If you’re reading this, you’ve probably laced up a pair of skates very recently, and are now completely and irrevocably in love with roller derby. Good for you! Its new skaters that keep derby alive, and I was one myself not that long ago (I’m not even a year on skates yet).
I know it can be intimidating sometimes. Oh trust me, I know that when the A Teamers are skating round at training, however nice they are, you’re probably going to feel completely inadequate. Don’t! It took me a long time to realise that I truly belonged and that I wasn’t being laughed at (that’s social anxiety for you!). The derby vets at training are there because they want to help you be the best you can be (as well as practicing their own skills!) None of us ever stop learning, and the more experienced skaters can learn a lot from helping to teach you!
In roller derby you are going to fall over. A lot. Of course you are, it’s inevitable when you put people on a set of wheels! But remember, everyone falls, no matter what skill level you’re at. It’s how you get up and carry on that matters. I’ve seen the most spectacular wipeouts at bouts, and trust me, no one loses any respect or laughs at a girl who can take a hard fall, get up, brush herself down and carry on. It happens, and I promise no one is laughing at you. Even when you do what I did and yell “I think I’ve broken my bum!”.
This moves me on nicely to what most people are scared of – injuries. Yeah, I’m not going to lie to you. They happen. But, listen to your coach. Fall small, fall forward and stretch properly beforehand to minimise your risk of hurting yourself massively. Sometimes you’ll fall, and it will hurt. It’s okay to be frustrated, and it’s okay to cry. No one thinks any less of you, and I can guarantee that your derby sisters will be trying not to cry with you! Also, big sweaty derby hugs with your teamies will cure pretty much anything. I know from experience!
Speaking of decent kit, your kneepads, helmet, mouthguard and skates are the most important things. They are worth splashing out a bit on, as they protect your most important bits, and you aren’t going to get anywhere fast with bashed up super cheap skates (which can be a false economy as they’ll need replacing pretty fast)! Derby kit can get expensive, so make sure to try before you buy! Ask the girls in your league. What do they skate on? What are the pros and cons? Try things on! At the Harlots, we’re forever swapping bits of kit – in fact, I’ve been skating on Steph Metal’s wheels for the past month, trying to make my mind up about buying my own set! Roller Derby Recyclables on Facebook is great for picking up cheaper, second hand kit, but make sure to ask for team opinions as it’s easy to pay over the odds for stuff that isn’t as great as it looks. Also, the derby vets in your league will more than likely have some old kit that they’ll be happy to sell on to you!
The final thing to tackle, freshies, is your confidence. Is there a little voice in your head that says “I’m not co-ordinated enough for derby”, “I’m too fat for derby”, “I’m too thin for derby” or “I’m never going to make friends here”? Tell that little voice to shut the hell up, because just getting on skates in the first place proves the amazing things your body is capable of. The big hips you’ve hated all your life are perfect for stopping a jammer in their tracks, and the insecurities you’ve had about being shorter and skinnier than most will soon fade away as soon as you see how easy it is for you to slip through the pack. There is a place for everyone in derby and it is the most diverse, inclusive sport I know. As far as making friends goes, take it from someone who started derby completely on her own, you will make friends who will become like sisters. There’s something about the bonding experience of bashing each other about and talking about pad stink that really cements friendships! (You’ll also have someone to talk to about your new skating obsession without being looked at like a nutter!).
So, welcome to roller derby. It’s lovely to have you in the family.
Loves and shoves, now and always,