Last weekend, I, and around 50 other skaters from leagues around the country, took part in the Glasgow Roller Derby newbie bootcamp. Afterwards, tired and sore, I lay in a bath and reflected on the day. And for me, it was a boost of not just my skills, but also my confidence.
When I first heard about GRD's bootcamp, designed to help newbies pass their minimums, I was excited. I'd been stuck in a bit of a skating plateau, and felt this was what would clear the mental block and get me through my tests.
However, the closer it came to April 7, the more nervous I got. I had never really skated with people from other leagues, what if they were miles better than I was, what if I looked like an idiot, what if I couldn't keep up with what we were doing, OH MY GOD I'M SKATING IN FRONT OF PEOPLE FROM GRD, WHO ARE AWESOME!! My brain was turning me into a ball of panic and anxiety, and I was powerless to stop it. Nightmare!!
Thankfully, a couple of nights before, I voiced my fears to a member of my league, who told me to "do what you could, take breaks when you need to, but get back up and keep going". This simple sentence worked wonders, and on the day it kept resonating in my brain. It was not about other people, I just had to do the best I could and learn as much as I could.
On the day, the nerves continued as I approach ARC. But inside, I saw the many other girls who had made the trip to Glasgow and realised that many, if not all, were probably feeling the same way I was.
After filling in waivers, we were called on track for a group warm up. I will admit, I wasn't at my best. The nerves, coupled with an unknown floor (it was my first time skating at ARC) and new wheels (I had borrowed some slim wheels to try out) had me unsteady on my feet. But I got used to it and managed to keep up with the knee falls, stops and baseball slides.
Then, much to my relief, we were allowed to pick whether we went into a basic, or more advanced group. The relief was, we got to pick ourselves, based on how we felt about our capabilities. Had the coaches singled me out and put me in a group I didn't think matched my abilities, I would have been mortified.
And it was down to business. Throughout the day, we covered laterals, a lot of hitting (lateral hits, close hits), positional blocking, keeping your feet moving (having Viper up your ass screaming "FEET! FEET! FEET!" as you made your way between two pacelines was a daunting experience), transitions and much more. At every step, there were a number of GRD skaters helping, talking you through it, giving demonstrations and advice.
It was a hardcore day, that pushed me to my limit. And as I said earlier, by the end of it I was sore, knackered and incredibly smelly. All I wanted after was a bath, a meal and my bed (which is pretty much how the rest of my evening went).
Here's the thing...It was probably the best thing I could have done for my skills and confidence. Yes, there were times I had to come off track and stretch my leg (which had been giving me a bit of bother earlier in the week) but I remembered what I was told, took the time and then got back on track. And yes, there are some things that I didn't manage to master and will need to continued to work on. But I got to meet some new people, see how other skaters were developing (and yes, for every skater that was ahead of me, skills-wise, there was one who wasn't as advanced as I was), and I got to learn and practice skills that I will use on-track for as long as I do derby. I was taught by some of the best skaters in Scotland, and actually got praise from them!! I broke through that wall that was stopping me from improving, by staying in the game and not letting either my brain or my physical limitations defeat me (although I did have to stop about 20 minutes from the end when my leg decided that it had had enough). I also got advice on nutrition, equipment and being a newbie going through the process of passing minimums.
I know that I've got a long way to go, but this bootcamp has shown me that I can do it...if I can skate for nearly seven hours and not pass out, suffer serious injury or die, I can get passed my minimums and hopefully become a pretty kick-ass skater.
Thanks again to Glasgow Roller Derby and to newbies out there....the next time you see a newbie bootcamp, sign up. You won't regret it.