One thing no girl plans for when they start playing derby is what happens when that other life that you kind of have forces you to move. Of course you can’t give up, and tryouts are only a few times a year, but as derby has become more popular many teams have developed policies on transfer skaters. This typically allows already bouting skaters from other leagues to join a new league without tryouts as long as they can pass that team’s required standards.
Let’s face the facts, being a transfer skater is much more terrifying that a tryout skater. As a tryout you have no more invested than a few hundred dollars in gear (which yes, I guess is a bit of big deal,) however as a transfer you possibly have years of experience waiting to be put under a microscope to determine whether you are up to par. I can’t promise you will come out of your transfer process without any bumps or bruises, in fact, I hope you don’t. However, this guide will assure you survive you transfer process, with most of your limbs intact.
Once this process starts there are a few things that will come down to luck, and the way the wheels roll that day, but most of it will rely on how you play your cards.
Hope you have someone to share your life raft.
Someone transferring in at the same time as you (or even slightly before) can prove invaluable. When you are both in unknown territory it helps to have someone on the same level as you to ask questions so that you don’t feel silly asking something that you feel might be obvious. Think of them as your Sacagawea, the language barrier will suck, but you should be able to keep each other alive. Not only will you have someone to remind you to bring the right colored scrimmage jerseys or log your volunteer hours, but having someone to grab a beer with when odds are you are both in a new city helps too!
Don’t feed the animals.
Depending on where you are transferring from/to there might be a bit of shell shock between differences of skill levels. For example, transferring from a start up league to one that is WFTDA affiliated can be a humbling experience. Don’t be afraid or intimidated, or give them fear to smell. They are people just like you, with calluses, corns, and blisters from working their bums off to get to where they are. Don’t be dejected or disheartened if you are coming in at the bottom of the totem pole, because now that you are skating with those ladies, if you work as hard as them you’ll be at their level much quicker!
Do your research.
It’s best to step in to your first practice with as much knowledge as is available. If other leagues are like CRG, once you are admitted you will receive a rookie package that will fill you in on policies, rules, ect. However, if you do research ahead of time you at least some a small idea of what you are getting yourself in to. Youtube and DNN are fantastic for this, you can learn a lot about a team and their strategies by watching clips or streams from their bouts.
When you don’t know something: ask. Odds are in the future, you will. If you were lucky enough hopefully you’ll have a fellow transfer to whom the silly questions can be directed at, however if not find someone on the team who doesn’t mind being pummeled with questions. Asking for help doesn’t mean admitting weakness, it means you want to be involved or do something better.
The best way to approach a new team is with modesty. Every player is going to miss the target in regards to where they believe they stand skill wise. This can easily go in both directions. Don’t undersell yourself but at the same time, come in humble. No one wants a showoff, especially when you are in their territory. If you want to see an example of how this turns out poorly, check out National Geographic when large female cats fight over territory. Stay humble, and let your hard work speak for you.
While your surroundings may change, remember derby girls are just that and will look, sound, and obviously smell much like you are use to, however that is where the comfort exists. Because let’s face it, in most situations, the smell of unwashed derby pads will be about all that is the same. It is easy to neglect to prepare to accept changes in things as simple as falls, turns, and other basic skills. While you may be competent doing something one way be prepared to sacrifice your old ways of operation and adopt or at least try out the ways preferred by your new league. In derby resistance does not get you very far, so get ready to broaden those horizons!
That being said – Get ready for everything you knew or thought you knew about derby to change. Every league trains differently. Being a transfer skater is all about surviving and adapting. Yes, odds are it will be a little while before you are skating in front of a crowd again, but use that as your motivation – you have time to re-train and an opportunity to make yourself a better skater than you have ever been.
Contributed by Ava Gore