Progress is as progress does

Today my everything hurts. I’m aching all over thanks to my fibromyalgia, but it’s the pain of victory and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yesterday, I successfully completed my Orange Star test, which in my league means that I am considered to be ’bouting level’, and I am now eligible for team selection for any of our public bouts. It also means I can now attend boot camps and open scrims with other leagues as I have passed the WFTDA minimum standards*. And best of all, I now get to attend the Super Secret (not really) team training sessions. So not only do I get more time on skates (always a plus in my mind) with an extra night’s training each week, the team training sessions are specifically designed to teach teamwork, strategy and plays. I am ridiculously excited about this. The little glimpses of progress I’ve experienced at scrim are only the beginning and I can’t wait to learn more about playing the game itself.

Testing itself went better than I thought it would.  We get three attempts on every item, and I only had to use all three twice. First was the 360 transition. which I can do perfectly fine in practice, but I overthought it and stumbled on the first one, then didn’t give myself enough recovery time before attempting the second so it wasn’t smooth either. I also ended up using three for obstacle avoidance. We test this by having the testee skate at the back of a pack of 8 skaters. On the trainer’s mark, the pack all go down and the testee needs to make their way around/ through/ over the downed skaters. For full marks, you need to show multiple methods of avoidance such as hops, jumps, using toestops and/ or stepping. I had done attempt number one and only shown stepping, so I was about to do attempt number two and I had shifted all my weight onto one foot to hop over someone, when a downed skater threw out an arm and hit my foot, which stopped dead. Suddenly I was still moving forward, and there were too many bodies and limbs on the floor to try and get my other foot back down and so I faceplanted into a pile of bodies and copped a skate to the boob. Ouch. Cue tears and wheezing as I tried to get my breath back, but thankfully everyone else was OK. I sat out for a couple of minutes and then completed the section successfully (hooray!). The hitting section went better than I had hoped, as one of our friendly merby boys (Thuggernaut) volunteered to be our test partner and I’ve trained with him a lot since we’re of a similar size and build. Due to track availability we had to to the fitness section last again which hurt a bit, but it’s done now and that’s all the matters. I was very please that I was still able to complete the push-ups section, it’s been 2 months since I last did push-ups or much upper body stuff at all thanks to the TFCC tear in my wrist.

After testing, I sat in on the last bit of ref training and discussed the rules updates released by WFTDA on the 1st, and then we had our usual training. By the time that was over, I was stuffed. My feet were cramping like they haven’t done in months (probably in part by my having spent 8h walking around an expo the day before), and I was feeling a bit shaky due to the combination of both physical and mental exhaustion after testing, so I decided it would be safer for me to opt out of scrim. Instead, I tried my hand at reffing which was interesting. I need to study my hand signals! I took an OPR (Outside Pack Ref) position, and once I figured out how handovers and sight-lines worked, it was fun. And I learnt a lot of about gameplay as well because I got to watch up close and from so many different angles, although most of the penalties I did spot I was too slow and someone else beat me to the call. Learning is fun! Now I just have out figure out how I can ref and play scrim at the same time, I want to do all the things!

 

*Clarification: A leaguemate reminded me that since we’re not a WFTDA league (we like having the boys around), our testing doesn’t 100% align with the WFTDA Minimum Skills. So while I have completed all the mins at various points, I haven’t actually been tested on a couple of facets such as the 27-in-5. Mostly because it takes so damn long to test in large groups :p

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Of scrimmages and kings

So after I passed my Yellow Star and was approved for scrimmage back in January I promised an entry about scrim, but never delivered. Well I didn’t forget, I just didn’t have a whole lot to say up until now. The past month-ish I’ve felt a bit off my game, firstly because of the hot weather which rendered me incapable of skating, then I came down with a cold, and then a couple of weeks ago I finally lined up for scrim again only to twist my knee in the first jam. Thanks to all these factors, the times when I was on skates I felt rather disconnected and frustrated because I was having trouble making my body do what I could visualize and it felt like I wasn’t making any progress.

My first two scrims were a blur. I only got to play 2-3 jams in each and the first one definitely set the scene for me: standing on the track, feeling like a deer in the headlights, the whistle blows and then people are shoving and yelling and it was all I could do to not yell back ‘I don’t know what I’m doing!’. Drills have rules and objectives, being out on the track proper really highlighted, for me, how much I still had to learn about tactics and strategy. I didn’t know any of the hand-signals our Benchie was using, I didn’t know which jammers were likely to want assists and which preferred to break walls on their own, and I definitely didn’t know the names of any of the plays the vets were running! At one point I was passed the pivot panty and about crapped bricks because while I have no issue being loud or leading the group, I felt like I didn’t know enough to take charge! But I think I did OK, I asked the jammer what she wanted and then I kept my wall together.

This Sunday past though, things finally slotted into place. We only had 8 skaters a side for girls jams, and some of them were also doubling for co-ed jams so a lot of people were playing back to back, and it was a fast game. When we got a chance between jams, our side’s Captain explained some of the concepts behind the strategies she was calling which made it much easier to follow her on-track instructions because now we had context for our actions. So we tried running the pack (speeding up so the jammer has to work extra hard to lap you), breaking up the pack (hanging back until no pack is called and your jammer is let through, but you have to be careful not to get destruction of pack penalties), and of course just walling up and blocking. I managed to hit the opposing jammer out a few times which felt AMAZING, as well as generally slowing her down. Once I was on the inside line and she got by me while I was distracted by our jammer in distress, but I didn’t let it happen again. I even jammed, twice! I’m not very fast, but my size does allow me to push a wall pretty well (unless Jillie Pepper or some of the boys are on the other end, then I’m usually in trouble). The first time I put that panty on, I got lead jammer! The jam was called off almost immediately due to a downed skater so I didn’t have to do anything with it, but still… lead jammer 😀 The second time it took almost a full lap for me to fight my way through the pack and the opposing jammer called it off before I could score, but it was definitely a learning experience which I enjoyed. I won’t be busting to jam every time, but now I’m not scared of sticking the panty on when it’s passed to me. And best of all, after the full 1.5h I was one of only a handful of skaters that hadn’t committed a single penalty! My first scrims I served box time for cuts and a false start, so that was a good feeling to know that I had stayed in bounds, hit legally and generally behaved myself.

In just a few short days I will be trying for my Orange Star which would rank me as ’bout ready’. Tonight’s training session covered most of the test thankfully so I’m feeling pretty good about it, now I just need to do it on the day! I’m getting together with my testing buddies for a super-not-secret training session on Friday night as prep because it’s really hard to practice blocking without a partner, or figure out why a move won’t work without an observer, so together we can do all these things. On the one hand I know I can do all the test items, on the other I don’t want to get my hopes up or count my chickens before they’ve hatched. So this week is going to be a delicate balance of confidence without getting cocky or getting upset if things don’t go perfectly on Sunday. 

Either way, Sunday will mean scrim, which will be extra-interesting as WFTDA released an update to the rules this morning, which include reducing penalties to 30 seconds and reducing the number of ways in which you can be called for a cut. The League hasn’t made an official decision if we will begin training with the new rules immediately, but it seems likely as we want as much time to adapt to the changes as possible before our next bout(s).