My persistent ramblings about roller derby on Facebook and Twitter have resulted in a few girl friends asking me about the sport as they *think* they want to join but need some questions answered first. Most of the questions are the same – and not too different from my initial thoughts – so I’ll pull them all together and answer them here. I’ve already touched on some of this in my Who Can Join page, but here are answers to the specific questions I’ve been asked.
1. Could you roller skate before trying out for Fresh Meat?
Yes, I could, like 15 years ago! I used to roller skate and ice skate a lot and that experience definitely helped me at first. Admittedly, there’s a whole lot more to roller derby than just skating back and forwards so I’m in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to learning new skills. Saying that, there are some girls in our league (and I’m sure many others) who had never skated before, so don’t be put off if you’re in that same position.
2. It looks fun, but aggressive – just how rough does it get?
You’re right, it is aggressive, but that’s why we wear so much safety equipment. You will get hit, you will fall, and you will have some monster bruises, but if you learn how to hit and how to fall safely, then you shouldn’t come to too much harm. It’s really important to understand that it is a full-contact sport, so if you’re thinking of taking it up because you only want to learn how to roller skate and wear a cute outfit, then maybe it isn’t for you.
3. What does a Fresh Meat session mean? Is it a trial?
Fresh Meat at Fierce Valley Roller Girls is held 2-monthly at present, and is an open invitation for ANYONE interested in the sport to come along. Guys can’t play, but they can referee, so no need to feel left out! Even if you’ve never straped on a pair of skates in your life, at least come and give it a try – we won’t bite, honest! The session will usually last around 2 hours and you should be buddied up with an experienced skater. They will help you kit up and take you through the basics, like posture, stopping, and falling safely.
4. I want to attend a league’s Fresh Meat session – do I need my own equipment first?
No. As Fresh Meat, you aren’t expected to have a full set of kit on your first day since it’s supposed to be a taster session. Your ‘buddy’ will lend you their skates, elbow pads, knee pads, wrist guards and helmet, but you are expected to buy your own mouthguard. Depending on the size of league you want to join, you might be lucky to get a loan of kit for the next few sessions if they have enough spares. We’ve got the theory of “after your first derby day, you’ll know whether you want to stick at it or not”, so we would expect skaters to have their own kit for the next training session. Kick Flip Boards do a good starter pack for the naive skater (yep, that’s where I got mine!), with prices starting at £130.
5. Sounds expensive, how much will roller derby cost in the long-run?
On top of your starter pack (which includes your skates, protective gear and a mouthguard), your upfront and expected ongoing costs will include your monthly subscription (dependant on your own league – ours is about £30) and you will probably want to invest in toe guards to get a bit more life out of your skates (approx. £7 – £10 from eBay, Kick Flip, Kate Skates…). There are other costs that aren’t essential, but inevitable as you skate more. You should really invest in the best knee pads and gaskets that your money can buy – Smiths Scabs are one of the ‘premium’ brands are their pads cost around £70. Once you find your feet (literally) you’ll want to upgrade your wheels to get better speed and control. Once you decipher the lingo, decent wheels can cost upwards from £80. And further down the line if you make the bouting team, you will need at least 2 team t-shirts and have to consider travelling costs. These figures aren’t meant to put you off, but to give you a realistic idea of how much you can expect to spend if you take up derby.
Any skater interested in joining a roller derby league will have lots of questions before they take the plunge and come to Fresh Meat, and all leagues will have at least one spokeperson that you can contact. Most have a Facebook Fan Page, which is a great way to get an idea of what the league is up to and also to post your questions. I’ve got links to all the Scottish leagues over on the right-hand side, so feel free to browse to see if there’s one near you!