Venturing up to the a-little-bit snowy and cold North, Luce Cannon and I joined the first ever UK roller derby coaching conference, organised by Rule 56.
It was held at the beautiful Eiger Music Studios in Leeds, with a large main hall for the ‘big’ talks and a couple of smaller breakout rooms. 120 people from around 80 leagues attended, and the vibe was friendly and enthusiastic, as you’d expect from a derby event. A tightly packed schedule – with no lunch break (!) but the most gorgeous food – featured topics from building junior roller derby and a debate around the usefulness of minimum skills, to learning styles and team culture. Notebooks in hand we sat down for the opening talk by coaching legend Smarty Pants (Nadia Kean) of Texas.
Smarty Pants spoke about needing to unlock our athlete’s particular minds and/or accommodate their different mindsets on gameday. Ballistic Whistle spoke about working around all the strong individuals and their various motivations and needs to build team culture, and Stef Skinner from Auld Reekie spoke about getting creative to keep your skaters engaged – creating a bit of a common theme of working with our skaters’ diversity and personalities. There was also some blocking-like-a-cheetah and wrestling moves, and a controversial discussion about scrapping minimum skills (which we aren’t, but will discuss further!)
Smarty Pants! - Photo Credit: Jason Ruffell
The day ended with a talk by Inline Skating World Champion Jenna Dowding, who told us her story of repeatedly being refused entry at a skatepark for being a girl and having to fight her way, including overcoming injuries, to the top. I’m too cynical for the more inspirational kind of talks but I concede she was pretty damn cool. Luce Cannon on the other hand had a massive girl crush and was thoroughly disappointed Jenna couldn’t make it to the skate park later on. However, not too disappointed as she was still contemplating Ballistics explorative coaching ideas to see how this could work with our league. There is huge opportunity to encourage buy-in, fully prepare our teams and make us train smarter rather than harder… and the opportunities for a junior league and expanding on the already established rule sets and structure to create opportunities to have a smoother transition for Fresh Meat... watch this space.
The evening’s R&R was at the huge wooden floored Works skatepark, with a massive bowl, lots of funtimes and a nice little ramp in which I FINALLY NAILED DROPS INS HELLS YEAH.
Folk were also treated to the comedy sight of derby girls trying skateboards for the first time (it’s hard!)
The second day had a few breakout sessions to discuss and get ideas on specific questions over the future of derby coaching, such as certification or standardising minimum skills. It’ll be exciting to see if any concrete initiatives arise out of this – we always have great ideas, but putting them into practise in an entirely volunteer run community isn’t easy!
The Crowd - Photo Credit: Jason Ruffell
The day also featured a few talks from non-derby people – Vicky Huyton from the Female Coaching Network, and two more academic presentations about maximising performance (with z scores and everything), and the injury process. One thing that struck me was that the injury speaker came from a rugby background, and from interviewing mostly male injured athletes, found that many felt left out, stigmatised and unsupported by their peers. Although there’s always room to improve, I think we do pretty well in the roller derby community of taking care and involving injured skaters, from the many NSOs on crutches to Team Metal Legs to leagues maintaining welfare committees to help facilitate support. Yay us!
The weekend was a much needed forum to get us thinking about our roles as coaches in roller derby – a massive thanks to Rule 56 for recognising this need and bringing us together. We need to be more aware of our responsibility to do things well and safely, engage and keep people in sport, and put the effort in to help build our skaters and teams. And we want to do this, right? We love our sport and want to make it the best. The weekend also made me remember that we aren’t pro. We don’t get funding, we are all volunteers and we do it all ourselves – we are different from the rest of the sporting world and I think this is mostly positive; and we can take from other sports what we like rather than having to go down the same roads, and make our sport what we want it to be.
It's bout day! I love bout day. I love this game and everything about it. The skating, the hitting, the hugging, the family that is my league and many more.
This was a very normal bout day and today we were going to play S.W.A.T, one my favourite teams to come up against. So, we all travel down like normal, with bags of food and nervous bellies (no matter how often I play, I am always crazy nervous before.)
