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It suddenly occurred to me at scrimmage practice this week that I wasn’t afraid any more. At first I was the usual bundle of jitters, avoiding lining up so I wouldn’t have to go in, obsessively going over in my head what I always do wrong. But after the 2nd half, it suddenly struck me – I was no longer terrified.

I started scrimmaging in November of last year, and up until now it’s been a vicious cycle of confusion, fear of getting knocked down, frustration at seeing what I’m supposed to be doing and not doing that, and elation when something clicks and I figure out what I’m doing. I’ve never looked forward to scrimmaging and the thought of it usually made me want to turn around and go home. It’s difficult training for something for months and finally being able to do it, and realizing how much harder it is than you’d ever thought it would be. Oh yeah – and the fact that you can never get better unless you keep doing that thing you’re terrified of.

Luckily I was warned at my first scrimmage that it would be the worst I’d ever feel in derby. All of a sudden so much would be going on and I’d feel like a big, slow-moving target, teasing the other team to take me down. And that’s exactly how I felt (unfortunately, that scrimmage just happened to be opened to friends and potential skaters, too, so everyone could see the trouble I was having). Since then I’ve tried to convince myself that I get a little better every time. Or that if I just finish one jam having done one thing right, I’ll be okay. And luckily, I got drafted to a team that doesn’t yell at me too much when I do something wrong.

So I’m not saying I’m magically better and that it still won’t be hard as shit to improve at derby, but I can proudly say I’m no longer scared. I’ve met a couple of fresh meats out there who avoided scrimmaging altogether once they were eligible, sometimes putting it off for months. I just want to let them know – it does get better, it does start to click!

And I’ll pass along the best advice I’ve gotten recently –

Don’t say “sorry” when you hit me, say “SHAZAAM!”

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I’m having trouble being springy.

My legs are getting in the way rather than propelling me where I need to be. Is it a strength issue? A coordination issue? Probably everything. I blame scrimmaging. It takes forever for me to be useful in scrimmaging. I start off shaky and slow, progressively become spazzy, and graduate to the point where I can avoid some people but still crumble at a block. There’s always so much going on that I can’t concentrate on getting in any good hits. I usually react after the fact, and then pathetically tap someone with my shoulder, or take out a bunch of people when I fall.

Everyone keeps telling me to use my legs to get in other people’s ways, but so far they’re just tripping me up.

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There Will Be Bruises

Last night was my second scrimmage with my new team. It was a mixture of some teammates I’ve played with before, some returning vets who I haven’t played with yet, and some unteamed freshies. The warm-up was unfortunately awful for me – it focused on close hitting, so you skate next to your partner and repeatedly tap them over and over. Hit, reset, hit reset. Stuff that I really need help with. But my timing is so dreadful that most of the time my hits are comparable to a nudge.

*Nudge* Hey you, mind getting out of my way? *Nudge* Wait, you’re still in my way … *Nudge* Why haven’t you fallen down yet?

And in contrast, as soon as it’s the other person’s turn to hit, I fall nearly every time. Which is frustrating and eventually embarrassing. I almost feel it necessary to apologize. And I hate that when I get frustrated my first instinct is to complain and give up. “This is bullshit! I’m outta here …” Then a few seconds later I’m ready to try again. I’ve really got to get this hitting thing down. A lot of it is about timing and coordination, and I’m a bit lacking in those areas.

The hesitation, combined with my ineffective blocking tendencies, are then taken into scrimmaging — where everything is already a hot mess. It’s like tossing a baby foal into a pen full of hungry lions and screaming at it “FIGURE IT OUT!!!” and all the foal can think is “Hang on … I just figured out I can walk here …” I try to get as low and wide as possible, so at least I have the hopes of appearing like an impenetrable wall. It can work until I realize I’m staying in one place, and not shifting around enough. Or until I realize my team has been shouting at me to do something other than what I’ve been doing. And I hear the shouting. Oh, yes, I do in fact hear it. Do I acknowledge it? Usually not, if it’s all negative. Because surprisingly, negative reinforcement doesn’t motivate me all that much. Maybe I should mention that to someone … I’m definitely trying to discern what the hell is going on and how I can be at least a little bit useful, but the basics of strategy can just zoom right by me.

I think I did learn some important things though:

  1. Whenever certain people hit me, we’ll both go down in a blaze of glory and I’ll be amazed I can get back up again
  2. Listen to what your bench coach is shouting at you, not your benched teammates
  3. Refs are confusing and will be ignored until they make me get off the track
  4. Look behind you, not in front of you
  5. Pay no attention to those blockers purposefully, repeatedly targeting you – chances are they’ve already distracted you from something you should be doing
  6. Stop touching the other team so much (hello, forearm penalties!)

And even though some of my teammates might be crazy, we’re clearly all crazy for doing this. So hey – that’s two things in common!

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