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Published on July 15th, 2011 | by Scar


Derby: Year One

I love to see “fresh meat” start their first day of practice.

Whether junior or adult the emotions seem the same- giddy with anticipation, wary, shy, a bit starstruck, and everything in between. I’ve only been playing a little over a year, and am far from an aficionado on anything, but when I watch them wobble around the track nervously, I always wish I could tell them one thing: It’s not going to be what you are expecting.

It will be different, harder, better, but nothing like what you’ve seen or read about.

So here’s a brief list, from a girl still very much in her derby infancy, to all those derby embryos just itching to be born, of things you learn in year one.

1. Not everyone in derby is punk rock, rockabilly, or riot grrl. Some are. That’s awesome. Some aren’t. And that’s awesome too. What derby actually is is a group of very inclusive women (and men) from all walks of life and with all different identities.

2. Everyone’s gear stinks. So at your first practice, before you begin judging the personal hygiene of everyone in your league, just know that if you’re working out hard enough, within a month you won’t be able to smell theirs over your own. Pad stench I’ve found is not unlike a grieving process. First you’re in denial: “my pads don’t/won’t smell like that” Then you move on to anger: “WHY ISN’T MY DETERGENT/WASHER/FEBREEZE WORKING!” Then the ever pitiful bargaining: “ok so maybe if I just start taking them out of my car so they can fully dry, and put some perfume on them,” the all time low “OMG I smell so bad no one will ever want to be my friend or do waterfall drills with me or skate behind me in a pace line. I can’t even go to the after party without showering first. Maybe I should just quit now.” and finally, acceptance: “My pad stink is just another of the formidable traits I bring to the track.”

3. The skimpy outfits, glittery makeup, and fabulous accessories are not something you wear to every practice. Don’t feel like you have to show up to a practice in your sparkliest fishnets, foot long lashes, and more makeup than Boy George circa 1980’s.
In fact, some don’t wear it at all.

4. Joining derby does not instantly make you “bad ass”, and in fact it will probably make glaringly obvious (at least to you) all your weaknesses. That being said your soon to be teammates will also probably not take you outside, beat you up in some hazing ritual, and then throw you in a trash can. Rollergirls are people too.
Well at least most of us.

5. In that same vein, not all rollergirls are bronzed up she-males who eat raw steaks (or babies) for breakfast. Not to say there’s none…. But most of the women you’ll encounter have a life totally separate from derby where they are lawyers, make-up artists, and moms (I personally even know of an awesome roller girl who is a grandma!).

6. Perhaps most importantly of all, no short article on roller derby misconceptions, or all the internet research in the world can prepare you for the journey you’re about to embark on. Every league, team, and girl is different. In reality me even trying to make generalizations is risky territory because derby is so eclectic.

I can assure you that it won’t be what you’re expecting, but the rest you’ll just have to find out on your own, and here’s hoping it will be much, much more.

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