If you’re interested in roller derby, there’s a good chance you’ve gone to at least one Minnesota RollerGirls or North Star Roller Derby bout. You’ve probably seen Whip It, too. And maybe you’re thinking of going out for roller derby yourself.
So, what do you need to do to start? Because in the words of Razor, the coach from that illustrious movie (no, not the one played by Har Mar Superstar), “There’s more to derby than fishnets and picking out a tough name. This is a sport. . . . Now if you have any shred of talent, I want to see you leave it out on the track. Let’s line up and get’cha some!”
Here are six tips for making your dreams of roller glory come true!
1. Know Your Gear
During a clinic in 2017, I saw a skater about my age put on some beautiful white vintage rink skates. They were a gorgeous old-school pair but totally inappropriate for roller derby. She came back with the right kind of skates and went through tryouts that year. Any league sanctioned by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) or Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) will require the following articles of safety gear:
- a helmet (which must be a “dual certified” skate helmet, meaning a hard-foam-lined skating or hockey helmet that can absorb two light to moderate impacts)
- a mouthguard formed to your teeth
- elbow pads
- knee pads
- wrist guards
You will not be allowed to even stand up in skates without them.
2. Learn to Be an Athlete
This is way less intuitive than it sounds, and if you already have this aspect down, the time you’ll need to get into derby will be much shorter. A decade or so ago, some efforts were made at selectivity in people joining the sport, but mostly the game was so desperate for participants that if you were willing to show up and had a good attitude, you would probably find a spot in boot camp. In today’s derby world, it’s a little different—the same kind of athletic training needed to play in any other sport shows up. While it’s definitely helpful to have a good attitude, that attitude needs to be backed up with skill, speed, and stamina.
Learning to be an athlete also means paying attention to what your body is telling you. While playing through injury has been in common in most sports at one time or another, many professionals started questioning this idea more seriously in the ’90s. The longer you try to skate while hurt, the longer you’re going to stay hurt.
3. Know How to Skate
Forget the tryout montage you saw in Whip It—that was a decade, two changes to the minimum skill requirements (MSRs), and four changes to the Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby ago. Today’s roller-derby rookies have been skating for an average of three to five years. They know how to cut; they know their edges and how to use them; they know what’s going on in their sport. Getting a high-level overview of the rules and the MSRs might not be a terrible idea, either.
4. Watch a Lot of Roller Derby
Many WFTDA leagues their video archives available online. The Minnesota RollerGirls are on Vimeo, and many others are on YouTube, including the official WFTDA archives for tournaments. This will give you an eye for what to watch for on the track and help you develop track awareness that much faster.
5. Be Prepared to Give It Your Best
The tryouts for Minnesota RollerGirls and North Star Roller Derby are intensely competitive. Both leagues have very deep talent pools, and you will be trying out next to skaters who have been playing for years. The last player to be selected to boot camp for Minnesota RollerGirls without previous experience in the DebuTaunts or another league was Jacked Pipes in 2015. So with that said . . .
6. Think about Alternative Paths into Derby
While tryouts are of course the most popular way to get into a sport, other options exist. Strongly consider starting through a recreational or training program instead. The Minnesota RollerGirls’ Debu-Taunts (with whom I skate as Kitty Skittles), North Star Roller Derby’s Satellites, and Twin Cities Roller Derby’s Raptors are all good ways in.
MNRG has seriously revamped the Debu-Taunts program over the last five years, and the new-look Debs are now a serious farm team for MNRG teams. They have fall (September–December) and spring (January–April) sessions with open enrollment after current members have indicated whether they intend to return. The NSRD Satellites have fall (September–December), spring (January–March), and summer (July–August) sessions, also with open enrollment. Many leagues, including Twin Cities Roller Derby, run offseason training programs to take new skaters from fresh to bout ready as well.
Read to try it for yourself? Here’s some additional information for Minnesota hopefuls.
Twin Cities Leagues
Minnesota RollerGirls (MNRG): Founding member of WFTDA. Spring 2019 tryouts for season 16 (2019–2020) will be in May or June 2019. MNRG sponsors two travel teams (the All-Stars charter team and Nice B-team); four home teams (the Rockits, Garda Belts, Atomic Bombshells, and Dagger Dolls); and two developmental teams (the Debu-Taunts adult team and Frostbite junior team). MNRG is not holding recruitment clinics in 2019.
MNRG trains and bouts at the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium, one of the four primary spaces of RiverCentre, in St. Paul. Click here
North Star Roller Derby (NSRD): A WFTDA league. NSRD sponsors travel teams the Supernovas (charter), Northern Lights (B-team) and Cosmos (interlevel league/recreation bouting team); home teams the Banger Sisters, Delta Delta Di, Kilmore Girls, and Violent Femmes; and adult developmental team the Satellites. NSRD has a recruitment clinic on April 18, 2019, with more clinic dates to be announced soon. Spring 2019 tryouts for season 14 will be on May 19.
NSRD maintains a training space in a warehouse in Northeast Minneapolis at 3300 5th St. NE. The league bouts primarily at the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
Twin Cities Roller Derby (TCRD): An MRDA league. TCRD accepts new recruits to its Raptors training program on a rolling basis. It also sponsors Wrek Leeg, a summer recreational roller-derby experience offering black-and-white public scrimmages on a monthly basis, and the Twin Cities Terrors charter team.
Not in the Twin Cities? Not a problem. There are teams all over Minnesota! All outstate teams play roller derby by the WFTDA rules, and most get their skater insurance through the WFTDA. Teams that are sanctioned by the WFTDA have an asterisk by their names below.
- Babe City Rollers* (Bemidji)
- Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls (Moorhead)
- Harbor City Roller Dames* (Duluth)
- Iron Range Maidens (Grand Rapids)
- Roller Underground Dirty Ores (Eveleth)
Across the Border
- Chippewa Valley Roller Derby* (Eau Claire, WI)
- Mississippi Valley Mayhem* (La Crosse, WI)
- Sioux Falls Roller Dollz* (Sioux Falls, SD)
See you on the track!