Recently I’ve been introduced to the weird of wonderful sport of Roller Derby. Roller Derby is basically a contact sport played on roller skates. It involves two teams of five skating around a track, scoring points by lapping the opposing team’s skaters. Only one skater from each team can actually score points, called ‘jammers’. The other skaters try and help their jammer get through while holding up the other team’s jammer, these skaters are called ‘blockers’.
I saw my first game last October when Emily invited a few of us to watch the Surrey Roller Girls play a ’bout’ (that’s what the games are called). This is us eating bourbons and trying to follow what on earth was going on. As usual Will and I turned up wearing the same clothes.
I really enjoyed watching all the action, and I was surprised just how far some of the girls went flying off the track after being hit. It was certainly more violent than I was expecting! At that time I had no interest in actually participating, mainly because I’ve never been interested in team sports since the humiliations of secondary school PE.
Roller derby is predominantly a woman’s game, but there is a men’s league and in the last 12 months Surrey has formed a men’s team called the Surrey Jammerwockies. In order to raise money for the new team, the boys were asking for sponsorship to skate a marathon. The marathon consisted of 11 laps around the Goodwood racetrack as part of a track day called South Coast Roll – where the track is reserved for roller skating for a whole day.
Emily asked me if I was interested in giving the marathon a go and I jumped at the chance! My brother used to play roller hockey and ice hockey when I was younger so I’ve always been interested in roller-blading and ice skating, and this looked like so much fun!
I bought some second hand skates and borrowed some pads from the team and off I went! It was awesome! I haven’t had so much fun while simultaneously getting so many blisters in my life! I loved just having the freedom to skate as fast as I could with so much space, something you could never do in an ice rink.
I went to a few roller derby training sessions in the two weeks leading up to the marathon, just to get used to skating again and build my confidence, but I ended up really enjoying the game-play aspect of the sessions as well. In other words, I got hooked.
The speed, agility and strength needed in order to compete is so interesting to me, but the one aspect that encouraged me to come back every week was the spirit of the boys in the team. I never liked team sports in Secondary School, not because I was lazy, but because it was driven by egos and alpha-males.
I never liked the “shower-room banter” or lad-like culture that surrounded sports like hockey, football and rugby. And I had no reason to believe that Men’s Roller Derby was any different, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Maybe it goes back to the fact that Roller Derby is predominantly a female sport, but the attitude of the guys in the team was so welcoming and friendly, without any bullshit, that I can’t believe I even thought it would be different. There’s no ‘initiation’, no fresh-meat inferiority and no disrespect.
Now I’m regularly attending the boys sessions and hoping to compete in my first game before the end of the year. I really enjoy the skating and taking on a new challenge. It’s building my fitness and introducing me to a whole group of new, like-minded people. I love it and would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt out of place in other team sports.
Until next Thursday,