I told them the bout I was looking forward to the most was HARD vs NRDL surprise, surprise! Danger said name the month and it'll happen, yep straight from the source! I said most of my team mates think I'll go all fan girly coming up against Jilla in a bout but I won't. Jilla basically responded with that she'd be standing over me on the track when she knocked me down haha. Yeah well you didn't exactly knock me down in the two weeks I trained with you guys ;) I'm looking forward to that battle, it'll be an arse whooping but it'll be a load of fun :)

One cool thing about Jilla is that she'll pretty much help any skaters or leagues out. She told me that my guys were welcome to go up and scrimmage with NRDL which I passed onto them. I've always improved bucket loads whenever I've trained with them so I was debating whether I should ask them if I could scrimmage with them before I got tested for my Sergeant's test. Problem is I started to doubt myself because I haven't scrimmaged as long as most of them and I know they train 100% so I wasn't sure if I'd do a good job or be so crap that whichever team I got put on would effectively be skating with 4 skaters.

This arvo all hell broke loose for me. The training committee announced that next weekend the 19th to 21st will be testing weekend so I've got just a week until I attempt my Sergeant's test. Holy crap that is so close, am I even ready? I don't know. Then again it took me two years and countless injuries to get to scrimmage level so anything less than that feels fast to me!

It's amazing how fear of failing testing can change your thought process. Those of us getting tested don't have much training opportunities between now and Friday so I'll take any chance to train that I can get. I e-mailed my training committee to see whether they'd give me permission to ask NRDL if I could scrimmage with them. I really want to pass that I'd happily get pulverised by NRDL on the track if it helps me for the scrimmage part of my assessment.

So between now and next week whatever free time I have will be spent on skates or working on skills and strengthening. No idea how it'll pan out for testing but I do now I'm going to give it everything I've got to try and pass.    

Monday, April 1, 2013

Challenge accepted.

It's funny what you can get used to. It took me two years to move from freshie to scrimmage level thanks to almost near constant injuries that I became used to slow progression. This year has taken me by complete surprise. I feel as though I've achieved more in the first three months than I have in the past two years. I can narrow it down to a few things as to why this year is different than previous years. Firstly, I've only had the one injury this year which was the knee injury I got during pre-season. I've done a lot of work on strengthening my knees and ankles to the point I don't even need to tape them up anymore, and I've had no problems with them since. Physically and mentally those two training sessions with NRDL did more for me than they'll probably ever know. It certainly kickstarted all the improvements I've made this year. Lastly, plain and simple I just want to start bouting. I don't want to hide behind the injury excuses anymore. I want to improve, pass my levels, and go out and bout with my team mates and do the best job I can possibly do.

Our two 'kazi co-captains Lola and Punkie have started organising outdoor bootcamps on Saturday mornings. I'm eager to improve my fitness so I joined them. I hope they continue to make it a regular occurance because I really enjoyed the tough session. There are a few derby folk out there whose only exercise is derby training but it's so important to do off skates training too. Punkiw had a great circuit planned out that targeted every part of our body. It was a confidence booster too because I realised I could hold myself up on the monkey bars after convincing myself for years that I couldn't. It's amazing to find out how much more you can really do once you give it a go instead of telling yourself you can't. 

I wanted to make the most of the Easter long weekend and work on things that scare the shit out of me in derby like transitions. My plan was to go to Skatel Saturday to Monday which I ended up doing. On saturday night a few of my team mates turned up and it was great to skate with them. Sharni and I tried psyching each other out by skating right behind each other until the other person noticed or playfully carve each other. It was great fun. Poz was back on skates after being off skates for so long due to hip surgery and it was an awesome sight to see! She went really well, she managed to skate 22 in 5 after being off skates for 2 years.

