Gloucester Citizen reporter Nadia Stone recently spent some time with the Severn Roller Torrent team. So here’s her account, padded up and skates on…
Kitted up in knee pads, wrist guards and a helmet, I am raring to get my skates on – quite literally.
This is because today I am joining Severn Roller Torrent, Gloucestershire’s roller derby team.
A fast-paced full-contact sport, roller derby has been described as a cross between speed skating and rugby minus the ball.
Two teams pit speed and aggression against each other in what is called a jam – skaters go round an oval track with one player from each team, the jammer, trying to lap the opposing team.
The opposition, skating around in a close knit mass that the jammer has to break through, is there to ‘block’ her – whether by getting in her way or giving her a not-so-gentle knock with their hips or thighs.
Apparently bruises, mostly gained when a skater loses control of her wheels and plummets to the floor, are worn with pride.
We take to the course and I’m taught various ways in which to fall, slow down and stop before joining the other skaters for skills training.
A game of tag practises dodging and weaving at high speed, while skating around the course in a tight pack is the best drill for being a blocker.
Within two minutes I’m hot and sweaty, and my legs are shaking in their skates – whether from exhaustion, adrenaline or nerves I’m not sure. But already I know I’m hooked.
And then I get to rest and watch as the team practices a jam.
It’s a rush to stand in the middle as they whiz around the course.
At the speed they travel, it is no surprise that attitude is as important as a mouth guard.
And gone are the sweet girls who gave me encouraging remarks when I arrived.
In their place are divas with names like Dolly Diablo, Alpha Lima and Jedi Mistress who dash past me at alarming speed, slamming into each other, using their team mates to propel themselves around the course yet faster, and goading their team to move in front of an oncoming skater, risking a body blow if she cannot dodge or slow down soon enough.
“Do something. Block them,” one girl yells as she negotiates her way around the blockers, with her competitor hot on her heels.
The adrenaline is tangible, and I’m both relieved and disappointed to be just watching.
“We’ve had people getting into roller derby who wouldn’t get into any other sport,” explains one skater, known as Helen Fury, who set up the Gloucestershire side around 18 months ago.
“It’s a mixture of theatrics, sports and sorority.
“And it’s really addictive.”