In this Blog we hear from Caroline Gibb (Mallory Powers) of Auld Reekie Roller Girls, as they head Stateside to face world’s top roller derby teams
Auld Reekie Roller Girls (ARRG) are currently ranked 48th in the world and this month we’ll be the only UK team representing at the Big O Tournament in Oregon, playing four games in four days against teams ranked as many as twenty places above us. Good results could mean qualification for divisional play-offs and another US trip later in the year.
This is…well, it’s huge. ARRG operate by one governing ethos – for the skater, by the skater. We are a 100% volunteer run, not-for-profit, grassroots sports league. The 14 skaters and 2 bench crew heading to Oregon next week are only able to do so because of the hard work and dedication of over 100 league members, many non-skating, who have all contributed to the smooth running and development of what is now, a massive operation.
It started small, though. Eight years ago, a handful of women gathered in a church hall in Edinburgh, strapped roller skates to their feet, and took the first wobbly steps towards setting up a local roller derby league. They had no protective equipment, no practice space, no money, no knowledge of how to run a sports club, and for the most part, no practical sports experience. I came to my first practice just over a year later. By then, the local roller derby league had become ARRG and met twice a week to practice in local sports halls. They had formed two intra-league teams and held their own first public game, and they had set up a travel team, who that summer were due to represent at the UK’s first roller derby tournament. This was grassroots, DIY sport in action.
I rocked up to that session, on my own, aged 35, armed with a pair of cheap skates, no skating experience, and no real expectations. I’d never stuck to any kind of hobby. I wasn’t unfit – I had run a couple of 10ks – but had never participated in any sport. My experience with PE at school was peppered with humiliation, confusion and social anxiety, and if I’m honest, my first experience of roller derby wasn’t that different. But there must have been something, because I went back, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Seven years, one broken leg, hundreds of bruises and a lot of life changes later, I’m preparing to head off to the USA with the Auld Reekie All Stars to compete in an international roller derby tournament alongside some of the most inspiring women I know.
So this is also pretty huge for me. As with many of us, injury and life events got in the way of roller derby for me for a while, and there was a point where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to come back from that. But, with a strong support network, more than a few setbacks and a lot of hard work, I did. Roller derby is a wonderful community. It’s also a big commitment. It can take over your life. It can hurt, physically and emotionally. It takes time, money, energy. But it gives back a lot. It can afford you amazing opportunities. I have travelled to wonderful places and met amazing people. I have found strength and resilience I didn’t know I had, I have developed a body confidence I wasn’t taught to have; and if that wasn’t enough, now I get to travel stateside with an incredible bunch of women, and together we’re going to show the world what Auld Reekie’s made of.
Auld Reekie Roller Girls All Stars Big O Fixtures (Games can be streamed live online via: http://ecrg.com/bigo/):
Friday 29th April : ARRG v Windy City Rollers (Chicago)
Saturday 30th April : ARRG v Sacred (Sacramento)
Sunday 30th April : ARRG v Santa Cruz
For further information on the Auld Reekie Roller Girls visit www.arrg.co.uk or on Twitter @AuldReekieRG