With Fresh Meat tryouts coming up in less than two weeks, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my past experience on Fresh Meat from the lovely ladies I’ve met at Wreckers who are hoping to get into FM. In some ways, their journey will be harder than mine was, but in other ways, it’ll be easier. I might’ve actually said some things that’d be useful for ladies aspiring towards getting drafted here at Rose City, or in any other large-ish league, so I’ll try to sum them up:
Fresh Meat is crazy competitive. It’s harder to get onto FM now than it was when I first tried out, and it’s probably not going to get any easier. If you go to tryouts and don’t make it the first time, the second time, or even the fifth time, that doesn’t make you a bad skater. If you don’t make it, don’t give up. Keep skating, and try out again.
Similarly, if you don’t get drafted the first/second/whatever time, that also doesn’t make you a bad skater. Most people don’t get picked up in their first draft. There are a lot of skaters, and not very many roster spots, so don’t expect to get picked up by a team right away. The time will come, as long as you keep wanting it.
Be prepared to show how much you want it. Being on Fresh Meat is a lot of work, because being on a team is a lot of work, so you’ll need to get in there and make an impact. Bring your whole self–as in, not just your body, but your mind, too–to practice, be present, and have fun. If you’re enjoying yourself, show it. If you’re not feeling challenged, find a way to push yourself. Remember why you’re there.
You’re also going to have to do more things for the league, because, hey, people in the league like to see that you care. (you do care, right?) Derby’s bringing something valuable to your life (if it isn’t, do you really want to be on a team?), so why not give something back to it?
Be prepared to set boundaries. Roller derby WILL swallow your entire life and all of your free time whole, if you let it. If you have a spouse, a family, a stressful job, or even just an introverted personality (yep, that last one’s so me), you’ll need to draw a line somewhere. You’ll need to say No to things, because if you say yes to every single thing that’s asked of you, you may eventually drive yourself completely crazy. Being a stressed-out and miserable sack of human is NOT going to make you a better skater, so give yourself permission to take a day off, or pass on the occasional volunteer opportunity. Be honest with yourself about how much you can handle.
Learn how to speak up, and who to talk to. One of the really challenging parts of my previous time on Fresh Meat was that a lot of new girls were brought into the program, and there wasn’t enough help to go around while we were learning the ropes of the program. More than a few of us skated around in a haze of confusion for the first several months. Miscommunication still happens, so if you’re not sure about something? ASK. If you’re upset about something? Say so. Talk to a veteran Meatie, ask a coach, ask a ref, or whoever else. You have resources, so test them out: you can ask the same question of ten different skaters and get ten different answers, so figure out who’s going to give you the answers you can actually work with, and go with it.
CROSS-TRAIN. DO IT. It’ll help you prevent injury, it’ll make you a better skater, and did I mention it’ll help you prevent injury? Take it from the girl who couldn’t skate for 2+ months because of an injury–those injuries probably could’ve been avoided if I’d kept regular with a good cross-training program. And, if you do get injured and have to rest for a while, cross-training is going to help rehab that injury and get you back in the game faster, once you’re able to ease back into activity again. DO IT DO IT DO IT.
Be nice to yourself. It’s good advice for derby, and good advice for life. Don’t tell yourself that everyone’s better than you, don’t sell yourself short, don’t run yourself ragged, don’t skip meals or eat scary processed food all the time, don’t short yourself on sleep. Treat your body right, keep your spirits up, and let yourself recharge when you need to. If you can’t stay as positive as you’d like, if you have trouble remembering to eat, if you overcommit yourself constantly? Find someone to keep you honest. You’re a good person, so don’t let yourself be mean to a good person.
Don’t EVER let yourself believe that you can’t do this. You absolutely can. One of the really cool things about derby is that all kinds of people have become successful at it. People who are tiny, people who are large, people who love sports, people who haven’t ever done an athletic thing in their lives. They’ve all done it, and so can you.
There are going to be days when it feels like you’re busting your ass and not getting any better. There will be days when the voices in the darkest recesses of your mind tell you that you’re utterly hopeless and will never be a competent derby player. There will be days when your brain says you should just throw your gear off a cliff and walk away from derby for good.
DON’T DO THAT. Those voices don’t belong to you, and they’re not who you are. Vent to a friend, write in your journal, get it out of your system and sleep it off. Cry if you need to. You’ll feel better in the morning, I swear.