The Vendetta Vixens are Northampton’s roller derby team – a thrilling and fun sport where teams race – and block each other – on roller skates.
If you are interested in giving it a try or finding out more then you can do so by following these links:
Here five of the Vixens tell us in their own words how and why they got into roller derby.
Name: Paige Adams
Job: Medical Sales Representative
Skate Name and number: Pip # 91 – Vice Captain
Skating duration: 5 years
I was asked to go to my first roller derby training session by my supervisor when I worked in a pub in Lincoln. A group of roller derby skaters had come in for a raucous end of the season party and tried to recruit on their night out. My supervisor was obviously convinced and didn’t want to go alone, knowing I was usually up for trying new things to took me along. I knew nothing about the sport or even what I had let myself in for at the time. Little did I know what excellent fun it would be.
I had already been asked for my shoe/skate size prior to the Saturday morning we were to attend our first session so when we walked in we were immediately coordinated with our loan kit (e.g. knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and helmet). My skates were loaned to me by one of the coaches called Mizza, she was amazing on skates. I put mine on tentatively and realised I was not at all good. Most of our first session was spent, getting up, trying to move a few inches, falling over and then repeating this. I could not stop and going at speed felt terrifying. Do not let this part fool you, I was having a fabulous time. I was laughing with my friend and other newbies who had joined that day, the intake was about 20 skaters with around 10 experienced skaters keeping an eye on us and getting us to push ourselves that little bit more.
I loved it; the environment, the community and the support from everyone around me. It was a brand new experience for me, I liked sport at school and college but things got in my way. It felt a bit cliquey and also once I was told I was “too competitive” by a teacher which made me feel rubbish and to be honest put me off trying. There was none of that attitude here.
Anyway, I kept going every single week I could. When I was unable to make it I would go to the roller disco to keep on top of my skating! I bought my first pair of second hand skates from an A team player for about £50 which I now know was a bargain for what they were! These lasted me until 2017, so a good few years. I worked so hard on completing my minimum skills required before playing my first rookie game. I particularly struggled with transitions, turning from one direction to the other. This meant skating in a forward direction, opening up the hips and with continued momentum and skating backwards, then going from backwards skating to forwards. It was tough! Another skill I found challenging was my 27 laps in 5 minutes or 27/5. This is down to speed, skating technique and endurance. I used to fall over a lot here, luckily I wore protection. It took me a long time but I finally got my skills ticked off bar one. Unfortunately it was time for my boyfriend and I to move from Lincoln to Bedford so I said a sad goodbye to the team that sparked my roller derby interest.
As soon as we moved I got in touch with the local team and began attending their Saturday sessions and before long I was invited to attend their advanced training. In the April was able to play in my first ever champs! It was phenomenal; the adrenaline rush, the atmosphere, the whole experience.
If you don’t know, roller derby is a full contact sport played on a flat oval-shaped track. There are 2 teams of up to 15 players made up of blockers and jammers. During each jam or 2 minute interval, there are 4 blockers from each team on the track and 2 jammers. That is 10 players in total on the track at the beginning of the jam. Jammers start behind the jam line and are released after the first singular whistle. The first jammer to make it through the pack (the pack is the biggest collection of mixed skaters within 10 feet) gets called ‘lead jammer’ and this is signified with a double whistle blast. Jammers who come round on their 2nd lap can then score points by passing the hips of each opposition player achieving 1 point per skater. The lead jammer has the power to stop the jammer at any point by tapping her hips to prevent the other jammer scoring points. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, seems simple right?
At the end of the game both teams hug each other and congratulate each other on their win, blocks or jams. The teams also go round and thank individually the referees, the Non-Skating Officials (NSO’s) and then the winning team link hands on either side of the inside line and raise them up so the other team can skate through and be celebrated for their game. Then the same for the winning team. Most games have awards at the end for best blocker, best jammer and Most Valuable Player (MVP) and some teams award their own players the Player’s Player award later on. I truly love this part of the game, it is really inclusive and shows a high level of respect for all that make a game possible no matter who you are.
In April this year I moved teams to join the Vendetta Vixens and have continued to accelerate in my skills and general game play. We play regular friendly scrims against other local teams like Concrete Cows in Milton Keynes and Oxford Wheels of Gory. We have also been participating in the British Roller Derby Championships 2018 Tier4 Women’s East, we have won 2 out of our 3 games so far and are due to play our last game in York on Sunday 8th July.
The people I play this amazing sport with are the most inspirational people I have ever met. The make me want to be a better skater, person and coach. The skills I have learned and developed are transferrable to all aspects of life; even standing my ground in a festival field or at the bar has become a lot easier! I would truly recommend checking us out and giving it a go at least once. I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for and that it would end up being one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life.
