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Sunday, January 13, 2013

What is Fresh Meat REALLY Like?

If half of life is showing up, the other half must be getting through the front door.

At least, that's what I thought as I sat in my car like a kid on the first day of school, heart racing, nauseous, full of doubt, wondering if this whole roller derby thing was for me. What if I don't fit in? What if the others don't like me? What if I don't have what it takes?

You drove all this way, do not wimp out now.

Grabbing my gear I shuffled reluctantly into the crowded skating rink. Inside, a group of women were gathered together around tables, filling out paperwork and introducing themselves to each other. Finding a seat alone, I could feel the anxiety in the room. No one knew what to expect. But it was clear we were all there for the same thing: learn to play roller derby and make new friends.

This was especially true for me. I had never played derby before. And I had recently moved far from home.

When you leave the place you've lived for twenty-six years to start a new life and a new career in a new state, finding ways to keep yourself busy can be difficult. I left everything behind, including an active social life. So when I saw the flyer that Bay State Brawlers Roller Derby was starting a Fresh Meat training class in September 2012 I signed up immediately.

The family back home were skeptical. How could a 5'3'' waif who never played a sport in her life think she was remotely qualified to play Roller Derby? I didn't care. To me, singing up for Fresh Meat was about challenging myself in a way I'd never done before. I needed something new. And I was looking for camaraderie.

Over the twelve weeks of Fresh Meat training, that's exactly what I found.

That first night of practice was busy - we needed to pay dues, fill out liability and insurance forms, prove our ages, and read through official league paperwork. When we were through with the legalese, our trainers had us talk, ask questions, learn the basics, discussed our previous derby experiences, and get to know each other. It was a wonderful way to ease the tension.

When we were ready to go, our coaches got us on the rink in full-gear on, skates off, to teach us the first and most critical part of skating - Derby Stance.

Derby stance is all about getting low, feeling the burn in your thighs as you bend your knees, squatting down, ass out, shoulders back, and back straight. "Trust us," our trainers kept saying, "the more you practice your derby stance, the easier it is to skate. And it makes squatting over a public toilet so much better."

They weren't joking.

Over twelve weeks we began learning more: the proper ways to fall (so you don't hurt yourself), skating backwards, toe stops, t-stops, skating on one foot, cross-overs, transitions. Fresh Meat training can seems very repetitive, learning a new skill then working on it over and over again. But this goes along with another very important part of training - muscle memory. You are going to practice falling. You are going to work on your stops. You're going to skate in circles, working on crossovers. And you're going to do these a lot. Until they become second nature. That way, when you take a spill on the track and there's nothing you can do to stop it, you will find yourself falling the way the coaches taught. Injury free (hopefully).

Sarah R., a fellow Fresh Meater, said of her experience "I've never been one for team sports and always chose things that I could do alone or with other people but not teamed; cycling, skating, hiking, rock climbing, etc... Everyone has been so helpful, sweet, and just great that it really eased my anxieties about it."

Anna D., another first time derby player remarked that Fresh Meat was the "most fun/physically challenging endeavor I have been a part of! Lifelong friends made for sure. I loved that we had a variety of trainers as I thought they each could teach us the same skill in a variety of ways. It helped me find my own best way of doing things. and the encouragement from both trainers and FM was immeasurable... I love that we have been accepted so easily and supportively int this new derby family and am happy to have met all of you kick ass ladies!"

