One of the things I love most about derby is the transformation you go through for it, both mental and physical. And I'm not just talking about weight-wise like the last time I posted about it, I mean the process I go through every single time, whether I'm playing a bout or attending practice - and I know a few others are the same.
There's a few different causes for this: first off, unlike any other sport I can think of, we choose 'names' to go by. Normally they're a play on words, altered to suit derby or a personality. There's the brilliantly clever (Admiral Attackbar, Ref Goldblum, Skartoo D2) and then there's the wonderfully vile (Justin Ballsdeep, Clitastrophy, and my personal favourite, C*nty McTaintstain. Yes, that's an actual name someone skates under!) and everything in between in the derby world. I personally skate under Strawberry Switchblade (like a crap, crabby version of Miss Shortcake) and only later found out it's actually the name of a band from the 80's!
I've found that since adopting a derby name, that it was the first step to transforming into my 'derby alter ego'. Not becoming someone else entirely - but like a more colourful, larger-than-life version of myself.
Secondly, kitting up. Since that first session of fresh meat, as I'd said previously my confidence came on in leaps and bounds. I trusted my body more to do things I never imagined it could do, and trusted other people to keep themself safe on track. By the time I'd passed my mins, I felt better about myself than I had in years. And since then, I can feel myself becoming more confident and sure of my abilities with every piece of kit I put on, from my helmet to my skates. I'm not going to say I use my kit like armour, but again it makes me feel great to know what I can do - I'm not by any means an amazing skater, but at this point I'm a better skater than I ever could have imagined, and that's a self-confidence booster in itself!
Thirdly, one of the things that splits the derby community right down in the middle in opinions: war paint. Some players are vehemently opposed to war paint. I like the idea of dressing up - call it left over love from drama class, I'm quite partial to a wee bit of facepaint! Some add a couple of stars, some glue gems to their face, and some go all out and fully paint masks on themself. I started off with wearing plasters to protect my cheek piercings, and by my first bout that had progressed to black tape across my cheeks. Now that the piercings are gone, the war paint remains, and yeah, it does make me feel fierce, as cheesy as that sounds! It's just adding to that 'alter ego' feeling, like I'm Amii 2.0
And finally, my team. In fact, anyone I've ever skated with. Many people within derby really come into their own by showing leadership and being able to take command of a whole roomful of people, and guide them into working their hardest, striving to be their best. And even those on the sidelines, who may speak with a quieter voice, still provide that same inspiration and drive to do better with gentle encouragement. I've encountered both in the past year or so, and it's done the world of good. Whether it's being screamed "You CAN go faster, you WILL get that final lap!" as you're pushing to complete your 25 in 5, or a big hug with the assurance "Trust me, you're doing great!", it's still a massive boost to both your determination and your confidence, and most of all, the willingness to try.
It makes you want to do better, not just for yourself, but for your team - you're only as strong as your weakest player, and the encouragement just makes you want to do your best, so you can strengthen everything overall.
This runs through everyone, be it in a social skate when you just can't seem to crack how to transition, or right before a bout when you feel like you're going to vomit all over your sparkly hot pants - the people make it worth doing even when you feel like giving up, because they're there to stop you (even when you know you have no reason to), to give you a shoulder check and lovingly tell you 'Man the fuck up and carry on.'
I know all of this personally to ring true to me:
Amii is shy, quiet, won't stand up for herself, and couldn't say boo to a goose. Amii dresses conservatively, in twee collared dresses, cardigans, clunky Mary-Janes and thick tights.
Strawbs though, she's vocal, with a huge pivot voice, holds it together, isn't easily intimidated, and won't hesitate to try to take down players twice her size. She wears the things Amii would never dare to wear off track, and emulates everything she ever wanted to be, but was too scared to - confident, self-assured, assertive, and most of all, something Amii has never felt before powerful.
Does any of this make sense? I have no real idea, I just know I needed to get all of this written down somehow, it's been driving me crazy!
Does any of this apply to you guys, be it in derby or in the 'real world'? Let me know, lets start a discussion on it!