Sunday, 22 January 2017

First A-team Game!

(Photos to follow soon)

This one has been a long time coming, for one reason or another.  I don't even remember when I moved to A-team skating, but it was too late to be in last year's British Championships, and then we didn't really have any games between the end of that and Christmas.  Then I found I was getting knee pain, so I took a few weeks off to rest it (which didn't really help - I'm now seeing a doctor about it).  There are particular drills that will start it hurting, particularly if I repeat them, and putting it under stress for too long or falling directly onto it can do the same thing so I've had to drop out of scrim early on some weeks.  I can't get as low as I normally try to, nd not for as long, which also means that any cross training I do has to be knee friendly so I've started swimming once a week.  It's manageable, and I've been very sensible about not jamming and taking myself out of practise when I feel it start to pull, but it's still very frustrating.  Especially at the moment where we have some people off skates for medical reasons.  We're always a small corp, but it's annoying not to be abl to give as much as I'd like.

Only a week before this game, I found out I was going to be skating in it.  It meant reshuffling the NSOs to cover for my absence.  As a new player, and with lower attendance recently because of the break I took for the knee, I would be on low rotation (basically providing relief for the higher rotation skaters, who would normally have had to play the whole game on their own with less rest).  It's a new system we're trying, but I think it's a good idea as it allows for things like injuries and integrating people into the team while still giving us the maximum number of people possible on the roster, rather than having those with lower attendance not play at all and leaving the others under more pressure.

So how did I find it?

To be honest, in the week leading up to the game I was absolutely terrified.  The day beforehand I was so nervous I felt physically awful and just didn't want to go.   The anticipation for something is always worse than the event, but I think the fact that I kept hearing how our opponents were a whole tier higher than us and known for their serious offence, the long time I'd been waiting for a game, all coupled with worries about my knee, just all got to me a bit. Fortunately it turned out I had a secret weapon...

The clarinet.
Oh yes.

I've been in bands and orchestras since I was in high school, playing at public events, private concerts, festival scratch bands, all sorts.  I was pretty good, but had too many things I wanted to do so I decided to put it down for a while.  It's been a few years now since I was in a concert, but I do remember that I have a very particular reaction right before a performance.  I jitter.  Often in the lead up to the concert, and even on the day, I'm very nervous and fidgety and talk far too fast.  Then we line up, go on stage, and suddenly I'm very calm and professional.  I follow the protocols, I watch the conductor, I bow at the end.  It doesn't mean the playing always goes perfectly, but the actual act of performing with the group doesn't really get to me.  I've been doing this for years.

I went to bed woke up on the morning of the game feeling... dead calm.  Getting up, getting ready, travelling to the game, I did everything neatly and punctually.  I didn't want to talk a lot beforehand in case I rippled the waters so I didn't have a lot of long conversations.  (Incidentally, everyone I knew telling me it would be fine, which actually wasn't the most helpful thing to say.  I understand why they were saying it; I'd been so nervous before, but I didn't need it just then).  It wasn't that I didn't care, it's just that it wasn't getting to me.  And all the way through the game there wasn't a single point where I felt panicked or disturbed.  When I got sent on track, I just went.  When I got penalties (just the two) I didn't feel flustered.  I was switched on, but nothing really fazed me.  It felt like a concert.

If this is going to be a pattern for me, I'm happy with that!  I can definitely deal with being the calm one.

Things that went well

  • There were a few nice comments, particularly two separate people who said that I'd blended in well with the rest of the team; they wouldn't have known how new I was compared to the others, which was really good to hear.  Obviously I am newer, we haven't all worked together before like this, so I'm pleased that I wasn't being an obvious hindrance!
  • I did useful things! There were a couple of times specifically that I remember catching the jammer, and even sending her off.  I did pretty well off the line, especially when the jammer is right behind us and goes for the gap.  I know I can cover the spaces between us.  I avoided some multi-player blocks and generally was pretty clean, although I wasn't on for long enough to make a real mess anyway:)
  • A minor point, but I feel like I was attentive on the bench and took instruction well.  I'm happy to do whatever the Lineup Manager needs for the team, but I made sure I was listening all the time even when I knew I wouldn't be on for a few jams.  I didn't get tunnel-visiony, like I do sometimes.

