Falling and Failing


Skate skate skate skate, failed plow stop. Skate skate skate skate, failed plow stop. On and on it goes. I get small glimmers of improvement, but some plows are only alleged stops, nothing more than plow slow-downs. A league-mate wizzes by, executes a perfect stop, and throws out one of these bits of advice:

“You’re going to fall. It’s no big deal.”

“If you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough.”

Yeah, sure. Okay. I tuck this nugget of wisdom away in the corner of my brain, like a hamster would tuck away a pumpkin seed to gnaw on later.

Gnaw on it I do.

After more than a year at skating and falling down, I wonder if I can possibly be afraid of the floor. I think back on every time before that I’ve fallen, all those drills expressly created with the purpose of getting me to fall over and over again. No. The ground and I have made our peace with each other.

I am scared of something. That’s for sure. I approach new skills tentatively and slowly, like someone poking the ground in front of them, testing for land mines. What am I afraid of? What’s my land mine?

A small voice inside gives me my answer.


I’m not afraid of falling. I’m afraid of failing. Looking like a fool. I’m afraid that today’s the day that someone finally takes a hard look at me and tells me that I don’t belong. Do I really expect this to happen? Everyone on the team is full of nothing but love and support. Come to think of it, I give as much to my teammates. How can I muster more support and encouragement for them than I can for myself? Why don’t I have any forgiveness when it comes to my own performance on the track?

I’m not accustomed to struggling with something new. I’ve tackled pretty much everything new in my life with relative ease. I put the work in, sure. But thinking back on my life’s accomplishments, I never truly struggled with any of them. Until I met derby.

The nature of the derby beast means that I keep coming back for more, regardless of how much I struggle with gaining proficiency. On the other side of any victory, though, lies another seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Gradually, it sinks in; I will conquer the skills I set my sights on. I will unlock every one of them. The process will be long, tedious. Probably painful. In the meantime, no one will be judging me on how fast I get there, or what I look like trying. Except, possibly, me. But, not if I learn to let go.

There is no room for shame on the derby track. There’s only room for sweat. And someday, victory.

-Sue Flay