The trials and tribulations of a transfer skater

Posted in Advice, Skater Life

New Rainy skater, Kate Push, talks stepping up.

Hi. My name is Kate Push and I’m a recent transfer to Rainy City Roller Derby. Before transferring, I skated with Manchester Roller Derby’s A team for five years.

I made the move in October 2015 for a number of reasons, not least being that I needed to be challenged and step up my game. Sometimes it gets to the point where you can’t really go any further in your current situation and there’s nothing for it but to make a bold move.

Kate Push - photo by Jason Ruffell

That bold move may be seen by former league-mates as opportunistic or disloyal, but I see it as brave. Identifying your own personal need for development and seeking it out takes guts – exactly the kind of behaviour I expect from derby skaters.

Rainy City’s All Stars are in the top 100 WFTDA teams worldwide as well as the top 10 in Europe. To put these rankings into context, my previous team’s goals were to make top 30 in Europe according to Flat Track Stats. As the league wasn’t WFTDA-affiliated it was a no-starter when it came to WFTDA rankings.

Transferring into a new league is hard. For me, it’s been nothing to do with the people – everyone at Rainy has been super welcoming and helpful. It’s been hard because of all the change all at once.

Going from being needed on track to not really being needed on track. Losing that almost telepathy with skaters you have grown with over the years. Learning the new strategies, the team terminologies, the new floor, how everyone plays, where they like to be, how you fit in – it can feel a lot like starting from square one.

I guess you could say I’d been lucky in that I joined my previous league pretty much at its inception when there was no team. This meant that there was no real competition for spaces on the roster – if you were there, you were skating. When you join a league with established teams you have to fight for your place. It’s a perspective I’ve not experienced before but I’m revelling in it.

My first goal upon joining Rainy was to make A/B team crossover. I made sure I was always at training, worked out on days I didn’t have training, asked for feedback from other team members and helped out with committee work. Achieving this goal, as with most goals, was all about nerding up. In the words of that skater you might have heard of…

“True confidence comes from a deep awareness that one has made an effort to gather information, turned every stone, done everything to practice the craft and get strong.”

Scald Eagle

Scald Eagle

In January 2016 I made A/B crossover – the nerding up had paid off.  Some might see this as an opportunity for a slap on the back and a bit of a rest, but for me it meant it was time to shift those goals. There’s no time to rest on your laurels in roller derby – back on your feet in under three seconds goddammit! 

Being a crossover skater has posed the biggest challenge yet. I’d guessed it’d be tough and even gave a heads up to my other half that once I made crossover I probably wouldn’t be around as much. The amount of time spent training with both teams is challenge enough without considering family commitments, a full-time job, league work, fitness regimes, footage watching and all the other stuff you need to fit in to really improve your game.

Rainy City's Tender Hooligans. Photo by Shirlaine Forrest.
Rainy City’s Tender Hooligans. Photo by Shirlaine Forrest.

I’ve found that it’s just as much about working on your mental game as it is physical skills. Referring to Trisha Smackanawa’s article about ‘Making the Step Up’ has become almost habitual, particularly her number one point ‘Embrace the suck’ quoted below.

“Making a step up in performance level is going to be really, really, really hard. Otherwise it wouldn’t actually be a step up would it? Roller derby is a team sport and until you know your team really well it’s not always going to work out perfectly to begin with. Strategies will be different, play will be faster. You will feel like you are in slow motion while everyone else is in fast forward. There will be default moves everyone knows but you.”

Amen to that. Rainy City All Stars is an established team filled with amazing, experienced and driven skaters. The training is intense, the attitude positive and the goals focused. Not only can it feel like you’re in slow motion compared to everyone else, it can also seem like an impossible task to find out where you fit in and how you can be helpful to the team.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve had so far was from Rainy City All Star Alex Valentine. She said, “Make sure your worst enemy isn’t living between your own two ears.” To me, that’s the crux of mental toughness and has definitely been useful to remember during the more challenging times. I’ve also determined a new main goal broken down into smaller goals to help keep my focus.

This is the challenge I was searching for and I’m loving roller derby again. YES, it’s tough but I’m working and working hard – if it was easy, everyone would do it. Eyes on the prize, Push, eyes on the prize.

Have you made the step up or transferred to a new league? If so, post in the comments and share what has helped you. Sharing is caring, and it’s what makes the derby community great. 

Hard work