Lorrielle Bombardier is among the members of the North Country Lumber Jills roller derby team preparing for a bout against the Twin City Riots Saturday, Oct. 29.
My roller derby career started in February. As a fresh meat skater, coming into the world of roller derby was intimidating. I dove into practice head first. This new world on eight wheels was filled with falls, whips, hits, falls, crossovers, stops, falls, endurance, pushes, and did I mention falls? I was just concentrating on making sure I didn’t land flat on my butt, let alone learning a bunch of new skills before I was allowed near a scrimmage. But, with practice after practice, I slowly began to get them down.
The first few weeks were rough. I had muscle aches in places I didn’t know muscles could ache. But every ounce of pain was worth it. About three months into practice, I passed my Level 1 assessment and was allowed to start hitting and prepare to scrimmage. Now, not only do I have to worry about myself on skates, I get to worry about other people slamming into me while skating.
I still remember the first time I got hit. During a drill, one of my fellow skaters looked at me, skated toward the outside of the track and put their shoulder down (a tell-tale sign that you’re about to get hit — HARD). She weaved toward me and, as expected, slammed into me pretty hard. What was surprising was, I didn’t fall; and it didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would. Watching from the sidelines it always seems as if when you get hit it really hurts. But, once you’re in there and the adrenaline is pumping, the hits only fuel you. It’s only the next morning when you start to feel like you got hit by a truck.
With a few more months of practice and more technical skills on my skates, I felt I was ready for my Level 2 test, which is what you really have to work for to play roller derby. It’s what puts you up to the level where you can participate in bouts, scrimmages, and really get into the thick of things. You need to be able to hit effectively, transition from forward skating to backward skating smoothly, master turning toe-stops, skate 25 laps in five minutes, and lots more. Success does not come easy, but once you’ve passed that Level 2 test, you’re officially deemed ready to play the game. It’s a satisfying feeling. Every drill you’ve done, every crossover, every fall, every hit, is worth it. You’re officially a roster skater on your roller derby team and you can finally start playing the game you love.
Scrimmaging is a mix of emotions. You’ve got the skills, you’ve got the practice, but it’s still a totally different animal. You’re trying to apply those skills and adapt to be an effective player, but the second you’ve got your attention one place, someone comes out of nowhere and knocks you down. The fall is followed by a recovery, and a trip, and the whole vicious cycle starts again. So, with trying to score points, playing defense, keeping your eyes open, hitting other skaters, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You need to be focused on the jammer but aware of everything else at the same time. It takes a long time to be comfortable skating in a jam, and six months into playing roller derby, this is where I’m at.
It’s a tough journey, full of time spent, bodies bruised, and good times. But, it’s a good feeling, accomplishing something you worked hard for, and being able to share it with a bunch of great girls skating with you.
Lorrielle Bombardier shares with readers her experience of joining roller derby. The team is gearing up for its first home bout Saturday, Oct. 29, at the City of Plattsburgh Recreation Center against the Twin City Riots, a team from Barre, Vt.