Not Sorry Laurie – My World Cup Journey

Photo credit: Wicked Shamrock Photography

My Roller Derby World Cup journey begins appropriately enough at the time of the last World Cup, in December 2014. I remember being with two other skaters, streaming the action from Dallas and learning as much as we could from what we saw. We were each relatively new to the sport. I’d begun learning to skate a few months earlier with my hometown league Roller Derby Leicester, and was at the stage where I was brave enough to begin attempting transitions (a 180 degree turn), but was well short of the ability or finesse to pull one off. I’d seen our A team skaters performing transitions and felt I would die happy if I ever managed to perform one successfully.

Amongst the three of us watching, myself and Wiggles were eligible for Scotland and Lisa for South Africa. We joked about one day skating for our nations at the World Cup, and I for one had absolutely zero expectation that it would ever happen for me.

Fast forward 18 months and not only had I achieved my life goal of performing a transition but I’d now spent the best part of a year jamming for RDL. Our league had also received a message from Team Scotland asking if we had any eligible skaters interested in the upcoming tryouts for the World Cup training squad. I’d never skated at a level higher than British Champs Tier 3, in which we were now most of our way through what proved to be a winless campaign. But, I was progressing as a skater, and fancied seeing if I could turn the likelihood of skating at a World Cup into something more than just a joke.

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I made the journey to Glasgow with fellow RDL skater CanTankerous with no idea what to expect. Knowing the standard would be unlike anything I’d faced before allowed me every reason to just throw myself at the opportunity, and by the time an afternoon of skills, drills and a scrim had finished I felt like I’d smashed it! A fortnight later I was doing my evening shop at Morrisons (rock ‘n’ roll!) when the long awaited email from Team Scotland came through on my phone saying I’d made it into the 30-strong training squad. Had I been at home when I received this news I would’ve celebrated with greater exuberance, but with vegetable section etiquette to observe a gallant fist pump had to suffice.

Monthly training sessions in Grangemouth, the Road to TBC tournament in Cardiff and an away fixture against Belgium swiftly followed. With each exposure to international level derby I felt I was returning to Leicester a whole new skater. A squad selection game in February 2017 would then be our last chance to prove ourselves worthy of one of the 20 spaces in the final World Cup squad. This game wasn’t my best but it turned out I’d done enough to make the final 20. This time I was at work when the good news came through, leading to a muted celebration with colleagues in our corner of the office.

Team Scotland was one of the first nations to announce its final squad, doing so almost a whole year before the World Cup itself. While there are potential downsides to this approach, I’m glad we opted for it. Straight away our training sessions gained a new intensity. Now they were being held fortnightly, and freed from uncertainty over our places in the squad we were each able to concentrate solely on preparing as a team for the tournament itself.

With each Scotland training session my appetite for playing at a higher level was growing. RDL were now back in a winning groove and by summer 2017 we’d won promotion from Tier 4, but the time had come for me to move on. The lure of Central City Rollergirls had become increasingly difficult to ignore ever since RDL’s captain Brooks had made the move across the Midlands the previous year, and now it was my turn. Brooks is and always will be my derby hero (I tell her this frequently enough that she must now be long since past the weirded out stage), and she had only the most positive things to say about the people, the setup and the standard of play at CCR. I’d heard the same from others too and once I’d experienced my first session here my decision to move was made.

I quickly felt at home with my new league, and with the increased exposure to such a high level of derby, my game inevitably gained new dimensions. My fellow CCR jammers are a dream to learn from and try new skills out with, and our blockers make walls that leave us constantly needing to rethink ways of getting through. It’s now been over 6 months since I joined, and the contribution this time with CCR has made to my own World Cup preparations has been invaluable.

Photo Credit: 2nd Shooter

At this point I also need to name-check Moji AKA Super Eagle AKA Mother Knows Best for getting me down to the gym on those early mornings when I’d seriously prefer not to. Moji gave me a lift to my very first newbie session with RDL and is now with CCR too. She’s been there to see me develop from the flailer I was at the time of the last World Cup (a flailer retrospectively described as ‘dangerous but not in a good way’ and ‘sh*t’), into a skater now competing at this World Cup. Also, just because she’s currently holding a knife to my throat oughtn’t taint the fact that she is without question the woman behind my success.

