How My First Public Scrimmage Went

Yesterday at a boot camp run by Demanda Riot from the USA, I wanted to cry several times. I told myself and my friend who felt the same that we would wait until afterwards and then we could cry it out together. By the time we got to the end we’d forgotten about it.

Tonight I wanted to to cry from joy when I saw my friends after my first family & friends scrimmage, playing with another league to make up numbers. Neither of my parents were there, so having half a dozen friends there to cheer me on (regardless of how much the understand the sport,) meant the world.

The way I felt skating in this amber-level scrimmage tonight just reconfirmed everything I love about this sport. Yesterday I may have been feeling inadequate and useless, this morning I may have been questioning the pros and cons while inspecting my zombie-bruise leg and dalmatian-bruise shoulder, but tonight I feel positive. There IS a reason I do this. Tonight, a group of women who love roller derby got together and were oh so grateful for the opportunity to scrimmage together, and to be able to proudly show their friends and family what they’ve fallen in love with, and what they’ve been working so hard to achieve.

I was nervous upon getting there and seeing the rink packed full of spectators, but that only lasted for a few minutes before I got excited. Once I got out on the track to warm up and they were playing amazing tunes, I was so blissfully happy in anticipation that I felt comfortable and present. I had two of my friends from my league there with me in the thick of it.  I felt powerful (though not when I jammed and got stuck stuck STUCK behind a wall,) I felt resilient when I was knocked down but kept getting up, I felt calm and controlled when I was a focussed, communicative pivot (even though the opposing jammer got out of the box without us noticing that time and skated right past us.)

THIS is why I love playing roller derby. Yeah, there’s a heck of a lot of skills I need to improve upon. Yeah, I feel like shit sometimes when I can’t get something right. But I will get it. No matter how long it takes, I will get it. Playing at this level constantly makes me proud of how far I’ve come and what I do manage to do well in the moment, and it gives me goals for improvement. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity not only to do that but to show my friends how hard I’ve worked for almost two years, to get to where I am. Onwards and upwards!

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How Derby Made Me A Scapegoat And A Troublemaker

Today I had to go to the Principal’s office. My heart was hammering more than I had thought it would, considering that I believe I am in the right in this situation, and that the Principal understands my side.

I’m not going to go into it in great detail, but essentially I am a scapegoat. 

This guy I work with at a Primary School (let’s call him Gareth,) is lazy, rude, selfish, useless at his job in various ways, and habitually unpleasant to work with. He also happens to be the nephew of our boss. 

I dared to mention a small issue I was having several months ago at a staff meeting. I didn’t name names but it was fairly obvious to whom I was referring. Since then my head-in-the-sand boss (who I was actually referring to as well but never mind,) seems to have gotten it into her rather sandy head that I have a personal dislike for and obsessive grudge against Gareth. Every other staff member has the same issues with him, but I was the idiot who actually said something about it, and have since questioned him on his actions repeatedly. 

In the past few weeks several other staff members have cracked and gone to the Principal with their issues regarding the Gareth situation. The Principal, however, has not yet addressed this with my boss or with Gareth. It was Sandy-Headed Boss getting sick of the “constant friction” between Gareth and myself and deciding that it was “worse than dealing with the children” (thanks for taking my concerns seriously, Sandy,)  that made her take that problem to the Principal. So the Principal has taken the opportunity to deal with the existing complaints by calling both Gareth and myself into the office (with Sandy there to sit in,) and discuss the problem without pointing out that it’s not just my problem. This has left Sandy and Gareth still believing that I am the only one with a problem with Gareth’s behaviour, which I am worried will impact negatively on my job. 

OK, so I did go into detail. But I could have gone into far more and turned this blog into How Much I Hate Working With Gareth. Seriously. I wrote four pages of notes before seeing the Principal, just so that I wouldn’t forget anything.

Anyway. I feel like I am a scapegoat here.  But the more I think about it, the less I mind – providing that my goaty martyrdom makes a real positive change in Gareth’s behaviour and the way that the workplace is run. If it doesn’t improve I will march back to the Principal’s office and demand that she Do Something (and not pin it on me.)

I’ve come to the conclusion that derby is the reason I’m in this situation.  A year ago, I would probably not have spoken up at a staff meeting.  I would not have sought out a meeting with the Principal yesterday to get my point across honestly and clearly prior to today’s meeting.  I would not have been able to adequately express myself the other day when Sandy called me into her office to discuss the situation while Gareth wandered in and out of the wide open office door. I would have been meek and would not have wanted to cause trouble.  

