Hey there! I’m Becca and my skate name is Harshmellow. I’m a jammer and a member of the New Skater Intake committee.
Thinking of starting roller derby? I can help!
I was in your skates in January 2018, so I’m here to offer some advice and guidance to make this as fun and rewarding as possible. This is a longer post – but totally worth the read!
Learning to play roller derby is a challenge, but one of the most rewarding things you could ever do. It will improve your fitness, provide you with endless amounts of excitement, and allow you to join one of the fastest growing sports not only in the UK but worldwide.
We would all love to have you on this journey with us and I’ve put together some tips and tricks to help you through your NSI (our roler derby course for beginners), so let’s do this!
In this article, I’ll cover:
- What to expect at practice
- Am I fit enough?
- Roller derby kit
- Want to buy your own kit?
- What should I wear?
- Water, water and more water: preparing for practice
- Attitude & commitment
- Understanding roller derby
- Stay focused
WHAT TO EXPECT AT PRACTICE
We’ll teach you everything you need to know to play roller derby in accordance with WFTDA minimum skills during the NSI. When you arrive at your first session you should be able to stand up and move about on skates.
We never expect anyone to be an expert and pick up the skills first time. This is what we are here for – to help guide you.
However practice makes perfect. We recommend you get your skates on in your own time as well as at our coached sessions. Roller discos are a great place to practice skating. There are several around Newcastle, and many offer skate hire – check out Skaters’ Club North East for details.
If you have your own skates you can practice outside, in your kitchen, in the car park at work… wherever! The more time you spend on skates the more comfortable you’ll be at picking up new skills and putting them into action on track.
We also offer a ‘free skate session.’ This is a non-coached session open to all Newcastle Roller Girls and Tyne ‘n’ Fear skaters for them to practice any skills that you want to work on.
There is a small charge for our NSI skaters to attend these sessions and you would be required to bring your own kit.
AM I FIT ENOUGH?
Roller derby is a wonderfully inclusive sport, played by people of all different shapes and sizes, but it IS a serious sport, so putting a bit of effort in to up your fitness outside of our intake sessions will serve you well.
Our NSI can be quite demanding – you’ll probably discover aching muscles you never knew existed and even get to love that feeling (weird I know).
ROLLER DERBY KIT
To take part in our New Skater Intake (NSI) sessions you must wear the following safety gear: quad skates, helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, wrist guards, and a gum shield (week 5 onwards)
During our roller derby course you’ll have the chance to hire all kit required (apart from mouthguards/gum shields). However, there are limited amounts so it’s on a first come, first served basis.
WANT TO BUY YOUR OWN KIT?
A basic pair of quad skates that’ll get you through this beginners course will set you back around £50 and could be handy if you plan on practicing outside of our sessions.
If you did want to buy yourself a pair, Google ‘Roller Derby Skates’, search for them on Ebay, or head over to Ripped Knees in St. Mary’s Place to buy some in real life.
You can buy starter packs of all the pads you need online at places like Skate Asylum.
As far as helmets go, look for something that’s certified for multiple impacts. Think skate park, not road cycling.
You will need a gum shield when we start doing contact and we don’t hire these out (for obvious reasons – eww). You can get one for a few quid from sports shops or online but derby players would recommend a Sisu mouthguard as you are able to communicate and drink much easier with these in.
For those with Facebook, something most UK Derby players swear by is using the Facebook group UK Roller Derby Recyclables. This is where Roller Derby players will sell their used kit with most of it being in great condition at very low prices.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
Treat roller derby like any other sport or fitness class and bear in mind that you will need to fit knee pads over whatever you’re wearing on your legs.
The most common clothing at practice is leggings (sports ones or just your average Primark pair), shorts of any length and tightness, or a combination of the two.
We’d recommend a t-shirt or vest as you’ll need to wear elbow pads – if you prefer long sleeves, make sure they’re tight-fitting.
Don’t wear your favourite things, as you’ll be getting pretty sweaty, and if you’re trying hard enough, you’ll also be hitting the floor a fair bit.
You should also bring trainers to our New Skater Intake sessions as we often do an off-skates warmup, which is much harder in socks or bare feet.
WATER, WATER AND… OH! MORE WATER!
Roller derby is a tough but incredibly fun sport so be prepared to sweat. You will need to bring plenty of water to keep you hydrated and you may bring along some isotonic drinks if that works best for you.
If you’re having a big breakfast, make sure you eat at least an hour before the session – skating on a full stomach isn’t fun, especially when you get to practicing hitting!
There are vending machines at our venue, the Walker Dome, but they can be difficult to access on skates, so you’re better off bringing what you need with you and then you won’t need to interrupt the session to stock up.
ATTITUDE AND COMMITMENT
NRG and the roller derby world is full of some of the most wonderful people you will ever meet. Since I began my journey, I have become a part of a big family and you will too with the right attitude and commitment.
NSI and playing roller derby will not be an easy ride. Beginners and veterans alike will have moments where they feel like they’re struggling and they can’t do it. This has definitely happened to me but I just took a deep breath, got on track and gave it everything.
The biggest bit of advice I can give you is DO NOT BE AFRAID TO FALL! All of us fall. Many of us, yours truly included, still do! It’s how we learn. My Mantra is: if you haven’t fallen, you’re not trying hard enough.
NSI is a big commitment and we don’t expect you to put your life completely on hold, but we do expect you to turn up ready and with the right attitude. Make sure you’re well rested, you’ve eaten, and keep hydrated because it will make the sessions a whole lot easier.
UNDERSTANDING ROLLER DERBY
The reason you’re joining NSI is because you want to learn to play roller derby, so why not get a head start?
If you’ve ever watched a game of roller derby, you’ll know there’s a lot going on – rules, tactics, teamwork, communication, skills. If you’ve never watched a game – why the hell not?! Getting a basic understanding of the game is a very good idea if you want to start playing.
That should really go without saying, but you’d be amazed how many people turn up to intakes without the foggiest idea of how the game works. Don’t be one of them.
FOCUS, YOU’RE THERE TO LEARN!
We want you to have a great time. What is roller derby without fun? But just a friendly reminder: our coaches are all volunteers, giving up their Sunday mornings to teach you how to play roller derby, so please don’t waste their time or the time of your teammates who have joined NSI to learn.
Listen to instructions, focus on the task in hand, and if you don’t understand something, ask for help. It’s what we’re here for! If you can’t get the hang of something, keep trying, practice outside the sessions and you’ll get it eventually.
So that’s it, my top tips. Now let’s get you kitted up and ready to roll!
Can’t wait to see you on the track and to have you on my team in future games.
See you at the first session!