Freshie Without a Clue

Time for some real talk: picking up a new sport in your thirties is hard. I mean, you walk in on the first day and you might as well be carrying a big neon sign saying, “I have lost touch with several factions of my social circle. Perhaps we can form new bonds of adult friendship over our shared interest in a physical activity!” Suddenly the outfit you chose seems wrong. You imagine that the people will be weird, or clique-y, or weirdly clique-y. You worry about being the biggest loser that ever sucked. You stand around awkwardly in the corner, hoping that somebody, anybody will say “Hi” and tell you what’s going to happen next…

And then you discover that the sport of roller derby is unlike anything you could have imagined. You are greeted by warm, funny, welcoming chicks who seem to know a lot about the sport and are eager to share that knowledge with you. Someone loans you a pair of skates and a mountain of pads. Another someone comes over and kindly explains which pads go where and that the thing you’re trying to pull onto your knee is actually an elbow pad. When you finally make it out on the track, you look around and notice that all of the other “freshies” are feeling exactly what you are feeling: fear, exhilaration, and pride that we finally got up and out to try this sport we’ve wanted to try for so long.

The veterans lead you through a series of slow drills and skills. No one is ever too busy to answer a question. When you struggle, even with something as basic as staying upright on skates, you aren’t left behind on the track. Nope, some super cool vet rolls right over to work with you one-on-one, patiently explaining and encouraging until you get the hang of it. You don’t really walk out that first night but float. You tried it and you liked it and you’re going to go back.

By the second or third night, you’ve formed a tight bond with your class of freshies. You all pick up on the supportive community vibe and start to encourage and compliment each other. You look forward nervously to the inevitable minimum skills test and strategize ways to get better at those skills that give you trouble. The day that you finally take the test is a blur of adrenaline. When the vet that’s been scoring you says that you passed, you can tell she’s as thrilled about it as you are.

It’s a funny experience to knock someone flat out on the floor and then have them get up and congratulate you with a wide smile.

“That was a KILLER hit.”

Your heart grows three sizes.

You are getting better at this. You start to feel tougher and prettier and cooler because you have this new secret life. You wear your bruises with pride and find your mind wandering to tonight’s practice. To all the new friends you’re making and the things you’re learning. You realize that this about more than being fast or fierce or having a clever derby name. You are part of a team, and that means the most of all.