Ask a derby player, in the UK at least, where they first heard of roller derby and quite often you’ll get the same answer. ‘Whip It.’ You know, that film where Kristen Wiig tells Ellen page to ‘put some skates on, be your own hero.’ It’s full of pretty bad-ass girls who talk big and pull some really violent (illegal!) moves. Is that what it’s really like? Er, not really. Does that mean I’m not watching it right this very moment as I write this blog post? Of course not. It’s great. Anyway, you watch it and it gets in your head. ‘Maybe I could do that…’ you start to think and next thing you know you’re at a bout asking one of the players how you can get involved. Well, that’s what happened to me, anyway.
Perhaps you’ve been thinking about joining a fresh meat programme for a while – in which case you’ve probably read a hundred skater perspectives on going through training and endless lists about what to wear and do on your first day. Sure, there are a tonne of blogs out there about being a newbie but that’s important cause everyone’s experience is different.
Maybe you’ve never thought about joining – you might be a long time supporter, you could have read about us on Buzzfeed or perhaps you’ve just seen our amazing contribution to the This Girl Can campaign?
Now, here’s the cool thing – it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you know the rule book back to front or if you only discovered what a jammer is today. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t done any exercise since you were 14 or if none of your friends will come with you or if you have awful balance, because derby is for everyone.
We’re now on a countdown to a new intake so I asked some of my lovely teamies to tell me a little bit about what being a Hatchling (the LRB version of fresh meat) was like for them.
‘I had become a bit bored with going to the same old exercise classes and wanted something to get my teeth into. Roller derby is brilliant for that! It’s not easy, especially at first, but we all started from the beginning together and slowly built our skills. There is always something new to learn. You always want to get better at one thing or another. And it’s definitely never boring!’
‘I was nervous about getting back into skating after having a baby, but everyone at Hatchies made me feel so welcome. I am so glad i joined LRB and I have loved every minute of the training so far. The coaches are fantastic and really help you feel confident by going through everything step by step. The Roller Birds are the most amazing bunch of people and I can’t wait to hopefully play for the team one day.’
‘It’s ok if you aren’t coming into the sport with a high level of commitment and an ‘ERMAHGERD #DERBY LIFE’ attitude. I’m almost a year into Hatchies and I still haven’t found my derby name whereas we have girls here who came to their first session already set on their name and number. Yes, for a lot of people derby does become a very large and meaningful part of life but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it slow.
You don’t have to worry about inviting roller derby to meet your parents, and we won’t get upset if you’re ‘seeing other sports.’ (We understand if you want to keep your options open, we never agreed to be ‘exclusive’). Roller derby is a difficult (but super fun) sport; it’s not going to be like in P.E. when your science teacher had you in a bib and on the field in five minutes. You’re going to have to spend a lot of time just learning the basics, and that’s totally ok.
Take every session as it comes, commiserate with your fellow Hatchies, hell, you can even have a little cry on track if that’s what you need (it happens all the time) but it’ll be worth it. LRB is a fantastic league full of lovely and supportive people so don’t pressure yourself to fall in love right away or try and force yourself through fresh meat as quickly as possible. Go at your own pace, every bird learns to fly in their own time.’
‘Be open minded! As this sport and the people you meet learning/playing it will change how to see yourself in all areas of your life. The people you start with and meet will be your biggest inspiration, your friends and greatest competitors; they will push and pull you through your highs and lows, in and out of the derby world. I promise that you’ll go home after your first session and research everything and anything derby related, compile a skate wish list and want to live and breathe all things derby.’
‘Personally, outside of derby I’m super negative – derby is my positive space and that’s sliding into my every day life too. I had a bit of a rubbish time earlier in the year and derby was something to focus on instead of the things that were happening elsewhere. Even though I didn’t speak to anyone in the league about what happened, I know people would support me if I wanted to let it out. Derby also gave me the confidence to apply to study for a degree – I have the confidence to take risks now. When I needed someone to help the help was offered; everyone is so friendly and supportive. If I cry at training there’s always someone there to build me back up so I can get my head back to the game. Derby’s not about fishnets and brawls any more. As cliche as it sounds I feel like we’re the Addams Family of the sporting world – we’re kooky and cool and we all stick together.’
You might have noticed how many of our team mention enthusiasm and friendship as some of the best things about joining LRB. Recently Vicky asked the rest of the Hatchies if anyone was up for doing a skate half marathon and she was amazed by the response:
‘I honestly didn’t think anyone would be that keen when I put up the link but my team are amazing. I am going to go for it and challenge myself to do the full one in May next year! All the Hatchie love and support has made me look forward to it even more.’
Rebecca gave us her top tips:
‘Buy lots of plasters, don’t drink too much water or you’ll puke and when someone tells you to get lower, get lower.’
And last but not least, Jo said ‘remember, safety is sexy!’
If you like what you’ve read why not come along and see what really goes on at Hatchies? Our next open days are 15th August and 12th September 2015 before the next intake in October 2015. Send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org to get all the details!