Oh!Henry started playing roller derby at 18 years old. In her first season with HCRG she joined the WFTDA chartered team, and won MVP in a bout against the Queen City Lake Effect Furies. At the next bout Oh!Henry skates in – keep your eyes open for the 5150 Peanut Gallery.
1.) Falling for in derby
There isn’t something that I can think of that actually compares to how driven you become to attend practice because it’s not like a job or school where you have to go “or else.” However, you end up in a sweaty state of worry if you even think you might miss practice. Or at least I do. About two practices in, I found myself turning down family taco night to ensure I was at practice and anyone who knows me knows how much I love a good family taco night. Roller derby is a siren sitting on a rock in the sea of…. life, making you fall in love with it.
Ok, that was cheesy.
2. Roller derby isn’t just about smashing each other up
When people hear about modern roller derby, they instantly think two things, violence and fishnets. The most common responses are,
“Oh like the elbows and punching, right?!”
“Like that one movie with Ellen page?”
Fortunately for me, I had an awesome neighbor who played with HCRG and told me what to watch and look up as soon as she found out I was interested in roller derby.
For people who aren’t aware of the resurrection of roller derby, it is forever immortalized in their heads as either a sport where ladies manage to wrestle in a WWE-esque style while on skates or a movie that doesn’t accurately depict roller derby. I like to respond to comments like that by letting them know that roller derby isn’t fake or always about the big hits, it’s mainly about strategy and knowing when to do things. It’s good to remember that the hardest hitting player on a team is not necessarily the best player.
3. Falling for in derby
It goes without saying that a lot of falling takes place in roller derby. There are the falls you know are coming, the falls where you don’t even see the person winding up to hit you and the accidentals. It’s because of the last two in that list that you have to remember to stretch your upper body as well. Luckily in Derby 101 and Smash Squad you learn how to fall properly without injuring yourself. It is imperative that you stretch your upper body as well because there’s always that one fall that catches you off guard and your primal instincts are to put your arms out and catch yourself.
4. Teammates become friends, friends become teammates
You know when you yawn and then everyone around you yawns, even if they didn’t want to, and then everyone gets mad because they didn’t want to yawn? The exact same thing happens with roller derby except it’s a million times more awesome and nobody gets mad. Derby’s gravitational pull sucks all of your friends, coworkers, girlfriends and neighbors in. Unfortunately, guys can’t be on our team but husbands, boyfriends and brothers, fear not, HCRG is always looking for more Rowdy Rowdy Refs!
5. Don’t give up
This one sounds like it could potentially be filled with clichés and a heartwarming tale about perseverance. I will try to keep it as low as I can on the sappy scale. Luckily, not giving up is easy in a sport like roller derby because its so much fun. Just because Cindy Whatsherface can do slow motion backflips over the pack while reciting the alphabet backwards doesn’t mean that you should be able to, even if you both started at the same time. Maybe Cindy practiced the alphabet backwards and doesn’t know how to do it the proper way or perhaps she was raised by the cast of Cirque de Soleil and learned how to backflip before she could run. We’ll never really know but it doesn’t matter anyways because I promise you that if you show up to practice, pay attention and skate your heart out, you will improve. No matter what you’re doing, as long as you practice, you will get better. I know I had said that I wasn’t going to fill this with clichés but (I’m not even sure if this is one so it doesn’t count) learning doesn’t plateau so nobody really knows everything about anything, ya’ know? Great.
Henry accepting her MVP award against Queen City’s chartered team. Photo by Joe Mac.