Last night, at roller derby training, I did my first transition. It took over half an hour of one-on-one practice with my incredibly patient coach (Thanks Thor!), but I got there – I safely and smoothly transitioned. This may not sound like much to a non-skater, but in the world of derby, it’s a maneuver that can take quite some time to master.
I started roller derby late last year as a means of meeting new people (and theoretically getting fit along the way). After relocating to Albury – a place where I knew literally no-one – I was looking for a place to build a social circle outside of work, and the Murray River Derby Dames (MRDD) provided me with just that.
Derby can be an expensive hobby to pick up. In order to start fresh meat training, I needed skates, a helmet, knee and elbow pads, wrist guards and a mouthguard. Plus, you’ve got to pay for club membership fees and insurance. All in all, I probably laid out more than $500 just to get started. It was an expensive gamble, but it paid off.
Although I only trained with MRDD for a few months, I was immediately taken into their circle. Our weekly skating sessions were a friendly and supportive environment, where nobody made me feel stupid or slow. And as roller derby is predominantly a female sport, it was awesome to be surrounded by a small group of kickass women week after week.
When the new year rolled around, I was offered an amazing new job in Launceston. It was devastating to have to say goodbye, not only to the friends I’d made in Albury – both in and out of work – but to this incredible sport, and the community around it that I’d only just discovered.
Moving to yet another new state was full of obstacles; organising trucks and boats and places to live. Just like Albury, I was starting all over again in a town where I knew nobody. I needed new furniture, and to work out how the hell to get my Vespa down here. And I needed to find myself a new roller derby team.
I wish I could say that vigorous research led me to find Devil State Derby League (DSDL); that I studied every roller derby group in the north of the state and made an educated decision when choosing one to join. But the true story is that DSDL train less than five minutes from my new home, and were holding a fresh meat info session less than a month after I moved here. To me it seemed like fate.
I started as a freshie (once more) with DSDL in March. Their training techniques differ greatly from what I was used to with MRDD, and for a while I felt like I was moving backwards. There have been tears, and bumps and bruises from oh so many falls, but I’m persevering.
On Sunday, I went to the local skate rink. Surrounded by chaotic groups of children, I diligently skated round and round, swaddled in my protective gear, practicing my crossovers and trying to perfect my derby stance. At one point, I knocked over a kid, wrapping her scooter around my legs (she was okay, it was fine). During the ‘advanced skaters’ speed laps, I was repeatedly overtaken by a six year-old with no helmet. Still, I walked away feeling like I was getting somewhere.
There’s a much larger group here at DSDL, which can be intimidating; so many names to remember – especially in the world of derby, where people are often called by their derby name just as much as their real one! But the increased size of the community means more opportunities to make friends and get involved. And I’m throwing myself right in.
In roller derby, in order to transition well, you need to be comfortable on your feet, and willing to open up without fear of falling.
But if you think about it, I’ve been transitioning a lot lately – into a new town, a new job, a new roller derby league.
It was only a matter of time before I learnt how to do it on skates.