By Flossie Raptor

This time of year there’s a lot of pressure to make changes to yourself.

Whether it’s companies shaming you for all the delicious food you ate over Christmas, people on Instagram showing off their new running gear, or your own internal monologue telling you that this year you should do more stuff, make more friends and be more interesting.

Let’s be clear right away that that’s all bollocks. You’re already great just the way you are, and all of the hubbub in the new year is genuinely just created to make money off you.

That said, it’s always a good idea to try something new. And if the ringing in of a new year is what motivates you then you should absolutely ride that positivity.

I’ve started almost every new year with unhealthy, shame-driven vows to be thinner, less lazy and less antisocial. I began January 2017 with similar unhelpful goals, but made the uncharacteristic decision to do something positive about it.

I’d heard about roller derby years before, seeing promotion about the film Whip It, and a magazine spread featuring Riikka Hyvönen’s bruised derby butt paintings. A sad breakup and fighting some mental health issues in 2016 filled me full of feminist zeal for the new year, so I decided this was going to be my time. And I wasn’t going to let the fact that I had absolutely never ever skated in my life stop me.

On new year’s day I bought myself a pair of disco roller boots on eBay, and sent an email to the newly merged Leeds Roller Derby asking if they had any space for beginners. They did, and a few weeks later I showed up at a sports hall and spent 2 hours being so far outside my comfort zone that I left completely transformed.

Don’t get me wrong, I was horrible at it. I couldn’t propel myself forward for over a month, was utterly unable to turn a corner, and fell over so often my knees went completely purple, despite the ample padding from the knee pads I’d borrowed.

But there was something magnetic about this lovely group of women, all different shapes, sizes and skill levels. I’ve quit everything I ever started, but with this I just kept coming back – week after week after week for two years.

Starting roller derby will be the best decision you ever make. It completely transforms how you think about yourself and your body. You stop striving to make yourself smaller and thinner, or thinking of the gym as a way to do that. You learn that every body has the potential to be an athletic body and to do amazing things. And you do all this while making best friends with a group of kick-ass people who’ve been where you are, because everyone starts roller derby as a complete beginner.

Roller derby should be your new year’s resolution because it ticks every box, and then teaches you loads more besides. You become part of a community, make some of the closest friends you’ll ever have, and learn to start accepting all the wonderful things you’re capable of. And all it takes is an email, and showing up to a sports hall.

If you’re thinking about joining Leeds Roller Derby, as a player, referee, or non-skating official – good job!
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