Starting up in Roller Derby can be a daunting experience, we have all been there.
After weeks of waiting you’re finally going to get to give Roller Derby a go, to say you’re nervous is an understatement.
It’s hard enough to walk in the door, let alone strap eight wheels to your feet in front of a room full of strangers.
Well don’t panic! This is the Wenches guide to surviving your first few weeks in freshmeat!
Let’s start at the beginning.
Your first session will be the hardest one you’ll ever do, so get over that and you’re on your way. Just walking in and seeing experienced girls skating round like they came out of the womb on skates, can be enough to make you turn on your heels and walk right back out again!
BUT don’t! Believe it or not these girls racing around without the smallest of worries, were once in exactly the same place as you, so look at it as a challenge, remind yourself that at the end of this freshmeat course you too will be skating around looking like you’ve been on wheels forever.
Safety is the most important part of derby.
Roller Derby is an extreme sport, we would be lying to you if we said you are never going to fall over or get hurt.
No Protection = No Skating.
These are the things you’re going to need, start up can cost a bit, but we think you’re worth it. Let’s start at the top and work down.
This has to be a skating one, any colour is fine it should be a good fit on your head; you don’t want it to slip about. So if you can get to a skate shop to try one on, then this is the best option.
You can pick up a cheap mouth guard for a couple of quid in any good sports shop, this will do to get you started, but the cheaper guards can be difficult to get a good fit and you’ll be constantly taking it out to speak. If you can invest a little more you’ll find the fit more comfortable.
The Protech Dent mouthguard is one of the more expensive ones you can buy, although it is great and a lot of the Wenches have one.
These don’t have to be expensive you can pick up a decent enough pair of elbow pads for around 12 – 15 quid. They should be snug on your elbow but not so tight they cut of the blood supply to your hands!!
The Anarchy elbow pads are used a lot by the Wenches
It’s important to invest in a fairly decent pair of wrist guards, you’ll be surprised how many times they save you from breaking your wrists, especially in the first few weeks of freshmeat, and again these can range from 10 to 20 quid.
You’ll be spending a fair amount of your time on your knees in roller derby. Your freshmeat coaches will constantly be asking you to throw yourself onto your knees, so a good pair of kneepads will be a good investment for the future.
Prices range from 20 – 60 quid depending on which make you go for, obviously the dearer the pads the more protection they will give you, but you will be fine spending 20quid on a pair of pads, just try before you buy and please don’t buy the pads you get in a pack for recreational skating, your knees will suffer for it, and you’ll soon be replacing them.
Anarchy Knee Pads are pretty good as a starter knee pad.
187 Killer Knee Pads & Smith Scabs are the top end knee pads.
We could go on forever about the different type of skates and skate setups. When you first start skating it’s a minefield. Do you go for a vinyl boot or leather? What plates should you decide on Nylon or Alloy, 45deg or 15 deg? Then there are the wheels, hard, soft, indoor or outdoor?
Everyone will have a preferred skate set-up and when your first starting out, you have no idea what set up is going to suit you.
Well don’t panic!
We recommend that you try before you buy, ask if you can have a go on someone’s skates if you like the look of them. Try two or three pairs on.
If your budget is limited then you’re better off going for a pair of Riedel R3s or Suregrip Boxers.
These are an ideal starter skate and will last you a good while, you can then decide at a later date if you’re after something a little more fancy.
We would advise against going for anything cheaper than this, as you’ll just be wasting your money, and will very quickly find it difficult to nail those Derby skills in an off the shelf fashion skate.
The Riedel R3 is a great starter skate, perhaps more suited to those with a slightly narrower foot.
The Suregrip Boxer is also a cracking starter skate, and is slightly wider than the R3, but always try skates on before you buy, as you’ll be in them a lot.
To start with stick with the wheels that come with the skates, you’ll soon decide whether you think they are too slippy or grippy, it’s a personal preference. It also depends on what type of floor you’re skating on. If you’re on a super slippy floor then you’ll want a softer wheel, but if the floor is super grippy then a harder set up is for you. Skates range from 80a (soft) right up to 100a (hard)
If you’re going to get in some extra practise outside, and we strongly encourage you to do this. You’ll want some outdoor wheels to change over to. Skating on tarmac can ruin indoor wheels really quickly. You can pick up a really cheap pair of soft outside wheels online, and it will save you money in the long run.
We could start getting all technical about wheels, but we won’t.
If you are buying skates they will come with wheels that will be fine for Freshmeat.
If you have skates already, you may want to invest in some Derby wheels. Lower number wheels are quite soft (eg. 89a). You could use these as pushers. These go on left hand side of each skate, they make it easier to grip round the corners.
Higher number wheels are harder, it means you can go a bit faster on them, they go on the right hand side of your skate, you can however have the same hardness wheels on your skates. Its all personal to you, you’ll have plenty of time to decide what you like, and half the fun is finding out yourself.
What to Wear
Derby girls are renowned for wearing outrageous “bout-fits”. You know the type of thing, tiny little skin hugging hot pants, stripy knee high socks, fishnet tights, and punk tops. These things are great; it’s a big part of what roller derby is all about, the chance to express yourself in ways just not possible in the normal outside world! You’ll find your own style, you’ll put your own stamp on something and whatever it is, believe me, these girls will support you 100%, because that’s what the wenches are all about.
For practise however, wear what you’re comfortable in. A good pair of lycra shorts or leggings is a good bet when you’re learning to skate. If your going for shorts that are shorter than your knee, we would strongly suggest you wear a pair of tights under these, it will save your skin from being removed when you slide across the floor on your thigh. Trust us we’ve all been there and tights not only make your legs look great, they are also your friend!
Tops should be something you’re comfortable in, you’ll be getting very hot and sweaty so a vest top is always a good choice, but if that’s not your thing then an everyday short sleeve t-shirt will do fine.
Roller Derby is a tough physical sport, sure we will start you off with a gentle skate up and down the hall, but really soon you’ll be asking your body to do things it hasn’t done in a long while, and you’ll be having great fun doing it.
So it’s really important that you take care of yourself, after all your going to be an athlete soon!
Eating well and hydrating your body before practise is really imperative, don’t leave it ’til the last minute to eat, you’ll be seeing it again on track really soon if you do. Try to eat a couple of hours before practise, and make sure you drink plenty of water beforehand, you’ll also need to bring water to practise as it’s thirsty work.
Roller Derby is a great sport to be involved with, not only are you going to get fit learning something really, really cool. You’re going to meet great people, we spend as much time together off track as we do on, and although when you first start you think you’re never going to fit in with this tight knit bunch of scary no-fear skaters! Trust me, these girls you see hurtling round the track at what seems like a million miles an hour, bashing the crap out of each other, and then laughing about it were once just like you, so bring yourself to our fresh meat sessions, because we are all lovely and will like you for who you are. X