Time at HRD: 2 years
I was approached at the Herts Show in May 2014 by some crazy looking ladies on roller skates. Apparently they did this thing called roller derby in my town.
In August I bought my kit and I went to watch the Belles home bout in 2014, I had absolutely no idea what was going on but it looked AWESOME! It made me even more impatient to start the course!
Fresh Meat September 2014
My Fresh Meat experience was quite random. People came and left, but I REALLY enjoyed learning all the skills. On my birthday weekend December 2014 we finished Fresh Meat and graduated. I was awarded Future Blocker. I didn’t really know what that meant but I was super happy when I was invited to join the league.
After intermediate training there was the opportunity to stay while the big Belles scrimmed. I got to learn the rules and how to keep score, which was all taught by others in the league. I was in awe, this crazy, fast paced, noisy scrim time. I wanted to play!
A few months later I had signed off most of my minimum skills that everyone has to pass before they are safe to scrim. There were a few that were tough as hell, I needed some serious off skates training to pass some of the endurance based skills. This was definitely NOT a natural ability for me! I already did five days a week off-skate training, so I had to tweak it so I didn’t over do it.
I had a Cherry Popper booked for me that was coming up fast. I was told there would be lots of people at my level scrimming for the first or second time. I was so excited. And then it got nearer and nearer and I didn’t know how to play a game of derby. How do I get to the penalty box? What did they say the penalties were?? Cue a week of panic! Luckily for me a couple of others from our league were skating in the same cherry popper, except they were on the other team. I was so nervous!
The cherry popper was so much fun! I loved it and couldn’t wait to do it again! However the teams skated in the ‘contrasting colours’ baby blue and light grey. This wasn’t the best for us rookies as I couldn’t tell who was on my team or the opposing team!
Throughout March I scrimmed with the big Belles in the league. I had waited for this for so long. I loved the game play, the drills and the hitting! But I fell over A LOT. I got left behind, I didn’t understand tactics or why we did certain things. I totally underestimated what it meant to scrim, let alone bout. I received so much support (mainly in the form of shouting at me to do something!) which I really appreciated, but I felt like I was back at the first day of Fresh Meat. I was frustrated that I wasn’t improving as quickly as I wanted to.
Throughout April I dragged my family to Roller City to work on things we’d done at training and they loved it! They were super supportive of my derby journey, I’ve never been the sportiest person and derby gave me a real drive to be the best I could be.
My dad then decided to buy his own skates, then my mum… So through the summer we went to outdoor skate parks. This was the best thing for me; I was working on improving my footwork and learning to push myself out of my comfort zone. I still fell over A LOT but I was always fully kitted up so never got hurt. Every time I fell I learned to push myself a little further through the scary zone. I didn’t get to any impressive level and was always put to shame by little kids on their scooters, which was hilarious. They had no fear!
In May I had another Cherry Popper coming up in Brighton. I was much more confident about what I was supposed to be doing this time, but I was not ready for how tired my legs would be. Up until now I had mostly been blocking at training, with a little bit of Jamming thrown in. I was very unsure about Jamming as I just didn’t know what to do! In this particular Cherry Popper, I jammed for one of the last jams. I was skating far too upright, lost my balance and fell onto my butt. It really hurt to the point where I felt sick, but I thought I would carry on, how bad could it be?? Well it was bad. I couldn’t sit in the car on the way home, I spent the next week sitting and sleeping on a giant beanbag, heat and ice treating my ass while drifting in and out of consciousness from the ridiculous painkillers given to me by the docs.
I had to have a piles cushion for my car so that I could drive, and on my office chair (much to the amusement of everyone around me). I lost a bit of confidence on my skates and spent the next few months wearing padded shorts, I could not risk falling on it when even gently sitting down was agony.
It was a painful time, but a lesson learnt. Bend your knees, if you think you are low enough then you’re probably not, protect your coccyx because you only have one and once it’s damaged, it’s damaged for good.
Fighting for the Roster
Before long it was June with our home bout was coming up. I was desperate to get rostered to play in a British Championships game, but with an aching butt I knew I wasn’t ready. As part of the league I still helped out on the day and I watched in awe at how awesome our A-Team, Hell’s Belles, was. Even the flyer for the home bout was epic, featuring the amazing DodgeHer and I wished that one day I could be that awesome.
Through August I was training hard off-skates and on, still scrimming with the Belles. I was improving little by little, and every training session was getting more enjoyable.
Also in August I got to represent the Belles at Herts Pride, to see if we could gather any interest for our sport. It was a lovely sunny day and I had a great time chatting to people about how awesome derby is!
First Belles Bout
In October 2015 I received my bout vests and was rostered for the next game against Surrey. I was so excited! I didn’t want to let anyone down so I gave it everything. I hit the deck quite a lot, and this picture captures one of those moments perfectly (it is still one of my fave pics!).
Surrey were a great team to play against for my first bout, so tough and super friendly. I had the absolute BEST time! I wanted to play every game from then on.
Two weeks before the play offs in November I tripped over myself and fell at training, spraining my ankle. It hurt. I rested and saw a physio. He was brilliant and patched me up best he could over the two weeks, and I was rostered for both games in the play offs. Physically I struggled, so mentally I lost it and did not play very well at all. I felt awful. By the end of the last game I was in tears and I couldn’t stop. I cried, my team cried and our supporters cried. We had lost both our games. It was the worst feeling. However, I did suddenly click with one of my teammates on track. We worked well together and I wanted us to be a force to be reckoned with.
