I’m not yet even a rookie. If I had the courage to join three-four years ago when I first heard of my local league, I would be experiencing more of the competitive side of roller derby (read: bouting) than as a “fresh meat” skater on the sidelines. Sure, my time will come… But in the meantime, I can share with you a few things I’ve learned along the way. In order to play roller derby, you will need:
1. Skates (and Little Skating Ability)
This is the first– and most expensive – piece of gear you will need to play. If you are interested in roller derby, but haven’t been on skates in some time, check out local rinks with rental availability. Attend a few open sessions to get used to being on skates and make sure you LIKE to skate before investing in your own pair. When you do make your initial purchase, start with a beginner package that will get you through try-outs and your first year of skating. If you decide to commit long-term to the sport, you will need to upgrade all of your equipment and frequently replace items.
2. The Right Gear
Aside from skates, the sport requires you to wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads and wrist guards – that includes practices. You will also need a mouthguard (the boil-and-set pieces from most sports stores are good). All of these items protect you and your body from injury. Once you learn how to fall properly, you won’t ever skate without your equipment.
3. Time & Money
Obviously, these are two separate items, but partners-in-crime in roller derby, if you will. You will be expected to attend regular weekly practices, bouts and scrimmages and volunteer for events or league positions. And since all leagues are self-run and promoted by its participants, everyone needs to chip in individually and as a team – both with their time and money. Also, any required gear, uniforms, travel, insurance or rink costs are paid out of the pockets of the skaters.
Playing roller derby, sooner or later, will likely end up with you visiting a doctor at some point for some associated injury. Some leagues require its skaters have individual medical insurance to play – others don’t. Inquire with your local team before joining about its requirements. All WFTDA leagues and individual skaters are required to be covered under its insurance, but it doesn’t cover ALL medical expenses or insure you against skating injuries NOT acquired in team practices or bouts. Individual insurance premiums, as you might know, are not cheap – but if the league requires it, make sure your policy is in place and you can afford the cost of it, as well as any co-pays, office visits, prescriptions or emergency room bills.
Most practices in roller derby are about two hours, so train in advance to withstand that length of time on skates. As a newbie, you will be expected to meet a certain skill levels or be in shape well enough to “keep up” with the vets. Endurance takes time to build, and cross training shouldn’t cease once you’re in the league. If you’re interested in joining a league, start training now – running, bicycling and swimming are all great ways to do this.
6. Upper Body and Core Strength
Lower body muscles will naturally develop and strengthen when skating regularly. But you cannot forget your upper body and core strength conditioning. A strong upper body will help you with blocking and hits – and allow you to give your teammates some awesome whips and assists. Core strength is the epicenter of your body and will provide you with balance, power and movement, thereby helping you shift your weight while in skates and stabilizing you during falls and blocking.
7. Physical and Mental Toughness
Roller derby can be challenging for some people. When I first started playing, I was easily frustrated when I couldn’t do certain things (and if like me, you cry when you get frustrated). But there’s no saying “sorry” in roller derby; it’s a rough sport and well, being women, we have emotions, as well as personal limitations and a unique set of skill levels. There will be hitting, there will be falling – you will push yourself and your body beyond comfortability. And I promise, you will love every minute of it. Becoming a mentally and physically strong roller derby athlete comes with time, of course, but strength training and a little financial planning in advance will definitely be to your advantage.
If you are sincerely interested in playing roller derby, find your local league and ask for more information – or find a local recreation league. I definitely recommend the sport to any woman looking for a new way to stay fit, to be competitive or even to make some life-long friends. But if I can help on this site, what else would you like to know before playing roller derby?
Top Photo Credit: cameosteph