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Roller Derby Newbie Tips

Welcome to roller derby! You’ve just joined an incredible community and an awesome sport. Isn’t roller skating fun? Aren’t those feelings of nerves and excitement thrilling? And the leg ache the next day infectious?

I look back at my newbie days with nostalgia. Here are some roller derby newbie tips I’d give to myself if I was a newbie again. Maybe they’ll help somebody else?

Everybody is new. Be new together

The likelihood is that you’ve joined a league that runs a fresh meat programme and dedicates time to coach their newbies in a set session. This is fabulous! You’re learning from other people’s experience and dedication in a safe group of other complete roller derby newbies. Safety first, both in terms of skating and learning!

But sometimes it’s hard to allow yourself just to be new. Embrace the foolery and share it with those around you.

When you rock up to your first couple of sessions, everybody will be feeling nervous, foolish and unconfident. Ditch the stiff upper lip. Relax!
One. You’ll learn
Two. You’ll make those around you feel less foolish, and this can only result in a more relaxed session and the potential to make friends.

That last bit, in particular, is key; it’s likely those who join the roller derby journey at the same time as you will end up being your teammates.

Gear is good, but it doesn’t show commitment

Progress relies on practice firstly. It’s easy to jump ahead in roller derby.

Using your league’s spare kit (if that’s a service offered) can be a real incentive to purchase your own roller skates or protective pads. I remember the smells of my old league’s spare kit, despite it being washed before our fresh meat group started. Sometimes it’s just engrained.

But make sure you’re committed to the sport first of all. Roller derby gear can be expensive and having your own kit after three practices doesn’t really show commitment. Especially if those three practices were spaced out over two months!

Take the time to see if the sport is right for you. Turn up. Try new things. Borrow skates to see what’s right for you. Buying new skates will not magically make you brilliant, or make your coach think ‘wow this person’s committed’, but practice will.

And when you do buy new skates make sure you try some on first. Visit your local roller derby shop and find out what skates are right for you.

Embrace feedback – all kinds

This one is the hardest. Or can be!

I mean when you’re trying to do something new do you want feedback from somebody telling you how to do it better? We’re hard programmed in adult life to feel shy, embarrassed or defensive when people start feedback to us, especially when you haven’t asked for it.

Feedback is invaluable and how you respond to it can make or break your progress. If you find yourself constantly justifying yourself to your coaches, maybe look at whether these justifications are valid. Listen to what your coach was saying exactly and try it the way they’re advising. Embrace the challenge of using feedback.

Coaches are invested in making you good. They want you to be their teammate. They want you to invest in the league. They want you to succeed under their coaching.

Take away the emotion. Reflect on what you’re told and what’s the harm in adjusting?

 Roller Derby Newbie Tips

Roller Derby Blog

Be a fan of the sport

This is a gigantic tip I would give anybody, even veterans who have plateaued. Be a fan of the sport you play!

Skating is amazing. One of the most fun things to do. Hitting people is pretty fun too. The strategy is incredibly challenging in a fun way.

But are you a fan of the sport? It makes a big difference.

Ask teammates what their favourite games are (here are some of mine) and where you can watch them.

Watching the game and being invested in the game come from being a fan. The amount of things I’ve learned from watching footage. A number of skills I didn’t even know I needed from being a fan of the sport is astronomical. Being a fan makes me invested in roller derby even on the hardest days.

So learn your Suzy Thunders and your Kid Rock (get it?)

Look after yourself

Being motivated by your team or competition to make a team or pass skills is fantastic. It can make you train harder, turn up to practice regularly, become a fan. But don’t forget to look after yourself.

I didn’t, and I got injured. I pushed myself. I didn’t stretch. I didn’t exercise correctly, and I didn’t allow myself a rest day and I got injured. Horror stories aside. Seriously take some time for yourself, stretch, eat enough and exercise for roller derby. Don’t do roller derby as exercise – not if you really want to play it well.

And rest days are not cheat days. They’re super important too.

Follow my Instagram for pictures of my roller derby adventures or follow me on Twitter to read about my experience transferring to London Rollergirls, and constantly fan girling.

Back to Skating with LRG

Ahhh the gloriousness that is skating. After five weeks of off season and a whole new league member status I am finally on skates!

8 wheels and everything.

Roller derby.

Ahh it is brilliant isn’t it?

What can I say about my first session as a full London Rollergirl skater and Brawl Saints teamie?

Well I can say that I hoped I would return to skating with grace. That all the cross training I’d done throughout the previous five weeks would make me feel fit and ready to play. That my mind would not be mush.

None of the above came true.

Arriving at the Tuesday session I remembered how to tie my skate laces and clip my helmet and that was about where the roller derby knowledge ended.

The only time I’ve ever had five weeks or more off skates was when I injured my knee, and when I returned from that I eased myself back. On Tuesday there was no easing. Training resumed like there had been no break, but my body took a while to adjust.

The biggest thing was my complete lack of balance at the beginning. Thankfully after 30 minutes I seemed to remember where I sit in my skates and how it feels to have wheels on but that wasn’t before I fell over a number of times. Most notably when I landed square on my ass, bruising my coccyx, like a newbie. And also when partnered with two Brawling level skaters.


roller derby

The pressure was self applied.

