Fresh Meat Chronicles

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A Derby Heart: Follow-up Story from Malice in Wounderland

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from playing derby is, it takes one hell of a heart. You’d think most people would say mind or body, but derby takes heart. It takes a toll on your body surely, but once you’ve been bitten by the derby bug, it grabs a hold of your heart.

Getting knocked down every practice and every game, being expected to hop back up and skate your ass off- it’s not for everyone. It takes a lot of love for your team and the sport. Getting through freshmeat… that’s where your heart is truly tested. It’ll toughen you up for sure, but it also makes your derby heart grow. I spent a lot of time in the freshmeat program, and I don’t regret a second of it.

Did I sometimes wish my days in freshmeat would’ve been shorter?- Absolutely. However, now that I am an evaled skater for KDD, I can honestly say I value every minute I spent as freshie. Every fall, every fail, it was worth it. I have learned so much about myself as well as derby. I had to take evaluations a total of 4 times before I passed. Each time I failed, I went home, cried, considered quitting, but each time I talked myself out of it. I showed up to practice again, I worked harder, I pushed myself to be better. Finally, that fourth practice was filled with tears and beer-derby staples. (at least in my case) Passing gave me the biggest sense of triumph. I felt as if I had finally done something spectacular.

However, I soon realized that the first time I showed up to practice, I was doing something spectacular. It takes a special kind of human to willingly be hit and whipped around a track for fun. It takes someone with a lot of heart. Someone that is willing to keep pushing, wants to keep improving. I can honestly say I have met some of the most inspirational women through derby. Everyone comes from a different walk of life, but we all have one thing in common; a derby heart.

If you’re thinking about joining KDD, don’t hesitate to contact our Fresh Meat coordinator, Bicked Witch. She can answer whatever questions you have and let you know our practice schedules. You can also check out our new information section, read our FAQ, and read more stories from Fresh Meat skaters past and present.

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Fresh Meat Chronicles: Venus Killiams

My derby journey started long before I strapped on a pair of skates for KDD. I’m from Salina, KS, and a friend of mine told me they were starting a roller derby team there and she thought I should try out. I was thrilled at the prospect of a sport that my 5’1” curvy frame could be a part of. I went as far as to contact the team and was met with the disheartening reality that before I was able to practice, I had to spend $300 on gear. At the time I didn’t have a spare $3, so I put derby out of my mind.

Fast forward 5 years. I had moved to Michigan and had seen advertisements for Killamazoo. Immediately, my forgotten yearning for the sport was restored. My friend (fellow freshie ThunderKate) was a long-time fan of KDD, and had gone to Fresh Meat practice once before, but had to quit due to pregnancy. We got to talking about derby and made a vow to each other that we would go together.

At my first practice, all geared up in some smelly, borrowed pads, I was so excited! I had only been on skates once in the last 18 years, but figured it would come as naturally as it did when I was seven and rollerbladed throughout my neighborhood. I had all the confidence in the world until I took my first stride out on the track and immediately fell down. In fact I spent the majority of that practice, and the several to follow on the floor. I fell. I fell some more. It hurt. It was so much harder than I ever expected. I continued to fall, but I always got back up to the cheering of my fellow freshies and coaches. Something had ignited inside me. The strong competitor I am was being unleashed on my hardest opponent to date; a very unskilled, out of shape version of myself.

My first attempt at a 27 in 5 I got 10 laps. I was the worst skater out of the entire fresh meat group. I despise being last. So, I decided I wasn’t going to be last anymore. My first priority was to purchase a decent pair of skates. As soon as I had skates (thanks to the amazing Javelin), I was skating every possible chance I could. If I wasn’t at practice, I was at open skate. If the skating rinks weren’t open, I was practicing plow stops and transitions in my basement. In no time at all, I was getting 20 laps, then 24, then finally the coveted 27 laps! My confidence has improved immensely as my skills have progressed. I’m getting in shape, and it beats going to the gym any day. In just 13 weeks I have transformed from the frustrated, sore freshie, to a member of the KDD family. When I started, passing evaluations seemed like a distant dream, and now that it has become reality, it still feels a little surreal. I’m so excited for my future in this sport. As I have introduced myself to more skaters I have been welcomed with open arms and helpful tips to improve my technique. The support has been overwhelming. Derby is no longer just a sport or a hobby, it’s a part of me. I can’t imagine life without derby now. I’m addicted to the sore muscles, bruises and sweat, but most importantly, the passion, comradery, and drive that these amazing women display every day.

