As our latest Fresh Meat course draws to a close, Minnie the Minx tells us about turning up, and finding a big space in her heart for roller derby.
by Minnie the Minx (still also a musician)
The trickiest part of any new situation, I think, is the turning up part. Playing a gig is never as nerve wracking as the actual walking on to the stage part, going on a date is never as frightening as the walking in to the bar itself to meet someone you hardly know. So when I signed up to a Fresh Meat course, this is what I was telling myself as I walked into the hall at Sportspace Hemel where the training sessions take place:
“I am walking in, this is the hardest part, you’ve turned up, go you, it is fine!”
This is what I was telling myself as I watched the advanced group training before we started:
“You’ve turned up, trickiest bit over, it is fine!”
This is what I was telling myself as we were told to pad up and put in our mouth guards:
“Yup, turning up, that was the hardest part, and you’ve done that so it’s all plain sailing from here”
This is what I told myself when I signed a waiver form – I can’t even really remember what it said but I am pretty sure they were just checking I was aware that a result of the training sessions could be instant death – and I am pretty sure that I signed to agree I understood that.
“I’ve turned up. This is the hardest part. Right?”
If turning up was the hardest part, then the Hell’s Belles (who all give their free time to train Fresh Meat) and the other ‘Fresh Meaters’ made it as easy as possible. I immediately saw friendly faces and got chatting with people who were equally as unsure and as nervous as myself. We chatted about our experience – some of us had never skated, some had been roller girls years ago and were coming back, some of us were footballers, dancers, figure skaters, and never-do-any-sporters. A right mixed bag of us from different places, ages, backgrounds, stages, but everyone keen to learn and also to help – from that first day of helping each other figure out which way up our wrist guards are meant to go to the transitions and crossovers we are practicing now, there’s always been a supportive vibe.
The next few sessions of Fresh Meat seemed to fly by, with new skills being added each week. If you weren’t making it to the roller disco at Roller City on a Thursday, or finding time to skate in your kitchen (ugh lino is awful to skate on!), then you were falling behind. The encouragement was and is always there, but if you are thinking of joining Fresh Meat be prepared to put the time in – and put the squats in. I am using muscles I didn’t know existed and thinking about my protein intake a lot more these days!
We’ve all had the same, and at the same time different, experiences of being Fresh Meat. I can’t talk about my experience without mentioning Fawn. I think all of Fresh Meat would agree that her beaming sweaty smile at training is a real highlight. I am lucky enough to have already known Fawn before becoming Fresh Meat, it’s her fault I joined up. She took me to the Roller Disco in Vauxhall a few years ago for her birthday, I was terrible, but something about seeing her on her skates (she is better on them than she is on her feet!) stayed with me, and I’ve always wanted to give it a proper go.
I am not the best skater in the world, I am not the worst, we all have our things we are good at or things we struggle with, and Fawn always sees that and always encourages me.
“That was great”
“I just keep being lapped”
“Doesn’t matter? What’s your personal best and did you beat it?”
“How are you getting on?”
“I can’t do this”
“Don’t worry it took me 8 months to check off that skill”
And my two favourite things which she always checks in on;
“Are you having fun?”
“Are you ok?”
Every single one of the advanced or intermediate members have shown all the ‘Freshies’ this kind of generosity with their time and their spirit. Their friendship is more than worth the bumps and bruises. The weeks of Fresh Meat training saw lots of laughter and fun (a few tears and bruises), time spent together at training, at the roller disco, at late night skate practices, road trips to see the Hell’s Belles bout, film nights (to watch Whip It, of course) – and all of a sudden we are all graduating and I can’t imagine my life without these ladies (and gents).
But the awesome friendships aside, I can tell you this, roller derby is as addictive as they tell you it is. It will take over a big space in your heart. It certainly has mine. I am so glad I got over that whole ‘turning up’ thing.
I am sure first day of intermediates will be just as easy, right?
Feeling inspired? Find out how you can sign up for our next fresh meat course.