For a change of pace, I find myself blogging from New Jersey where I am visiting my mother for a week. But I readily confess that I couldn't stand to be away from derby that long, so about a fortnight ago I put out a call on the Skatelog Forum asking any New Jersey and Pennsylvania-based skaters to help me locate teams in the immediate area who might graciously entertain my wish to participate in one of their practices.
Skating and practicing with different teams is a fantastic way to meet new people and learn new drills, so I was delighted when the nearby, WFTDA-leagued Philly Roller Girls were receptive to the idea. Last night I drove to the notoriously crime-ridden city of Camden, where amidst a decaying industrial district I found the small oasis of Millennium Skateworld. Inside was an old-fashioned hardwood floor and skaters of varying abilities whizzing around and warming up.
With some trepidation and a touch of anxiety, I sat down at a table and watched for a few minutes. The Philly Roller Girls are a large, decorated league comprised of three individual teams and hosts its own Warrior Cup annually. Their all-star travel team, the Liberty Belles, is currently ranked second in WFTDA's Eastern division (only behind the juggernaut known as the Gotham Girls).
I needn't have worried.
The Philly Roller Girls were a warm, goofy bunch of women who seem genuinely excited to have me. Liberty Belles member Mo Pain was my envoy for the evening, and after an extended sprint to warm up (felt pretty cool to know I was holding my own with some WTFDA jammers!) we practiced a variety of drills. This was the more humbling part of the practice; though speed is my best asset it still takes a lot of time and effort for me to make progress on skills like whirlybirds and backwards crossovers. In essence, I'm much more of a forceful skater than I am a graceful one.
The really fantastic part was that every single drill was entirely new to me. Learning and practicing new drills helps keep things fresh and interesting, and challenges your mind and body to work on new skills and concepts. When I coached practice a few weeks ago, I was able to introduce a new pivot-central drill that the team was receptive to, so I'm eager to bring back even more things with me to share with my teammates (and also a couple of bags of Utz potato chips for ref Lukan D'Otha Way, by request). I'll be doing more traveling to see friends and family later this year, so I'm keen to connect with other teams like the Derby City Rollergirls (Louisville, Kentucky) and Charlotte Roller Girls (Charlotte, North Carolina).
But even a week-long vacation makes me pine for my ragtag teammates of Iowa City. As one veteran blocker, Hitzy Blonde, returns to skating after knee surgery we lose another, Toxic Sugar, with a dislocated patella. Toxic Sugar, ironically and unfortunately, was only two days away from surgery for a preexisting chronic knee condition when she suffered the injury, though she'll be going under the knife next week. The Old Capitol City Roller Girls also has several fresh meat skaters with various ailments so here's hoping they are all making speedy recoveries while I am away.