back earlier in the week. I finally ordered the latest copy of Hit and miss which has the awesome ChamPain Showers on the front cover. Flick through the magazine and you'll come across an article called 'Did you just call me fat?' written by Jilla. I thought I was going to get RSI in my neck from the constant nodding in agreement with what I was reading. It was such an eye opener too because from the first bout I've ever watched her in she has always exuded confidence on the track but in the article I was completely relating to the fears, body issues and mental games. To me it just made her more awesome because despite all that she doesn't let it get the better of her as she constantly produces magic on the track. I took a lot out of her article.
Roll on Saturday morning and I found myself driving up to Newy for a one on one training session that I had lined up with Jilla a while back. I must admit I was bricking it because I only had two training sessions in the past four weeks due to my knee injury and we all know what she can do to fit and injury-free skaters in a bout. It started off with me attempting to block her and then she would offer me useful feedback. I was learning that it was the little things that could make a huge improvement in the way I played derby. For one Jilla's blocking was so much faster, it was like bang, you're off the track, I'm still on, get back behind me and repeat whereas my blocking still involves a lot of winding up that even a blind person could see what I was attempting to do and prepare for my blocking attempt. I concede ground if someone gets their foot in front of me instead of fighting to reclaim it again. I lost count of how many times she told me that I would have had her if I kept pushing on. I need to learn to use what I've got, I'm not exactly small in height or weight but if I learnt how to use them more effectively I'd be able to hold skaters back and also drive through more with my blocks.
Jilla's article in HAM got brought up and it was here that things took a surprising turn. The blocking may have stopped but we just kept skating laps and it was here where I learnt things that don't get taught in a derby training session. I learnt what makes her tick and what drives her in derby. By the end of it it felt as though I had experienced something like this just derby related:
The biggest thing was I always had the impression that she was just naturally talented at derby but discovered how much work she puts into improving her skills. She watches the game like I do when it comes to picking up habits of players and working out how to get around that. It's no fluke that she's as awesome as she is.
I think it also broke down that final barrier for me. Having had such stunted social skills most of my life, any favourite player or someone I thought was amazing I ended up putting on a pedestal. With Jilla the first time I met her I barely said a word because I was in complete awe of her, sounds stupid now but it's true. For a long while I actively avoided the likes of her and Cherry because I had them on such a pedestal that I thought I was beneath them and that they only tolerated me because they were being polite. Fast forward to more recent times and all the work I've done to improve my social skills and things are a lot different. Recently I asked Jilla if she'd be a mentor for me, something I never would have had the guts to do up until a few months ago. As silly as it sounds it was nice for once to be able to skate alongside someone I hold in such high regard and just be myself and not think 'she must think I'm such a loser' etc etc. Our skating levels may be worlds apart but she's a mere mortal like the rest of us :)
It was back to getting schooled by Jilla. If you're going to get pushed out of your comfort zone, why not go the full hog and ask to do backwards blocking against one of the best in the business when it comes to backwards blocking! I asked her the best way to combat someone who is boss at backwards blocking as her and she started showing me the best way to combat that so I ended up learning lots of new things. On one attempt she was trying to force me off the track with her backwards block while I was trying to get around her that I was literally millimeters away from face planting into her arse AWKWARD haha. Fuck me she's a brick wall on skates, it's damn near impossible to shift her, damn her and her rugby union background! You know what though I managed to move her backwards a bit unlike 99% of the people who just stand there and allow her to dominate her so I'll take that little win. I was feeling good until she said I had to backwards block her! I have no poker face so the look of pure fear came on my face which made her laugh. I wasn't shitting myself because I was fangirling, I was shitting myself because I know what she's capable of doing on the track and my backwards skating isn't that great yet. She said she wouldn't block me that hard but that didn't alleviate the fear one bit. I can look back and laugh now but at the time I thought I was going to die from a heart attack because I had never skated backwards that fast in my life. I didn't trust myself not to stack it on my arse and break something so I was clutching onto Jilla for dear life and to top it all off I was screaming like a little girl on every attempt :D I survived and the last attempt I felt more comfortable doing it.
We did some more blocking until I was on the receiving end of a Jilla special. She came in on her 'weaker' side and absolutely nailed me smack bang in my chest with a hit that I've seen many skaters left as roadkill on the track when they've copped it from her. I swear I've never been hit that hard in my life, it absolutely stunned me, more so that I couldn't quite comprehend how I was still on my skates after being on the receving end of that. It was a good reminder of what to expect when I started bouting.
I missed out on the Canberra and Victoria bootcamps that my league organised earlier this year due to that long knee injury but I never forgot how excited my team mates were by the experience and how much they got out of it. That's exactly how I felt on Saturday. This is precisely why I've stuck with derby despite all the setbacks, for moments like this. It makes all the pain and setbacks worth it by getting the chance to constantly push myself outside my comfort zone to try and learn new things and still enjoy it just like when I first fell in love with derby.