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?
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.