How I Took the Plunge

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series by SCAR Derby's own Samantha Rae-Tuthill, a.k.a. Culta Skara

My coworker directed me to one of SCAR's Non-Skating Officials who also worked with us. She responded to my email inquiry with the contact information for most of the executive board. I got links to the website, as well as a link to the Facebook events for the clinic day and recruitment. It was only a couple of weeks away. I emailed and got a response almost immediately with all of the information I needed. I signed up for the clinic and told myself I was going to practice skating and get ready for recruitment.

Only that didn’t happen. I never had the time. I thought about opting out and putting roller derby back in my daydreams where they belonged, but I didn’t. I showed up to the clinic, even though I hadn’t put skates on my feet in at least eight years. And even then I hadn’t skated well; I had no technique or training. I was terrified: I felt shy and nervous and unsure of myself—feelings I was not used to. When I pulled into the parking lot at Penn Skates, I was screaming in my head to turn around and go home. I’m honestly not sure how I dragged myself out of the car.

Inside there were girls from the team. They laughed and talked together, they geared up, and they looked like they knew exactly what they were doing and how to converse with each other—like they belonged. I put on my $18 roller blade guards I bought from Sports Authority and duct-taped my name to my helmet. I didn’t know how to approach anyone.

It turned out that I didn’t need to. SCARs came right over and introduced themselves, gave me paperwork to fill out, talked to me, and asked me questions. I asked how many girls they expected to take, since I was nervous about buying more gear because I didn’t want to spend that much just to get cut. After all, I wasn’t very good. I was assured that it wasn’t about being a good skater. It was about wanting people who would commit and were willing to learn. I relaxed a bit. I could do that.
I spoke with some of the team once I got on the track, expressing my nerves, since I hadn’t been on skates in such a long time. The ladies I spoke with skated backwards around the track as they told me that before they joined, they had never skated before, and some told me it had been nearly 30 years since they had skated before trying out.

The whole day the team took their time to talk to us, to show us how to do things better, and to get to know us. I was congratulated when I did things well and told how to improve when I didn’t. I never felt judged; I never felt like a bother. I’d never been on a team before where the stronger players didn’t ostracize the weaker. I’d been on both sides of that, and I’m not proud of either.
Even by the time recruitment came around, I was still convinced I wouldn’t make the cut. But I did. We all did. I received packets of information about the sport: SCARs sent us messages on what to look for when we bought skates and wheels. I returned my cheap, tiny pads and got real derby gear, and my own skates. I was shown how to change wheels, clean bearings, and tighten toe stops. Every practice SCARs would come and help the fresh meat learn. My mistakes were pointed out to me, always constructively, until I was doing it right.