Rejuvenation from an O.G.

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I have seen the awesome, unique, empowering sport of roller derby change dramatically during my 6 year career...and it's not, in any way, done changing. The Chicago Outfit remains a major challenge in my life, both positive and not-so-positive (having taken the not-so-positive and learned from it.)  Yet, after 6 years I feel like I am just beginning.   

For a little background, I helped founded the Outfit utilizing my vendor hook-ups and graphic design chops.  Playing the actual sport did not come naturally.  I definitely thought I was a lot better than I was.  But with only having about 20 members total, I got a lot of game play.  As the Outfit grew and roller derby was becoming more popular, more skaters joined.  I had to face the fact that other people are natural-born athletes which, I am not.  (Though I take pride in my mesomorph- type body.)   My place in the hierarchy of power-jam line-ups slowly trickled down the ladder.  This is a hard fact to swallow after having experienced the personal victory of lots of play-time.  3 years into my roller derby career, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in my life- long passion of making art.  I wasn't making enough practices to be eligible all of the time and was replaced on the Charter.  I continued to skate the minimum required practices thinking I was weaning myself from this extreme roller sport...but couldn't let go completely.  3 years of graduate school went by.  I bought a new helmet.  I went on sabbatical only during my final thesis semester, mainly because my boyfriend and I broke up at the time.  (Sh*t really hits the fan sometimes, yo.)  Then I bought new knee pads.  Then I finished my MFA and returned to my addictingly amazing camaraderie of the Outfit and started skating for real, again.   

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This time around, it was my goal to become a smarter player, aka. paying attention at practice, and doing more off-skates workouts.  This is easy enough but, what will it really take for me to become a better skater?  

There is a common phenomenon in derby, and probably all sports, of a plateau.  This is the feeling like you're not getting any better or worse even, no matter what you do.  Things happen during an athletic career that strips away your confidence, especially injury.  I've had a major sprained ankle and sprained MCL on the same leg, as well as a cracked pelvis on the other side.  But the scariest injury I have is damage to my right eye from many, many blunt blows to the face. (I mean, I am 5'0" and right in line with a lot of elbows.)  So my form has suffered from this fear.  I've been skating (and jamming) upright, making me an easy target for big hitters.    

The new trend in roller derby safety, that has been catching on really quickly, is hockey helmets.  But I needed protection for my precious sight so I bought racket ball glasses instead.  These worked but I still got nailed in the face with elbows and wrist guards, not to mention how foggy they got, AND I kept forgetting to put them on.  They broke from getting blocked while they were dangling around my neck.  So one month ago, I splurged.  I bought a hockey helmet...with a face guard.  "The same thing that Jonathan Toews wears," said the dude that sold me the helmet.  

leadjamgraves

Voilà! I started getting low.  Real low.  I got slammed in the face, only to get hit on the mask.  First Shade Brigade bout of the home season came up.  I jammed the whole game on a 3 jammer rotation.  No big deal.  Didn't go to the box once.  I juked them all.  Scored all the points.  What is happening?  Did I just get off that huge plateau that I had been resting on for 3 years?   

There was a recent large turnover for the Outfit WFTDA Charter, top 20 skaters.  I made it back on the Charter.  It was nice to re-sew my patches on my jerseys where they had been before. Wait...am I an alternate for a Syndicate roster?? I might have a chance to play against some really good roller derby teams.  This is exciting.  I need to work out more.  I'm feeling rejuvenated.  What really? I am rostered for the Syndicate vs. Steel City game???  Alright team of friends...I'm in

-Graves