The Ten Funnest Things About Derby

This article was first published in Derby Oz magazine. 

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Photo by Smasharazzi

The Ten Funnest Things About Derby.

To describe Roller Derby as, “a contact sport played by two teams of five members roller skating in the same direction around a track…” et cetera, et cetera, which is what you’ll find on Wikipedia, really doesn’t give an outsider any insight into why Roller Derby is the fastest-growing sport in the world. It’s not just the gameplay that makes it amazing, it’s the “aura of Derbyness” around our great sport that makes it so phenomenal and so unique. This author decided to pinpoint what are, in her humble opinion and in no particular order, the ten funnest things about Roller Derby.

We have cool names. I love words. It’s why I like to write. Words can be clever, insightful, cutting, witty, suggestive, and sometimes all those things at once. So when I found out that the manager of my son’s rugby league team was not always called Mike, but sometimes called Dirty Menace, it was like a compass finding North. With our Derby names, we get to live out a little bit of fantasy that most of us don’t get to embrace in our day-to-day lives. For instance, I get to be a Hogwarts student (a really smart one at that). Derby names can make me nod my head in “hell yeah” admiration at their cleverness, or laugh out loud at their wittiness. Our alter egos are not something that “mainstream” sports embrace, and I realise it’s not something every league, or every skater, agrees with, but I love the fact that we have them. It makes us special, and it shows the world that we’re just a little bit clever really.

We play dress-ups. Let’s face it – Derby outfits are the best sporting attire going. Personally I’m not into tutus, but if that’s your scene, then I say TUTU IT UP WARRIOR PRINCESS! My team’s uniform consists of a sexy skate dress that I would NEVER wear in public otherwise. The rest of what we wear is up to us. Yes, some of us love fishnets, some of us don’t. Some of us have stage makeup, and some of us prefer to go mainstream – like our unique names, it’s not everyone’s scene. If you want to wear compression tights, like a hard-core elite athlete, do it. But some Derby girls want to have a bit of fun with what they wear on the track, and if they’re willing to risk a little fishnet burn, then good for them. And, by the way, you ALL look hot, no matter what you’ve got on your bod.

We are for everyone. I’m pretty sure my league is not unique in the fact that we accept, and embrace, people from all walks of life. Derby does not care what colour your skin is, what your background is, or your sexual orientation. We do not care if you are tattooed or a clean-skin, a bogan or a socialite. If you want Derby to be for you, it’s for you, and in this era when demographers try to pigeonhole us as much as they possibly can, I for one find Derby’s inclusiveness like a breath of fresh air.

We respect differences. I’ve seen fresh meat who seem to take to Derby like a duck to water. I struggled for almost a year before I mastered a Tomahawk stop, and seeing fresh meat who master it in a few weeks makes me just a teeny bit green with envy. But the fact is, Derby doesn’t care. Derby will embrace the girls who get it right the first time, and it will also be patient with the ones who take a little longer. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to pass your basic skills test. If you want to be here, we want you, and we respect you all the more for never giving up.

We are free-thinkers. Now, this is not based on any scientific evidence, but it seems to me, from my short time in the Derby world, that our little community is a teensy bit more intellectual, more inclusive, and more progressive than the rest of the community at large. I know that I can express an opinion, related to Derby, politics, or life, and even if it’s not agreed with, my opinion is respected, and an intelligent discussion can ensue. Maybe I’ve seen too many trolls on the Interwebs, but yeah, it seems to me that Derby peeps are pretty cool that way, and are way smarter than the average bear.

We knock the snot out of each other, and are best friends afterwards. We take our sport seriously. I laugh at the nay-sayers (most of whom have never seen a derby bout) who think that Derby is not a “real” sport, that our sport is akin to entertainment wrestling. I challenge anyone to tell a Derby girl to deliberately lose a bout. I promise you, it’ll be the last thing you say before your jaw is wired shut from the high block you’ll receive. We can have immense love, respect and friendship for one another off the track – even as we’re waiting for that whistle at the jammer line – but you better believe it girlfriend, on the track I’m putting my body on the line to make sure I beat you. And afterwards? Afterwards, it’s back to free-flowing, unadulterated, pure-as-the-driven-snow Derby Love.

