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Published on October 7th, 2011 | by Malice Munro


Vienna Oi!Star Rollergirls Diary: The Freshest Meat

By Sarah Chamberlain

It’s been a tough couple of weeks since I last wrote from old Austria. First of all, my computer broke and I’m writing this from the humble computer lab in the building where I go to school. I am largely separated from the Facebook group that serves as VOSRG’s “boards,” I can’t watch the Big 5 on WFTDA’s fuzzy feed, and the last time I went to practice, I left one skate (I’ve wiggled my way into some borrowed R3’s) across town under my bed. Yes, just one.

Still, I’ve been doing what I can to help this fledgling, tough-as-nails league, and that’s resulted in me being the primary fresh meat coach. Zandy Zunder, a brilliant jammer who has just transferred from the Berlin Bombshells and has a year and a half of skating experience on me, takes care of the rostered skaters.

Remember your first roller derby practice? If you’re like me and you started skating after 2005 or so, chances are you were surrounded by other newbies, with a tough-but-welcoming coach leading the way. Everything was insured and safe. You paid a small fee in case an ambulance had to come, ripped the tags off your new pads with your teeth, popped your boil-and-bite mouth guard in, slipped on your starter skates and got rolling—falling often, perhaps, but your pads and the savvy coaching staff were always there to catch you.

Now imagine that you’ve seen the Whip It trailer (maybe—it hasn’t been released in your country yet), or just have heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that some hot chicks have been rolling around and causing the first hint of a ruckus in your quiet city. You figure out where they get together. You bring the inline skates you’ve had lying around the apartment since the mid-1990s to a gym near the soccer stadium. You’re ready to play some roller derby!

Er…no. You’re not. But can I blame you?

At my last practice, I was upset that I wasn’t able to skate, but once the first of 6 new girls I’d be teaching that day came trickling in, I remembered that God makes no mistakes and everything happens for a reason. “Here,” I implored, holding my helmet out to a girl rocking inlines and one wrist guard. “Put this on your head.” She was grateful. I divided my gear among as many as I could, and we practiced derby form. We learned how to push side-to-side with our feet and do an even stride. Then plow stops, then T-stops for the ones with pads. I wanted more than anything to teach them how to fall properly, but most of them didn’t have knee pads to fall on.

After an hour or so of what was mainly open-skate practicing with me racing around, wheel-less, to correct form here and there, I ran out of things to teach. I was too scared to teach them if they didn’t have all their protective gear. We had one final huddle together where we reinforced what we’d learned that day. I reminded them to practice wall-sits while they were watching TV at home, and then I heard those words come out of my mouth. Words that so many fresh meat coaches have said before me, the “You’ll shoot your eye out” of roller derby…

“PLEASE make sure you get all your gear. I know it’s expensive, but not as expensive as getting your knee replaced.”

While the freshies packed up, I watched the more experienced skaters practice. Fully geared-up, they were doing a full-fledged, full-contact scrimmage. They were doing it short, but they were doing it. Rocking it, even. I hoped the new girls would come next week, padded up—they had some heart.

On the subway home from that practice, it occurred to me that every country experiencing its first wave of roller derby must go through the same sort of thing. First it’s doodles on a napkin over drinks at a bar. Then there’s figuring out the rules—usually over more drinks. Then there’s that first practice—unprepared, underprotected, and probably wearing inappropriate clothing. There’s the first shaky step onto the rink, the exhilarating, slightly nauseous excitement when you take your first fall.

Let’s just hope that fall’s padded.

If you would like to play for, play against, visit, scrimmage, ref, coach, NSO or donate to the Vienna Oi!Star Rollergirls, e-mail them at and like them on Facebook!

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