Photo by Ann Yoo
By Brass Snuggles
My whole life I have been the opposite of an athlete. I was always one of the last to be picked in gym and I was fine with that. Usually it meant I got to play outfield where nothing much happened or use the tennis court that was the furthest out where my slacker friends and I would just goof off. I hung out with the art and theater crowd, which meant I spent a lot of my free time drinking coffee and chain smoking with other frail people.
Even if I had an inkling of wanting to learn a sport or become more athletic I didn't have the opportunity. I went to a high school that has produced several Olympians and professional athletes. If you hadn't already been playing your chosen sport since you were in Elementary school, you didn't even bother trying out. There was no "learning a sport," instead there was "making you so good at this sport that we can win State and colleges will be falling all over themselves for you."
So I would be competitive in other ways and just sort of let my body go to hell. In fact I never exercised on purpose, and of my own choosing, until I was a Senior in college. I figured somehow a few days a week on the elliptical for a few months would somehow undo the horrors I'd done to my body during the previous 3 years of college.
In my adult life I've had a sporadic relationship with exercise. When I do it, I love it, but it's really easy for me to "fall off the wagon." I also have a hard time pushing myself for my own sake in the way that I do if someone is expecting me to work harder or perform better.
When I joined derby in May I was a hot mess. I could barely skate and I was overweight. All I could think was "Don't fall too much," and "Damn these skates are killing my feet!" Gradually I progressed (and I still am) but once I got comfortable on skates I knew I needed to work on myself more.
One thing I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about derby is that we are so diverse in how we look and how we are. We don't all have athletic bodies. We don't have to fit a "mold" in order to perform well. Oftentimes it's actually the things about us that may seem like the weakest points that are actually our strengths. That butt that you have a hard time finding jeans for can turn you into an incredible booty blocker. Your super tiny, small body can help you become an amazing jammer.
But at the end of the day if you want to help your team, you have to work on yourself. I've started exercising on my own time and eating better to lose weight. The more weight that comes off, the better I perform at practice and the less I have to struggle.
I know I'm not alone either. Derby has caused some of my fellow leaguemates to quit smoking, to start running, to enter 5Ks, to try other sports, and to focus on what they put into their bodies (alcohol doesn't count though, it is ESSENTIAL to our way of life). Yes we do it to have fun and knock other people down, but for a lot of us it really does become something that changes us for the better.
On a side note: I'd been planning to write this all day, and then, on my way home from practice tonight a car in front of me had a license plate that said "NVRGVUP" on it. Perfect, right?