For the largest chunk of my life, playing at a World Cup in any sport was something I’d never imagined minutely possible. Family, friends (especially Hateh and Skiddo) and my awesome partner have all played their part in this journey, and it’s been the greatest part of my life skating alongside and arsing about with everyone at Roller Derby Leicester, Central City Rollergirls and Team Scotland. It may have blocked out my weekends for the past 18 months and depreciated my car’s value by 15,000 miles, but the journey to this week’s World Cup in Manchester has been so much more than worth it. I’ll be incredibly proud to take to the track to represent Scotland, and equally proud of the rest of the CCR contingent who are representing our league as skaters, coaches, officials, announcers and volunteers. Let’s make this World Cup the best yet!

Did Ye, Aye?!

CCR sends our love and support to all those playing and working the Roller Derby World Cup! Big High Fives go straight to our members representing!

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Roller Derby? Not for me…or is it? Part 3

Today we come to the final installment of ‘Roller Derby: Origins Stories’ (oh, how that would have been a better title). In these last interviews we have included some of our experienced skaters. It’s often tempting to think when you see skaters whizzing around the track, completing one footed, 180, apex jumps that they were born with supreme excellence, but the truth is, every skater starts with those awkward bambi steps and through sheer hard work eventually learns to be a better skater. Here are their stories:

Weston Super Clare (A Team Skater – Central City Rollergirls)

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Weston: From Rookie to Advanced

Did you know about Roller derby before you joined? 

I was aware of roller derby, as is standard nowadays, thanks to ‘Whip It’. I had assumed it was a mystical made up sport until I googled it a few days later and found out that not only was it real, there was a well developed network of leagues already existing in the UK! My first impressions of the sport was that it looked fast paced and dynamic, and very different to any other sport which I would get the opportunity to take part in.

What made you give it a try?

I was just starting my third year at university and I really wanted to start a team sport that wasn’t netball (sorry netball). I also wasn’t doing a lot of exercise (i.e. none at all), and I wanted to get fitter whilst having fun. Roller derby seemed to fit the bill, so I went along to an intake session.

How was your first session? 

I was very excited before my first session, but wasn’t really sure what to expect. I arrived, put on my hire skates, stood up, and promptly fell hard onto my bum. Not the best start. However, I got up and carried on (ignoring my blushes) and spent several hours learning (ironically) how to fall over safely, basic skating skills and some derby basics. Afterwards, I felt very accomplished, determined to improve, and I ached literally everywhere. I could barely walk the next day. And my bum hurt.

How have things changed since you joined in terms of your skating? 

I can actually skate now! I have gone from being unable to skate (illustrated by the aforementioned falling-onto-arse story) to happily zooming around the track as a member of the A-team travel team squad at CCR. However, there are always ways to improve, new skills to learn, new tactics and honestly, that’s one of the main reasons why I love the sport; it’s so dynamic and constantly changing meaning that there’s always something new to learn.

How has roller derby changed your life in general?

I am more confident. I have much more respect for my body and the things that it can do. I am even at peace with my weird, lanky, flaily extremities. I take care of myself a lot better and I am the healthiest I have ever been (better nutrition, tracking of my mental state, and plentiful cross training outside of derby have all contributed). I have MANY jazzy leggings. And I am proud of myself, and I feel justified in that pride. It’s a good feeling. I have also had amazing opportunities for travel including travel to Ghent, Stockholm and locations all over the UK. Finally, I have an ace group of women and guys in my life who are not only good friends, but who I know I can rely on for criticism, development and to push me to be the best skater and team mate I can be. #Squadgoals and all that.

Bri Hard (B Team Skater – Central City Rollergirls)

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Did you know about derby before you joined?

I had NO idea about roller derby before I joined, but had heard good things about it purely through word of mouth!

What made you give it a try?

I needed a sport, a team sport, something difficult but also eventually stimulating. All gym classes are hard but the technicalities of roller derby make you forget about your burny achy muscles as your too involved with the strategy and foot work required.

How was your first session?

