So I got this Facebook message from a friend the other day inquiring about coming to practice . . . she wants to come to practice, but she doesn’t want to join the team. Wha? She wants a work out. She wants a place to relieve some aggression and “hit some bitches,” but, she says, she doesn’t want to “compete.” At first I was annoyed. We’re not running a health spa. Roller derby ain’t no Jazzercise class.
Then, I thought, “I’m being a hypocrite.” I’m always complaining to my co-captain, the glorious Turbo Tyke, that I hate bouting. I love practice, I roll in it like a dog in road kill, I thrive on pad stink and PowerAde, but I hate to bout. Well . . . I guess I don’t hate to bout per se . . . I just hate the waiting, the nerves, the anticipation of bouting. I fret and walk around aimlessly. I sit in the locker room, staring at the corner, and have a kind of stress-induced deafness. I look like a stroke victim drooling on myself. I feel like Eminem in “Lose Yourself”, about to throw up. Not a good feeling. But would I give it up? Absolutely NOT. Why not? Because the “after bout” feeling is incredible. Even if we lose, or, as I like to think of it, “almost winning”, it’s still awesome to relive game play with the team and commiserate and laugh about whatever crazy shit went down on the track.
Honestly, I owe it to my team to get my ass out there. Why should they invest in me and not get a return? Why do they train with me at practice if I’m not going to take what they give to me and use it? That’s just about the most selfish thing a player can do: use the team to work out, to build muscle, to enjoy some camaraderie, but help them win? Nah.
I see a lot of skaters who are the first to volunteer during drills at practice, but when it comes down to crunch time they whisper, “But I don’t like to jam . . .”
when we’re down to 9 players. Hey, I understand that. Before the first whistle I’m hoping for a natural disaster. But no matter if you’re lightening quick or a last resort, it’s ‘too bad, so sad’ if you’re asked to jam and you don’t want to. Sorry you were given skills you’re afraid to use, but you owe it to your teammates to do it if it’ll benefit the group. It’s the “greatest good for the greatest number” derby philosophy. I’d rather hide in my closet on bout day pretending I’d never stumbled into this sport, but after the first whistle blows and the adrenaline sets in, I’m Charlie-Sheen-crazy about getting through that pack. It’s Warlock time. I don’t want to let my team down and want to stab myself in the heart if I don’t get lead jammer.
True, sometimes my morale flags a little. I get blasé about derby or think, “Gee, if I wasn’t at practice all the time I’d know why the hell people are so enthralled about “Glee” . . .” Not a good thing for a captain to admit, but I’m sure it happens to us all. Sometimes I think, “Maybe this is my last season . . . I don’t know if I can do this anymore”, but then we have an unexpected win, or I help to run a great practice, or some complete stranger yells “GO, MOXIE!” during a bout, and I’m back in it. But what about those people who don’t bounce back? What about those people who are never in it to begin with? Can you be a half-assed player?
Can you imagine, someone comes to practice twice a week, does strength-training, helps raise money for the team, and won’t commit during a bout? Ask yourself, am I that girl? Am I the one taking not giving? Am I slacking during endurance? Skipping out on drills? Is there really a place for the half-assed? No. I’m not saying you have to be the superstar, the intimidating blocker, the roadrunner jammer, but if you’re not trying to be, then what are you? Why are you here? You’re just getting in the way of the other skaters, and they’re going to pass you by, and then eventually pass you over. To paraphrase the sage Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid (the old good one, not the new good one): “Derby yes or derby no. Derby “guess so” – SQUISH – just like grape.”