While searching through Netflix one day for something that didn’t feature serial killers, dragons or meth labs I stumbled onto a trailer for the film ‘Whip it’. It looked like a stinker so I didn’t commit, but the idea of Juno wearing a brownie uniform and Barbie skates whilst knocking three shades of shit out of Juliette Lewis was enough to pique my interest in Roller Derby.
It seemed like something I would NEVER experience as:
A. It was for young girls (I remember Conkers and Bananarama)
B. It was for tough girls (I regularly get my ass handed to me by my daughter and/or cat)
C. It was for fit girls (see A and B
D. It was for kick-ass city girls. (I live in the wolds, women are lucky to get the vote here)
However, being curious, I googled Roller Derby Lincolnshire, fully expecting a response along the lines of
‘John Deere Showrooms in Derbyshire’
So, I was really surprised to see this;
“Lincolnshire Bombers Roller Girls
If you’re looking for something new and exciting then roller derby could be just what you’re looking for!”
Nooooo, I was nervous just reading that because I knew it would be something I’d have to look into and ultimately would be disappointed to find out that middle aged, squashy bodied girls couldn’t be a part of. As fate would have it, there was going to be a recruitment day the next weekend at Yarborough Leisure Centre. That made me smile, I remembered going there most Saturdays when I was 9 or ten years old to swim (belly flop off diving boards) do lunch with the girls (chips and beans on a tray) and then roller disco (fall over to 80′s pop tunes while 6 foot boys in Bauers and ankle warmers swerved to avoid the weeping ginger kid.)
I sent an e-mail to say that I was in my 40′s and hadn’t skated since Bananarama. I asked if it was a waste of time me coming to recruitment day. The reply I got was really encouraging. I was told ‘Of course it’s not a waste of time, we’ve got skaters of different ages and abilities.’
Ok, this was looking good, so I sent my request to borrow some kit and put my name down. This was all easy enough, the hard part was telling people what I was doing whilst keeping my dignity as they laughed in my face. One of my sisters seemed quite concerned I might be having a midlife crisis and my school friend that had witnessed my wuss-dom from an early age just sat with her mouth opening and closing while repeating over and over…
“You do KNOW what those girls do don’t you???!!”
Even so I was undeterred, I spent that week preparing, which means I spent hours imagining a commentator screaming my name and the crowd going wild as I lead my team to victory with a vicious onslaught of body blocks and skating to rival anything from ‘Rollerball’ or ‘Xanadu’ (told you I was old.) Then went out to buy leggings and a sports bra, (that’s how unfit I was – my wardrobe didn’t contain either of these.)
When recruitment day came I was really nervous, my attempts at trying to get one of my friends to come with me and try out had resulted in a few “no ways!” a couple of “at my age?” and a full on laugh ’til a bit of wee comes out. I was on my own. On arrival I was relieved to see about 25 faces all looking as nervous as me. After giving our medical details (which for me is unfortunately quite a long and varied history of horror stories) we were welcomed by the coaches and team Captain, ‘Razzo’.
We started with some chatting about the sport, then warm up exercises in our trainers followed by a little bit of skating to ease us in gently. It was amazing to me that the act of doing something you enjoyed as a kid could take you back so many years and return to you the confidence you felt at that age. I loved it and when the end of the session came I was truly disappointed. After that, I went to every session, it became the focus of my week, all plans, childcare arrangements, family commitments and occasions had to fit around the times of 1-2.30 pm every Saturday afternoon. A couple or three girls dropped out after the taster day but after a few weeks I felt I knew the other die-hards in my group really well. We’re all different ages, we have different careers, we’re from different areas and backgrounds but we have one thing in common, we LOVE Roller Derby.
Its addictive, you begin to apply everything you learn at practice to your everyday life, whether it’s taking derby stance in the Asda queue or rocking some laterals with your trolley in the cheese aisle. I even watched ‘Whip it’ -jury’s out on that one, (the trash talk’s ‘freakin’ awesome’ as one of our coaches ‘Mizza Murica’ might say but the bouts are not reeeeaally that helpful.) Much better to get on YouTube and peruse some gnarly and quite frankly totes emosh real-life bouts.
Since going to that first taster day I’ve had injuries, I hurt my knee playing grab the panties out the back of a players shorts- (NOT a pervert’s hazing ritual.)
I’ve had a few self doubts and questions;
What if I have a hot flush and the person behind me gets a face full of crack sweat?
Does my derby name sound like Thrush medication? (‘V-Sting’ – answers on a postcard please)
Why did I spoon ‘Elle-Fire’ off the track and into a wall?
I’ve also been absolutely knackered some weeks and nearly crashed on the drive home because I was still in derby mode and not braking enough. Practising lemons whilst using the clutch is not advised either.
More importantly though, because of Roller Derby I’ve become fitter, learned discipline, taken pride in my achievements, met inspirational women, made friends for life and discovered that it is never too late to challenge yourself and start something new. I guarantee you won’t regret it because even if you discover its not the sport for you, you’ll be proud of yourself for trying and you’ll be the coolest girl in any room because you can say “I was a Roller Derby girl.”