Post Fourteen – from 1-100 ? A brief update

I thought training was hard before the OSA. I was wrong.

it is so much harder now!

Like one of my team-mates said, it’s like we were training at one, now we’re training at a hundred!

This isn’t a bad thing though, I guess I just wasn’t prepared for the intensity. I love it, and it’s really difficult.

I love feeling like I’m now really training to play. We work on walls, a lot, and it feels different. I’m actually thinking about how what we are doing applies to game play, and starting to put in real effort to block and counter block. It’s intense and it exposes every weakness.

ha! That sounds dramatic! I just mean that it makes it so obvious what skills are lagging.

For me, the two big ones are lateral movement and endurance.

The other thing I’m noticing is that I must have had a tendency to not completely commit or follow through.  Pushing someone most of the way to the line is not getting them over the line. Getting low and  readying yourself for a hit in a pace line isn’t counter blocking. Each movement needs the final second, the follow through. Don’t hit the bag, hit through the bag.

It’s exciting and scary.

And exhausting. Good exhausting.


Post thirteen – The OSA, Luck, and Imposters

Big break in posts there. I started writing one last week, but things have been hectic.

I had a birthday, and it was pretty awesome, to be honest. My partner took me to see William Shatner and we got home and watch vintage x-files, so I’m pretty sure that’s the nerdiest thing ever. Yes, sorry dear reader, I am far from the paragon of cool you imagined me to be. On the upside, I think I was the only person at Shatner to be there because I’m a fan of his music (I have never seen an entire episode of Star Trek OR Boston Legal).

I also had my OSA. On Sunday.

It was the day I had been waiting for since I first strapped on skates. The day I didn’t get to in 2011 because I broke my stupid leg. The day I had been busting my butt for. I read the rules a dozen times, trying to figure out exactly how long a jammer should sit in the penalty box for if they had been sent to the box, but left early, but the other jammer had been sent to the box, and then they both swore at the crowd. Egregiously.

I strapped my ankle with fancy pink tape. I distracted myself by watching scary funny youtube videos. I hydrated for DAYS.

I got there and sat the written exam. Ok, this is ok, I know all these answers (even though there wasn’t a single question about how long a jammer should sit in the box).

I strapped my skates on and warmed up.

I had decided that the best way to overcome my nerves was to be as vocally supportive of everyone else as I could. So I did. It helped. As others relaxed, I relaxed. As the mood improved, so did our skills.

It was weird, and stressful, but it was ok. I was dreading two things. Left knee taps (I have a tendency to trip) and jumps.

Those jumps.

The very thing that had made skating a source of fear for so long. I had jumped at practice, but never OVER something. But suddenly I had to jump OVER things. At the last minute a fellow freshie said “Just keep your eyes up”. I did. And I jumped. And it was glorious! I cleared those cones by miles! I hung in the air for an eternity. And I landed, smoothly, with stability a gymnast would kill for.

I cried.

The whole thing was tough.

I worked so hard, but I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d done. I’m hyper-critical of myself at the best of times.

But no more suspense, I got in. I passed. I am now cleared for full contact, and preparing to play my first bout. Holy Shit, you guys. I have my first training session tonight.

I’m anxious about my fitness, I feel it’s not where I would like it to be, and things are going to be extra difficult until it is. I’m anxious because I have wanted it for so long, and now I have it, what if I’m terrible? What if I am an awful derby player, even though I love it? It’s a bit like my degree. I’m nearly finished, but what if I can’t get a job? What if I’m actually a terrible therapist?
I feel like an imposter – even though I know I’ve worked hard, maybe I don’t deserve it. And this isn’t helped by people.

You know how it is, you achieve something that you have worked really hard for and someone says “You’re so lucky”.

It seems innocuous, but it’s a loaded statement. There is some deep, hidden undertone of “You don’t deserve this, you wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for luck”.

It undermines women in particular so much there is even a thing called “imposter Sydnrome” where people, most frequently women, are convinced they do not deserve to be where they are, that they didn’t work hard enough. I hear it so often. Or from people who tried but failed. “I wish I was as lucky as you, then I mightn’t have failed”
Fuck off. I worked for this.
I know, hard work doesn’t always lead to victory, but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve to be where I am. Or when people overlay their negative experiences onto yours. Like “Oh, you won the thing, I hope this awful thing that happened to me when I won the thing doesn’t happen to you. I’m sure you won’t, you’re lucky, not like me”.

Don’t detract from my work! So often our work is diminished and ignored – There’s no way you could have arrived here on your own – you must have had help.
You are an imposter.

