We’re ‘officially’ 5 this week! Traditionally, our league’s birthday has been a small affair, but we’ve seen a lot of change in our fifth year. Our largest rookie intake ever doubled the size of the league in 2011, and with another 30 new skaters close to completing our second Fresh Meat programme plus five zebras-in-training taking up the referee stripes, we’re developing at a pace like never before.
And though we’ve said a sad goodbye to some great players and refs during 2011, new players are stepping up and we’re also being reunited with some of our original members, who will be back on a casual basis for our Sunday ‘Wreck League’ which kicks off for the first time next month (for more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
On top of all this, we’ve just applied for membership of the WFTDA, roller derby’s global governing body, so that we can continue to hold our position at the top level of European roller derby.
So, what’s made us a successful league and kept us going over the last 5 years? Well, the answer is nobody really knows! As founding members Purple Veexen and Von Bitch pointed out at the Christmas party, it’s more than they could ever have expected to see the league, and the sport, grow to where it is now from a few people giving skating a go in a North London hall in the first days of UK roller derby.
However, from the mass rendition of Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ that followed, we think it’s clear - it’s team pride that really holds this motley crew together, plus the occasional bandage or plaster along the way. Kit Kat Power sums it up: “Any time anyone asks if I am a London Rockin’ Roller I feel proud and my heart skips a bit and then I say yes, I am, with the biggest grin on my face. I’m grinning right now!”
Perhaps the biggest achievement of the league, and something that contributes to our sense of pride, is maintaining a great team performance while valuing our players not just for their skating skill, but also for their grit and determination to succeed. It’s something we hold close in an increasingly competitive roller derby scene.
Deadly DeVito, who has been skating for three years, sees our long-term mission to “continue attracting women who have been put off by other sports and to continue to teach people to skate from scratch. It’s not easy when the league is getting bigger and stronger but its something that’s made me most proud to be part of this league.”
Welcoming players of all ages, shapes and sizes means that every one of our skaters brings something different – and having a headstrong set of ladies developing plays to suit their own style and regularly surprising us with new skills at weekly practice is amazing to watch. Even our best and brightest players admit to having derby heroes right here within the league, and we’re constantly challenging each other to do better.
For most, of us, the defining moment of being a Rockin’ Roller is making that first roster – getting your very own t-shirt printed and having the opportunity to be knocked around by girls from a whole other city (or if you’re really unlucky, the girls from our own A team, as I found out in my intraleague debut).
Rebel Rebel, a skater making her B team debut in Cardiff next week after recovering from injury as a rookie last year, says her best memory is “going from unable to walk to Lead Jammer in six months thanks to the encouragement and kindness of my league mates, coaches and captains”. She also shares something common to many of last year’s rookie intake: “the league is bigger than all of us…I love that I train with the best skaters in Europe!”
But be assured, we’re not stopping to rest for one minute. Almost everyone that said making the roster was their best achievement had to add the slightly disbelieving words “and we won”. We all know we’re incredibly lucky to be here and want to try our hardest to be worthy of our teammates and importantly, the fans who come to watch us.
“Any time anyone asks if I am a London Rockin’ Roller…my heart skips a bit and then I say yes, I am, with the biggest grin on my face.”
- Kit Kat Power
When asked about proudest moments, our coach Jack Attack’s first thought is not of skating for the team for five years, coaching us through some great wins, or even playing for Team England last year, but instead “making it 5 years with no major injuries (touching wood now) and still as enthused about roller derby as I was when I started”.
And a long time it’s been, relatively speaking. At five, the Rockin’ Roller pinup girl featured on our logo is now a middle aged lady in roller derby years – the modern sport only started in America around 2002 – but she’s one hell of a tough veteran! When we asked the team what they’d be telling their grandkids about us, Lady Lazarus summed it up as only a true Rockin’ Roller could:
“I’d tell the grandkids that these crazy ass women were the best friends anyone could ever have, there is no friendship like it, and those women saved my life.
Now pass nanna the whisky.”