So you’ve passed min skills! Now what?
After a long, hard slog through minimum skills, it’s finally time to get out there and put those skills to the test on track. Which all sounds awesome until you realise you actually have to y’know. Play roller derby. In front of people. Wait, what?
I played my first cherry popper in February, almost two years to the day after my first fresh meat session, and it was of my favourite moments of 2016 so far despite spending the entire week beforehand feeling like I might throw up at any second and wondering if I could back out without anyone noticing. Here are my pro tips for getting to your first cherry popper and having the best time when you’re there.
Finding a Cherry Popper
Your coaches can probably help you here, as well as local scrim finder and roller derby events groups on Facebook.
Make sure that you’re following local leagues on Facebook and Twitter, as they’ll post about cherry poppers and scrims that are coming up.
I found the best approach was just letting anyone and everyone know I was looking for cherry poppers and letting the roller derby grapevine do its thing. The roller derby community loves up and coming players and your friends will be more than happy to tag you in anything and everything.
Ask all the questions. Not sure what happens on game day? Don’t know what to do if you get a penalty? Worried you might forget which direction you’re supposed to skate in? There are plenty of people in your league who’ve been there, so ask around and listen to the advice they give you. Try to take everything on board, even if the second you step on track it all vanishes out of your head.
Get your kit sorted the night before. Chuck in some snacks, a sharpie and a spare shirt and make sure you’ve got everything you need, like your pads, helmet, and mouthguard, as well as a skate tool and some hockey tape.
Bring a fan club. Having friends in the audience to support you will make the day 100% more awesome and they’ll remind you how awesome you were whenever you start doubting yourself.
Talk to people. It can be tempting to stick to any leaguemates you’re there with. One of the best things about the roller derby community is how fun it is chatting to players from other teams. Not only will you learn hilarious new names for various tactics [I’m still giggling about butt bongos) but you’ll also make new friends, develop a bunch of derby crushes and have people to chat to who can relate to where you are in your derby journey.
After all, it’s what the day is all about. Take advantage of every second of track time, have fun and make the most of each jam. Your first thirty second line up will be the most nerve-wracking thirty seconds of your derby life so far, but the whistle will go and you’ll be playing the game, so might as well decide to like it.
What To Do Next
Be proud of yourself. Think back to when you first strapped on your skates, and you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come. Allow yourself a moment to bask in the achievement.
Learn from it. Whether it’s realising that you need to be faster and more agile, keep pack awareness or getting lower [you’ve ALWAYS got to get lower), your cherry popper game(s) are all about learning and improving as a player, so don’t get down on yourself for anything that didn’t quite work. The point is to gain the experience and learn from it. Look at it as a positive – you can go back to training with a better idea of who you are as a player, and work towards your goals with more awareness.
NRD’s top tips:
Finally, some words of wisdom from Nottingham Roller Derby’s more experienced skaters – they’ve never steered me wrong yet:
Have a bath and drink lots of water.
Get the first couple of Jams out the way. The adrenalin and nerves will be there, but once you get into the rhythm the nerves go.
Once that whistle goes,you will forget the audience! Find a buddy in your lineup and stick to them so you’ve always got someone with you. And try to get some good hits in early so then the other team are a bit scared of you and will give you a wide berth
They are as scared of you as you are of them – works on anything with eight legs…like walls.
This is what you’ve trained for, you’ll remember what to do and so will your muscles. Making a mistake isn’t a negative, it’s something you can learn from for the next jam. A cherry popper is a learning curve and an experience, take everything that you can from the game. Every mistake and every oops moment will make you a better skater. Don’t fear them, it’s your game, no one else’s
Shock n Awedrey
Chanel those nerves into focus on track. I still get nervous before games and I’ve played like 15+ open games. Just means you want to do well. And you will!
And finally, in the wise words of NRG’s A Team captain Coco:
Stick your butt out. Advice for roller derby, advice for life.