Today marks a month since we started skating with CRG as more than curious outsiders. A month since we were initiated into pyramids, squats, bulldozers, plowstops, and the oval.
A month since lazy Sunday brunch rolled off the table, and a month since LOST (and Modern Family, and The Office) became presets on the VCR, and a month since we ceased being just Mary, Ali, Amy, Sarah, Caitlin, Tami.

Small sacrifices for gaining a fellowship of badassedness and more than a little adrenaline shot. We initiates have, in our month of trial, discovered the sublime pleasure of sprinting hell-bent toward a concrete wall, not bothering to pause as we tag off to a waiting, screaming teammate, sliding into a double-knee rockstar fall just before skidding to a breathless stop. We’ve discovered that pads make you brave and help you try to make that tight turn, engage your adversary, take that check, so you can figure out what full tilt feels like. We’ve noticed that quads (especially left quads), seem to matter in this clumped-up footrace of a sport. We’ve felt ravenously hungry at 11 p.m.
We’ve adopted new names: Livewire, Streetcar, Evil Quenevil, Rebel, Iona Pare, Kitten Kicker. We try to fall small and on cue. We start our crossovers halfway through the turn. We’re not afraid of a little contact, whether it’s someone coming to kill us, or someone trying to help us. We wear our mouthguards when we sprint.
I’m without a doubt a product of the derby Mediawave, but I say it was something that I had inside of me before Whip It hit theaters. I’d wager that some of the other rooks who’ve joined the league as part of this record 19-woman class feel the same. When my grad school buddy and I learned that “Boot Camp” was something that aspiring derby girls across the country could attend, we were so, so in.
Ali and I found lots of childhood rink rats like us at CRG Boot Camp, and the experience felt both like coming home and bypassing customs into a foreign country. This was not Lombard Roller Rink, but it sure was fun. A willowy rookie named Ruthie taught me what she knew about whips; a gaggle of us were prepped for pack skating by Trauma; and another vet, Nuk’em, initiated me to the mysteries of the hip check (“You wanna roll up, hip to shoulder, like this.”).
The period between Boot Camp and tryouts felt interminable, and there was very little outlet for our enthusiasm, especially for those of us who hadn’t yet purchased personal equipment like skates and pads. We were craving more than just the skating itself… it was the camaraderie and the challenge of a practice setting that we really wanted. But open skates were chances to work on some of the skills we’d learned at the first camp and we ravenously scanned whatever sources we could, grasping and longing for roller derby secrets: WFTDA, YouTube, and
The search for initiation into these mysteries provided solace when Impatience for January to Hurry up and Come reared its ugly head. I’m confident that everyone else felt just as much zeal in this intermediary period, and that there are more stories than just mine of injuries that stemmed from just this brand of enthusiasm. Mine was a fractured radial head sustained at Castle Skateland, a scant three weeks after being lovestruck by the charms of derby. My rookie cohort, meanwhile, went through everything from refractured tailbones to new-skate sticker shock, as the countdown to tryouts marched on.
Waiting for something that you *think* (but don’t quite inwardly yet know) that you’ll love is an interesting sensation. Many of us probably knew that we had Derby inside of us, but didn’t know if it was something real or a pipe dream; those of us who’d been to Boot Camp had had a tiny taste of it; others of us had spent time around CRG or other leagues already and had a pretty damn good idea that it’s something they’d only been waiting for the right opportunity to realize. But how can you know until you’ve actually played? I watched Oly win the national championship on November 13 and thought: “You know what? That looks effing hard. I don’t know if I could do what they’re doing. But I want to try.”
BombtrackAnd so (perhaps unromantically) it was *those* sorts of thoughts that sustained me, likely *more* rooks than just me, through the waiting, through the fracture and the rehab, through the semi-confused and frustrating period of autonomous training. It’s a curious mixture of faint hope and optimism laced with apprehension, that realm of potential happiness.
It was enough.
Compared with the two-month buildup that we’d experienced prior to CRG Tryouts, the event itself was surprisingly low key. Nevertheless, the thrill of getting to to join this league and start practicing with this team of remarkable women is one that I know I wasn’t alone in feeling. Two days later, we were gearing up for the first time, poised to learn all the things I described at the start, prepared to give ourselves over to the development of new, untapped sides of ourselves. Three weeks later, we stood in front of the CRG assembly and announced the names of our new, untapped sides. The deal was sealed with dizzy bat relay races and Jaeger consumed out of blowup sheep. I’ll let you guess which part held the Jaeg.
When vets see us at practice trying to learn a new skill, or skating fast, or brooding and laughing both at once when something is hard, it’s my most ardent and Pollyannaish hope that they remember how they felt when they fell in love with derby.
Because it sure does feel effing good.