My first session was so much fun! I was super nervous but realised there was no need to be at all as there was no pressure to be an amazing skater and the other girls made me feel so welcome! Before I went in, I wasn’t sure what to expect at all, but after I left I knew I wanted to know more! It was just so good to get back on my skates after having no skated since I was a kid!

How have things changed since you joined in terms of your skating?

I have become more confident to try new things on my skates and certainly my ability to skate has vastly improved. Now I can start using the skills we are taught at practice, rather than just hoping to pump into a wall or find a patch of grass! But also I can do so much more than I ever imagined, like jumping and turning at speed. The best thing about the sport is that two years in, I am not bored as I still have so much more to learn an there is so much more to progress with. It’s like a career!

What makes you continue to come? How has roller derby changed your life?

The most important thing for me was having something to dedicate myself to outside of work that would help with weight management. Now I go to the gym because I need to strengthen my body to get better at the sport, so even the gym became more fun! I am now on the B team and have made new friends and am really enjoying being involved with a team sport for the first time ever. CCR in particular have a lot of extremely dedicated players which encourages me to work my hardest. We also have some of the best skaters as or coaches and it totally makes you appreciate how good they are technically further driving your ambition!

Ghouldielocks – (A Team Skater – Central City Rollergirls)

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Did you know about Roller derby before you joined?

I had an idea of what it was but didn’t really know what was involved much past it was full contact and on rollerskates. That and the chicks who played it looked pretty bad ass.

What made you give it a try?

My friend of many years Dee (Mosquito) used to skate for LRR back in the day and wanted to set up her own league in Croydon. I was working in a Rock pub at the time and she thought I was a good fit as I had a reputation for enjoying a bit of ‘excitable moshing’ on a Friday evening with the locals… She kept asking me till I eventually said yes and bought my first pair of skates!

How was your first session?

Our first session was pretty much the first session in Croydon Roller Derby’s history. We used to train outdoors in St Georges Walk (a bit like Fletchers Walk in Brum but with more chicken bones and ciggy butts). The concrete paving slabs were all uneven and I fell over a lot but it was great fun. We continued to train there till we had enough money to hire half a hall up in New Addington and the rest was history!

How have things changed since you joined in terms of your skating?

This is my 3rd season as an A team skater. I’ve seen a fair few changes over the years and I really have enjoyed seeing how the sport has developed and how it has allowed me to push myself. From minors to knee starts, seeing one of the first ever men’s games in the country and becoming inspired to join in co-ed games and having being privileged enough to travel all over the northern hemisphere to train at boot camps and tournaments, my skatings really come a long way in terms of experience.

My skating has also developed in terms of allowing me to become an increasingly more confident and physical skater as well as a tactician on the track. I’m also fondly known as ‘the gobby one’.

I keep training because I want to be the best that I can be for my team and the only way to do that is to train hard. I feel like I have a home in Roller Derby.

How has roller derby changed your life in general?

Quite dramatically! I met my lovely partner and all round excellent referee Metal Ed through skating. We decided long distance wasn’t for us and as a job came up in Brum first I relocated from South London 🙂

Rollin’ Rat (Referee/Director – Central City Rollergirls)

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Did you know about Roller derby before you joined?

I knew of it as I worked with three women that played the sport, and they had been involved with Birmingham Blitz Derby Dames and Central City Rollergirls leagues in Birmingham. It sounded like a lot of fun, a very exciting activity for women to get involved in, that was run by the members of the league. I thought it was brilliant as most sports have a very male heavy presence and coming from a sporting background I knew a little bit of how much work they must have to do to keep the league running. I didn’t get to watch until just after I joined though so I wasn’t too sure what it was all about as I had only been to a Birmingham Blitz Derby Dames fundraiser at that stage. I remember people explaining it to me as been a cross between Rugby and British Bull Dog but with no ball.

What made you give it a try?

Joining roller derby and Central City Rollergirls was in fact part of a bet. Years ago when it was all fish nets and miniskirts I was bet £7 by my colleague at work, who was a skater at the time, that I wouldn’t turn up to a CCR fundraiser in a skirt and fishnets. They were wrong, and upon arrival the seeds had already been sewn that I would join and be a referee. The fundraiser was on a Friday, in March 2009. I went to my first session on that Sunday and joined as a full member, then brought my kit a month later and never looked back.

