Fitness Lover Jenna Rankert decided to put her skating skills to the test and took on the challenge to practice with the Albany All Stars where she learned a little bit more about flat track roller derby–and what it takes to be on the team. Check out her story.
Last month, I had the privilege of attending an Albany All Stars practice. Not only did I get to attend, I got to practice with them, too! Crazy cool! The All Stars are Albany’s roller derby team–and they seriously rock. This might be the most inclusive and supportive group of humans I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with.
Let me start by sharing that it was my first time in the Bethlehem YMCA building, and wow, what a beautiful, spacious recreation center. They have everything, including a rink where the All Stars practice. I pulled up to the building, parked my car, grabbed my things–water bottle, mouthguard, any form of confidence I could muster–and walked into the Y.
I was met with a group of enthusiastic roller derby humans who seemed super excited to meet me. It was such a great feeling and my comfort level immediately skyrocketed. They fit me for skates and all the protective gear (you can’t step onto the rink without wearing all of it). Soon after, I signed my life away, put on a helmet, paired up with the fearless Strawberry Shortfuse, and before I knew it, I was on the rink running drills.
But before entering the rink, I got to sit down with my mentor, Strawberry Shortfuse, to learn the ins and outs of roller derby and what it takes to be on the team. Good news, everyone! You not need to know about the sport and don’t need much to get started! My very own mentor Ms. Shortfuse didn’t even know how to skate when she started, and now, she’s a badass blocker (it’s a position).
Here’s a little rundown on how roller derby is played: There are five people on the rink per team; four blockers and one jammer. The jammer (the person with a star on their helmet) is how a team scores points. The jammer scores by lapping members of the opposing team, and every one person they pass is one point. The blockers are going to do everything within their power to stop that jammer. Fun fact about the jammer: the lead jammer has the ability to stop the jam (match-up) at anytime. There are about a hundred penalties in this sport, which is a good thing because you stay protected.
Interested in joining the team? The All Stars hold recruitment events a few times a year for people to come and ask questions, meet the team, and sign up. The amazing news is anyone 18 and older can join the team. Once you sign up, you’re put on a 90-day probation period, where a new comer would learn how to skate, stop, and hit people–yeah I said it, hit people. Roller derby is a contact sport, after all.
Once on the rink, we circled up and did a roll call. Everyone introduced themselves by their derby name and pronoun. And then we ran drills. We lined up in two rows with our partners, and skated; in and out, up and down, front and backward, through the row. Sounds terrifying for someone who can barely stand on skates, I know, but did I mention how supportive the All Stars are? I did all the drills, didn’t fall and felt good, strong even. Everyone cheers each other on all practice long, you can’t help but leave that place feeling like, you know, an “all star”.
I suggest to everyone in the Capital District to go check out a bout! These fine females put on quite the production at the Albany Capital Center. Better yet, sign up for the team, find your confidence and get out there–you’ll love it. Inclusivity is very important to the All Stars so trans women, intersex women, and gender expansive folks are encouraged to join if women’s flat track roller derby is the version of roller derby you most closely identify with. Go to www.AlbanyAllStars.com to learn more, check out their schedule and upcoming events, and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in joining.
I need to say thank you to Strawberry Shortfuse for showing me the ropes and making me feel like I could be an All Star, and my wonderful photographer Brian for capturing some fantastic footage of me not falling.
Photos/Video: Brian Pastiglione