Saturday was a big ol’ day for me. I strapped some wheels onto my feet and threw myself around a track at my friends in front of people that had actually paid to sit and watch. In short, I played in my first ever public roller derby bout. It was exciting and terrifying in equal measure.
I’ve been interested in roller derby for some years now but even though it kept beckoning to me I was never brave enough to join in. Each time I got an email about a new Fresh Meat programme starting I’d convince myself that I couldn’t do it just yet and that I’d sign up for the next one. At first, I was going to lose some weight, then I was going to learn to skate first, then I thought maybe I’m a bit too old now, then I got pregnant. None of these were actual, valid reasons as to why I shouldn’t sign up (except the baby thing – that was a proper excuse!) So when Cece was six months old I bit the bullet and off I went.
It was the first time I’d worn skates since my first year at university. Back then we only skated around the corridors of our halls of residence. And even then, I think I was more pushed along than I actually skated.
I spent an awful lot of those first 16 or so weeks of fresh meat peeling myself off the floor. But up I kept getting and persevere I did. I never felt there was never any shame in falling over in those early days, and, you know what? There still isn’t now. In fact, at practice sometimes, if you’re not falling over you’re not trying hard enough to nail that drill.
Roller derby is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Playing the game isn’t easy – it’s a full-on, contact sport – and then we strap wheels to our feet just to make things even more difficult. When you actually sit down and think about it, it’s absolutely bloody ridiculous but, my god, it’s so much fun!
If you know anything about roller derby, I’m sure you’ll have heard all about minimum skills. These are a list provided by WFTDA (Women’s flat track derby association) of things a skater must be able to do proficiently to progress into main league and sanctioned games. I’ll admit now I am nowhere near passing my min skills because I have a few nemeses when it comes to skating (I’m looking at you transitions and crossovers.) However, London Rockin’ Rollers, which is the name of my league, have their own set of minimum skills that you need to pass to graduate from fresh meat. This is pretty much just to make sure that you’re not a danger to yourself or others on track. So you need to know how to stop, how to fall, how to give and, more importantly, how to take a hit.
Wreck league training involves more situational drills rather than working on specific skills. We tend to work through scenarios that would come up in gameplay and what the best tactics to use in those situations would be.
Alongside drills comes scrimmage though. Practice games essentially. Splitting the practice into two teams and working on our gameplay. There’s no score kept and you never foul out but penalties are given and it gives us a chance to work on our track awareness and getting a practical grip of the rules.
Although I’d been training with Wreck League for a couple of weeks I wasn’t taking part in any contact. This meant that I wasn’t scrimming. I decided that I really wanted to take part in the next Wreck vs Wreck bout and got contact checked again so I was sure I could take part in scrimmage.
I’m glad that I did it when I did because after just two weeks of scrim training I was out in front of the paying public as part of The Scrim Reapers. Our goth-tastic team played against our friends in The Bloody Scarlets and we only went and won!
It was such a crazy whirlwind trying to get ready for the bout that I didn’t really get much time to think about it. That was definitely a good thing, especially for my first game.
I was nervous, understandably, but it wasn’t really until I was sitting watching the game before mine that I actually started to feel the nerves really kick in. I got shaky hands and my heart started beating faster but it was over just as quickly as it started because I soon became busy. Getting ready, warming up and getting my kit on soon distracted me from my nerves and then all of a sudden it was game time!
I had a great day. Once I got my head in the game it was a lot of fun and I even had a band of Mother Ruin (my skate name) cheerleaders complete with personalised t-shirts.
Although I beat myself up about my performance on track afterwards. Wishing that I’d done things differently. I know now that that will come with time. I have to try and remember it was my first bout and be proud that I put myself out there.
The one thing it did do though was encourage me to want to do it again!