Hi! I’m Penny Bizarre – one of Newcastle Roller Girls’ co-captains for 2015 and a jammer on the Canny Belters. I started skating about 4 years ago in our first ever Fresh Meat intake.
Learning to play roller derby can be one of the most challenging, exciting and rewarding things you ever do. It could be the first step in a journey where you’ll make friends, get fitter and stronger than ever, have fun and learn how to do crazy things on roller skates. What’s not to love?
I’ve put together some tips and tricks to help you through the first 14 weeks of your amazing roller derby journey. Read them carefully and do your best to follow them – it’ll be worth it.
We skate on quad roller skates, not blades.
At Newcastle Roller Girls Intakes we have a limited amount of kit available to hire, however it’s first come first served so if you can, and you’re serious about roller derby, it’s worth picking up some basics of your own.
A basic pair of quad skates that’ll get you through Fresh Meat will set you back around £45 new, and could be handy if you plan on practicing outside of our sessions (which is a good idea, but more on that later). Google ‘disco skates’ or search for them on Ebay, or head over to Skate Shack in Gateshead to buy some in real life.
To take part in our sessions you must wear the following safety gear. Safety is super cool:
Gum shield (week 5 onwards)
You can buy starter packs of all the pads you need online at places like Skate Asylum (and others) – some packs include helmets too. 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 do not hire these out (for obvious reasons – eww). You can get one for a few quid from sports shops or online. If you have braces or other dental work, you might need to get one from your dentist, but for most people a cheap one is good enough for Fresh Meat.
You should also bring trainers to our Fresh Meat sessions as we often do an off skates warm up which is much harder in socks or bare feet.
For better or worse, the days of tutus, fluffy leg warmers and ripped fish nets in roller derby are dying. Give or take the odd Pride bout ;) Certainly as far as Fresh Meat goes, sportswear is where it’s at. You’ll definitely get sweaty and probably fall on your ass, so think comfortable and practical – not jeans! You need to be able to strap on knee, elbow and wrist pads over whatever you’re wearing so leggings or shorts (not too short – remember what we said about falling on your ass…) with a T-shirt or vest top would be a good shout.
We’ll teach you everything you need to know to play roller derby at our newbie intakes. Well… almost everything. When you arrive at your first session you should be able to stand up and move about on skates. We don’t expect mad skillz, but if you’re Bambi on ice you won’t be able to take part – so get your skates on!
As with any new skill, practice makes perfect. We recommend you get your skates on in your own time as well as at our coached sessions. Two hours a week isn’t long to pick up a new skill after all.
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 on Facebook 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 picking up new skills and putting them into action on track.
Roller derby is a great way to keep fit, and that’s one of the reasons a lot of people get into the sport. Our Fresh Meat intakes 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 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 Fresh Meat sessions will serve you well.
5. Attitude and commitment
One of the things I really love about roller derby is that it’s a challenge. Everyone is always learning. It’s extremely rewarding when you stick at it, but you really do get out what you put in. So give it your all! We don’t expect you to put life on hold while you do Fresh Meat, but you’ll get more out of the sessions if you’re well fed and watered, well rested and fully committed when you turn up. Find a balance that works for you and be prepared to put the effort in to achieve your goals.
As a beginner (or even as a veteran) you’re bound to struggle at some point, whether it’s a skill you just can’t get the hang of, or finding the motivation to make it to training after a long week… or a late night! You will fall over. A lot. So whatever happens, be positive, be encouraging towards your new teammates and yourself, keep smiling, keep getting back up and trying again, and never ever utter the words ‘I can’t’.
6. Understanding roller derby
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?! Having at least a basic understanding of the game is a very good idea if you want to start playing it. 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.
Head over to the WFTDA.tv archive where you’ll find a cornucopia of derby footage, including games between some of the top teams in the world, or EVEN BETTER… come to watch one of Newcastle Roller Girls’ or Tyne & Fear’s home games. You can find out what we’ve got planned by visiting our tickets and events page, or see Tyne & Fear’s tickets and events page.
If you really want to win some brownie points, take a look at the rules, but don’t freak out; I know they seem complicated. Trust me, you’ll pick them up in no time when you start putting them into action.
7. Water and nutrition
Our Fresh Meat sessions can be quite demanding, especially if you’re fairly new to regular exercise. You’ll get the most out of them if your body is well fueled and hydrated. Bring plenty of water with you and have breakfast or a snack before you arrive. We recommend a large sports bottle or a litre bottle of water – roller derby is thirsty work!
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.
8. Be on time
Our Fresh Meat sessions start at 10.30am. That’s when you’re expected to be kitted up, standing up and ready to roll. It’ll take you a few minutes to kit up, longer if you need to borrow kit from us, and remember – our kit is available on a first come first served basis so it pays to be there early!
If you aren’t ready to go at the start of the session you may miss something important, or worse still, hold up the session for others.
Our coaches are all volunteers, giving up their Sunday mornings to teach you how to play roller derby, so don’t waste their time. Listen to instructions, focus on the task in hand, and if you don’t understand something, ask for clarification! If you can’t get the hang of something, keep trying – you’ll get it eventually.