Have you ever had that thought, when you really want something and you think, just for a moment, that you might get it? The butterfly inducing feeling, where for a second you let your mind wander into the realms of what it might be like to achieve that thing you desire.
There was a moment just after the second cut in the second round of England national squad try outs that I let myself feel like that. That I let the tight-lock, anxiety-avoiding, focused wall I’d built to try and get through try outs drop, and my belly, my heart and my head all paused for a second to marvel at purely being at that stage and that close to being a member of the England Roller Derby Training Squad.
Being part of England Roller Derby has been a big focus of mine, and I imagine hundreds of other skaters, for quite some time. Why not strive to reach it? But honestly, I never really thought I’d make it.
Taking part in the first round of England try outs felt cathartic to me. The last time the try outs had happened I couldn’t walk, let alone skate and it’s always been sore point for me that I never physically got to try out; that I never really understood what it felt, where I was and how far I needed to go.
Taking my skates off after the first round, which was on one of the hottest days of the year, I felt dehydrated, bruised, frustrated, elated and strong. Not strong because I thought I was better than those around me, or that I’d performed well, but strong because I’d completed what I previously had been unable to do.
It felt great and I hoped that I would make the next round but I was also weary that this was so much further than I’d managed last time, that maybe this time round wasn’t for me.
The reality of the second try out, when I received the confirmation email that I’d made the next round, didn’t hit me. It felt like I was watching somebody else receive the email, plan their journey and thinking about their plan to stay focused.
It was only until a couple of days before that I really registered what would be going on. That in a couple of days I’d be skating with the nation’s best skaters. I’d be bracing, hitting, stopping the nation’s best jammers and blockers and trying to prove that I deserved to be at least training with them.
Oh and that during the day there would also be two mid-session cuts. When that reality hit, it hit hard.
Of course, it was hard not to be nervous and no matter how tightly-locked I kept my wandering mind, I was affected by the impressiveness of the situation. A room full of the best and a room full of the determined.
The first time a cut happened my body tingled with nerves. I’d been on the other side, cutting male skaters from the England Men’s National Squad just the year before. I knew the rational, but that didn’t make the prospect of being cut any less sour or disappointing.
The second time I was so sure I was gone and was genuinely shocked when I wasn’t.
The final part of scrim felt like a reward for making it so far. Getting my ass kicked, my body bruised and my mind cleared by the fast-paced, physical and intense pace.
While I’m a long way off from making any charter, from playing in the logo, or in the world cup. I am one step closer. And with that step I thought I’d take some time to fully acknowledge just how shocked I am to be there. How amazed I am to have made it and how I’ve genuinely loved the feeling of shock, surprise and excitement every time something “englandy” happens.