Photographing Roller Derby (or, I’d rather be skating)

I would probably love photographing roller derby more if I didn’t wish I was playing it. Still, I loved being there for my team and screaming cheering encouragement from the sidelines as they took on the Ohio Valley Rollergirls a week and a half ago.

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It is completely different to watch derby from the sidelines than to play it. And to watch at different stages of my derbyventure makes things even more interesting. Before I passed my WFTDA minimum skills test to become a Vixen this past October, I watched my team play with a half view of awe and a half view of student, trying to understand what in the hell was happening.

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I played in the two bouts immediately following my graduation into Vixen-hood, and after my second bout in December, we headed into the (very short) off-season. At the end of January, during a scrimmage against D.C., I tore my MCL – and just like that, I was off skates for 3 months.

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I kept myself busy with league business stuff, which I was doing anyhow, and read the rules and watched a lot of YouTube videos. I tried not to be depressed as February rolled by and I missed the opportunity to play in two bouts. Then came March, and another bout opportunity lost. I tried to think of all of the ways my injury could have been worse, which was usually helpful during the day. But let’s face it – I would go to practice at night and watch my teammates and be a sad, sad puppy when I left.

So I went back to watching the bouts. And tried to take away as much knowledge as I could from them. Trying to learn differently now that I’ve had the chance to also play.

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Mid-way through March I showed up to practice and began skating. Just skating, no contact. It hurt. It was challenging. It felt awesome to be skating again. Can you imagine, becoming that attached to something that after only 6 months of having it and then it being taken away, that you are blissfully happy to get it back again? (I mean, besides having a baby or something. Obviously you’d become attached to that pretty quickly. Work with me here, people.)

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I worked with the fresh meat for the first few weeks after I came back since I couldn’t fully participate in the Vixen practices. It was extremely helpful, getting back to basics. And also rewarding to teach new skaters.

And then, finally.

I started with some light hitting drills. I was scared. I didn’t want any special treatment, but I also knew I couldn’t function at 100% either. So, practice after practice, I pushed myself, listening to my body the whole time.

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I knew getting to bout in April wouldn’t happen either, so I did the next thing I love the best – I took pictures. I mean, they are not the best pictures I’ve ever taken, with fast movement and low lightining and a sub-par zoom lens, but still. I love looking through the photos a week later, seeing things that I didn’t see originally, admiring my teammates and skills I may have caught them doing. My favorite ones?

When I catch them smiling – genuinely.

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This is what this is about. We all have our reasons for doing this, but at the end of the day, isn’t it for some kind of self-fulfillment? Which usually does what? Well, makes us happy, of course.

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(Except during pre-game huddle. This is very serious business.)

I’m so happy to be back skating. Derby makes me HAPPY. I’ve pushed myself practice after practice, and it feels so good to accomplish things on the track. Again.

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