Roller Derby? Not for me…or is it?

It’s the start of a new year and no doubt, the thought has crossed your mind that you want to make this year count. Perhaps you’ve decided it’s time to make new friends, or time to have more fun, or perhaps you want to finally shift those extra lbs you’ve been clinging onto. Well, Roller Derby is a pretty good place to start. We’re not guarenteeing it will change your life, but we’re also not guarenteeing it won’t!

Roller Derby is a grassroots sports which has a welcoming community. Those at the peak of their skating career can find themselves playing the top players in the world at tournaments such as the WFTDA Championships or representing their country at the World Cup. And for those who have just started, its a great way of meeting new people, getting fit, and being part of something quite special. But, don’t just take my word for it, we’ve had a chat with some of the skaters in our league and they would like to share their thoughts with you. Each week throughout January you can hear about different skaters and how roller derby has affected them.

The Notorious B.I.G.G.S (Rookie – Central City Rollergirls/Crash Test Brummies)

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Did you know about Roller derby before you joined? What was your first impression of it?

I knew nothing to be honest, an ex-CCR skater Nass used to be my housemate for a while and she…(I dont want to say nagged but I cant think of a better word 🙂 ) for years. First impressions were it was loud, confusing but it looked like a load of fun!

What made you give it a try?

After going to see a few games locally in summer 2014 I was totally intrigued about the whole thing and wanted to not spectate but join in! So I made Nass a promise that in 2015 I’d give it a try.

How was your first session?

My first session was with Crash Test Brummies, I’d emailed them before and on the day Scurry (another friend of a few years funnily enough) met me at their training hall, fitted me up with a pair of delightfully awful (looking back on it) hire skates/kit and gave me a couple of hours of coaching, I had never put on a pair of skates in my life before then…..I kinda liked it.

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

I can hand on heart say my skating has improved 100% (from 0) I think back to how I could skate after a couple of months vs what I can do now and there’s just no comparison. I come because I enjoy the exercise and I love the people who do Derby, a nicer more dedicated bunch of people to the sport and each other you will be hard pushed to find. I’m currently at level two working to three (CCR break down their post minimum requirements into 3 levels).

How has roller derby changed your life in general?

If anyone ever asks me I always say this, Roller Derby saved my soul. Before it I was rudderless, living weekend to weekend and partying my life away for no good reason and was in a dark place. Derby makes me want to improve myself, it makes me a more confident person, I look forward to each session even if I’m tired, ill or just in a bad mood as I know at the end i’ll feel like a million bucks :). I’m fitter, happier and have gained a circle of quite frankly awesome friends who I’d walk over broken glass to help if they need it.

 

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Riotician (Rookie – Central City Rollergirls)

Did you know about Roller derby before you joined? What was your first impression of it?

Yes and I thought it looked hardcore!

What made you give it a try?

I’d recently moved to Birmingham and wanted to get involved in a team sport here. Also, a friend of mine started a couple of months before me and kept telling me how awesome it was.

How was your first session?

It was scary! I didn’t know anybody and could barely stand up on skates. The other rookies all looked impossibly advanced – I remember watching them transition and thinking it looked like some kind of magic. But everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful. I was taken off to one side with one other very new skater and taught how to stop and fall safely. I loved it and even though my feet were cramping and my bum was sore where I’d fallen on it I knew immediately I wanted to continue.

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

I’ve gone from Bambi-on-ice to a much more confident skater. Things that seemed massively difficult a few months ago (A backwards lap in 20 seconds? You must be joking!) are now a piece of cake. I’m no longer afraid of falling and will cheerfully hit the deck multiple times per session in the pursuit of new skills. I’ve passed my minimum skills, but there is still loads to learn.

How has roller derby changed your life in general?

I’ve met so many amazing people and we have a lot of fun both on and off track. When I first started I was recovering from major surgery and couldn’t do a lot of things I’d previously taken for granted. Roller Derby was a huge motivator to work on rebuilding fitness and improving strength. Finally Roller Derby is a fantastic stress reliever – there’s nothing like getting your skates on and practicing some hits after a stressful day at work!

