Nicole Cox by Chris J Wood Photography

Published on September 19th, 2012 | by DerbyLife

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Nicole Cox by Chris J Wood Photography

The Big Derby Name Debate: Deciding to Skate as Me

By Nicole Cox, Hertfordshire Roller Derby

I’ve finally come to the decision to drop my derby name.

It’s a decision that will no doubt lead to negative comments from some and praise from others. It’s a decision that has already sparked curiosity from several people. I guess you’re not a real rollergirl until you’ve written some sort of clichéd blog right?

Ok, so here is mine.

The first time I put on skates (apart from roller skate parties at my local leisure centre ten years before) was at my fresh meat session last year, 16th April 2011. (My derby number is 164 – the date – not sure I’ll change that ‘cos I quite like the sentimental value) I couldn’t stop, could sort of skate forwards a bit but was incredibly unstable and had zero idea derby would be such a big part of my life like it is today. (See? Cliché rollergirl blog alert!)

I’m very much, even though I hate to admit it, from the ‘Whip It’ generation. I saw the film, thought it looked cool, and wanted to know what it was all about. It just so happened that a new-ish league had started in my local area so I decided to try my luck and join their newbie intake a few months later. I thought having a derby name was pretty much a requirement of the sport. After just two months, right at the end of my fresh meat period, I was asked to skate in a mixed b team bout. I was terrified. I wasn’t nearly cool enough to be on track with ‘real’ rollergirls! I hadn’t picked out the cool name… I didn’t own any hot pants or fishnets… I was NOT ready. In a rush to get ready, I picked out a name.

It was an OK name. It made people laugh. It wasn’t registered.

But I didn’t really like it.

I thought that there was a process to finding your derby name, that one day I’d have an epiphany and find the name for me. It didn’t happen but I definitely wanted to change from the name I had. So I found something else that I thought I was quite happy with. In reality I think I was just happy to not have my rushed fresh meat name any more.

I skated a few bouts with the new name. It was OK. It had the typical derby pun and linked to my middle name a little. It still didn’t feel like the right name. Team mates call me by the shortened version and it takes me 30 seconds to realise they’re talking to me. I was almost embarrassed to tell people my derby name or have it called out bouts, not because it’s a terrible name, but because it wasn’t me.

Recently there have been a whole string of high profile derby players dropping their skate name in favour of their own name- lots of blog posts and discussions going on throughout the derby community. Reasons such as giving the sport credibility, becoming respected as an athlete, not a character and being represented as a positive role model have all been deliberated.

People say skating under a derby name gives them a chance to explore a different side of their personality – that it gives them a chance to leave the suit at the office or ditch their daily lives in favour of their superhero alter ego.

All good reasons and I respect each skater’s choice to decide why they choose to skate under a derby name or under their real name.

I’m 21 years old. I’ve read a heap of blogs about how derby is a great sport for people older than me and ways to overcome to struggles that there may be for some who start a sport later in life than socially acceptable. (‘Cos if you don’t start when you’re ten you’ll never be any good, right?!)

I haven’t ever read a blog about starting a sport as one of the youngest (and for the last few months, the youngest) skater in my league. In the UK there isn’t the same junior derby culture as in the US and although it may not come across, I feel intimated by the other girls in my league 99% of the time. They’re all so incredibly smart, talented and gorgeous. I feel completely lost stood next to them sometimes. It’s hard to feel like you fit in when you’ve yet to work out exactly who you are. How am I supposed to know that already?! I like to think I’m quite mature but I still feel naïve a lot of the time. I think until I can feel at least 80% comfortable just being me all the time then focussing on an alter ego isn’t a good idea. I need to focus on myself for a change. I’m my biggest enemy, in general and on the track. I think it’s time I show people that I can go out and skate as me. I’m still a long way off not feeling terrified by the crowd, or flinching every time I hear the announcer say my name, or when I get called to play by the line-up manager – but I’m working on it.

I’m Nicole, #164- nice to meet you.

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