So you’re going to your first roller derby session…

Our first ‘fresh meat’ intake of 2014 begins in just under one week on Sunday March 2nd at the Walker Activity Dome – if you’re interested in coming, please check out this page. If you’ve already decided you’re definitely coming., then our fresh meat co-ordinator Big Smack & Fries has some essential tips for you…

Hi, I’m Big Smack! I might have already added you on Facebook if you’re down as attending the event, we might have even already met in person, or maybe you’ve recently seen me refereeing one of NRG’s bouts. Although I am a referee, I have passed the WFTDA minimum skills for players and in fact used to play for the Canny Belters once upon a time. I am on NRG’s coaching committee and run our fresh meat intakes – I’m basically in charge of the session content and making sure the testing sessions are ran properly. As we are now a WFTDA league it’s even more important that all our skaters have passed the official minimum skills, and if we send someone to a bout when they haven’t had absolutely everything ticked off, it’s my neck on the line. Don’t kid yourself – passing the minimum skills is hard work, and I am super serious about making sure only competent  skaters join our ranks – but I’m also super passionate about making sure everyone has the support and coaching required to get where they need to be.

The next intake starts in just over a week, so by now you’ve hopefully sourced some skates, gone to a few roller discos or braved the outdoors, but you’re still not completely sure what to expect on the first day. I’m not going to give you super secret hints and tips for impressing me and the other coaches – remember, these aren’t like try outs you might have seen on Whip It or had nightmares about where you have to show off on the first day to stand a chance of ever playing roller derby. So long as you can skate and keep up with what we’re teaching, you’ll be absolutely fine. What I will impart on you is some really useful information that will help you, and help us to help you.

– Arrive on time
I cannot stress the importance of this one. Yes, it’s a Sunday morning, but we’ve been doing these intakes for a while now and this has proven to be the optimal time. For the first session, and any subsequent sessions where you intend to borrow kit, you need to come well ahead of the 10.30am start time. 10.30am is when the session begins – which means you need to be kitted up in the hall, ready to start the warm up at 10.30. Rushing in at 10.29 won’t cut it. You will miss time on skates but more importantly you’ll take time away from everyone else who was there at the right time if the coach has to accommodate any latecomers. Don’t be that guy!

– Dress appropriately
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. And it’s really, really uncomfortable to try to skate in full kit and jeans. The most common clothing at NRG and Tyne & Fear practices is leggings (sports ones or just your average Primark pair), shorts of any length and tightness,  or a combination of the two. Top half we recommend a tshirt or vest as you’ll need to wear elbow pads – if you need long sleeves make sure they’re tight fitting. Don’t wear your favourite things, as you’ll be sweating and hitting the floor a fair bit.

You will need to wear trainers to every session, as we do an off skates warm up – which you will find harder to do barefoot or in your socks if your footwear isn’t appropriate. The Dome is cold before you start warming up, so a jumper and/or jogging bottoms on top of what you intend to skate in might be handy. Layer it up! Oh, and you can turn up in a tutu and fishnet tights and glitter if you wish but you may have noticed this aspect of roller derby kind of died in 2011.

– Bring plenty of liquids
Treat roller derby like any other sport or fitness class. You will work hard, and you will sweat. You will need to drink – water or isotonic drinks, preferably, but whatever works for you. At least one litre, but we would recommend two. There is a water fountain in the Dome but it’s not easily accessible on skates (it’s in the gym) so if you want to use it, use it before 10.30. We don’t want to be waiting for skaters to come back from the gym because they’ve ran out of water half way into the session. Don’t be that guy either. There are vending machines in the Dome foyer if you forget but they only sell 500ml bottles and you can’t go through the foyer on skates, so if you forget and need to buy some when you arrive, you’re best off buying two.

– Bring the right change
We’re not a bank, so if everyone turns up to pay £5 (plus £1.50 for kit hire) with £20 notes, we’re going to run into problems. Please bring the correct change or as close as possible.

– Don’t expect the kit to be perfect
We’re a non profit, grass roots organisation, so our spare kit is exactly that – spare stuff, donated by our skaters. It’s not in perfect condition, but it’s more than adequate for the first few sessions until you get your own stuff. It has also mostly been donated by Newcastle Roller Girls so for any male skaters, it might be on the small side. If you need to borrow skates and have abnormally small or large feet, there simply might not be a pair there for you. Please get in touch with us prior to next Sunday if you want to ask about sizes but I know from memory we have nothing smaller than a 4 and only a handful of sizes bigger than a 7, maybe not the size you need. Bring a few pairs of big socks if you think you might be starting in bigger loan skates. If you can only commit to buying one thing before the intake starts, buy some skates that fit you.

– Listen, focus and be present
The coaches are giving up their Sunday mornings to teach you guys, so please be courteous. Most will be missing out on a personal trainer session to attend yours, so give them your full attention and respect. Having to repeat instructions multiple times because someone was talking or skated off to the toilets without saying anything eats into everyone else’s skating time and is generally quite frustrating. We don’t want to treat a group of adults like school kids and have to sssh people or give blow whistles to gain attention, but we definitely will if we have to.

– Ask questions 
When you are given the opportunity to ask questions and you have one you want to ask, make sure you do! There’s really no such thing as a stupid question – roller derby is pretty alien to most people, especially those who’ve never had formal skating training. I can guarantee the question you’re about to ask is in the heads of at least two other people in the group but they’re just too nervous to ask, so you’re doing everyone a favour. And if you don’t understand what’s being asked of you, ask before you start trying to do the drill wrong. Easy!

– Be ready to work hard and make sacrifices 
Oh, yeah – treat roller derby like any other sport or fitness class! It’s a cliché, but you honestly are only going to get out of roller derby what you put into it. It is physically challenging.  It’s incredibly hard to succeed if you have a hangover every Sunday morning. You will have to skate at other times besides the Sunday morning sessions – at roller discos, outside, or at another NRG session that you will be given information on once you’ve attended your first Sunday – basically, 2 hours a week will not be enough for you to pass minimum skills. If you make excuses and sit out of drills, you’re cheating yourself. Be honest with us about your health and we can accommodate you, but don’t just not try something because it’s hard.

Hopefully I haven’t terrified you all with this post! I’m looking forward to meeting everyone next weekend – if you have any questions about the intake, please make sure you’ve read this page through twice and that it’s not answered on there before emailing me at recruitment @ newcastlerollergirls . co . uk

Later skaters!