Image from George Skadding—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
There’s just nothing like roller derby.
I still remember the first time that I lifted the blue lid up and gazed at my pristine white skates. There was no hesitation other than to put them straight on. As soon as I put them on it felt like they’d always been there and from the second I glided down my hallway in them and out the front door, it all just came to me naturally. I spent at least 5 hours on my skates that day and by the end my feet were bloody next to my toes where they rubbed. This, of course, did not stop me. I wanted to keep going.
I first knew about roller derby when a friend of mine who had been doing derby for about a year told me about it. She and I previously worked together so when she began derby and she told me all about it and it sounded like the coolest thing ever! I loved the look of her skates and was so inspired to start roller derby when I turned 18. I had no idea that it wouldn’t be long before I’d be skating for a team myself!
Roller Derby is a full contact sport entirely on roller skates. It is composed of two teams and on an oval shaped track approximately the size of a basketball court. Each team has 5 players out on the track at a time; 4 blockers and 1 jammer. The jammer wears a special star on their helmet and starts behind a line called the “jammer line”. Blockers from both teams start in front of the jammer line and upon the first whistle, whilst skating around the track both jammers try to pass the pack of blockers whilst the blockers try to stop the other teams Jammer from breaking through the pack. It’s fast, exciting, fierce and just a little bit crazy!
I spent my entire summer on my skates. When I went to watch my first bout I knew very few rules but just sat there remaining entirely spellbound by the skating itself. I remember just sitting there and knowing that whatever was going on out there on the track, I wanted to be a part of it.
I had the chance to go to a roller derby boot camp for juniors at my friend’s club but I was the oldest in the class and was disappointed that their club wasn’t going to start training for under 18’s anytime soon. I felt incredibly lucky to have been able to attend these sessions and receive coaching from some incredible skaters but still wanted somewhere to skate. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long!
Westside Derby Dollz. Photo by: 2016 West Side Derby Dollz and Bill LaGrue Photography ©
When a friend of mine and I went for a social skate at Laverton Skate Centre we found out that WestSide Derby Dollz had classes for skaters 16 and under! I could do their beginner adult DerbyFit classes or join their junior team, which was the first ever junior roller derby team in Melbourne. I could hardly believe it!
I attended the first class and was amazed when the coaches told me my skills were good enough to train with the intermediate adult skaters, which meant I’d not only be learning skills but would start learning to play the game itself and even start contact!
From the beginning of my first session despite the significant age difference between myself and other older skaters, I was immediately welcomed which not only assisted my growth but also gave me a sense of belonging within a wonderful community. I’ve now been doing roller derby for about 4 months and still attend every training session with the same excitement and eagerness that I had when I first began. I have only been doing the sport for a short amount of time, however, I know that I will follow through with it for many years to come and continue to chase my goals until I achieve them.
I love roller derby so much as it is a sport that no matter your body type, age or fitness you still are able to have a go. Nothing affects your capability within the sport other than determination to improve (which is something we all have inside of us.) I love the feeling of being on my skates and gliding along. It affords me a power that I’m incapable of feeling otherwise. I’ve tried lots of sports including athletics, gymnastics, cross country, lacrosse, rowing, diving and many others however none have given me the rush that I feel when I play roller derby. As strange as it sounds, one of the real rushes that I get out of it is the hitting and contact. It makes me feel alive. There’s nothing stopping me and don’t let anyone tell you that women & girls can’t be strong, tough and amazing athletes. You should see my team mates!
Another great thing about roller derby is being a part of a team. Whilst it is a team sport, you are given the opportunity to be individual out on the track, whether you’re a jammer or a blocker, everything you do counts towards your team. Participating in a team sport means that you always have someone to rely on. Who you can celebrate with after a victory, feel disappointment with after a loss and who will be there to support you and assist you in your own personal growth and development. And what makes the roller derby community the most unique and special than any other sport I know is that no matter your race, gender, age, ability, sexual orientation or any other differences you may have, you are a valued member within the team as much as anyone else. We refer to ourselves as “a bunch of misfits thrown together in a way that just works.” And somehow it does!
I recently passed my assessment for the next level of derby – Orange Star. That means that I can now train with WestSide’s senior representative team, WestSide Glory, have practice games every weekend, and travel to other clubs to compete. I have big goals for myself in this sport that I love, and that is teaching me so much. My biggest goal? To make the Junior National Team and compete for Australia! I’ll have a chance to try out in September. Wish me luck!
Sadie, also known as the Ace of Sades, skates for the WestSide Derby Dollz in Melbourne. Check out Skate Victoria to find out more and get involved, they even have clubs in other states!