I think I’ve had a different experience than many folks in derby. I’ve made the All Stars (the A-team for my league) and I’ve often not felt worthy of it.
I made the All Stars in my first season because another player, Her She Bad, tried out and made it but then withdrew because she was pregnant. I rode the bench most of that season but I was still thrilled to be there, unbelieving. That summer, one of our key jammers, Feist E. One, took a leave of absence. Because of that I had the opportunity to play in a bout against Durango, which was a really big deal at the time. I tried to rise to the challenge but in my heart, I was scared shitless. That season contained so much growth and stretching. Even if I was deeply uncomfortable, I was alive. “I cannot believe this is happening, I’m not sure I should be here” is where my brain lived.
My mindset was reinforced by our coach at the time, who told me that I wasn’t talented and that my skills came from hard work. This was both a burden and a gift. It was a burden in that it contributed to my own mindset of never feeling good enough. I felt desperate, but that contributed, in part, to helping me work hard. One of my coach’s mantras was “hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard.” I drank that Kool-Aid and it was delicious. Derby was fun!
In my 2nd season in 2014, I developed some confidence in myself and the team. We were up and coming and working hard for D2 playoffs in our debut season. That confidence was crushed during a series of horrible events during the summer of 2014, both from a league standpoint and a personal standpoint. The All Stars did go Kitchener for D2 playoffs, but we failed pretty miserably. Derby was not always fun. My perspective on that time is ever evolving (paradigm shift is fascinating!), but at the end of the season, I came to the conclusion that I was a one trick pony and sucked as a jammer. I remember one of our refs, McSteamy, told me that he loved watching me as a jammer because I was smart. I never believed him and said “jammers are bimbos,” etc. That demonstrates how ridiculous I am because that is patently untrue. But I develop myths to fit my narrative, like we all do. There was a picture that captured me doing something great in Kitchener, which made it on the back cover of the Rollercon book in 2015. And still, I did not really believe I was good at derby, even when there was photographic evidence.
I started 2015 and felt I needed to change. I asked to become a blocker and was granted that wish. I didn’t deserve that spot and felt that way for most of the season, but was lifted by learning blocking and incredible teammates, particularly my line. However, I ended the season fouling out of our last bout in Dearborn and with a broken nose. I mean, that is not the totality of the season, but see how I am telling this story?
I started 2016 with a bit more confidence as a blocker and excitement for our coach and team spirit. But years of “I’m not good enough” thinking (and some other things) caught up with me and I had to step away. Derby was not so much fun at that point. That was a fucking wrenching decision. I felt like a gigantic dick for leaving the team. And then the team did amazingly after my departure, so what does that mean? It may mean that I might be overthinking things.
I love derby, I love it hard. I can at least say that for myself. I clearly don’t think I’m good enough.
If you’ve met me in person, I come across as normal (boring, in fact), reasonably confident and somewhat well-adjusted, if a little bit intense. Am I those things? Sometimes. A lot of times, though, I don’t believe in myself and think I am just lucky. Seriously, don’t you dare tell me I did something well, even if it is true and I need to hear it. Because I probably won’t believe you. I’d really prefer your criticism and not in a shit sandwich format. All this, in spite of the fact that I know I have some talent and am not just a hard worker. In spite of the fact that I come to practice and I like to work hard. I get pretty fired up about derby, not on the same level as our current coach, Papa Whiskey, but I occupy some real estate here. My passion adds up to something. Maybe I did belong on the All Stars 2013-2016?
I realize that my brain sounds like a sad place, but this is just a sliver of my derby story. On the whole, it’s goddamned glorious. I am deeply proud of so many things, even that Rollercon back cover. I have a place in the this sport and community. So do you, even if you don’t believe it or know precisely what it is. You too are good enough right here, right now.
We all struggle, even if we’re seemingly successful. Some of us struggle a lot and continuously but we all struggle occasionally. I think we land on the team/spot/place we should, even if we don’t believe it. And what we want and who we are in this community is ever-evolving. I would encourage everyone to keep their perspective on that. I give good advice and should probably follow it.
I’m so grateful for 4 years of derby and I’m curious to experience whatever happens in the future.