Y’know that roller skating phase that everyone had when they were a kid? Well I never had that. To be honest the first time I put a pair of skates on was in January this year. And that fact is all I can currently think of. – Why? Because in 30 seconds I’m about to skate out in my first ever bout…
I joined the Seaside Siren Rollergirls in January 2011, and after completing the 17 week Freshmeat Course (minus one week for a trip to Germany for the Eurovision Song Contest – another story for another time, but take it from me, until you’ve danced to Jedward with Louis Walsh, you haven’t lived) – and now, on September 10th, I – Laura Jones…or should that be Macey/DC…am a Rollergirl. Mental. Absolutely mental.
In my first 30 years on the planet I’d successfully managed to dodge any kind of sporting endeavour, given the choice I’d always pick books over bruises, but with my 30th birthday came the desire to get myself a bit more fit, shift a bit of chub and acquire some form of hobby. So I did what an increasing amount of women my age are doing.
I joined a netball team.
Bear with me though, there’s a point to this. – Promise. Netball helped with my fitness, general communication skills, agility, endurance and ability to work as part of a team – and I loved it (still do as it happens). Last year a few of the girls in my team started playing roller derby, one thing lead to another and I joined too.
To say that the idea of learning a whole new sport from scratch in seventeen weeks intimidated me would be an understatement; I’d never played a contact sport before – let alone one on roller skates. The Sirens were, however, incredibly welcoming – and the girls that were starting the Freshmeat course with me all looked terrified too, and so it began…
I found a lot of the training difficult. It seems that I’m inherently far more academic than I am practical. My brain knew what I needed to be doing “it’s just physics, innit” but getting my legs to what I told them?, That just wasn’t happening. So I practiced. Everywhere. And I looked like a massive idiot. I’d hip check vending machines when my food got stuck, I’d cross-over walking round corners, if I was on the Tube I’d deliberately not hold on so I could work on my balance – and when I got good at that I’d do it on one leg (and then I fell on a Nun – A NUN – so I stopped doing that). I wore my skates at home when I was pootling about in my flat, I cleaned my teeth while doing squats, I stopped drinking alcohol quite so much (not altogether though, I’m not completely mental).
I watched everything I could on the internet about skating form, technique and bout tactics. I became the biggest Derby-bore you can possibly imagine.
I tell you something though, it worked. On August 10th the teams for Pier & Loathing, the Seaside Siren Rollergirls third public bout was announced, and there on the list, was my name. I’d been selected to play for SSRG’s Heartless Beaches against the Kent Rollergirls.
There was a month in between the teams being announced and the bout – but it might as well have been five minutes. Time flew – as it does when you’re having fun (and also are pretty much bricking it constantly). We knew nothing about Kent as this was their first public bout – so all we could do was concentrate on ourselves. As the day of the bout got nearer I started to worry about ridiculous things: what if I fell over during the skate out? What if no one came? What if someone hit me so hard I actually died? As it turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking this way, two days before the bout the ‘Beaches had a bit of a bonding session where we were all tasked with writing our biggest fears down (anonymously). I can’t tell you some (most) of them as they weren’t all family friendly, but what I can tell you is that it made me feel 100% better about the whole thing.
And, on bout day, as I started skating around the track to warm up, I knew that I shouldn’t be worrying, that I do this for fun and that as soon as it’s over I’d want to do it again so I should take the time to enjoy every second. Problem is, all I could think about is the fact that nine months ago I’d never, ever, EVER had a pair of skates anywhere near my feet. And I couldn’t help thinking that some time in the next 60 minutes I was pretty much definitely going to die – possibly more than once. Frankly that would’ve put a total dent in my weekend…
I wish I could tell you more about the actual bout, but if I’m honest it passed in a bit of a blur. I remember coming off after my first jam acutely aware that I’d forgotten pretty much everything I’d been taught, but as yet I wasn’t dead – which frankly was excellent news. As the jams passed everything we’d been taught started coming back, tactical starts, strong walls, effective communication and awareness of where our jammer was in the pack all made for an excellent game. Looking back on it all I’m incredibly proud of what we achieved. It’s worth mentioning that it wasn’t just my first bout; four of the girls from my graduating Freshmeat class were making their debut too: Frocky Balboa, Rae-Pest, Killer Bite & Trailer Park Thrash. Having wobbled about with them all on the first week of training and seeing what we were all capable of now was pretty mind blowing (and after a few shandies at the after party it all got a bit emotional too).
The final score didn’t go in our favour, Kent played brilliantly and beat us to it in the end – but I’m pleased to say that no one died – so surely that equates to some kind of draw?
And that after party I mentioned? I totally won that all by myself…well, maybe with a little help from my friends.