We have amazeballs fans, volunteers, refs and NSOs. I love our support crew. After every scrimmage, and every bout, I try to thank every volunteer and ref I see. Because they’re not doing it for the fame, the glory or the money. They’re doing it because they love Derby, and because they want to give their time so we can skate. How awesome is that? And, in return, if we can give them the most amazing spectator sport ever conceived, well I for one think that is a fantastic trade.

We have the ultimate stress relief. I never would have said this before I started Derby, but I love getting hit. The idea of actual fisticuffs scares me to tears (as opposed to Feisty Cuffs, who’s an awesome ambassador for our sport), but on the track? BRING IT. When one of our league’s big hitters slams into me, and I maintain my balance, seriously, YOU HAVE MADE MY DAY. I love that feeling of power being expelled against me, almost as much as I love the feeling of expelling all my power against my opposition. And if I can help our team score a point or two in the process, then even better. Even when I don’t feel like going to training, I make sure I go, because whatever monkey has stolen my mojo, I can be sure that a few big hits given and received will send that primate back to the jungle where it belongs.

We get to look cool, even if, secretly, we know we’re not. OK, here’s a confession. I’ve never been a cool kid. I’m a bit like my namesake, Hermione, who only became cool because she got accepted into Hogwarts, and even then was outstandingly dorky to her fellow wizards. I only became cool when I got accepted into Derby. And I’m sure some of the chicks in my league are going, “WTF, she’s so not cool.” Yeah, I know I’m not. But everyone outside of Derby thinks I’m cool just because I play it. And, to me, that’s pretty bloody funny, because I’ve never been allowed to hang out with the cool kids, until now.

We get to wear wheels on our feet.  This one speaks for itself really! We get to go really really fast! It’s like a roller-coaster, only people are hitting you. Hell yeah! The first time I managed to skate without falling, I felt like I was flying, and it was awesome! And you know what? When I get a bit of speed up, I STILL feel like I’m flying! Why would anyone do a sport in sneakers? It really baffles me.

We have after-parties. Yes, I know this is the eleventh item in my list of top ten funnest things about Derby. But really, even if you can’t forgive my appalling disregard for numbers, who doesn’t love an after-party? My league gets to patronise our amazing sponsor, the Colonial Hotel at Werrington, (yes, this is a blatant plug for the best pub in Western Sydney), the Colonial staff get to wear league t-shirts, and we all enjoy a great meal, have a few drinks, reminisce about some great bouts, and strengthen those bonds of Derby love. Any sport with an after-party as part of the official program has got to be a fantastic way to spend a Saturday night.

OMG I still don’t have a derby name!!!

It’s been 12 wonderful months since I joined the derby community and now that I’m on the cusp of stepping up and into the bouting world, I’m freaking out a lil about not having a derby name.

As a freshie, the last thing on your mind is choosing a name. Mostly you’re just trying to stay upright and remembering to pick a cheek when you fail to do that.

As time goes on and your legs obey without thinking, you start to get serious and think about upgrading equipment, you’re now committed and in love with the sport. You start to develop a derby persona and focussing on the tests ahead, your motivation moves to the childish excitement of moving up a level and the prospect of hitting your fellow freshies!

Now is the time when the seeds of potential derby names that have been planted throughout the freshie phase, start to ripen and take shape.

When you finally move up a level, the reality that you can do this sport and that you can bout starts to sink in, and (if you haven’t already inherited a name), you begin to get serious about choosing a derby name.

It’s a derby rite of passage we all go through and one that we all enjoy immensely.

But what happens if you can’t find one that fits?

There is always the hope that one of your team mates will help you out and you’ll accidentally find yourself with a derby name.

You might even have a favourite band or song or celebrity name that you want to make derby worthy. Playing with words is a heap of fun – Eddie Van-Nailem, Bitchy and Scratchy – all it takes is a good imagination.

If you’re not so creative or need something to get you started, there are a tonne of derby name generators out there to give you a helping hand.