The game happened and as expected, was all the fun. We had hugs after and all settled down to watch the next game.
Now this is where my day takes an unexpected turn...
During a hard hitting and fast game, I took a hit to the upper part of my chest, and my God it stung! But that's derby for you – it's full contact and we expect to get hit. I think nothing of this until after the game,
The area is still hurting so I go looking for a bruise. "Ooh, what's that?" I thought. It's a new potato sized lump. It's on my right boob and it's very hard. This wasn't there before the game so after some poking and some thinking, I ask a few teamies to have feel and ask their opinion.
Between us, we decide its a massive, swollen bruise and it will go down in a week or so. Let the day continue as it should.
We watch the next game, and me and Trev settle down to do our usual eating of all the food. Then it's award time... yay! I can't remember all of them, but Trev got Best Jammer. No shocker there, as she has the best footwork - but to my surprise, S.W.A.T award me with MVP. This is my first ever MVP, as I don't jam, I block. After a few happy tears and a couple of photos, it's home time.
Now my story doesn't end here! Fast forward a month... This stupid lump is still there. I have named it Gertrude. I make an appointment with the doctor. Better safe than sorry. So off I go with Trev in tow to get my chest out for a doctor I've never met. Not the most fun afternoon of my life.
One look from the doctor and I'm referred to the Breast Unit. As you can imagine, my brain is now in overdrive. Within a week, I'm at the Breast Unit having tests. I won't go into too many details, but they included a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy.
I won't lie to you, at this point, I am terrified.
So, I have a lovely doctor doing all these tests. She is very honest with me, and tells me in her opinion, it's bad news but to wait for the results to come back. So I waited - and on November 30th 2015, I got diagnosed with breast cancer.
Now, I am hoping this gets read by many, as it's a real story. I want to get it out there to help others, giving people the confidence to talk about cancer. It was a random hit in a derby game that alerted me to my lump, literally saving my life - and I now encourage everyone to check themselves regularly. Don't fear cancer, face it and fight it head on - as you would the biggest opposition blocker.
My fight continues.
The first thing you need to know about me is that pretty much everything I have tried my whole life, whether it be sport, a hobby, a project or even just reading a book - if the task was too difficult... I quit!
I joined Bath Roller Derby Girls in 2013 without having a clue what it was, but with the sole intention of just wanting to get better at skating. I was persuaded to go by a work colleague, as I would never have gone alone, god forbid!
I joined Fresh Meat, wearing these bad boys:
I felt nervous, unsure, unconfident - and worried so much about what I was wearing at the time. For the next 10 weeks I would wake up feeling like I had been hit by a bus, picking the splinters out of my knees each week from learning knee falls on good old Green Park Station’s wooden floor.
Before Fresh Meat I’d had very little skating experience, but luckily my balance was rather good, so I picked up jamming skills pretty well. I loved to go fast and race other skaters, plus I only had to worry about myself: none of these flat walls, 3-walls, tripods, v-walls etc.
After nearly quitting a few times over, I finally made it to the end of Fresh Meat and just about graduated. My workmate had missed a few sessions, and I really didn’t want to go to training on my own, so I nearly chickened out. As well as this, I was struggling emotionally with the suicide of a close friend, and was honestly a bit of a wreck.
But despite everything, here I was: a brand new, full-time Bath Roller Derby Girl!
Before I knew it I was wearing an inside-out yellow Bath top, with a taped-on number 3 on my back. Desperately trying to keep up with the big girls of my new team, I glanced behind me, only to see a Bristol Jammer skating towards me at speed, like an easy game of “SPOT THE NOOB”. I had no idea what I was doing! But, again, I survived and was left wanting more.
I was now one of the team, playing with the big-girls that I had been looking up to for a while now, and thinking all the time that I want to skate just like them. Next thing I knew, I was told we were going abroad! “Come again now?”
I’ve never really travelled so the thought of going on holiday to Lisbon with my team- mates was such great news! Or so I thought: the realisation hit that there was 1 team, only 14 spaces on the roster and 16 eligible skaters to choose from.
