Jun 2013 23

By Gnarley Quinn

Keep low. Cross over. Look up. Push through. Derby Stance. Skate the diamond. Kiss the apex. Get lower. Skate around the others. Keep those crossovers coming. Keep your legs moving. No coasting. Maintain your speed and path. Stay on the diamond. Are you low enough? Get LOWER. Keep pushing. Did I mention crossovers? STOP COASTING! Suck it up. Oh… and don’t forget to breathe.


When I first started skating with S2D2 in September 2012, my first encounter with 25 in 5 was met with pure anxiety and dread. Anxiety because in my 2 months of skating, I had never had even thought about skating fast, let alone skating as fast as I can on a track with 15 other new skaters who would have to get around me and I would have to dodge. And dread because I would be skating as fast as I can on a track with 15 other new skaters who would have to get around me and I would have to dodge. There was also the name of the drill. 25 in 5 (I am aware that this has been changed to 27 in 5 due to the changes in WFTDA but I am sticking to 25 in 5 purely because that has been my goal and it has a nice ring to it). That was the goal. That, in my mind, became the magic number. After the drill everyone had their first ever PB. Mine was 16. And soon I got into the habit of using this number to rank myself, as a measurement of my skating ability, as a definition of myself as a skater and soon I got into the habit of using my PB to compare myself against others.

I let this sink into every part of my conscience every time I thought about derby. It was as if I had put on my blinkers and that was all skating meant to me; was that magic number. Nothing else compared. I felt that once I reached that 25, all my other problems would be solved. I wouldn’t have to stress about it anymore, and enter that metaphorical 25 in 5 club I had created for myself… with matching jackets. I lost sleep, staying up late thinking of how I need to perfect my technique; how I need to do more cross overs. I watched every Quadzilla YouTube clip on skating the track, stance, and crossovers he had to offer. I skated in car parks and netball courts to work on my crossovers. Slowly but steadily, my PB increased.

When my PB reached 23, it was excruciating. I was so close. What more did I have to do to join that magical 25 in 5 club I so desperately wanted to be part of? When asking what I need to work on, I got the same feedback, every time: Alice, you need to get lower. Alice, you just need to perfect your technique. Alice, do more crossovers. Alice, just do ALL THE THINGS. It was as if these little things became the demons on my shoulder every time I lined up on the track. My next minimum skills test was also fast approaching, and I was dreading it. Dreading it because I knew that this was when my I needed to hit 25. Dreading it because I doubted myself and convinced myself I wouldn’t do it. That I couldn’t. When it came to testing day, I found myself counting down to that last drill. I got through my stops, I got through my falls in a blur. It was time. I reminded myself of all the things I had to do. Stay low. Cross over. Push. Skate the diamond. Halfway through the drill I lost my balance and fell. I got back up and tried frantically to regain my speed. All those little mantras flew out the door at this point. I just had to get around that track with everything I had. I started to panic. By the end, I managed to just fall short of 25 by a quarter of the track. I was devastated. I wanted to cry, throw up, go home, and watch some more Quadzilla videos. I felt like I had failed. Because that’s what 25 in 5 had become to me: a pass or fail.

When I got my feedback on my test, it finally struck me that I had neglected every other aspect of skating. My stops weren’t perfect. My falls weren’t perfect. I had spent all my time stressing about this one drill that I disregarded the things that actually matter; the skills that keep me safe. Even if I had made that 25, and joined the metaphorical 25 in 5 club I had made in my head, I would not go on to join the real club of safe and confident skaters. It took me 6 long months to realise that yes, 25 in 5 is important, but it’s not everything. It doesn’t solve my other insecurities about skating. It doesn’t mean I am ready to move up a grade. Referring to it as my PB I often neglect the true meaning of it. My personal best. It has nothing to do with anyone else; it only reflects how far I have come in my own derby journey.

Last week, I finally did it and made my first 25 in 5. I had joined the club. After my little episode of bawling my eyes out and collapsing into a fellow skater in pure happiness, I was struck with a strange feeling of “what now?” Yes, I did make an amazing achievement and can tick that off my list of goals. But where do I go from here? And it hit me. Do it again. And make it 26. Keep going. 27 in 5. 30 in 5. It doesn’t stop, and you keep pushing. You work on every single tiny aspect of it until it gets better. Because everything can be improved.

Looking back, it has been a very long and emotional journey, but it is one of many. I still have a long way to go, and many other things to focus on. My tomahawks on my “not so awesome side” can be better. My mohawking can be improved. My stance still needs work. The list goes on. At first I thought of these things as just a list of things I suck at. But now I realise that this is what I love about roller derby. It is a constant journey of one goal after another; some big, such as breaking 25 in 5, and some small, such as mohawking on my left leg.

Some things I have learnt about this part of my journey and advice I could give to other freshies out there are:

It really is just a number: Not an indicator, not a rank. And sometimes it takes time to accept that sometimes, it decreases or remains constant for a while but more often than not, you surprise yourself with what you can do.

Keep aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and work on all of them. DO ALL THE THINGS!

Listen to feedback from your fellow skaters. They want nothing more than to see you improve.

Thank you to my fellow skaters in S2D2 for keeping me up when I’m down, to support me and see me through the toughest times I have had in this journey. I didn’t just fall in love with roller derby, I fell in love with S2D2.

By Gnarley Quinn