“Before we teach you how to skate, you need to learn how to fall.” – Jungle
So our first lesson, on our first day of roller derby practice, was falling. This meant “picking a cheek” and not using your hands to catch yourself. Little did I know, that this is a golden rule, to be followed to a Tee. But, I didn’t learn the importance of this rule until two months into fresh meat.
I have always been super clumsy, so my family and friends were a little skeptical about me joining a derby team since I have broken four bones in the past five years. But after the first practice I assured everyone that the coaches and vets are quick to show you how to avoid getting hurt from falls …as long as you listen.
The first practice was great! Besides the purposeful falls and learning to “pick a cheek,” I didn’t fall once!
The second practice though, I totally ate it; falling straight onto my tailbone, completely forgetting how to pick a cheek. The air was knocked out of me and pain was shooting up the center of my body. Honestly this only way I can put it, and it’s totally gross; it felt like when you have taken a painful poop and you kind of do this weird inhale-lip shiver thing and you can’t exhale or keep from sitting very straight. BUT I didn’t use my hands, I call that a [half] win.
Two months later, I hadn’t actually fallen in a way that caused any injury. The coaches had been incorporating fresh meat into the Flyer’s practices. On one particular Tuesday I got to learn how to jam! So cool! The blockers are all set up and I am coming in behind them, I see an opening on the inside. In my head, that small space is enough for me to squeeze through, so I take my chance! The blocker does a great job, she bumps me out of there so fast I barely have a chance to react. I lose my balance as I go out of bounds, so I bend down farther in an attempt to regain it. Being such an awesome friendly teammate, when she sees me going down she tries to help.
This is all happening so fast that she doesn’t know I am already regaining my balance. Next thing I know, the ground is coming up at me fast and I’m thinking, “Pick a cheek! Pick a cheek!” just as I’m about to hit the floor I remember “Shit! No hands” but it is too late.
“I picked a cheek!” I yell as soon as I stand up. Everyone saw, maybe even heard my fall. But there is that inhale-lip shiver again and this time there is an awful wave of nausea that comes along with it.
I can’t remember exactly how I landed, but my finger was extremely swollen and I couldn’t move it for a good while. I tried so hard to convince everyone that I was okay, that when asked I would say “yeah, it bends!” and wag my finger at my teammates.
I was hoping it was just bruised so I kept on skating for the remainder of the practice and went straight home to ice it. By the time I finished showering I could no longer bend it, coming to terms with the fact that it was most likely broken. I grabbed some tape, sticking my fingers together for the night. At urgent care, 24 hours later, the x-rays showed there was a chip of bone completely broken off my knuckle. Which I had only made worse by bending it to show everyone I was fine.
I definitely learned the hard way, but I will not try to convince myself or my team that I am ok when I’m not and I will listen to the lessons they teach us about safety. But most importantly, I will not be using my hands to catch myself ever again (at least until I forget again).