Everything You Need to Know About Roller Derby From a Derby Dolls' Instructor
If you've been keeping up with all of Sweety High's crazy antics, you may have seen that we recently visited Derby Dolls, an L.A. based all-female roller derby league.
Although we haven't personally mastered the sport, we had the chance to speak to someone who has—Sweet Home AlaBAMM'ya, teacher of Derby Dolls' beginner roller derby course, Derby Por Vida.
Sweet Home AlaBAMM'ya, or Sweetie for short (how fitting!), chatted with us about everything from why roller derby girls love to have fun nicknames, to how this sport has become somewhat of a meditation practice for her.
If you're interested in learning more about the intense sport and just what it takes to become a part of it, scroll below!
Sweety High: Can you tell us about your roller derby nickname, Sweetie? What does it mean to you?
Sweetie: Because roller derby is a DIY kind of sport, most of the skaters and refs have other jobs. Having a nickname or alter ego is sort of a way to put that real life aside and go, "Okay, for these two or three hours of practice, I'm just going to be Sweetie. Not somebody's mom, or wife or Girl Scout Troop Leader. I'm just this. And it's just mine." That's what it is for me.
For some, having a nickname is a way for them to tap into an aggressiveness that they don't get to tap into in other aspects of their life. It's like another part of their personality gets to come out. I wouldn't say it's like a secret identity, because it's not. It's tapping into something that was already there.
SH: How did you personally begin your roller derby journey?
S: I used to get together with a whole bunch of moms once a month and go out and do something fun. One time, we decided to come see the Riots vs. Rat City Rollergirls (which is an excellent team out of Seattle). It was a fantastic game, like really really good.
I was watching it with my friends and I was like "That looks really hard, and really fun!" And my friend goes, "You know they have roller derby classes?" And I was like "They do?!"
I decided to try it once, and I was instantly hooked. I went out the next day and bought a kit. I started skating in my neighborhood at 5 o'clock in the morning to try and learn how to stop because I couldn't. Instantly hooked!
SH: How many hours a day do you train?
S: I have two to three nights of practice a week. Those practices can be anywhere from two to three hours long—I prefer three hours. It's a good workout, and then I cross-train outside by going to the gym two or three extra times. Cross-training for me is a huge part of it, because I think that it really helps prevent injury and speeds up recovery, which is huge.
If you're in a league, we require 16 hours of practice a month, and you have to do so many practices with your team and so many scrimmages. It's very specific—you can't just go to whatever practices you want. You have to do it in a prescribed way which is based on our experience of how to maintain really high level of play.
SH: What's the most difficult aspect of this sport for most new roller derby girls?
S: There are two things that are really hard for beginners to nail. First, they struggle with transitions which is turning from skating forward, to skating backward, to skating forward again. This is a skill that tends to scramble peoples' brains. It personally took me forever to learn.
The second thing that tends to be difficult for new skaters, is learning to skate really close to other people. When I teach blocking, I talk a lot about snuggling, you know, because you can't block anyone from a far distance, you have to get snuggled up. I find that the hardest thing for people to get over is that idea of personal space!
SH: What is your favorite part of this sport, what keeps you coming back week after week?
S: For me, personally, it's my team and the fact that this sport is like physical meditation.
When I'm at practice or in a scrimmage, I cannot be thinking about other things or thinking things like "I'm not going to do well, and I might get hurt." It literally forces me to just turn off my monkey brain and focus on what's happening right at that moment.
I mean, the world is crazy right now, right? But to be able to come here and know that I am accepted and am part of a team no matter what, and then be able to really let everything go for a couple of hours is amazing.
Want to know what it's like for a couple of newbies to try out this sport? Head over HERE to read about my crazy experience hopping into the rink for the first time.