The best Christmas present I ever got was a pair of roller skates. They were purple and sparkly. Beautiful. It was 2015 and I was 34. I had moaned a couple of months earlier that the kids were having a great time on their roller skates but it never occurred to me to get a pair myself!
The kids and I soon became regulars at the local roller discos and I loved it more than they did. Then someone handed me a leaflet for the Lothian Derby Dolls…at first I thought “yeah right”.
For years friends had been telling me I would love roller derby, and I had gone along to watch a bout and thought it was great. I was completely in awe of what the players could do on skates. Again it never occurred to me that roller derby was something I could get involved in.
But this leaflet said no experience necessary…and if you counted skating in circles at a slow and measured pace avoiding small children, then I at least had some.
So I took the plunge and sent an email. I wrote things like “I’m really excited” but that was a lie – mostly I was a bag of nerves. What if the Lothian Derby Dolls were really intimidating? What if I was expected to demonstrate some roller derby knowledge? What if I got there and couldn’t remember to how to skate AT ALL?
By the time I finished my first session I was exhausted and exhilarated. I certainly hadn’t appreciated how much of a workout I would be getting. And more importantly the Derby Dolls made all of us feel welcome and entitled to be there.
Saying that, I think it took me about 8 weeks to stop feeling anxious. But I can honestly say I was loving it. I even kinda liked the dreaded 27/5, where skaters are aiming to skate 27 laps in 5 minutes, as part of the minimum skills required to play in a bout. I say I kinda liked it…I didn’t enjoy the MANY dramatic falls I had doing the laps, but I did like being able to see my progress measured week after week. (Note: I didn’t make progress every week and I’m still a few laps off getting 27/5)
I was asked if I have any advice for anyone thinking about taking up roller derby. I have just one thing to say and it is this:
“If you are at all interested, curious or eager then just go for it! If you try the taster session and it’s not for you then at least you can say you tried roller derby, and that makes you pretty cool.”
I have prepared some responses for what I anticipate being the most common reasons (excuses?!?) not to try it:
*If, like me, you are worried about not being good enough I would be amazed if you could find a lovelier bunch of ladies, just dying to support and challenge you and welcome you to the team.
*If you’re worried that you aren’t fit enough then I can’t think of a better way to get fit than on roller skates. This is way more fun than I have ever had at an exercise class or the gym.
*If you’re worried you don’t know enough about roller derby then you can learn along with me. I really knew next to nothing 6 months ago but I’m learning all the time.
*If you are keen but are worried you don’t have time then I would say that I don’t know anyone who isn’t busy. We have full-time workers, university students, business owners. And that’s sometimes as well as being parents, daughters, partners and having all the commitments having a family (and a life) can bring.
I would have said a year ago that I didn’t have time to commit. My plan was to do Fresh Meat with the main focus being to improve my skating skills. I think I made it to 7 or 8 out of the 12 sessions because of other commitments (and one hangover!) and when fresh meat was over and I got to start going to team training I initially said I could only go once a week and I wondered how I would manage.
After my first big girl training session I was already trying to figure out how I could make it to more sessions. And I try to skate as often as I can outwith training. Why the change of heart? Because I love it and I want to get better and it is great fun. Sacrifices have been made. I don’t watch as much TV as I used to, my crochet projects have been abandoned and I have hardly been on my bike all year. I miss all those things, but feel richer for making time for roller derby in my life.
And none of it would have been possible if I hadn’t made the decision to pretend I was brave enough to give it a go.
Written by: Stormer