I won't lie - roller derby training is hard. For those interested in attending Fresh Meat training, here are some words of advice to help you get through:
  • Skate! Skate a lot. As much as you can. And not just at practice.
  • Buy good quality, roller derby specific gear.
  • Repeat everything you learn over and over and over.
  • Practice your stops. Especially on your non-dominate foot.
  • Ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. Ask as many questions as you need.
  • Ask for more time. If you feel weak in one area (say stops, or skating backwards), let the trainers know.
  • NSO. Even if you're not required to for your league. Volunteering helps you see the sport from all perspectives.
  • Talk to the veteran skaters. Get to know them. They don't bite.
  • When you fall, get back up, no matter how much it hurts. That is, unless something is broken.
  • If you're having an issue with someone in the league or in your class, even if it's a trainer, speak up about it.
  • Don't compare yourself to the other skaters in your class when it comes to skill or progress.
  • Don't compare yourself to your trainers.
  • Don't compare yourself to anyone. We all learn at a difference pace.
  • Go to every practice possible and make up the ones you miss.
  • Show up on time, every time. Have your gear on and ready to go as soon as practice starts.
  • Learn the rules of Roller Derby. You will be tested on it. Trust me.
  • Pace yourself. If you're not ready to assess, don't feel like you have to. There will always another chance.
  • Enjoy yourself. You will fall. You will get hurt. You will mess up. Take it in stride. It's part of what makes learning fun.
My experience training with the Bay State Brawlers was fantastic, and as of December 2012, the ladies of my class passed our Fresh Meat assessments. We are now Level 1 skaters! I could not have been prouder working and sweating alongside the incredible, encouraging women. I consider them all sisters. A coven of would-be Derby stars with more guts then most people I know.

Interested in joining Bay State Brawlers Roller Derby? We have a Fresh Meat class coming up on February 27th! Get to know our great league by skating with us at Roll On America on February 1st!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I am at home in full gear: kneepads, elbowpads, wrist guards, mouthguard, helmet and of course, the skates. The skates themselves are the root of my home and the center of my belonging. I listen to them and they listen to me. With them, I feel the rush and energy of a burn pace, the excitement of a good hit, and they are with whom I share most intimately the victory of a triumphant jam. This is my place, this is how I live, this is who I have become. This is the person I have embraced, and who I am proud to be.

I am myself on the track, and I judge myself only by my own limitations. I don’t compare myself to others, or think, ‘Why can’t I be more like her? Why can’t I be as pretty or skinny as her?” None of that is relevant. Though I know I could be better, I also know that wishing for it is no way to make it happen. Wishing and dreaming isn’t the same as doing, and I know that the more I push myself and the harder I train, I will reach my goal one day. It will come, eventually, with practice. Hours and hours of practice. A great skater once told me, “In order to have endurance, you must first endure.” I think that could not be more true. Fighting that internal battle of “Am I good enough?” is irrelevant, because I will only ever be as good as I allow myself to be. If I stop halfway through, I am only hurting my ability to endure.

Who am I? I am every skater who believes in herself. I aim to capture the spirit of the ambitious skater. Though I don’t always match up to my highest expectations, I work as hard as I possibly can to improve. The pain I feel in minor injuries only fuels me to skate faster, train harder, and get up quicker from a big hit. If I can improve, even only by a little bit each day, then I am succeeding.

