Today marks exactly one year since my first ever roller derby fresh meat training session. A whole year! Only a year? Derby feels like something I’ve been doing forever, and it feels like something I just started yesterday. It feels like it showed up, swept me off my feet (literally), and I’ve never been the same since. I’m a substantially more bruised and aching human being since a year and a day ago. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
I have derby training this evening. These days, I train three evenings a week with Bray’s own East Coast Cyclones, and normally spend another evening working on my skating skills to cheesy 90s music at the roller disco. That’s four days a week that I skate, and every single time I still have butterflies. Packing up my gear, making sure I have everything, and heading out the door to training may be something I do every second day- but every time, I walk out that door feeling that glorious mix of excitement and nerves. I never, ever know how it’s going to be. I know that it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be intense, and I hope that there are going to be moments where it feels right and I know what I’m doing, and I know that there are going to be more when I feel exhausted and hurt like hell. And I know that it’s going to be worth it.
And that’s just the training sessions.
When I put it like that, I feel like I need to defend what I love so much about derby. It hurts, it’s hard, it’s exhausting, I’ve seen a lot of people injure themselves doing it. I mean, I like that I’ve gotten this far in life without ever having broken a bone. I’d rather like to be able to say that again this time next year, y’know? I can’t say I haven’t thought long and hard about whether this is worth it, and whether it’ll be worth it if I really manage to hurt myself doing it. Every single time, though, the answer is yes. Because in spite of- or maybe because of- how tough it is to play this game and the risks I take to do it, something about it just won’t let go.
Derby is fun in a way that nothing else I’ve ever done can match. I don’t think that means it has to be that way for everyone, by the way- I know people who find skating dull as dishwater who rhapsodise about things I shudder to imagine, like trapezes or running or climbing or sports in fields with balls in. Or people who’ve never found a sport they find joy in, who find their unmatched fun somewhere completely different.
It’s all good, but for me? There’s never been anything as fun as roller derby. From the first moment I put on a pair of skates in Spin roller disco almost two years ago and tottered around the floor, I know that I loved to skate. From the first derby bout I saw, a couple of weeks later, I wanted to give it a go. I never thought I actually would or could, though. To be honest with you, it wasn’t until about halfway through my first bout (last month!) that I realised that this is a thing that I really can do.
And that’s, I guess, why I love it. Derby, for me, is that mix of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, the most physically tough things I’ve ever done, some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met (and I get to be one of them! How flippin’ cool is that?!). It’s learning every day that I can do more than I thought I could. It’s clever, it’s strong, it’s sneaky. It’s hitting your friends for fun, and it’s so much more than that. It’s packing my skates and gear with me every time I go anywhere, popping an email over to the local team and rocking on over to their training. It’s carrying around with me every day that you never know what you can do until you give it a go.
And, yeah, it’s butterflies in my tummy three times a week, every week, and that’s one hell of a thing to be able to say about anything.