During this time I was suffering from RETAIL WORK, plus ligament damage, which combined meant no free time to make training, and no chance of weekend game practice. I wasn’t too surprised when I didn’t make the cut, but I made the decision to put it behind me there and then: I was getting a holiday abroad! WOO HOO! (As it happens, I forgot my mouth guard on the trip anyways, so was a good job I wasn’t picked in the end, phew!)
Back in Bath, time went on and before I knew it, another Fresh Meat intake appeared. I was overwhelmed at just how many new skaters there were and goddamn they were better than me too! I couldn’t help but feel annoyed: these Freshies had a better hall to train in, it was alright for them! I was a little saddened as I compared myself to others, but seeing how hard they all worked, and how many hours they put in, I was not surprised they overtook me and got straight into the team.
Bath’s B-team was formed, yet I still wanted to aim high. Once again I still didn’t make it onto the A-team, but I was offered a crossover place instead: “best of both worlds” I thought to myself, and finally was able to get the skating experience I was so in need of. And boy did it pay off! I was going to more training than I ever had before; I even gave up my job to be able to fit it into my life. I was voted in as Captain and was beginning to find my place with in Bath Roller Derby Girls. I even got picked to play in our first British Champs tournament game.
British Champs Finals rolled around, and as I sat at the trackside waiting for our game, an overwhelming fear hit me like a hard fist to the chest. My good old skating buddy talked me out of it, wiped my tears away and pushed my arse on to track. She didn’t take no for an answer and it was a good job too, as I played my best ever game against one of the hardest teams we have ever faced. I got NO penalties, won best jammer and was still in one piece! I was on such a high!
It was going so well, until ligament pain struck AGAIN, then a mysterious lump appeared under my rib as well. I was told (wrongly) that it was a hernia. On top of that, my on-track partner in crime was diagnosed with cancer, and my world felt like it was falling apart. To top it all, I was later diagnosed with Vertigo. All this time spent in and out of hospital being told I can’t skate, I kept worrying “how was I going to get better for my team now? I might as well just give up.”
But what I have discovered in the last year is that you don’t have to go it alone. It’s called a Roller Derby TEAM for a reason. And my sidekick was never going to let me quit that easily. She carried on through her evil ordeal and simply told me, “come on Trev, keep up: if I can do it then so can you!” And so I pushed on through. I kept working hard, she was some sort of super-human. And here I am, back on skates - still wheeling around like Trevlock Holmes with Watson at my side.
And now I have skaters looking up to me. It took a lot of hard work, an un-countable amount of falling down and having to get back up, but I still feel that my biggest achievement through all of this was keeping a positive outlook. Things can look really shit, and it can be so easy to quit. I really wasn’t lying when I said I’m a quitter. It’s just that for me, Roller Derby is something else. Something pretty special.
Photo credit: Graeme Willetts
On 5th December, Bath Roller Derby Girls hosted their final event of the year – a pantomime themed extravaganza. Bath Spartans versus Nottingham Roller Derby and Bath Roman Rollers taking on Oxford Roller Derby Bs.
Fortified by our customary, epic pre-bout breakfast at the Cosy Club, we headed over to Bath Leisure Centre to begin set up – at the helm, as always the ultra-efficient Hell Cat.
I was to take on several roles at the bout; captaining the Roman Rollers for the first time, as well as announcing the opening bout and coordinating the cake stall. BRDG have a proud history of raising money for charity through our cake stalls and this year’s charity, as voted for by the team, is Bath Sands – the still birth and neo-natal death charity.
All was going to Hell Cat's master plan; seats set up, track laid, stalls decorated and laden with tasty goodies when a message come through that there had been a fire on the M4 and both guest teams were stuck in huge tailbacks!
The clock on the leisure centre wall crept towards the scheduled start time, the Mayor and Mayoress of Bath were welcomed, the seats filled up, cakes were purchased... but still no sign of the opposing teams.
Finally with moments to go, frazzled-looking skaters started to appear – Nottingham kitting up and getting on track to warm up almost as soon as they were through the door. I grabbed my microphone, turned up the skate out tunes and introduced the teams!