Gill (Rookie – Central city Rollergirls)12510577_10156383453385371_408718884_o

Did you know about Roller derby before you joined?

Saw the film Whip it’ ages ago, so was aware of Roller Derby and then we saw our first match at the Hotrod Hayride festival. It looked such fun, then back in Brum, we saw our first CCR match at Doug Ellis. It seemed so inclusive, and everyone so friendly; something we could bring our small daughter to and all enjoy.

What made you give it a try?

I was dared into it! My partner just went out and bought me some Antik skates and said “do it, you’ll like it, and you’ll like the people”. It took him a year to pay his credit card off – crazy man!

How was your first session?

I felt a bit nervous turning up on a bleak Saturday morning in late November, it was a session with Twisted: just me (!), but he made me feel really relaxed. Afterwards I was buzzing, oh and aching, and couldn’t wait for the next session.

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

I was a complete and utter novice, never on skates in my life, and in one year I’m aiming now to pass my level 3. What makes me continue skating? The challenge, the aches and pains, the complete satisfaction of seeing myself and my co-skaters improve over the weeks and months; all the mad crazy fun we all have at practice. The social side, meeting so many people from all walks of life, ages and backgrounds. I’m also involved in the design team for CCR, it’s’ great to be using my skills for the league.

How has roller derby changed your life in general?

I think about skating…ALL THE TIME! The physical and mental challenge of roller derby is great. It’s therapy – when I’m skating there’s no time to think about my cares and worries, it’s a real “in the moment” activity which is so good for mental health. This year has been really tough emotionally for me and my partner, and skating has been my go-to thing to help me focus and not worry too much. I’m very lucky to have found this crazy bunch of friendly people who make up CCR!

 

If this peaks your inerest we will be hosting a free event on 16th January at Great Barr School. Hire kit is also free. Come on down, and give it a go. Over 18s only. Alternatively, email us at ccrkitrequest@gmail.com.
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Fresh meat viewpoint: “Did someone say Bootcamp?”

For new skaters entering the world of Roller Derby, it can be pretty terrifying not to mention just a little overwhelming. The same can be said about the concept of bootcamps. What happens when the two come together? Rachel Abbot, a recent CCR recruit gives us the lowdown.

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Boot Camps usually describe a group fitness class that push people a little bit further than they would normally push themselves. The idea is that everyone involved works at their own pace but they team up to work towards shared goals. They can provide social support for those taking part and provide a slightly different environment in which to train.

As a Fresh Meat skater with CCR (roughly 4 months into minimum skills), a Boot Camp seemed like a good opportunity to do some intensive work and try to make some substantial improvements. Although I attend practice twice a week (general life stuff allowing), sometimes after a long stressful day at work it can be difficult to focus. I hoped that a Boot Camp would allow me to allocate some time purely for Derby and to really get my head down with things.

A fellow skater sent me a link to Roller Derby Leicester’s “Train To Win” Boot Camp running on 28/29th June, and in haze of pre-holiday excitement at the airport and lack of concern for my bank account, I clicked the “Buy Now” button for my paypal account and committed myself to a 2 day Roller Derby Boot Camp. I tend to suffer from buyer’s remorse (Sorry Topshop)  and this was no different, although now I was committed. I started worrying; what if I wasn’t good enough to keep up? What if it was too intense? What if it was a waste of time and money? What if, in fact, it was a weird cult initiation and I’d be required to bring along a dead crow and the sweat of a virgin to gain access to the secrets of Derby?

This is actually what happened.

