I was afraid.

Before Roller Derby I was afraid to speak in public.

Sure I could make friends, crack jokes, or talk to strangers at bars, but as soon as more than a handful of people turned their eyes towards me, I would freeze. I would start to sweat, my vision would blur, and I would lose the ability to complete a sentence.

Nervous? Naw, I always sweat this much.
Nervous? Naw, I always sweat this much.

School presentations used to fill me with dread. Offering a toast to my Mother-in-law at her birthday party? Nope. Not gonna happen. I was fine with my friends, but as soon as I had to speak in front of strangers, mild acquaintances, or even worse, people who might not like me, I would lose my nerve.

Roller Derby changed that.

It happened slowly. I started coaching, well, you know, just helping out. Sometimes I would have something to add, and I would say it, nervously, to the room full of freshies. They looked to me as a veteran (even though I probably fell down often as often as they did), and they accepted the words that would come tumbling out of my face as truth. I’d volunteer at bouts and *maybe* do an announcement about 50/50 tickets, or merch sales, or something, but I’d speak reallyreallyfast and egad, why was my forehead moist?

But somewhere along the way, it got easier. As a member of the Board of Directors of my league, I would often have to address potential new members, or the league as a whole. Again, the position of power gave my words more backbone. I came prepared. I had notes!  I’m now a regular fresh meat coach and a coach for 2 teams: The Dollinquents and the Cupquakes, both of Capital City Derby Dolls.

I don’t really remember announcing my first bout, but it certainly wasn’t that long ago. I was nervous, of course. I was nervous for each game all season. But I made notes, thought about what I was going to say, and sometimes even practiced in the mirror. How do you say “lead jammer” with enthusiasm, but without sounding like a broken record, or worse, a joke?

Me and my CCDD partner in crime, Devrim, the Emir of Istanbul.
Me and my CCDD partner in crime, Devrim, the Emir of Istanbul.

And then this year I was asked, last minute, to announce a semi-closed bout for my league. My normal partner in crime wasn’t there. I was officially all by myself. Those few dozen people sitting around the track watching the game had to listen to me for a full game. Granted, they were mostly folks I was familiar with. I probably knew almost each one by name. But it was just me. Talking to them.

I was honoured to have been invited by Montreal Roller Derby to announce at Beast of the East 2015. It took me a week or more to respond to the invite. Clearly they hadn’t meant to invite me, and I certainly didn’t belong there. But after chatting about it with my husband, my derby wife, my friends, and myself in the mirror, I bit the bullet and emailed them back. If MTLRD still needed me, I’d be happy to be there.S. SmalleyAnd what can I say? It was amazing. I got to meet some derby legends, call some INCREDIBLY EXCITING games (*ahem* Casse-Gueules) and be part of something monumental (and not just the beeramid).

I know that I have so much to learn (like stats, records, team and league histories, just to start), but I am so thankful for all of the amazing folks at Beast who were kind and welcoming and helpful and did I mention kind?  To all of you who changed the batteries in my mic when that light started flashing, or who fed me stats over my shoulder to make me sound good, or who laughed at my jokes, or who brought me beer, you are all my heroes.

Now, an aside: all those damn pictures. I’m not generally photogenic. I edit the pictures that have my name on them to only include those that cast me in a favourable and slightly slimmer light. Part of being the person with the mic at the end of the rink is the understanding that I may end up as background (or foreground) in any number of photos. I may be asked to pose for pictures. I’m trying to learn that it doesn’t fucking matter how thin or pretty I look in pictures. If I didn’t take the picture, or ask for the picture to be taken, it wasn’t for me. So if the person taking the picture liked it enough to share it, then I should be happy enough with the way I look in it. I mean, we all can’t look like Plastik Patrik all the time, right?

Plastik Patrik. Always fabulous!
Plastik Patrik. Always fabulous!

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