The opening bout saw both teams skating tactically, with strong walling from both teams and jammers frequently taking their first four points and calling off the jam before the other could score. Half time scores were super close and it was all to play for.
Nottingham's Coco, who had pivoted during the first half, now stepped up to jam, her powerful skating style able to break through the Bath walls. Bath responded with well-drilled bracing and skilful jamming, but the clock was counting down with seconds left to play when Bath's brilliant bench team used a cleverly-retained time out to secure one final jam. Steg O Soar took her place on the jam line and eyed up the opposing blockers...
Even the Mayor was on his feet cheering as Steg got out first and began scoring on the opposing blockers… The deficit slowly shrank until the Spartans took the narrowest of leads and put hands to hips! Final score: Spartans 125, Nottingham 123.
Some Twitter love from the Mayor Of Bath!
After a short break it was time for Bath Roman Rollers to take to the track, and for me to lead my team out for the first time.
Plenty of fun was had, sweets thrown into the crowd, blockers danced on the jam line and we all enjoyed a Christmas singsong with the multi-talented S’mac Down Angel on the announcer's mic.
The Romans in action against Oxford B's
Oxford B's took an early lead and although the Romans fought valiantly with some super nippy jamming from Red Dwarf and strong blocking from Peeka Hurt You, Oxford held onto their lead throughout the bout and were the stronger team on the day. Romans have suggested a rematch and are already practicing their moves for a jam line dance off.
Author: Dor-Iain Grey
I was initially introduced to roller derby at Bath’s first home bout in September 2014, as a couple of friends were playing, and after experiencing the great atmosphere on the day I immediately fell in love with the sport. I enquired about how I could get involved with the league, and a couple of months later found myself in a school sports hall with clipboard in hand NSOing my first closed doors bout. Soon after I began attending BRDG’s weekly scrim nights, where I was thrilled to receive my own whistle, and both the players and referees were very supportive as I learned the rules and began honing my NSO skills.
The best way to improve as an NSO is to get stuck in and do it, so I threw myself into it and took any positions I could get. I officiated the next home bouts for Bath, as well as travelling with the team to NSO at their SW:UK and British Championship matches. I enjoyed getting involved in the organisational side of officiating too (I like spreadsheets), so when the time came I put myself forward and was elected Head Non-Skating Official for BRDG. In that role I now look after new NSOs joining the league and organise officials for our home games, but I’m also always happy to help other leagues with their bouts and offer them head official support on the day if needed.
If you have any interest in roller derby then NSOing is an excellent way to be part of it, as without officials the sport wouldn’t happen. There’s always a great sense of camaraderie as NSOs and referees work together to ensure bouts are safe and played within the rules, and there’s usually a plentiful supply of Haribo too. Officiating can be serious business at times, but there are chances to have fun with it too - I’ve NSOed a WWE themed tournament disguised as a wrestler and a Grease based bout dressed as Danny Zuko!
Getting involved with NSOing also opens up exciting opportunities, and has allowed me to travel up and down the country meeting lots of wonderful new people. This month I’m also flying out to Milan to officiate Italy’s first international roller derby tournament, as well as heading to Birmingham for the 4 Nations tournament featuring the national men’s teams of England, Wales, Scotland and France.
That’s what I’m doing during my NSOvember - why not speak to your local roller derby league and see how you too can help out as part of their officiating team?
Authors: Hell Cat, Geordie Racer & Lady Mactuff
Tunnel of Love (Photo Credit: Steg O Soar)
Bath Roller Derby Girls' annual Fresh Meat intake (usually running June through to October) sees us take raw recruits and teach them everything about roller derby from the ground up. Skating, safety, gameplay, attitude, rule book – it's an intensive course that takes plenty of guts, drive and dedication from our newbies, and this year's intake have risen to the challenge at every step of the way!
On 31st October, we were thrilled to throw them a Halloween graduation scrimmage (and subsequent pub crawl!) to celebrate all they've achieved and welcome them to the ranks of Bath Roller Derby Girls.
