Photo: Tim Moxley
Calling all prospective rollergirls: mid-season tryouts are just around the corner! That means that this Saturday, we’ll have a brand-new class of fresh meat. This is an exciting time for any new skater, but also a daunting one. What should fresh meaties know before they strap on skates for their first practice? Toxic Shocks co-captain and DSDG skater Lez Dispenser has some words of wisdom.
So you passed your initial tryouts and made the latest meat class. Congratulations! This is where I tell you, “Now the real work begins.” It does. Unfortunately, that may be the extent of the warning you’ll get from most rollergirls. As of yet, there is no published guide to meatdom. Here are some tips, however, that I wish someone told me as a meat:
Don’t complain. Rollergirls watch meat like hawks. We look for the strongest, fastest athletes. More than that we look at the skaters with positive attitudes.
Don’t ever drop out of a drill. Unless you are injured (not hurting- injured) do not stop during a drill. As a meat, I was one of the slowest skaters. I could barely keep up with the paceline. My lungs and body burned the entire time. I occasionally dropped back and skated along the periphery of the track. No rollergirl ever told me to suck it up and get back. As a current skater, I can see why. People want to see your natural work ethic. I hadn’t done a team sport since high school and it was nothing compared to derby. I didn’t realize you had to push through the pain to get stronger. When you drop out of drills, skaters assume you’re lazy. No one wants a lazy teammate.
Don’t date in derby. I could (and will) write an entire blog about what a terrible idea this is. For now, just trust me.
Volunteer. Sign up to work bouts and events. Different leagues run differently but at mine meats are not required to volunteer. Active skaters need to see you working events. It shows us your commitment to the league. We want to draft women that show they have the time, energy and drive to be great teammates. I’ve had meats tell me they don’t have time for volunteering. If you don’t have time to volunteer then you won’t have time to be a rollergirl. All that volunteer work becomes mandatory as a league mate. The time and energy commitment only grows exponentially after the draft.
Photo: Jason “Rollermonkey” Strother
Derby is 50% fun and 50% work. Sometimes you have to treat it like a job. Once you become a rollergirl the league expects you to take on jobs and perform them professionally. We depend on each skater to make a league run smoothly.
Make time for your non-derby friends. Derby will take over your life in the most exciting ways possible but it will also take time and attention from your family and friends. Just like you must make time for off-skates training, your 9 to 5 and sleeping, you must make time for your old friends. I barely see or speak with my old friends and I wish I had been better about giving them attention.
No one wants to hear why you “can’t.” Excuses are, by far, the most frustrating things to hear as a trainer. Ninety-nine percent of the time, whatever your reasoning is for not being able to do something is bollocks. Think about what you’re going to say and really consider if it’s possibly in that one percent.
Come to every practice. When I was a meat, my father was being treated for cancer. I didn’t tell the trainers or any of my meat sisters. I quickly realized that no one wants to hear about why you can’t come to practice. (See above.) Instead of using practice as a healthy escape, I used my sadness as a reason to skip. It helped neither my dad nor myself. Please, distinguish between real reasons that you can’t come to practice and reasons why you don’t want to go to practice. In the end, you will always feel good about going and always feel guilty about skipping.
Don’t drink before practice. Before derby, I would go out most Fridays and hang with friends at the bar. Waking up the next morning and finding motivation to drive to practice, even if you aren’t hungover, is exceptionally hard when you’re running on little sleep. Roller derby has this reputation for hard hitting and hard drinking. Some of the hardest hitters and most skilled players rarely drink. They learned to treat their bodies well for peak performance. There are those rare breeds who can drink on Friday and scrimmage for three hours the next morning. I can’t. Most of us can’t. Be nice to your liver.
Photo: O-Jen Ishii Photography
The game is infinitely more mental than you could have ever predicted. Physical exhaustion pales in comparison to the emotional ride derby will give you. Stay strong and remember why you wanted to skate in the first place. I’ve seen women with so much potential turn into ineffective players because they let negative self-image destroy their dreams. I’ve, also, seen women that looked hopeless turn into amazing athletes through perseverance and a positive attitude. Nurture yourself and the women around you.
Exercise outside of the rink. Practices will only take you as far as your muscles can.
Never let anyone tell you that you are not good enough or strong enough. Prove them wrong every time.
Don’t let anyone dictate what position you can play based on your size. Sizeism exists in the derby universe. There’s no getting around being typecast based on your build. Having a tiny body lends itself to speed and jamming. Thickness lends itself to stability and blocking. That being said, we all play derby because we love it. Why play a position that you hate? Built like an amazon and want to jam? Have fun watching an opposing blocker try to knock down or push out your thickness. Tiny girls, next time someone implies you are somehow inferior based on your size ask them if they’ve ever stepped barefoot on a Lego.
Most importantly, believe you are an athlete others will too. If you do not train and behave like an athlete you cannot expect others to treat you as such.
Reprinted with permission from DerbyLife.com.