My first year of roller derby

People generally look at me with surprise when I tell them I play roller derby. It’s either because they don’t think of me as someone who plays full contact sports or because they didn’t know there was anything like that around here.

Derby may get a bad reputation from people thinking that we’re rowdy, rough or anything else of that nature, but just the opposite is true and that’s what makes me love it so much.

Telling people about derby, they often think that it is all hitting people and skating fast, which it is, but the game really does have an incredible amount of strategy to it.

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And hey, when you’ve had a bad day, what’s better than getting to practice, skating it out and getting to knock people around only to have them tell you that you need to hit them harder?

Throughout my life, I have played a fair amount of different sports from team to individual activities. I have never experienced a bond like the one I’ve created with my derby teammates.

The people who I have the privilege to play with and against are some of the nicest people I’ve met. This year was my first season of playing roller derby and I had a blast. Last October, after having wanted to for quite some time but other plans always getting in the way, I joined fresh meat training for The Highland Derby Dolls Roller Derby league and their team The Kickin’ Vixens.

Although I’m not too bad on hockey skates and inline skates I could hardly stand on a pair of quad skates when I started. Everyone helping with the learn to skate program was so helpful though, giving me all their tips and tricks for how to master techniques.

By January, after our Christmas break, I had a basic handle on what is referred to as the minimum skills of derby. By the time the spring rolled around (pun intended) I passed my minimum skills by being able to do a list of things on skates including giving and receiving a hip hit, skating crossovers, skating on one foot and passing my written rules test. I also managed to be able to skate 27 laps in five minutes, a task also required for passing your minimum skills.

Although it may sound like a lot to pass minimums, the rules and skills are only there to protect you on the track and make sure you know what you have to know to be safe.

I officially played my first roller derby bout on July 8 in Halifax against one of its teams, The Dockyard Brawlers. Everyone asked me all day if I was nervous to play but I really didn’t feel very anxious; I was confident in the training I had been given and had an idea what I was in for.

That game ended up being a foreshadowing for our season this summer and we ended it with a close win, just a few points ahead.

That first game was exhilarating, even though I took a big hit to the chest I bounced up and kept going. Seeing how tough all the other competitors were I wanted to make myself the best I could be as the newbie on the track. And despite how rough the game may look, I was fine, not a bruise on me! I just remember being really happy with myself and feeling fulfilled as I headed back to Pictou County that night.

Only my second game in I had expressed an interest in jamming and was given the chance by my teammates to play a couple of jams as a jammer and even ended up scoring 15 points.

September 23 we played our final bout of the season in Summerside, P.E.I. Although I know I still have things to improve on, like cardio stamina and staying low (to keep you steady) I know that I’ve come miles from the person who could barely stand on skates last October.

People may think you have to have confidence to play a sport like roller derby, but honestly, it gives more than it takes.

How to play:

The rules of derby can seem a bit complicated but once you get the hang of it it’s a ton of fun! Here’s how you play:

The game of Flat Track Roller Derby is played on a flat, oval track. Play is broken up into two 30-minute periods, and within those periods, into units of play called “jams,” which last up to two minutes. There are 30 seconds between each jam.

During a jam, each team fields up to five skaters. Four of these skaters are called “blockers” (together, the blockers are called the “pack”), and one is called a “jammer.” The jammer wears a helmet cover with a star on it.

The two jammers start each jam behind the pack, and score a point for every opponent they lap, each lap. Because they start behind the pack, they must get through the pack, then all the way around the track to be ready to score points on opposing blockers.

Roller derby is a full-contact sport; however, skaters cannot use their heads, elbows, forearms, hands, knees, lower legs, or feet to make contact to opponents. Skaters cannot make contact to opponents’ heads, backs, knees, lower legs, or feet.

Play that is unsafe or illegal may result in a skater being assessed a penalty, which is served by sitting in the penalty box for 30 seconds of jam time.

The team with the most points at the end of the game wins. — www.wftda.org

To play Roller Derby you must wear:

Quad skates, knee pads, helmet, elbow pads, wrist guards and a mouth guard.


Interested? Come check out the Kickin’ Vixens open house October 4 and 11 at the Trenton Middle School Gym, 37 Dickie Street. The events will run 6:30 to 8 p.m. welcoming anyone who is interested in learning about roller derby, trying on gear or anyone who would like to join. The team is also recruiting non-skating officials and referees, both positions are open to men as well.


Glossary:

Blocker — They block the other team’s jammer from scoring

Jammer — They score the points, they have a star on their helmet

Pivot — They have a stripe on their helmet, a jammer can pass their helmet cover to them to make them the jammer.

Jam — a two-minute or less round of the game

Period — There are two 30-minute periods in a bout

Bout — a roller derby game

Minimums — The minimum skills you have to be able to complete along with a written rule test and skating 27 laps in five minutes in order to play a game.

Fresh meat — a new skater

Quad skates — old school roller skates with four rubber wheels and a toe stop in the front


Reporter Heather Brimicombe, in the pink, playing jammer during the Kickin’ Vixens final game of the year in Summerside P.E.I. (Kevin Molyneaux photo)

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Heather Brimicombe
Heather Brimicombe is a Pictou County native and graduate from the University of King's College in Halifax with a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree as well as a combined major in Sustainability. She has previously won a Canadian Communities Newspapers award for a multimedia feature and was part of a team nominated for a Canadian Association of Journalism data award in the investigative category. Photography, art, sports and outdoor activities are all hobbies of hers as well as crafting, and baking.