How was your first session?

I felt pretty nervous. I had met a couple of people already at the fundraiser mentioned above but I hadn’t skated in about 14 years so was very apprehensive. My first session went pretty well. I think I only fell over a handful of times. I was taught by Twisted Mister the basics of moving, stopping and falling safely. I enjoyed it loads and everyone was really welcoming and invited me to the after skate social at the pub after so I was integrated pretty quickly.

How have things changed since you joined in terms of your skating?

In the last 7 years things have grown, and grown way past anything we could have imagined back in 2009. There were only a hand full of teams back then and now there are teams in pretty much every city in the UK and it has greatly expanded across Europe and the World. There has been UK and European Team Sanctioned Rakings. European Teams playing in the USA. There has been Women’s World Cup and multiple European and World Tournament. The acceleration of Men’s Derby has been amazing with them also having World Cup, European and World Tournaments

I am a Director at CCR so am heavily involved within my home league but it’s a great sport and very competitive. There are 100s of more games going on each year in the UK compared to when I started. And I love being a referee. I am not currently Certified by WFTDA but I have recently applied for Certification which I will find out if I have achieved by early February. I am currently a recognised referee both with MRDA and UKRDA.

How has roller derby changed your life in general?

Where do I start, Roller Derby is my life. I eat, drink and sleep Rollerderby. I am sure most people will say the same. Once you are in, you are hooked and this ride is incredible – I don’t want to get off.

One of the best points is that I met my wife through Rollerderby – how great is that?

I have been lucky enough to referee all over the UK, Europe and the World taking part in various games but also have been a skating official at some great tournaments which include:

  • Tattoo Freeze- England
  • Track Queens Battle Royal – Germany
  • SKOD – Belgium
  • Womans World Cup 2014 – USA
  • Mens European Campionships – England
  • Mens European Cup – England
  • BEARDi – England
  • Mens World Cup 2014 – England
  • Mens World Cup 2016 – Canada
  • British Championships – England, Wales and Scotland
  • European Smackdown – Sweden
  • BIG O – USA
  • CCR’s Attack of the B Teams – England
  • West Track Story – France
  • Fantastic 8 – France

I will also be attending Rolercon in Las Vegas this year as well as getting over to Miami to watch or hopefully take part in Beach Brawl

Facny giving Roller Derby a go? Don’t worry if you can’t skate – we can teach you. Please email: ccrkitrequest@gmail.com for more details. First session is free and hire kit/skates can be provided if you don’t have your own.

Roller Derby? Not for me…or is it? Part 2

Last week we heard from three of our skaters about their first experiences with roller derby and Central City Rollergirls. Now we have some more skaters who wanted to share their experiences.

Madame Flutterby (A/B Team Skater – Central City Rollergirls)

Did you know about Roller derby before you joined?

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I’d never heard of roller derby. After seeing it for the first time, I was hooked. I didn’t understand it, I hadn’t a clue how to play but it seemed like the perfect activity I’d been looking for. As a mom of two young children I need some “me” time – a chance to be someone other than a wife and mother.

What made you give it a try?

I gave it a try as it seemed new, different and quite unique. A million miles away from the yoga, pilates and keep fit, all the other moms I knew where doing. Something outside the box and not the norm.

How was your first session?

My first session was nerve wracking, I didn’t usually do things without my husband or family by my side, so to go by myself was completely alien. Everyone was really friendly. I took part in basic skills with Twisted mister/ Chet Wisconsin, who showed my how to fall, glide, stop, weave etc. Luckily for me it came very naturally – for others who found it more difficult there was lots of support. I had fun and the nerves eased really quickly. I chatted with other girls and couldn’t wait for my next session the following week. My legs ached so much the next day but the more regular I went the easier it got.

How have things changed since you joined in terms of your skating?

My skating style has changed over the years – on that first day, I was comfortable on my skates and found it fairly easy to skate but I hadn’t a clue how to stop – resulting in lots of occasions where I would slam into walls! My most recent sessions have included how to do a one footed transition, forwards and backwards. There are always new skills and improvements to challenge you. I used to see CCR as a weekend hobby – over the years they’ve become my extended family – kind of like an old bearded Aunty that you love dearly but can’t escape her stubbly kisses. I’ve been a member of CCR for over 7 1/2 years. I play on both the A and the B team and am co captain.

