I was skating at practice one day last year when I realized I was surrounded by a bunch of faces I didn’t really recognize. I thought to myself, “Ah, look at all these rookies, all of this fresh meat!” And then I realized these new faces had passed their minimum skills, became scrimmage eligible, and had already been drafted to a local team. I then had a sinking feeling in my stomach – I had become one of the vet skaters on the team without realizing it. I was now one of those experienced skaters that intimidated the shit out of me when I first started skating. When did this happen?! I still feel like I just started playing roller derby, even though I’m entering my 4th travel season. Although I have much to learn, I have been suddenly thrust into the more experienced end of the spectrum.
So how did I cope with this realization? By crying, of course. JUST KIDDING. It didn’t really change much at all. I still ask questions about rules and strategy that I should probably know by now. I still tell skaters to show me cool moves they do on the track. I still challenge myself to learn and watch footage and find role models to look up to. If you want to be good you have to maintain the rookie mindset: constantly seek to improve and never assume that you know everything.
I am still dreading (or maybe secretly excited for) the day when all of those junior derby skaters turn 18 and start dominating this sport. When I line up on the jammer line behind blockers that have no idea what a VHS tape is, or how hard it was to create mix tapes because you had to sit by the radio waiting for your favorite song to come on. But for now, I’m going to keep reveling in the fact that I play a sport where I can be 30 and still feel like I’ve got a lot of life left in me. When I can be surrounded by people that have been skating for 5 years longer than I have. When I can convince my co-worker to try out for derby even though she has 2 kids, a full-time job, and has never been a part of a sports team.
In the grand scheme of sports, roller derby is still in the infant stages. It has come a long way, but it has so far to go. So even though I don’t think of myself as a rookie among the roller derby world, we are all rookies in a way. We are constantly adapting to new rules, buying new equipment, and trying to find our niche in the derby world. So embrace your rookie side! Ask questions! Don’t stop learning! And most importantly, keep making silly faces in your pictures so when people look back at the “history of roller derby”, it looks like this: