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Becoming a Rookie with BRD

‘Wanna join?’ The flyer on my notice board had been screaming at me for almost a year before I actually worked up the courage to go along to one of the drop in sessions run by Bristol Roller Derby. My introduction to derby is one shared by many… I’d seen the film ‘Whip It’, thought it looked like fun, then happened to start working with someone who actually played the little known sport… In Bristol no less! I went to a bout in December 2014, and was instantly hooked! This is where I was handed the aforementioned flyer that proceeded to taunt me for almost a year.

The most recent team of rookies at their first bout. Image courtesy of Harriet Farren.

My first day at Drop In was terrifying… for all of about 5 minutes. I kitted myself up in the array of safety equipment required, and stood up on my newly acquired skates, only to promptly fall straight onto my backside! However, that was the last time I ended up on my bum that day, as I was guided through everything from skate stance, stopping and even how to fall safely (thanks Bear Thrylls and Frau POW!).

After that first week I was hooked and knew that I wanted to be as involved as I could with the league and all things derby. Within a few weeks I was a paid up league member, organising a team of other rookies to participate in that year’s fundraising activity (a 15 mile sponsored skate from Bristol to Bath) and finding myself a role within the league, which is run solely by its members.

During this time Drop In was the place where I got my indoor skating fix, and also where I was being taught ‘how to derby’. Different league coaches come in every week to teach not only the basics of skating, but also how to initiate contact, how to block, even tactics and rules. This is a bit different to the traditional ‘fresh meat’ approach, where a league will have an intake of new skaters once or twice a year, and teach them everything in a short space of time before seeing if they are good enough to make the team.

I’m a big fan of the open style of recruitment adopted by BRD as it allows people to progress at their own rate. I’m pretty certain I would never had made the cut in fresh meat which would have been pretty demoralizing, and would potentially put people off from trying again.

Drop In is an amazing gateway to roller derby. We see skaters of all levels there, some go on to join the league and progress through the ranks into Bristol Roller Derby’s various teams, some decide that derby isn’t for them, others find different ways to be involved in the sport and become refs, coaches or Non Skating Officials.

It’s been 18 months since my first go at skating, and at the end of June I had the honour of captaining the most recent team of rookies in our first open bout. I know that I will soon be asked to make way for newer skaters coming through, and will be expected to either start helping out at Drop In or to just attend other training sessions, but I’m not sure I’m willing to tear myself away from my Drop In family just yet!

– Thor All Over #312

Drop In sessions are run at Ashton Park School every Thursday 6-8pm and are open to everyone over 16 years of age (parental consent required for under 18’s). All equipment is available to hire. Cost per week is £5.

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