Fresh Meat: oh god someone put a shoe on the track

As mentioned previously, I’ve started roller derby. This is basically a sport played on a rounded track in which two people have a race through eight people who are having a fight about it. Also everyone is on rollerskates.

In order to join a derby league, you have to be able to skate without dying, which complicates matters. New people are put through a Fresh Meat course, where they are taught the basic skills (or drift slowly around in slack-jawed confusion while people with shiny helmets blow whistles and attempt to teach them the basic skills, anyway. I’ve never claimed to be a quick learner).

Once you are through Fresh Meat, you join the Wreck League (it’s short for wreckreational). Beyond this, league structure is a mystery to me. As far as I’m concerned the league I am involved with is like this:

Fresh meat: Sunday morning training group, where we fall over for two hours then go to the pub.

Wreck league: The guys who eventually turn up to the pub if we keep drinking for long enough.

A Team: I don’t know who these guys are but if you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and you can find them, maybe you can hire them. Also they start training as soon as fresh meat are finished, and you probably don’t want to wander onto the track in front of them. Not joking. They are quite fast and sometimes bounce violently off each other.

B Team: As these guys train in between the A team and Wreck, I don’t see them at the pub and don’t have to avoid the track at all costs to avoid being maimed by them. I’m therefore not 100% sure they are real.

Fresh Meat training sessions are such a happy time. There you are, going round in an anticlockwise circle (fuck clockwise) with your friends while people with interesting names yell things at you and blow whistles… and then it happens. Someone in charge deliberately puts a shoe on the track.

They might have put a shoe on the track because they want you to go around it. Or maybe they want you to jump over it. Or maybe they just like freaking us out. Who knows? Fact is, they’re bigger than me, their helmets are extremely shiny, they have quite aggressive-sounding names and that whistle is REALLY LOUD, so it’s best not to ask too many questions.

You may be wondering why this is a big deal. Shoes are harmless, right?

Nothing is harmless when you are going around a track on roller skates. Slight sticky bit on the floor? PANIC. Someone went past you quickly? APOCALYPSE. Piece of grit gets in your wheel? OH MY GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE. Being much bigger than grit, shoes are the ultimate horror.

The first stage of finding a shoe – or even line of shoes – on the track is denial. Surely they can’t expect you to go around that? What if you trip on it and break all your limbs? And jumping – really? You have wheels on your feet. Is that even safe? Surely they don’t mean it. It’s all a mistake and someone will move it in a minute and everything will be okay again.

The second stage is anger. How could they do this to you? What loving god would allow this? All you want is to go around in circles, maybe fall over screaming a few times, and they shove a shoe right in your way? What the hell is that? It’s Women’s FLAT TRACK Derby Association, not Women’s SHOE-STREWN TRACK Derby Association.

The third stage is bargaining. Maybe we can just kind of slow down and go past the shoe instead of around it? Or maybe if we give it another few months, then try again? We’re not saying no to shoes on the track, just… maybe not right now?

The fourth stage is acceptance. You cannot escape the shoe. The trouble with a rounded track is that when you run away from something on it, you come right back to it again seconds later, so frantically sprinting away doesn’t work – and don’t even think about skating off-track. “But there’s a shoe in the way” is apparently not a valid reason to cross that line. So now you’ve accepted you have to deal with the shoe (or shoes), what do you do?

Generally, you are expected to go around or over them.


Approach the shoes (it’s likely there will be more than one). Don’t be tempted to turn around and go the other way – someone with a really scary-sounding name is probably watching you, and is definitely faster than you and WILL catch you.

Look at the shoe. Look at the coach. Shuffle past. Experience sadness at your failure.


Thankfully, years of parkour training have just about prepared me to hop over an object just a little bigger than my own foot. Basically, use your legs and scream a lot and before you know it the Shoe of Death will be behind you.

Good luck with your shoe challenges!


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