On Sunday, I strapped eight wheels to my feet and attempted to stand up. Yes that’s right, I am attempting to become a derby girl. I should say from the outset that I am really a terra firma girl. Skis and I never got on well, and as I got older, ice skating just got harder. However, roller derby has sucked me in and I am determined to give it a good shot, even if it does involve me trying to move around on eight wheels.
Like my love of nail polish, my desire to try roller derby has come from the extensive amount of time wasted on the internet. A female-dominated sport that focuses on skills but has a physical element and is all about the show(wo)manship? Count me in. However, many excuses have stopped me from signing up before now. The cost, time, fitness, laziness, being scared. Scared of what, I’m not entirely sure. I’m a seasoned faller: I used to play basketball and spend all my time on the floor attempting to wrestle the ball off of people (hey, I’m 5’2″– that was the only way I was getting the ball!). It probably is that I have high expectations of myself. I hate starting something new and being entirely crap at it, which is something that has hindered me for years. However, a chance meeting with a derby girl who is good friends with my cousin changed that. She was telling me how awesome it was, how friendly the girls were, and how much fun it was. I promised to sign up to the next beginners course; I saw on Facebook that one had just started and knew it would be a few weeks before another one came around. We spent the afternoon trying to come up with her derby name while her young son managed to cover me in fig, and I went home thinking about derby.
The next day, the derby girl messaged me to say the beginner’s course
had been postponed and wasn’t starting until April Fool’s Day. Looks like excuses weren’t going to work this time! So I emailed the recruitment coordinator and got the details. On April 1 I was going to learn begin to learn to skate, derby style.
April 1 came around and I found myself in an industrial area outside a warehouse that had seen better days. A friendly lady let us in and took us upstairs, where a practice track had been set up. We were kitted up in the requisite safety gear (helmets, knee and elbow pads and wrist guards. I forgot to wear my mouthguard, but I did have one) then we put the skates on. We had to borrow the spare skates that the league had; I ended up with a pair that I swear were as old as I was but were a good fit (if incredibly rigid!) We inched over to the marshaling area, where I immediately fell onto my arse. So far so good.
Our lovely coach immediately taught us the derby stance. Feet wide, knees bent, bum out, head up. The idea, she said, was to make yourself like a triangle so you are more stable. She was entirely right. Every time I fell over by accident (which was often), it was because I’d stood upright and was off balance.
We then tried to go around the track. There were six of us starting that day. One was a derby girl who had been out of action for awhile, so she was fine. Two were former figure skaters who already knew the basics of skating. The remaining three of us were brand new and not entirely stable, so we took it slowly. We were taught how to stride (which I found really difficult with my incredibly heavy plastic skates), and then we got into the really fun bit – the falls. We practiced the single-knee falls, the 180 single-knee falls, and the double-knee/rockstar falls. I was really good at doing the falls that weren’t the ones we were practicing. When we did the 180s, I ended up doing the double-knee falls. When we were doing the double-knees, I did the 180s. Ah well, it was only my first time! I wasn’t worried about hurting myself with these because the protection gear is there to do just that, protect you. If you learn to fall correctly, the risk of injury is much lower. What hurts the most is my arse, which was bruised when I fell over without knowing how to fall. But I was prepared for some pain; it seems like a logical thing to expect when you are trying to learn how to move on eight wheels!
I found derby to be really hard work, athletically speaking. By the end of the session, it was taking me a lot longer to get up from my falls than it had been earlier. I was very much “I like the floor. The floor is nice, if dirty. Let me stay here.” The track was upstairs in an old warehouse with a glass roof, so it got very hot very quickly. We all certainly got a good sweat up! Our lovely coach told us all about derby stench and gave us some good hints about cleaning our protective gear.
I came home excited about derby and really positive for the following five weeks of the course. I may have to sell a kidney to buy the gear, but it should be worth it!
More on this as I go along! Any other Persephoneers who are derby girls? I would love to hear from you.