Roller derby - Sport on a roll

Roller derby - sport on a roll

The Hereford Roller Girls prepare for a game. Photograph by Ben Darby.

The Hereford Roller Girls. Photograph by Ben Darby.

Skater Emma Hughes and referee Rhys Jones during a game of roller derby. Photograph by Becky Cartwright.

First published in News by

AFTER an incredible performance from Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, many people around Herefordshire may find themselves inspired to take up a sport.

For those who like their sports a little more extreme than tennis or swimming, roller derby may be just the thing to cure those post- Olympic blues.

Roller derby originated in Texas around the 1930s and is a contact sport in which two teams of five members simultaneously skate counter-clockwise on a circuit track.

Each team designates a scoring player that aims to get past the other team’s blockers to score points, competing in 60-minute bouts.

It is typically a women-only sport, but that does not mean that players go easy on each other.

Hereford Roller Girls (HRG), currently based at Weobley High School, was founded a year ago by Zoe Butler.

Since then the team has grown into a full-sized league, but is always looking for new members, female or male.

Zoe, 30, said: “It all began for me when a friend started skating in Birmingham and I wanted to give it a go.

It is such good fun and good exercise and the people you meet are amazing, coming from all walks of life.

“The competitive side is great fun too – helping to release aggression while using tactics and strategy.”

As in all contact sports, it’s not all fun and games and sometimes people do get hurt.

At the moment, the worst the HRG women have seen is a fractured leg, but it is a risk you take when getting involved in most sports.

However, bruises are badges of honour to be worn with pride, and are a common sight among roller girls.

“You have to be mentally and physically tough. When you start roller derby, it doesn’t matter how fit you are or whether you can skate or not – you will get better.” Zoe added.

Roller derby hit the silver screen in 2009 with Whip It – a film directed by Drew Barrymore about a smalltown girl who joins a roller derby team – and it inspired many women to pick up a pair of skates and get involved.

One of those women, Charlotte Townsend, has just completed her first skating lesson.

She said: “It was amazing – harder than I first thought but amazing. I’ll definitely come again, it was really good fun and a great workout.”

Despite its popularity in the first years of the game’s existence, the interest dwindled over the years and the focus became more on the theatrical elements and entertainment rather than the sport’s athleticism.

However, roller derby is now being considered for the 2020 Olympics and is played by more than 1,200 amateur leagues all over the world.

Dee Montague, vice-chairman of HRG, believes roller derby’s popularity may be down to the fact that it is a sport for everyone and anyone, of all shapes and sizes and fitness levels.

She said: “I love derby for so many reasons. As someone who had horrible experiences of PE in school, I never thought I would participate in a team sport and enjoy it. But derby really is for everyone – everyone has strengths regardless of size and so on.”

Milly Vernon, from Ledbury, has been skating with the HRG for nine months, and says that joining was a tough but brilliant decision.

The 21-year-old said: “I ‘ummed and ahhed’ about whether to join for ages when I could have been skating, so for anyone out there wondering whether or not to do it – just go for it.”

To get involved with HRG, visit herefordrollergirls.co.uk.

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