Today marks exactly one year since my first ever roller derby fresh meat training session. A whole year! Only a year? Derby feels like something I’ve been doing forever, and it feels like something I just started yesterday. It feels like it showed up, swept me off my feet (literally), and I’ve never been the same since. I’m a substantially more bruised and aching human being since a year and a day ago. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
I have derby training this evening. These days, I train three evenings a week with Bray’s own East Coast Cyclones, and normally spend another evening working on my skating skills to cheesy 90s music at the roller disco. That’s four days a week that I skate, and every single time I still have butterflies. Packing up my gear, making sure I have everything, and heading out the door to training may be something I do every second day- but every time, I walk out that door feeling that glorious mix of excitement and nerves. I never, ever know how it’s going to be. I know that it’s going to be tough, and it’s going to be intense, and I hope that there are going to be moments where it feels right and I know what I’m doing, and I know that there are going to be more when I feel exhausted and hurt like hell. And I know that it’s going to be worth it.
And that’s just the training sessions.
When I put it like that, I feel like I need to defend what I love so much about derby. It hurts, it’s hard, it’s exhausting, I’ve seen a lot of people injure themselves doing it. I mean, I like that I’ve gotten this far in life without ever having broken a bone. I’d rather like to be able to say that again this time next year, y’know? I can’t say I haven’t thought long and hard about whether this is worth it, and whether it’ll be worth it if I really manage to hurt myself doing it. Every single time, though, the answer is yes. Because in spite of- or maybe because of- how tough it is to play this game and the risks I take to do it, something about it just won’t let go.
Derby is fun in a way that nothing else I’ve ever done can match. I don’t think that means it has to be that way for everyone, by the way- I know people who find skating dull as dishwater who rhapsodise about things I shudder to imagine, like trapezes or running or climbing or sports in fields with balls in. Or people who’ve never found a sport they find joy in, who find their unmatched fun somewhere completely different.
It’s all good, but for me? There’s never been anything as fun as roller derby. From the first moment I put on a pair of skates in Spin roller disco almost two years ago and tottered around the floor, I know that I loved to skate. From the first derby bout I saw, a couple of weeks later, I wanted to give it a go. I never thought I actually would or could, though. To be honest with you, it wasn’t until about halfway through my first bout (last month!) that I realised that this is a thing that I really can do.
And that’s, I guess, why I love it. Derby, for me, is that mix of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, the most physically tough things I’ve ever done, some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met (and I get to be one of them! How flippin’ cool is that?!). It’s learning every day that I can do more than I thought I could. It’s clever, it’s strong, it’s sneaky. It’s hitting your friends for fun, and it’s so much more than that. It’s packing my skates and gear with me every time I go anywhere, popping an email over to the local team and rocking on over to their training. It’s carrying around with me every day that you never know what you can do until you give it a go.
And, yeah, it’s butterflies in my tummy three times a week, every week, and that’s one hell of a thing to be able to say about anything.
Just did my first ever derby training on Sunday, (first time on quad skate eek) Already excited about the next one and the pains are just about diminished. Excited but also really scared, one of the girls in my group las week hurt her ankle pretty badly. So the fear of physical injury is quite real, but that ain’y the only fear. There are plenty of deeper ones relating to confidence and all that stuff. This is a pretty big challenge for me, my comfort zone is so far out of view it can’t be seen, but I still signed up for 8 weeks with Cork City Firebirds for their fresh meat sessions and that has been making me smile all week.
Finding myself studying skate and gear shops and not plant pathology this week. Distracted! So any advice on noobie skates and gear would be great. 🙂
Hope to be looking back on my Derby-versary with similar sentiment.
Congrats for signing up and for your first freshie day! I had heard you might be joining up 😉
Sorry to hear one of your freshies hurt her ankle. That does happen, especially at the beginning. It’s why it’s so important to have a good, stable stance as well as learning to fall properly. Most of the ankle injuries I’ve seen- including one of my own that had me off skates for a month and feeling tender for weeks after that- happen from falling badly. Fall forward onto your pads and you’ll be fine!
When it comes to gear, the best advice I can give is to splash out on your kneepads and helmet. Kneepads, because they take the brunt of almost all of your falls (and you’ll fall a lot), and helmet because concussions are basically the worst thing. There’s no point in splashing out on fancier skates or wheels until you’ve been training a few months- save that for when you know more about your own skating and playing style and can tailor them to how you play. But the best safety gear you can buy (especially for your knees and head) will stand to you from day one.
And have fun! Have all the fun! This is a huge, huge challenge. You’re gonna hurt like hell for the first few weeks, and as soon as you think you’re okay, training’ll get even more intense and you’re gonna hurt like hell again. Stock up on Deep Heat and ice packs for your sore legs. You’re going to have an amazing time- you’ll get taken out of your comfort zone every single day you train, and it’ll be wonderful ’cause your teamies’ll be right there with you.
And then work hard, damnit, and make the team so I can bout ya! 😀