Since signing up to do fresh meat in July of last year, my life has been the most intense adventure, I have been nervous and at times scared, but I have also felt excitement and sheer joy. I have seen how far I can push myself and with the help of others I have seen that I could still push further. I feel that I am a better person since signing up, rebuilding myself and becoming a person that I like a lot more!
Catching the Skating Bug
If I’m honest, this all started with work. I am a teacher and my school had an enrichment day for Valentine’s day, including a roller-disco for the kids, so me — being the human embodiment of an Andrex Puppy — strapped on the skates. I hesitantly wobbled my way to the rink, I led races and conga lines, and thought to myself: “I wish I could do this more…”
A month melted by, I kept thinking about skating, I just couldn’t seem to shake it. I opened one of those local magazines that you get in the post, I had just moved to Hemel Hempstead, so I thought it was a friendly community touch. I flicked through some pages and found the Hell’s Belles listed in the sports organisations that were at the back. With the encouraging push of my friends, co-workers and with that final loving shove from my boyfriend, I Googled as fast as my fingers would allow and my Derby Journey began to unfold.
I still remember how nervous I was, I scared myself silly, it was like the first day of school! I had already embarrassed myself in front of the ‘big kids’ by frantically asking for help with my SISU mouth guard, which had managed to get stuck in my mouth. I looked at everyone else in the group, and my nervousness was washed away, we were all the same, we were all shiny and new. Within ten minutes I knew that there was nowhere else I would rather be.
Every Sunday I turned up to training to see what I could make myself do next, for me, it was just the freedom of rolling round the track and trying to mirror the skills shown to me. One week we were introduced to contact whilst on skates. I was terrified, but I wanted to try. My partner and I started the drill, and it was just shoving. I panicked and forgot everything, I looked at my feet, I fell in slow motion. RIP my left ankle. If it wasn’t for my fellow newbies I might have just stopped there, I felt encouraged to come back each week, people were messaging me to find out how I was, the Big Belles were recommending rehab exercises and looking out for me as I trained.
A few weeks after the fall, I was back on skates, everyone encouraged me and cheered me on. Then came the announcement that we were doing contact drills, my breath caught in my throat, I instantly felt bad for whoever was paired with me. My partner whispered encouragement to me, everyone who rolled past cheered me on: “Come on Jen, you can do this!”, “Learn from it Jen, bend your knees!” I felt lifted by them, the shove came, I stayed up, we moved in to Whips, Wheel Knocks then in to Hip and Shoulder checks. I had never felt so alive!
Graduation & Choosing a Name
As fresh meat came to a close, the only thing I could think about was how I wanted to graduate and continue my Derby Journey with my new found friends. To my delight I graduated, during that night we laughed, we dined, we tried to dream up derby names.
So I had it all: The gear, some amazing skate buddies and the graduation certificate… But I was missing something. I needed a name. I wracked my brain, but I was just so unsure. I wanted something to fit with me. During the summer before I started fresh meat, I had re-read the Harry Potter series and I went on the website to do the house quiz. I got sorted into Hufflepuff – I had known that I was a member of this house from the minute I read ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ when I was thirteen. That’s when it hit me: I registered my Derby name as ‘Husslepuff’ and I haven’t looked back since.
Onwards & Upwards!
Now that I’m an intermediate skater, the laughs keep coming, normally after I fall over. We all had names and numbers added to our helmets, we were ready to play the part. I was asked to set myself some goals, when I thought about it, I just wanted to pass minimum skills, but my ankle isn’t quite there yet. The priority for me is to build up the strength in my left leg, my right had been doing most of the work up until now, so I need to get my left to the same level. Considering this, I decided that I should focus on one foot glides and knee dips, since deciding to set these goals I have noticed a steady improvement in my ankle, and I feel that the minimum skills will be conquered in no time!