There’s no sorry in roller derby.

It’s been a while since I made a blog post. I’m writing this one in reaction to a conversation I’ve just had. Roller derby is starting to gain a wider audience in England. For as long as I’ve been involved, leagues have been asking about how to get people involved. Now things seem to be changing. Roller derby is featured in the current This Girl Can campaign, so more people are seeing it, more organisations want to know about it and more people are curious about what we’re up to. Our recent home game had more people attending than I’ve ever seen before and our new intake last Sunday was huge. Almost intimidating!

When people first find roller derby, they tend to get really caught up in it. It’s a new exciting thing that you love and you can’t get enough of and you want to read everything about. And you’ll see things like this.

(This is from an Etsy page which, unfortunately, sold it a long time ago!)

This is a really empowering statement when you start this sport. In England, we apologise for everything. I’ve been known to apologise to sections of walls when I’ve hit them with a bag. As a sport dominated by women, a lot of individuals struggle when they start roller derby with the contact side of things. Traditionally and stereotypically, women aren’t meant to be physical or aggressive, they aren’t supposed to barge into other people and take up space or play physical, contact sports. They aren’t supposed to be particularly competitive. In some representations, they aren’t even supposed to truly get along with other women. This is a lot to overcome! A lot of people start this sport and apologise to everyone they bump in to, accidentally or on purpose. They hold themselves back in fear of hurting other people or themselves. As a sport, we need to actively discourage this – it would be exhausting to apologise to everyone you made contact with and it’s unnecessary. We come to training on purpose as rational adults to take part in a contact sport. We literally signed up for this, no one needs to apologise for doing what we expect them to do. It’s hard to communicate all that, but it’s easy to say there’s no sorry in roller derby.


I don’t like this statement.

I’ve just apologised in advance to my league for myself today, simply so that I don’t have to do it for myself when I’m there. I’m ill. Only with a cold, but when combined with asthma colds make me very weak and very useless. This is exactly what I said and my lovely beautiful wonderful supportive team mates said it’s fine, I don’t need to apologise. But I do. We’re a team and I cannot do my best for my team today. That’s fine, I’ll still do as good as I can, but I might have to sit out of drills or drop out half way through so I cannot be what my team needs me to be today. I know not everyone will share that idea, I wouldn’t expect everyone to, but it’s important to me that I apologise.

I think there’s sorry in roller derby when you aren’t the best you can be for your team.

In our team, rule number 1 is DBAD – Don’t be a d***. I think there’s sorry in roller derby when you are a d*** (because we all are sometimes!)

There’s sorry in roller derby when you do something dangerous, accidentally or on purpose.

There’s sorry in roller derby when you hurt your teammates, even if it is a great, perfectly legal hit. (I’ve known people to break bones from great hits and they’re generally happy to celebrate that fact later, but apologies are always appropriate first.)

I’m a firm believer that there is indeed some sorry in roller derby and I think that needs to be stated as much as we encourage skaters not to apologise for playing the game. We are a team and we are there to support each other, part of that is recognising when we’ve done wrong and need to make amends.

#DBAD is a phrase everyone can live by, however!


Mental Game

Sundays training was an interesting one. I had my first exam of my final year yesterday, and it was the one I was most worried about. Partly because it was on Maoist China, and I’m of the firm belief that no one really understands what happened – most of the official records are heavily locked down still, and even then, a lot of them are falsified or just simply not the full story, the people who lived through it barely seem to understand what went down and why, and a lot of the explanations for why things happened comes back to “because Mao wanted it”. And partly because it was our “special subject”; in my university, third year history students have to pick one module that goes super in depth into one topic, looking at primary sources and so on, so I had no idea what would be on it, or if I’d read enough to be able to answer any of the questions. I spent last week revising everything I could, but by Friday my brain was mush and I physically couldn’t read any more (no, really, I couldn’t read words), so I took the weekend off. Saturday, I hopped in a car with a few of my fellow skaters and went to High Wycombe for Big Bucks High Rollers’ B Team tournament ‘Diamonds are Forever’. That was super fun, and so interesting to watch! And Sunday, I went off to training.

