Accessibility in roller derby  At the moment in the derby community, we’re bursting a lot of our own bubbles.  People are sharing stories that show us how we’re not as inclusive as we pride ourselves on being and we’re not as safe a space as we thought we were.  It can be disheartening.  It can be easy to want to turn our heads away, look at our team and feel like what’s happened over there is an isolated thing, nothing to do with us, and oh let’s forget about it.  On the flip side, other folks get caught up in the chastising, denouncing, social media furore.  Again pointed fingers, but louder, making an example, trying to tear it up and restore our derby world to what it should have been with the healing balm of a facebook comment.  Somewhere in the middle is our reality, one which doesn’t put derby on a pedestal but still acknowledges a virtue in wanting to be that welcoming place of sanctuary and activity for the misunderstood, the vulnerable, and the never before put skates on their feet.  In that middle ground is where we can start to back up this flood of realisation and disappointment with practical actions and next steps for derby.   As coaches, we have a great power to make small changes and help drive derby towards the culture we wish we have always had.  I attended a conference last week on Physical Activity and Mental Health.  I went because I see derby as a space where those with mental ill health come and can find a place within an understanding community.  It may be another derby myth that we have more athletes with mental health issues; it may just be that we generally feel a bit more ok talking about it.   What I came away with from my day of learning wasn’t the answers to managing that skater who throws things or that one who isolates themselves or that one who only comes to training every three weeks.  I didn’t learn a whole lot of new about how activity improves mental health.  What I did get was space to think and listen and see the connections.   And the realisation I came to (potentially late to the party) was that all the things we know about derby (it’s expensive, it’s impossible to get a venue, it’s on roller skates) actually add up to roller derby being inaccessible to pretty much every group at high risk to mental ill health.   So instead of coming away to write a blog about supporting our players with their mental health, I'm full of thoughts about that step before.  Getting (and keeping) people active and roller derby being part of the approach to support increased physical activity in our communities.   When we talk about our community in roller derby, we tend to mean our skating community.  Skaters, officials, skating officials.  Games.  Champs. WFTDA.  Also fans, but only insomuch as they help us keep the other community going.   If we’re thinking about roller derby as part of a sporting movement to keep people active, we need to look at different concepts of community.   You might not really think about this other community, the one down the street.  That’s ok.  I didn’t really either.  I wanted to learn roller derby, play roller derby, compete at roller derby, WIN at roller derby.  Not to mention, eat, sleep, breathe roller derby.   But with coaching and thinking about how we build our sport and make it stronger, I think a lot about community and the idea of roller derby outside of the league context.  What is our 'on the ground' community?  And what opportunities or barriers are there to keeping them involved?  Cultural accessibility     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
          
             
                  
             
          
             
          

          
           
              Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire  
           
          

         
      
       
    

  


