After spending several years as a non-skating official, I took the plunge and started skating in 2016. I’ve completed the Nottingham Roller Derby beginners course not once, but twice(!) so here are my 12 top tips I wish someone had told me.
- Give yourself some credit!
You’re going to be learning something new and stepping out of your comfort zone and that’s scary. Taking the first step is often the hardest and you’ve done that. Not every session is going to be easy and there will be ups and downs, but you are getting better.
- It doesn’t matter if you think you have no balance/can’t skate.
You can learn both of these things, and anything else you think you can’t do yet. When you brush your teeth, do it standing on one leg. When you’ve mastered that, take it to the next level and do one legged squats. It all gets easier with practice.
- Embrace being confused.
The first time you watch a game, you will have no idea what’s going on. Roller derby has a lot of rules and is a fast moving game. It’s perfectly normal to only grasp the basics to begin with. The more you see and do, the more you’ll start to understand.
- Don’t compare yourself to other people.
Easier said than done, but it’s true that every single person has their own strengths, so shush that voice inside your head that’s telling you that you’re not good enough – you absolutely are. Set yourself small goals and compare yourself to your own progress over more than just one session. Reflect and consider what you do well.
- It’s not always going to be sunshine and lollipops – and that’s okay.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really enjoy all that much of my first session. I was too scared to relax and it was so difficult. Don’t give up after a rough session, everyone has these; don’t make quick decisions based on a small sample size. Talk to a friend and let them know if it’s one of those days: they can be an amazing support if you let them.
- Wear what feels comfortable.
I love my garish patterned leggings (sadly they haven’t yet made it into any photos!) This is entirely a personal choice so wear what you can move in and what makes you happy. Every body has different ways they regulate heat (Bonus tip! If you have large boobs, get a comfy sports bra). Later You’ll need a shirt with a name and number, but there’s no need to worry about that now.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Make sure you drink enough water. That doesn’t mean downing a litre just before training! Sip water before, during and after training, you’ll be sweating a lot out. More on that in a moment. Make sure you’ve eaten before skating – you don’t want to be shaking from lack of blood sugar while you have wheels on your feet.
- You are going to sweat. A lot.
When i was a teenager i absolutely hated how red i got when i did sports, was teased for it, and then avoided it. Now I’m old enough to not care and I’m surrounded by excellent people who won’t tease me for it – see my photo for proof!
- Pain is not just weakness leaving the body.
Yes, when you first start out your body will remind you of muscles you forgot you had, but that’s “normal” pain. During a session if something is pulling, or you have sharp pain, stop doing whatever is causing it. That’s your body telling you to stop before you hurt yourself. If you’re overcompensating for a weak core, focus on your form and do things well, rather than fast – it’ll be so much better in the long run.
- Talk to your coaches
If you’re struggling with something, ask questions, ask more than one person as everyone has a different way of explaining and everyone has a different way of learning. The things you’re struggling with will “click” in the end. Same goes for the mental side of this – if you’re struggling, talk to someone.
- You’ll get fed up answering the same questions…
You’ll have to deal with your friends and colleagues thinking you’ve taken leave of your senses…
No, it isn’t that violent.
No, you aren’t allowed to punch people.
No, there isn’t a ball.
For women in particular playing a full contact sport seems to give people free reign to ask stupid questions, whereas no one questions men playing rugby on the weekend. For reference my answer is “two people race around a track on roller skates to score points, but the other team are allowed to try and stop them and it’s less dangerous than rugby”.
- Roller derby can be intense.
Because you’re outside of your comfort zone and learning new things you’ll make friends rapidly. You don’t have to be besties with everyone, but even if you’re usually shy you’ll surprise yourself.
Finally, welcome to our family. I hope you have fun. Roller derby is special to me because for the first time in a long time, I started to define myself by what I can do, rather than by what I can’t and that’s such a powerful feeling.