My mind definitely wasn’t in it. There was a lot of focus on working on personal skills, rather than in partners or packs, and I think that allowed me to get too far into my own head. I started strong, but as the session went on I felt increasingly worse, and ended up having to take myself out to have a little sob in a corner. Luckily, I have wonderful team mates, who were full of hugs and encouraging words and were generally really comforting. Turns out they were right, I didn’t really have much to worry about and the exam went fine, but I couldn’t get out of my own head at that point in time, and everything I did was just reassuring me that I sucked at everything.

It’s funny what effect your brain can have on your physical performance – the more negative I felt about myself and the upcoming week, the more things went wrong for me. I couldn’t do an underpush (something I’ve always struggled with) and then my crossovers wouldn’t work at all, I couldn’t feel either push. My laterals were getting better, and then all of a sudden I could barely turn. Transitions got slower on my good side, and didn’t even exist on my bad one. That was around the time I burst into tears. It’s odd how, when you feel bad about yourself, your brain finds things to confirm that yep, you definitely suck.

However, now the stress cloud has cleared, I can see the positives. Something clicked Sunday that made my laterals so much better than they had been (I think that something is called weight distribution) and I ticked off positional blocking from my minimums. Which means all I need to get scrimmaging is my 25 laps. 3.25 to go!

I Shouldn’t Play Roller Derby Because… Part 1 – Danger

“I’d like to try roller derby, but it’s so dangerous!”

Our sport has as many safety precautions as your average building site.

Alright, so that’s not true. But there’s a heck of a lot you don’t know about roller derby, because it all goes on behind the scenes. In this post, and any other in the series, I’m going to assume that my audience knows as much about derby as the average person off the street. At most, Hypothetical You has seen a bout once or knows a derby skated. At least, they’ve never even heard of it. In between are the Yous who have watched Whip It, have heard about it from your parents, or asks every derby skater if its anything like Rollerball (no, it’s not). So it might surprise you that safety is a huge thing in roller derby. Skaters train a lot, and new skaters often train for months before they even get near the track to play competitively. The rules that govern the sport are heavily centred on the safety of the skaters – most of the penalties skaters can be given are related to accidental but dangerous actions, and theres limits on where you can hit people and what with to stop people getting hurt. Protective padding, helmets and mouthguards are required and checked by the referees, not only at the start of each game, but even at the end of half time. If your safety gear isn’t up to scratch, you’re not allowed to play.

So first, training. I think a lot of people’s concern of the “danger” of roller derby comes from the thought that they’re just going to be chucked into the type of thing they’ve seen on Whip It or in real bouts and expected to deal with it. In reality, before you even get near competitive derby, you have to pass Minimum Skills Requirements. These are a list of skills set out by WFTDA that new skaters have to be able to do before they are allowed to play, partly in order to keep them safe, and partly so they can keep up with the other skaters. So if you decide to start roller derby, you’ll find yourself starting either what many refer to as a “fresh meat” course – a series of sessions intended to teach you everything you need to know – or a recreational league. Either way, for the first few weeks, you’ll be learning how to skate, fall, turn, stop, and so on. To cut a long story short, your league won’t allow you to start the contact part of this sport until they’re absolutely certain you are comfortable with the non-contact aspects. You’re taught how to fall safely, how to safely take and give hits. You’re taught how to stand properly in order to keep your balance and minimise the risk to yourself and all other skaters if you do fall. You are trained to do everything safely and minimise risk to yourself.

Alongside this, there’s the rules. You may have watched Whip It, and you may have heard many a derby skater complaining that the one legal move in the entire film wasn’t even made on track (Bliss’ hip heck on the girl on the staircase is wonderfully executed with perfect form.) The majority of WFTDA rules are there to make sure gameplay is as safe as possible, and the rest are there to make the game more interesting or clarify loopholes skaters and coaches have worked out along the way. For example, they define legal blocking and target zones – ie, what areas of your body you can hit with and where you can hit other people with it. They look like this

Atlanta Roller Girls’ illustration of legal target and blocking zones – ie. Where I can hit you, and with what part of my body!