If you’re thinking about joining our Fresh Meat program, don’t hesitate to contact our Fresh Meat coordinator, Bicked Witch. She can answer whatever questions you have and let you know our practice schedules. You can also check out our new information section, read our FAQ, and read more stories from Fresh Meat skaters past and present.

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Fresh Meat Chronicles: Mamacita Mayhem

Not to date myself, but the first time I really got interested in roller derby was way back in the day, when I attended a fund raiser at the now defunct Tortilla Flats for the “Kalamazoo Kamikazes.” A few years later, I worked with a friend whom was on the team, and even had a couple of the girls come promote the team on my (also now defunct) radio show, Grrliville.

When I finally started building up enough courage to think about joining, I found out I was pregnant with my son. Life got very busy very quickly, as it tends to do, but when my mother passed away last year, I realized that I needed to spend more time taking care of myself. I became more active, and lost some weight, but as the weather turned cold again, I was having a difficult time staying motivated. I knew that the only way to keep pushing myself was to find a new goal. I decided that I was going to get in shape to finally have a chance at playing roller derby! I e-mailed the team about how to do that, and to my surprise I ended up attending a Fresh Meat practice very soon thereafter.

I was terrified because of how out of shape I was, but I figured that roller skating was probably like riding a bike, and that I could pick up where I left off. When I got all geared up and out on the rink, I was surprised to learn that was completely false! I didn’t really realize quite how much having a kid threw my body off- but I certainly couldn’t find my center of gravity where I left it!

During that first practice I fell about a million times, but no one laughed–instead they cheered me when I got up. I’m still learning for sure, but seeing slow and steady progress, and setting new goals for myself every practice, has breathed new life into me. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, I know that I can get there, because I’m getting stronger mentally and physically. One of the best parts is going to open skates with my husband and son (now 5 years old). While I’m learning, he’s learning, and it’s awesome to watch him gain confidence and have fun along with me!

I’ve always loved the culture of this newer wave of roller derby, with its DIY ethic, grassroots organizing, focus on female empowerment and strength, and a little bit of classic campy fun. However, I appreciate it so much more now, knowing how hard each and every one of these ladies (and men and juniors!) has worked to do what they love!

If you’re thinking about joining our Fresh Meat program, don’t hesitate to contact our Fresh Meat coordinator, Bicked Witch. She can answer whatever questions you have and let you know our practice schedules. You can also check out our new information section, read our FAQ, and read more stories from Fresh Meat skaters past and present.

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Fresh Meat Chronicles: Malice in Wounderland

Terror: that’s all I felt the day I decided to FINALLY gear up and step out on the track as “Fresh Meat“. Not like horror movie “the killer is near” terror, but the kind you feel when you’re about to step completely out of your comfort zone and do something many others only wish they were bold enough to attempt.

Day 1 of practice I had no idea what I was walking in to. I also had no idea I’d be greeted by so many, eager to share their experience and knowledge. Gearing up for the first time felt a little ridiculous– I quickly realized, it’s completely necessary. If there is one thing I took away from my first day– and quite possibly the most important bit of Fresh Meat knowledge– it’s that you fall, a lot.

Everyday since the very first day, I’ve been told to live by two things when playing derby: 1) If you’re falling, you’re trying. and 2) “There is no sorry in derby.”

I’ll admit I was quite intimidated for a while going to practices, seeing what this AMAZING group of women can do. But more than that, I was inspired. Inspired to be tough, bold, and brilliant. Not only on the track, but in life. It also made me eager to learn more, keep showing up, keep improving.