Things that went less well

  • We had trouble fending off our opponents offence.  Their main strategy was a very gutsy way of splitting us up from each other and it took us a while to decide what we wanted to do about that.  If we moved away, they came with us, and if we stayed still they attacked.  Props to them, it was a great idea, but now that we know about it we need to find a way around it.
  • It took me a good chunk of the first half to remember to speak up.  Everyone was being quite quiet so I sort of fitted in, where normally I'm yelling out the jammer's lane, or what I'm doing.  If that happens again, I need to be the one to start the chatter.
  • I did get two penalties, and while I think the second one was the sort of incidental thing that happens sometimes, the first one was because I broke the pack.  I was having trouble reading the situation sometimes, which is something I'm working on, but I'm a little slower to react to things than the others, and less decisive.

3 things to work on next

  • Getting on with my skates:  I've been skating in my new Riedell 265's for about a month now, and I'm getting along much better with them.  My toe stop work and footwork is picking back up as we become friends, but one thing I seem to have lost is my really tight, low laterals.  I used to have really good ones, but nowI'm going to tinker with my trucks, but I need to make sure I get used to the full range off agility on them so that I can throw myself into my moves as much as possible.
  • Reading the pack: My awareness of the situation in each jam isn't where it needs to be yet.  Part of this is just experience, but it's something I want to be aware of when we scrim so that I can try and pick things up.  There was a moment in the game where an instruction was given, and then the other three blockers simultaneously changed their minds and did something else as a unit, and I got a bit left behind. I need to be on the same wavelength and level as the rest of my team.
  • Being more assertive on offence:  Part of this is linked to the new skates, I don't feel like I've got the finesse on them yet that I need especially when we're running back from the front of the pack to do offence.  I don't always go in with the decisiveness and strength that I should, or the speed.  I'm not always sure what to do, particularly if I find myself on my own or there's no stated plan so I should explore this more in scrims, and practise expecting us to do offence and sticking with a partner.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Where've I been?

Where've I been?  I been playing roller derby, that's where I been!

It happened such a while ago that by the time I had time to write about it, it wasn't really news any more.  But I finished my Intermediate stage, did my Rookie Bouts (games where you play with other people of a similar level to you, rather than A-teams) and am now counted as an Advanced Skater!

I've even been told (to my mild excitement/horror) that I'll be playing an A-team game soon.  I knew it was coming, but now it's actually happening!  And of course now that I'm playing games, photos get taken of me doing cool stuff!

So here's a record of me, looking like a boss, playing my games.  

Skater 789 - Michellium Falcon taking to the track!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Self-congratulatory Scrim!

A friend of mine pointed out that I've been writing and drawing lately out of a place of frustration... and I realised that he was right.  So this post is going to be entirely filled with self-congratulatory things about me!

I am scrimming!

Tonight I went down to Northamptonshire Roller Derby to scrim with some other recently-mins-passed skaters.  It was a completely different experience from scrimming with my own team (which I did for the first time last week) and actually I had a really great time and came away feeling really good about myself.  Because we were roughly around the same level, play was a bit slower paced than I'm used to, and it was easier to see where I'm at relative to other Mins-passed skaters.

1. I learned from my last scrim!

I made some mistakes in my first scrim (one of them rather large) that I felt really bad about.  But I went home, thought about what had gone wrong and why, and set myself some things to work on.  Today I implemented them!  When I was lapping the track while jamming I was looking ahead, thinking about my speed and trajectory as I came up to the pack, and slowing down a little in order to be more jukey, which isn't my natural forte.  It worked really well and I felt like I was playing smart and safe.

2. I communicated well!

I was always talking, sounding off where the jammer was, saying if I was reforming or bridging, calling my team mates to get together or get into a wall, or that the jammer was coming.  If we were together I'd often turn backwards, partly because I like to block that way but also so I could see where the jammer was and tell everyone else.  When I was jamming I even tried a few hand signals.

3) I am disciplined!

It was interesting to see the Pavlovian responses I've picked up from training with the Dollies.  When the jammer is coming I wall up, look for braces, and hunker down.  When the jammer is gone I look for a team mate to get with, ready to help our jammer or prepare for the next lap.

4) I'm smart and rules aware!

The officials team were great but a little short-handed, and I found myself internally calling no packs, narrating to myself if I or someone else got a penalty, even if it wasn't called by the refs.  If I got knocked out I knew where to re-enter the track.  When I fore-armsed someone but didn't knock them down I knew not to take advantage of the opening I'd made.