We asked a couple of freshies (now rookies!) to write a few words about their experience on the course, as it draws to an end and they start on their Minimum Skills, training with the league :)
– Hell Cat
Team Screaming Skulls (Photo Credit: Steg O Soar)
Centre: Grand Reffed Auto - BRDG's newest baby zebra! (Photo Credit: Steg O Soar)
It’s the first week of Scrim 101 and somehow I’ve ended up wearing the jammer panty. We get the five second count. Four blockers are lined up in front of me, ready to stop me passing them any way they can. To say I’m nervous is an understatement. Then the whistle blows.
If a lot of that sounds like a foreign language, don’t worry – fifteen weeks ago a lot of it was to me, too. In fact, fifteen weeks ago I had to ask one of our coaches how you stand up wearing skates.
It’s been a long three months since then. We’ve progressed from learning how to skate without holding onto the walls (OK, that was mostly me) to essential skills for skating safely to being taught how to play derby. We’ve taken a battering, both physically and mentally. We’ve swapped photos of bruises; shared our fears and frustrations.
But we’ve also shared our pride – in ourselves and one another – as we pulled off moves that were once seemingly impossible. We’ve danced the Cha Cha Slide in our skates and had 100-comment-long Facebook threads discussing puns (both good and very, very bad) for potential derby names. It’s been one of the most difficult, but also most rewarding and enjoyable, things I’ve ever done, but I don’t think I’d have got here without the support and laughter of the coaches and fellow ‘meaties’.
The whistle blows. The nerves suddenly give way to some mixture of excitement, adrenalin and sheer bloody-mindedness that gets me to the other side of the wall – and then I almost stop skating in disbelief: three months ago I was been dragged around this track by the (incredibly patient) coaches, and now I’m skating around it as lead jammer in a scrimming drill. There’s still a long way to go before we’ll be ready to skate out in our first ‘real’ matches as Bath Roller Derby Girls. But for now this is enough to make me feel like I could take on the world – or at least the opposition blockers, one more time.
– Lady Mactuff
Team Vampire Bats (Photo Credit: Steg O Soar)
It’s safe to say my love for Roller Derby has been a slow burner. Fresh from a move out to the South West from London, my heart belonged to Crossfit. Imagine how I felt when I got home from work one day to be told we were swapping lifting and a daily WOD (work out of the day) to skating… in Bath… every Sunday… for the next 15 weeks!
I don’t consider myself to be strong and I spend most my time evading rather than putting myself in the line of fire. After a particular session I cried in the car on the way home as every part of my body hurt and I was no longer finding it fun. I just wanted to skate around and feel like I was 10 again, I didn’t want to endure being hit and panicking every time another skater came towards me.
I think the turning point for me was going to watch a match. I realised that it wasn’t just our coaches that were kind, supportive and motivating – that’s the positive qualities the sport lends itself to – and that is something I want to be part of.
– Geordie Racer
Zombie cheerleaders Vs. undead coaches! (Photo Credit: Comic Slams)
Author: Hell Cat
At the end of 2014 a few of our skaters came up with the awesome idea of a Hogwarts House system style League Fitness Contest. It was every bit as brilliant as it sounds.
We're now in our second month, with even more Bath skaters joining in for this round and as predicted, it's having a pretty spiffy impact on our personal motivation to get out there and sweat. Friendly competition, some wicked online taunting, sweaty selfies and lots of great encouragement. Yes, we want our individual contest teams to win (bad), but it's definitely BRDG that's getting the most out of this; fitter, better bonded, less injury prone skaters all round!
After the sell-out success of their first public bout, Bath Roller Derby Girls are delighted to present an early Valentine's double header; get ready to fall in love with roller derby all over again!
Bath Vs. Bristol (First Whistle 2.15pm)
In this opening bout, rookie and less experienced skaters from Bath and Bristol will clash! This will be a bit of a local derby, so we're expecting plenty of rowdy sideline support for both teams – get down early to show some love!
