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Things derby girls say... that they shouldn't. Part 2

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By definition, roller derby is first and foremost a sport. As a sport, roller derby is a thing for athletes. Just as no baseball player could be said not to own a baseball, no woman may call herself a derby girl who does not own a pair of skates. Even so, owning skates is the smallest part of being a derby girl. A girl needs more.

Roller derby is about hard work and about getting better; about acquiring a skill and mastering a skill. Roller derby is about competition with others and competition with yourself; about sweaty pads, aching feet, contusions, cuts, and scrapes. Roller derby is about bruises and laughter: it's about finding the comfort in the discomfort.

Roller derby absolutely cannot survive without the help of non-skaters. Conversely, there is no such thing as roller derby without the skaters. It's to each to choose their own: to roll or not to roll. To those who choose to roll I say this: If you're going to skate then do it! Get out there on that track, day after day, and work your ass off. Don't half try and complain. Or by all means, complain, complain frequently and try to make it funny, but do so only if you are also trying your hardest.

1. I don’t care about gear; I just skate on whatever

Well, of course it’s your choice. It’s your gear and ultimately you’re the only one who skates on it. It is dangerous, however, to completely neglect your gear and besides, skates like to break at the exact wrong time, like at a pivotal moment in an important bout. You don’t have to skate on the most expensive gear available, but consider part of your purview as a derby girl a minimal amount of skate maintenance, like rotating your wheels once a month, checking to make sure all the nuts are properly tightened, and if suddenly it feels as if you've forgotten how to skate, you should probably replace your pivot cups. Don’t know what any of that means? Exactly.

2. I don’t need to cross train; skating is my exercise

While it’s true that you should spend as much time as possible on your skates, it's a lie that exercise without skates won’t make you a better skater. Planks for example, should be done as often as possible for as long as possible. They build core muscles (which help with balance). Bikram Yoga or stretching of some sort makes the body more flexible and the muscles longer. This reduces the chances of injury, helps to heal old injuries, and makes the body more open, allowing for slick moves on eight wheels. Bicycling is especially good for skaters as it builds cardiac muscles while strengthening the same leg muscles used for skating. No athlete alive can do enough cardio; there's always more to give out there. If you don't feel like you can do it for yourself, try doing it for your teammates.

3. Why are we doing this drill again?

To learn it. Sadly, the odds of performing any derby action perfectly, big or small, are close to zero. Even if you really can do it perfectly, that doesn't mean everyone else on your team can. There are likely plenty of girls struggling to do it at all. Every athlete must continually hone their skills in order to keep them sharp. If you just can’t get any sharper, maybe you should grab one of the girls who is struggling and show her a thing or two. Regardless, you and everyone else will revisit the basics from time to time. Embrace it, put some flare into it. You’ll be that much better if you go through it one more time.

4. I’m so much better than her

Knowing it and saying it are two different things. When on a team, each player should be strongly aware of their teammates strengths and weaknesses. Knowing that Player B is better on the outside line than Player A is important. In fact, both Player A and B need to know as does the rest of the team. That way the team knows how to cover for each other against the common foe. On the other hand, it's not okay to insist that you are better than Player B on the outside and therefore should have her spot on the travel team. Maybe what you said is true but consider this: you can't watch yourself skate. You are no authority on your skill level in comparison to others. Perhaps you are better on the outside than Player B, but Player B may be a stronger hitter. Perhaps that quality in Player B is more important to the team than guarding the outside line. Who's more important, you or the team? Ultimately, let coaching (the non-skating outside observers) determine what qualities a team needs, and don't equate them to better or worse.

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