Among 16 SVRG recruits who recently passed bootcamp and their WFTDA skills test, we have four different women all drawn to one of the greatest sports of all time: ROLLER DERBY! Here, we have we have a high school English teacher, a middle school teacher, a single mom, and a fire fighter who have written about the experiences that have drawn them to the sport. Read on to see what four pieces of “fresh meat” (i.e., skaters new to roller derby) have to say about their bootcamp experiences and accomplishments.
Squirrelly Brawler (left) with fellow bootcamper Sasha Degrader.
Recently retired from competitive Muay Thai–a martial art where elbows, shins, knees and fists are used as weapons–I was feeling as though I had no outlet for my energy. My bestest friend and fellow fight team member and I decided to go see “Whip It.” Being huge Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page fans, as well as thinking that anything where people got to fight was a good time, the movie seemed to be a perfect selection. As soon as the derby scenes were on the screen, I turned to my friend and whispered, “I’m going to do that!” as simultaneously she whispered, “You should TOTALLY do that!” I went home, looked up the local derby leagues and found the Silicon Valley Roller Girls (SVRG) and the Santa Cruz Derby Girls (SCDG) leagues. Both were currently recruiting, but since SVRG was closer and had a bootcamp coming up, I decided that this is where I would tryout.
Two weeks later, the Silicon Valley Roller Girls were having an open call for their next bootcamp. I went in and immediately joined to be a part of the bootcamp. I was hooked–not since getting to hit people in the ring had I felt so stoked! I came to nearly every bootcamp training night and put my heart and soul into learning everything the coaches (Panda, LTO, & Aim) had to give. First, I wanted to skate as fast as I could and not fall down. This quickly changed to wanting to skate as fast I could, and when I fell down to get up as fast I could. All the bootcampers quickly came together in support of one another. It was awesome to have women all working together for a common goal: to pass the WFTDA Minimum Skills test that was the culmination of our bootcamp experience. If we failed more than one skill, we failed the entire test!
After the test, those who passed got the news that we would become interns and start preparing to scrimmage. We continued to push ourselves at a faster pace, trying to take it up a few notches. A few of us also had to work on a skill if we had failed one during the test– all the while dreaming of our derby names, sharing and figuring out who we were going to be when we were full-fledged derby girls.
Through this all, I have received endless support from all the people in my life, many proclaiming that they could totally picture me in derby: my family and best friends all asking me about my experience and helping me pick out names; my roommate’s cheers as I left for practice, “Knock someone out!”; and my boyfriend being just as stoked as I am during bouts and supporting me wholeheartedly as I strive to obtain another goal.
Now our time has come. We are motivated as well as bound together by our similar experiences in bootcamp and now as fresh meat. I know that these women are going to encourage me, push me, and sometimes hit me (my favorite part!) into being the best roller derby girl I can be. In turn I will do the same for them – especially the hitting part.
Brigid Fitch (left) blocks fellow bootcamper PoiZEN.
Roller derby is contagious. I knew nothing about the sport until a friend of mine, who knows Kimfectious, invited me to go to Oakland and see a BADG bout. When I got home I began to do some research on the internet- lo and behold there was a local team and they were recruiting new members! I had been looking for a reason to get back
in shape and it seemed like derby would be a glamorous, social way to do that, completely opposite of my everyday role as a middle school teacher. My recruitment meeting was in the summer at one of the exhibition bouts at Roosevelt Park and I was surprised and impressed by the DIY ethic of the organization and their commitment to community service. It takes an incredibly dedicated group of people- skaters, coaches, referees, and NSO’s- to run a league and put on bouts and I wanted to be a part of that.
Once I started attending practice I was blown away by the coaches; they were tough but they had encouragement for everybody and helped us all believe that we could do it, even though when I started I couldn’t manage a crossover to save my life. I loved skating with a group of women I probably never would have met otherwise and becoming close to them through our shared goal of becoming a member of SVRG. I showed up for practice ready to do endless knee bails and skate with my hands on my ankles because every week I saw myself getting a little better. It was a crushing blow to go through all eight weeks of boot camp only to fall during the second night of testing and sprain my MCL- an injury with a six-month healing time. As frustrated and disappointed as I was, getting hurt did do something positive: it made me realize how important roller derby had become to me. This was not something I was giving up easily! I lucked out and got a great physical therapist that worked with me to beat the clock so I could be ready for the next round of bootcamp, just ten weeks away.