I also kept my head enough to think about how I was jamming.  I naturally want to barge through everyone, which I did get to do, but after a few jams of getting to know people I started to figure out different ways to tackle them.  One of them likes to face you and psyche you out: I got lower to keep my balance and started to fake and dodge away from her rather than going for the direct hit.  Two blockers liked to chase me out of the pack, but I realised I could dart about and put them out of play.  I remembered I could side-surf round people while using them as a support, I could rebound off them and pinball through the pack, I could dig in my edges and let a hit push me out the front of the pack.

5)  I am a good jammer!

After my first go at jamming in a scrim was a bit hit and miss, I was nervous to do it again, but by the end of it I was feeling really good about it.  A lot of the time I got lead jammer!  Playing against people of a similar level to myself, all the challenges felt like things I could tackle.  I watched the box and listened to my team mates for advice to see when it was a good time to call off the jam.

6) I don't give up!

It was a fairly casual scrim, but I was pleased with my fitness, stamina and attitude all the way through.  I'm a Badass Dolly!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Skating Sundae

I’ve been skating for a year and nine months now.  In that whole time I’ve only cried three times at training.  Two of those times have been in the last fortnight.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Playing with the Big Girls!

I really should have written about this a month or two ago, but life has been... interesting and there's not been much time for blogging.  But the news I should have written is good news.  I have moved from the newbie group up to the advanced group!

I am Fresh Meat no longer!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

When surviving is winning

Much as I'd love to be able to say that roller derby brings only good things into my life, this would be a lie.  It does bring good things: there are markable improvements in fitness, lots of new friends, passing milestones and feeling good about yourself.  Good things that happen in derby can carry over into the rest of your life.

Unfortunately this also means that what's going on in your life can carry over into derby.  And life, as we know, does not always go smoothly.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Hourly Comics Day 2015

February 1st is Hourly Comic Day.  Across the world, people taking part in this have to draw at least one comic panel for every hour of the day they are awake, combining them all at the end to create thir comic.  They've been posted online in this clunky old forum since 2006, but have recently moved out onto Tumblr and social media, and we all see what everyone else has been doing and drawing.

This is my 4th time doing it, and since it happened to be on a training day, most of it was about roller derby!  Comic continues under the cut...

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Big Boss Flamingo: How To Be Head NSO

Sexy flamingo costume!  Yeah!

This won’t be a definitive post, because this only happened to me before Christmas.  Plus although I know all the positions and have experience in all but the Scoreboard, there weren’t really any other nominees for the job!   So just the basics, but very good basics nonetheless :)

As usual I found myself chucked in the deep end when DRR entered the 2015 British Championships, and also decided to have a two-game event made of a UKRDA sanctioned game against Bedfordshire Rebellion and then a crazy Hunger Games themed charity game where the audience paid to help or hinder a team (making them skate the jam backwards, having a race between the jammers to get extra points, freeing penalised skaters from the box early etc.)  It was a fantastic event and we raised £225 from the charity game.

And my first public event as HNSO? ...

Today I Am One!

I just had my derby birthday!  I joined the Dolly Rockit Rollers at the end of February 2014, barely able to stand on skates, but now it’s 365 days on and we just had a Minimum Skills test.

I’ve missed a few in the past due to my broken toe, then being on holiday, then an NSO fixture, and it didn’t really bother me because I knew I would never have passed everything anyway.  This time I was ready.  I was there, and I felt confident.

I passed everything

…except for two things.

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Mental Game: Green-Eyed Monster!

As well as all the physical stuff we have to handle in roller derby, there's a big old mental side that's a little trickier to navigate.

A few weeks ago some of the skaters from my intake passed their Minimum Skills and crossed over to the Advanced midweek practises, that mystical kingdom where all the hitting happens.   This has happened before, when I was too injured to be skate, but this time a rescheduling meant I had to miss one of the testing days.  And like before, I found myself dealing with a little personal issue.

Oooh, what was that?  Was that… JEALOUSY?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Oh my gosh I DID IT!!!

I can't quite believe it.  I keep trying to give myself reasons why it didn't count, or didn't even happen, but the fact is... I did it.  I skated 25 laps in 5 minutes.

I made my laps.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Hit me with your best shot

Wow, a post not about NSOing.  Not had one of those in a while!