For a while now whenever Cherry and I are at Skatel we've played a game called cat and mouse. It's basically the two of us trying to catch each other out by carving the other one and catching them off guard. This game has helped improve my speed, awareness on the track and confidence whenever we've played, plus it's a lot of fun! I managed to get ahead of her a couple of times but she owned me. She ripped me for pace but i enjoyed the challenge of trying to keep up with her. One of the biggest improvements I noticed was I don't try and grab onto her when she blocks me, I'm a bit more sturdy and confident receiving her blocks. She got me once though when I wasn't paying attention and it felt like I got punched in the stomach. Good reminder to keep my guard up around her!

I got some absolutely amazing feedback which ended up changing the rest of my weekend. I asked Cherry how far she honestly thought I was from passing my next level which is bouting level. She said I wasn't too far off which left me gobsmacked. I wasn't sure if she was just being nice or I was being way too hard on myself and not actually noticing the improvements I had been making. Testing should be coming up very soon so if I pass it and meet attendance I may be bouting sooner than I imagined. Let me repeat I MAY BE BOUTING VERY SOON! There's a lot of work to do in a short space of time to even pass my test. It's a massive challenge and on a skating rink out in Emu Plains I accepted the challenge. I've got the list of things that will be assessed for the Sergeant's level test and it's all I'm focussed on for the next month.

Due to the big woggy Easter lunch I got to Skatel late on Sunday arvo but I still managed to catch up with some of my team mates. For an hour all Shona and I did was practise doing transitions up and down the middle of the track. My biggest problem with transitions was once I went to do the transition I could never get my foot to lift or pivot to complete the transition. If I did get it to move it would be by dragging it along the ground while I tried turning. I know the problem was mainly mental because after all the injury problems I had with my ankles I didn't trust them to be able to do it without fear of injuring them again. During that hour I went from my problem of overthinking them and doing them REALLY slow to pivoting on the front foot AND actually doing them correctly!!! The biggest thing was that I stopped looking down at my skates and started looking ahead whenever I attempted them which helped a lot. Apart from a few lapses when I started to overthink it again, I was slowly starting to do them at a quicker pace and that's when I started cracking the biggest smile while I was practising them :D It's amazing how you manage to find a bit of extra courage to try things when you set yourself the crazy short term goal of trying to pass the next level test in a month's time.

Today was the last Easter session at Skatel, Shona and Andrew were there again with a few extra team mates joining in plus Bailee and one of her S2D2 team mates came out too. We were practising transitions for a bit again and then the question of what is a correct transition came up. Once you move from the transition part to completing the final turn is it a correct transition if you pivot on that front foot or must you lift your foot while you're turning? I finally got up to being able to pivot on that front foot to complete the transition but now I'm not sure if it's right.

Since there were a few of us we got a paceline going and practised weaving through the pack both forwards and backwards. I was pretty happy with the speed and control I got through the paceline. I'm feeling more confident doing paceline work. It's been a while since I got to skate with Bailee and it was amazing to see the improvements she's made with her transitions and tomahawks and getting through the paceline. They're teaching her well at S2D2!

Foggy turned up and we had a few attempts of trying to carve and block each other. Foggy's a really agile jammer which is great practise for someone like to me to try and come up against. I quickly discovered that she must be made of teflon because it's almost near impossible to hold her back, she's so bloody slippery and manages to get away from you. She can more than hold her own, when she got her foot in front of me I couldn't shift her off the imaginery track. A couple of times our skates clipped when we blocked and we stacked it. She accidently skated over one of my fingers when I stacked it but apart from a red mark on my finger from my wheel, my finger was a-ok. That'll teach me to keep my fist clenched when I stack it next time!

Overall it's been an amazing weekend. I put in a lot of hard work and got rewarded. Even if I don't pass my test this next month, I've already won. I tackled the one thing that scared the most: transitions and I finally got to a confident level of being able to do them. I've received positive feedback not just from my team mates but also from the likes of Cass and Jilla. I'm not getting ahead of myself, there is still so much work to do but it's all starting to get real exciting! LET'S DO THIS!