Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Truth be told I'm a headcase

One of the biggest things I'm finding with roller derby is that I'm constantly learning both on and off the track, which is a great thing. The last few weeks have been no exception.

I've scrimmaged twice already and it has been a massive learning curve but it's been a pretty damn exciting one. Both times it has taken me a while to really get involved. Those who scrimmage will know that it gets pretty crazy in a jam with so much going on, that it's easy to lose your head. With quite a few of us starting to scrimmage, it has been pretty messy but it'll get better. Having the more advanced skaters mixed in with both teams has been a major help as their guidance helps calm things down.

Having grown up playing soccer and being in a team environment it all came back to me when I started scrimmaging. The importance of team work can't be stated enough. How often will you watch a bout and one skater might do something to change the course of a bout? They wouldn't have been able to do that without the help of their team mates doing their job. If you feel like you have to do everything on the track your team has lost regardless of what you do. Any well organised side will go into a jam with every skater knowing what their role is and by working as a team more often than not they'll fulfil their objectives. The biggest thing I'm noticing as I start to scrimmage is not to sit back and let the more experienced skaters do everything because all I'll be doing is just skating on the track and not learn anything. Getting confidence so that I can be more involved in scrimmage will come the more I get to scrimmage.

There's a few areas that I've picked up on that I need to improve on to help make scrimmaging a bit easier.

1. Calm the fuck down. I get so caught up in what I'm doing that I over do it. Perfect examples are blocking someone out of bounds because I've continued to block them once I've gotten them off the track. Last week at training we were practising two person walls to try and stop the jammer from getting through. I was partnered up with Apple. I was so determined to minimise any gaps between the two of us that I kept forcing Apple off the track because I was pushing so hard against her to make it harder for the jammer to split our wall.
2. Recovery rate. For the most part I can take the impact of the block so I don't fall down that much. Problem is when I do fall down my recovery rate to get back on my skates is pretty slow so I need to get quicker at this.
3. Agility. Mine is severely lacking. Someone with quick footwork has no problems getting around me.
4. Sprinting. I'm still way too slow off the mark especially if I'm trying to catch up to the pack after I've stacked it.
5. Transitions/tomahawks. If I'm pushed off the track I still snowplough to stop and get back on the track. In derby that wastes too much valuable time. Transitions have always been a struggle for me. I know the biggest thing holding me back from doing them is confidence. All the ankle injuries I've had have made me not trust my ankles when I attempt to do them. I keep thinking I'll re-injure or break them so I hestitate, get caught in two minds, overthink it and stuff it up. Problem is I need to be able to do them competently otherwise I won't pass to move up to bouting level.
6. Stop holding back. I know I'm still holding back at times when I come up against people at my level or slightly less experienced. There's always that slight fear in the back of my head that I'm going to accidently injure one of them. I would never deliberately or intentionally hurt someone. If I ever do that, I'll walk away from the sport, that's not the type of person I want to be. I know we're all learning but by going all out on them is it going to help them or put them off from wanting to do derby?

There's probably a whole stack more but these are the main issues that come to mind that I want to work on. Overall though scrimmaging has been great in stopping me getting ahead of myself. I know what I would like to work towards this year in derby goals and in order to achieve them I'm going to have to put in a lot of work.

HARD's bout in the opening round of the 5x5 tournament. I guess we all know how that went. Seeing Butters get MVP in her first ever bout and well deserved too, I was made up for her. All the guys who made their debuts gave it their all in what was certainly a baptism of fire. After the arse whooping, the guys have responded really well at training. Some of them have improved 100 times over in the short space of time. They're looking more confident but more importantly they're working and communicating better as a team. I'm looking forward to the next bout on the 6th April. Personally I've made the decision not to do any write up's for HARD bouts. It's so much harder when it's my own league. I'm really dreading this write up, not because of the score but because the notes I took were absolutely crap. I spent more time yelling and almost chewing my pen in half that literally some of my notes  are WHERE ARE THE FUCKING WALLS? I take pride in my work but this one is going to be absolutely awful. I felt sorry for poor Cass. I needed an outlet from all the frustrations that night and she copped it with all my RAH, RAH, RAH's. Some friend I am! I owe her.

I love to learn as much as I can. I don't care what level someone is at, everyone can teach you something. Last Friday and Sunday we had we had some of the Hellfire Honey's and SRDL guys come train us on those night's. I got a lot out of both night's. With the WSR guys it was more the skating side of it and learning new drills. I love coming up against skaters from other leagues because you have no idea what you'll be coming up against so you're out of your comfort zone. The SRDL guys only trained the advanced skaters but I got to join in towards the end as they were giving us benchies a run through benchie 101. I was shadowing Feisty Cuffs and I couldn't help but giggle because I was off skates and she was on skates and I was still taller than her hehe. Seriously though she provided me with some valuable tips for benching that I'm trying to incorporate.

