I signed up for my fresh meat intake knowing that when it comes to rostering games, the Minxters adhere to the WFTDA gender policy, meaning I would be unable to represent the team on track. This wasn't an issue for me; frankly my motivations for joining were partially to get a bit of exercise but mainly to learn to skate in order to develop another shared interest with my wife, who had joined during a previous intake. I think I figured I would learn to skate then go off on my merry way with another hobby under my belt and that would be that. Oh how wrong I was…
The next part of my story will be a familiar one to many of you: roller derby quickly drew me in and I went from being a couch potato who did basically zero exercise and hadn’t played any sports since school to a former couch potato who was spending as much free time as possible either in the gym or on skates. Over the course of the fresh meat programme I got to know my fellow freshies and the rest of the Minxters and really started to feel like I was a part of the team. By the time we had completed the programme, I knew I wanted to be more involved and do whatever I could to contribute despite not being eligible to play.
Last month there was a game between the Leeds Roller Derby challenge team and the ‘Minxcadias’, a one-day-only team made up of members of the Minxters and Arcadia Roller Derby. A request went out for bench crew for the Minxcadias and I eagerly volunteered. I was (and still am) keen to get involved with benching and I saw this as a great opportunity to get some bench experience. As time passed however, I had the worrying realisation that no-one else had volunteered and it looked like I was on my own.
A few panicked messages to our team captain later, I felt reassured that everything would be fine; I’d done mirror bench at one of the Minxters games, I had a pretty strong grasp of the rules and I’d been paying attention to the bench teams during the recent Eurocup in Manchester. I spoke to some of the Minxters, including our usual bench manager, and asked all the questions I could think of. I knew that being a good bench manager is something that only comes with experience, but I thought if I could focus on the basics I would be ok. I was still very nervous but I just told myself “You’ve got this.”
Keeping a positive mental attitude gets you a long way, but sometimes you can’t help experiencing that creeping horror when you realise that not only do you not know what you’re doing, you also had no idea how much there was that you didn’t know. I’m glad I did the prep work I did, because once the game started I realised with absolute certainty: “I haven’t got this.” I did what I could; I signalled when I thought our jammer should keep running the jam or call it off and shouted the handful of things I knew it would be useful for our skaters to know (“jammer standing!”) but that was pretty much the full extent of my repertoire.
All the skaters on our team were really helpful and encouraging and after a few jams our jammers were telling me I was doing fine so I actually calmed down and started to enjoy it. I’m under no illusions as to how much I have to learn, but I did come away from this game feeling like I’d actually contributed – and more importantly, it was really enjoyable.
I can’t wait to get some more bench experience and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants to help their team on game day without being on track.