Name: Karen Pomerantz aka Thunder Kaz (#65)
Electronic Design Engineer, Self-published author, wife, and mother of two.
Began playing roller derby 7 years ago, had a 2.5 year hiatus to have second child.
I had always ice-skated and roller-skated as a teen, but stopped when I went to university, and then a husband, and family, and adulthood in general took over and my skates lay dormant in the loft.
It was on a night out in town that I first stumbled across my local roller derby league, Northampton’s Shoetown Slayers. They were wearing their team shirts with names on the back like ‘Minx Pie’ and ‘Machete Boop’, leaving no question about what sport it was that they were involved in.
The idea of strapping my skates on and being a tough rollergirl appealed, although I wasn’t convinced I’d be tough enough, but there was only one way I would ever know.
The first session was daunting, but being back on-skates was brilliant and I quickly picked up the skills required to allow me to be cleared to play safely in a competitive game.
My first audience-attended game gave me the bug and I began training three times a week, rapidly dropping the excess baby weight I still hadn’t shifted from my one-year-old daughter’s arrival.
I assumed there’d be a lot of competition and attitude within a team of such headstrong women, but mostly it was like family, with everyone being incredibly supportive of each other. However, it was still a formidable environment for people to come into for the first time, so I asked to be involved with recruitment.
For some reason, the sport of Roller Derby seems to attract those that feel like outcasts from mainstream society, whether it be down to an alternative appearance with a myriad of tattoos and piercings, or a quieter case of anxiety disorders and more serious mental health issues. Newcomers often speak of how they hated sports at school and were always the last ones picked when captains were choosing teams. I wanted to make new skaters feel welcome from the second they stepped in the door and know that they’d found a safe place to be themselves.
I left the sport in 2014 to have my second child, not sure if I would find the opportunity to return with such a busy schedule. Two years ago I decided to make the time, even if it was only once a month, and I joined Bedfordshire Roller Derby, whose training schedule tied in with when my husband takes our children to their clubs to allow me some time to myself.
I quickly caught the bug again and was back playing competitively with my new derby family after two months.
This year, following a growing relationship between Bedfordshire Roller Derby and neighbouring Northampton’s Vendetta Vixens, I have transferred to the Vixens with a few other girls from BRD (although we’re frequently still found hanging out at BRD practices too!) to play in the 2018 British Championships. It’s the first chance that I have personally had an opportunity to play in the tournament and it has been so much fun so far. We’ve had away games up in Grimsby and Hull already this year, and travelling that distance with your team to play an away game feels really special.
We’re playing at home this coming weekend, which will make a really nice change, and give my local friends and family a chance to come and see exactly what it is I do to give me all my bruises!
I’m hugely proud of myself for taking that first step seven years ago. I never for a second thought I’d be tough enough or fit enough to play properly, but the truth is that the sport isn’t just about hitting people off-track, although that part is rather fun. It’s also incredibly complex and strategic, and all of your early training is to build you up so that you are able to take those hits when they do come, and marvel at the fact that it wasn’t as hard as you’d think to stay upright when you’re on skates and a TSu Narmee (Vixen #0002) hits you.
Derby has given me a vast and hugely supportive friendship group across the whole country. It’s helped me feel like I’ve found my place and found myself, all at the same time, and I feel physically and mentally stronger for regularly putting myself in a position where I have to force my way through a group of people creating an obstacle for me, or working as a team to hold someone else back. It’s also great exercise!
Everyone can find a place in this sport. If you don’t like the full contact aspect, you can consider refereeing, and there are also a huge number of off-skates officiating roles that need to be filled for competitive games, so there’s no end of ways to be involved.
Real Name: Helen Christie
Skate Name: Hells
Skating for?: 5 years in July!
I started roller derby after watching my friend play her first game. Neither of us were ‘sporty’ at school (far from it), so to watch her truly throw herself into a sport intrigued me, and I realised I had nothing to lose by giving it a try. I was nervous as hell though.
I was truly terrible at first – I’d never been on skates, roller blades, skateboards, only a bike – so this was a brand new thing for me. I could barely stand up, there was lots of falling over, and a feat that still makes me chuckle; we have a milestone in roller derby to be able to pass our ‘minimum skills’ that enable us to play in games safely, and this milestone is to skate 27 laps of a track in 5 minutes. You have to be going a fast, steady pace to achieve this. However, the first time I did it I managed 5 laps. FIVE.