Basically, I can’t elbow you in the ribs (illegal blocking zone to legal target zone) and I can’t hip check you in the back (legal blocking zone to illegal target zone). I certainly can’t punch you in the face or kick you in the shin. And I certainly couldn’t, say, turn around and stick my elbow out so you skate your face straight into it, regardless of what my bench coach told me to do. All three of those last examples would be full on expulsions.
Of course, accidents do happen – you come in too hot to the back of an opposing skater and hit them in the back, or you fall and accidentally kick an opposing skaters legs out from under them, or you try to shoulder check a particularly small skater and accidentally catch them in the face instead. These are all penalty worthy actions. In short – if you do something dangerous accidentally, it’s a penalty (7 penalties and you’re out for the rest of the bout). If you do it purposefully, it’s an expulsion. If you regularly do it, you’ll be suspended for a certain number of games. Smashley Simpson was a total liability and, if she hadn’t already been suspended from bouting, her coach never would have even rostered her because of her attitude.

I don’t think I need to go through safety equipment in any real detail – helmet, mouthguard elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads are the minimum requirements for derby, even during training. People also wear padded shorts, shin guards, nose protectors and so on, depending on how concerned they are that they might get broken. If your safety equipment is not acceptable, you are not allowed to skate. Even if you’re sat in the penalty box, the only equipment you are allowed to remove is your mouth guard.

I’m not saying injuries don’t happen, or that there isn’t an element of risk to the sport – as I’m typing this, I’ve read that one of my Facebook friends got a spiral fracture during her bout today. I’m just saying that the risk shouldn’t be overstated – everything in roller derby is designed to keep you as safe as physically possible. There’s no more danger than there is in any other full contact sport, but you wouldn’t tell anyone not to take up rugby, or American football, or any other sport because it could be dangerous, would you?

And at the end of the day, everything comes at a risk. I once knew a girl who tripped over uneven paving slabs and broke her collarbone. You could get injured doing anything, so you might as well take the risk and do something awesome.

Skills Testing and Kiddy-Training!

I haven’t written a post about Bootcamp, because I am now finding it hard to put my thoughts and feelings into words. I’ll say a few short words about it now – it was an amazing experience. Harder than anything I’ve ever done before, being in the recreational league for Kent Roller Girls, we’re not overly used to doing drill after drill after drill, and the skills we were practicing were almost all completely new and almost all above our current skill level, so it was a real challenge. One that I wasn’t certain I’d overcome even in the last hour, but one I am glad I did. Two hours in, I was ready to give up, and I mean on everything. The Bootcamp, the sport, any attempt of exercise I’d ever make. I think that was a combination of physical exhaustion, lack of sugar, actual tired exhaustion (it was 2pm and I’d been up from 3:30, so almost twelve hours by that point) and being slaughtered during two hours of positional blocking, potentially my worst skill. My team picked me up, I filled myself full of sports drink and healthy sugars, and went back for wall and pack drills, and I loved every minute of it. It turns out every one of our league members at this Bootcamp went through the exact same thing I did. Physically and emotionally exhausting (we all admitted to having a bit of a sob Sunday night) but absolutely worth it.

So on to this week! Our league have decided that we’re training in levels – first to pass the old minimum skills, so we can full contact scrimmage, and then the 2013 minimums in a tryout to get on to the team. I’m pretty confident with my 2009 minimums, I think I’ve got almost everything down, except for my laps. I’m currently on 20.5, which is by no means a bad level to be at, but it is irritating me that I haven’t managed to improve since my last attempt. There were a lot of different factors – a lot more people on track, and I have a cold which is playing havoc with my asthma. I also didn’t seem to warm up enough before we started and my legs were still stiff before we’d even started our laps. After, I felt like I could go again and perhaps even done better, my legs felt stronger and my chest clearer. I’m possibly going to have to warm up a bit more vigorously in the future! Luckily, we’re doing it every week until everyone that could get it does, so I get plenty of opportunities to go again and hopefully with that much experience my stamina and strength will have no choice but to improve. My other skills went totally fine – this week, we went over stride, sticky skating, one foot glide squat and coast, stops and lateral cuts, and I think I passed all of them. Hopefully I’ll carry on like this and the one thing I’ll really have to work on will be my laps!

