Monday, November 30, 2009

Bringing The Movie To Life: Derby Dreams - Part 4

My least favorite idiom is, by far, the concept of the double-edged sword. Why can't someone ever just wholeheartedly enjoy something? There always has to be downside. Well, this whole roller derby thing has officially developed into a double-edged sword. I'm still obsessed and having a blast, but I just found out that the tryouts are capped at 100 girls and no more than 15 will make it. Shit. I think I'm good, but I don't know about that good.

The second skills night went pretty well. I've got the basic skills down – crossovers, stopping, power strides – but now they're throwing in derby skills, namely blocking. I'm skinny but it's not the force that overtakes me, it's this whole skating low thing. Skating low is the key to roller derby. It helps in every facet: speed, stability and, most importantly, blocking. If you stay super low, odds are, another girl will have a much harder time knocking you over. On the other hand, if you're standing tall, you're practically a rolling target. When it comes to throwing a block, you'll be way ahead of the competition in a lower position. You don't block someone with your arm alone; you're blocking your opponent with your entire body and that requires the power to forcefully pop up from the low derby stance. The lower you are, the more power you'll have.

This is a lot to keep in mind, especially for someone who's trying it for the first time. It's not easy to stay balanced when you're being hit or even when you're the one throwing the hit. On top of that, it's like a reflex for your elbow to get in on the action, which is a major no-no in derby. Did I mention all of this is just standing? We literally just planted our feet and tried to hit a girl next to us static. Considering a significant number of asses hit the floor every few seconds, it was a bit of a shock when they sent us around the track to try blocking in motion. The fact that every girl participating is at a different skill level makes this far more difficult. You have girls who are baby stepping around the track and others who are going so fast you barely see them go by. The drill got off to a slow start. The girl I was paired with could barely find her footing, so every time I hit her it was a guaranteed knockdown. I couldn't tell if my hits were strong or, well, she just sucked. Every few minutes they'd call for a partner change. During one such swap, I was left partnerless. This actually worked to my benefit because I was paired with one of the derby girls on the coaching staff. Within minutes she had me hitting harder, skating faster and getting a real sense of what I was supposed to be doing.

Skills night three was a success and so was the fourth. The fourth offered little in terms of new skills, but gave us a chance to revisit everything we learned and hone our abilities further. Desperate for some personal feedback, I asked one of the coaches to keep an eye out for me to see if there's anything I should be working on. He pointed out that my main issue was my stride. In order to get full power out of each step, I'd have to get lower and extend my legs further. Doesn't sound too hard, right? Wrong! It isn't easy to keep low – it requires a ton of strength from your core – and fully extending my legs while maintaining balance is tricky too. Regardless, I was thrilled to go home with something to work on.

I scheduled another lesson with the guy from the local roller rink, not so much for him to teach me new things, but to run drills and get some personal advice. He had me zipping around the track faster than ever, walking on my toe stops (a little) and strengthening my plow stop. I explained my tryout dilemma and he seemed to think I have a good shot. He told me that while skills and ability are important, they're also looking for girls with the right attitude and the desire to learn. Well, I'm pretty sure I've got those, so I guess at this point all I can do is practice and keep my fingers crossed.

There's one last skills night followed by tryout day on Saturday, so check back for more updates soon. This is going to be a big week!
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