It’s a Freshie Thing

I’m back in Pennsylvania, which means I’m back to work.  In these days, work that only means getting up and going into the office every day, it also means I have training as a member of HARD: the Harrisburg Area Roller Derby team.  I know there’s probably a few of you who thought after I put up my first post, “Cassidy can’t really be serious about this, can she?”  The short answer to that: yes. The long answer to it?  I don’t think there is a long answer. Yes suffices.

Just so you get an idea of our practice schedule, Monday and Wednesday nights, every week, are mandatory.  That’s when everyone gets together and does their thing.  As a new person I’m usually with the other new people building up my skills, but as you’ll see we do get out there and work with the vets every so often.

But Tuesday nights are Fresh Meat nights, and that’s what I am: Fresh Meat.  Fresh meat is when you’re new on skates in your building up your skills and you’ve yet to be certified to get out there and tussle with the rest of the ladies.  And yes, in order to get on a track you have to be certified. As I go through this post I’ll discuss some of that.  What, did you think we just threw a bunch of women out on the course and let them beat the hell out of each other?  Nope, there are rules here!

So the first three days of this week are practice nights–something good to come back to after a week of no skating.  Monday has already segued into a kind of blur, but I made it through and you seen those pictures.  For my Tuesday night practice, however, I brought along my video camera, set it up on a tripod outside the rink, and turned it on.  The idea is that every so often I’ll videotape myself so I get an idea of what sort of progression I’m going through–if I’m actually progressing at all.  It’ll help me see where I need to work and what I need to develop.  Hey, professional athletes look at training videos of themselves all the time, so why shouldn’t I?

Plus, it allows me to show you, the Fans of my Blog, just what it is we go through when we’re out there on skates.  Because for damn sure I figure most of you would have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about if I didn’t show you some pretty images.

Let’s go to the video then!

Now first off I’ll tell you this: the video does not track me. In fact you’ll see us and me go off camera every so often, particularly in the majority of videos we’re actually moving across the short end of the ring from one wall to another.  But you will still get an idea of what we’re doing.  And I’ll fill in the blanks were necessary.

Right off the bat I come up to check on the camera just before we sit down and do a bit of stretching.  I’m learning rather quickly that stretching is important, particularly for my feet, because if you don’t go out and stretch properly you get real sore real fast.  And after last night I discovered a couple of slow laps around the track is a good way to get relaxed and let your feet get settled in so they don’t cramp up.

I will also point out that this is a good chance for you to see the a tank top I’m wearing, which is sort of a violet.  So when you’re looking for a skater out on the track, look for the violet tank top.  That’s me, in all my glory.



This was our first exercise of the night: Push Me, Push You.  It’s very simple: you partner up with someone and one of you becomes the pusher, while the other becomes the pushee.  You start out skating to laps around the rink, then switch position, so that if you were pushing you now going to get pushed for two laps by the person whom you were pushing.

Lap progression is simple: first it’s two laps, then three, then four, then five, then you work your way back to two.  I’ll work out the math for you: that’s forty-six laps.  Forty-six laps of you either pushing someone around the track, or being down in Derby position, a.k.a. in a squat with your head up looking forward in your arms to the side or in front of you.  So it’s not just the pusher who’s getting a workout, because trust me: after you’ve been in a squat for three or four laps the lactic acid starts building up your quads and you begin feeling the pain.  Or, if you’re like me, you also start feeling in your lower back.  And if you’re pushing you not only pushing the person in front of you but you pushing yourself.

Needless to say I did not make it all the way through the exercise.  I ended up having to drop out for about five or six laps before I got back in and finish it out.  Still, I managed to get in around thirty-five laps, which I consider something of an accomplishment.  Particularly since it was only my fourth practice night.

This is the longest of the video, running almost 18 minutes.  It starts just before we begin and ends just as Ida–our Freshie trainer–and I come to a one knee stop almost in front of the camera.  Enjoy.