Today (Monday 17th February) was the first day of half term, so we took my niece and two nephews to Herne Bay to an open skate session. I mentioned in an earlier post that my niece received roller skates for her birthday and was meant to go to a disco with her friends, but they ran out of rental skates for the friends, so this was to make up for it. They all absolutely loved it, and my two nephews now want their own skates – I’ve got my own miniature junior league! My niece is a good skater bit for some reason lacks the confidence to come away from the side/skate without clinging on to me. She’s also developed a bad habit of using her toestop to push. On every single push. So I spent the majority of the two and a half hours we spent there teaching her not to do that, and to push outwards instead. It helps that I have always stood with my feet turned out, and that this has always amused my family so they drew attention to it, so I can tell her “stand like auntie Frances and push off one foot.” She could do it just fine, but kept forgetting; eventually, I made her stop every time she put her toe stop down and start going again, “this time, properly!” And she did, eventually, learn. She’s odd in that she kept coming up with justifications for herself – ” I need to put my toe down to move” (after she’d already pushed off without it a dozen times) and “I need you with me to start off” (after she’d skated half a dozen laps without me anywhere near her) – and I kept telling her that no, she didn’t need either of those things, she was just fine on her own. I fixed the toestop business for now, though I feel like it’ll still be a problem next time we go out, and I got her to spend the majority of her time not holding on to the side or to me, which is progress.

My eldest nephew is also an interesting case. He has Aspergers, and that, along with the medication he’s on makes it really hard to know how he’s feeling. Not today though, he was laughing as he went around, which was wonderful to see. One aspect of his Aspergers is that he doesn’t pick up verbal instructions so well, and learns more from observing. When we were about to start, he asked me how to do it. I told him firstly to keep his knees bent, as you are more balanced and, if you do fall, you’re closer to the floor, and secondly to push his feet out to the side. He did neither, but was making a good go at it, so I decided to leave him to it for a while. When I returned to him about fifteen minutes later, he said to me “I’ve found something useful out. If you bend your knees, its way easier to balance. And it’s safer because you don’t fall so far!” I had a bit of a chuckle, because I’d already told him this, but encouraged him, “yeah mate, absolutely!” Later, I found out that he’d informed my mum he’d worked out that if he pushed his feet out, it’s easier to move. He’s a super quick learner, by the end of the session he was moving at a decent speed and staying away from the sides, he just had to come to it on his own terms!

My other nephew made loads of progress, too. I knew from experience that he doesn’t want and will not accept help, so I left him to it, occasionally checking in in him and skating with him. He fell a lot, and always got back up like nothing had even happened, and I think that’s just how he learns – not afraid to throw himself in head first! Once he’d found his feet again, he spent most of the session attempting to skate as fast as he could in the middle of the derby track lines on the sports floor. As you may guess, that resulted in a lot of tumbles, and he proudly showed off the bruises on his knees at the end of the day.

I learnt a lot about kids that day. The best part came after we’d dropped them home- my eldest nephew started looking through and liking all my Instagram photos related to derby, commenting one my friend had put up of Bootcamp that he loves rollerskating and that his Auntie Frances (me) can skate really well. It was really touching, and if you’ve ever known a kid with Aspergers, you’ll understand just how significant it was to see him show so much enthusiasm.

How to Start Enjoying Exercise (by someone who hated it)

I’ve always disliked exercise – it was boring, hard work and never really seemed to have any effect on me. I never lost weight, my body didn’t change shape, it seemed to be like I was wasting an hour or so every day doing something I hated for absolutely no reason. Recently, however, I’ve been won over. This morning, when I got out of bed, I did half an hour of pilates before I went for a shower, and not only did I enjoy doing it, I felt absolutely awesome after! It’s occured to me that what I hated wasn’t exercise in general, but the way I was going about it. So I’ve got some tips for anyone who wants to be more active but is struggling with it

1) Find motivation

Motivation is a personal thing. Before now, I was trying to exercise because I was told I needed to lose weight. The biggest problem was I just wasn’t interested; Other people cared a hell of a lot more about my weight than I ever did, and weight loss really wasn’t enough reason for me to get up and do something I knew I didn’t like. I did get upset about my size, but what’s struck me recently is that I wasn’t upset about my weight itself as much as I was about other people’s (read: my doctors’) reactions to it. As far as I was concerned, I looked fine, I didn’t struggle with any ordinary tasks, I ate healthy and I was active, and as long as nothing was wrong with my health, why would I change anything?