Here’s a couple to get you started:

http://rumandmonkey.com/widgets/toys/namegen/10568/#.VMBFsiuUd8F

http://www.rollersandrevellers.com/fresh-meat/name-generator

http://rollerderby.namegeneratorfun.com/

And then of course there’s google. Do a search under “roller derby names” and voila! Inspiration galore!

If you happen to be lucky and manage to find a name that fits (you’ll know it when it rolls off your tongue and your heart beat rises in time with the crowd roaring in your head as you are picturing your first skate out) you’ll be crossing all your body parts as you tentatively search the derby name register to make sure it hasn’t been taken. And if it hasn’t I’ll bet you move like lightning to get it registered so it stays that way too. (The register is here btw… http://www.rollerderbyau.net/derby-names-roster/womens-derby-names-roster/ )

But when that fails, what happens then?

I’ve been telling myself for months now that I’ve got plenty of time to choose a name. And for many months I’ve been right. But time is running out. Ohhh in case you haven’t realised by now, I’m also the most indecisive person on the planet.

I’ve got a team (Break-hers rock!) and I have sooooooo many ideas for names…

Dellvicious

Delleerious

Blocky Horror

Vicious Dell-isous

Delli Llama

She who hath no name….

But nothing seems to fit or rather, each fits, but it depends on the day and the mood I’m in… kinda like choosing clothes, just less nudity involved.

So what do you do when you can’t decide between your 76 split personalities?

I’m still trying to figure it out, but you can always put it to a vote. Jump onto the WSR social page and throw it out there, see what comes back (and there may be some unexpected suggestions thrown into the mix!). You could even put it to your non-derby friends and get their thoughts and opinions on what seems to suit the best.

At the end of the day, you can even go with your own name, more and more people are doing it and there’s no shame in not being able to settle on a name.

But if you’re like me and are looking for something cool and catchy, perhaps patience is all that’s needed… or a kick in the behind to get you on your way 🙂

Derby Love

Delle

(AKA She who hath no name…. yet)

Helmet Hair: The Only Side Effect A Good Helmet Should Have

by Delle – AKA: “She who doth not yet have a derby name”

One of the things we take for granted on the track, is the fact that our helmet will protect us in the event of a fall. As a relative newbie to the sport (just on 12 months now), I did some research into helmets to discover a bit more about that vital piece of equipment protecting our noggins from getting a floggin.

What I found surprised me more than I was comfortable to admit:

Most of us are probably not as protected as we may have thought, or even as much as we might like.

It turns out, that most of the helmets being sold to us for derby purposes, aren’t actually rated to take more than 1 serious hit (and some of them, surprisingly, aren’t even rated to do that!).

What counts as a serious hit I hear you ask?

Well it could be something as simple as falling hard and smacking your head on the floor on the rebound… or running into a wall and rebounding off your head (which I was prone to do as a freshie – I’m a klutz by nature what can I say).

Read on if you want to find out more – but make sure you grab yourself a cuppa or a nice glass of vino first (it’s a wee bit lengthy explaining these things)…

DISCLAIMER:

For a start, I want to be upfront and tell you that I am by no means an expert on these things.

BUT I did want to share some of the research with you, maybe you’ll learn something in the process and hopefully I’ll be able to give you something to consider the next time you look at upgrading the head ware.

With a lil luck, I’ll even be able to do it with minimal techni-babble.

Helmets that are approved or recommended for derby use come in two types –

* Single Impact

* Multi Impact

And basically, they split into 3 styles of helmets…

Single Impact Styles

Helmets with a soft foam interior lining:

* Soft foam (or Skate Only) helmets have a plush interior liner and are intended to protect against multiple, low-force impacts commonly associated with sports like roller derby, inline skating, and skateboarding. “Soft foam” roller derby helmets may or may not be skate certified. (Note that lack of such a certification is not unusual and does not mean that your helmet isn’t safe.)