Determined to make this happen, I came back and joined another boot camp that was almost three times as large as the last one and decidedly more rigorous. Gone were any ideas about being a ‘glamorous’ roller derby queen. I just wanted to be a part of the league. Once again I enjoyed the camaraderie of skating with a diverse and powerful group of women. Boot campers shouted encouragement to each other no matter how long it took to get the drill done. Veteran skaters were always ready with an equipment tip or help with a skill. The coaches didn’t give up on me when I struggled because of my knee and my lack of conditioning after two months on the couch. Most importantly, I didn’t give up on myself even on nights where I felt every one of my thirty-eight years. My desire to be a part of this incredible league outweighed any discomfort and self-doubt and I am immeasurably proud to be able to say, “I skate with the Silicon Valley Roller Girls.”
My derby bootcamp experience can be summed up as the most awesome, rad, incredible, exhilarating, and amazing time of my life.
My interest came from The Kansas City Bomber as played by Raquel Welch. Hot! I wanted to become her, a hot roller derby queen. I have never been athletic, but skating has always been a fun activity. Why not go for it?
Sure I was intimidated at first. The league members can be tough on fresh meat, but you realize that it’s all for your benefit. And they are not as scary as they seem once you get to know them.The bootcamp girls created a bond that I have never known. We all went through sprains, aches, blood, sweat, and tears together. And honestly, I don’t really like girls. Come to find out that was the very thing most of us had in common.
The motivation: a single mom finds roller derby and falls in love. I want to show my little girl that you can accomplish anything if you put heart and soul into it. And why not be an example of awesome girl power?!
That’s my story.
Jema (derby name TBA)
Fire Academy or Roller Derby Boot Camp…
It was on the counter at Phillz Coffee, a 3X5 card with SVRG recruiting information. I love a challenge so I dared myself to check it out. How hard could it be, right? Skate in a circle and run into people. I passed the fire academy, this should be cake. Next thing I knew, I was renting quad roller skates and stumbling around the old Aloha Roller Rink, (now SJ Skate) where I skated as a kid during my elementary school years. I felt like a two-year-old learning to walk and spent more time on my backside than I did on my wheels. After watching the girls practice and getting a taste of it myself, I realized this would be no cake walk, and I would need to work hard.
I signed up for the boot camp, bought my first pair of derby skates, and hit the rink every chance I had. Coach LTO says, “All skating makes you a better skater.” I listened, and when bootcamp started, I felt like I was getting my skate legs. Eight weeks of bootcamp twice a week was challenging and awesome. Our coaches were tough but loving, and I met some incredible women. We were expected to listen, learn the rules, skate hard, and have respect for others, all with a smile. There would be no quitting in derby.
Having so much fun with my new hobby, and learning more about the game of derby, I was determined to make it. I put everything I had into those practices. I skated as hard as I could, learned how to fall, and loved every minute of it. All of the girls in my boot camp class came together during those weeks and we pushed each other to skate faster and get lower. Coach Aim De Kill’s constant inspiration was priceless: “Are you low?” Some days were tougher than others and some drills rougher as well. Though we were considered fresh meat, the SVRG league members were always helpful and supportive.
I appreciate those who practiced with us and gave us individual pointers. I feel like I have come together with these women as a team and would do just about anything for them. The culture in SVRG is to do your best, and help others do the same. I love this league. I am proud and excited to finally be a real Silicon Valley Roller Girl! Thank you to all the girls and especially our coaches: Panda, Aim, and Denny. As a firefighter, I have a brotherhood and a “fire family.” As a roller girl, I now have a sisterhood and a “derby family.”
In conclusion, we skate, talk about equipment, and have learned that regardless of our backgrounds, we have one thing that is binding us together: roller derby! We are creating a derby family by supporting, cheering, and pushing one another to be the best we can possibly be. We are stronger together than we are separately.