That’s still the same. I’m not at all concerned with the numbers on the scale (I am faintly aware they are going up, mostly because my fat is being transformed directly into muscle), but I’ve found my motivation. I want to be a better skater. I want to skate faster for longer, hit harder, basically be an unstoppable force. This has been the first step to transforming my attitude towards exercise – now, I have a clear reason to do it with measurable effects, and because it’s working towards something I want I am enjoying it a whole lot more and finding myself wanting to exercise almost every day.

So find your motivation. If your only motivation now is to lose weight and you still can’t exercise, it’s probably not enough of a motivation for you. Besides, I’d advise against goals like that anyway, because exercise does crazy things to your weight – I know a lady who is fit, gorgeous, and last week squatted 95kg, but in the past three months has also put on a stone. Lots of stress is put on weight in our society, but in honesty the important things are health and fitness. So instead, perhaps aim to get fitter or more toned. Find something you like and set goals towards that. Perhaps you want to run a marathon, or just be able to ride your bike all Sunday with your kids. Even if you’re not likely to be able to achieve it, work towards it – Want to climb Kilimanjaro? Hike across New Zealand? Row across the British channel? Perhaps you will never have the money or resources to do that kind of thing, but why not train towards it, get to a level where you could, if the opportunity arose. Perhaps it would, one day.

2) Don’t do anything you don’t enjoy

I hate running. I have flat feet that turn out like a penguin and make my legs hurt just walking around a shopping centre, and that’s not even talking about the hassle trying to run with breasts is, even with the best sports bra money could buy. But what exercise machine do I own? A treadmill. What would I do when I went to the gym in my first year? Go running. And I’d get bored, lose interest and give up.

For some reason, I thought that was the only way to get fit. Especially because, at that point, I wasn’t concerned with building muscle, just burning fat, which I was convinced was best done through cardio. This is all entirely ridiculous, of course. My point is, if you don’t like it, don’t do it. There’s plenty of alternatives – if you’re looking to improve cardio, there’s more you can do than running. Skating, riding a bike, swimming, even dancing. And for every muscle, there’s more than one way to develop them. Don’t like crunches or sit ups? Pilates roll ups are 30% more effective anyway, which means you can do fewer! Try different things until you find something that works for you, sticking with things you don’t like is just going to make you hate them more

3) Tailor your exercises towards your goals

On top of there being more than one exercise for every means, there’s more than one way to do them! You don’t have to get on a treadmill and run for an hour a day. You don’t have to sit for half an hour straight doing high intensity workouts.And in some cases, it’s not productive to do it this way.

In my case, I’m training to play roller derby. Being on skates as much as possible is always good because the more comfortable you are on four wheels, the better you will be. However, for every other exercise, I want pretty specific things out of them. I need my legs and my core to be strong, so I can focus on things that build them up. My arms aren’t so important and I don’t really need to work on them except for the reason that I want more toned arms and I don’t want them to look out of place, but things like push-ups work well for abs too, so I don’t mind doing them. In terms of cardio and endurance, plodding along at a medium speed on a treadmill isn’t going to be any good for me – Roller Derby bouts are split into jams, which last up to two minutes at a time. This means that rather than needing to keep going for hours straight, what I need more is to be able to access a two-minute burst of intense energy and recover from that quickly. Sure, I need endurance, but not the same way that a marathon runner needs endurance.

So look at ways to train that suit your purposes, or if you don’t have any, that suit you. There’s HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which is combining bursts of high intensity workouts with periods of low intensity exercises. There’s circuits. You can even invent your own way of training – Disasteroid from Tyne and Fear recently told me to do one single push up several times throughout the day because I was complaining about doing 15 in a row. There’s no right or wrong way to organise your exercises, only right or wrong for you.

