Left & Right: Me reffing (in the grey shirt)

Forgive me for a moment because I just wanna gush about derby.

So obviously I’m not allowed to scrim or be on the team until I pass my skills tests.Til then, I’m kind of a peripheral member of the league, as with the other pre-minimum skills guys.

Even though everyone in the league is friendly, there’s still a tangible divide between team skaters and the newbies. It kind of seems like the commitment amongst the pre-mins is quite low and several people seem to have dropped off the radar altogether. Obviously there are always personal factors at play, but during fresh meat, it’s much more structured and there’s plenty of mentoring. Once the programme finishes and you become a pre-min skater, you have to rely on your own motivation to keep you going – and unless you’re determined – the prospect of passing your skills can seem very distant.

To that effect, it kind of feels lonely to be a pre-min skater. You’re not ‘in’ with the freshies, but you’re not ‘in’ with the team either. And because ability levels vary, and attrition rate is high, there’s not much sense of community within the pre-mins themselves.

It sounds like I’m just kvetching, but it doesn’t bother me too much. I’m happy to get on with things on my own, and I accept that as I am at the moment I’m not adding anything to the team, just showing up and absorbing all the coaching.

However… Yesterday, the league played a intra-team match and I showed up to help out and do some NSOing, as well as squeeze in some practice on the track before and after the game. While I was on track practicing before the match, Ram-it, our head ref pulled me aside and said that my skating was really coming on and would I like to do some ON-skates reffing work. Uh, HELL YEAH I would!

He was gentle with me and gave me an easy job – front pack reffing. At first it was just calling ‘out of plays’ and then later I got my own whistle and was able to call penalties for OOP blocks and failure to reform. It was so much fun, and I’ve never felt so involved in the game, because I was quite literally at the centre of the action, and putting myself to good use.

I also enjoyed reffing because it gave me chance to practice my footwork and backwards skating. Being concentrated on the pack and following them around meant that I was forced to move back and forth and side-to-side constantly, which really helped me practice my agility.

After the game, some team skaters who I don’t often see or speak with came up to chat with me about my skating and stuff, which was just really fucking awesome.

I’m really not an emotional person, but I actually had a little cry when I got home because I was touched by how friendly and supportive everyone had been. For the first time since I started (6 months!?) I feel like I’ve been properly adopted into the league. #FEELSGOODMAN

Fresh meat is awesome too at the moment, though my T-stops and my left footed plows are not so awesome.

I’m feeling a lot of love for these newbie guys – they’re all so enthusiastic and it’s really heartening. I’m trying my best to make them feel welcome, but I’m not really sure where to draw the line – I don’t want to be too full-on and just freak everybody out!

I’m off to London this weekend, the tragedy being I can’t go to practice on Saturday. That sounds so lame, but… I just wanna skate guys! Wahhh…

ALSO, shout out to Fenton, who was helping Lauren on the whiteboard in his very first NSO role as score-board official. What a guy, right?!

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