     This is our big buzz word at the moment.  It’s an important one.  It’s a relevant one.  People are paying attention.  BE BETTER.  BE NOT RACIST. DON’T BE PART OF THE SYSTEM.  Ok.  Let’s make sure we are better, not racist, not part of the system of indirect discrimination.  How do we do that?  The first thing that’s taught on every equality awareness course I’ve ever been on is you have to acknowledge difference in order to support equity.  Don't be embarrassed to acknowledge difference, to talk about difference, and to ask people what they want or need to succeed.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “I’m not racist.  I don’t care what colour you are. why can’t we all just be people?”  Inclusive is not just treating people how you want to be treated.  If you do that, you end up with people just like you.  And you’re great.  But so are other people.   Recruitment and new skater nights.    Start by thinking about your visibility in those communities. How are you getting the recruitment message out?  Will the people you want to reach all be on Facebook?  Will they be in your circle of Facebook? Will they already have found derby and be in UK Roller Derby events group.  The answer to all of the above is : probably not.  So who do you want to reach?  What does a good “representative of your community” derby league look like?  Figure this out and then start considering what is unique about each of those parts of your community.   Is roller derby even really an option for them?  At a previous job, I was in a project aiming to encourage more angling (sport fishing) in the Sikh community, because they were under-represented.  The Sikh faith has strong beliefs around not causing the suffering of animals.  There aren’t formal edicts against eating meat, but many Sikhs opt for a vegetarian diet.  And fishing for fun can still result in not so much fun for the fish, even if they’re put back.  So maybe there are Sikhs who want to fish for fun, but they would definitely need some different messaging.     A place to start is working with trusted institutions or groups in the community.  Understand the community needs and challenges.  Talk to them about how roller derby could look for them.  Work with them to send the message or co-run the event.  As great as we are, we do tend to be a bit insular about partnerships, joining forces, and learning from other groups.  The whole point is to open ourselves up here; talking to people who know more is a great way to do it.  Where are your new skater nights held?  Do you even have new skater nights?  Do you jump straight into try outs?  Do you need to hold them in your practice space?  Can you take new skater nights to different parts of the community where you want to increase visibility of the sport?  Think about your approach.  Is your message only “hey we’ve got a cool sport and some skates and you can borrow them so you should come skate”.  Can you target your messages more by community?  From my experience in West Yorkshire, if we want to encourage representation from the South Asian community, we need to know that they are primarily Pakistani or Bangladeshi and majority Muslim.  So there are there are other messages we can include that make it seem more accessible.    Things like making it a female-only space.  It feels exclusive to do that these days, but for certain communities, that’s really important.  Not just that the event is for women only, but that the space itself will not have men in it.   And also:    Being prepared with solutions for head scarves.  Bigger helmets that can fit over might be a solution.  Sometimes being secure in the space means they will opt to remove them.   Not promoting that “all you need is active wear”.  Be clear that as long as clothing is loose fitting, you can make it work.  Encouraging people to come in groups or pairs.  Having a representative from their community attend as a support or even as a participant.   Making it easy to get to on foot or clearly explaining how to get there on the bus as part of the message.  Setting the sessions not at standard dinner preparation time.  Find out when people in the community tend to have free time.  See if you can make that time work.  Having someone responsible available to watch children.   Not holding recruitment nights during Ramadan.   Not all of these are appropriate to every community, it's just a snapshot of the work I've done to look at being more inclusive in my part of the world.  The most important thing to do is question all the elements and ask people in the community.   You'll find that not everything you consider is possible or at least not possible without some planning or changes.  Your league is the only one in a position to make a decision about how much you want or can build a culturally accessible event (or multiple events to meet the different needs of a diverse community).  What happens after you get them trying roller derby and they decide they like it?   Manage expectations about success.    Not theirs, yours.   Inclusivity also needs to be about creating a space where people can attend sometimes. It sure does mess up your 12 week new skater programme, doesn’t it?  Maybe you don’t want them because if they can’t commit now, how will they commit to the team? You don’t have that time to waste. That may well be the case.  But then, maybe you need to not focus on inclusivity.  Instead, you focus on winning the derby.   It might be about creating a space where people never actually play a public game.  They just come for a kickaround (what do you mean there’s no ball?).   Can roller derby exist in the five-a-side kickaround context?  Should it? As a community we seem to strive to be the elite.  We don’t have a strata of participation levels.  We have strongly competitive leagues and leagues that are trying to be competitive and they are all playing to win.   These are only some examples of things to consider.  There will be more.  They will change depending on who you’re aiming to talk to.   As a coach, you can make and support these small changes that make a difference to a whole lot of people.  Other media and information you might find interesting  Oppression in Roller Derby, Off the Track S1E3 , WISP Radio Broadcast  Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation (UK) , Sport and Recreation Alliance  Stay tuned because we haven’t even scratched the surface—there’s still Financial accessibility, Geographic accessibility, Physical accessibility, and Talent accessibility (I’m sure there’s a better name for this, but it’s what I’ve got at the moment), and just, you know, accessibility accessibility.   Note- I’ve obviously not seen every derby place and team in the world.  If you have overcome these accessibility issues, tell us! Get in touch and share your successes.  Shed some happy light in this space!

I attended a conference last week on Physical Activity and Mental Health. 

What I came away with from my day of learning wasn’t the answers to managing that skater who throws things or that one who isolates themselves or that one who only comes to training every three weeks.  I didn’t learn a whole lot of new about how activity improves mental health.  What I did get was space to think and listen and see the connections. 

