Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beat Me Halfway

Thanks to my Cowtown Butcher derby brother, Thermal Detonator, for this guest post! I couldn't have said it better myself.

When I first started derby I had a fire burning in my soul: a desire to be one of the tops, best in the world. I was excited when I figured out how to do crossovers with out tripping myself, excited to lose two pant sizes. I felt great and life was about being the best I can be. But then I hit the point where I've pushed my nose to the grindstone too long. My passion seemed to be fading into dark embers. My love for the sport was still strong, but it just didn't bring me the joy that it once did. The feeling of self-worth was gone.

After this past weekend I understand why.

When I started, everything was new and I could see my self growing. Now I can't see the growth. It happens with every practice, every fall, every hit, every miss; I'm getting better but I just can't see it. At least not until I went to Beat Me Halfway.

I had the pleasure of playing three scrimmages with other skaters I didn't know on my own skill level. This was an important development in my skill set. At home, I have my set position on the team. I'm the slowest skater and what I'm supposed to do is so drilled into my head that I hardly have to think when I'm scrimmaging.

This was something new. It was a level playing field. Folks didn't expect me to stay in one spot. After taking a class on Default Strategy, I had a clear understanding of my job on the team no matter where I was playing. The whistle blew and we were off—a bunch of skaters ready to test out new skills and see how they do against each other.

I left some of the jams thinking to myself, "Damn it, I screwed up big." Once when I was on the black team of a scrimmage, we had a great four-person wall. I looked behind me and saw a jammer star and the face of one of my teammates. I opened a door, letting him pass effortlessly and closing it back tight, only to wonder how in the world a white shirt team member made it through the wall. Then I read the number and name on his back and knew I was how. I let a person who normally is my teammate through. Well, then I had to right my wrong and chase after him.

I was even forced to jam this weekend in a class. I didn't want to and I was the last one to do it in the class because, well, I know how slow I am. I didn't want to make a fool of myself in front of strangers. I took off the jammer line behind the speed of the opposing jammer... big surprise, I knew this was going to happen. But then—bam!—she hit a wall of my skaters. A magic door opened for me. I skated as hard as I could before the door closed. I passed most of the opposing blockers and—boom!—one of them ahead of me coming straight for me. In a muscle-memory reflex, I turned my skate like I do in cone drills (the same ones that been hammered in my head time and time again, creating the rut that killed my passion). I dodged her, heard the whistle blow, and the ref telling me I was lead jammer. I couldn't believe it. My legs somehow picked up speed and I skated as hard as I could. What a magical feeling.

But I left all of the scrimmages thinking, "Damn, I've learned a lot in the past seven months of derby training and year and a half of just skating."

I also had a skater who I respect for her amazing skill come to me after each one of my scrimmages and tell me what a great job I did. I feel like next season I'm not going to be the same skater I was this year. I'm going to be something feared across the country.

So in short, if you're feeling burned out on derby, don't give up. Look for a chance to learn from someone new, and to play with a group on your skill level. You might be shocked to see how much you've learned.

Beat Me Halfway was the perfect chance for me to do that.


Allan Alpha said...

What a great article buddy! Next season is going to be your season. You played awesome this weekend.


Anonymous said...

Great job Thermal! Was great to meet you and to share a blocking wall with you. You did great. Everyone did! Can't wait for next year!
Patchwork Killa (AAAHHHHH!!)

Anonymous said...

Thermal - wow you're a terrific writer as well as a great guy! You played better than I've ever seen you last weekend and I'm super glad to hear you came out of it with renewed passion for derby. Playing against the travel teams we do can definitely get a little demoralizing. I also thought you got noticeably better *as the weekend was going on*. Keep up the good work!