4) Tailor your exercise to you

This ties in to what I said above – If you hate doing exercises in one burst, break them down and do them through the day. If you haven’t got much time, find exercises that are intense but don’t take a long time – I started off with Roller Derby Athletics’ 8 Minute Method, which kicked my arse surprisingly effectively for something that only takes 8 minutes a day. If, like me, you give up easily on things, look for classes or find plans with detailed videos that you can stick to with a bit of determination. If you lose attention quickly, mix up your routines. I’ve switched from the RDA one I mentioned to the Blogilates beginners workout calendar, because I have a very short attention span and sticking to one thing makes it more likely that I’ll give up!

You know how you work, so adjust to that. Exercise isn’t one-size-fits-all.

5) Find support

Some people can get on pretty well on their own, but for most of us building a support network can work wonders. I have my league to motivate me, and we even have a specific Fitness page to discuss what we’re doing and support each other in it. I blog a lot, and I’ve got a number of people who I can talk to and will give me all the support in the world if I seem like I need it. I’ve also joined Fitocracy recently, which I love. I used to use MyFitnessPal purely to track my exercise, but Fitocracy is more appropriate – you log your exercises and reps or how long you spend doing them, and rather than measuring it through calories it rewards you with points. You level up, people can congratulate you, it’s great (especially for me, because I love games, and levelling up is one thing I can appreciate!)

So find people who share your interests , who you can talk to about exercise, new ways to do things and generally draw motivation from. If people have your back, you’re more likely to do it

6) Remember – it’s alright to suck a bit

You’re trying to make a change in your life that you want to do, which automatically makes you awesome, good job! One thing I hear a lot from people who want to start roller derby is a concern that they’re going to be bad, fall over a lot and generally suck. Well… yeah. You’re pretty much guaranteed to do all those things. The good news is that everyone did at some point, and no one’s going to judge you for it. That’s true for almost all sports – everyone has sucked at it at some point. In some cases, they might’ve been a child when they were bad at it, but no one was with talent in a sport, and you can’t expect to go in to something and be awesome at it immediately, or even after a few weeks. It takes practice and hard work.

Consider this when you start exercising. You’re probably going to suck at it to start off with. When I started the RDA workouts, I spent the majority of the 8 minutes for Wednesday on the floor, having only managed perhaps three push ups. a couple of weeks later, I managed 15. You might discover that you’re absolutely amazing at this exercise thing (in which case, go you, you super-being!) but in most cases, you’re going to have to be patient and not afraid to fail dismally for a while before you start seeing results.

Overall, I am simply saying that I found I’m a lot happier to exercise if I do things I enjoy, and don’t force myself to do things I don’t like to do. It’s the same concept with everything, like work. If you’re doing a job you don’t like you’ll hate even the thought of going, but if you find something that really engages you, its a whole lot easier to get up in the morning.

Going easy?

Yesterday, I went to a Bootcamp in Leeds ran by Ruby and Chuck from Victorian Roller Derby League, and it was excellent. I’ll definitely write more about it later, when I’m not so exhausted and aching, but this one point deserves its own post and I think its best written when I’m emotional.

There’s an attitude in roller derby that you should never go easy on people, because the other team never would and by giving them all you’ve got, you’re preparing them for that. I agree with this to an extent – sure, if you pull punches when hitting your teammates, they’re not going to a adjust to harder hitting opponents, but at the same time you’re not there to demoralise your teammates.

Around the two hour mark at Bootcamp, I was exhausted. My legs were refusing to move, and despite trying my hardest I couldn’t get anything to go right for myself. I got my arse kicked over and over again in most of the drills because I couldn’t plow, I couldn’t pick my feet up, I couldn’t get my muscles to do anything I wanted. It left me close to tears, doubting my decision to go to bootcamp or even take up the sport in the first place. It’s absolutely my fault, I do realise. I didn’t have the stamina to keep up, but I can’t help but think about my partners, how they reacted to it, and whether I would have done differently.