How has roller derby changed your life in general?

Roller derby has changed my life and given me the confidence that I didn’t have before. I’ve got a much better social life and friends of my own – not just friends that talk to me because our children are friends. I’ve made some fantastic memories over the years.

 

Milly Idol (B Team Skater – Central City Rollergirls)

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Did you know about Roller derby before you joined?

I knew little to nothing, I had watched Whip It and remembered leaving the cinema thinking I could totally play that, it looks like so much fun! I eventually found CCR a few years later, after reading about roller derby in the UK in a magazine. My first practice – I can remember being really excited when I watched the pre-mins skaters and thought I cant wait to be able to skate like that, as I struggled to even roll on my hired disco skates!

What made you give it a try?

I wanted to do something different, meet new people and get involved in a sport but ultimately it was reading the magazine article – and I emailed a kit request AND phoned the venue within 10 minutes!

How was your first session?

Before I went in to the venue, I had been waiting all week for Saturday to come, I was so excited to start, I don’t think I was going to let anything, like nerves, stop me. Afterwards I just wanted it to be the following Monday so I could skate again and have a full kit by the following Saturday – I couldn’t wait to start minimum skills!

How have things changed since you joined in terms of your skating?

As a B-Team skater, just over a year and a half in, I still have the same excitement before practice, I still always want to do better than I did the last session, there is always so many ways you can improve your skating ability – I love it, and my league is the nicest bunch of people, so supportive and helpful, I don’t know what I did before with my spare time!

How has roller derby changed your life in general?

I think my confidence has grown, I always have a topic to talk to people about, I mean I’d never skated before and to be on a team now, is the best feeling, I’m forever telling people to join, it’s awesome.

 

TigerLibby (Rookie – Central City Rollergirls)

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Did you know about Roller derby before you joined?
I knew of roller derby before I joined but no more than watching on you tube or films. First impression, looks like fun, wish I was young enough to give it a go

What made you give it a try?
Sudden death of my father in law put life into perspective and made me realise the only thing stopping me was me.
How was your first session?

First session was nerve racking, exciting and excilerating all at the same time. I realised that after 20 years of not being on skates that I still had it in me. Afterwards I felt amazing mentally rather than physically as I couldn’t move for a week! ! I knew then that I would be back.
How have things changed since you joined in terms of your skating?

I am knocking on the door of level 2 (CCR’s minimum skills are broken into 3 levels), I can only come once a week and had some injury but I can do things on skates I never thought possible. At 42, I can skate better than I could when I was 20. I keep coming back because I love it, every session I am learning, improving and getting mentally and physically stronger. I come back because of the people, they are like family, we all support each other and look out for each other even when at times and for whatever reason we can’t skate. Real sense of belonging.
How has roller derby changed your life in general?

Yes derby has changed my life. Given me a sense of personal achievement. I am dealing with pre natal depression and mentally I am now stronger more self assured and confident in my own skin. Derby has helped in my work and in my personal life. I am fitter than I have ever been and just love going to practice. Having never been a sport fan..I am now.
Dodge Brawl (B Team Skater – Central City Rollergirls)
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Did you know about Roller derby before you joined?
No
What made you give it a try?
A friend from work had done a session and was telling me about it and it sounded really fun!
How was your first session?
I was quite nervous but the friend I was with is really out going and had already met people so I think that made it easier, though everyone was so nice I don’t think it would have been bad on my own. I had so much fun I was buzzing when it was over and could not wait for the next session and a month later I had got my own kit!
How have things changed since you joined in terms of your skating?
My skating has improved so much, it’s crazy to think that 2 years ago I could hardly stand up and now I can do one footed transitions! There is always ways to improve and I have so far to go I still crave the progression. I continue to come for the exercise, the sense of achievement and the people. I am on the B team.
How has roller derby changed your life in general?
I have met amazing people, I am fitter and I am happier.

 

If you like the sound of roller derby and want to give it a go, send an email to ccrkitrequest@gmail.com. Fancy watching a game first? CCR’s A Team will be playing London Rollergirls B Team March 26th. It’s going to be a corker.