I think I’m going to remain in shock about this until I actually go to orientation–which is, of course, the day after I get back from California, whoof–but, to my incredible surprise, I MADE FRESH MEAT.
Rose City Rollers is a very competitive league, so much so that you have to try out to be placed into the Fresh Meat training program, whereas in other cities, you’re Fresh Meat the moment you show up with your own skates and pads. I’d been skating as part of the recreational “Wreckers” program, but I had no real expectations of actually making Fresh Meat: I’m new, and my endurance sucks, and there were 30-some-odd girls who’d done the special Pre-Meat bootcamp that I wasn’t able to sign up for. But hey, no expectations isn’t a particularly bad place to be, so I forged onward and did the tryouts for the sake of experience.
I’d had such a busy weekend of running pre-trip errands that I essentially had no time to even think about getting nervous for tryouts. We’d been advised to wear something that’d make us stand out, however, and a friend had snagged me a free pair of rainbow booty shorts from her new job. I’m not usually a rainbow shorts kind of girl, but I threw them on over my leggings, donned my favorite “Science!” t-shirt, and wandered into the hangar… where I found over 40 other girls waiting to sign in for tryouts. Yikes.
The tryouts themselves were a less intimidating environment than I expected. There were two judges from each of the home farm teams–one of them being our beloved Wreckers coach, Napoleon Blownapart–and a handful of coaches and current Fresh Meat skaters were parked on the bleachers, ready to cheer us on. Old Skool Beatdown, our head coach at Wreckers, held up hilarious messages on a little whiteboard for us, as we rolled past. The entire room was full of camaraderie, candor, and unabashed support, and everyone there seemed interested in just making sure we smiled and had a good time.
We pinned numbers to each other’s backs, as identifiers for the judges. We were briefed on the practice schedule, and the commitment level expected of those who make the squad. We were told that mandatory orientation would be on Thursday. Then, we were thrown into an hour of pace lines, relays and drills, and there was hooting and hollering, cheering from the stands and the girls trying out, and a flurry of numbers being called out. My chest tightened up with nerves a few times, but some of my wushu tournament experience must have stuck with me, because I somehow managed to calm down when it counted.
Still, when it was all said and done, I figured my odds weren’t great. There were some far more experienced and stronger skaters out there, and I hadn’t taken a lot of risks. I ultimately skated pretty clean, sure, but I felt like I’d played it safe… probably *too* safe. Even with the Rainbow Shorts of Power, I had a hard time believing that I’d stand out to anyone who didn’t already know me.
I wandered towards the bleachers, when Napoleon stopped me and asked to see my number. I wasn’t certain what the point of that was, but I decided then and there that if my hero was voting for me, I’d be happy with that, even if every single one of the other judges thought I was a disaster.
Most of us went to a nearby bar afterwards to wait for the results, and one by one, we each got calls from one of the judges, telling us individually if we made the squad, or if we’d be trying out on the next go-round in April. Calls started coming in sooner than any of us expected, so a few people found out pretty quickly that they’d made it. I had a giant glass of water in one hand, and a rum-and-coke in the other, without the slightest idea of what to expect. Then, my phone started buzzing, and I damned near dropped both glasses trying to answer it.
It was Napoleon. We couldn’t hear each other very well, at first, so there was a bit of awkward back-and-forth, but once the phone connection cleared up, her first question was: “What are you doing next Thursday night?”
At that point, I must have started channeling Miss America pageant winners from a bygone era. Napoleon told me I’d done an awesome job, and I started making with the profuse thank-yous, and my hands flew up to my face in complete and utter surprise. Some of the other girls gesticulated wildly at me from across the room, trying to find out what was going on. My eyes were bugged out as I gave them a thumbs-up, and the whole room exploded in cheering so loud I couldn’t hear the phone anymore.
Calls kept trickling in over the following hour, and I don’t think that many high-pitched squeals have EVER come out of my mouth in such a short time. There were those whom everyone expected to make the squad, and those who, like me, weren’t even sure they should be trying out, but all of us were just so happy for each other, even if we didn’t all know each other terribly well. The energy was completely amazing.
The thing is, even if I hadn’t made it, just being involved in this experience would’ve made it all worth the time. Close to 50 girls came to tryouts, and as I watched them cycle through the various drills they threw at us, I realized: there wasn’t a single person there whom I *wouldn’t* have been happy for, if they’d made it. Not a one.
Just, wow. This is actually happening. Maybe that goal of still being a bad-ass at age 45 could happen, yet.