- Lana GetDirty #450

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stopping: Sounds so Easy

Previously, before children, I skated all the time for exercise.  However that was on rollerblades.  If you have never skated, there is a fundamental difference (besides the obvious quad vs. row of wheels.)  In rollerblading you stop by tilting your toe up because the stop is located behind the wheels.   On quad skates instead there is a toe stop.  If you tilt your skate up on quad skates you are going to land on your ass.  HARD.  So it is fitting that one of the first things they teach you is toe stops.  Every instinct in my body told me to lean back to stop and this made me a very wobbly stopper.  But once I figured out not to lift my toe to stop and lift my heel instead, then toe stops where pretty easy to master.  Especially when compared to the T stop.
To a new skater the T stop is daunting and feels very unnatural.  However, as you watch the veteran skaters it also looks (& sounds) very cool.   I will try to explain so you have a visual of a T stop if you have never had the opportunity to try one.  Since I am a righty I will use my right foot for this. As you are skating you essentially lift your right skate and turn your toes out at a 45 to 90 degree angle and push against the floor to bring yourself to stop.  If done effectively you will succeed in not only stopping but also making an offensive and most enjoyable grinding sound from the wheels friction on the floor.  If not executed correctly -you will only succeed in having an unattractive flopping leg look as you skate.  Kind of like you’re shaking off a leg spasm and you may possibly fall or hit the wall since you do not actually stop.   And it does not make that lovely grinding noise and instead sounds more like a thu-wump, thu-wump as a flat tire makes.  All in all, not a cool derby look.  Our fresh meat trainer, Hipburn, makes it look cool when she drags her leg, comparing it to a Zombie dragging their rear leg.  In roller derby, zombies are cool. I, however, am absolutely terrified of zombies.  I will probably have nightmares from thinking about them now.  Alas I digress, as this blog post is about stopping and not about zombies. Maybe someday I will write a blog about zombies and my imaginative plans for thwarting them for you. 
I would like to say I master the t stop quickly but I don’t.  However I don’t fall at all so that is a big plus.  It is many classes before I successfully master the T stop and many months before I successfully complete one with my left foot.  The trick for me ends up being when someone tells me to lift my inside two wheels higher and push those down after the back two touch the floor.  I can’t recall who taught me that but it is my little “aha” moment.  Once I figure that out I am the t-stopping master.  Not really, but I can at least stop instead of looking like a floppy legged zombie.
-        Knock Out Nelly

Friday, September 21, 2012

Roller Derby is Magic

I never was one for team sports- as in, I’ve never really played team sports before, so this whole Roller Derby thing was kind of new for me. I love people, though, and I have a positive outlook on almost everything I set out to do, so I figured, what the heck, this might just be for me. I’ve learned a lot since then. Teamwork is hard, being a part of a league is hard- it takes time, effort, and there are plenty of bumps and bruises along the way (literally and figuratively). All of that is superseded by the mere fact that it is the most rewarding sport I have ever been a part of. I am proud to be a rollergirl, I am proud to be a Brawler, and proud to be a Bomber. There’s something about the game that is just too perfect to describe in words.

Spiritually, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I CAN be a team player, and that I can interact socially with people. It has done wonders for my self-esteem, my confidence, and my attitude on life. I believe now in myself as an athlete, after almost seven years of being a pretty much sedentary angst ridden, socially awkward teenager.

Physically? I feel amazing. Well, I feel very sore all of the time, and my hamstrings are really tight, and I end up spending fifty dollars a week in copays for physical therapy… But at the end of the day, I feel like I am really making a difference in my life and that I getting stronger and better after every practice… Not all practices make me feel better, just like not every scrimmage was an improvement… Overall, though, I would say that I am feeling myself get just a little stronger. The more I push, I feel small improvements- like I can do one more pushup than last practice, things like that- and that is what really matters.

As SporkofTitan (Potomac Ripper) said, “Roller Derby is magic.”

I know what that means. That means that no matter what, this game is amazing, and this is why we play, and this magical game is what changed my life.


- Lana GetDirty #450

Friday, September 14, 2012

Exciting Time of Year

It is officially my favorite time of year - the end of summer, leading into fall is such a wonderful time. The colors start to change, the air gets crisper, you can buy pumpkin flavored things everywhere!, and school is back is session. It also means new fresh meat  and the Bay State Brawlers continuing to grow! We have a great group of skaters that started practice on Wednesday. Here they are after their first night of practice...still smiling.

September 2012 Fresh Meat Class
It also means that our bouting season is nearing its end. April seems so long ago and as a league we've grown in so many ways since then. Our first season bouting as the Bay State Brawlers has overall been a pretty successful one. We've had some ups and downs with all our teams - close wins, big losses, and everything in between. The Petticoat Punishers are looking forward to playing their 2nd team from a WFTDA league this weekend when they take on the Yankee Brutals of the Connecticut Roller Girls. We have played against leagues from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine so far this year!

