Fear Conquering & Roller Derby

Roller Derby

“Mom. You are going to get owned.”

My, how the tables have turned. I’m not going to lie, I was getting a bit of pleasure out of worrying The Spawn.

The reason for their concern was not without merit — I was about to attend Roller Derby Camp. Or as the Killamazoo Derby Darlins call it — a “Fresh Meat Event”.

In our never-ending quest to find quirky things to do, David and I stumbled upon an ad for a bout between the Derby Darlins and The Rockford Rage.

Childhood memories of Saturday afternoons parked in front of a black and white TV flooded both our minds. My team was the Los Angeles Thunderbirds; David’s was the Bay Bombers. Aww… good times.

Derby has changed a bit — the games are no longer staged as they were during my childhood days (though you couldn’t have convinced me of that at the time). Today’s derby is real and it is brutal.

So brutal in fact, that teams have taken to naming their bouts things like Season’s Beatings and Cinco de Mayhem. Nothing was going to keep us from seeing this!

Killamazoo Derby Darlins

Modern derby women are strong, bold, beautiful, determined and highly tattooed.

Too intimidated to approach a Derby Darlin’ directly, I instead spoke to one of their massive security guys. He told me he would speak with Battleaxe, a player/owner about an interview.

I was in.

At half-time, I met briefly with Battleaxe and she agreed to talk and introduce me around after the game. So we sat back and enjoyed the second half of the rock-n-rolling action.

Afterwards, basking in the glow of their 100-point victory, LadyHawk, Beverly Hells and Lily St. Smear were braced but bubbly. Even with a name like Killamazoo, The Derby Darlings were not as scary in person as I thought they might be.

Battleaxe immediately invited me to a practice where I could learn how to become a rock ’em, sock ’em Derby Girl.

Whoa. That was a little more than I had in mind, especially after I found out they call the new girls “Fresh Meat.”

Then I thought — what the heck? After all it had only been thirty years since I had last put on skates — what could possibly go wrong? I started research on hip replacement therapy — just in case — and began to psyche myself up for the big day.

I couldn’t possibly get myself into a proper frame of mind without a proper derby name. My dad came up — very inappropriately I might add — with the hysterical “Vicky Viagra” and David and I were tossing around variations of “Raisin Hell.”

Not quite feeling either of those, I decided to ask the brilliant folk on our GypsyNester Facebook Page for a brainstorming session. As usual, they didn’t disappoint.

Among my favorites: “Roni Rinkrash”, “Mama Crash”, “Boomer Babe” and “The Midlife Crisis.” But the name that gave me the courage to move forward was “Helln Hotflash” (thank you George!).

Helln Hotflash could handle anything that the Derby Darlins could dish out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to get a Helln Hotflash tattoo before camp.

My new mentor, Battleaxe, hooked me up with proper equipment and let me in on a trade secret — the proper derby stance is called “Tits over Toes”. Tits over toes creates a strong center of gravity, making one able to withstand harder hits and stay solidly upright.

WATCH: Helln Hotflash in action!

Learning to fall and stop correctly is imperative in Derby action, so Battleaxe ran me through drills designed to teach me to fall and pop back up. I was great at falling — popping back up, not so much.

Derby is a hard hitting sport — and I needed show Battleaxe what Helln Hotflash was made of. Tough derby name aside, Battleaxe is only two years my junior and has a very graceful off-track demeanor. Though hard-driving and no nonsense, she was very patient and fair.

I knew she had manners because she only laughed at me AFTER she knew I had a sense of humor about the situation. It didn’t feel right to take her down with a massive Helln Hotflash block.

Carefully lining up my skates and donning the correct stance (must we repeat the name?), I bashed her with all my might.

She. Did. Not. Budge. Seriously, I went reeling in the opposite direction, almost fell on my butt, arms flailing every which-way. Apparently, this Battleaxe person wasn’t as nice as she was letting on.

My status as wuss firmly established, we moved on to the fun stuff. The notorious WHIP! The fun was slightly dampened by Battleaxe’s insistence that I perform the WHIP! safely. Jeez.

I was to skate to her in the TOT position, grip her hand and forearm, be flung across the rink to land with a Rock & Roll stop (sliding on both knees — think ’80s Hair Band) complete with arms overhead and the standard rock & roll finger position.

