The start of my roller derby journey was pretty random, I had gone ice skating back in January 2015 which reminded me of how much I used to love the feeling of ice skating as a kid and throughout my teens. I was never able to do anything fancy, pretty much just go forward and slow down enough to stop without crashing into the sides of the rink. I did complete a basic ice skating course in my twenties with one of my best mates, but hadn’t done any skating since.
Whilst skating around, I made the decision to buy some roller skates – I thought it would be a great way to keep fit and skate any time, without being restricted by rink opening times or costs and so my roller derby journey began.
I googled skate shops and came across Double Threat in Kings Cross, local to where my mum lived and they sold a great selection of retro skates. I ventured there and unbeknown to me, I was served by one of the London Roller Girls (Trish Smackanawa), she helped me select my retro skates and some protective gear, which I definitely needed as I hadn’t roller skated since I was a kid! Trish then asked where I lived and suggested that I check out Hertfordshire Roller Derby, as although they taught skills to play roller derby, I would learn the basics skills needed to skate safely. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the style of skates I wanted in my size, so I had to wait for them to be delivered, so left with my protective gear and the urgency to google roller derby.
I had never heard of roller derby and after a bit of research, I found the Belles and emailed them to find out if there was space to join their next intake of ‘fresh meat’, I was so happy to find out I could join, without much thought I just paid my deposit and signed up.
When my skates arrived in the post, I was so excited but also very apprehensive. I remember being so nervous on my way to the first training session, I was completely out of my comfort zone, I didn’t know anyone and had no idea what I was walking into! I managed to make it through the majority of session without falling over until we played stuck in the mud, I literally landed straight onto my butt! It hurt so much I had to miss the next training session, but after purchasing a pair of ‘bum savers’ I returned two weeks later to continue my journey.
Joining the league has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, but also one of the most challenging things I have ever done. I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions learning the skills needed to actually play, at one point I was considering giving up as I just wasn’t confident I would ever be capable of passing all of the skills.
The turning point came in July 2016, when we were all asked to create a goal pyramid, it was then I was faced with having to decide if I would make a commitment or turn my back on roller derby and the Belles I had grown to love. I really wasn’t sure if I truly wanted to play, I still felt scared at the thought of playing for real, but after going back and forth, I finished my pyramid.
My first goals were to pass all minimum skills, particularly focussing on the ones I found most difficult (transitions, backward skating and completing 27 laps in 5 minutes), build my strength with off- skate training and improve my nutrition and mental game. The challenges were set and I was determined to make it, I felt that achieving these goals was the only way I could make an informed decision whether or not to continue.
I quickly signed up to running my first ever 10k and joining my local bootcamp. I hadn’t really noticed any improvement in my fitness, but after passing my 27 laps in 5 minutes a month later, it became apparent that I was actually capable of achieving my goals!
It took another three months for me to pass the rest of my skills, the last being skating three laps backwards in 60 seconds, and here I am now, training with advanced with the reality of being able to play roller derby for real!
All in all, it took me 20 months to pass all of my minimum skills to be able to move up from intermediate to advanced. It had never dawned on me that it was a possibility to make it that far, even after our fresh meat course, I wasn’t expecting to be invited to stay on!
Looking back, I am so glad I made the decision to keep going, my commitment to off skate training not only helped improve my overall fitness, it has helped me feel strong and confident enough to continue my journey. Roller derby has changed my life – all of the Belles are an inspiration of what you can achieve when you put your mind to it. I am not sure if I would have been able to continue if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement the Belles have given me, but I do know I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without them!
For those of you who are reading this wondering whether or not to take the plunge and try roller derby (or anything else new), please believe in yourself and give it a go! I have spent so much time comparing myself to everyone else, but I can now acknowledge and feel proud of what I have achieved and appreciate my very own journey – If I can do it, anyone can!
Love and shoves
TanShee Scream x