Bar a few months last year, I realised that I’ve been skating in England for over a year. My league had been bouting away games here and there in that time, but we have only just launched our first home inter-league season here in London.
The evolution of derby abroad seems a bit slower then that of American counterparts, for many different factors. Venues are hard to secure, the sport is new so no one has herd of it, and training is done with no previous experience, just a lot of internet research.
England, compared to my homeland of Canada, is a small country. A small country with a hell of a lot of people. A Lot of people who don’t play hockey. So normal venues I’m used to (hockey arenas in the summer) just aren’t available here. Big, open, skateable areas are either non existent or extravagantly expensive. Due to the cramming of millions of people in a small place, buildings are built with the idea of conserving space. In a country where their major sport is played on grass, there is just no need for many places that would be ideal for derby…cause you just can’t skate on a football pitch! I hear about many leagues internationally having problems finding appropriate areas to house their practices and bouts, which will definitely hinder your growth as a league and expend a lot of energy, stress and phone credit.
Once you find a home, you need skaters! Leagues, American or not, go through the growing pains of begging their friends, family and co-workers to join this amazing sport, and some staying or leaving. Recruitment outside a social circle rarely takes off until after a first public bout. However in America you have many leagues making both local and nationwide media coverage, everything from music videos, commercial adverts, talk shows, game shows to your traditional news media forms. The media is intrigued by an old sport making a new comeback. People hear about it and they want to join, and they will actively seek out their local league. However in places like England or Germany, the sport never existed here. It’s completely new, and that can be a disadvantage to creating initial interest. The sport has to build its own following from scratch, which can be a longer process.
Then we have training. In Canada and America it’s usually not a very far drive to a well experienced league. Training and coaching tips are shared, bootcamps are well attended and it snowballs to improve athleticism at a rapid pace. Overseas you will have the chance that maybe an experienced player will be vacationing and want to come visit your league. My league has been going for two years, and when they started they had to not only learn to skate and play the game, but also teach others to do the same. To women who are neither coaches or technically trained athletes, it was a daunting task. Now two years down the line we have honed and defined many skills in teaching fresh meat, and the pace that they learn things now is much faster then fresh meat who learned a year ago. Leagues receiving training help from experienced skaters grow and evolve far more quickly, and it seems only one in Europe has had much help and has far surpassed other leagues.
There are many things that hinder and slow the development of the sport abroad, besides venues, publicity, and training, small cultural factors may also play a part…for example in Canada skating (though mostly on ice) is a national past time. Not so much here. Language barriers may be stopping non-english speaking countries from learning the rules, or about the sport at all. Germany and French Canada seem to be the only ones, but I know that many members of leagues in both those countries speak English.
Nevertheless, derby always seems to persevere. It may take a couple more years for the sport to grow here, for leagues to be large enough to have full intra league seasons. We may have to practice in small venues. And we may have to find new and exciting ways to catch the media’s eye, but we will do it. This year saw my league’s first season, Europes first tournament, and new leagues popping up all over the world every day. Next step: World Wide Derby Domination!!!!
Oh, an American leagues…feel free to spread your knowledge to your international sisters by paying us a visit! 😉