My name is Lola and I have a problem. In fact my name isn’t even Lola, it’s Laura, and that’s testament to my problem. By which I mean addiction. By which I mean love.
In 2005 I moved to Cardiff from Swansea; a quiet, scrawny (not naturally) blonde girl who kept her head down in Uni and went back to Swansea every weekend to go back to the familiar; the comfortable. Seven years later I’m a confident, outgoing (not loud) person who has grown to love my abnormally-large-for-such-a-slim-girl thighs. And why the change in confidence and self-esteem? Roller derby, that’s why! (Oh, and living in Splott, where sometimes you have to be brave).
In early 2010 I was talked/cajoled/bullied into trying roller derby by a friend after watching Whip It. Now, I don’t know if you’ve seen Whip It, but it depicts roller derby as a sport played by scantily-clad girls who punch each other in the face and stab each other in the back. So no, I wasn’t overly enthralled by the idea of joining a new Cardiff league – the Tiger Bay Brawlers – to give it a try. But because then I was easily led and scared that I’d lose friends if I didn’t do as I was told, I tagged along.
I’m so glad that my weak-willed personality allowed me to go. I now find it laughable that I believed the Hollywood version – stupid, huh? (For the record, we’re all lovely, highly ambitious athletes with a huge dedication to furthering our sport. Yes, it’s full contact, but no; punching, kicking, biting are not allowed)!
Channel View leisure centre, Sunday 25 April 2010, was where I found roller derby (or where roller derby found me, because I feel like I’ve been waiting for something like this for a very long time). That first session was scary; not because I was walking into a room full of strangers (yes, over 50 of them!) but because suddenly, at the age of 23, I was strapping eight wheels to my feet and throwing myself on the floor and now, further down the line, at other skaters.
Almost two years later I have passed my obligatory minimum skate-skills test, bouted as a member of the Tiger Bay Brawlers A Team a number of times and am an active member of the team management committee. I’ve also Co-captained the B Team and one of our intra-league teams, the Merchants of Menace (the other team is the Bruise Birds)!
Roller derby has had a positive influence on me in far more ways than you’d think ‘just a sport’ would. It’s a huge aspect of my life now. Any spare time I have (or had) is spent doing derby; skating, watching, writing press releases, blog posts, just talking about it. It’s not something I begrudge doing because I get so much out of it. Not only have I met some of my best friends, but I’ve also become a much more confident person; my self-esteem has increased and I have become an ambitious athlete, concerned about what I’m eating, what I’m doing, how much fitness I’m squeezing in and how far I can push myself.
The Tiger Bay Brawlers are the longest-established and (though I may be biased) most successful roller derby league in Wales. We formed in April 2010 and have gone from strength to strength, playing ten public bouts in our debut year (we won seven of those), being accepted as members of the UK Roller Derby Association (UKRDA) and securing features on S4C, The Guardian and BBC Sport Wales to name but a few. We’re currently hoping to secure their own training and bouting venue this year, and we’re on the lookout for empty warehouses and suitable units – if you know anywhere, let us know!
We’ve also implemented a rolling recruitment programme comprising of a recreational league and freshmeat sessions, as well as working with Sport Wales and Cardiff Council to start junior roller derby sessions! AND we’ve just kick-started our second year of bouting and are bringing roller derby home again when we bout the London Rockin’ Rollers Rising Stars in Talybont on Saturday 31 March 2012.
Roller derby is taking the UK sport scene by storm at the moment, and we intend to be part of that emergence. You can be part of it too! If you want to come and see us play, then please do. If you want to connect with us then you can on our website, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, and if you want to join us then don’t be scared. Strap on your skates and come to rec league. If that’s not your thing then join us in an off-skate capacity. It’s a really inclusive sport and there are numerous ways to get involved so don’t let anything put you off. I promise you won’t regret it.
Roller derby isn’t going anywhere soon, and neither are the Tiger Bay Brawlers. And you know what they say? If you can’t beat them….
Laura ‘Lola Coaster’ Joyce has been skating with the Tiger Bay Brawlers since April 2010. She is an active member of the league skating with both the A and B teams and, offskate, undertaking the league’s PR and Marketing. Lola plays as both a blocker and a jammer and is known for her pre-bout routine, including taking days off work and eating copious amounts of cherry tomatoes. She currently lives in Splott.
Lola was photographed at a Brawlers bout by Adam Chard