      Winding down another bootcamp collab with Missy Rascal, edge-loving skills instructor extraordinaire, and reflecting on the two days of non-stop skills action and all the cool skaters I got to meet.  I love watching skaters really start to understand their skates and to figure out how they can work with them and within them.     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Every time I coach with Missy, I learn new ways to explain movement and the cause and effect of a small physical shift on whatever skill a skater is aiming to achieve.  I gain confidence in the  implicit confirmation of my analysis of form when I find myself correcting the same body quirks and weight distribution as she does three skaters down from me.   I know the big things, the talking points, the buzz works, the crotch weight versus 'nose, nipple, knee' and I know lots of little things too.  However many years of watching skaters battle their own bodies and brains, you start to figure it out, even if you can't articulate it.  But I find that when I listen closely, Missy systematically removes impasses to achievement that I never even realised existed.     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     I remember how I learned to skate and the process I took in learning to coach others to skate.  We all get there in the end.  We learn intuitively where the weight goes and we wait for the day that our underpush "clicks" into place.   A certain D1 team, all insanely talented skaters, spent an off season stripping back their skills to focus on improving their edges because they'd all learned to skate without controlling them and when they got to that level of gameplay, they needed that control.  They had to go back and get it.  A lot of coaches I know, we often tell our skaters, "it's just practice" or "you have to find that sweet spot".   Missy Rascal does a lot of explaining when she coaches.  The first time we coached together I swear she spoke more in the first hour than in the entire time I'd known her... maybe about five years...  When I went up to her after and said as much, she just said, 'I save up for the words that matter'.   How amazing would it be if all us coaches had the words that mattered, the ones that make it all just a bit easier, a bit faster, and a bit less frustrating for new skaters to "get it".   How many more skaters would be keep in the sport?  How much better would those skaters be?  How much better would our sport be?   

However many years of watching skaters battle their own bodies and brains, you start to figure it out, even if you can't articulate it.  But I find that when I listen closely, Missy systematically removes impasses to achievement that I never even realised existed.

       How you roll   This is the coaching skill I most wanted to learn and I DID. My coaching comfort zone is new derbyists through beginning game play.  But I mostly work with people who can roll.  It might not be fast or efficient, but they know how to go.   I really wanted to be able to support those absolute, gripping the wall, refusing to fully stand up beginners.  And while it might seem simple to those of you who have done it, when first confronted with someone clutching at me in terror because  her skate moved , I froze.  For other beginner-impaired coaches, here’s what you do.     

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Step 1 – Penguin feet.  (like so….)  Seems so blumming obvious but while I’d spent loads of time explaining to new skaters how to get up safely, put on their equipment safely, come back down to the floor safely, I never actually thought about telling them how to stand safely.   Granted, most of them seemed to pick it up (or only fall over once…) but actually, it’s probably a pretty sensible thing to teach.      Heels touching, feet in a V.  They won’t roll backwards accidentally and pretty hard for them to roll forwards accidentally.  *magic*           </iframe>" data-provider-name=""      Not quite as little as they ought to be, I reckon, but probably realistic!         Step 2 – Cockroach steps.   Don’t even worry about rolling right away.  Get them comfortable moving.  Tiny tiny little ant steps, then cockroach steps, then… next biggest bug steps, you choose.  And after each step, they’re back in penguin feet feeling all chill and not falling over.  *excellent scenes*                      </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"         Step 3 – Roll (What?!) Yeah Roll  V starts and T starts.  Get them used to pushing into the back foot and then rolling a little bit.  It can be the tiniest roll.  They can immediately resume penguin position.  They can do this while holding onto a wall.  You can let them hold onto you if you want, but if they go down, I can pretty much guarantee that you’re going down with them.  An alternative is holding out a stick/ cane etc for them to use as a safety blanket (basically a touch point to help build their proprioception).  If they go down, they just take the stick, not you.  Eventually they can alternate feet with their v starts and voila! Rolling!  So there you go! 

I really wanted to be able to support those absolute, gripping the wall, refusing to fully stand up beginners.  And while it might seem simple to those of you who have done it, when first confronted with someone clutching at me in terror because her skate moved, I froze.

For other beginner-impaired coaches, here’s what you do.

      Two days, 14 coaches, one freezing gym hall later, I almost have my Level 2 BRSF Generic Skate Coach qualification.  I say “almost”, because part of the process is a 39 hour online course about how to safeguard children and vulnerable adults which I have only just embarked upon.   I went in a bit uncertain   of the potential value, but hopeful that I would pick up some info to fill the gaps in my coaching brain.  And I promised to share my learning.   The learning starts here!             Things I learned at My BRSF Level 2 Skate Coach course by Maha El Nasser aka Hydra #56.   We are a really small roller derby coaching world.  We are also keen as fuck.      