Then it was time for us to get into a bit of skills work, but before that happened I came over to check the camera once again, mostly to see how the battery was doing.  As you’ll see I’m sweating and there are beads of water on my hair.  Let me tell you something about roller derby workout: you will drip sweat.  I have every night I’ve been out on the rink.  It has been a long time since I’ve drip sweat during a workout and in many ways, it’s an indication that you are working yourself.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what that pink thing is sticking out of my tank top/sports bra, that’s my mouthguard.  For these practices we have to wear a mouthguard–or at least it’s highly recommended.  After a while you don’t even know it’s in, but it is necessary. And I found that out the hard way last night…



So, skills. The first thing you’re going to see is meatball practice.  A meatball is when you drop down to one knee, or in some cases both, and then get back up without pushing off of the floor with your hands.  As we’re reminded, pushing off of the floor with your hands during a heat is a bad thing, because other ladies wearing skates might just accidentally roll over your fingers as her going around you. And do you really want your fingers rolled over by skates?  No, you do not.

Now, I don’t have that much of a problem pushing up with my left leg as I’m left-handed and that’s my more develop side.  I’m going to have to work on pushing up with my right leg, as it doesn’t have quite the same strength.  For certification we have to be able to get up from either leg to a standing position, without using her hands, and I believe we have to do it within three seconds as that’s how much time you have during a heat to get back on your skates if you go down.



The plow stop is a simple stop: you move your legs out to the side, point your toes inward, and then pull your legs together using the muscles of your inner thigh.  It looks simple, but looks are always deceiving.  I believe it was mentioned that for certification you have to be able to plow stop within a four-foot area, which means coming at speed and then bringing yourself to a stop.  The women who’ve been doing this for a while do make it look easy, and I hope to get to that point soon.



A T stop is when you take one of your feet, turn ninety degrees to your body, and then press that skate to the ground to bring you to a quick, dragging stop.  Even though we need this for certification we’re told not to use this during a heat, because if someone were to trip over your foot they could easily break your ankle.  Of the four T stops I attempted, only the last one was good; during the other three I allowed my skates to write on the inner wheels, which in turn twisted my foot–and that’s another good way of breaking your ankle.  A good T stop makes a lot of noise when it’s done right.



Gliding  is another thing we need for certification.  It’s simply being able to move along on one foot for certain amount of distance.  Again, I can glide pretty well on my left leg, but strength and balance are not my strong suit from my right. Last night, during practice, I spent more time gliding off my right leg that my left so that I can begin to learn how to balance and hold myself up.



Backwards skating: the bane of my existence.  Back in the day when I used to skate a lot I never got the hang of backwards skating.  Transitioning–the ability to spin around quickly from forward to backwards–is easy for me, but then again, I am something of an expert on transitioning.  Bi–who was with us last night helping Ida–told me I need to figure out how to swing my hips more and then it becomes a simpler matter of pushing off and going backwards.  This is something that I will need to be able to do to get certified.  No backwards skating; no hope of ever mixing it up on a track.



Egg shells are another simple maneuver.  You use your legs to move your feet outward and inward continuously, and if done right it will propel you forward–sometimes at a little more speed than what you’d realize you could generate.  There’s also one skate eggshell, or a sticky skate, where you just do that with one foot and alternate between feet.  As we learned Tuesday night, you need something like that when you doing pack work, because sticking a layout is a good way to not only trip another person, but to trip yourself up.



And speaking of pack skating… Almost got into a tight pack and went back and forth across the rink a few times so that we can get an idea of what it’s like.  You need to do this because this is a big part of what blockers and the pivot–four of the people on a team–do.  At least until one of those two pesky jammer–the team member who scores points–gets past you.  At which point things get crazy.

You will see that one member of our team went down but that it wasn’t a catastrophe.  I’ve already went down in a line skate once, but on Monday night all us Fresh Meat did a skate line around the rink many times, even having a chance to weave in and out between people as we moved away to the front.  Which, I have to tell you, was a lot of fun.



