So you’ve found out about the wondrous sport that is roller derby and you’ve got yourself all pumped up and ready to start.
But what can you expect from a full contact sport on roller skates?
Firstly there is one thing you can always guarantee, and that is; there is a place for you on track! Whether you are lusciously curvy, a bag of bones, shorter than prepubescent teenagers, taller than Dennis Rodman, somewhere in between or none of the above – you have a place – you belong.
One of the greatest things about roller derby is that you CAN do it, no excuses, no false pretences – the game is yours for the taking. Whatever hideous notion you’ve been carrying around that you have used to convince yourself you are too much of one thing and not enough of another can be left at the door, because derby doesn’t discriminate!
The proof of that statement is evident when you walk through the door to practice on your first week. Take a look around at the other newbies as well as the girls already on the team. I can guarantee there will be a diverse spectrum of shapes, sizes, ages, personalities, ethnicities and just generally lots of individuals from all kinds of walks of life.
Many people assume you have to be ‘alternative’ to play derby, that is a myth and completely incorrect – you can be anything you want to be. I know our team is home to ladies with all kinds of different predilections, there is no set mould, no specific ‘type’ of person you must be to join – and that is the way it should be! Come as yourself – everyone else is taken!
One thing that cannot be disputed – being a newbie is hard. Anyone that has ever had a go at roller derby knows this, respects this and will almost certainly sympathise with your journey from new comer to fresh meat, and even further to your bouting career.
If you want to succeed, take the advice of your peers, listen to your coach, learn the rules and practice, practice, practice – if you can’t do something, keep trying, and when you feel like giving up – just push harder.
Most derby girls and guys will relate when I tell you this sport is a bug, an infection, and it sticks in your throat and poisons your blood until you find yourself stalking derby websites for new kit, bootcamps, blogs and bout results!
My advice to newbies;
1) Keep going, put in 110%, and enjoy!! Your progress is measured only by the effort you put in, and every victory experienced will settle in the pit of your stomach and constrict around the muscles of your heart – no one can take that triumphant feeling away, when you master a new skill.
And when you do something good – own it!
2) Support your team mates. Your attitude towards them means more than you will ever know.
Don’t make judgements, don’t begrudge someone else’s success – they worked hard to get there, so be happy for them! When someone falls, appreciate that they were trying something they didn’t feel comfortable with and went for it anyway! Be a shoulder to cry on, be kind, considerate and be the hand that slaps them round their beautiful face when they need a good pep talk. Your derby sisters and brothers are your second family, treat them with respect and love – I promise if you do, you’ll get it back ten fold!
(Love to my Slayers <3)
3) Listen to your coach – a lot of time and effort goes into your practices. She/he knows more than you can fathom and there is a reason for everything, so suck it up, get your head down and do what you are told.
4) Remember that no one gets paid to put the team/practices/bouts together – so next time people ask for help with organisation/websites/bouts/practices – try and say yes. The more people that help, the less work each individual has to do! Don’t lose sight that the whole thing is ran in people’s spare time!
5) Learn the rules! You can never know too little about them, the more you know the more reliable you are on track, the less likely you are to commit a penalty. Also the better your understanding, the more respect you get from your team mates, the refs, NSO’s and opposition!
6) Research your kit! Talk to your coach and team mates about what you are looking for, and what your requirements might be. Scour blogs and reviews! Someone will almost certainly have come across the same issues/problems and their experiences will help guide you to the best kit for you!
7) Cheer your team on! Until you have bouted you will never understand the balls it takes to get up and actually bout in a live game, with real, sparkly bottomed opponents! You might think you have something better to do with your day, but honestly – your team mates out on track need your support! They want your smiling faces and screaming voices in the crowd, it means the world to them if you show up! Bouting is nerve wracking, it’s scary and its seriously fun – why wouldn’t you want to be part of that journey?
8) Lastly – it’s simple and pretty easy to follow – don’t be a douche!
It’s a tough sport, but its also the best one. Welcome to the madness – you have no idea how glad we are to have you aboard! 🙂
No matter what – always remember, regardless of the question, reason, excuse or assumption;
Derby Doesn’t Discriminate!
Big hug, little hug, kiss, kiss
All photographs Copyright MAL Langbridge of Gradient Photography and used with kind permission.