Name: HARD N SHARPE #161
Mission: TO BE 100% ADDICTED TO SKATING AND 110% ADDICTED TO ROLLER DERBY
I have known Claire since 2008 when we met in Reading. We have remained friends on Facebook and she is now living in Bristol and works as an Operations Assistant at Beyond the Bean. I got in contact with her last year to learn more about what she was up to as a lot of photos of her skating started to appear on Facebook.
Claire got interested in the sport when she went to watch a game in Bath. “A friend of mine skates with a team and she thought I would enjoy it. I loved the fast paced action and eventually managed to grasp what the hell was going on and knew I wanted to give it a go.”
She started learning to skate in October 2014 and initially started going to the Bristol Roller Derby – Drop In Derby sessions with a friend “who only came the once, but luckily most other people seemed to be in the same situation.” These classes run once a week nearly all year and are open to anyone over 16 wanting to give skating a go. “There is a set of minimum skills that every skater must pass before they are allowed to play and Drop In is how you start doing them. It’s a friendly atmosphere to learn in and the coaches are fantastic. You start with the very basics, like how the hell you stand up on skates, all the way through to giving and receiving hits.”
In the Drop In Derby she made some brilliant friends who she is still training with now. “I love the feeling of being in a team, and Bristol Roller Derby is an amazingly diverse group to skate with. There are two women’s teams and a men’s team ranging in age from 18 up to 67 years of age. There are teachers, doctors, bakers, software developers and everything in between.”
Roller Derby is “a full-contact sport played on quad roller skates, by players skating around an oval track. The game consists of a series of ‘jams’ – short periods (maximum of 2 minutes) run over an hour long bout. During each jam, each team sends five players onto the track. One player on each team is the jammer (the point scorer). The other players are the blockers (defensive/offensive players), one of whom has the special designation of pivot (traditionally the lead blocker). The players are identified by their helmet covers – a stripe for the pivots and two stars for the jammers. Sounds easy, right? Not when you consider that the skaters in the pack are doing their utmost to stop the opposing jammer passing them and scoring points, while at the same time trying to help their own jammer to pass opposing players. Illegal hits result in time served in the penalty box, legal hits often result in skaters flying off the track and landing in the crowd!”
It may be full-contact, but a lot of people will be incorrect if they think that Roller Derby is people on skates hitting each other. “There are very strict rules in roller derby, 70-odd pages of them, so if you want to hit someone off the track there are a lot of things you cannot do. For example you can’t use your elbows, knees, hands or head. Whilst playing you need to be aware of this very complex rule-set as well as performing physically demanding tasks. It’s this combination that I love as it’s not just a game about brawn, your brain needs to be in it too. Being able to think strategically and pre-empt the behaviour of the opposition is an incredibly useful skill. You can out-skate and out-smart, if you get good enough.” This is one of the reasons she admires the A Team Captain Black Thorn “who has so much strength and agility, but also has an amazing head for strategy which the men’s team get the benefit of too as she is their bench coach.”
Despite skating for less than a year, Hard N Sharpe is now a part of the A Team. “It’s my very, very proudest moment so far and was an amazing feeling, quickly followed by terror because my team mates are phenomenal skaters! I look at the way they skate and hope that I can do it one day too. But the A Team it is redrafted twice a year, and I don’t want my time on it to be a flash in the pan so I’m by no means settled in my spot there and I hope to keep it as long as possible.”
Claire was warned of how addictive skating was when she started, “but I didn’t understand how much I would love it. I love the way it feels, and I like that it pushes me to get out of my comfort zone. I want to spend all my time doing it. I’ve also started having a go at ramp skating with Chicks in Bowls Bristol which is part of the international Chicks in Bowls movement, spreading the enthusiasm, encouragement, and love for roller skaters conquering skateparks.”
When you do something that involves regularly falling over there are going to be times which you just have to laugh. “I’ve had some epic falls, too may to recount, but my most ridiculous one was whilst everyone was looking at me, making it the most embarrassing as well. I was trying out a friend’s skates to see if I wanted to buy some like hers. She had taken the toe stops out, which are the big rubber knobs on the toe of the boot. I use them a lot to stop, but had made a mental not to avoid doing this as they weren’t there. I had started explaining to someone what I was doing, and without even thinking about it went to put my toe stops down. It looked like I just leaned towards the floor, my whole body followed through and went splat! To me it felt like it was happening in slow motion like all the best falls do. There was lots of laughing, mine included!”
Hard N Sharpe will be competing in a home game on Sunday 22nd November which will be a rare opportunity to see the A Team and the B Team play at home. “The A Team are currently ranked 17th in the UK and are on an upwards trajectory. The B Team are also going from strength to strength at the moment and are a force to be reckoned with.”
Bristol Roller Derby are “always on the look out for new members, on or off skates! It’s completely self run so all league members contribute to the day to day running. We have coaches, referees, a merchandise team, an art team, people who run our home games which is a massive job, and we do it because we love it.”
If anyone wants to hold my hand to the Drop-In session then I’m game!