Roller Derby: This Time I Cried

Hello and welcome to week two of “Cesy tries roller derby.” As you may notice by the title, it was not the most successful week. Blow by blow recap of what went on begins below.

From reading the beginners manual, I knew that week two involved learning crossovers and stops. The crossovers I was apprehensive about from the start. I’m still not comfortable on skates and striding isn’t a strong point so it seemed like crossovers were going to be out of my reach. Crossovers are the move that skaters make when going around corners. The outside foot is lifted up and put in front of the back one which is lifted up behind. They provide excellent speed and control around a corner, however they look utterly terrifying for a novice. So I headed off to derby a bit nervous but still excited.

I got to the warehouse and discovered we had different coaches. The league chair and the usual beginners coach were taking us. The league chair was hard but totally fair and the beginners coach’s derby name is completely at odds with her supportive and helpful nature. I have no doubt though once she’s on the track in a bout she’s a completely different beast however!

We started off recapping what we had learned the week before. We headed out to the track to do the falls and I managed to fall getting onto the track. No, it was not in the way we had been taught, it was in a screaming heap. I tried to get up but realised I had pinged a muscle in my groin and oh dear lord, did that hurt. Tears came to my eyes and I made those hissing noises you make when trying to breathe through pain. The coaches encouraged me to stretch it out, which I did for many minutes. I tried to get up on several occasions but the pain got me back on my arse again. “This is not good,” I thought to myself. I considered bowing out for the day, but as you may have noticed I’m rather stubborn so despite the tears and pain, I got up and rejoined the pack.

The coaches began to teach us the crossover. Since it would rely on me putting the weight on the leg I had just injured while the outside foot was lifted and since my skating skills are minimal at best, I just pushed my right leg out while skating around the corners. I tried to do the proper lift but found I just could not trust my left leg to hold me. So for that day, crossovers weren’t going to happen.

We then tried the stops. The first was the T-stop, where you bring one leg behind the other in a T-position: the front foot is the stem of the T, the back foot is the top. Again this required being confident to lift a foot while skating and bring it behind you. I made valiant efforts at this one but didn’t so much lift my foot and place it behind me as drag my foot around and trip myself up. The coaches came around with helpful tips but they could see I was in pain and struggling.

I believe it was at this stage we got the pep talk about how derby will kick your arse and you will hate it while it does so but once you kick its arse back, it is the most brilliant thing ever. I was struggling to hold back tears of pain and frustration so this pep talk was well timed and did strike a chord. It was the reason, for better or worse, I decided to skate through my injury.

After that, we tried the plough stop. Essentially you bring your legs out wide, pigeon your toes slightly and put as much weight as possible on the inside of your feet to bring yourself to a stop. I thought I was doing well with this one until I realised I wasn’t making the right noise and how I was actually stopping was just from losing momentum from skating so slowly. So I was 0 for 3 that day in succeeding in learning the skills of derby.

Then the league chair called us in and said, “I’ve decided to be mean today. Your assessment at the end of this course requires you to be able to do 17 laps in five minutes. Let’s see how many you can do now.” I was apprehensive. I was sore and tired and thought 17 laps at this stage would be impossible for me but I lined up in the first group and got into it.

Well, I just want to say that that was possibly one of the hardest physical things I have ever done in my life. I tried to remain in derby stance but it just hurt. Because I still can’t skate well, I frantically moved my feet to get motion which meant I was exerting more effort and tiring faster. The beginners coach began to skate alongside me, encouraging me, making me take my hands off my thighs as I skated (oh my God it hurt) while my derby partner on the sideline yelled out how many laps I did and encouragement. I believe I may have cried during this too in the final couple of minutes from again frustration and pain. Finally the end of the five minutes came and I got to collapse on the floor. I had managed to do 12 which, to be honest, surprised me. They weren’t pretty or correct but I had done 12 laps around the track. There was another girl struggling along with me that day, she often could be found on the side of the track in a heap when I was. She too cried around the track and I yelled encouragement the best I could at her because I was pretty sure I knew how she felt. She managed 13 laps around and was really consistent with it which was totally impressive (whereas I stopped and started and managed to fall over twice).

