With so many leagues now advertising their fresh meat intake nights, I thought it would be a great time to offer a few pointers to potential new skaters who are about to embark on their own derby adventures. While your league, coaches, trainers and teammates will offer you invaluable amounts of resources, guidance and support concerning your skating skills, rules knowledge, strategy and more, here is some advice not usually covered at intakes and/or practice:
1. Don’t Jeopardize Your Job/Career/Education for Roller Derby
You’ll quickly find that roller derby almost completely engulfs your life, especially if you become involved with the board and committees. Between practice schedules, socializing, fundraising, researching the sport and volunteering for your league, there may be times that you find yourself at work with nothing but derby on your mind. As much as you may live it, never forget that derby is NOT your job. Your job is.
Save your derby work for home and do your best to stay focused on your job while you are at it. Turn off your cell phone or leave it in your desk drawer or locker if it is not an integral part of your job! Getting fired because you’re not finishing your work = super not-good.
In the same vein, if you are a student in school, working toward your future career, keep the bulk of your attention on your studies. Don’t waste the thousands of dollars you’ve been loaned by your parents or the government by flunking out because you were too wrapped up in the derbs when you should have been studying or writing term papers.
There are bills to pay, rent, car expenses, groceries and so much more that derby WON’T provide for you and your family. But your job will. Don’t risk it!
2. Moderation is Key!
Have you ever been on a food kick that eventually came to an end? Like, for months you were hooked on sushi, ate it all you could for meal after meal then suddenly… you had your fill and lost your taste for it? If you’re not careful, that may happen with derby as well.
Burn-out can and DOES happen in the sport, especially since you have to account for all the time you spend volunteering on any boards or committees as well. It’s sometimes stressful, frustrating and maddening to juggle all of these responsibilities, only to go home and bombard yourself with more league duties. Before you know it you could even grow to resent what you’re doing. You’ll become irritable, moody and possibly even downright mean! So do yourself, your family and your teammates a favor: take breaks!
If you liked playing video games before you joined, give yourself an evening once a week to kick back and kick ass at Battlefield 4. If you loved reading books, spend a Sunday afternoon on the couch with a novel or your favorite comics. If you enjoy blogging, promise yourself to post 1 short story, poem, article, whatever, a week. And try not to COMPLETELY forget about your husband, boyfriend, girlfriend or wife if you have one. Make date nights every once in a while to go to the movies or out for dinner. Try to keep conversation away from derby (they probably hear about it all hours of the rest of the month), turn off your cell and remind them that they’re still a big part of your life!
And when the inevitable off-season comes around: TAKE IT! I’m not saying to completely forget about derby altogether for however many months your league takes off, it’s still important to keep up on your knowledge and to read about any upcoming changes; but make sure to at least spend a couple of weeks indulging in your other hobbies, stuffing your face with your favorite junk food and catching up on watching the last season of your favorite TV show on Netflix. It’s important for your own sanity. Don’t burn yourself out!
3. Do Consider Other Options
In the event that you cannot commit to a team’s schedule right now, be it due to school or anything else, that doesn’t mean there is nothing for you to do in roller derby. Leagues are often ALWAYS looking for volunteers, announcers, referees, non-skating officials and more, so ask them what your options are! If you get involved in any of those other roles you’ll be able to learn about the game and become immersed in its community and culture with a MUCH more flexible schedule and commitment requirements.
4. Don’t EXPECT Anything.
Apply this to absolutely everything you do in this sport. Expectations breed resentment and disappointment! Don’t expect to be a pro athlete in your first or even second year. Don’t expect to make the All-Star team, or any team for that matter, immediately after benchmarking. Don’t expect to get a ton of track time for any reason. Just don’t EXPECT anything. Work hard, keep up your attendance and learn as much as you can about the sport, in any way that you can, and you’ll eventually get to where you want to be!
5. Don’t Always Stay With the Pack
There used to be a time when I logged into Facebook and my news feed would be FLOODED with friends and acquaintances talking excitedly about socializing, their awesome derby “wives” and sisters, bruise/rink rash pictures, “how derby saved my soul” stories, how much fun they had at last nights after party and how great they felt about skating with their new friends at practice or out at the local skate park. While this still exists, a little bit, the VAST majority of my feed has been replaced with something else entirely: body image.
Body image issues have absolutely found their way to the forefront of roller derby with its drive toward higher end athleticism in the international spotlight. When I look at my news feed now I primarily see posts of sweaty gym selfies, nutrition/diet articles, 30-day squat/plank/burpee challenges, jogging distance check-ins, ab shots, back muscle flexing group photos and people asking if anybody wants to go to CrossFit. When many of these derby friends aren’t posting about exercising, they’re criticizing and putting themselves down about slips in their eating habits or routine. “Just ate a hamburger – feeling fat”, “haven’t gotten off the couch today – I’m terrible”, “haven’t been to the gym in 6 hours, better get booster juice.”
Try your best not to get swept up in all of that. These are your FIRST few weeks of even wearing skates and you don’t really know how much you want to put into the sport just yet. Focus on learning about the game, making friends and just figuring out how to skate safely.
For anyone who is a little further along in the process: if you were happy with yourself when you joined, and you’re happy with the level of progress you are at, then don’t fret about “getting in shape” to “keep up” with the more hardcore members of your league.
Play the derby YOU want to play. Be your own athlete.
God speed, fresh meat!