Well, derby has me causing trouble everywhere and stirring up the status quo. Destroying the joint, if you will. Simply put, I’m standing up for myself. In case anyone’s wondering (which nobody is really because I don’t think anyone actually reads this blog,) I did end up sending an edited version of that letter to the ref that yelled me down last week. (Haven’t heard back.) I told my second-in-charge boss at the school that she IS in charge and essentially she needs to stop bitching about Gareth with the rest of us and actually tell him the fuck off, because she’s the one who can. Instead of just bitching about it, I told off the two teenage boys playing with their basketballs on our court today at training because we had hired the court and they were distracting some of the skaters.

The decision that I wasn’t going to let people push me around at derby, a new part of my life at the time, has made me so much less likely to allow it to happen elsewhere.  I have learned to be more aware of people belittling me or manipulating me. I am learning how to react and to deal with it when it does happen. In meetings with my production company, if someone tries to speak over me now I will snap my head towards them and sharply remark that I was speaking. This may seem rude but after the years I’ve spent letting it happen with this group of people, it’s necessary to snap them out of it… and to snap myself.  Stop bitching about it, stop getting upset by it, and change it. Break the pattern.

Derby names or personas aren’t necessarily an alter-ego. Not to me, anyway. To me, my ‘derby persona’ is me. A truer, more powerful me. It’s the me that has been struggling to get out this whole time, finally given a chance to try things her way. 

How I’ve Been Treated

Dear Head Ref,

I need to tell you how upset I am by the way you spoke to me tonight at training.  I ask you to please not read this as an argument, but simply as me trying to express my feelings on what happened.

The reason that I have taken this incident so personally is because you hit a nerve with me tonight.  We all have our baggage, and this is some of mine.  For years people have talked over me, not taken me seriously, not listened to my thoughts, ideas and opinions. I think a large part of that was me letting them. I decided many months ago that I was not going to let this happen in my derby world, and thankfully it mostly hasn’t. This has helped me to be more assertive and stand up for myself in other areas of my life, and to identify when people are belittling me or not giving me the respect that I believe I deserve as much as they do.

I refuse to let this start happening at derby. Once it begins, it can be hard to stop it. Usually in the past I have taken the opinion that something’s not worth getting into an argument over, and I shut up and say nothing. I think that this is precisely why it keeps happening, because I’d prefer to avoid a commotion rather than to stand up for myself. I don’t want a difference of opinion or a misunderstanding to escalate into a full argument or yelling match, and that is why I let the subject be moved on tonight at training after you raised your voice at me and talked over me, rather than try to explain myself at the time.  I do however  feel as though I need to say something to avoid this happening in future or becoming a pattern.

When I said that some of the refs need to speak more loudly and clearly, it was not an attack on you or any of the refs personally, individually or as a group. I was simply giving some feedback from my experience in a recent scrimmage.  We’re all at scrimmage to practise and to learn, and that includes refs and NSOs.

The way that you spoke to me after my comment was uncalled for and unacceptable. I feel as though you overreacted and jumped down my throat for no good reason.  I understand that reffing is a really hard, really full-on job, and I am in awe of what the derby refs do – a point that I tried to make but you didn’t or wouldn’t hear because you were speaking over me. I understand that as part of a new league, all of our refs are in training too and therefore can’t be perfect at everything. That is exactly why such feedback is important. As head ref, you need to be able to take such observations or constructive criticism as they are intended (to help the refs be even better at what they do,) and not as a personal attack.
Surging, for example,  is pretty hard for someone who’s learning it; I need to concentrate on keeping my foot in front, keeping the right weight distribution, turning out my knee, getting the timing right, having enough momentum behind my body, making contact with my thigh, butt, hip, back and shoulder, keeping myself from tabletopping as well as avoiding using my elbow – but when you or any coach or skater tells me to keep my elbow in, I usually acknowledge that it’s something that needs improvement, thank you for pointing it out and say that I’m working on it. We’re all trying to be the best skaters, players and refs we can be in order to make ourselves and our league stronger, and part of that is listening to feedback and taking it on.

We both know that sometimes you and I have very different ways of understanding things, but I ask you to please be more mindful of the way that you talk to me because it may have more of an effect than you realise.  I don’t want this to become a pattern. I want to be able to enjoy the freedom of my derby world without constantly questioning myself or being put down like I so often have been everywhere else.

Thankyou for taking the time to read this.

Wrex

 

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I’m probably not sending this to the ref in question, but I thought I’d get it out of my system a little. How should I stop it from happening again? Any ideas would be appreciated.

 

How Are You Meant To React?

My baby cousin has a girlfriend.

My baby cousin is Sarah, a 22-year-old woman. The two of us are good friends and I’ve always felt very protective of her.  Yesterday I found out that she’s told the rest of her family about her girlfriend.  