Punishers showing great teamwork vs. MARD
The Brawlin' Broads are the only team that has ended their season. With a team of almost all brand new skaters they finished the season 3-0. It was a fun season that provided me an opportunity to try my hand at coaching. There is no way I could have done that without the fantastic Ashlee Juggz as Bench Manager. 

2012 Broads
Our 3 home teams have also had a great season playing each other throughout the season this year. The Switchblade Sallies are 2-0 on the season and have an automatic bid into the championship game on Oct. 27th. The Bluestocking Bombers and my team, the LumberJackies, will be competing on Oct. 12 for the opportunity to face the Sallies for the home team championships (and bragging rights for the whole off-season).

It has been an amazing first season as a league and we still have 3 bouts to go. Hope to see you in the stands for at least a one of the last bouts. Tickets are available online so get yours and come cheer on your favorite BSB team!

-Sandra Mean

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bout day

The ice is gone, the track is laid,
The derby baked goods have all been made.
Cupcakes, cookies & skate shaped candy,
There is sweat in the air at this place called Landry.
The front end is ready to check you in,
While the skaters wriggle into derby skin.
The tables are laid with all the team merch,
The nso’s are assigned from the last minute search.
The refs meet to go over the plans,
 The doors open and in come the fans.
Tattoos, tights, and all the rest,
Skaters are in their derby best
Names and numbers worn with such pride,
Tonight promises to be one hell of a ride.
Here is the lineup, there starts the clock,
The fans cheer with each booty block.
Skate like the wind, our jammera can race
While our blockers work against their pace.
Hits that hurt, and falls that scare,
Get right up like you don’t even care.
We have all worked so hard to play,
Finally its here, today is bout day. 
---By Knockout Nelly

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Into the Meat of it

Practice two on an unseasonably warm November day I feel a little more like I am supposed to be here. I strap on my skates and pads with the other fresh meat, slightly segregated from the vets.   My legs, thighs and buns aware and prepared this time for the pain they soon will experience.  We are expected to warm up with the group which actually scares the bejesus out of me, and I join them skating slowly and cautiously on the outside.  I do not attempt any of the transitions, knee pops, butt kicks, knee raises as I struggle right now with simply staying upright.   After stretching and introductions we head to the coned off area at the end to practice our falls. 
For anyone thinking of joining a fresh meat class you are going to learn basic skating skills, how to stop and fall properly.  This is to get you ready for your level 1 assessment where you have to demonstrate all these skills before you are cleared to hit.  (I am mildly disappointed that I don’t get to hit people right away.)  Skating and hitting –that’s why I signed up for and you actually get to do very little of either to start. Katherine Hipburn, our esteemed trainer, is actually teaching her first fresh meat class.  We would be Hipburn’s first students. (Thank you Hipburn-you really taught me how to kick ass with attitude!)  I am not going to bore you with much detail YET but here are the basics.  We need to master single knee falls, double knee falls (also called rockstar), baseball slide, 180 slide, toe stops, tstops, sticky skate, crossovers, and gliding on one foot.
The first of 4 these all involve going to your knees while skating.  I feel like a fool of course but you can’t imagine how hard it is to throw yourself on the ground on skates.  You have to tip forward and literally force yourself to go to the knee.  It’s entirely mental at first.  Your mind does not want your body to pitch itself to the knees.  If I did this without pads I know this would be extremely painful and so does my brain.  Until you learn that your knee pads will protect you, your instinct is to resist that falling motion and you end up with an awkward bump to the floor. (And a sore back)   Overall I think the Rockstar slide is the easiest as it takes less balance than the one knee fall.  I also cannot imagine where I will ever use the baseball slide? I am certain it is illegal to kick someone with my skates even though I have not read the entire WFTDA rule book.  Yet I really feel like I am about to kick someone every time I attempt this slide.   The 180 is more like a 90 turn when you start out.   After practice, I spend a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of other derby girls fall with ease and wonder if I will ever get there?    

From a Fresh meat perspective- Jaime