Preparing for roller derby fresh meat tryouts

Here’s what you need to know before your fresh meat tryout:

You should definitely roller skate first
It’s pretty essential.

In August 2010 I felt comfortable in my new career, but needed something physical. It was my first time trying out adulthood and thought I’d like to maybe be a runner. That seemed adult. So I tried that. Running blows. (Although you should totally read this blog, which is about running, but not at all painful) I’d heard about Maine Roller Derby — a 2-hour drive away — and thought that would be a good fitness goal. Obviously, I wouldn’t join that league because four hours of driving a night is unreasonable, but I thought making the team would be a fun goal. And boy am I goal-oriented.

Anyway, here is what I did before the November tryout (and I was offered a spot in that league, before making a new league in Maine):
-I bought $49 skates* and the cheapest pads I could.
-I started roller skating around my neighborhood after work. I was not good. But you don’t have to be good to start roller skating. You just have to do it. (I didn’t even know they made outdoor wheels. By the way, they make “outdoor wheels.”)
-I found a community center that would let me skate for an hour on Sunday mornings so  I could try skating in circles, not on tar.

I worked on these skills:
Stopping by dragging my toe stop (I don’t recommend learning this. It’s very hard to un-learn and eventually you’ll have to)
Crossing over — I did this in both directions because I didn’t know if they played roller derby in both directions. (We don’t, by the way. But it’s good to be ambipedal)
One-foot glides (be able to glide on only your left foot, then only your right foot for 30 feet each)
Squatting through one straight away and one turn (because they told me I would have to)

Did I say you should roller skate?
You should really roller skate. One thing I don’t think beginners understand is that the more time you put on your skates, the more comfortable you look. The more balanced you get. The more confident. Faster. You begin to feel your edges (it’s OK. You don’t have to know what that means). Your crossovers get less awkward. You learn that falling is OK.
If I were your coach, I would probably want you just to skate in circles (both directions) for the first month. You’d hate me. And then you’d be good at roller skating and have some confidence and be so ready to add on skills.

Find out if you can go to a clinic first
Many leagues have pre-tryout bootcamps, which will be of great help. They can help you work on your fledgling skills. If you’re in a city, there might be Derby Lite or Derby 101, which will get you some derby experience before you commit. If you know a derby skater, maybe just ask her to go to the rink with you some open-skate night. She will have pointers**.

Watch a bout first
Ideally you’ll watch the league you’re trying out for. In person. Before the tryout. But if you can’t, at least visit and click “archives” and pick the video with the funnest name. Don’t expect to understand it all. It’s sort of complicated. But just watch it and listen to the announcers. You’ll learn something and that will help. Becoming a roller derby fan makes you a much smarter derby skater.

Go to the league’s website and learn all you can about the tryout and what you will be asked to do. Email the tryout coordinator to get this information (if possible) before the tryout if you can’t find it. Don’t be pushy or annoying. These people are volunteers.

Have an achievable goal
I recommend going into the tryout with a goal that isn’t “make the team.” I also suggest it not be, “don’t fall.” Pick a goal that’s positive, so instead of “don’t cry” make the goal be “have fun, smile at least twice.” If you’re going to go far in roller derby, you’re going to have to learn how to celebrate small victories. It’s all we get. So if you have a great T-stop, get excited about it.

Try to learn all you can
If a coach offers you a tip at the tryout, take it. Try it. Try new things. Look at how veteran skaters perform a skill. Question them if you can about their style. Know you can have your own style — but that if they have been skating a while, there might be a reason they skate the way they do.

Eat like a normal person
You do not have to eat four lunches on the day of your tryout. Get some carbs, get some protein. Try to eat 2-3 hours before your tryout and not much after that. By hydrated. A suggested day-of menu might be: eggs and toast with a fruit for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch, a burrito for dinner (so long as it won’t upset you). With lots of water.

Be nice
Be nice to the refs.
Be nice to the veteran skaters.
Be nice to the other people trying out (they might be your teammates soon).
Be nice to the people who own/run the roller rink.
Be nice to any coaches.
Most importantly, be nice to yourself. You’re learning a new thing that is hard. It’s OK to not be great at it.

Fall, then get up so fast
Just accept that both in practice and at the tryout, you will fall. Everyone falls. It’s OK. Just don’t make a big deal about it. Get up so fast. Everyone falls — not everyone can get up quickly and with a smile. Be that person. Skaters love that person.

