At the start of July 2013 I got some really exciting news: I had been successful during tryouts and was now part of Team Portugal Roller Derby who were going to take part in the 2014 Blood and Thunder Roller Derby World Cup! I immediately started planning the months ahead, pencilling in our training sessions and other important dates, setting milestones for my on and off skates training and just trying to figure out how to be the best athletic version of myself I could be. I was officially in training for something big and there was a lot of work ahead…little did I know how much…
Bath’s venue is, like their uniforms, very yellow. I wonder which came first; did they base their uniform colour choice on the lighting quality of their home venue? Choose their venue to compliment the hue of their uniforms? Neither of the above? Once our eyes had adjusted to the tone, we sought out our fellow BRDers and congregated in the suicide seating of the traditionally laid out sports hall. After quickly establishing that there was no position you can sit in on a sports hall floor that is comfortable for more than 30 seconds, we claimed our territory.
The Bath A versus Swansea B game was a relatively evenly matched affair. Interest was added by the fact Bristol’s A team was due to play Swansea’s A team in a closed game the following day, and by the appearance of our former teammate Wrecks on the Bath roster. We cheered loudly for Wrecks, warming up our vocal chords for the main event. Bath’s A team took the win, 180 to 115.
After the obligatory visit to the cake stall (I opted for a cupcake topped with a mini malteaser bunny despite the fact that I had 4 full size bunnies in my bag courtesy of Delta Strike who is an addiction enabler), Bristol’s B team took to the track for their skate out. It was an understated single-lap, pairs formation affair that I am totally stealing for the A team. The Bristol B team functions as a pool of skaters, and a spot is open to all of our female skaters not on the A team charter. If you think that this set-up makes the team transitionary or casual in any way then you would be wrong. The Bees, headed up by their fearless Captain Rip Tease and the deceptively sweet-mannered Vice Bear Thrylls, are a cohesive, driven unit, perhaps more so than other B teams who aren’t fighting it out for a roster space in such a large group. Combined with the established and experienced husband and wife bench team of HTM Hell and Thundercat Ho!, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Release the Bees is a publication made by B Team skater Jennything Goes as part of her Illustration degree coursework. The booklet was made for her first game as a Bee where they took on the Bath Roller Derby Girls and won 127 – 341. Each of her team mates manifest as an illustration along with quotes and some explanation of roller derby!
I feel stupid for volunteering to NSO for Vice Quad versus Hades. I had a vested interest in not volunteering as this was the first time I was going to a merby (men’s roller derby) game, as well the first time I would get to see Vice Quad play – once I get good I’m hoping to play for them. But volunteer I had, which meant no shouting, biased facial expressions or whoops, combined with having to concentrate on my role in the penalty box. I’d also asked Wolverine Bruise and Quay Figs of Vice Quad to show me how to lay the track, which involves a lot more equipment and elbow grease than I’d imagined, so I was kinda relieved when play was starting.
The two teams playing today had already met some of each other’s players on Vice Quad’s tour in the mystical Scotchland (I may have that wrong), and both teams were running short rosters with 8 skaters apiece, so fatigue was likely to be an issue for both teams with some difficult decisions to be made about rotation. Hades had left Glasgow that morning and picked up players on route for the game so were a bit of an unknown force.
Minimum skills are tricky: as well as trying to pass some tough skills, you also very quickly learn a lot more about yourself as a human being. Long before my derby days began, I was a competitive figure skater, so not only was I massively competitive (and still am), I also thought that my years of training would help me breeze through my minimum skills. However, this was far from the journey I ended up on.
Shortly after starting my minimum skills tests, I injured my knee and I was not allowed to skate for three months. As many people will know, it is demoralising and extremely frustrating to watch other people start to pass more skills than you, whether it is due to injury or just to them picking up skills more quickly than you. You feel like you are being left behind, and gradually more and more like a failure. If I am honest, this three month period landed me in a pretty dark place where I felt useless and often like giving up. But it was also during this time that I started to realise that the minimum skills process was teaching me a lot about my approach to setbacks and my reaction to failure.