A Rookie Jammer’s First Bout

Posted in Skater Life

After working hard to pass minimums, learn the team strategies, and make attendance, find out how our newbie skater got on after making the roster and playing her first ever bout with the Tender Hooligans.

by Cleo Fracture

Seven months after that first nerve-wracking newbie practise, I played my first roller derby bout with Rainy City Roller Girls Tender Hooligans on the 19th of March, 2011. It was a home game against Dublin Roller Girls. Whilst I can’t say that I didn’t know what to expect (I’d worked hard in scrimmage, and I’d pushed myself and spent time educating myself in order to be able to do this) I don’t think anything could’ve prepared me for the sensory, emotional and physical overload I was to encounter that day.

For a large proportion of us Hooligans, it was our first bout. So I didn’t feel like the new girl, and I didn’t feel alone – we were all in it together, and although I was nervous, skating out with them felt like the most natural thing in the world. I don’t think we had ideas above our station… we had no benchmark of where our station was, but we’d taken what we’d learnt so far and we gave it our all.

Cleo Fracture's First Bout
Cleo Fracture – photo by Mark Sanderson @ Whiteflyer Photography

I scored ten points on my first jam. That was a big thing for me, because I was convinced I was not going to make an impact. It usually takes me a couple of goes at something to start achieving results, and historically, I’m not good at games. We played well as a team, and we made the most of it.  I jammed a power jam for us right before half-time, which took us into the lead for the first time in the game. Going into that second half in the lead felt so good, even if it were by only one point.

My bench managers had originally planned to play me in the pack in the second period, but after a couple of jams, they changed the line ups so I could jam instead. I was glad they did that – that’s where I wanted to be. I like blocking too, but if my background in long-distance skating did anything for me, it taught me endurance, and gave me the stamina to keep fighting.

We played well, and so did Dublin. We were pretty much neck-and-neck the whole game. But in the end, Dublin played the better, and won by 18 points. They deserved the win, and for a split second I was disappointed at our loss, but then came this feeling of utter joy and pride at what we’d achieved that day. I don’t think I’ve ever known a sport, or any other creative outlet where every person worked so hard, to the best of their abilities, not just during the game, but in the run-up to it, than roller derby. Every girl loved that day, and every one of us fought hard to be there, after months and months of gruelling practise and discipline. We’re all so different, yet when it comes to derby, we somehow understand each other on the same level. Somehow, when you want something so bad, it doesn’t feel like such hard work.

After the game, I received such nice comments about my performance from my team-mates, my coach, my league and even from people I don’t know. I’m trying (really, I am) not to let it get to my head, but I need to let myself enjoy the rewards as well as learn from the experience. It reminds me a little of when I used to play in my band, Violet. When we came off stage we’d get people coming over and hugging us. Sharing the love. I love it that my team played such a good game and that people enjoyed watching it  – that it moved them enough to come and say so.

I was a little dazed following this event. I knew I had a long way to go before I’d be a proficient jammer, and I’m still learning every day. I’m just so happy that my first bout felt so good, even though we didn’t win. That feeling makes all the training worthwhile; all the gruelling fitness programmes, all the time and effort, all the pain and bruises… I’m rewarded tenfold for all of that. And that day was just the very, very beginning.