Guest Blog by the new and fabulous league skater Isabel!

My skating career started out when I was about 6 years old, on bright blue inline skates from the toy store on the most crappy plastic wheels you could ever imagine. They were both my most prized and most mistreated possession. I’d roll past the houses in my street, holding on to walls, leaving fingerprints on peoples windows, and slamming into lamp posts and gardens because I hadn’t figured out how to break yet. It was a hell for my neighborhood, my poor plastic skates, and my parents (one time I decided to jump off a bench and managed to break my arm in two places), but it was heaven for me.

I continued inline skating all through growing up, doing a few jumps in skate parks but mostly cruising long distances. I got a few skating friends, mostly longboarders since the longboarding craze took off the past few years, and I found skating with people makes skating even more fun. Than I graduated, found a job and moved away from my skating buddies and, sadly, the joint skating sessions.

I googled for groups of people inline skating together, or making a competition out of it, or anything like that, and that is how I found derby. I’d rather continue on inline skates but couldn’t find anything that seemed as cool as derby, so I signed up for an open training. It was awesome. By the second open training, I had signed up for the rookie program, got over my reluctance towards quad skates and exchanged a kidney for a complete set of derby gear.

I had to adjust quite a bit to quad skates. My first cross overs were basically me kicking out my wheels from under myself because I wasn’t used to having two wheels next to each other instead of four in a row, but I enjoyed it nonetheless (and it definitely got me over any fear of falling). But apart from the skating part, I found a cool community. Falling and sweating and completely failing at at a new skill for the first time, and doing it together, makes skating even more fun.

I was never the sporty kid and especially hated team sports, since I always got the feeling I was holding everyone back despite really trying to improve. That’s not at all the case with derby and probably the biggest reason I look forward to trainings everytime. If you don’t pass your first rookie test, you just take the next one, and nobody judges you for it. If you do pass, but don’t feel comfortable joining a team yet, that’s fine as well. There’s no pressure, which has led to quite the unique situation of me pushing myself to get better because I really want to, instead of not wanting to let my teammates down and still feeling like I’m doing exactly that. Somehow it’s the lack of pressure that makes me push myself harder physically than I have ever done, and I absolutely love it.

Derby is one of the easiest conversation starters ever by the way. You can explain three times you’ve just started out and are very proud of yourself for skating backwards without falling and slamming your skate between your butt cheeks, but people don’t really care. You do roller derby and that’s hella cool.

One tip I’d like to give any up-and-coming rookie skater (especially those that generally do not like sports, like me), is that everyone explains a skill in a different way. Apparently I’ve completely missed out on this knowledge doing other sports! One explanation might just suddenly click with you where others seem complete gibberish, so your progression might be partly dependant on how many people you ask for help. And there are always experienced skaters around willing to help you where they can.

So I think I’ve ranted enough about how cool derby is. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off spending some more on gear, cause I need some outdoor wheels to take my newly acquired skills outside this summer. Good thing I actually know how to break this time around.

World Mental Health Day 2018

A guest blog by the ever talented Veer Pressure

A teammate once said, “you’ll find the full DSM-V* in roller derby,” and while that is not the only reason I feel so at home in the derby world, it is definitely a big part of it.

I have struggled with mental health since I was fifteen, and exercise has always helped me tremendously, especially team sports. I used to play field hockey. But never have I found such a community feeling, a feeling of belonging, as I have found in derby. With derby people I can talk, about anything. Derby people offer support when needed. We help each other out and we lift each other up.

Sometimes I feel so bad that all I want to do is skate fast laps to deal with the discomfort of my mind. Sometimes I just want to have fun with my teammates and laugh about silly stuff. Other times I want to skate into people as hard as I can, trusting they can take the hit. And sometimes I feel so shit that going to practice is impossible, and my teammates will let me know that that is okay, too. Like learning how to skate, healing is not linear, that is something I learned in derby as well.