Helmets with a hard foam interior lining

* Hard foam (or bike/skate) helmets have a stiff EPS foam liner, like that of a traditional bicycle helmet. They are mainly intended to sustain one large impact. Hard foam helmets with an EPS liner are typically CPSC certified for bike use. They can also be used while doing other activities, such as roller derby, skateboarding, or inline skating.

Multi Impact Styles

Hockey style helmets or helmets rated to the multi impact standards

* Multi-impact helmets use a different kind of foam which deforms but doesn’t completely crush. In addition to the CPSC test for bicycling, they’re also tested against ASTM F-1492-08, a

standard for roller skating and trick skateboarding, very similar to derby. It’s okay to keep using a multi-impact helmet after falling, but you should still replace it after the event.

Multi-impact helmets are tested by dropping straight down a number of times from a lower height and measuring the amount of energy transferred to the meter inside.

So what’s the standard?

America seems to have set the standards when it comes to rating derby helmets and it’s no surprise that they take it very seriously considering the cult status the sport has in the US. A lot of my research into the topic, involved reading through pages and pages of technical speak about the standards of what a multi-impact helmet was in the US, versus the single impact helmet varieties. There is a lot of information out there on the topic (and I’ve included some links at the end if you’re interested in reading up on it).

In a nutshell, the 3 main certifications setting the standard are the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) certification (for single “large impact” helmets), the ASTM certification and the HECC hockey safety certifications (for multi-impact helmets).

U.S Standards

CPSC certified

These helmets meet the requirements for protecting the head in the event of a significant impact (such as hitting the floor with a bit of speed). They are designed to protect the head in the event of a single large impact, or protecting your head in the event of smaller knocks (such as those we cop in the pack at scrim). They tend to have a stiff foam liner which is good for absorbing minor knocks, but which doesn’t dissipate the energy of a larger knock as effectively more than once, the way a multi impact rated helmet will do.

To absorb the impact, the hard shell casing of a CPSC helmet will deform as it dissipates the energy of the fall, basically meaning that the foam lining, won’t go back to its original shape. The effects might not be visible in these cases, which are why on inspection, things might look fine. After a big fall (or even dropping your helmet from a significant height or throwing it in a tanty), the lining isn’t as effective and might not protect you the next time round from getting a concussion.

ASTM certification

This is the standard certification for Multi-Impact helmets used for skating. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of helmets out there that meet the standards required to get this kind of rating. But those that do are slowly finding their way onto the Australian market. To meet the ASTM rating, the helmet needs to be able to take multiple beatings similar to the test for the CPSC certification. In order to pass, the integrity of the liner needs to be maintained.

HECC certification

The HECC certification is the standard for hockey helmets and is the most stringent in terms of testing and pass requirements, and you can imagine why it needs to be when a puck flying through the air could occur multiple times over a game. Naturally, the HECC certification therefore takes the ASTM certification to the next level.

The Australian Standard

Australia doesn’t have a rating for multi impact skate helmets as yet, the closest we get to the US standard is what is used for Hockey helmets in Australia, and most of those are based on the US testing regime.

The bottom line being that that Australian Standards for bike and skate helmets, are more closely aligned to the US CPSC standards for a single large impact.

And a lot of the helmets we get in Australia are from companies in the US which means they’re more likely to have a US Standard attached to them also.

Helmets that don’t meet the cut

S-One derby has a blog on the least protective helmets out there, surprisingly, the following are on the list of helmets that don’t quite make the cut when it comes to protection:

* S-One Premium Helmet (EVA Foam w/ DLX Terry Liner)

* Triple 8 Brainsaver (EVA foam w/ Sweatliner)

* Protec Bucky Helmet (w/ 2 stage foam)

* Protec Classic (w/ 2 stage foam)

* Protec Ace Helmet (2 stage foam)

* 187 Helmet (w/ Sure-Fit Foam liner) You can read more about these helmets at http://s-onederby.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/list-of-least-protective-helmets-for.html

Tips for helmet care

* Make sure your helmet is designed for skate use and not bike-only use (a bike/skate helmet is fine). A skate helmet covers more of the back of your head and neck. You’ll need that protection when you fall backwards.