The 'kazi's train on Tuesday night's and I've been going to every session to work on benchie stuff with Poz and Shona. I've been getting a lot out of it and I don't even train with the 'kazi's. Whenever I see them do particular drills that catch my eye I remember them so that I can try and do them in my own time. Watching them train serves as extra motivation for me because I need to pass one more level before I get the chance to start training with them but I've got to pass one more level after that to try and fight for a spot on the 'kazi's. Working closely with Poz and Shona has been amazing. It's already helped me improve my knowledge of the game and rules. I'm so happy that I've been given the chance to work with the 'kazi's in this capacity. 

Since there's now three home teams for NRDL, last Saturday was the first time ever I had gone up to do a bout write up that the Smashleys weren't bouting. I knew skaters from both sides but it was still a strange experience for me. I was actually really quiet and just focussing on the bout and taking notes instead of cheering on one particular side. Being such a massive Smashleys fan I feel like I'm committing blasphemy for saying this but the Hellcats did amazingly well considering they only had 9 players for the entire bout. I had a perfect example of the fact that I probably go to too many NRDL bouts because Foxy forgot to put my name down for a media pass but the guys issuing the tickets said they knew who I was even though I had never met them before and they let me in hehe.

I thought I'd end on a positive note. I've made a few friend's with people from derby over the last few years and there's a couple of friend's who for whatever reason have progressed at the same speed I have. I loved sharing all the high's and low's with them because it really feels like they understand where you're coming from. I've loved reading all the updates from the likes of Bailee and Cass. It helps prove to me that just like them I can improve and eventually make it up to bouting level. Cass and I pretty much have a big ol' conversation after each of our scrimmage night's and I can't wait to hear about it regardless of whether it's good or bad. She's been doing really well lately that it may be sooner rather than later before she's drafted into an NRDL home team. I can't wait for the days when a) she makes her bouting debut and b) when I get to scrimmage and bout against her!  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pop goes the scrimmage cherry

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!

Friday, March 1, 2013

All good things must come to an end but out of that come new beginnings

I kid you not I was on such a post derby training high for days after derby training the previous week that I could not remember the last time I felt so happy. Terribly cliqued I know but it's true :) My knee, however, thought it was too much derby awesomeness so I was in a world of pain throughout the week that I seriously thought I wouldn't be able to train. My hopes of training were literally being held together by strapping tape. Thankfully it calmed down enough by Friday night that I grabbed my gear and went to training.

Having been a fan of the intensity and focus that NRDL drills into their skaters when they turn up for training, I decided that I wanted to continue that trend with my own training back at HARD. Friday night provided the perfect opportunity to test it out as the training was geared towards the skaters who were being tested to move up to the next level. When they were getting tested on certain skills the rest of us would have to get off the track, so instead of sitting down and waiting until we could get back on the track I would go over to the empty court and start practising things I learnt from the Newy training session.

Matron ran the training session so aside from the few skaters being tested, the focus was on leg and core strengthening. I actually found that part pretty easy which is thanks to the gruelling PT sessions I have with my trainer Suzie (cheers if you're reading this Suzie!). I had bit of a win that night. One drill we had to do was for everyone to skate in one big pack for five minutes straight. For those who read my blog last year you'll know that I always stayed at the back of the pack when we did these sort of drills, too scared to engage because I was worried I'd fall and get injured. Yeah well not this time, I was pretty much close to or at the front for the majority of the drill right in the the thick of the action!! Around bends I was even guiding some of my team mates.

A couple of my team mates said I was training more confidently after having trained with NRDL the previous Sunday which was a nice compliment. I felt like I was skating more freely and wasn't holding back like I usually do.

On Saturday night it was HARD's second birthday bash/awards night. It was such a great night out, being able to just sit down and socialise casually with your team mates in a way that you can't do at training. I was made up for Posh Deck'em who got HARDie of the year along with a whole stack of other awards. It's the least she deserves after everything she's done on and off the track. As for me, one of the few good things to come out of being injured so often last year was that my team mates voted me as NSO of the year for the second year in a row due to my jam timing duties when they scrimmaged last year! That was an honour :)

Sunday arvo meant one final training session with NRDL woohoo! There was a quick rehash on what we learnt the previous week and we built on from there with shoulder blocks and can openers (it still makes me giggle when I say 'we' I'm not even a member of NRDL hehe). One of my favourite drills over the two weeks was funnily enough practising the latitude skating and blocks. I've got the turning circle of a truck so when we started practising those sharp latitude turns between cones I really did suck, there's no other way to put it. I practised back at HARD and when I went outdoor skating and I was starting to notice some improvements which made me happy. The only downside was that the strained medial ligament in my right knee didn't like it so much when I attempted to turn or carve right so the pain I was getting somewhat restricted me but I didn't let that stop me from giving it my all at the training session.