I still wonder how that snail’s pace was even possible and how ridiculous it must have looked to the already skills passed skaters! I wasn’t deterred, I went to practice every week and suddenly things started clicking for me. Granted it took a long time, but putting on my skates every week with my new found friends was great fun.
To carry on progressing I moved to a new team (my current team), Vendetta Vixens in November 2014 and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve not just gained skater skills, but they helped me gain confidence in who I am as a person. The women I share the track with I also think of as my friends – women I can talk to about anything, women I can laugh with, work hard with, share fun times and not so fun times with. They are incredibly caring, tenacious and strong (physically and mentally), and have definitely helped to shape me into the woman I am now. I played in my first British Championship competition last year, and it was a fantastic experience. My first game I was a nervous wreck – I had played games before, but more rookie level games or friendlies that didn’t matter, this one meant something. We fought hard and ultimately lost, but to have come to support the team in British Champs as a spectator or merchandise stall operator before and now be playing with them was a dream come true. To be rostered to play in this year’s competition too has been such a proud moment for me. I’m not used to being picked for a team for anything, so it feels nice to know I must do some good on the track! I can never thank this sport and this team enough for what it has done for every other aspect of my life
Name: Lisa Tilbury
Job: Paediatric Staff Nurse
Skate Name and number: Bruised Li # 83
Skating duration: Just under 2 years
I first heard of roller derby when going to an exercise class. A friend that I’d met there said that she did it and I should go along. I had absolutely no idea what it was and had never even heard of it. A few weeks later I decided to go and see what it was all about. I went on my own and was pretty nervous as I wasn’t even sure that I would be able to stand up on skates, let alone skate. I was given all the equipment needed and coached by one of the other skaters.
By the end of my first session I was hooked and bought my entire kit that I needed the next week.
I started in July 2016 and in April 2017 I passed my minimum skills which meant that I was finally able to start playing actual roller derby games! I played my first game 3 days later and absolutely loved it and have not looked back since. I played my first British Champs game with my team ‘Vendetta Vixens’ in April – exactly a year to the day that I played my first ever game and I feel privileged to be able to skate with such an awesome team.
It’s not just the actual playing of roller derby that I love; it’s the whole community feeling and feeling part of a team. The roller derby community is so welcoming and friendly and no one is excluded from joining which is what I love. People of all shapes and sizes play and also any age (above 18). Quite a few of the games I have played are mixed games (sometimes mixed genders) with people from lots of different teams on the same team, and even if you’ve never played with those individuals before, you instantly feel part of the team. I have made so many friends from playing roller derby and I consider a lot of these to be close friends.
I am one of the junior members of my team and I skate with a lot of amazing skaters and hope that one day if I keep training hard I will be able to be half as good as they are. I train as frequently as I can, however sometimes my shift pattern doesn’t always allow for this, but I always make sure that I train my hardest when I can.
Training isn’t just drills; we also have fun and try new things / play games on skates. It’s a wonderful team to be in and a lovely community. We are always recruiting and looking for new skaters and friends to join us.
The sport itself is gathering momentum year on year, especially as the Roller Derby World Cup took place in Manchester in February the Men’s World Cup was held in Barcelona in May.
I think everyone should have a go at it as you don’t know what you’re missing out on!
Age: i could tell you if I wanted …,
Job: I run a charity with a friend putting on events for adults with learning disabilities, running a Gig Buddies service and a Performing Arts Centre .
Skate Name and number: Fizzbomber/Fizzie Rascal #808
Skating duration: umm 5 years
I had heard of Roller Derby, before I started training but was unsure if it was for me until I bumped into an old classmate who was playing. They inspired me to give it a go.
I experienced lots of support and met some lovely people at my first session which encouraged me to continue going.
Roller derby makes me feel that life is ok even when it’s not and that I can go to a session and feel good when I walk out the door. I get so much out of training, such as head space and the yummy feeling that comes with physical exercise.
I love the feeling of being at a game whether it is watching or refereeing. All referees wear black and white stripey tops and are known fondly as zebras. To run a roller derby scrim/bout/game a lot of refs are required to keep the skaters in check and maintain a safe environment. It is a fast paced game with lots to focus on so we need refs skating and viewing the game from all angles. This includes from the outside of the track, the inside of the track and two jammer refs who keep an eye on the jammers; one from each team. I am still learning and class myself as a ‘baby zebra’ but I am wanting to progress and continue to develop my skills and knowledge as well as build my confidence. When you make a call for a penalty you have to be 100% sure you see and I want that to come more naturally, this will definitely get better with practice. The game has a rules update every year almost and it is an evolving sport so it requires you to evolve with it.
The roller derby community is possibly one of the most supportive groups of people that I’ve ever come across. There’s very little judgement.