* Don’t store your helmet in your trunk between practices. Let it and the liner air out. (Your friends will thank you.) Plus, depending on the construction, temperature extremes can damage your helmet.

* Make sure you check your helmet before you use it, inspect it for any visible damage as well as for soft spots in the liner and the outer shell.

X Sports Protective has a couple of articles with more tips on what to look for when inspecting your helmet and knowing when to replace it. Visit http://www.xsportsprotective.com/pages/how-to-choose-roller-derby-helmet for more details.

So which do you choose?

As a minimum, you should be looking at a skate helmet that meets the minimum standards for a single large impact, that means looking at the hard foam interior linings and making sure that you replace your helmet after a big fall (or after throwing your gear around). I’m not going to tell you which helmet to buy, cause ultimately, that’s your decision, and you need to make sure that the helmet fits comfortably also.

Thankfully, there are a few more multi-impact helmets on the market nowadays, not all of them have hit the shops in Aus-land, but you can expect that this will change the more people are looking for them.

Protec, Nutcase & Triple 8 all seem to have ASTM rated helmets in their ranges so that might be a good starting place to start looking if you’re after a multi-impact rated helmet.

For a great read on the ins and outs of helmet standards and the different types of helmets out there, Windy City Rollers have a great article here which is well worth taking the time to read.

At the end of the day, it pays to ask questions and it pays to do a bit of research – a little time and pain now, can stop a lot of pain later and hopefully having read this, you’ll have a better idea of the questions you need to ask to get the best protection to meet your needs.

Thanks for reading!

Derby love

Delle

One Year On – by T-Wrecks

It’s been a year. A year since I found the courage to start something new. 365 days since my first training session, a year of feeling a part of the greatest bunch of human beings I know. It’s been 525,600 minutes since I found my passion.

Do you remember when you were a kid, riding bikes too fast, screaming down the “big” slippery dips, running like a madman down sand dunes, and better yet strapping on that first pair of skates. Do you remember the smile plastered on your face? Do you remember the wind whipping through your hair?

Now fast forward into adulthood, more specifically mine. It’d been years since I’d done anything remotely exciting, exercise wise. It’d been at least a decade since I’d participated in a team sport, and I can’t remember the last time I’d fallen over laughing and gotten up laughing as well. Hell, in what other sport do people clap at how good you stack? (Superman stacks score more points btw)

Roller Derby.

Let me say it again…Roller Derby.

Some have heard of it, some have seen it, others even know people who have played it. It’s hilarious, fun, competitive, chillaxed, encouraging and embracing all wrapped up in one really cool package.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all lollypops and rainbows. There is yelling and even tears from time to time – despite all the training, all the falls, sometimes you fall and it hurts like a SOB. But you know what…we’ve all been there – you’re in good company.

In this past year I’ve skated with men and women, novices and professionals, school teachers, nurses, ambos, and stay at home mums. I love the diversity of this place, where no one is judged for the colour on their skin (or how much/ or little ink they might have), size or height, or even what side of the fence they sit on.

If someone had of said to me a couple of years ago that I’d be playing Roller Derby I’d have possibly laughed at them. If they then had said that I was going to love it, and all that it entails, I’d have scoffed. But now…I can’t remember how I existed with life without these people, and without this sport.

I heart roller derby

T-Wrecks

The Freshie Files

By Betty Machete

As I sit here half way through my second week of fresh meat training covered in bruises (honestly, who knew you could bruise the palm of your hand), I am just starting to understand the amount of work I have in front of me and surprisingly how keen and excited I am to take it on.

I was never an athletic kid, I preferred to read over run and if someone would ask me to play outside my response would always be “why?”. This didn’t really change in my teenage years. Compulsory sport at school – netball was my reluctantly chosen pursuit – was always more of a social event for me. I was put into the C grade teams, not much was ever expected so not much was ever attempted.

By the time I hit 20 I figured I would never be athletic nor did I want to be. I believed a chubby kid (or adult) had no place on the sporting field and I was fine with that, they didn’t want me and I didn’t want them. I headed to uni, studied and thought that beside the odd fitness kick or diet, sports and I were done. Until one afternoon when my husband bounded in and waved tickets to Roller Derby in front of my face. “Sure why the hell not, I’ve seen Whip It” I replied and we went off to see our first bout.