Have the best attitude
Some fresh meat are picked because they’re ripe. Some fresh meat are picked because the veteran skaters look at that skater who is smiling, joking, having fun, loving life and roller skating, getting up fast when she falls down and they think, “Oh man. I want her on my team.” Regardless of skill. I was the head of tryouts and fresh meat training for my last league. Trust me. For every nine skaters I wanted on my team because of skill there was one I wanted only because of her attitude.

Go for drinks after
If others go out after the tryout, go with them and grab a cherry Coke. Derby is about making friends and laughing about the “mistakes” you made.

*This ended up being a bad long-term financial decision. I made it worse later by upgrading to another bad skate before investing some real money into my current skates, which have lasted
**In reality, she’ll probably just tell you, “it’s OK, just get lower. Bend your knees more.”

15 thoughts on “Preparing for roller derby fresh meat tryouts

  1. I loved reading this.
    Roller derby is always something I always wanted to do but never had the lady balls to try…there is a 9 week fresh meat program coming up…I’m so tempted….

      1. No. The evil thoughts telling me I couldn’t do it, got in the way.
        Huge regret 😥
        I wish I had bigger lady balls. 😦

  2. Thanks for this! I am going to fresh meat night tomorrow, and will probably join the 12 week camp. Saw my first double header last Saturday and I’m in love!

  3. Thanks for this! I saw my first double header on Saturday and I’m going to fresh meat night tonight! I am already hooked and can’t wait to learn a bunch of new skills and make new friends!

  4. I have been wanting to do roller derby forever i am twelve and turning thirteen in august whenever I tell anyone that I want to do roller derby they laugh! My grandmother is a den mother she’s about 9 hours away though ! 😦 my mom doesn’t care but my dad says no every time! My friend got her parents to say yes and now she waiting for me it’s not fair. My whole life I have been athletic and now I feel ready to do roller derby my dad says no! I don’t know what to do ? I practice roller skating every week at the rink I can do crossovers and jumps I just don’t know how to convince my father that I am the type of person who likes there scars their cuts there challenges and wants to do that type of thing! He said I should something like basketball instead but my family’s schedule can’t do that or really intense planning things! I just want to do roller derby even if I didn’t make it on the team at least I tried ?! But I can’t just sit here and do nothing does anyone have anything that could help me?

    1. Hi Natalia!

      Thanks for writing me. Your situation sounds really frustrating. Has your dad said why he doesn’t want you to play? It might help if you address his concerns directly.

      Now, I’d like to clear up a few things you said: You don’t have to like scars and cuts to be in roller derby! You’ll probably get those just as much as from the other sports you’ve played. Roller derby isn’t about getting hurt or hurting others. It is a contact sport, for sure, but try to think about it like you might think about hockey. Does that make sense? In junior derby the focus (depending on your local league) is often more about getting in front of people to stop them – kind of like in basketball. Roller derby is more about athleticism, teamwork and community.

      If I were you, I would start by asking my dad if he and I could have some quality father-daughter time by going to your local league’s next bout. When he sees roller derby, it might change his perspective about the sport. Maybe you could even try talking to a local skater and asking her questions in front of your dad, so he can hear directly about the sport, the community and the junior league there.

      Then, I would ask my dad – in a nice way – why he thinks you shouldn’t play. Then think about it and address those issues. He might say it’s not in your family’s schedule, which is crummy, but you might have to accept that for the next few years until you can drive — or maybe you could get your friend’s parents to drive you. Maybe that would convince your dad. He might say it’s about your safety and he doesn’t want you getting hurt because he loves you, in which case you should do a little research. Derby is pretty safe! People do get hurt, there is a risk of concussion and risk of scrapes and breaks like in any sport, but we wear protective gear, teach people how to be safe (like falling safely) and have special health insurance for skating.

