Roller derby is a sport unlike most others. First of all, you’re on roller skates. Second, there’s no ball involved. Points are scored when players lap the other team’s players, and the goal is to skate fast and not let your path, or your teammates’ paths, get blocked by your opponents. I’d wanted to learn how to play for years, and I’m so glad I finally took the plunge last year. It’s been so much fun, and while I’m only just getting started, I’ve already learned a lot along the way.

Skating isn’t that scary once you know how to fall down

I had always skated as a kid, but I’ve seen women who had never put skates on before build up skills to match those with more experience. When you play derby, you are equipped with knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, a mouth guard, and a helmet. You’re ready to fall, and once it happens that first time, you know you can take it. Skating gets way less scary after that.

It’s a great way to build your confidence

Because skating is such a rush (endorphins!) and I feel great hanging out with my teammates, I’m a much more confident person now. I was doing pretty well in the self-esteem department before, but trust me—feeling like you’re awesome at something goes a long way toward upping your morale.

You’re more athletic than you think you are

I wasn’t an athlete in high school, aside from half-heartedly running track. I hated gym class and didn’t see much point in playing sports. But I have noticed my body get stronger since I started skating, and I finally understand an athlete’s devotion to constant improvement. I am really proud of what I’ve accomplished since I started playing and I look forward to getting better with every practice.

Friendships on wheels are built to last

Derby girls are tight. Everyone on your team is as obsessed with skating and derby as you are, and they totally get what your other friends and family might not. They want you to succeed, and you want the same for them. Your might meet your new best friend through derby, or at least a handful of awesome women you love being around, on and off the track.

There’s no point in comparing yourself with others:

One lesson we hear again and again at practice is that everyone skates and advances skill level at a different pace. The only person you should compare yourself to is you, from the week or month before.

Roller derby is amazing for these reasons and so many more. If you’ve ever thought about playing, I hope you will. There’s a bit of a start-up cost in the beginning, for skates and gear, but it’s by far one of the most worthwhile things I’ve invested in for myself. Plus, I am confident those in your city’s league will be as helpful and patient as the women in mine were with me. So go roll out!

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