21 March

For many are called but few are chosen

You’ve got the basics, passed Minimum Skills, and now you want to jam or block… but your team wants you to do something different. In my case, I wanted to be a jammer. How do you marry those different ambitions?

Copyright Martyn Boston

Copyright Martyn Boston

Your natural abilities and the makeup of your team will dictate whether you line up in front of or behind the jam line, but at first, for me, this was really hard to stomach. I was dead set on being a jammer. More experienced skaters told me when I would ask, that I would be played according to what the team needed. At first I just wanted to play, so didn’t mind where. But as I felt my appetite for jamming grow larger than the number of opportunities I was offered, I started to become frustrated.

But my body and my skills mean that my blocking skills blossomed way before my jamming skills. Now that I’m rounding out as a skater I find that I am jamming more.

But now that I’ve had more experience of it, I understand why I wasn’t initially picked to do it!

Whilst my overall fitness is good, my stamina needs improving, for example. And that experience taught me that what I lusted after so much happened to be something I wasn’t actually ready for.

Copyright Martyn Boston

Be careful what you wish for! Copyright Martyn Boston

Now that I do jam more, the glamour has fallen away somewhat. It really challenges you to play penalty-free and with a positive mentality, because it can feel like a lot of pressure. In my experience, there is a correlation between clean skaters and those with superior aerobic fitness. It’s logical really; they have the stamina to never get sloppy. And the greatest jammers I’ve seen are just so mentally tough. They can get recycled and wiped out and get up and do it all again. That’s not something I can do well just yet.

Thinking about this the other way around, I know jammers who would love to block more, and are beasts in the pack when they do. This mis-match between what they want and what they get is smoothed out by knowing that the role they have been chosen for helps everyone to achieve the ultimate goal: to win and have fun doing it.

As a skater, you have to think  about where your abilities fit into the whole team. At first, I saw myself as a skater before a team member, and as this perception has shifted, it’s helped me to really remember to ask myself what kind of skater I would be without my team. It’s teamwork that wins games and makes drills fun, so the answer is that I’d be nowhere near the skater I am today without my team.

I’m still primarily a blocker, but the panties still call to me. And that’s fine, because being on a team means accepting what your natural gifts are, and understanding how they can be best used. Also, adopting a long-sighted attitude will help. You might not be doing exactly what you want to now, but it doesn’t mean that you never will.

If you’re in one position, but you think you could do a good job at another one, find a low-pressure situation (like a scrim) and go for it. Talk to your team mates and state your intentions – note: this is not a good situation to be overly-modest. I would ask what’s the worst that could happen, but since it’s roller derby, that’s a painful list. So, instead I’ll ask, what can you do to become truly ready?

More thoughts and updates can be found on Twitter @HellfireHarlots.