For the first few practices, I told no one I knew that I was giving derby a try. I was nervous that it was going to be way too tough for me. It was tough, and still is, but I’m hooked. I couldn’t imagine life from here on out without derby; without the sweaty wrist guards, aching knees, and pretty sweet bruises. They’ve become a part of me.

With each sore day after practice, I become more proud of how far I’ve come, how hard I push for what I want. I walked in the first day thinking I was going to fail miserably with little support, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. I received nothing but support, motivation, and the assurance that it’s OK to step out of my comfort zone. These girls aren’t just a team, they’re a family and a support system. I couldn’t be more grateful for all the encouragement and support I have received.

If you’re thinking about joining our Fresh Meat program, don’t hesitate to contact our Fresh Meat coordinator, Bicked Witch. She can answer whatever questions you have and let you know our practice schedules. You can also check out our new information section, read our FAQ, and read more stories from Fresh Meat skaters past and present.

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Fresh Meat Chronicles: Akin-Nator

My experience, like most, starts a little before my first practice. It was mid-July, and my friend Sandra (A.K.A Energetic) was visiting me from the Netherlands. Sandra plays for the Amsterdam Derby Dames. We were just catching up on things, and she told me I would be good at roller derby. I told her I was not sure, but the whole time she was in town it went from “You would be good at roller derby,” to “You should try roller derby,” to “Anne, you better try roller derby!” Sandra can be kind of pushy! So after a two of weeks of that I was like “I’m gonna go out for the Killamazoo Derby Darlins.”

I knew my friends Cheri and Tom at work, went to a lot of Killamazoo games. I started talking to Cheri about me trying out and she told me Tom knew when they practiced, she told me to just contact the Derby Darlings through Facebook. So I did! In the meantime I was going to open skate every Saturday, trying to remember how to skate again. When I was a kid, my best friend and I were at the rink every Friday or Saturday. But I hadn’t gone skating since I was 13, so I had a long ways to go.

This was the night… I was invited to come out to a Tuesday night Fresh Meat Practice. It was 8:15, and I was sitting in my car with so many butterflies in my stomach I was not sure if I would even be able to walk into RollerWorld! I had read a bunch of things online from other freshies saying that the team was very accepting and encouraging, and that is what I kept telling myself. I got out of my car, thinking “This is it… What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I stood at the counter and told the lady “I’m here for the Fresh Meat practice.” She looked at me like I was a little crazy! At the same time a voice from behind me chimed in: “You must be Anne!” I turned around and met Crash! She got me geared up and took me out on the floor off to the side to see what I could do. She showed me how to plow stop, and I tried to do that. Then she showed me a T-stop and I was like, “Yeah, right! I’ll never be able to do that!” But Crash kept encouraging me, and breaking down the steps of how to do it — by the end of the night, I lost count on how many times I fell, but I could sort of do a plow stop and kind of cross over. At the end of my practice that first night as I was watching the other freshies do their 27 laps in 5 minutes, I knew this was for me!

So I started going to practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and each week I grew in a new way! First I was able to get down the plow stop, then T-stops, then went from 19 laps in 5 minutes to 23 in 5 — and currently I’m at 26 in 5! I’ve learned how to skate backwards, and I’m working on transitions and tomahawks! And I can’t believe how far I’ve come in only 3-4 months! All the things I thought I would never learn, I am learning! I can’t wait till the day comes where I pass my Evals and I can play! But I will miss Fresh Meat practices.

My advice to new Freshies and ladies thinking about joining, Just do it, you’ll probably like it! Worry about getting good pads before new skates! Talk to every one about what skate brands they like, don’t just go with what one person tells you to get. But most of all, the team is full of wonderful ladies willing to teach you what it takes to be on the KDD! Take their advice and have lots of FUN!!!!!

If you’re thinking about joining our Fresh Meat program, don’t hesitate to contact our Fresh Meat coordinator, Bicked Witch. She can answer whatever questions you have and let you know our practice schedules. You can also check out our new information section, read our FAQ, and read more stories from Fresh Meat skaters past and present.