Goddess bless the great British privatised motorway services. The dingy grey roadside affairs of my youth, featuring bolted-on wooden prison toilet seats, have been replaced with gleaming outposts that sell cappuccino. Sure, a sandwich and coke will set you back the price of roast Sunday lunch provisions for five, but as I was soaking up the early morning sun in a comfortable café off the M42, I could hardly be bothered about such things. Today the Blitz Dames were headed out on a derby-filled road trip to Leeds.
The Leeds Roller Dolls are one of the many newer roller derby leagues who have come together blaze track in this country. In the true cooperative spirit of DIY roller derby, they had helped the Blitzdames earlier in the weekend with a generous loan of equipment for a BBDD sports session with the University of Birmingham Rugby team. So, the ‘Dames were delighted to accept the invitation to work with their roller sisters in LRD on some derby training collaboration. The enthusiasm was mutual, as the entirety of Leeds Roller Dolls had just gotten kitted out in full protective gear in anticipation of the day’s hard knocks to come. What a great attitude!
The LRD’s head trainer, John Kirkham (an accomplished jam skater), started the session with a knackering quick-manoever warm-up drill. The BBDD then took the lead with derby-specific stretches to loosen everyone up, and garner a few smiles as we displayed our lack of modesty (just tell me that stretch doesn’t look like a stripper). One of BBDD’s top blockers, Bee Bentley, continued the session as she helped the Leeds ladies take the sheen off their pads with a barrage of falling drills. Falling safely -with proper equipment!- is the best protection against injury; so it was important to make falling technique even more automatic that snapping up knee high socks in your team colours. Having spent some quality time hitting the leisure center floor, the training progressed through all the derby action we could pack into two hours. The focus included pack skills, endurance work, and whips (demonstrated by the agile Violet Attack).
The rock hard women of Leeds took everything BBDD dished out, including press-ups for getting out of pack formation, and the occasional surprise meeting with immovable surfaces. During one of the rare breaks in the action, the LRD stylishly produced jaffa cakes to keep the masses fueled. By the last conditioning exercise, smiles mixed readily with grimaces of pain.
Afterwards everyone shared a huge Mexican restaurant table where the burritos were solidly lackluster, but the company couldn’t have been better. The Leeds Roller Dolls are dedicated skaters who –like the first modern women’s roller derby leagues in Texas- are undaunted by their newness to the sport. LRD even make it an advantage, by exploring creative solutions unencumbered by needing to follow established protocols. Both of our leagues learned useful tips from each other’s experiences, and too soon it was time to head home. Like the outbound trip, spending time with BBDD mates made the return journey finish in a flash. It was fab to ‘wreck and roll’ with the Leeds women and we look forward to future training field trips, and other potential collaborative projects with them later this year.