One of the great things about the training sessions with NRDL was the different levels of skaters I was training with. They ranged from tenderisers to intraleague bouting skaters to Dockyard Dames. I got to practise blocking with Marilyn Tantrum who I think is a tenderiser, holy crap she's going to become an awesome blocker who people will actively avoid on the track. She really packs some power with her blocking. I'm twice the size of ChamPain Showers but she can more than hold her own and she's awkward to block so that was good practise for me. It might have only been for one lap but one of my favourite skaters I came up against was Deathrow Doll. I've seen her in a few NRDL bouts. She's a no holding back, annihilator of a blocker. This could be fun :) We met when her and another blocker took turns blocking me around the track. First attempt they blocked me simulatenously and the force brought me to my knees. in the subsequent blocks Deathrow Doll didn't let up one bit which I loved. I had much respect for her. I can't wait to come up against her again one day and try and return the favour ;)

Next up we had a paceline going. The person at the back of the line had to make their way to the front but they had to pick any 5 skaters to block on their way through. I tried picking different types of skaters on my way through but my two main targets were Cass and Jilla :) First time ever I blocked Jilla, I was grinning the while time :) Take a guess which two skaters lined me up on their way through the paceline hehe. I have difficulty coming up against skaters like Cass mainly because of the height difference. By the time I try and get down they've blocked me and moved on. I find someone like Jilla easier to try and block since we're a similar height. She blocks from left to right, whereas I'm the opposite I block from right to left. When she blocked me I stood my ground but I'm not sure if she stumbled slightly after she blocked me I was too busy celebrating that I was still on my skates hehe. License to Kell who was skating behind said it was the highlight of the night for me haha.

When it came to my turn again I picked out Cass again so I tried getting lower than last time but I stuffed up my attempt, somehow twisted during the block, stacked it and winded myself. It's the first time in my life I've been winded so I was momentarily stunned and unsure what to do. I couldn't catch my breath and it hurt to breathe. Not thinking I kept skating and tried to catch up again to the paceline. Guess who was towards the end of the line? Attempting to block Jilla on your weak side while winded was an experience! I did the twisting thing again when I blocked her, so she corrected me and told me to try blocking her again, which I did and it was a better attempt but I felt like dying by that stage hehe. I finally did the smart thing and sat out the next drill to try and get my breathing back to normal.

The past two weeks have been absolute game changers for me. What initially started off as ironing out my blocking bugs and learning from someone like Jilla quickly turned into something more. It forced me to address all the fears I've carried since I first put on a pair of quad skates. Since it was only a temporary arrangement there was no time to muck around, I had to get as much as I could out of the sessions. I was training with skaters I had never come up against so it was adapt quickly or keep picking yourself up off of the floor. I was out of my comfort zone the entire time and it was here that I learnt the most. I stacked it more times in those two weeks than I did all of last year but it was from giving it my all and not leaving anything in the tank. I'm actually glad this opportunity to train with NRDL came before I started to scrimmage with HARD because coming up against skaters like Jilla, Danger, Naypalm etc and for the most part handling myself ok makes the thought of scrimmaging that less daunting. I'm certainly not a world beater after two weeks and there's still things I haven't fixed yet that need a lot of work.

Overall the biggest things I got out of it were confidence and belief, two things I've never had in derby. The constant stop/start and injuries got me into a rut that I was having trouble getting out of the last couple of years. These training sessions have blown everything wide open, now I've got a solid foundation to work on and look forward instead of constantly looking backwards. It's made me think why limit myself to just wanting to bout intraleague this year, why not aim for trying to get on our rep team The Camokazis by the end of the year? Sure it probably might not happen but best case scenario it happens, worst case scenario I don't make it but I gave it a crack and I'd still be one step closer to that goal than I was yesterday. Speaking of Camokazis, HARD and NRDL what do you think about a Camokazi vs Star Riots or Smashleys bout at the end of the year ;) Thanks again NRDL for everything and special thanks to Jilla who was a good sport and allowed me to do some extra blocking with her.    

It's been well documented that my love affair with NRDL began well before I joined up with HARD but it doesn't mean I love my own league any less, far from it. I do care what happens with us. Nothing would please me more than to represent HARD at intraleague and interleague levels. In the past week I had two opportunities come up to be more involved with my league. I got offered one of the general members positions on our executive board and expressions of interest for the co-benchie role for the Camokazis. I accepted the general members position and I sent in my expression of interest for the co-benchie position. Now it's just a waiting game to see who gets the co-benchie role. Throw in my writing duties for Roller Derby AU and it's going to be another crazy year and that doesn't even include the skating side for derby!