What I’ve concluded is that there’s a fine line between challenging someone to be better and push themselves, and thrashing them just because you can. There are very few people who will respond well to the latter. Going all out might be alright in some situations, where you could destroy a person on that drill and then take them aside and give them feedback. Otherwise, it’s just likely to make them feel hopeless – chances are, especially in your own league, that skater already knows you can kick their arse and doesn’t particularly need reminding of it. But I feel it would be a hell of a lot more constructive to adjust yourself to the other persons skill level to an extent. It’s not hard to tell – if you’re practicing one v one positional blocking and you whip past the person two or three times in a row, you know this person isn’t so good at this. It’s no use to carry on breezing past these people because they’re not going to learn anything, and the likelihood is the entire reason you’re doing this drill is to improve their skill as a blocker.

To switch the perspective, imagine the person is absolutely amazing at it. It’s like hitting a brick wall covered in glue- you can’t push this person anywhere and they stick to you wherever you move. You wouldn’t carry on at 100%, you’d go harder. You’d push harder, move more, do anything you can to get past them, for their benefit as well as yours – if they’re not being challenged, they’re not going to learn. I feel like its the same the other way – if you’re challenging someone way beyond their skill level, you’re not really challenging them, you’re just beating them. I’m not saying not to go hard on them, but just to recognise that your hard isn’t the same as their hard., and you’re much more productive if you adjust to what is hard for them, rather than sticking at what you consider to be hard

I realise some people would completely disagree with this, and that’s absolutely fine – I’m not certain I entirely agree with it, either. I just know that personally, I couldn’t stand to go all out on a person in drills where the intention is to develop their skills if I knew what I was doing was beyond their level. Of course scrimmage is a totally different situation as a simulation of bout conditions, and its in everyone’s best interest for every individual to give it their best. But in terms of drills, I think it’s important to consider what the drill is for, who in my partnership/group it’s meant to be benefitting, and, if that’s not me, whether or not what I am doing is helpful.

Roller derby is a sport with an interesting set up, and in training you are learning from and teaching each other. It’s important to remember that as much as you are there to learn, so is everyone else, and in order to be a good teammate you might want to consider going easy on someone who is weaker at the skill you’re practicing. You’re not there to hold their hand, but you’re not there to make them feel hopeless either, and what is “going easy” for you may not be easy for them.

Ramp Skating and Accidental Derby Wives

I’ve been so excited this week preparing for my bootcamp with Victorian Roller Derby League on Saturday that putting my weekend into words has been hard, but it was an excellent weekend. I tried (and failed dramatically, but not dismally, at) new things, and it was great!

My Saturday evening was meant to be spent with my ten year old niece and a couple of her friends at the local leisure centre which has recently started hosting roller discos every other weekend. It was her birthday party, and she’d received roller skates as a present and wanted to use them. After queuing for half an hour, it turned out the place didn’t have enough skates for her friends, so we had to go home. She was devestated, I still feel bad for her, but we’ve promised to take her to a proper skating rink in the near future to make up for it.

My league had booked out an indoor skatepark called Unit One relatively close to me for the same hours and on the same night as my niece’s party, which I’d resigned to not being able to go to. Disappointing, but my family we had priority – at least I’d still be on skates! Once we took the small party home to have popcorn and watch movies instead, I hopped in my car and made it over there for the last hour of the session. It didn’t go amazingly for me, but I was assured by everyone, my fellow fresh meat and league veterans alike, that they’d been the same for the first half hour or so. Naturally, I had to go one step further. After attempting to go down a small ramp three times only to fall flat on my butt (and once wiping out hard on my hip – I didn’t realise at the time, but my newly found derby wife informed me the next day when I kept complaining that my hips hurt for no apparent reason), I made it successfully down the ramp, and half way around the quarter pipe opposite to it. At which point, failing to turn enough, I slam,,ed straight in to the wall.

And straight in to the fire alarm.