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Of the 14 coaches in the room, including the instructors, only 4 had nothing to do with roller derby.   71.4287% of us were roller derby people .  Our people.  This meant that the inline hockey dude and the roller disco dude had to conform to an invisible derby track pretty quickly.  The hockey guy kept get accused of cutting the corners he couldn’t see.   Of those 10 derby people, we all knew each other.  We’d been at  Derby Stance  together or played together and against each other, coached each other's teams, been coached by each other's teams.    But really, this says to me we’re all the same faces.  Trying to get to the same places.  We should know each other more and better and just have more conversations without waiting for the Halley’s comet of coaching courses to come to town.  And maybe find the other coaches in the world and talk to them too.    Generic is as generic does.       

  

  	
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     This course was so generic (as it says on the tin) the skills we learned how to coach were built around any sort of shoe with wheels on it in any configuration.    Because so many of us folks were from derby, we could translate to derby during the practical bits.  But half of what I would want to be able to coach a quad skater (like how to use all the elements of your skate) is not part of the course because it has to work across all disciplines.   I learned things.  But I would have liked to learn a few more things.  Particularly things I’m going to find myself coaching.    Nb: I also learned some actual coaching things,  like teaching someone to roll  (don’t laugh, I really struggled with this). 

Two days, 14 coaches, one freezing gym hall later, I almost have my Level 2 BRSF Generic Skate Coach qualification.  I say “almost”, because part of the process is a 39 hour online course about how to safeguard children and vulnerable adults which I have only just embarked upon.

I went in a bit uncertain of the potential value, but hopeful that I would pick up some info to fill the gaps in my coaching brain.  And I promised to share my learning.   The learning starts here!

      I am beyond excited that this weekend I am actually finally really and truly attending a coaching qualification course for skating*.  After more than six years of coaching derby I’m finally getting some guidance on how to do it!  Everything till now has been following, shadowing, trying, experimenting… annnnnd, I think I’ve just about sussed it.  Definitely the time to be taught how to coach (*read: sarcasm).  It’s not that I don’t think this course will offer good advice and skills to share.  And I’m hoping to pick up different ways of explaining edges and how to use them.  (Though, having run a few collabs with Missy Rascal over the past year, I’m pretty edged up.)   But I’m frustrated.   Frustrated that this course took so long to get up and running and then once it did that it kept getting cancelled.  Frustrated for myself that I had to manage for so long worrying that I was doing things wrong.   Frustrated for other new coaches that they have to go through the same thing, especially the ones that don’t have other sport coaching experince to fall back on.   Frustrated that amazing coaches have to run events at risk because it’s nigh impossible to get insurance in the UK if you don’t have a piece of paper saying you’re qualified to coach.   Frustrated for the skaters that have to muddle through while we figure out how to coach and then retire and someone else then has to figure out how to coach.   Frustrated that skaters leave because we can’t offer consistency.  Frustrated that leagues stagnate because there isn’t help to push to the next level.   Mostly I’m frustrated that I have been waiting all this time to finally get on the coaching course and it’s not even for the sport I coach.   But amongst all the frustration is faith that in the background, behind the derby noise (fundraising, events, bootcamps, events, games, more events, and all the admin…)  things are happening.  Our governing bodies are shifting and reassessing and driving forward with increased presence and focus.   Our sport is experiencing another growth spurt.  This means we might be gangly for a bit but we’ll come out bigger.  Better.   Maybe with some derby-specific coaching support.  That would be excellent.  Until then, I’m going to get educated in how to coach skating skills and I will share the learnings here, with my team, in Facebook groups, in bootcamps, in 1:1s, and in conversation.      #moretalking #moresharing #coachderby  * British Roller Sports Federation (BRSF) If you want to come along and get your qual, I reckon that there are still spaces to fill:  http://www.brsf.co.uk/coach-education .   

I am beyond excited that this weekend I am actually finally really and truly attending a coaching qualification course for skating.  After more than six years of coaching derby I’m finally getting some guidance on how to do it!  Everything till now has been following, shadowing, trying, experimenting… annnnnd, I think I’ve just about sussed it.