If At First You Don’t Succeed-- Skate, Skate Again…

New skater, Slamherin Diaz, here!

I officially joined the Chicago Outfit in November 2018, with September 16th, 2018 (our first day of bootcamp) being my first day on roller skates EVER. Okay, to be accurate, I did go to my fair share of roller rink adolescent birthday parties in my day-- but I was always the kid who desperately clung to the perimeter of the rink in a terror for all four hours of the party while the rest of my friends did the chicken dance. On the first day of bootcamp, I was a classic Bambi On Ice y’all.

I put on my skates that a former Outfit skater had generously loaned to me, stood up, and swiftly fell right back down without missing a beat. A lot of “I’m OK!!!”s were shouted that evening. I got onto the track, not knowing exactly what I was doing there. I wanted to try something new, something athletic, and something that would be an absolute challenge. And so I clunked along.

I’ve always been one to dive face first into learning new things, and I am no stranger to being the least graceful one in a group. I learned how to ride a bike when I was 18 by taking a class in college called Biking & Politics in which we biked 40+ miles each day throughout the Chicagoland neighbors, highways, and beyond. The course description explicitly said that it was NOT a class for novice riders. To which I said-- HA! I can learn! And subsequently almost died a few dozen times on the expressway. But because I forced myself into that course---and flailed the whole way through---I am now an excellent (okay, maybe that’s a reach) biker who commutes throughout most of the city on her 10-speed Lightning Bug. All this to say, I can be a bit overambitious. But when you have a solid support system encouraging you along the way—whether it be a team of badass derby babes or 25 eighteen year-olds and an anxious T.A. telling you to please omg we really need you to try to keep up with the rest of the group—it is absolutely possible to push your physical limits to places you didn’t know they could reach.

There were certainly moments throughout the bootcamp in which I felt completely and totally in over my head. I saw the current skaters doing these unbelievable moves on their skates, and I just couldn’t picture that in my future considering how close friends my butt and the floor had become. But in those moments, I remembered that I was doing this for FUN, and that I can’t compare the speed of my progress to anyone else’s. And so I went back to maniacally laughing every single time I fell, and I tried to see how many skaters would notice me doing a sexy pose on the floor to make a fall look intentional (in some universe where falling is super sexy).

In every new task that any human takes on, there seems to be a universal cycle that occurs: frustration, mastery, and boredom. I don’t know if all the moving parts of derby will ever remain still long enough for me to get bored, and I believe mastery is only ever a fleeting achievement, but I do know that frustration is necessary to any process of growth. So, my friends, remember to keep trudging along with a laugh in your heart and you’ll be a-okay.


Slamherin Diaz #305