Roller derby has taught me more than just skating and hitting people on skates, more than just playing or officiating the game. Doing derby these past 3.5 years, I have learned real life skills that are incredibly helpful, not just in day to day life, but also for my mental healing. My confidence has gotten an immense boost. I have learned to set goals, and to work hard to achieve them. I have learned that almost everything boils down to teamwork and trusting the people around you. I have learned that only by doing something a hundred times over, you will learn it. I have learned to speak up about what is troubling me. I have learned that sometimes, however hard something may seem, however scary something may feel, you have to take the leap and do it. And most importantly, I have learned that I am always allowed to ask for help.

Risky in name risky by nature

A tale of Derby Injury by Risky Galore : Guest blog by Scottish lassie, skater and new ARD president.

Wee, sleekit, poor broken Beastie*

At a seemingly regular practice I came round the apex to meet the pack, I received a moderate and clean hit that I would, on any given day, have countered or taken in my stride, but not this day. I broke my tibia and fibula 9th March, it was a spiral oblique fracture of the tibial shaft i.e. I really f**ked my leg halfway up and there was a gap where there shouldn’t be, the surgeon thought I’d been hit by a car.

Now according to the very lovely paramedics I shouldn’t have remembered anything on my ketamine cocktail, but I remember the trip quite well. I had no concept of time, and didn’t really know what was going on, but my calm and brilliant team mates held me together, asked me about my cat and held my hand. I don’t have much memory of pain, flashes of blinding light and yelps, but the adrenaline and drugs carried me through.

*Reference to Burns – excellent poem about a mouse

Looking cool as a cucumber.

Whoopsie #teammetallegs

I didn’t enjoy the high though, sinking deep into the hole and “seeing” everyone high above me with their voices warped and distant will keep me away from ket for life.

As I left on the stretcher I shouted back to the hall to “join roller derby!”, as it was and still is an awesome sport. I then spouted a load of sh*t to Robert my paramedic who I insisted should be heretofore called Rabbie or Boaby after the dear Scottish poet Rabbie Burns.

The hospital treated me deftly and efficiently. I was scooped up, x-rayed, patched up, in a cast, had surgery and out a cast, taught to use crutches and home within 72 hours. It was an emotional and physical trial, but I had made it.

Patience is a virtue, just not one of mine

The first 6 weeks I was non-weight bearing. Now, I am fiercely independent, impatient and stubborn. Suddenly I had to rely on my (very patient and caring) partner, I had to ask friends for help, I couldn’t make my guests cups of tea.

When I was in the hospital and the heavy drugs wore off and I was semi-lucid, I told my partner that, yes this was crap, but now that I had all this time that I HAD to spend in bed or resting I could at least use it. I could finish my thesis, learn Dutch properly, research, read, become a nobel winning scientist. My reality was that pain meds gave me headaches and sore eyes, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t even binge on Netflix. I came off them as soon as possible but then I had to deal with pain instead, so time passed slowly.

I can’t emphasise enough how important it is if you have a friend or league member out for whatever injury, physical or otherwise, please reach out. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you are that close. It’s not awkward, it’s caring. And this is not to admonish anyone who didn’t drop a line – I didn’t do it enough before either, I didn’t realise. But it’s lonely, and even more than that it’s painfully frustrating.

Celebrating being able to stand with a not-so-responsible tipple

For anyone going through this, reach back as well, it can be daunting – I know I felt like a nuisance at times, but it’s important to remind people you are there. Oh and being outside, chocolate, puzzles and podcasts work a treat – I would recommend My Dad Wrote a Porno.

Oh and BE PATIENT, don’t decide you are fine, not wait for help, go up the (Dutch) stairs on your own, then fall down them, you will give your buddy a heart attack and it’s not worth it.

