Cherry Poppin’ Madness!

We’ve been stuck to the media streams of the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup all weekend – could not tear ourselves away from twitter, the amazing live video feed, or (those of us who were lucky enough!) from our trackside seats for any reason.  There were many amazing stories that came out of this weekend, but one of the ones we liked most was about the skater from the Netherlands who popped his derby cherry at the WORLD CUP.  Amazing.  Can you even imagine?

Well, right here in Liverpool we’re hosting an event this coming weekend wherein we’ll allow a LOT of derby skaters to pop their cherries.  Our Open Scrimmage will feature two informal bouts with players from all over the UK, the first of which will be a true cherry popper, and the second of which is for intermediate skaters.  If you want to come watch, it is open to spectators and is only £2 at the door!  It’s a major and amazing event, popping your derby cherry, and so we’ve asked some of the Roller Birds to tell us about their cherry popping experiences. — Cali Floor’Ya


Nicky “Bobby Mean” McCue 

Bobby Mean at her Cherry Popper on Team Lucky Harm! (1st on theright)

Bobby Mean at her Cherry Popper on Team Lucky Harm! (1st on theright)

My cherry popper was in March 2013. It was the Wirral Whipiteres 2nd Birthday bout, a friendly bout involving skaters from around the North West. It was Irish themed for St Patrick’s day, The Lucky Harms vs The Four Leaf Cleavers.

I’d passed my minimum skills in the January and had been going to Scrimmage every week since then so I was still pretty new. I was nervous, mostly because of the fact that there would be people watching but it’s true that when you start playing you forget all of that. Plus I was with some other Birds popping their cherries so there were friendly faces.

First half I felt good, I managed to get a few hits on the jammer and thought I did OK. Second half I felt a bit lost and didn’t quite get the strategy in play so was feeling a bit deflated and stuck. I had that poo your pants moment where you’re the only blocker from your team on track. Argh! It taught me a lot, mostly about my own knowledge and understanding of rules and strategy (or lack of!) particularly all things pack related.

If I could give advice to cherry poppers it’d be to communicate with your team, listen to your bench and have fun! Also remember the rules well. Seems a stupid one but we’ve all done The Never Ending Penalty Box Jam of Doom! (you cut track, go the box, come back on track, cut track, go the box, you come back on……) and it’s only because in your nervousness you forget everything you know. Relax, breathe, drink water and be calm. You’ll be fine.


Martha “Irn Bru’ises” Donaldson

So I decided to adopt the mantra “they’re more scared of you than you are of them” in the run up to my cherry popper.  There would be the massive psychological advantage of the other team being unaware of my inexperience, and i intended to wield this to my advantage by adopting the persona of the confident, right place right time, strategy geek that i aspire to be.
However none of this was necessary as bout day hit and excitement eclipsed everything.  By the time i’d help decorate the hall, had my facepaint done, and had a wee boogie to ‘what does the fox say’ with some teamies I just wanted to get out there and hit someone! (Who knew a scatting fox is so good for adrenaline?!)In the weeks prior to my first bout, which was also the last bout of the season, we’d drilled our strategy lots so come the first whistle i felt relatively ready (like how ready can you be to get beaten up by strangers whilst balancing on wheels?!).

And off we went!

And it was all of the awesome. My team seemed to really step up their game and everything just seemed to click.  We communicated well and I knew they had my back. As the newbie the fear is always that you’ll get in the way and do more damage than good, but my teamies made sure that I was in the right place at the right time and not once did I feel like a spare part (thanks teamies, just chopping onions here!). By the end of the first half no one cared about the scores, we’d played stronger and harder than ever, and most importantly we were loving every second.  As it turned out we were slightly trailing, but after a quick pep talk we headed into the second half determined to continue playing as we had been. And it didn’t take long for our patience to pay off –  LEAD CHANGE!

I wasn’t played much after that as the team were keen to keep the lead, but I still enjoyed screaming myself hoarse from the bench as I watched them widen and hold our lead (it’ll be me one day!).

The final score: Sheffield 188, Liverpool 250! Last bout of the season AND a win – it was just the cherry on my cherry popper! (See what I did there?!)

Irn Bru'ises (far right) at her Cherry Popper with Liverpool Roller Chicks - amazing make-up!

Irn Bru’ises (far right) at her Cherry Popper with Liverpool Roller Chicks – amazing make-up!

Here are some of my best bits and top tips:

Best bit: All of it!

(Tip: Just remember that you do this for fun- so enjoy!)

Funniest moment: when one of the opposing blockers pretended to be a crab?!

(Tip: don’t let the other team psyche you out, no matter how weird they get!)

Shocking fact: I managed to stay clear of the penalty box!

(Tip: for me this was great as any blocker is better than no blocker!)

Proudest moment: Watching my fellow hatchies achieve the lead change in a power jam I got out of breath just watching!

(Tip: everyone learns at different speeds.  Be proud of the people you learnt with and aspire to push yourself the way they do)

Most useful move: Being the first bridge bitch!

(Tip: You may feel like you’re doing nothing but 1st bridge is all of the important so watch out for it and help your teamies out by communicating)

Top tip for cherry poppers:

Always remember that your teamies are there to support you, not judge you.  If you need help ask, and if in doubt get next to someone wearing your colour (best piece of advice I got during my first ever scrim).

And enjoy it dudes!


Jo “Primal Scrim” Winton 

Primal Scrim (far right) blocking at her Cherry Popper against Wolverhampton Honour Rollers.

Primal Scrim (far right) blocking at her Cherry Popper against Wolverhampton Honour Rollers.

T’was the night before bout day, not just any bout day but my cherry popper bout day! 14 long months since passing my minimums and I was finally getting to put into practice everything I had trained for! Last season, one thing or another seemed to get in the way of derby, but this season derby comes first! My team comes first! I’m pretty confident in most aspects of my life (a little cocky some might even say) but when it comes to derby things are different. I’m not a typical jammer, nor a natural blocker. I’m not the most stable or agile of players. Sometimes at scrimmage I feel as if I’m there just to make up numbers on track. So many of the birdies that started at the same time as me are so much better. How did I manage to blag a spot on the team? Every insecurity I had about my skills was flashing before me. What was I scared of? Getting hurt? Nah, I’m always doing this and bouncing back . . . Making a fool of myself? Haha, nope, I’m renowned for playing the fool. . . Not being good enough? Yeah, that was it, I couldn’t bear the thought of letting my team down.

When I started derby it was to meet new people, get fit and have a laugh! Now it was more than that. I was part of a team, an actual sports team! People were relying on me to play my best. And then I remembered all those times my dear old Dad said ‘Joanna, all you can do is do your best, if you do your best I will always be proud of you’. And I realised that this was all my team have ever asked of me. They know my weaknesses but they still want me to play. As long as I did my best, they would be proud to have me on the team. My team are not just skaters – they are friends. Friends who were going to bring out the best in me. The beauty of a team is that one member’s strength compliments another’s weakness and the biggest strength lies in the teamwork itself. Safe in the knowledge my friends were all going to be there on track working together to support each & every member of the team, my anxieties faded and I could finally get excited about popping my cherry!


Image credits:
PSD Images photography
Ian Woodward
Simon Glazebrook

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