This was a lot to put together. I had practiced the elements separately, but the full ballet was a bit daunting. I put on my Helln face and went for it. The dance was elegantly executed until I freaked out at the end, neglected to Rock & Roll, and hit the wall at full speed. Just testing the equipment…heh.

Killamazoo Derby Darlins

It only took hitting the wall once to make me realize that 1) I should not hit the wall again, and 2) I might be a little too old for roller derby. Excellent reaction time is no longer in my bag of tricks.

To my credit, I did get back on the horse and complete my mission.

Happily, the Derby Darlings were easier on me than they are with each other. All in all, Helln Hotflash got off easy, considering the alternatives, and it only took me three days of great pain before I was myself again.

With a career record of 0 – 0, Ms. Hotflash has officially retired her rental skates.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

To see Veronica’s full Fear Conquering series, click here.

YOUR TURN: When was the last time you were on skates? Would you attempt roller derby?

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34 thoughts on “Fear Conquering & Roller Derby”

  1. Roller derby is the most fun thing that has ever completely taken over my life! I started fresh meat at age 43, after being off skates for at least 3 decades. I’m about to start my 3rd season with the Dam City Rollers, the same month I turn 46.

  2. This is brilliant! I came close to signing up for the Derby team in my university town, but I didn’t quite have enough courage. Props to you, Ms. Hotflash (great name).

  3. You Go Girl! What a great time. I also grew up with the Thunderbirds in LA. I loved watching them and wanted to be just like them. I’ll have to tell Dieter, it will probably explain some things about me . Thanks ‘Helln’ for sharing the great fun!

  4. You did a great job and it was really fun working with you!
    If the derby bug bit you I'm sure that you could really make it on a league.
    Anytime you're back in Michigan we'd love to have you out again.


  5. This is Danielle,from Blonde Ambitionz! I was so excited to see that you actually did it! Hope your hair was great! Glad to see that you had a good time! Sharing with everyone how interesting your site, and always keeping up. Can't wait to hear more from you!

  6. What a brave, brave woman you are. I strapped on copious padding and a helmet and slipped my feet into a pair of roller blades a "few" years back at the prodding of my more physically fit sister-friend and partner in crime. Let's just say that things weren't too bad until I found myself going downhill fast (what a metaphor for middle age) without brakes. Well, she told me thos those rubber stoppy things are breaks, but they're more like neck breakers if you ask me. I was saved by a thankfully remembered if sloppily executed tuck and roll from my gymnastic days – and a nice big target of soft grassy lawn.
    You go girl. It was a blast watching Helln Hotflash show her stuff.

  7. Lookin' good, Veronica! Oh, I mean Ms. Hotflash. My knees were feeling sympathy pains while I watched!!

  8. you are a brave woman. I will have to remember tits over toes though. that sounds like good advice for a solid stance.

  9. Fanatastic u go girl looks like u had a blast u give us emptynessters at least me the courage to try new things my new experiance is stand up paddling i let u know how that goes or dosent lol keep up the good work u guys crack me up

  10. I remember about 12 years ago, about the last time I skated, I was moving rather fast when a 6 yr old girl crossed in front of me. So, I jumped over her, and fell on my right arm which stuck to the wood floor and rolled under my chest, rolling my entire chest until I couldn't breathe. I sat on the floor, breathless for about 3 minutes, telling the rescue team to let me catch my breath, finally, I was able to breath and I got back on the skating floor.
    later I found out, I had fractures my sternum…that flat part in the center of your chest that connects all of your ribs. It still "clicks" today.

  11. So much fun…or insanity. Probably both. Love the rock n' roll fall. That should come in handy when the walker slips out from under ya' later in life. 🙂

  12. OMG Veronica! This was so much fun to watch!!! I'd love to try it! It's been about 20 years since I had on Roller Boots!!! #LOVEDIT!!!
    @ellies58 on Twitter

  13. What a fun adventure. I can not imagine trying to do the roller derby but it looks like you had a blast.

  14. Well Helln, I'm glad the girls went easy on you! Like you, I skated, years ago, too, but the thought of wearing speed skates today, scares the hip replacement right outta me!

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