      Roller derby has helped me learn things like how to talk nicely to people, how to be a good teammate, how to persevere when times get really tough, how tough I am, how my body is strong and powerful, how to help run a nonprofit, how to help others when they struggle and more. Those are all really valuable life lessons and eventually career lessons, so I bet your dad would like to hear that. Roller derby can help you grow as an athlete and a person. There’s a lot of research out there on how team sports affect kids for the better 🙂

      I also want you to know that at 13 my parents wouldn’t let me play sports. I couldn’t play any sports until I had a car I could drive by myself. I grew up in a very rural setting and both my parents couldn’t drive, so I had to go home the moment school was done and stay there until the school bus came back. It wasn’t awesome, but I used that time to try to save my money (for a car, college) and play (by roller blading down my street, for instance) and read. I hope that doesn’t happen to you. I hope your dad sees how great derby can be and comes around. But I also want you to know that even if you don’t win this battle with your parents this time, you will still grow up to do everything that you want to do. It just may take a little while longer than you want :-/ But use this time to keep skating! Every moment on skates adds up. It will make you SUCH a great derby player in a few years 🙂 And if you want to talk more about this, you can email me at and your dad can email me too, if he’d like.

      You asked such a good question that I wanted to give you as much feedback as possible. So I asked my friends who happen to be both moms AND derby skaters what advice they would give you:

      Jumpy (mom and skater): I think as parents we often fear the unknown. I wonder if her dad understands the limit to hitting in jr derby. Maybe she could invite both parents to go and watch a game with her and then meet the coaches afterwards. If it’s a cost worry or time commitment worry she could talk to her parents about ride-sharing or borrowing equipment as she is able to afford purchasing piece by piece on her own.

      Cayce: I’d invite her parents to come watch and ask questions. Like April said, parents fear the unknown.

      Salty (adult skater): Ditto to what Jumpy said, try introducing the parent to the sport and community.
      Also, for the kid, maybe talk to her about timing? There is the possibility she simply won’t be able to do this until she is a free adult, but she can keep her dream alive and keep working towards it without letting her circumstances make her bitter. Sometimes timing matters, and it sucks, but it can make it even sweeter when you get there.

      Ginny (skater and mom): I agree with the previous commenters entirely. Maybe she can even contact the team beforehand and someone can talk to her and her parents post game and answer any of their questions. I’m sure that there would be someone willing to do that.

      Spocker (skater): I also agree that exposing the parents to the sport and the community could help. There is a lot of support there, not to mention some pretty impressive, smart, and self-possessed kids. I’ve been coaching juniors since last winter and they continue to impress me!

      Psycho (mom and skater): I’m not gonna lie as a parent concussions are real. I’m not sure how I would feel about my kids doing it. IDK I certainly wouldn’t let them play football. I’m over protective of my kids and would keep them in a cocoon.

      Iris Kit (mom and skater): Actions and long term dedication will likely be “heard” more easily than words. Keep skating every week. Let people laugh. Read Roller girl 1,000 times. You’re improving your mental derby game by maintaining your focus. Go to games every chance you get. Get strong. Eventually quiet determination may just win them over. As hard as it is to remember- your parents mostly want you to safe because you they adore you.

      Hellslinger (skater): I know if it had been available in its current form when I was a kid I would have wanted to do it. I agree with Psycho to a degree with concussions but at the same time a kid can get one of those doing anything. I think the fact that she is training now is great and she should keep doing that. If they won’t let her join a league now then she’ll be ready when she is 18. Or they will see that she really has an interest and will give in. However, the concussion thing is very serious, especially for kids, having seen it first hand with those I’ve coached and seen through the office. I’ve known too many who had more than 4 in 1 year and saw their derby career end before it really got going. Small brains are more vulnerable.

      I hope that helps, Natalia. Email me any time. I wish you the best and am proud of you for all the hard work you are putting in ❤

      1. And from JamaFist (a young adult skater): Hi! Yeah I wanted to play roller derby as a junior and was shut down by my father. Unfortunately because of this I didn’t actually join until I was 20. I remember feeling like I needed to prove that I was strong enough for the sport, but obviously that didn’t work out at the time. I’m not sure what I have to offer other than a similar story that resulted in me playing as an adult but if I can help at all I’d love to offer support.

  5. Thanks this helped me a lot I hope that all these things help. Thanks to all your roller derby friends too! I am going to start practicing t stops and do double the workout focusing more on my legs and muscles. Do you know any affordable roller skates that will last I wear a women’s shoe size? I am saving up for a pair and have about a 50-70 dollar budget. I know it’s not a lot and won’t get me a great pair but it’s my everything. I also want to know if there’s anything that you think would help me get into a league if my parents give in ? Or just advice for what I should learn? Thanks again

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