Maybe you have it in your job, sly little comments about how difficult it will be to manage these rowdy men, or maybe you hear it about someone else – how people aren’t really sure she belongs there, she wears too much makeup and does things differently.

But roller derby is a sport. Luck doesn’t come into it (well, not like this). We work hard. If you don’t work hard you don’t improve, or you improve slowly.

The skater who nailed her skills test? While you were only training two hours a week, she was on skates every other day, and doing squats in front of the X files. The blocker who plays pivot even though it’s her very first season? She watches derby footage every spare moment and studies tactics.
Sure, for some people things will come more naturally than for others, but that only takes you so far. The rest you have to WORK for.

Someone said in a group workshop at uni last year “I don’t know how Smasha does it, I mean, I don’t have half the things going on that she does, but she always does well”
I looked her straight in the eye and I said
“I work really fucking hard.”

So when you feel envious of someone’s skills, think about all the hours they put into them to get there. Think about what they found a way to give up to get there, or how creative they had to be to fit everything in (I have a toddler, I’m on placement, I am doing a Masters degree, I have a husbear, some semblance of a social life and run a small business, also I procrastinate – it’s all about creative scheduling for me).
If you can’t do that, that’s ok! You don’t have to, but don’t take away from what they have put in by calling it luck.

So let’s all try and be slightly less douche-baggy.

And, for the record, no, this isn’t about anyone in particular. My league is really lovely and supportive, it is just something that was playing on my mind!
Tomorrow I will tell you all about my first session as an OSA!!!!!!

PS, I’m officially Brimful of Smasha #45

Post Twelve – fishnets and arse-kicking

A member of a roller derby group on facebook recently asked about whether people think there’s a link between lower attendance at roller derby bouts and the general move toward athleticism of the sport.

Although I hadn’t linked it to attendance, I’ve been thinking a lot about the shifting attitudes in derby, particularly in relation to my particular take on feminism.

Ok, some philosophical stuff coming up…

Basically, I think that by embracing things that are traditionally associated with femininity (being “girly”, liking pink, being a seductress, etc, etc,) you can turn the whole notion of female=bad on its head.

Imagine, if you will, there’s a woman who wears a frilly skirt, a low-cut top, and, whilst wearing these things that might ordinarily indicate that she is dumb, or a slut, or whatever, and she proceeds to strap on skates, and do things that are _typically_ associated with masculinity – be athletic, play a full contact sport, be aggressive.

It’s awesome, in a word – it shows that femininity and masculinity are not mutually exclusive.

And I really want to be clear here that this isn’t the only way of expressing femininity, or that all derby players should want to be feminine to any particular degree. There is something amazing about seeing a track full of people who mostly, but not exclusively, identify as women, who are all different shapes and sizes, who run the gamut from super femme to super butch, to genderqueer, to agender, all participating in an aggressive, full-contact sport (something typically associated with cis men).

It’s subversive as hell!

And I don’t know why the push toward being taken seriously as a sport means a move away from that. It seems that in order to be “taken seriously” we need to reject the things which are seen as frivolous – fishnets, costumes, spectacle. (Look, I do kind of understand, the global institution that is “Sport” is what it is, we have to play by certain rules if we want funding, coverage, opportunities.)

Maybe we can change things from within?

But I also wonder how this effects the derby community long-term.
We are such a young sport, there are still skaters who were part of the very first leagues playing for WFTDA teams. They keep (in my opinion) the good parts of the past alive, whilst embracing the new.

But they will retire, and things will change, and the sport will change.

I think about involvement in the league. Roller Derby has always had this DIY ethic, this idea that if we want something done we do it ourselves, we all contribute to our league. Where I skate the idea is that every freshie nominates a committee (or two or three) they might like to be a part of, and does work. I’m not sure if this is the same elsewhere, but I imagine there are similar things. The committees get together (often over beer) and do work for the league, and for the sport.

But I meet freshies from other leagues who maybe only know one or two Vets in person. They don’t hang out (over beer) after training, they barely even know other freshies. And there’s a bit of individual to individual competition, rather than team-pride, and camaraderie.

Does this have anything to do with not wearing fishnets? Probably not directly, but maybe the shift in culture is doing lots of hidden stuff.

Not that I have anything against athleticism. Roller Derby is a serious fucking sport. It is hard work, and I in no way want to diminish that. Skaters, regardless of what they wear, or how many times they have had a beer with fresh meat, work their butts off, and do amazing things. AND I don’t expect every derby player to share my views on feminism/derby – because leagues full of just me would be stagnant.

I want to be super clear – athleticism is not the enemy. Neither is seeking global legitimacy. The sport will survive, regardless of the turns it takes, and it will always be awesome.
I think there is, possibly, a link with attendance at bouts, but I might cover that in another post.

