Learning to play roller derby is more than just passing Minimum Skills

Posted in Advice, Derby, Skater Life

I first walked into The Thunderdome on the 9th of May 2016. I’d been waiting eagerly for this day for months, even more so when my sister started skating a few weeks earlier. But I had to wait to turn 18 on the 3rd of May.

I did well on my first week and picked things up quite quickly. As soon as I heard about the WFTDA Minimum Skills Test I became obsessed with them. For weeks I would ask every coach that taught me (these amazing derby gods I saw as mini-celebrities) how long it took them to pass their test. There was a huge range of time scales. I heard of one skater doing it in 6 weeks, I heard of another taking 2 years. I chose 6 months as my goal. I was obsessed and determined. Oh how naïve I was!

My new skates that actually fit.

Fast forward 6 months and I’d already had 2 months off-skates with injuries. So I added it back on as catching-up time to my goal. That took me to the end of the year. I was feeling pretty optimistic again after weeks of frustration. Then it came to light that I’d been learning to skate for those 6(ish) months in boots 2 sizes too big. Don’t ask me how I could be so wrong. So I decided to upgrade and ordered some beautiful size 3 skates for my tiny feet that would actually fit. But they were going to take a while to arrive so I kept going on my old, too big, injury causing, dangerous skates. Bad decision.

Tip: Don’t attempt a one footed transition in skates two sizes too big.

You will end up slipping back and hitting your head on the floor. A cautionary trip to A&E to check for concussion or a possible fracture scared me a lot, making me struggle to this day with fear. Something I’m learning (thanks to the mighty Thunderlina) to embrace.

So, 7 months had passed since I started and I finally had skates that fit. But I’d learnt everything with the wheels in front of my feet and now suddenly they were under them. My balance was completely out and I felt my lowest yet. Stressed and upset I nearly threw in the towel.

2017. New Year, new me. Positivity was my new best friend and I could do this.

Then shingles appeared. It’s been a month, I’m exhausted and pushing myself physically and mentally is off the cards. I still turn up most weeks, sitting out a lot but learning a little. It’s been 9 months since I started and I’ve still got a long way to go till I’m ready for Minimum Skills (and actually playing roller derby) but that’s okay. Because Roller Derby is more than just skating.

At a Pre-Minimum Skills Bootcamp at The Thunderdome. I’m on the back row seven from the left.

What’s got me through this ‘Series of Unfortunate Events’ are the amazing people I’ve met along the way. They’ve looked out for me and after me, held the ice packs on, given me countless pep talks and fistbumps of solidarity. They’ve believed in me when I couldn’t, they’ve invited me into their lives taking time out to give me extra training so I’ll feel safer, they’ve forced me on track when I’ve been in a pit of self loathing, explained when I can’t keep up, given me lifts in cars and on backs, given me the confidence and determination to keep going and hugged a thousand hugs. They’ve taught me so much in roller derby and as a person.

Off-skates at a Roller Disco at The Thunderdome. I’m on the left.

It’s crazy how these people I looked up to (and still do) and saw as celebrities are now some of my best friends. All I wanted when I walked through those doors was to pass Minimum Skills because that’s all I thought could happen, friends didn’t really come into it because I’d never really made any before. So although I’ve been angry and upset and I’ve cried enough tears to fill a large pond, I’m finally coming to terms with my journey. I know one day I will get there. It could be months of even years but it doesn’t matter. Ive been so jealous of others, seeing their victories as my failures which is definitely not the case. I’m trying my best and everyone’s journey to Badasshood is unique. So thank you Rainy City (and The Knights of Oldham) for changing my life.

Astrid Death xx

Our New Skater Nights run every Monday night 7:30-9:30pm at our venue The Thunderdome. Click here for more details on how you can become a part of Rainy City.