"You talk a lot of shit for someone who never says anything."

"My skating career lasted 10 minutes, so you'll find me sharing my opinions about bench coaching, NSO'ing, and everything else one can do quadless. Knee pads are optional, but advisable."

That is the introduction I wrote for myself a couple of months ago. Since then, I've fallen twice, both times on my left knee, leaving it gushing blood, and now I am seriously considering wearing knee pads at all times.

Since then, I've also done something new I can do in roller derby without putting skates on, besides bench coaching and NSO'ing. You know those people whose job it is to talk through the game? The announcers, yeah? Since we last spoke, I've taken on that role too.

It just so happens that a friend of mine has done quite a bit of announcing, and she had a dream in which I was announcing with her, and well, how can you say no to making someones actual dreams come true? And so when she asked me, I panicked for a couple of hours, as one does when confronted with something outside of their comfort zone, and asked half the people I know for assistance in my decision making. When they all said "yes, do it", I trusted that I have surrounded myself with people who'd rather see me try new things than set me up for an obvious failure to gain a few laughs. So I said yes, let's do this.

I'd never really thought about announcing much. I have to admit that rarely do I even listen to the announcers, I am often so focused on the game itself, so I didn't have much to work with. My mom gave me solid advice though - "don't start talking too fast, no-one will be able to understand you." In all honesty, that advice stuck with me and I tried to make myself talk slower and actually pronounce the words I was saying. I'm not sure if I managed - I tend to start talking faster when I get excited or nervous. Needless to say, roller derby makes me excited, speaking in front of big crowds makes me nervous. Building blocks for a great success, eh. 

I won't go around calling myself an announcer, by no means do I want to compare myself with those who actually know what they are doing, but announcing wasn't as frightening as I thought it'd be. Sure, I started repeating myself and caught myself using the same phrases over and over again. I struggled with trying to use terms that any non-derby enthusiasts would understand as well. I stumbled on my words, a lot. I stated the obvious - "one is always more than zero." Are you sure about that, Anna? But at the end of the day, it's just talking. Talking to a crowd of people, but still. And I can talk.

It's difficult trying to find the line between what you can say and what you definitely shouldn't mention. It is easy to stay unbiased, because honestly, when any player or official does well on that track, it's worth a mention, no matter the team. Trying not to comment on penalties, points and strategies before they've been executed is excruciating. Seeing jammer being hit out right in front of you, seeing the blocker who hit her out fall, seeing the jammer skate back to enter the track behind the pack that is bridging backwards, knowing she could come straight back on the track, and not being allowed to say anything?  Thank goodness for the mute button.

I was given a video link to the bouts a couple of weeks ago, but I will never be able to watch the games with audio on. I sure as hell don't want to hear what I said. I am just going to keep on being proud of making it through the experience in one piece. I didn't choke. I kept on going, I made silly little jokes. I actually enjoyed myself by the end of it all.  I stepped out of my comfort zone, and now I have one more experience to tell tales about. Isn't that what this is all about in the end, challenging yourself? I think I am doing a pretty good job with that.
My partner in crime, Ani, and yours truly. Picture by Carlos at derby.pictures.fi.
// Anna Miettinen