And finally, the end. This was right when we were getting ready to do about twenty minutes of stretching after all the skating, and several of my teammates managed to get on camera.  As I said in a Facebook post last night, even when we’re dead tired we still know how to find time to have a good laugh.



That was my Tuesday night.  Last night, Wednesday night, it was a bit different situation as we are working with the vets.  And here they are, getting their gear on–



–While I’m just sitting off to the side all by myself, snapping selfies before I got out on the floor.



It was a bit different situation than what we had the night before.  We started out by teaming up with the veteran and we do a strength and aerobic exercises.  While one stands on the sidelines doing strength work–squats, push-ups, leg lifts, whatever–the other person skates.  We go through that progression of laps again, this time two, three, four, five, six laps and then back down to two.

Although I was the last skater off the rink, I finished all my laps, and I did so with a lot of encouragement from my partner.  One thing to say about roller derby: all the women there are giving you a tremendous amount of encouragement while you’re busting your butt to get into shape and develop your skills.  In case you need me to do the math for you, you skate thirty-four laps.

We went through a lot of her skill training as well.  During some of the skill training I look like a hot mess, but I will improve.  A lot of these moves are nothing more than a combination of balance in developing the proper muscle memory, and that takes time. I have to remind myself not to think I suck because I’m not getting these moves right off the bat.  I haven’t been an athletic person for decades, so there’s no way in hell I’m picking this up right away.  It will take time; it’s a learning process.

And I learned one thing in a big way last night.  I talk about derby position.  That’s where you get down in a squat, sort of moving your weight a little bit back toward your butt so that your center of mass is somewhere over your skates, and keeping your head up and looking straight forward while you’re going around the track.  We are told not to lean forward, because leaning forward means you’re probably going to fall forward, and if you fall forward at speed he could hurt…

Last night we played a game that everyone called Highlander. The rules are simple.  There are two pool noodles on the floor.  When the whistle blows skaters pick up the pool noodles and proceed to hit other skaters to get them out.  When the whistle blows again the noodles are dropped and upon the whistle being blown after that, they are picked up again, onward and so forth and so on.

Well, during our second game one of the pool noodles happened to be directly in front of me as the “pickup whistle” blew.  Which meant I leaned down to pick it up–oh, I should say, I leaned forward to pick it up. At speed.  While not having good balance.

You can guess the rest.  I went down pretty hard falling forward the entire way.  I managed to get my knees and my elbows under me a little bit, but I still hit with enough force that both my jaw and my nose made contact with the floor. However, I had my mouthguard in and as I started falling I clamped down with my jaw so I didn’t rattle my teeth, and knowing to get my arms under me a little bit managed to keep me from smashing face first into the rink.  Even as it was, when I got home I noticed there was a bit of dried blood inside the right nostril of my nose.  If I had fallen correctly I could’ve broken it quite easily.

And that, ladies, is why we wear a mouthguard.  It’s also why we don’t lean forward.  As you can imagine, I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.

Anyway, I made it through practice:



And even got a chance to show you just how much we sweat, particularly under our knee pads.  I take two bottles of water with me to practice and last night I went to one and a half of them.  Training is hard work, yo!


So this gives you a bit of an idea of what I’m doing.  To some of you it may seem like torture, and there are few times when it’s actually felt a bit like torture.  But even though I walk out of the ring tired, the two weeks of training I’ve done has actually left me feeling pretty good about myself.  There’s a lot of encouragement coming from your derby teammates, and it empowers you to work even harder to become better skater. And by becoming a better skater, we get that much closer to being certified to actually skate in a meet.

And ultimately that is my goal: to be able to get out there in full gear with the rest of my teammates and help do my best to bring glory back to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  But before I can get to that point, I have to learn the basics.

And at the moment, that is exactly what I am doing.