I first found out months ago, when Sarah told me that she had a huge and heartbreaking crush on Jess, a girl at work.  I didn’t really react to the revelation of the crush being on a girl, just to the unrequited suckiness of it.  I can’t help but look back and wonder if that’s ok.  I mean, I know it’s ok that I don’t think it’s an issue for her to be attracted to a woman. I’m very ok with that.  But perhaps she needed a bigger reaction from me, as the first family member she told? I don’t even know whether or not she’d told her friends at that point. Should I have given her a bigger, more obvious acceptance rather than just normalisation? But maybe normalisation is the most obvious way of showing acceptance?  

They eventually got together; later on the day she told me I sent her a text saying “Just so you know – I think having a lady-romance totally suits you. =o) I’m glad it’s working out.” Again, I still don’t know if that was the right thing to do. It came from second-guessing myself – I wanted to make sure she knew that I’m ok with it. Because I hadn’t actually said that.

I wasn’t sure for months whether or not I was the only one in the family who knew. I thought as time wore on that she would’ve told her mum, as they are very close, but seeing as we hadn’t talked in ages I had no way of knowing. Yesterday we finally caught up properly on the drive back from the family BBQ down the coast. She was able to tell me everything.  

As I suspected, she told her mum first. Her mum was fine with it and said she had kind of wondered because the two girls had been spending a lot of time together. 

Next she told her younger brother. He was fine with it and as he works with them both, he said he’d totally seen it happening before it had even happened. 

Then she told her dad. 
He didn’t take it well. He wasn’t fine with it.

It hurts me so much and makes me want to cry thinking about her going through this.  Her dad cried for a day or so, saying that all his dreams and hopes for her were shattered. He said to her “I’m not saying it’s not normal… but… it’s not normal.”  He said “What am I going to tell people?” That makes me furious and sad.  He’s an old-fashioned guy, especially when it comes to his kids, but he’s not someone I think of as an active gay-hater. 
The way Sarah told me her dad reacted makes me think of The Weekly Sift’s “The Distress Of The Privileged” article. I mentioned it to her while she was telling me how he reacted, but I don’t know if that was right either, and whether or not I should send her the link in case she’s interested. 
She said he couldn’t look at her for a week. She said he wouldn’t voluntarily tell her he loves her for a month. This is a family who I, as a divorced child who lived with but barely communicated with her own father for years, have often held up as a perfect happy family. They sit down and talk about their day at dinner, and they actually care about it. They always offer you a drink when you come around to their house, even if it’s just to drop something off. My aunt and uncle have been married for over 20 years and still kiss in the kitchen, in a way that’s cute and not gross. All four of them tell each other they love each other all the time. So for Sarah’s dad to stop saying this is a big deal.
He still won’t look at or talk to my cousin’s girlfriend, which leaves her understandably uncomfortable and scared to come around. (Thankfully, Jess’ family have accepted Sarah and made her feel totally welcome, and I’m so so glad she has that.)
As she told me all this yesterday I just wanted to be in contact with her to express some tiny portion of the sympathy and heartache I was feeling for her – I put my hand on her knee, I stroked the back of her head, then I burst out “I just want to give you a big hug right now but I can’t because I’m driving!”

Sarah said that when her brother found out how their father had reacted, he got really mad and defensive of his big sister.  He was at the house when I dropped her off yesterday and I gave him the biggest hug I’ve ever given him. Today I sent him a text to tell him what she’d told me, and how much of a champion he is for being the world’s best little bro. I just want to give him a billion hugs for being so caring for his sister and so incredibly supportive. It means a hell of a lot to me so I can’t even begin to imagine how much it means to her.

So in addition to that emotional bundle, for every tear I feel like shedding when I think about how my uncle has reacted to his daughter’s coming out, I have another tear for how our Granny reacted.

Sarah told her this weekend. She had no idea what reaction to expect. She sat Granny down and told her that the girl Granny had briefly met a few weeks earlier at the house is her girlfriend, and they’ve been dating for five months, and are very happy. 

Granny took her hands, and looked her right in the eyes and smiled. “I’m glad you’re happy.”

I love her so much for that.  I’m not religious but my 84-year-old Granny is. God Bless my Granny. I can’t put it any simpler than that.

So in my emotional and overtired state last night, I got a picture message from my baby cousin of the two of us at our spontaneous ice-cream stopover earlier that day.
I wrote back to her. 
“Thankyou. And can I just say that I’m so proud of you for being so brave and honest and true to yourself despite the heartaches it may have brought you from some people. 
You’re an amazing young woman and I’m really glad that Jess makes you so happy. Other things will settle. I love you and I’m proud of you. xoxoxoxoxo forever.”

I haven’t heard back so I’m second-guessing myself again.  I just want her to know that I don’t think of her as a different person. I don’t think it’s a big deal – but there’s a chance it’s been a big deal for her getting to this point so I don’t want to diminish that.  In a way I’m internally making my reaction a big deal, probably much bigger than it is.
I’m honoured to be the first family member that she told, way back before there was even a relationship to tell about.  I just hope that I’m giving her what she needs and living up to the honour.