March 14, 2013

The Wild West Showdown!

The things that I love most about roller derby are the fierce competition, excellent community, and the incredible friendships, which is why I absolutely love tournaments. To me, tournaments are the place where each of the aforementioned derby elements come together in perfect harmony. Tournaments are a special place located right between your sweetest dreams, worst nightmares, highest aspirations, most embarrassing memories, with everything else in between. They are the epicenter of everything that is awesome about derby; that's right, everything.  So today, in honor of our recent tournament adventures, I am going to attempt to explain what makes them sooo LEGEN...wait for it...DARY!!!

First of all, a little backstory. Last year, FoCo's very own travel team, the Microbruisers, were invited to participate in a tournament called The Wild West Showdown in Bremerton, WA.  At that time, I had just made the travel team and I was just a wee little Skatey with big dreams, big fears, and whole lot to learn. I was doing my best to make the active roster, and I was sweating the competition, hard.  All fears and aspirations aside, the atmosphere was incredible. Hundreds of derby girls were everywhere you looked. Derby celebs were mingling in the crowds alongside the merely mortal skaters (like myself) and bouts were running continuously from early in the morning until late at night. For the first time in my life, I travelled to another state for the sole purpose of competing in a sport.  I had no presentation to give, no exams to take, no questions to answer, but I had to compete in an entirely new way and I was ready to give it a shot.  I went up against extremely daunting teams: Slaughter County Roller Vixens, Sin City Roller Girls, Emerald City Roller Girls, and Dockyard Derby Dames, and played at a level I never knew that I could. I gave it my all and ended up doing pretty well, but that was only part of the story. The other part of the story happened behind the scenes and opened my eyes to all of the wonderful things that come along with tournament play.

At this tournament, everyone was living and breathing derby, but amongst all of the booty shorts, sweat, makeup, and gear stench, little, magical things happened. Through these experiences, I realized how important it is to practice good sportswomanship, to listen to and thank the refs and NSO’s, and to keep a cool head on the bench. I determined that success in derby is not only about having the skills and drive to perform, but also about never underestimating your opponent or yourself. Most importantly though, I found that travelling with your team enables you to develop friendships in a way that is almost impossible to do under regular circumstances. I am a nerd and I can be pretty socially awkward, so even though I had been skating with these ladies at least two nights a week for the previous year and a half, I often felt like an observer rather than a participant.  But all of us were there in this pacific northwestern derby paradise, and we all had to pull together to think and act like a team. We roomed together, ate together, talked together, won together and lost together. It was incredible. You're personally challenged on so many levels, and you're surrounded by a bunch of strong, amazing, inspirational women who are sweating their own set of challenges. But these women are there, ready to support you in a heartbeat (and/or set you straight, if needed). When emotions ran hot, and chaos was everywhere, everyone seemed to ban together, and incredible friendships were born.

When we decided to go to Wild West again this year, I was ecstatic but a little hesitant.  In the derby world, a year can bring about a lot of change, and this year was no different. For starters, our team is completely different than last year, and several of our skaters had only been skating with us for a couple of months. Also, I am now the captain, which brings about a whole array of new responsibilities, concerns, fears, and goals. Again, I found myself excited, scared, and on the brink of a whole new type of learning experience.  Along with all of those thoughts and feelings though, I was just so excited. I could feel a great energy from the new team, and although our preparation time was shorter than I had hoped, I was really encouraged by the team "vibe." Sure enough, once we arrived, the tournament magic happened again.  Despite some pretty serious issues with our travel situation (I will never patronize a certain rental car company ever again!!! They know who they are...) everyone pulled together, put on their big girl booty shorts and by our first bout we had become a seething, furious, derby monster ready to devour all skaters in our path! We skated, laughed, cried, ate, and drank together. Although we arrived as a bunch of skaters; some vets of the league, some brand new, all of us unsure of how this would play out, we left as a team. A team that performed well against formidable rivals and thanked the officials. A team that increased our rankings by eleven spots and held down the dance floor alongside Quadzilla. A team of women that I am proud to skate with and am happy to know better through this tournament experience. A team that I can’t wait to skate with again at the Mayday Mayhem tournament in a couple of months.  

So for all of you readers out there here’s the take-home message: Tournaments are a test that tell you what your team is made of, and the results are in- our team is 100% AWESOME.

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