In a turn of events baffling to those who know me, I decided to sign up to (try to) learn to play roller derby. Roller derby is a full-contact sport played on rollerskates. The game basically consists of getting in someone's way, or getting through people who are getting in your way. It's like 'walking through Times Square' but on rollerskates and the pushing is consensual.
My interest in the sport is incredibly out of character. I'm not a fan of falling over. I don't like getting hurt. I don't really like doing things which might hurt others, and while I do enjoy the sensation of moving quickly, it also terrifies me. I appear to lack any thrill-seeking bones and I've always been fine with that. Why would I do something dangerous? Also, and this is not unrelated, I'm sort of small. I'm 161cm (5'3") tall and weigh about 55kg (120lb). In a game of momentum transfer, I am going to lose. I fare a lot better at academic pursuits, like writing code while slowly horizontalising myself, or drawing amorphous manifolds on whiteboards. Also computer games. I got an accidental headshot in Overwatch last night, so you could say I'm pretty good.
However, I also moved to a new country (Switzerland) recently, and having one's non-work life unceremoniously deleted is a good opportunity to find new hobbies. (Or rediscover old ones, like competitive online video games) I had been aware of roller derby for some time because a former flatmate was involved with the Dublin Roller Girls back when we lived together in 2010. At the time I wasn't interested in the idea of sports, much less violent ones, so I never seriously considered the idea of doing it. Also, I'm so small! I was in the 'too light to donate blood' category back then. However, now that I am older and wiser and excluded from blood-donation for different reasons, I have decided to get out of my comfort zone. Wildly. So far that traditional notions of distance can no longer be meaningfully used to describe the relative locations of roller derby and my comfort zone.
So, while scouting around for Things To Take Up in Zurich I found the Zürich City RollerGirlz, noticed they had a try-out day and convinced my good friend and coworker Natalie to go with me. That was my first time ever on rollerskates. I fell twice on the same spot and had a bruise which lasted, visibly, for three weeks. But it was fun and I learned that the game is more nuanced and less openly brutal than 'shove people, also you're on rollerskates'. There are rules. I knew in a sense that there would be, but I also feared that 'full contact' means anything goes. Thankfully not.
Natalie and I signed up to the rookie course, and I intend to document my progress. Natalie has a video-camera too, so if we remember we might compile clips to make a sweet training montage video at the end. It lasts 12 weeks and culminates in the Minimal Skills Test required to be eligible to actually play roller derby. It seems implausible to me that I can go from never having skated to passing that test in a 12 week period (while also doing a PhD and becoming a professional Overwatch player), but time shall tell. I'm quite motivated to try, because everyone loves underdog stories, and I really like having things to care about that aren't related to my PhD. File this under coping mechanisms.
The course actually started two weeks ago, I just didn't think to blog about it until now. I was searching for things like 'how to roller skate' and came across some really useful and reassuring blog posts from other beginners (or ex-beginners), and realised how much I value reading about other people sucking at things. So here I am, sucking at a thing.