Bath Roller Derby Girls Vs. Grid City (First Whistle 3.45pm)
This bout will see Bath's Travel Team pitted against Grid City; a team who gave them a serious run for their money in the recent SK8 Britain tournament. With scores to settle and honour to defend, this headline bout promises to see both teams playing their hearts out to secure a win!
In addition to these two bouts, we'll also have stalls for you to browse, a brilliant raffle, cake stall and some very special half time entertainment...
It's a family friendly environment – well-behaved kiddos are very welcome (and free under 12 but please do register them as attending via our ticketing site!)
Tickets are available here and will be £6 in advance or £8 on the door (if we have any left!) Space is limited, and we sold out last time, so don't hang about ;)
BRDG ARE SUPPORTING BATH FOOD BANK
We'll be taking donations of non-perishable food items at the bout. Tins, bottles, jars please bring what you can along with, all donations gratefully accepted!
In roller derby, there's an obvious chain of progression. Much more obvious than in many other sports I've played. Netball, for example. It's a sport that you kind of grow up with. You start to play in Year 1 and you just... do it. Yes, various levels will be reached, such as the 1st team, County, or even an International team, but unlike roller derby, there isn't really a specific 10, 12 or even 20 week programme you are required to pass to even begin to think about progressing to playing the "actual game."
You see, in roller derby, you not only have to learn the rules of the game, and understand the concept, you have to be able to skate! You need to know the basics; minimum skills. And that's exactly what they are. The minimum set of skills that a player must possess in order to progress to playing. They include the important things, such as stopping, starting, falling safely and eventually cover things like pack work and contact.
So this training course, Fresh Meat, essentially acts as your gateway to the wonderful world of roller derby! Everyone who wants to play needs to partake. You'll have fun, you'll laugh, you'll get frustrated, you may cry, you'll be excited, worried or even tempted to throw the towel in and try again in another intake, and that's ok! All of that is ok! Because it is hard! You're learning a new skill, with a group of people you didn't know, whilst learning the rules too. All of this with 8 wheels strapped to your feet! But this fresh meat course acts as the first stepping stone to achieving a goal.
Now, I did fresh meat with a league in London. I'd moved to the city, to a different postcode to the people I knew, and I decided I needed to have some fun. I needed a hobby and I thought why not push myself to try something different. I knew of roller derby through Thorne Supremacy and wasn't sure if I would be able to do it, but I decided to give it a go! And boy, am I glad I did! I met some amazing girls and had a blast! Yes, at times I got fed up, but who doesn't. Not with the sport, but with my inability to perform seemingly simple tasks. I watched skaters who had skated for years go backwards effortlessly and I couldn't... I didn't know why and spent lots of time thinking about it, then I decided I would stop thinking about it and voila! I found myself going backwards! This roller coaster of learning was the first step in my derby career.
After fresh meat finishes, the freshies progress to the next stepping stone. They become rookies! Each league will have their own system for this transition, but all have the same goal, and that is to introduce the players to game play, more contact, and training with the big girls (or boys). Had I stayed on with the league in London, I'd have been required to pass a 3 month probationary period, after which I would become a fully fledged member of the league. My fellow freshies have recently been welcomed in to the league so WELL DONE :) You may not be deemed at a safe enough level to carry on, and in which case you may be asked to attend a few sessions to get up to standard. It is important to note that this DOES NOT mean you are valued any less than those who made it in. It's is for your safety and well being.
However, after passing my minimum skills assessments, I had a change in circumstance, moved back home and joined Bath Roller Derby Girls. Therefore, I was not only facing the vertical transition of starting to play with skaters with a higher level of skill than me, I had to deal with a lateral transition of moving to a new league – learning to play with and getting to know a whole new group of awesome skaters! I knew the majority as I had been involved with things through Thorne Supremacy, and everyone was so friendly! But I 100% believe that even if i had known nobody, they'd have been just as welcoming and friendly!
I'll admit, I was terrified, going from just having passed min skills, to not skating for 2 months, to rocking up at my first session with BRDG! But I was reassured that this is a thing that every skater has to do, regardless of progressing from fresh meat with the same league, or being an established skater with 7 years experience who moves house and starts to skate with a new league. So, I strapped my skates on, stood up (rather shakily) and got stuck in!
