We love hearing our new skaters’ voices as they are going through our Basic Training program! In this entry, Amber Berkhous reminds us (or shows us!) what it is like to fall in love with roller derby as a new skater. Thank you for sharing with us, Amber! We hope it inspires you and others to fall in love with derby more and more!
You have heard the names — Derby Girl, Roller Girl, Derby Doll — and you have watched Whip It a few times. You tell yourself they are amazing, badass, and everything you wish you could be. You give yourself every excuse as to why you shouldn’t, how you couldn’t. If you are honest with yourself, it terrifies you but it thrills you; you decide WHY NOT ME? You research and watch a few videos on roller derby (now you are second guessing this whole roller derby idea), you search local teams (those are cute uniforms though…), you just happen to be in the right place at the right time for Derby 101 (must be fate)! You decide to sign up and take a chance. You arrive to your first practice and watch the veterans in the rink; the Vixens are talented and intimidating to watch. You think about backing out but you have already paid. You put your protective gear on (you are definitely going to need it) and your roller skates (these wheels spin really darn fast!). You are doing it; even if you fall flat on your pie hole you are going to roll yourself in the rink with them. So the fun begins…
You realize this skating thing is way harder than it looks; it is clearly not as you remembered as a kid. Your doubts increase each stride you take and you are counting the minutes down until this hell is over and you can rip these skates off — and this is only warm up! You are silently dreading what is to come; please don’t let me fall! Introductions are made and these women standing in front of you, the Vixens, are actually pretty nice and welcoming. The freshies standing beside you are just as nervous as you are and it all starts to feel ok. You got this!
Practice begins, and of course you have to learn to stop before you can start. Forget what you know about stopping, that is not what your toe stop is for! Then they tell you that you will fall, though this is clearly obvious at this point to you. What they mean is you have to learn to fall the right way. Is there a right way? Pick a cheek? Are they insane? I love both butt cheeks, like falling correctly is really going through your head as you are flailing uncontrollably in the air! You do learn to fall and at first it is about as graceful as a beached walrus walloping around, it hurts and honestly stuns you a bit. You pick yourself up as fast as you can, hoping as few people saw it as possible. Then it clicks and you learn to fall with style, you get good at it and it is actually really fun sliding across the rink. You want to go faster and slide further. Practice is almost over and you are paired with a Vixen to do your first shopping cart. You are pushing and by the end you resemble an old beat up junker with a frumpy flat tire but then you switch. All of a sudden you are FLYING. A giggle escapes out of nowhere and you start laughing as the air glides over your skin. You never knew how badly you wanted to fly on skates and be a Vixen until this moment.
Fast forward 5 weeks, you know every practice you will fall but you don’t care. You know every time you take your skates off that muscles you never knew existed will hurt for at least two days. Even though you feel like you might be dying after practice you feel more alive than you have in years. You realize that the Vixens are an amazing group of women who make you feel like a part of their family. Your friends and family off the rink are amazed at how brave you are for even trying this slaughter fest and while you’re doing your first attempt at 27/5 around the rink with your kids cheering you on to go faster, you have somehow become their Superhero. You dig deep and give it all you have because flying on skates makes you feel on top of the world.
Before you realize it you have fallen in love with this rough and tough, full body contact sport. The thought of a day without this whole roller derby thing is no longer an option for you. It does not matter how long it takes you to learn or how terrible you think you might be; in the end, win or lose, no one gets left behind when you are a Vixen. You were a Vixen from the moment you skated onto the rink with these fierce, fabulous, sly, foxy ladies. Welcome to the Vixens’ Den!