Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Attention newbies...again...again....again.

This is what you sound like to non derby folk.
Yea!  You've joined roller derby and you're gung ho full on roller derby rabies crazy!  Hooray!  You've probably thought about your new bout day outfits, poured over various socks online and of course, your new derby name.  Those things are fun, and great to get excited about, but here are some tips to help you navigate the slightly bumpy road of being a new skater in derby!  I wrote a blog about newbies last year with some of the same tips, but I have added some things to the list, and the rest is worth repeating.

1.  Learn to speak about other things than derby.  As we become immersed in the roller derby culture, we become a little fanatical.  Don't let it completely take over your life!  Your family is going to lose patience with you if all you talk about is derby derby derby!  Same with your friends, your coworkers, people standing in line with you at the grocery store, and your neighbors.  Derby is never going to be as important to them as it is to you, so learn to curb your derby diarrhea every once in a while.  You had other interests before you got into derby; don't let them wither away just because you've joined the sport.  Remember, most skaters stay in derby for about three years on average.  It's not a lifestyle, it's a hobby and sport.

2.  Spend your money on good protective gear.  I know those booty shorts look super cute, but spend that money on protective gear that will prolong your skating career.  Get gaskets, good knee pads and a safe helmet.  I've recently switched to a hockey helmet, and I absolutely love it.  Is it pretty?  Nope.  I don't care.  I want to keep my brain protected and thus far this is the best solution I've found.  When it comes to a choice of cool socks or better gear, better gear should always win.

3.  Learn to do basic, and I mean BASIC skate maintenance.  You need to know when your skates need to be tweaked.  If you're having problems with your hockey stop, your trucks may be too tight.  Learning the process of adjusting your trucks is a good, basic and low risk way to introduce yourself to exactly how your skates work.  Ask a veteran skater to help you with the process, read about it online, or talk to your coach.  I have found that a lot of women are reluctant to pick up tools and fiddle around with their skates; they tend to be afraid that they'll break them are screw everything up.  That fear keeps us from learning about our skates; take baby steps and get over that fear.  Remember, you have a whole team there to ask questions to when it comes to skate maintenance.  Ask!

4.  Listen to all advice and then figure out what works.  Everyone can teach you something, including your fellow newbie skaters.  Sometimes you are going to get unsolicited advice.  Guess what, every derby skater gets that, veteran or newbie.  Your job is to take it all in and think about it; some advice is not going to make sense right away, and some advice is going to be stupid, and some advice is going to make the light bulb in your head glow like the sun! 

5.  Don't be surprised if the vets don't care about your bruises, blisters...etc.  You have a bruise?  Welcome to derby.  I used to document my derby injuries as a newbie, and then I only documented the spectacular ones, and now I just shrug and accept that I will have bruises, scrapes and various boo boos while I'm involved in this sport.  If you show me your new bruise, unless it covers one quarter of your body, or is in the shape of a smiley face,  I'm probably going to say "Yep, try some arnica" and go on with my business.  I'm not trying to be dismissive of your boo boo, but we all have them.  Share them with your fellow freshmeat; it's definitely a bonding experience!

6.  Learn the difference between discomfort and pain.  There is a difference that you have to learn quickly; sometimes you're going to be pushed to your physical limits by a drill or endurance and you feel exhausted.  That's a good thing.  You're uncomfortable, and you should keep pushing.  Pain is a completely different animal.  Below are some of the signals of something serious happening; if you feel any of these, you should stop and rest.

A)  You feel something "give" in a joint.
B)  You feel a muscle pull or tear.
C)  You get dizzy.
D)  You can't breathe.
E)  You feel a sharp and defined pain.
F)  You have an extremely fast or irregular heartbeat.
G)  You have chest pain. 
H)  Blood is involved. 

You need to learn the difference between "This makes me feel crappy" and "This is dangerous for me.  Nobody can tell you how you're feeling; that's your responsibility.  If you feel one of the symptoms above, you need to communicate that with your coach, immediately.  Learn the difference so you don't quit pushing yourself just because you're uncomfortable.  Most strong athletes live in the land of uncomfortable; it makes them push harder.   Remember, there is a definite difference between "I don't want to" and "this is scary."  For most newbies...."I don't want to" is where they are.

PS, sorry everyone, but if you puke because of endurance, this is not on the "dangerous" list of most sports trainers.  However, it is on the gross list.  So is crying.

7.  Come to every practice you can.  It always amazes me when newbies don't come to practice opportunities.   You're not going to get better if you're not on your skates as much as possible!  Most leagues are tightening time tables on when you can assess to be a rostered skater; new skaters are often not given as much practice space or time as the rest of the team, so take advantage of what you have!

8.  Work out outside of derby.  Derby is great exercise, but it does overwork certain muscle groups and underwork others.  It's important to balance out all of our muscle groups, and because we "Skate fast and turn left" most of the time, you have to make sure you're protecting yourself and not becoming too unbalanced.  Do core work, strengthen and protect your joints and lift weights.  Weight lifting keeps our bones in good shape, and in derby that is extremely important!  So many women have weak bones; lifting weights helps keep them dense and fracture free!

9.  Don't get butthurt.  You're a part of a league now, but you are on probation to a lot of the vet skaters.  So many people join derby, and then they decide it isn't for them and leave.  It's hard to get close to people and then have them disappear from the league; many vets are a little cautious about getting personally close to newbies until they prove they will stick around for a while.  Don't worry, it will happen!  For now, be friendly to everyone and bond with your fellow freshmeat.  People will come around when you prove to have longevity with the league.

10.  Start watching derby.  I am always surprised that newer skaters don't know some of the bigger leagues in the derbyverse.  Some people have been skating for years and don't seem to keep up with the movers and shakers of derby.  Step outside of your league's tiny world and look around at what other people are doing;  don't know who Bonnie Thunders is?  You need to.  Are you aware that there are several versions of derby out there?  No?  Start educating yourself about this sport!

So, welcome to derby!  I'm excited that you have chosen to be a part of the best sport in the world; I hope that you bring great things to derby, and derby brings great things to you too!



  1. Hit the nail on the head.... again! All correct points, but one I would like to delve a tiny bit more into.

    "C) You get dizzy.
    D) You can't breathe.
    PS, sorry everyone, but if you puke because of endurance, this is not on the "dangerous" list of most sports trainers. However, it is on the gross list. "

    C and D usually lead to the whole "sick" issue (at least they did for me during my meatie days, and still do if I've been on hiatus too long.) The key to this is when you get sick; take a moment to catch your breath, clean up, re-hydrate (but for the love of quads do not chug!) and when you are no longer dizzy return to your training. I have seen so many people (skaters and non) apply the "yak and come back" principle when drinking, it shouldn't be harder when it's just oxygen.

    Thanks again Q for a great read!

  2. Great points, all of them! I would raise a point with part of #6. "Remember, there is a definite difference between "I don't want to" and "this is scary.""

    One of the very early things I did on skates was shopping carts (or truck & trailers, whatever you call them) with a veteran skater. When she was pulling, I was absolutely terrified, but it also taught me why a good low stance was really important. I agree new skaters should be aware of when they might be doing damage to their muscles/bones/etc, but a bit of scary speed can be a learning opportunity (and it can be really fun.)

  3. great points thanks for blogging !!