I guess I just want to make sure that whilst we are overhauling the public image of derby, the heart keeps beating. The heart of the sport which is a bunch of primarily female-identified people creatively kicking arse. Not in spite of the fact that they are feminine (to whatever degree), but because of it.

EDIT: I want to share this post by Khaos Theory – it looks at strategies for team building that seem to me to be an excellent mix of athleticism/commitment, and the heart of derby

un-numbered post – Love me challenge Day 8

Day 8 is “Share a Scar”

This feels really uncomfortable for me. My body is covered in scars, good ones and bad ones.
Besides a couple of chicken pox scars, my first scars were stretch marks. I hated them for years. They fade, but never go away. The skin gets thinner, ridged, shot through with silk. I get stretch marks so easily. I get them putting on weight, losing weight, changing shape. I know they’ll never really go. They tell good stories and bad.
I got weird stretch marks when I was pregnant, they are horizontal above my belly button and they look different to the others. They only came up in the last week of my pregnancy.
They are what they are, I suppose. I hate them less, but sometimes I still find it hard to love them.
Part of the problem is, I think, that stretch marks are not seen nearly as often as they should be. I know hundreds of women with stretch marks (more than who have none, I’d say), but I still don’t see them in magazines, or on TV.
So here’s a pic of my stretch marks.
To spread the beauty of stretch marks a little bit further, to maybe touch another derby girl who thinks they are faulty because of the web of satin threaded over their body.

*image description: a photo of a fair-skinned fat woman in a floral bikini taking a photo of herself in the mirror, cropped to the shoulders and knees**
*image description: a photo of a fair-skinned fat woman with stretch marks on her belly in a floral bikini taking a photo of herself in the mirror, cropped to the shoulders and knees**

un-numbered post – love me challenge day seven


Day Seven, one thing that’s just for me?

Huh, I don’t really understand what this is asking me? Is it something I don’t share with anyone? (My underwear) Is it a present to myself? (Well, this challenge is kind of a present to myself, but I’d also like new underwear) Is it something I keep secret and hidden? (The churning turmoil that is the inside of my head at any given moment, the interplay of fear, anxiety, and rules that seems non-stop, the struggle to overcome negative self-talk, the semi-permanent state of distraction that means if I’m not doing something with my hands I can barely listen to people talk, the weird worlds I create in my head so I can run away)

I don’t know.

Or maybe it means something I do just for me… Like derby. I do derby for me, but it is kind of for other people too, my team, my partner (who enjoys that it makes me happy), but then that makes me happy as well.
I also have started doing botanical watercolours. That’s just for me, and I love doing them. I’m still learning, but it’s a beautiful process.

unfinished pitcher plant
unfinished pitcher plant **image description, unfinished watercolour painting of a green and red pitcher plant**

So there’s two things. I am such a rebel.

Un-numbered post – love me challenge day five


Day Five, a note to your future you

dear Future Smash

dont lose hope. Remember sunshine in the yard, orange tinted days, dreams of light-filled beds.

remember that you worked hard and survived.

sing more.

i can’t wait to meet you. I imagine you’re more softly spoken but still fierce in debate. Articulate and funny, compassionate, but determined.

but don’t stop wearing glitter or performing.

Play dress ups with awesomeface.

I love you

x Past Smash

Un-numbered post – LoveMe challenge Day Four

Ok, yesterday was a poo fight so I’m doing days four and five on the same day. In my defense I did drive for hours and hours and was exhausted and shitty.lovemechallenge

SO, here’s a slightly delayed Day Four – A note to your past self.

Dear Past Smash,

Things are going to get really horrible. Well and truly fucked. It gets better eventually, but it takes a fucking long time, and it is hellish. You will take the most secret, precious part of yourself, your hope, and hide it away in a little box. Do it, trust me. Keep some part of yourself locked away so that no one can get to it. When you get to the end you will think that it has died, but it hasn’t. Keep feeding it in little secret ways, it will survive, and it will become part of you again when you’re safer.
YOU will survive. You’re so much stronger than anyone realises. Keep your secret self hidden away and you will know you are coming to the end because there will be people who see it even when it’s hidden and not try to attack it, but love it and celebrate it, because they love and celebrate you.
That’s how you’ll know it’s safe to come out.
I wish more than anything I could help you avoid what you’re going to go through. Be prepared, it’s going to be worse than you could imagine, but you WILL get through, and you will be amazing, and beautiful, and everything you wanted to be.
There will be glitter, and sequins, and dress-ups, and no more shame.

I love you, thank you for surviving so much.
Future Smash