We were all once newbies. We all felt that feeling of being Bambi on skates and that even rolling around the track at less than one mile an hour was terrifying. Watching the practice with hitting and jumps was terrifying but exciting as well.
So this is what I tell all newbies I meet, that my biggest advice for a newbie skater is two fold. One, buy your own gear immediately and two, come to every practice. For veteran skaters, I encourage you pass these along with your own thoughts too. Remember what is it was like for you. Keep the compassion for them and your team will grow strong with new players. For a small league, this is especially important.
Why are there two suggestions? Because both will make you set up the fresh meat for success right away.
First: buying your own gear. It jumps you into the commitment to trying something new and sticking to it, at least for a while. Yes, there is a possibility that you, the newbie, will not end up enjoying roller derby. You can always sell your skates and gear. But the bigger chance, is that you will irrevocably and unequivocally love roller derby. When you have your own gear, you have put an investment into yourself. Not just another way to get in shape, workout, do a new sport but to advance yourself in multiple ways. Plus, your gear is YOUR gear. You own it. You have pride in it. It fits correctly. I fits comfortably. It gets you to practice because you spent that money and as I would say, are all in.
To buy your own gear, check out if there is a local roller derby shop in your area. For me, I live in the mountains and skate for 10th Mountain Roller Dolls out of Eagle, Colorado. So one weekend I was going to Denver (about a two hour drive and there are not any roller derby shops where I live) so I decided this was the time. So I did it. I got the required skates, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmet and a mouth guard to play derby, plus maybe one cute new pair of shorts and tights (not a requirement - come in anything that is comfortable to you). I figure if I ponied up the money, I had to go. I had to try this crazy sport an acquaintance kept telling me about. I can assure you, she is so much more to me now. Friend, teammate, confidant. The list goes on. She saw something in me that screamed derby, and for that I thank her. But on to newbie stuff.
The second suggestion I make is to come to every practice. We all have busy lives. We all have families (of one sort or another), jobs (hopefully), illness (hopefully not often), and more. For the first couple of months before I had passed my skills test, I was decent at going to practice but it wasn't until I went to every practice that I started to exponentially get better. My league has two practices a week and for a while it was something like this for me: go to one practice, miss one practice, go to two practices, miss another. I didn't think it was much of a big deal. I was wrong.
As soon as I said I was going to every practice, unless something else major came up, I was at practice. I know this is part of what has made me the skater I am. Now, I’m not a fancy skater or an A team player. But I know what is going on. I know the drills. I know the strategy. I might not be able to always do them correctly, but I’m prepared and understand it and heck, that’s one of the biggest things in derby. Just getting it.
And it’s not always as much fun at first. It’s hard, it’s awkward. But I assure you, it gets better. It gets awesome. Put in your time at practice before you've even passed your skills test. Listen to the drills even if you are on the side and not able to hit yet. Because when you slowly move into those hitting drills or apex jumps, you will at least understand the concept even if it takes time to achieve them. It’s called “practice” for a reason.