It took them a good 10-15 minutes to turn it of. Rosa Lethal and I agreed that it was because not enough people paid attention to me when I arrived, and I was simply trying to make my presence known. Thankfully, everyone found it hilarious! I was pretty mortified for the rest of the night, and terrified to try it again for a long time! I managed one more attempt, and fell on my butt again (“you stood up! Why did you do that! You were so low then you stood up just stay down!”- aforementioned derby wife) and then retired to a corner, practicing going up and down ramps. Even though it didn’t go so well for me, I loved it. I feel that if I had been there for the whole two hours, I would’ve improved, and it’s a total different experience to skating on a flat track. It’s something I definitely want to keep trying and get better at.

Practice on Sunday was, therefore, a lot more painful than usual! Less so for me than the rest who’d been there for two hours – Rosa was dying from muscle ache after the skatepark session and crossfit in the past two days. We’ve recently attracted a handful of new skaters, who are still learning some basics and building up their confidence in one end of our hall. They’ve had three sessions now, and I can’t help but keep an eye on them and notice how insanely well they’re doing! A couple of weeks ago they could barely stand, and this week they were working on the basics of weaving and leaning, and picking up some speed too! I’m totally proud of them (since one of them told me she admires us quite a bit, I feel almost maternal over them!)

While they were doing that, we were practicing for our minimums assessments, which they are planning to start in the next few weeks. For those of you who don’t know, I am in a Recreational League – where normal recruitment for roller derby teams is done through a “fresh meat” course, which lasts a few months and is intended to have you ready to pass your skill assessment at the end of that, ours are ongoing sessions, somewhat more relaxed and intended as both a route into the league and a place for people who want to play but not competitively. Our league is assessing us on the old minimum skills, which were a lot simpler and less demanding, so we can scrimmage, then we have to pass the 2013 minimums to make it into the league. We went over weaving through cones, hops, hits, and topped it all off with a light contact scrimmage. It was potentially a bad idea doing this straight after hitting drills, as some people… forgot we weren’t doing full contact and caused some issues! We did pretty good in our scrimmage, I think. As a jammer I did a pretty sneaky move, I dropped down really low and attempted to follow the other team’s jammer through her own team. It almost worked, they caught me at the last moment, but it left me with only two blockers to deal with and I sidestepped past them pretty easily!

Cone weaving, however, was a nightmare. For the skills we’re doing, the cones have to be 6ft apart. However, my league have decided to do them 5ft apart, which is the new requirement, to get us used to it. On my first attempt, I glided past the majority of them – so did almost everyone in front of me, so that’s not so bad. On my second attempt, I slowed down and a started off well, but missed one cone and from then on out I was totally out. I was told later by one of the vets that my weaving was good, and by the rest of my group that it looked good, but I wasn’t actually weaving between the cones – I was sort of weaving out in the spaces in between, and in over the cones! It bugged me for a while that I couldn’t get this. I need to sort my laterals out, which’ll hopefully help a lot. Hitting was great. Paired up with my wife, we gave it our best. After practice, we go for cake, and a couple of the ladies there said they were going easy n each other because they hadn’t done it in so long. We laughed – not us! I almost knocked her into an open cupboard door.

Finally, regarding the wife. I’ve never totally bought in to the idea of a derby wife – it reminded me of those years around year ten where everyone referred to each other as their “wifeys”, which wasn’t a bad thing, just nothing I ever found applicable. I have since gained a derby wife, almost accidentally, and I understand it now. For those not in the know, a derby wife isn’t anything more than a good friend, one you click with really well, talk to a lot of the time and just find yourself gelling with. Over time they become the person you’d do practically anything for. It’s a derby equivalent of a bestie, but in a situation like derby which is pretty intimate and where you are literally sharing sweat, “wife” makes sense. Most people get derby hitched, mine just happened! We got on well from the first week, NSO together, talk all the time (spend most of our time on track talking!) After out first bout NSOing we went and had a totally romantic fluorescent lit KFC dinner and then went to the after party together. Eventually, everyone else decided we were derby wives, and then we just supposed we were. So we are, and that’s totally cool!

I’m meant to be sleeping now. Getting up for our bootcamp in Leeds at 5am! I woke up in a panic because something in my mind told me it was 8:20am (how very precise, you misleading rascal) and, obviously, decided now would be the perfect time to blog. This weekend is going to be exhausting but so exciting, and I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk about next time!