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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

How Roller Skating Gave Me a Huge Confidence Boost


Back in February I started roller skating again after probably 15 years. I didn't do it alone, I joined an open enrollment "fresh meat" program for a local roller derby league, so it's been much more than just skating, it's also been training for a physically demanding sport. I was beyond terrified. The thought of re-learning how to skate in front of a ton of strangers, falling down, looking stupid, failing, and simply interacting with new people scared me more than I can put into words.

I've wanted to join a roller derby league for over a decade but there was always a reason not to. I didn't have money for gear, I didn't have time, the local league was falling apart, I lived too far from a league, I was moving away soon... but my most recent reason was that I was too scared. I knew about this league for over a year before I finally worked up the nerve to get involved.

As of September, I will have been living in Maine for 3 years and it took me over 2 years to finally start putting some roots down and getting involved locally. It wasn't until after we bought the house in January that I realized how unhappy that was making me. I thought buying a house would make me happy and make all my problems disappear, but instead, I was just a sad person who happened to have recently purchased a house. Something was missing and I knew that if I didn't try roller derby now, I probably never would. So I reached out to the league, committed to coming to a practice, and surprisingly didn't flake out.

The loaner skates I started out with
Instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching during my first practice, I got on skates immediately and didn't make it far before I had my first fall-- I fell hard on my butt when I was only 3 feet away from the chair I had been sitting in. I fell a lot during that first practice and I felt so stupid, inadequate, and like a burden. But I kept coming back to practice.

For about 2 months, each time before I went to practice I would feel incredibly nauseated from my anxiety. There were a couple times that my nausea lingered and I had to sit out at practice for a while so that I wouldn't hurl on the track. I wouldn't want to go but after practice, I always felt amazing.

I usually quit things whenever I experience anything slightly uncomfortable, and I've had lots of uncomfortable moments with skating. I wouldn't have continued to come back to practice if it weren't for my league. Learning how to skate again and learning derby moves has been so nerve-wracking and difficult, but I've had an incredible support network with me each step of the way.  There have been many times when I was stuck on something and I felt like I just couldn't get it-- and there will be many more times like that-- and everyone did what they could to help me and keep my spirits high, whether it was explaining the move to me in a new way or sending me a supportive, heartfelt message after practice.

There have been so many times when I've cried the whole drive home from practice because I couldn't do something and I didn't feel good enough. But the feeling of finally nailing something that I felt like I would never be able to do is incredible. I was really struggling with one thing in particular and I think I celebrated for a full 2 weeks after I finally got it (lots of #treatyoself moments). After I got it down, I truly felt like I could do anything on skates and so much pressure was relieved. I started taking more risks while skating, which led to more progress.

I am by no means a skating or roller derby expert. There are still tons of things that I can't do on skates and I have a lot of progress to make, but I am so excited to keep working at it. It's been a very long time since I've cared about something so much, been so determined to learn something new, felt so confident, and since I've been so proud of myself.

roller skating maine
Photo by Spencer

My advice to anyone who wants to start skating/join roller derby: 

  1. Don't hesitate. If you want to do it, don't think about it, just do it. I highly suggest getting on skates immediately instead of going to a derby practice and watching people skate. If I had sat on the sidelines and watched others skate, I would have been intimidated to pieces and probably wouldn't have come back. I laced up my skates as soon as I got there and I wasn't focused on what other skaters were doing, I was focused on myself and what my coach was telling me to do. 
  2. Falling isn't a bad thing. You will fall. A lot. Everyone else who skates will fall a lot, too. As soon as I accepted that falling was part of the learning process, I started making huge improvements. Embrace falling and don't let your fear of getting hurt or looking stupid hold you back.
  3. Learn with a friend. I went into this knowing nobody, but I quickly got close to a couple people in particular and having them there learning with me always makes me feel better. Even if it's just a friendly acquaintance, it's always good to have someone to skate with. 
  4. Cross-train. When I started, I thought that going to practice 4 hours a week would be enough. Nope. I started seeing major differences in my skating when I started working out in between practices. I am always working on my strength, balance, and endurance. 
  5. Don't feel like you have to break the bank. Getting skates and protective gear can be expensive, which is what deters many people from skating. If you want to join a league, they may have loaner gear for you to use or you can check out the Roller Derby Recyclables Facebook group to find some great deals. (I've listed my gear here in case you need ideas of where to start.)


In a nutshell-- skating is magical, roller derby is magical, and this has made me realize that I am capable of so much more than I thought 🌞
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