Saturday:

  • 9.30am-10am Registration
  • 10.30am-11.30am Track 2 Strength and conditioning (off skates)
  • 11.45am-12.45pm Track 2 Team work (on skates)
  • 12.45pm-1.15pm Lunch
  • 1.15pm-2.15 pm Track 2 Nutrition (off skates)
  • 2.30pm-3.30 pm Track 1 Power skating (on skates)
  • 3.30pm-4pm Cool down

After being met at the carpark by an RDL member and navigating the short walk to the impressive Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Sports Hall (RDL’s home turf) I started to get a little jittery as more girls (and a guy) turned up. We were given stickers based on our current ability (as Fresh Meat I’d gone for a Level 1 package – blue sticker). We also had to have a black top and a white top for drills. In my group there were skaters from RDL, Wolverhampton, Croydon (I remembered watching my first CCR game where they played Croydon), Dolly Rockits and even one skater who had come all the way from Jersey in the Channel Islands.

We had a talk on strength and conditioning and the importance of doing exercise outside of derby and the types of exercises that will be most beneficial because of the movements we do in Derby. The importance of strength and core training was highlighted, as well as interval training for building fitness and endurance.
After this we did some team work – learning to make different kinds of walls (such as the “web wall” from Gotham), Fat Controller walls and reactive walls. This involved a lot of contact with a lot of girls I didn’t know which was definitely useful!

After lunch we had a talk on nutrition and I had the inevitable guilt trip due to the leftover take away pizza I brought with me for lunch. Discussed choosing right food types for pre/mid/post session/games and importance of healthy lifestyles for Derby.

We then had another skate session before cooling off.

Sunday

  • 10am-10.30am Registration
  • 10.30am-11.30am Track 2 Mental training (off skates)
  • 11.45am-12.45pm Track 2 Blocking (on skates)
  • 12.45pm-1.15pm lunch
  • 1.15pm-2.15pm Tactics Track 1 (on skates)
  • 2.30pm-3pm Feedback and discussion
  • 3pm-4pm Skills practice

Sunday started us with a talk on mental training, which I think is key for all skaters, but feels especially relevant to us as Fresh Meat skaters. I am still amazed that many of us new skaters have stressful, important real life jobs that call for us to be confident, leaders, organised and quick thinkers, yet the amount of worry and self-criticism and lack of confidence in ourselves as new skaters is huge, and everyone there was reporting similar feelings. In my small discussion group there was myself (A project Manager for a drugs charity), a Police Sergeant and a Teacher – but we all felt that our mental blocks were often a bigger issue than our physical abilities. I think that it’s really important we recognise that we all have these feelings, and bad practices and that as skaters and team mates we can support each other.

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We then did some more blocking skills where we practiced using the “edge” of our skates, both forwards and backwards, and glides and also skating backwards on two feet and then changing to one. This was quite hard going backwards but I did find that being able to do it over and over did help it sink in. I was asked to demonstrate the forward inside glides in front of everyone which was really motivating to have something like that recognised!

Later we looked at tactics, which was quite fun as sometimes as min skills skaters we can get a little overly obsessed with getting things “ticked” off and working our way through a list rather than trying to understand the game we’re eventually hoping to play. We looked at when a jammer would call off a jam for a tactical benefit and where blockers need to be depending on who gets lead jammer. Quite basic, but it was quite thrilling to wear a jammer star cover for the first time and to do the “hips” to call off the jam, even if we weren’t properly blocking at this stage!

The end of the day saw some free time to practice skills and get feedback and help from other coaches and advanced skaters.

It was clear that RDL put a lot of emphasis on other types of training such as the “mental game” as opposed to just physical training. They had also organised the day well and were sensitive of individual needs as even in Level 1 we had a big spectrum of abilities and length of time skating. I personally found it a challenge to skate with people I was unfamiliar with, but I think this is something I need to get used to. However it was reassuring to hear same stories from other skaters. I also got some different perspectives on some skills and that can be very useful, because sometimes it will just “click” if you hear a different suggestion from someone else. Even after just 2 days, there did seem to feel like a “team” atmosphere within the newbies, even though I could only name about 3 out of the 15 people in the group. It just shows how inclusive Roller Derby can be. I would definitely recommend a Boot Camp to other Fresh Meat skaters and I’ll be looking out for more in the future.

With Thanks to, and photo’s courtesy of, Roller Derby Leicester.