Mind over Matter, Matter over Mind

As soon as the surgeon cleared me for weight bearing as bearable I was off. My improvement was pretty drastic, by my 3 month visit at the hospital and a follow up x-ray I was walking without pain or noticeable limp, I was cycling, back to work, I could skip and jump and I even went to the last practice of the season and skated for a bit. Yes it was hard and I still had moments of doubt and frustration but I was putting in the work, I was confident, and it was paying off.

Then I don’t know what happened, and neither do the doctors or physio, but I started having pain.

I know they say healing is not linear, it’s in every forum, every conversation about recovery, I’m pretty sure I saw it as a tattoo somewhere, but it’s still a slap in the face when you have to deal with it. I’m still struggling with it. There is no reason, there is no remedy, it is a part of the process and it f**king sucks.

Here I am being a weirdo with my amazing BattleStars. Cred: Branko Collins Derby Photos.

It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to find the exact cause of the pain, which tendon, which movement, what stretch. But it’s the body reacting to some bloody trauma and it’s doing this amazing thing by healing and that’s not going to be peachy the whole time. And that’s OKAY. It’s also okay to not be okay with it, sometimes. An hour ago I was hitting my leg telling it to stop being silly and the night before last I cried a bit and felt sorry for myself. I think the ups and downs are a part of this process, it’s made me so in tune with my body, it’s strengthened relationships, given me perspective, and pushed me to speak up, I’ve had days so filled with love and laughter I was fit to burst so there is always a silver lining.

As I recover I refuse to let this incident govern my choices. What happened, was out of my control. The only way I could have avoided it was to not do what I love. I refuse to compromise my life on the random chance that something may happen.

Hello Old Friend

This week the new season started. I will be there. This week I will put my gear on and stand on my skates. I will evaluate my capabilities and be proud of anything I am able to do. I believe in visualisation, we practice it on the bench before our games, we see the jammer and hear the whistle, we identify possible challenges and we overcome them. The game doesn’t happen exactly the way we invision it, that’s not the point. The point is we have experienced it through one of it’s million possibilities and we can now face it as an old friend, no longer a stranger.

So I visualise the next step. Patiently.

Back to Back Belgian Games

By Curse of the Black Pearl :: The Powerhouse Jammer extraordinaire from our BattleStars

It’s 15:30 in Brussels and the sun is shining outside. But the BattleStars don’t notice, they have other more pressing matters on hand. There are 6 minutes left on the period clock and they just went down to only 6 players. This is their third game in 2 days, and they are exhausted, but hungry for every point. With only 6 players the only one that gets a rest is the jammer once every couple jams. Sweating and high on adrenaline, they’re trying to keep their focus as they stand on track waiting for what will probably be one of the last jams of this game and of the weekend.

But let’s start at the beginning. // A bit over 24 hours earlier…

We are on our way to Namur, 3 BattleStars and one coach in the car. We’re discussing tactics, who will play in which position and the possible outcomes of the game. The floor of the venue in Namur is known for it’s slipperiness, so we’re already changing our wheels to the softest we have (or could borrow from our league mates).

Pivots were very much needed in the Namur game! photo cred David Van Elslande

Passing by Brussels the nerves are starting to kick in. After Namur we will head straight for Brussels to bed and rise early to play two more games. With the Daylight savings we’ll miss one hour of much needed sleep..

Once we arrived at the venue in Namur, an ambulance with flashing sirens is at the entrance, clearly for a derby player inside. While my teamies and I waited outside by the waterside in the setting sun, our coaches went in to find out what had happened…

As always during the warm up everyone is getting excited and nervous. We chat and joke while running, jumping, hitting and doing butt lifts. Then we go get our gear on – the coaches decided to give us extra “glitter” time based on previous experiences. I wouldn’t say it’s more important than the on track warm up or the skate out but… Well let’s just say it’s part of my bout routine.. As is stuffing myself with sugars right before the game. If you see a half eaten banana lying around, it’s probably mine.

