March 20, 2012
So, I passed the Minimum Skills Requirement test last week. By the skin of my teeth, but that doesn’t matter, because the difference between a fail and even a barely-pass is the difference between having to continue training with Fresh Meat and being able to scrimmage with full contact. My subsequent performance on Sunday night, in my first ever full contact scrimmage, showed pretty clearly how much I need that full contact play if I’m going to get better from here.
So, about my first full contact scrimmage: it was a weird, off night where everyone had the jitters or couldn’t concentrate or just sort of collectively forgot the last six months, or something; the packs were all elbows, people were falling awkwardly and backwards and spread out all over the place, and there was an alarming number of injuries. Our pack control was nonexistent and at times it seemed like all we were doing was racing for no reason. Perhaps it was the effect of St. Patrick’s Day having been the night before, or upcoming bout jitters, or the moon, I don’t know. What I do know is that in amongst all of this I was essentially ineffective, unable to even hold the inside line (hold the inside line is what Fresh Meat are always instructed to do, right? because it’s relatively easy?), too unaware at times to know when it was my jammer tapping me from behind and not an opposing blocker (UGH), and pretty much completely not in control of my elbows. Even with my league mates having a bad night and playing below their usual level, I was massively outclassed.
I did manage to get past some skaters a couple of times, and to positionally block effectively a couple of times, and the one time I got goated I was lucky in that the opposing team fell down in their communications and the player who had me isolated at the back was abandoned by her teammates to try and keep me there herself, and I was eventually able to get around her. But all of that is just barely playing, and really I struggle just to keep up most of the time. I joke about changing my derby name to “The Goat” because as the slowest skater I’m destined to be made the goat A LOT in games (and, surprisingly, the name’s not taken!). I get the sense that my teamies consider this a defeatist attitude, but you’ve got to admit The Goat is a funny name. My dad used to have a cat called The Goat. < /tangent>
The things I need to work on, then, are mostly the most basic of things: awareness. Elbows. Counter-blocking. But also, since I’m going to be the goat a lot, I need to work towards getting really good at breaking down walls. I think I mostly understand the concept of how to break down walls well: arms up so as to avoid a penalty call; wedge a shoulder between the players and then wiggle your body in there, hitting with arse and shoulder until a space opens up; stepping through instead of skating, using toe-stops to gain an extra push instead of trying to glide through with the leading skate on the floor. But of course in practice I’m unable to do any of this. So purely for the purpose of breaking through walls, I need to work on getting more comfortable stepping around on toe-stops, practicing moving on my toes with quick stops and starts and changes in direction (and, damn it, get over the fear that moving around on toe stops is going to result in a broken ankle). And at the gym: balance board work; box jumping exercises; core strength. Same old, now with more of the same old.