Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
also available in print – contact us to purchase a copy
• kinesio tape
• reducing injuries
• wheel overview
• quick and cheap gear upgrades
• start-up leagues: first year setup
• plus more, including Team Lobster, running of the bulls derby style, wave accounting software, welcome packet
Laura Lofgren aka Preditor-in-Chief, Port Scandalous Roller Derby
Everything a roller derby league does, from recruiting prospects to keeping them; from maintaining a balance of interest and commitment to having fun; all depends on a warm welcome from current league members.
For Port Scandalous Roller Derby (PSRD) in Port Angeles, Washington, the girls who had established themselves in the league were still pretty new to welcoming new skaters. After finally gaining a space and at least a dozen newbies a few years ago, a falling out with a rink manager and a loss of those new skaters was a hard hip check to the league that was just getting on its feet.
Taking a few months to collect themselves, the ladies of PSRD worked together to find a new space and to try to get back their prospects with a promising prospect camp.
For me, I had just moved to the Olympic Peninsula and sought out the team after having seen a flyer for them posted in a local bar during a previous visit. They invited me to their start-of-the-year meet-up to talk. I had no intention of skating then. But once there, they gave me some skates and I sticky-scooted around the local YMCA floor for about half an hour, talking to every girl there individually about their experience, expectations, and love of the sport.
With their latest Prospect Camp information in hand, I came back the next week to a group of about three new girls and some skaters of whom I had already met to try my hand at roller derby.
The nervous thoughts that go through a woman’s head entering into the derby world for the first time are excitedly mind-numbing. Where do I even begin? What if I fall constantly? I hate pain. Is this a mistake? Can I commit? What if I despise it? I’m a quitter. Yadda yadda. While sitting on the floor that could’ve used a good sweeping, several of my nervous thoughts were put to bed with PSRD’s welcome packet. But several new ones surfaced, as well.
Inside our handbook were practice schedules that would prepare us for WFTDA qualifications and off-skates orientation sessions to introduce new skaters to derby rules and league business. Right there was when I started silently freaking out. Skills test? I’m pretty good at written tests, but physical ones? Not so much.
Then there was a little blurb about the investment of roller derby. Yes, it can be expensive to participate in the hard-hitting sport. But at least our handbook was up front about it and gave alternatives to buying new gear right away. Several team members have loaner gear for prospects to try before they invest in their own. Necessary equipment includes a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, a mouth guard, wrist guards and, of course, some skates with all the fixins. Starting up can be expensive, but there are alternative ways to test the derby waters. Skater insurance is also required, plus league dues after passing the skills and written tests.
Things were adding up so far in the handbook. Time commitments and monetary commitments made it feel like this may too expensive for someone like me – an at-the-time unemployed journalist.
But then they shared all the nifty stuff we had to learn in order to pass quals and play in an actual bout with everyone else on the team. There is a Beginner and an Intermediate section in the PSRD welcome packet that lists the necessary skills, including posture, stride, quick steps, weaving, whips, taking hits, stopping and so much more.
Details about the league’s specificities gave me a punch-in-the-boob reality check, because PSRD approaches everything professionally. Running a league is like running a business, and the more questions you ask, the clearer the operation becomes. This section of the handbook outlined volunteer requirements and how invaluable the help would be in the coming months. It also detailed our league’s structure, including the Trainers, Captains, Coaches Team (TCCT), the Board and the HR Committee.
The packet also goes over league member options and skating commitment levels. Every league is different, but there are three levels for PSRD ladies. Full-time members are expected to volunteer a certain amount of time each month by participating in organized events. They must also attend a certain amount of practices each month. A bouting member must meet similar requirements, but they are less than a full-timer. We also give people the option to drop-in and skate.
What was especially appealing about my welcome packet was – finally – some reassurance that if this whole derby thing didn’t work out, I could still participate some way in the league. Every league is always looking for NSOs, refs, support staff, and volunteers. If I couldn’t skate worth a ding-dong, I could at least show off my amazing organizational skills within PSRD.
Part of Prospect Camp and the welcome packet was that there would be homework, or derbywork. Le sigh. I thought I was done with that after graduating college. Alas, no. In the packet, homework was basically to watch all the derby your eyes could handle and study the handbook. Doing homework assignments not only can make you a better player and teammate, it gets you in the habit of taking some time each week to improve your derby knowledge, thus impressing friends and family, as well.
My Prospect Coordinators finished off their welcome packet with a few loose ends that didn’t fit anywhere else inside the pages. They give advice on taking care of your body. Obviously, you are the only one who knows your body best, but small tidbits like taking Epsom salt baths after the first few practices to relieve muscle pain and drinking tons of water and working out off skates are immensely helpful reminders, especially if you’re brand-spankin’ new to working out on a regular basis.
Among all the knowledge-filled pages were a few waivers new Prospects have to sign. You don’t have to sign your life over, but the league needs you to acknowledge the risks you’re taking when you begin in the sport of roller derby. There are inherent dangers in any physical activity, and those who are teaching you need to know that you know the risks.
Every welcome packet to a league is diverse, but they should all emphasize the importance of getting fit and how to stay that way, outline expectations during game play and during meetings, explain requirements for practices and events and give contact information. If there’s one thing that was emphasized in PSRD’s pack, it is to not be afraid to ask questions. There are so many resources out there. You just have to take an initiative and seek them out.