Trying to read the track vs Antwerp Roller Derby ✯ One Love Roller Dolls B team. Photo cred :: Camille Langlois

The floor is very slippery indeed, but I’m prepared so it should be manageable.

And I was right, it was manageable. But damn, what a hard game it was. The BattleStars had a lot of unlucky injuries and other circumstances which made our usual roster of 15 quickly plummet down to 9 players. Luckily Miss Painfully Honest, a league mate, was willing to help us out this weekend. So we managed to get it up to 10 for this game.

Namur was obviously the stronger team, and even with a full roster it would have been a tough game. We fought, but we weren’t an oiled machine like Namur was. It was hard to keep our spirits up, especially when one of us got injured and had to be taken to the hospital and 2 others fouled out. End score: 364 – 51.

Defeated but our minds already set on the 2 other games the next day, we left straight for Brussels for a well deserved rest.

I woke up, not having had the rest I badly wanted, but glad I used my last energy of the previous night to hang out my gear to dry (also sprayed with disinfectant, very proud). I packed and got ready for day 2.

Game face vs Rolling Zombie Dolls. Photo cred :: Camille Langlois

A different venue, a different floor. This one is much stickier then the one in Namur, but we’re used to training on sticky floors. We’re all still a bit battered from yesterday and we are now with 8 players. But as soon as we start we off skates warm up (outside in the sun!) we are getting excited again. A new day, new chances and we only have 2 more games to go! We knew that Antwerp was going to be a tough game, but no one got injured and our teamwork had already improved so much! Final score: 192 – 46.

Because of our loss against Antwerp we played Tournai. I recognised a lot of skaters from the scrimmage we had about a year ago. This was the final game, still growing while playing against Antwerp (and with shower beers already in sight) we went in full force. Time to push out that last bit of energy we had in us. I enjoyed this game the most. It felt like we were a complete different team compared to that first game in Namur. We were holding the jammer, giving offence, getting lead and scoring (efficient) points. We lost a player to an injury and to a foul out in the last 10 minutes, but even with 6 we kept on going. The result: 155 – 97.

To my big surprise I barely had any muscle ache on Monday. Apparently 2 days is already enough for your body to adapt, thinking “This is my life now”.

So nice to have supporters at an away game!

But after a couple of days rest it was time to look ahead and start thinking of what to improve. With only 3 weeks until our next game against Breda and only 2 team trainings it was time to prioritise. We practised reforming our tripods and working on our jammer-offense communication, the newest additions to the team had to get accustomed to us and our tactics. 3 days before our game we played a scrimmage against each other to practise our lines. We feel confident about Sunday after that, might we have a chance of winning?

Game day. The BattleStars haven’t played Suck City in several years, we didn’t really know what to expect. They (unlike us), have been playing with each other for a while so they probably know each other much better. Getting ready (in the most amazing dressing room I’ve seen in a while), there is a great vibe. We have almost twice the amount of players as in Brussels and we’re full of energy. Caticorn (our mascotte) is looking down on us, obviously pleased. The coaches give us the last instructions – remember your tripod, always be aware of the jammer! and we’re off.

What a different game to the ones in Belgium. We’re playing like we’ve known each other for months.

The blockers are holding the jammer off, while the jammers get lead after lead. And when they don’t they break out right after the other jammer and still manage to score some points. Halfway through the game, we hear some familiar voices cheering from the crowd. The All Stars came to Breda straight after their training to support us! Time for us to show off!

The final score: 313 – 77

I immensely enjoyed our games, some more than others. As a jammer it’s amazing when you’re scoring all the points, but when you’re stuck behind that wall seconds seem to become hours. But the feeling when you’re speeding through the turns and hitting the wall full force – there’s nothing like it. That with the amazing group of people that derby consists off, that will support through all your ups and downs.. and the ups and downs of scores too! What’s not to love? Now to get ourselves back to practice and ready for the next HOME GAME on the 6th of MAY!

Thank you for hosting us Suck City Rock ‘n Roller Dolls!