January 23, 2014

Battle-ing Jamming

If you've ever read a roller derby blog then, inevitably, you've read about the dreaded jammer panty. Also known as the plague panty. If you're unfamiliar, the jammer panty is the helmet cover that the jammer (point-scorer) wears on the track.  Think of it as a giant target plastered to your head.

The reason behind its dread? Jamming can suck. A whole lot. Even people who are really good at jamming have the fear of the jammer panty. It means up to two full minutes of being caught in the other team's sights and having the snot hip-checked out of you. It means endurance, speed, and agility. Things that don't always come naturally to - ahem - some of us.

I'm just starting my 8th (what? really? holy crap!) season of playing roller derby. I only started volunteering to jam LAST season. No one dreaded the panty more than me. When someone would ask, "Who wants to jam?" I would quickly put the pivot panty on, or sprint to the track to avoid it. I wasn't small, agile, or fast like a jammer should be. In fact, I didn't want to be.

I played derby for many seasons, content to be a blocker. I'm a bigger girl, was even bigger when I started. I could take a hit, and I could lay people flat if I was able to get the timing right. I didn't cross train, I wasn't athletic. I couldn't run, I fought constantly with my asthma. What I got out of derby was enough for me back then- a little bit of effort and the fun of skating.

Something changed a few seasons back. I decided I wanted to be healthier, and derby is a great way to achieve that. I put more into my practices, started hitting the gym. I lost some weight, and in the 2011 season, I finally earned my first MVP award in a bout. That still wasn't enough suddenly. I KNEW that I could do more- that the only thing limiting me was, in fact, me. I started the Couch to 5K program in the beginning of the 2012 season. I kept going to the gym. I kept getting in better shape. I made the active roster for the travel team. It was one of my proudest moments.

I was still afraid to jam.

My asthma was part of it; it still is. Running has helped me get a better handle of endurance, but there are times I still need my inhaler, and jamming definitely stresses the body. But I was getting sleeker, faster, and more agile. And so, halfway thought last season, I decided I would MAKE myself jam. Every scrimmage. At least once per half. It wasn't easy, but it got easier. I got lead jammer! Hey, this time I actually scored points! It wasn't scary anymore. I decided to jam in a home bout and I got lead AND scored points! Sure, next time I jammed I got shut down and the opposing team mopped the floor with me. But you know what? I went out again.

I even gave it a shot in a competitive travel bout. That...still needs some work, but it's good to have goals, right?

Derby practices used to have an underlying note of anxiety for me. When was I going to have to jam in a drill? Would they make me jam in scrimmage, even? I don't feel that anymore. I can even say I'm EXCITED to jam. I volunteer to do it, I like the feeling of getting through that pack, scoring those points, and being able to call it off.

Hey, it only took 8 seasons, right?

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