Thankfully that was the end of the lesson that day. I was absolutely stuffed. The girl who managed 13 laps and I lay on the filthy warehouse floor for quite some time catcing our breath. While we did that, the next level up from us were beginning to trickle in. I hung around for a while watching them do their stuff. They were doing grapevines while in skates, skating while doing squats, speeding around as fast as they could then when the whistle blew dropping into a fall and back up again as quickly as possible. They were inspiring and despite the frustrations of the previous hour. I knew I still wanted to give this a shot. I went home and thoroughly embarrassed myself in front of house guests by icing my groin while chatting to them about what they had been up to. I told them about the failures of the day, while sobbing a little bit. Mr Cesy hit the nail on the head when he said, “I think your pride has been just as hurt as your groin,” and he was entirely right. As I said last week, I’m a person who beats myself up when I can’t do something right almost straight away. However for once, I’m going to try and beat that frustration down and channel it into learning how to skate, derby style.


By Cesy

Cesy grew up in a sheep farm in New Zealand. Accordingly some of her views are a bit strange.

21 replies on “Roller Derby: This Time I Cried”

Oh my god, I can’t believe I am such a dingbat that I’m just reading this amazing column. Roller derby is another curious pursuit I’d love to try and now I’m relying on you to tells us all the details.. Oh my goodness and can we do a cross-burlesque/derby event?

I nearly wrote my own column about how I went skating with my boyfriend’s sister’s derby team last weekend but then I saw you’d started a series and all I can say is GO YOU! I’m itching to start again myself! I have a bit of an unfair advantage as I’ve been ice skating since age two (we’re really northern) but holy shit, plow stops are hard.

Do you have a derby name yet???

You are so brave! Thank you for sharing your adventures in roller derby with us–even the moments when you feel like you’re failing. You’ll only fail if you stay down when you fall, so you’re a huge success in my book! You can totally do this!!

You are SO badass! Don’t give up! I’m definitely pulling for you!

I am actually signed up for my local team’s newbie orientation on Monday and I’m scared shitless. Never been on skates, never been particularly athletic, but FORGET IT. I’m going, and I’m excited about it.

Cross overs are really hard — it took me a long time to get mine down. Tips for helping getting used to the feeling — practicing crossing a carpeted floor (on skates, obviously) by using the cross over motion. Just concentrate on the form. Go as far left as you can, bringing your right leg forward and crossing over your left in as wide of a stance as you can make it. Straighten, do it again. When you get to the left wall, practice cross overs from the other direction. (Your league will probably make you skate in the wrong direction sometimes to keep the strength in your legs equal.) The rug will give you more grip so you can work on the form and not worry about falling on your ass.

Other helpful tip — if you can, wear your skates inside your house. The idea is to get used to the sensation of being on them and how you need to balance yourself to remain steady.  The more you can wear your skates even if you’re not ‘skating’ will help tremendously.

They were doing grapevines while in skates, skating while doing squats, speeding around as fast as they could then when the whistle blew dropping into a fall and back up again as quickly as possible. They were inspiring and despite the frustrations of the previous hour. I knew I still wanted to give this a shot.

For me, one of the ‘blow my mind’ moments was seeing the vets doing all their stretching drills and pilates in skates. I could never imagine the day I’d have enough balance to do that. You’ll be out there doing suicide falls and grape vines before you know it.


Slay, did you ever know that you are my hero? Cause you are, those are fantastic hints, thank you. The first derby girl who took us told us the same thing about spending as much time in possible on skates, she told us she’d made a lemon meringue pie in them! So I did ask the chair if I could take mine home to practice but she said no, they have to remain on the premises, which is making me try and save as hard as I can so I can get my own pair!

I aspire to be the wind beneath your wings! I don’t remember if I suggested this to you before, but if you don’t have access to skates all the time yet, can you get a balance board? Hanging out on a balance board while you’re watching tv or something will help as well, because you’ll use a lot of the same muscles to stabilize yourself. And you can still do the cross overs on flat feet — it won’t be as helpful, but sometimes your body just needs to learn the motion too. (I wasn’t getting my crossovers and finally one of the older vets told me my problem was that I wasn’t bringing my rear leg far enough across. I had been told not to look at my feet, so I never did, and I never saw what was wrong with my form.)

I really love that you’re documenting your adventures! I look forward to your post every week.

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