I was now officially a rookie! Yay! I spoke to a few of the coaches and together we decided it would be beneficial for me if I did positional only blocking for the first few scrim sessions (as opposed to full contact) and that was fine by me! I figured there was no rush to start hitting/being hit, and I was more than happy to work my way slowly to contact! For rookies this is a usual occurrence, although some leagues may integrate them immediately in to contact but maybe not full force at first. You'll need to be deemed "scrim safe" and then you're good to go! Everyone will do it differently, and they know what works for their league!
The next change that was to come, was starting full contact! That was only last week! It was daunting, but I figured I had to do it at some point so why not now! (Or rather a few of the players suggested that I was ready to get hitting and they cheered me on which was nice) So that was that! I politely declined the offer of jamming (for now, I'll stick to jamming when it is positional thanks haha) but it was awesome. I really enjoyed it! I even went in for a hit. I just about made contact but it wasn't particularly effective! Oh well! Everyone was so encouraging and I could hear people shouting from the bench!
Although I'm a rookie, I'm skating with the vets too. And they've made me realise that I'm as valued a derby player as much as the most experienced skater on the team. If there were no freshies, or no rookies, then there is no possibility of our sport progressing! So I'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has ever been on track with me, or nso, or coached me. You've helped me in these transitions (not just in a skating sense), and made me realise that moving up the ranks, or over the stepping stones, or however else you see it, is a vital step for any skater, and hard work does pay off :)
My tips for enjoying your journey up the ranks:
Author: Petra Bomb
Credit: Jacky Fleming
I came to roller derby from a lifetime of martial arts. I never was particularly strong, dedicated or super-fit, but I could throw a punch and duck and cover. Anyway, I also spent a good few years teaching women's self defence. Me and a friend set up an organisation to teach women and girls (and the odd guy) how to shout, kick, and generally fight back.
So when I discovered roller derby (a full contact sport, on skates, with lots of women? TICK) and we started up our new team in Bath, I was one of the first to volunteer to coach, even though I could barely plough stop and the rules were a mystery to me. But I figured that to learn to skate and play, you needed to go through a similar thing that I saw girls do when learning to fight.
Skating, and then skating close to others, and then hitting them comes easily to a few, but to a lot of women who may not be used to contact sports, it's simply terrifying and involves a process of overcoming various barriers they may have. A lot of women have a shit relationship to their bodies, which are culturally devalued and objectified. It's reported that 90% of adult women in the UK have some level of negative body image. So it's not surprising that many also struggle with physical confidence, to feel able to control their body and be strong with it.
To help this process along, you need the right kind of encouragement. I remember being in a boxing club full of guys with my coach shouting at everyone to hit harder, run faster, and WHAT DO YOU EVEN CALL THAT SON THAT'S NOT A PUNCH?! I thought he was a douche but I held my own in that class. However, there were also only two female members, in total*. Whereas look at how many women and girls who've spent their lives shying away from physical activity are quite happy skating? I think this is awesome and goes to show we are doing something right.
Roller derby's unique in that it's a sport that's completely trod its own path in terms of what we understand a sport should be like. It's a culture, it's a community, it enjoys breaking the mould (BUT NOT THE WFTDA RULES). What's particularly special is the often hugely supportive culture leagues create and maintain. Many leagues I know have a welfare department, policies that emphasise inclusivity, celebrate skaters' achievements at every level, and spend a lot of time and effort on making sure skaters feel encouraged. This is also part of what helps women find their strengths that they didn't know they had, and allows for that amazing transformation to an athlete and a proud skater that I love seeing them undergo.
*Although not that unusual, I've also been in a fair few martial arts clubs with a stronger female presence!
NB: This post's generally talking about women (and I generally mean self-defining women), but a lot of men also may have negative body image or relationship to their body and similar experiences that will apply to engaging in physical activity.
All the historic goings on of Bath Roller Derby!