Ever wondered what it's like to join a Roller Derby league? Huge thanks to one of our most dedicated, motivated and generally wonderful Freshies, Hen, for the following write up!
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About 2 or 3 years ago I once spent all day in bed, and I mean aaaaall day; I only got up to make myself cups of tea and food which I’d then consume back under the duvet, until I went back to sleep for the rest of the night.
Until May of this year, I’d considered that day to be pretty much uncontested for the title of Best Thing I Have Ever Done, but then a challenger suddenly came out of nowhere and now a recount has been called.
Fresh Meat with BRDG has been an amazing and completely unexpected experience. Long-time friend and BRDG team captain Steg O’Soar had been subtly, and then not-so-subtly, hinting that I should look into roller derby for a few months but I’d never seriously believed I’d actually do it.
Fresh Meat line up at the very first session of our 10 week course (Pic Credit - Hazel Freear)
I was quite surprised when I actually pressed send on the “yep, I’ll do it” text when she told me that a new intake of skaters would be happening soon. I have no business joining a roller derby league: I had never worn a pair of skates in my life let alone played a team sport. Somehow I didn’t think that my experience of “fielding” (walking as far away from the actual game as possible with my pal Lucy and sitting down to chat on the grass) in rounders at school was going to help me much. I’d also not voluntarily exercised for a loooong time. All these factors might make you believe that I’d turn up to the first practice and totally suck…
And I did! My first sessions on skates I needed a minimum of one of the BRDG helpers just to help me stay upright and moving forward. If I was feeling especially bold, I’d raise my hands a few inches above their forearms for a few seconds, before slamming them back down. Apologies if anyone still has claw marks in their arms from this.
I absolutely wasn’t a comfortable or natural skater and I’m still not. I can move around the track unaided now and I’m slowly but surely picking up speed, but I still haven’t totally lost that sense of nervousness from having 8 wheels strapped to my feet. The list of basic skating skills I’m terrible at is pretty darn long, but so is the list of things I suck at less than when I first attempted them. And that feels incredible.
Demos from Blondage & Steg (Pic Credit - Hazel Freear)
I’m pretty sure I’m not the first person to discover that practising a skill you find insanely hard until you can do it is really satisfying, but I’m always surprised by how often I get that feeling in derby. In the immortal words of Jake the Dog from Adventure Time “Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something”
And being bad at something you want to be good at is really hard. At best it’s challenging fun, like destroying your brother’s Sims family without him knowing it was definitely you, but at worst it’s utterly frustrating, like when you come home from a sleepover and the Sims family you’ve been working on for months suddenly all hate each other and the house you built for them is covered in their own urine.
Despite finding it hard work (physically as well as mentally) training has become the highlight of my week since I’ve started. Like an excited child counting down the days until Christmas, I’m usually thinking about how long it will be until I get to kit up and skate again. This isn’t just because I enjoy circling a track and making poorly timed and clunky attempts at crossovers, but also because I get to spend two hours in the company of some of the coolest people I’ve ever met.
I would never have been able to predict how brilliantly social a sport roller derby is. I’m struggling to think of a single person I’ve come across during my time with BRDG that I’m not super excited to know. Doing something slightly better than you were last week? Chances are at least one person will loudly announce to you how awesome you are, while you mumble something resembling “thanks” just in case there’s actually someone with your name standing directly behind you, doing backflips on skates.
Fresh Meat's first ever pace line (Pic Credit - Hazel Freear)
I’m convinced the biggest reason I’ve found derby such ridiculous fun so far is because of the people I get to do it with. I do sometimes wonder how there can be such a large group of people who can be as friendly, funny, smart and talented as the women and men I’ve met through BRDG. It just doesn’t seem logical that something this good can exist in a world that has Mrs Brown’s Boys or BT Customer Service call centres in it.
I might have to spend another whole day in bed just to be sure, but at the moment I’m thinking that joining BRDG Fresh Meat might just be the best decision I’ve ever made.