Being a Brawlternate

My name is Sonnet Boom, and I am a full Bruiser/Brawlstar alternate for the 2016 season. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’ve only been playing roller derby for fourteen months, and I first laced up my quads only last March. I’m not trying to sound cocky or conceited, it’s just that this has become such a huge part of my life, and I honestly cannot remember what my life felt like before I had practice every night for half the week. I passed my minimum skills test last July, becoming an Ypsilanti Vigilante, and with a few games under my belt, I thought I’d try out for Bruiser alternate that winter, really just for the feedback I was told I would get being watched by the panel. When the rosters came out, I was flabbergasted to see my name there as an alternate. I worked with Slamlet, my derby big sister and the reason for all this madness, who is also head of Training, and I ran over bouncing up and down to her desk to squeal and tell her what she already knew. “I’ve been waiting for AN HOUR for you to read that email, Sonnet!” she told me as she wrapped me in a hug. Since that November, I went to three practices a week, every week, nearly without fail. When Sonnet wasn’t coming to practice, something was wrong, my friends said, because I was like clockwork. I had the bug, I’d taken my first hit, and I was absolutely gone.

I have always been relatively athletic, since my dad put my first pair of running shoes on me and I joined cross country when I moved to the public high school after going to Montessori for fourteen years. I loved cross country, I loved the individuality of it, the no-tryout-ness of it, and it helped me ease into things. But I wasn’t fast (I am built for sprints, although I can enjoy a longer run), and I “converted” a lot of my friends to cross country and watched them get faster and faster while I stagnated. When I joined roller derby, that didn’t happen. I thought I loved cross country, but I did not live and breathe it like I do derby. I have found something that fit my work ethic and lit a fire within me, and I have worked my ass off to get here. And one of the most important things that has gotten me here is that chance to be an alternate.

Being an alt is a tricky thing. It’s hard to split yourself between two teams, between two parts of scrimmage, between two sets of expectations. There are good ways to be an alt, ways to make it work for you on all sides, and that is what I dedicated myself to. Yes, I was a Bruiser alt, but I was a primary Vigi and I didn’t want my team to think I was just using them as a stepping stone. I loved being a Bruiselante, as we lovingly dubbed the Vigi-Bruiser alt position, and it taught me so much. I learned to be a better jammer with the Vigis while I focused on blocking at the Bruiser level. And those skills transferred to my jamming, as well, until I was put on the track with the star for my first Bruiser game. I tried out for full Bruiser a few more times without making it, and then finally this year I made it. And I couldn’t have done it without my time as a Vigilante. After my last game with the Vigis, my team cheered for me, changing the Vigi Smash to a Sonnet Smash and it made me cry. I felt so supported, like my friends were so proud of me for taking my derby career to the next level that I wanted to get to, and that is a very special feeling. It is a feeling that I believe holds true through our entire league, where skaters are fostered by one of the best training programs in the state and taught to be helpful and supportive and classy.

Sonnet Boom is a Bruiser/Brawlternate who would write and roller skate at the same time if it were feasible, but her trainers keep telling her not to.

Posted on January 27, 2016 .