The last team I played on for any kind of organized sport was called the “Blue Bombers”. Summer youth soccer, the kind of team where everyone gets play time and the only real identity is based on what color jerseys we were issued.
Though the orange slices that the parents brought for halftime were pretty ace.
That’s not to say I didn’t love being part of a team – high school, and even residency were filled with great team experiences… however, they were primarily related to medical trivia, odyssey of the mind.. and of course the historic run that was the Port Huron Quiz Bowl 2000-2001.
Doing my part to dispel the myth that derby girls are somehow “cool”
But the trappings of my first “real” game were… new. Everyone going through their pre-game rituals, figuring out how to patch up “I really need to get new wrist guards” gear and doing our best to guard against floor burn via layered tights and duct tape.
I knew from movie and television tropes that there’s a “give em hell” pre-game speech from the coach in the locker room. It was another thing entirely to look at my teammates in full battle dress as we all listened to the heartfelt and inspiring words, feeling like I belonged with a group of women I’d spent the last year idolizing.
Go ahead, try and figure out who’s skating for the first time in this photo.
I fumbled awkwardly with my helmet for the first few bars of the national anthem, until I could look over and see what the vets did with theirs. Truth be told, I was absolutely certain that my newbie status would be painfully obvious from minute one, that the other team would see me as a weak link and target me. (I later learned that while the other team did deal out some profound hits, it wasn’t because they scented blood in the water.)
The other trope that is completely and utterly true is that you don’t hear the crowd, the announcers, or anything but your captain, pivots and bench managers. Your focus shrinks to the red jerseys, the rope and tape-lined track boundaries and the steady stream inside your own head “Reform the line! Watch for the jammer!”
Now, if this were TV, I’d have a story about a stunning last minute win to thunderous applause and my unexpected turn as jammer. But because this is real life, we got beaten by a team who had our number – as hard as we trained, worked on strategy for weeks and left our hearts on the track, they were the better team and walked away with a win.
The upside is that I learned a whole hell of a lot, and so did my teammates – we learned how to fine tune our offensive and defensive decision making, and ways to control the pack.
And if there’s one things you can guarantee from the Savannah Derby Devils is that we’re going to have a blast on the track, win or lose.
And as the addendum to what was already an experience to last a lifetime – we were given the opportunity to come back out onto the track to scrimmage our A team at the end of the night. Talk about ridiculous amounts of fun – even though putting on just worn, cooled off gear is the derby equivalent of sleeping in the wet spot.