I also felt ridiculously unfit. My gym routine of three times a week did nothing to ease me back onto skates, despite my added cardio. Neither did the chorizo stew I packed away before training.

Lesson learnt – no giant dinner before training for me.

But seriously I don’t remember being that close to vomming in a long time.

So after 3 sessions last week I’m rolling in the new week with an achey butt (I’m not sure scrimmage on Sunday helped) and an even more motivated outlook to work out.

Gracelessness aside it was amazing to be back on skates and amazing to see my new teammates.

I may feel super lucky to be even a member of London Rollergirls, and even luckier to be on the Brawl Saints charter. But they make me feel like I’m meant to be there and the feeling of playing roller derby again makes me determined to push through my unfit, uncoordinated and fangirl nature to something that loosely looks like I should be there.

Ahh skating.

PS. Yay Brawling! Number one in Jacksonville WFTDA playoffs. Huzzah!

Roller Derby Transfer Tips

Here are my roller derby transfer tips

Okay, okay! So I’ve only transferred to one league that one time. And since then I can’t really shut up about it but let’s be honest I’m roller derby obsessed. The likelihood is you are to, that’s why you’re reading this blog, and well it is an adventure.

That aside I’ve also dealt with my fair share of transfer skaters. I coached the Lincolnshire Bombers for about four years and in the last two was the co-head of the coaching committee, where part of my responsibilities were assessing and welcoming transfers.

So here are my roller derby transfer tips.

Let go of your expectations

It’s so easy to make yourself feel anxious before your first and subsequent practices when you’re a transfer. Part of this is the expectation of what is about to come or how you’ll interact with people or what they’ll think of you (I speak from experience). But it is such an unhealthy mindset to have and is really counterproductive to playing roller derby. Letting go of your expectations in this respect can really help with the transfer process. Embracing a small bit of surprise and chaos can actually be empowering and allow you to experience the moment around you, rather than anticipating the change and unfamiliarity to come. Expectations have a habit of leading to negative emotions.

Especially when you arrive with expectations of where you’ll enter the league. This is literally the biggest frustration I had with transfers as a coach. That meant I was super cautious of my own mindset before transferring myself. In all honesty it was easy for me. Since my knee injury and because of the league I was transferring in I literally had no expectations of where I’d enter. In fact I had anxious expectations of being asked to leave…

Thankfully that didn’t happen. But seriously a roller derby transfer tip is to let go of what you think will happen, or what you think you deserve. Just turn up, skate and enjoy the experience. Your common ground is roller derby… Why make it more complicated than that by expecting more?

Roller derby transfer tips

Roller Derby Transfer Tips

Adopt a growth mindset and accept feedback

It’s easy to feel like we know what we’re doing and that way works. Often that makes us question why we’d change something. Or in some cases (I hope rare within roller derby) makes us question why we need to work on it.

It’s easy to be stuck in this mindset, but this is really counter productive to learning and to roller derby in general.

Transferring to a new league is a challenge. Everything is new. Sometimes the most experienced skaters will get feedback contrary to what they agree with. It’s how we deal with this that makes us a success.

Adopting a growth mindset is a one of biggest roller derby transfer tips I could give. It accepts that things will be difficult, criticism will come and so will challenges and teaches you to use them to grow. The alternative is remaining the same level you’ve always been and being the transfer that nobody can feed back to.

You have no idea how many transfers struggle in their new league because they won’t accept feedback on how the league works and how their team works.

Resist paranoia

The above being said you should definitely try to resist paranoia and accept that people probably are not as critical as you think they might. It’s easy to slip back into first day of school mindset and it is super easy to feel like the sore thumb with no nail next to nicely manicured fingers. I think I took that metaphor too far. But the point stands. Nobody really watches with that intensity or is waiting for you to fuck up.

Instead they’re probably happy to see a new face. Or looking at you with curiosity of what kind of person you are, what position you play in or why you’ve transferred. At least that’s what fleeting thoughts I had as the coach at my old league (some people may think differently).

Prepare yourself for it like you would a game

My final roller derby transfer tip is to prepare yourself for transferring like you would a game. My thoughts behind this are:
A couple of years ago my old team played Royal Windsor Roller Girls and we literally had our best game. We lost by 4 points in the end but everything felt amazing. We’d given our all. We’d worked hard and our teamwork really showed. When we reflected back at the end of the season, after a couple of awful games played in quick succession, we came to the conclusion that the reason we’d played so well was because it was our first game of the season. We had literally spent over 6 months preparing for that game, unintentionally.

I use this to prepare mentally before games. I make sure in the lead up to a season I am feeling prepared. This means for me having worked out regularly, watched roller derby and recapped the rules.

It’s likely before you transfer you’ll be anxious, despite dropping your expectations. You’ll want to put your best foot forward. So why treat it any differently than you would a game?

Hope these roller derby transfer tips help & I’d be interested to here yours (if you have any).

Photos courtesy of Peter Worth Photography