Fresh Meat: The Reckoning

It’s assessment weekend for us.

My fresh meat crew, London Rockin’ Rollers, starts assesment on Sunday. The London Roller Girls fresh meat are going through theirs on Saturday, coincidentally. We’re rooting for you guys as well.

For us, the assessment is in two parts. Tomorrow, we’ll go through individual skills and two weeks later we’ll go through pack skills and some hitting (I think). The point is to see whether it’s safe to start teaching us to scrimmage. If it’s not yet safe, that’s not a huge deal. We are integrated into Wreck League either way, and if we can’t scrimmage yet, we’ll work on whatever we need to and be periodically re-assessed until we’re ready.

I know lots of us are a bit stressed about it (although after my tantrum last week, I’m surprisingly calm, personally) but I think that in our panic over laps, transitions, plow stops and jumps, we’ve failed to notice a few things.

The water bottles

In Fresh Meat sessions, we deposit water bottles in the middle of the hall – the track goes around the outside, so this is the most convenient place to put them, and it’s where we come together in between drills etc for instructions and what have you. Nobody thinks much about this. It’s not important.

But the fact that it isn’t important is really significant. In weeks one and two, skating to the middle and depositing and retrieving bottles was not that simple. We’re a large group of mixed ability. We’d grab at each other, fall over and flail. We were a tangled mess. I’m not saying there’s never a flail or fall now – but in general, we’re sliding into place, taking a knee smoothly and not even thinking about it. When did that happen?

The pack and the whips

We did some whips last Sunday. Whips are great. You grab onto someone’s arm a bit and pull as they flick, and you go fast. They’re in that Drew Barrymore movie so clearly very important, and they’re the most fun EVER.

I’m sure we were all thinking about correctly receiving the whip itself. That was the point, after all. But when we took the second whip and were accelerating round, we were being thrown right into the back of the pack – that’s a whole bunch of us skating so closely that we have to move without picking up our feet because otherwise we’ll trip on each other.

A few weeks ago, we would have crashed and fallen like Skater Skittles. On Sunday, we just reintegrated ourselves into the group and kept on going. I’m sure there were flails. I’m sure there was the occasional near collision. But overall, we have gained the basic control and confidence to be whipped into a group and rejoin it safely. When did that happen?

The Transition

No, not that transition. Although we’re actually really getting those.

When we started Fresh Meat, some of us could barely pick our feet up. At some point, something has changed.

Remember crossovers? For those of us who hadn’t learned to skate before, we had issues like “but but but I’ll trip” and “you want me to put my foot down WHERE?” Now, we have issues like “I don’t think I’m pushing enough with my back leg to properly gain speed on the corners”.

What about pacelines? The first time we tried to weave through one of those, it was a massacre. Now we’re too busy figuring out how to keep in a proper wall with a partner while doing it to notice that we’ve learned to not only weave, but maintain position and not smash into the person in front.

At some point, our worries have gone from being able to skate at all to being able to do advanced stuff like transitions and laterals and speed skating and different types of jump. Different types of jump, people! How realistic did jumping of any variety sound to you 12 weeks ago?

When the hell did this all happen?

I think we’ve failed to notice just how much we’ve changed. We do relay races with grapevine stepping, knee taps and transitions and our only worry is whether we’re fast enough. We get on a track at open skate with 30 people all doing different things, and move around each other with control and consideration. Guys, we’re doing really, really well.

We’ve all focussed so much on “getting through” assessments. But I’m really proud of us, way too proud of us for worrying about that. This is our chance to show off just how far we’ve come in so short a time. Let’s not waste it with self-deprecation and fear, okay? We’re too good for that.

Heads up. Shoulders relaxed. Knees bent. Vagina (or penis) lights down. We got this, guys. We’re more than ready.


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