If I had a nickel for every time I heard “I’ve always wanted to play roller derby, but I don’t know how to start,” I’d have enough to buy a milkshake. Wanna learn how to start roller derby? Step one: OWN IT. Go to the rink. Instagram your feet with skates and write a heartfelt caption about how you’re gonna start living your dreams.
Now you HAVE to start.
Okay, but AFTER that…
Contact a local league and find out what their first steps are.
There may be more than one local league – find out! One will probably be a better fit for your personality and goals. Some leagues have tryouts once a year, and others just let warm bodies walk on anytime. Whether or not you plan to try out right away, get this information ASAP. You might take a month to two to be “ready” to try out and find out you just missed your chance.
Figure out your gear.
Do you need gear in order to try out, or can you borrow it? Can you borrow some to start? Good gear is expensive, and you don’t want to cheap out on your safety equipment. Your first skates don’t need to be top-of-the-line, but you’re probably looking at spending $300. Get someone who knows about gear to fit you, though you can buy skates online after you find out your size. Skate sizes are NOT the same as shoe sizes, and you want them to fit more snugly than you’d expect. Waaaay too many derby skaters I know have an early pair of skates that’s a size too big. (Me, for example.) Most of us upgrade later to more expensive skates later, once we figure out our preferences.
But don’t freak out about your gear!
Take a deep breath and calm down about your wheels. Yes, there are a lot to choose from, but there’s no one “right” choice, I promise. Let yourself make an informed, but not-perfect choice to start. Try a lot of different things. Do wheel swaps. Do not get emotionally attached to one wheel setup. Your relationship with your wheels will blossom and fade as time goes by. Sunrise, sunset.
Skate lots, then skate more.
Just spend time on your skates –- at the skating rink if possible, at any practices you can attend, outdoors (on separate outdoor wheels, please), in your house –- whatever. Live in those damn things. Get cozy. Get blisters. Learn how to start and stop. Turn around in place. Do squats. (Yes, in your skates.) If you can do some boot camps and learn actual roller derby skills, all the better!
Hang out with some skaters or wannabe skaters.
Do you like hanging out with these people? You’re going to be doing it A LOT, so you better! If they have a training program, start as soon as possible. Ask if there’s a certain time that skaters go to the skating rink. If it’s going to be a while before you can try out, you can even find a volunteer job. If you’re going to try out soon, don’t get ahead of yourself. Once you join a league, there will be plenty of opportunity to volunteer. [Insert side eye from every current or retired roller derby skater EVER, all like, yeah, YA THINK?]
Learn about derby.
Watch games online. Read the rules. Go to games in person. Read the rules again.
Hate to break it to you, but you’ve just decided to be an athlete. Start breaking it to your body slowly, with professional guidance by a doctor or trainer as needed. Run, ride a bike, swim, lift weights, do yoga. Any fitness you can squeak out now will pay off tenfold in your early derby career. But you know what? If you’re starting out as a couch potato, don’t be put off. Try a couch to 5K. Do a dance class once a week. Something is better than nothing when it comes to conditioning.
Learn how to take care of your gear.
There are a bunch of parts to your skates — learn what they are and how they work. If you’re lucky, you have a skate shop nearby and a friendly person to walk you through any questions you might have as they pop up. If not, there’s always the internet. Clean your damn bearings.
Learn to take care of yourself.
You need your body for the rest of your life, so don’t wear it out immediately. More training is not always better. Give yourself mental and physical breaks. Read up about helmets and concussions. Forgive yourself for not learning new skills as quickly as you thought you would. Roller derby is fun, but it’s hard.
Ta-da! You should be ready to try out.
Playing roller derby is not all spotlights and glamour. In fact, it’s mostly sweat and dirt and giggling and emails. You’ll love it.
Except for the emails.
by Frisky Sour
Frisky Sour wrote Roller Derby for Beginners, the much-longer answer to this question.
This post first appeared on little anecdote but I tried to make it better.