Next year’s goals already forming in my head, it was a sad weekend but I felt like I had so much more I could give.
Surrey had awarded me a Best Blocker Award. I cried some more! I felt absolutely honoured to receive it after all the amazing blocking from the day.
New Year, New Goals
In January 2016 I got my whole new skate set up sorted. I was super excited to try them out; they felt so weird compared to my starter skates. The plates were shorter and I had much less balance, I felt like I was learning to skate all over again. One of my goals for this year was to get rostered for every single British Champs game, and start getting some blocker points.
A Minor Setback
However, that was not to be. On 7th Feb 2016 I fell at training (again all on my own, there’s a pattern here) and seriously hurt my ankle. I heard it click, but I’ve had enough sprains to know that the ligaments sometimes make that noise. It hurt like hell and I was surprised to find that I could not put any weight on it. I sat icing it watching training continue until I realised that the pain was not subsiding. I called my family and asked for a lift to A&E. Still not being able to weight bear I was worried. The nurse confirmed that it was broken and I broke down in tears. I was not going to be playing in this year’s Champs games. I couldn’t stop crying.
Luckily for me, it was a simple break. I’ve had worse (other ankle) so I knew the recovery would be quicker than that.
I got to be Line Up Manager for Hell’s Belles in the first Champs game of the season while I was on crutches. I still got to be part of the day so I was over the moon. I missed a couple of weeks of training, but attended every other one to study the line ups, who worked well where and with who. I felt so much pressure and it was incredibly stressful but it was a brilliant game. Hell’s Belles won, I was so proud of the team but I never wanted to be LUM again!
On the 23rd March I had my cast off. My excitement was short lived when I realised I couldn’t even walk unassisted, let alone run or skate. I had so much support from the league and my family, they took me to every training session, bout and event ensuring I didn’t miss out on anything (thank you Lorna!), so although the road to recovery now seemed long I wasn’t giving up for anything. I did some upper body PT sessions to try to keep my fitness level up, but it did not counteract the amount of chocolate I was eating!
In April I got to be a poster girl for our home bout! I don’t even know what the word is for how I felt, a mix of honoured, guilty, proud and happy. But gutted that I wouldn’t be skating.
Back on Skates
Through April of this year I was now walking but still off skates. I was absolutely being torn apart watching the guys working on things I had most definitely needed to work on pre-injury. So at the end of April I put my skates on, it was terrifying. I had zero confidence in my ankles, I felt like I was once again back at the first day of Fresh Meat. I allowed myself to just mill around on my skates with no pressure, which I was backed 100% by my league. Through May I was trying to carefully follow footwork drills which I had struggled with mentally pre-injury. It was very scary, so I pushed on with off-skates training to get stronger, fitter and more confident. I was back at Roller City every week for extra practice. I felt wobbly and frightened of falling over, something I had not really felt before.
At the end of May I pushed myself to start scrimming again. I got knocked over a load of times and my fear of falling faded. I was still in pain getting up from the floor or trying to sprint on my toe stops, it totally sucked but it reminded me that just because my mind is ready to be back, my body was not.
I once again adjusted my off-skates training sessions to be more weights based, with less impact on my ankle to give it chance for the swelling to go down.
At the end of June Hell’s Belles were travelling to Norfolk to take on the very strong Milton Keynes Concrete Cows in the next British Champs game. My sister was due to visit that week and she had never seen me bout or play derby at all. In my head I wanted this to be my first bout back, but I just couldn’t say if my body would be ready. By mid June I was back to all off skates activities, I was stuck in to my physio exercises which included jumping on one leg; the one thing that I was terrified to do. I bit the bullet and just did it. And it hurt. So I carried on doing it and it got less and less scary.
During a scrim I suddenly noticed that I had sprinted on my toe stops with no pain, I could get up off the floor with no pain; I had no mental block on falling down. In my mind I was ready, I was scared and I had everything crossed that I would get rostered for the next game.
Making the Roster
When the roster came out I felt sick. I had been picked and I was going to be bouting against Milton Keynes. I was ecstatic! I was very nervous on the day, not wanting to let anyone down. It was a brilliant game, I had the most fun I have ever had playing Derby. Milton Keynes were a strong, hard hitting team and the game was just so enjoyable. Hell’s Belles took the lead and stayed there to take the win. And then in our next game we took the win against Killa Hurtz. It was incredible. Our team won every game in the group to finish top of the tier!
Having time off skates made me so much more appreciative of what it means to be part of the league, just because I wasn’t on skates or wasn’t part of the A-Team it never meant that I wasn’t included.
I’ve come a long way since Fresh Meat in my Derby journey, and I will not give up until I am the best that I can be for the league. I hope that I can inspire at least one person to not give up on something when things feel tough. I absolutely love this sport and all my teammates, I can’t imagine my life without Derby, it would be very dull!
Bring on Playoffs!
HELL YEAH HELL’S BELLES!!!
Come and cheer us on as we fight for promotion in our first game against Wirral Roller Derby. It’s all to play for. If we win our first game, we are guaranteed promotion to Tier 2 and go on to play two more games on the Sunday. If we lose, we’re out of the competition. Find out more about 2016 British Championships Playoffs.