So in my last post about my derby wife, I mentioned one of our friends – Tankerbell. Now this is one of those names you should really avoid underestimating! Tankerbell came into our lives minus his derby name, his derbybaby eyes so wide and curious, still much to learn in his journey through the derbyverse. Now I will not get into the debate over mens derby vs womens derby/should men be allowed to play etc… not right now. Infact right now, I want to share his story. I asked whether he would be up for writing something about his experience and the start of his derby journey – especially as Tankerbell did not join a mens team initially, he has seen behind the veil that is womens roller derby from day one!
Dom. AKA: Tankerbell. #74
I have been asked to write about my derby experience… where do I start?
In The Pub
I was out having a quiet pint one night in the local biker bar, when a woman with bright purple hair covered in tattoos came bouncing up to me, and said “ ’ello, you look like you want to play roller derby!” I was more interested in my pint to be honest as I didn’t have a clue what she was on about.
This continued for the next 6 months, same drill when I saw her.
One night I finally asked what it was all about? Being a large lad (18st) and doing weights and martial arts I thought you got to be having me on! Mucking around on roller skates! I’m nearly 40!
So when a few more pints had been dispatched I said “Every so often you got to do something out side of your comfort zone…………..go on then I’ll give it a go” I resigned myself.
Next week I bought some skates and went down.
The Renegade Rebels
I turned up and what looked like half my local came in, it was all rock chicks! Awesome I thought!
So I got padded up (I never needed this much protection for full contact fighting!) strapped on my skates and flew, my feet went to shoulder height and I fell like a lead balloon. So glad I did all that martial arts training! All the break falls I had done came in handy that night, I can tell you. I spent most of my first lesson air born; the girls were laughing so much they couldn’t skate at all! I’m so glad it wasn’t filmed as it was more ridiculous than any slapstick film you have seen. After 2 hours of “flying” and with tears from laughter still in their eyes the girls bid me good night and I went off for a good soak. I was hooked.
Having to borrow your pads was a new experience for me, as some weeks you could smell it come in the room when you were down the other end of the sports hall. I found the only way to get rid of the smell was go fast! The wind is your friend! Its only when you stand still will the smell woft back up to your nostrils, with a scent that can only be described as Satan’s jock strap! It didn’t take me long to get a full kit.
It was with the Misfits I learnt most my basic skills. It was then I thought I could swim in a bigger pond….
The Mansfield Misfits
After several months of training with the Rebels I was offered the chance to go and “scrim” with the Misfits, great I thought! Chance to put all those hard earnt skills to the test. They were a bigger team than the Rebels and would be good fun. I went down with the lady (Walnut Whip) who started the same time as me with the Misfits, as she had gone down before to the Misfits and it was nice to have a familiar face there.
So I was all kitted up, ready to get my butt handed to me.
They had a guest coach in for the night, it was artistic skating. Oh joy… I looked at Walnut who burst out laughing, “Just go with it!” she said……
Arabesques and all sorts they tried to get me to do, I looked like a buffalo on skates. I found all the girls really nice and helpful, giving me hints and tips, as I was massively out classed by all their skating abilities. I was asked if I would like to come back and have a go again, without the artful bits I hasten to add. And I spent a good few months training with the lovely ladies of the misfits.
Not only did it make a big jump on my skills, having pack work and scrims to do. I learnt about team work. Having done martial arts and the gym for years it’s all solo things, competing against yourself to become better.
From the Misfits I saw true team work, they all went out and partied together, looked out for each other all the time, and the one bit that drove it home was when they were doing 100 laps as an endurance drill. Most finished around the same time but 1 was left skating on, not giving up, determined to finish as she wasn’t as fast as the rest. One Misfit shouted up “How many left?”, “20” came the reply, and as one (me included) we all got up, without a word being said, and we all got on track as we wouldn’t leave one of the team to skate alone, and we all went round to finish the remaining laps with her.
It was a truly humbling moment for me to see that kind of kinship and bond between a team.
The Super Smash Brollers
There were local games going on, and the local boys’ team were playing on a double header, so a few Misfits and I went to watch them. The first thing I noticed was the boy’s game was sooooo different to the girls. The girls use tight walls and tactics always using their backs to slow the jammers. The boys would stop a train with their faces!
It was like a rugby scrum on wheels, they kept turning round and skating backwards and going chest to chest with a speeding jammer, and they moved the pack so much faster than I was used to!
That’s it I said, I need to do that! After the bout the Brollers announced they were doing a fresh meat intake, I was straight up and after joining in!
I was still training with the Misfits and doing fresh meat with the Brollers at this point. I saw the Broller fresh meat becoming better, some over took me as they took to it like ducks to water. It was ace to see. I knew if I wanted to play in a bout one day I would have to join up with them, but I still loved scrimming with the Misfits. A couple of months later the Misfits announced they were closing doors to non-members, so I couldn’t skate any more with them. To prove how awesome they are, I still get asked to their social do’s. and they’re still my favourite girls team! They have gone on leaps and bounds, and have their first bout soon! So proud of them!
Now I’m trying to remember all they taught me and all the new stuff I have learnt from the Brollers.
The lads play a much harder game, its faster, more manic, but you got to love it!
I’m hoping to go in for my first bout soon as well! Can’t wait!
Spread the derby love!
As Tankerbell wrote, we still have such a good bond with him and we are all very proud of how hard he has worked and how far he has come! We are keeping our fingers crossed for a date when we get to go see him play his very first bout with the Brollers, we will make awesome signs and be there to kick his butt/cheer him on. Who knows – when he has survived his first bout, maybe he might be up for writing again to update you on how he finds the experience! The Tankerbell Story : The Return?
Thank you Tankerbell!