An Interview with the Leeds Roller Dolls Featured

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Yesterday we reported about the new Roller Derby craze. There are many national teams that are dedicated to increasing the profile of the sport itself. These teams hold local bouts, they hand out their own leaflets, and they never stop trying to reach new fans. One of those teams is the Leeds Roller Dolls. They’re fast, they’re fierce, they’re a behemoth on the track. Livid Doll explains why roller derby should be your new favourite sport.

First things first, what is the story behind your unique roller doll moniker?

Mine is Livid Doll. It’s a play on the Cliff Richard song ‘Living Doll.’ Old folk get it. Young folk, less so.

Roller Derby is a very fast, very full on contact sport. Are injuries on the track a frequent occurrence or are players specially trained to avoid them?

One of the first things that you learn is how to fall safely. Obviously, it’s not always avoidable and there is no worse feeling than getting thrown in the air and knowing that there is nothing you can do about it. The more you train, the stronger you get, the less likely you are to get injured. As with any contact sport there’s a risk of injury. We don’t really dwell on it. It’s not what we think about when we’re on the track.

Have you ever been injured during a bout?

Some skaters have, but really we go out focusing on game play, strategy and winning! I did once get hit in the throat so hard during a bout that I had a panic attack – that was pretty embarrassing.

What do you think it is about roller derby that makes it worth the risk?

Everything! It’s exciting to be part of a sport that is developing so rapidly and gaining so much momentum. We love pushing ourselves, learning new skills, being part of a national and international community, being supported by our teammates, getting stronger and fitter. It’s fun! Seeing everyone pull together when we need to get stuff done, from organising bouts, to promoting the league itself. It’s rewarding.

Is there a particular level of fitness that a player is expected to maintain?

We currently have four training sessions per week, amounting to 9 hours. Most are open to all, with only a few hours dedicated to travel [match] players. Everyone needs to first pass a standard minimum skills test before they are allowed to ‘scrimmage’ (the name given to practice games) at full contact level. Beyond that, everyone is encouraged to do extra strength and cardiovascular fitness in their own time.

How do you feel about the fact that roller derby is under consideration for the 2020 Olympics?

Obviously it would be great for the sport, to increase awareness of it and to increase acceptance of roller derby as more than just a spectacle, which some people unfortunately still think it is. We have come a long way since the idea of roller derby as just girls in hot-pants hitting each other. It would definitely help to shake off that stigma

Do you think that roller derby is a sport that belongs in the Olympics or should it keep its inclusive, ‘DIY’ ethos?

I see absolutely no reason why it doesn’t belong in the Olympics! There are so many skaters that train very hard and work to progress the sport and encourage others to do so. The Leeds Roller Dolls have reached a stage where there are a limited number of teams in the UK at the same levels as us, so we are looking to Europe and beyond in order to keep pushing ourselves and keep challenging ourselves. We need people to come to our bouts and support us so that we can continue to achieve our goals. But I would personally like to see the ‘DIY’ ethos continue. We are run ‘for the skater, by the skater.’ The spirit of roller derby is important, looking out for your teammates and other skaters, supporting them, helping other leagues to develop. I hope the community side of things never gets lost.

What would you say to somebody who’d like to get involved with roller derby, but is unsure about whether or not they’ve got what it takes?

Give it a go! NEVER be disheartened if you don’t take to it straight away. If you want to play, come and train with us. We teach people how to skate. Some people take to skating naturally, other people have to learn it, step by step. I’ve been skating for two and a half years and I still sometimes stand up in the changing room, have a wobble and think ‘Why the hell have I got 8 wheels on my feet?’ Personally, I think the only thing you need to play is the right attitude and the determination to succeed and improve. Everything else can be learnt.

And finally when is your next scheduled bout? How and where can people get involved?

On July 28th, we are hosting the Great Yorkshire Showdown tournament. Our second team, the Whip-Its will be taking on teams from the North and Scotland (Middlesbrough Milk Rollers, Glasgow Roller Derby's Maiden Grrders, and the Sheffield Crucibelles, amongst others. This is at Huddersfield Sports Centre and tickets are available. On August 11th we’re going to be hosting an expo bout at our new home. We’re really  excited to be returning to a Leeds based home where we can train and host bouts. It will be located in the Futsal Arena, Leeds. All details are available on our website. 

Thanks for your time Livid Doll.

Samantha Hames

I'm Sam! I'm quirky, chatty and immensely energetic. My greatest loves include; books, reggae music, cheese, Jack Daniels and David Lynch. I'm due to graduate in just over a month, and hope to kickstart my writing career as soon as possible. To put it cheesily, writing is my calling. :)

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