Roll up for big buzz of Swindon's Roller Derby
DAREDEVILS in search of a new sport to push their nerves to the limit can sign up to Wiltshire Roller Derby. It has become a huge craze in North Swindon where a team of around 15 have been darting across sports halls, spinning and tackling at high speeds on skates. Reporter Emma Lidiard went along to try it out for herself.
I have always been a fan of any adrenaline-related game so I decided to head to Nova Hreod School one Tuesday evening to learn what Roller Derby is all about.
As a child I was the proud owner of a pair of purple roller skates which I used to glide around the block, but for me the sport had never progressed to anything more. These girls test what can be achieved on roller skates to the limit but before people are able to take part, everything has to be padded up.
Vice-chair of Wiltshire Roller Derby Michelle McKenny, whose team name is Shell Shock, handed me wrist protection, knee pads, a helmet and elbow pads before allowing me to put on the skates.
“It’s a really fun activity,” said the 33-year-old, of Rodbourne.
“You meet a range of people. It does become your life. You always want to practice and because we don’t have a sponsor we all have to raise money for the club.”
Her first tip for me was to slightly bend my knees while circling around the course, then she said to push from my hips to help make my movement more slick.
Before members of the team are allowed to play in a game, dubbed a ‘bout’, against clubs dotted around the country, they must pass a range of hurdles during a 20-week minimum skills test.
These challenges include being able to complete 27 laps in five minutes, finish one lap from standing still in 13 seconds, balancing on one leg and plow stops – the most commonly used method of stopping in the sport.
Rookies are given a period of gaining confidence before becoming fully-fledged league players.
The aim of the game is for jammers to skate and muscle their way through a pack of blockers and completely exit it to gain the ability to score points.
Once the jammer fights her way out of the pack, she then races around the track to lap the pack. At this point, each time the jammer passes a member of the other team, she scores one point for her team.
“It is a real buzz – everyone is so friendly, even from the other teams,” said Shell Shock. “You don’t know until you try but we are really welcoming.”
Katie Prince, 31, has been playing for 18 months and has just started helping out at matches.
“It’s awesome,” said Katie. “Everyone is really supportive. I had no idea what I was doing when I first started but once you start improving it’s really good. It’s very addictive.”
Unfortunately I only managed to learn how to go round in a circle while almost mastering a stop, putting one foot behind the other.
But the experience definitely gave me a flavour of the thrill of the sport and is one that I will be recommending to anyone in search of a good team game.
Wiltshire Roller Derby have a home game at the Oasis Leisure Centre at 1pm on January 25. The event is family friendly, and anyone can go along to watch.
For more information, visit www.wiltshirerollerderby.co.uk
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