When I was a kid the little league baseball coach told my mom I couldn’t play on his team anymore. I had got three black eyes in just a few weeks. “She doesn’t protect her face, and it’s just dangerous at this point.” Cut to me, looking like a little derpette at 7 years old with two big purple eyes. I told my dad I couldn’t play anymore because, “I suck and everyone is better than me.” He said, “Listen- there will always be someone better than you.” At seven I thought he was a dickwad…but now, I see he’s right.

To my ladies on the B-teams and new skaters, you keep your chin up and have some pride. If you’re on the B-team- you’re A-team must be pretty bad ass. If you’re brand new just know- it gets better. But I get it, sometimes it makes you feel inferior. You forget that this league is YOUR league too. You forget that you have the potential to be the best damn skater in the country. If you will it dude, it is no dream.

It’s hard sometimes to keep it all in perspective. On the real, there is an emphasis on the development of advanced skill havers- sometimes to the detriment of the new recruits. I understand it- skaters with advanced skills are going to get bored working on the basics and who doesn’t want to be THE BEST!? But let me tell you why I bristle when I hear the term “Fresh Meat.”

Her kid is wondering where mom is, she spent all her extra money on new wheels and pads, her dude says he doesn’t approve, her family doesn’t get it, she’s not sure she can even do this, all her friends think she’s bat-shit crazy, she’s brand new and hasn’t got one friend on the league. It’s the first day of school all over again. And on top of that? You call her “Fresh Meat” and tell her to get off the track while the big girls play. Fuck that shit.

Come here darling, my name is Bunnie, I was new once, just like you, so was everyone in here. We all started just like you, don’t be shy, before you know it you’ll have as much skill as anyone on the track so let’s start with some basics. See that girl out there getting 35 in 5? Two years ago she couldn’t cross over. Oh, and that one that just laid out one of the guys? Yeah, last summer she was holding on to the walls. You’re going to be great one day. Don’t worry your pretty little head, just get out there and skate.

I put on some confidence, because I know I’ve got some skill I never had before, but let’s be real- I know my weaknesses. I know where I can improve. My turn stops? Slow. Skate backward? Ehh, ok. And ask me to skate counter-derby direction? My legs are like robots that never got that upgrade. Those things can get better. And like I said before, everyone has something to improve. Don’t let that stress you out- just get on the track and do some work.

I wish all the time that I had a video of everyone’s first practice. Just so you know- everyone sucks at first. Even speed skaters have to learn to juke. Jam skaters have to learn some strategy. Everyone has to learn how to hit. And yes. There will always be someone better than you, but they weren’t always. They got that way the same way you will- practice, practice, and more practice. Hold your head up and know that this is a very hard sport. There is no shame in learning. With a little patience and a lot of determination you are well on your way to derby greatness.

My philosophy is this- I believe that new skaters are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the strength they posses in stride. I see a future in roller derby. Someday, everyone will know a roller girl/boy. And the average career for a derby girl is three and a half seasons. So who’s going to lead us into the next century? Junior Derby, Men’s Derby, New WFTDA apprentice leagues, Flat track, banked track, old school rules, new rules, co-ed teams, pickup games, “noobs” and the fucking “Fresh Meat” … the future is bright and it’s full of derby. So show some love to the ones coming up.