Zen and the Art of Roller Derby

I’ve been wanting to post something about the glorious sport that is roller derby for a while, and today, the first day i’ve been able to put my pants on normally, seemed a good day. I should clarify, the pants issue was following a derby based injury, but i’ll come back to that. 

For those not “in the know” roller derby is a contact sport, played on roller skates, most often by all female teams. Some have compared it to Rugby but on skates, and others have gotten angry with this description. Unless you’ve seen the film Whip It! I’d say it’s a good descriptor. In the same way that one might (to use a comedy analogy) say Tim Minchin is a bit like Bill Bailey, one could say Roller Derby is a bit like rugby. On anything other than a surface level, they are of course completely different entities, but to bring the casual observer into your world you need a frame of reference for them. Something they may have seen on TV. Thus, Rugby is to Roller Derby as Bailey is to Minchin.

Stepping away from this, potentially hate inducing territory, the basic rules of roller derby are thus, and are quite simple. 

-Two teams of 5 people. One Jammer, who may score points, one Pivot who effectively “captains” her team on track and can become the jammer. Three Blockers, who, as the name implies, block. 

-This is played on a large oval track, I don’t know the exact dimensions, but it’s a similar shape to a running track, you’re not allowed outside of the boundaries, that’s a penalty. You skate anti-clockwise.

– Points are scored by the “Jammer” for ever member of the opposing team she passes. 

-The aim of the game is to get your jammer through the “pack” of people as often as possible, whilst hindering the other teams jammer in order to score points.

– This is done by placing yourself in the way, and by hitting them. There is a strict set of rules governing “legal” hits so that people aren’t badly hurt in theory, but as with any sport injuries can happen.

– These games are played in 2 minute “jams” which are stretched across an hour, usually with an interval. 

Obviously there’s more to it than that, but for the casual observer it’s really that simple. Score points by sending X player around the ring, knock down anyone who tries to stop you. 

For a more cohesive explanation, go here.

So that’s Roller Derby, a stupid, glorious, DIY sort of sport that I finally started to have a go at back in February of this year. I’ve been looking on form afar since watching Whip It back in about June of 2011, although I was aware of the sport via a friend for far longer. Unsettled plans and much moving back and forth meant I didn’t get my arse in gear until several months later, and then a fault in the message chain meant I didn’t make it to my first practice with Central City Roller Girls until a long time after that, but I did it. 

I’m sure i’m biased, but CCR have been a great bunch of guys to start my skating with. The coaches are good skaters, but also good teachers, the important thing really. They’ve also proved to be bloody strong, although more on that later. 

I came away from my first practice, bruised, aching, soaked in sweat and exhausted. But I was exhilarated too. I felt amazing, this is those happy hormones people have been telling me about! And so I quickly threw myself into skating as often as possible, shelling out money I didn’t really have for bits of second hand gear and such like. I didn’t have to. In this respect CCR are particularly good for the beginner, as well as having a constant intake, rather than set times, they also have full kit to hire for free, for as long as you need it. I didn’t really intend to buy my own gear, I just ahh, slipped. 

I graduated from the shallow pool to the main fresh meat pool, and then, on my first day skating with the bigger girls disaster struck. A niggling pain in my groin became quite a nasty pain in my groin which as soon as I stopped and took stock of it became an “oh dear god I can’t cope this is the most painful thing i’ve ever experienced and I can’t walk” pain. It was at this point that Twist had to carry me off the track because the act of crossing it to sit on a bench with an ice pack would’ve taken hours. 

Luckily, as I crawled, and I mean crawled, on my hands and knees, the least painful way to move, towards the door, I got rescued. They were laying out mats for the gym users after wards, so a few of the other girls commandeered a trolly and wheeled me to the door, where another team mate kindly drove me all the way home. I spent a week on crutches, and 2 weeks off skates, returned to skates for about another 2 weeks and then was told off by the GP so i’ve been back off them for about a month. 

I can finally put on my pants properly. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is when you can’t lift either leg unless lying down. I’m assured it looks quite comical though.

There is more to roller derby than this though. It sounds corny, but skating gave me my life back. I’ve been wallowing in and out of the pits of depression for over a year now, something which generally only lifted when I had a purpose. For example in Edinburgh. It was stressful as hell, but I felt great. I also saw people, did things and felt like someone needed me. Funnily enough, roller derby gives me the same thing. Twice a week, I go out to see people. I work hard, we enjoy ourselves, we socialise and we ask after each other. Whilst i’ve been off people have enquired after me, have helped me out with things and generally been really great. 

The exercise is good too. I’ve gained nearly 4 lbs, but dropped again around the waist according to independent reports. 

More importantly, i’ve got more energy. My bedroom is almost always quite neat and tidy now, and I don’t begrudge getting off my arse and off the internet to do things around the house. Fortunately for my Dad, this new energy has also attacked the house as a whole. Years of dust have been removed, carpets hoovered and sinks cleaned. 

I feel like i’ve got my Zen back. I used to ride every weekend, but after that ceased to be fun, the companionship and the camaraderie went and shortly after so did my confidence, not to mention my self confidence.

Roller derby is rebuilding me from the ground up. And i’m not afraid to make a fool of myself in the process. 


This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Zen and the Art of Roller Derby

  1. Charlie says:

    Lovely post, Misha :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s