There was something missing for me at that time, I was facing graduation with a BA major in Theater and Film (i.e. no real job prospects) and life was getting very real, and very heavy. That night was the first time I noticed I was missing something, a challenge, a release or maybe just some fun. But as I sat at Sydney Boys High and watched a Sydney Roller Derby League bout (I think it was against Geelong) I knew one thing… I had to do that.

The next weekend my husband and I were wobbling our selves around the Penrith Skatel looking equal parts terrified and uncoordinated but we stuck with it. The next weekend we were back and a little more steady. I brought my own skates and every Friday night we were down at the rink skating. Every time there was a bout we were there. I read books and watched bouts on YouTube, followed the pages on Facebook and little by little I began to understand this game.

When I started this I was scared, scared of what will happen after uni, scared for my health and scared for my sanity if everything didn’t work out. But even after only a few months of teaching myself to skate, learning about Derby, going to bouts and finally signing up to a league something has changed. I feel stronger and that is not something I want to let go.

Until Next time,

Betty Machete.

Taking the First Step

Taking the First Step

by Hermione Danger

 

I would have said yes to anything in 2012. Macrame. Rock climbing. Space exploration. After devoting myself to a marriage of 17 years that was now at an end, my attitude was, “Stuff it. I’ll do something for myself for a change.” It was just luck that the opportunity presented to me was roller derby. I had an acquaintance who was a derby girl, and now Mike, the manager of my son’s footy team was telling me I should give it a go. I thought the idea was slightly crazy. I’d never even watched a game. And 39-year-old mothers-of-three don’t take up full-contact sports on skates. But within a fortnight, I’d purchased my freshies pack, laced on skates for the first time in 29 years, and well and truly found out what it feels like to fall on your ass.

strap on skates

My first skates

 

I’ve since discovered that the decision to take up this amazing sport is not as cut and dried for many people. You may have come to many bouts or none. You may be 18 or 50 or anywhere in between (one of my favourite competitive skaters is 51 and shows no signs of retiring yet). You may have dreamed about playing roller derby but let inconvenient facts (like “I can’t skate”) stop you from taking the first step. You may have had to put your derby dreams on hold for other major life events – babies, PhDs, travel. You may have listened to people who don’t fully understand the sport (“But it’s so dangerous!” (it’s not), “They’re really violent!” (we’re not!)).

The fact is, the derby community – both inside WSR and beyond – is an amazing group of people. Encouraging, uplifting, helpful – everything you want in a second family. Most retailers will give you a discount on your starter kit – skates, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmet and mouth guard (get some toe protectors for your skates and a tailbone protector while you’re at it). The reason is, derby retailers know how great the sport is, and they want to help you on your way to finding your inner derby player.

freshies pack

Sample Freshies pack from www.rollerderbyheaven.com.au

 

What most people don’t know about roller derby training programs, is that there’s no contact until we’re sure you’re safe on skates and can handle it. We have various assessments you undertake during your derby journey to ensure you’re ready for the next level. The first step is teaching you stability, balance and basic skating techniques. We take you through different ways to stop, maneuver, skate fast, skate slow, and stay stable. Once you’ve mastered the basic skating criteria, we introduce you to tiny baby hits. They’re more like nudges actually. But, with the basic training you’ve already received, you’ve got all the skills you need to remain stable while people are trying to move you out of the way (and vice versa). This is the point where we teach you hip checks, shoulder checks, juking and walls – the derby basics. And from there, it’s just a matter of time and practice until you become an All-Star.

There are no guarantees in roller derby – but then there are no guarantees in life. But with WSR’s newest Wheels In Training program just starting, we still have a few spots for new skaters and we’d love to help you unleash your inner derby player. If it’s something you’ve always been curious about, why not drop us a line via our contact page? We’d love to hear from you and, if it’s right for you, open the doors to this amazing sport for you.