This is my story of why I had a go and why I keep going back again and again.
It was nearly two years ago when I nervously went along to my first Sparks session. I had missed the first one and I was jointly terrified that the Harlots wouldn’t take me and that they would.
Let me start from even further back and tell you about where I was two years ago; I hadn’t done any kind of regular exercise for at least a decade. Except for clubbing at university, I had done nothing since I was 15. I hated my body, suffered from excruciatingly low self confidence and was pretty depressed with life. I had moved to Nottingham in a bid to radically change my life for the better and was determined that I wouldn’t give up this time. I had a vague awareness of roller derby from a friend of a friend who did it and it occurred to me that I was pretty good at falling over and getting in the way so this might actually suit me. I’d also done a tiny bit of roller blading back when I was a teenager and I thought ‘how hard can it be?’
The answer to that question is that it isn’t hard at all, but it is also simultaneously one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.
Going back to my first session – it flew past in a blur. What I do remember is being held up by a constantly chirpy and encouraging Bunnie Suicide while being told that I was doing really well by May K. Fist. At the end, May came up to me (a sweaty, bright pink mess) and asked me genuinely “Will you be coming back next week?” with a hopeful look on her face. This is when I fell in love with roller derby. I had monopolised the time of one of the trainers for two hours, had to sit down for a breather every 5 minutes and was quite obviously the worst skater in the hall. But here was one of the team excitedly asking me to come back. So I did.
I’m not going to lie – it hurt. I think I managed to pull almost every muscle in my body. The third week was the worst – when I had learnt not to fall over and I was doing much more skating, then my underused muscles were not happy at all. I would hobble round the office for two or three days after practice and I’d be just about recovered before going back. But every time it hurt, it reminded me that I was in fact doing something to improve my health, every time I went I felt like part of a team and every time I came away I would be asked to come back.
I had never once felt like this before. I was always the podgy kid at school who was rubbish at sports. Yeah I was rubbish here, but they wanted me to improve and encouraged me to keep fighting to get better. It was the complete opposite to what I expected from a typical sports team. The thing you learn very quickly is that roller derby is by no way a ‘typical’ sport. The sports women and men who play and ref roller derby do not fit into any ‘typical’ build, size, level of fitness, background or belief system. We are all unique and the things that bind us are determination and passion. How good you happen to be when you first start becomes irrelevant. Roller derby is truly a labour of love and no matter how good you are naturally, those who are great get there through sheer force of will. Which means anyone can be great in time with enough belief and desire to do it.
So in a round about way what I am saying is that the Hellfire Harlots made me feel important. They taught me the value of every team member – that we all had something to offer. Over the months and now years I have become healthier and even lost some weight (although that has never mattered to me as much as getting healthy). I soon began to love my bigger figure; my ‘derby bum’ is harder for jammers to get round and my weight means I’m pretty sturdy in the pack and harder to hit out of bounds. Although I thought I would get healthier if I stuck at it, I never thought I would gain what I have; increased self confidence, more energy, awesome friends and a sense of purpose.
I can’t imagine my life without roller derby in it now and I keep going back week after week even though it still hurts because with motivations like that, why wouldn’t you?
By Kay Blammity