Training's been fairly standard, with steady improvements across the board but not much new to report until now.  Transitions are getting better, footwork is getting better, laps are consistently at the 24-ish mark, which is mildly irritating but I know it's just a plateau and as long as I keep giving 100% during laps one day I'll just break through it without realising. Plateaus are annoying like that :)

But this weeks deserves a post because this week we did HITTING.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Weirdness in the box - Penalty Box Manager

Sooooo last weekend's roadtrip was to my home county of Norfolk.  Unlike most of the NSOs I got to combine my derby day with a visit to the parents.  If only I'd know we had a roller derby team there a few years earlier, this could all have been a very different story...

The Norfolk Brawds were hosting a 3 game event; a cherry popper, followed by a male-male game, followed by a female-female game, so lots of variety and a nice big crowd.  I was only really needed for the first game and, due to a last minute swapsies with my friend Drew I ended up managing the penalty box for the first time ever.  I knew the theory at least, but had never done it in practise.

"It'll be fine!" they said.  "You won't have two jammers in at once!" they said.  "The box will never be full, refs are lenient in a cherry popper!" they said.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Excuse me, may I borrow your flamingo? - GYSD & The One Stopwatch method

This weekend I hoofed it up to Leeds to NSO at the Great Yorkshire Showdown 2014!  This is a full day tournament where 6 teams from throughout Yorkshire battle it out in single period games.  The winner gets bumped up to the next round until, in the eighth and final contest, a full length game between the two remaining teams.  Fun day out?  Eight live roller derby games in a row?  Getting my NSO on?  Sign me up!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Laps update

23 laps in 5 minutes

23 laps in 5 minutes!

23 laps in 5 minutes!!

23 laps in 5 minutes!!!

Watch yourself, min skills 25-in-5 , because I am ALL OVER YOUR ASS!!  

I totally screwed up my start, which lost me I reckon half a lap.  So I need to practise some toe-stop runs and sprint-starts.  I think all that's missing now is high-speed crossovers on the corners, so that I can increase power there instead of coasting round.  And those crossovers are coming, THEY ARE COMING.  I think I'm just going to have to pick a week and say that I'm going to go for those crossovers if it kills me, and risk falling over my own feet and splatting all over the track.  It's the only way.

Edit:  It WAS the only way.  My coach was yelling at me "Michelle, why aren't you doing any crossovers?" so I took a deep breath and did one, and then did another one, and then did some more.  They weren't the best crossovers ever, but I did not fall over at all and Pushed my personal best up to 23.5 laps.  I'm a'comin' for ya Minimum Skills!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Flamingo takes off! - NSOing done right

Whew, what a weekend!  It's been heavy on the NSO side of things, but all in very good ways.  I feel like I've graduated into NSO-dom or something.

On Saturday my fellow Dolly Newbie and NSO compadre Quillotine hoofed it down to Cambridge (despite GoogleMaps' attempt to make it otherwise) to help out as a double-header between the Rockabillies and Granite City, and then a B team game between Cambridge and Suffolk.  They were short a few positions so she hopped on as a Scorekeeper and I took care of the Inside Whiteboard.

What was extra nice is that Quill and I were the two candidates for Deputy HNSO with the Dollies (she won, and I am the Deputy's Deputy :D), so the fact that we were travelling two hours together to help out another team made a lot of sense.  It was like a Derby Officiating lovefest!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Why I will never be sporty...

I don't run.  This is no secret.  I don't like the feel of running, the bouncing, the shortness of breath I get, any of it.  Cycling, fine.  Swimming, fine.  Running, not on your nelly.

Things are changing though.  After a lot of persuasion my housemate finally convinced me to go on a short jog with her.  And... I didn't hate it.  I didn't love it either, but it was ok, nobody died, not even me.  This kind of punctuates a long process I've been going through of realising that maybe most of the reason I don't think of myself as sporty comes down to what's been going on in my head rather than my actual ability...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The pack is HERE!

Our resident refs, Skew and Drew, were helping lead our midweek coaching session this week.  Often when you're skating so much is going on immediately around you that you can't see the wood for the trees.  Seeing things from a refs perspective is a great way to get an understanding of the bigger picture of a game.  I'd recommend shadowing one during a scrim if you can - just don't get in their way!

We were looking at the idea of The Pack and The Engagement Zone.  This was something the newbies hadn't covered in great detail yet, so I learned loads.

What is The Pack?

Friday, 18 July 2014

Fledgling Flamingo discovers the importance of paperwork - Penalty Tracking + HNSO

Last weekend I NSO-ed at my first ever away game down in Bedford!  It was also my first ever time Penalty Tracking, and boy was it a baptism by fire...

Here I am, concentrating hard...