Blogger Jackie Lam considers taking on roller derby as a short-term goal.
Two years ago, my girlfriend told me about a free roller derby league that practiced on Saturdays. Because I’ve loved roller skating since I was a little girl, I was intrigued and decided to check it out.
It turns out, I knew very little about the sport. My misconceived notions were based on that Drew Barrymore movie, Whip It, which depicts ferocious girls beating each other up on the track. But after the first practice session, I was hooked. I got to skate, learn some new tricks, and meet a cadre of very cool ladies.
Roller derby is a ton of fun, but if I wanted to get serious about the sport, I would definitely need to save a little bit of dough to get started.
Expense #1: Gear
When I first started going to training sessions, I used loaner gear the league provided. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make this sport a part of my life just yet, so I waited a bit before buying my own gear. It took me a couple of months to save the money—I considered it a late Christmas gift to myself.
Starter gear adds up to roughly $300 and includes:
- Elbow pads
- Knee pads
- Mouth guard
- Skates (duh)
- Wrist guards
- Wheel bearings
Let’s not forget accessories, such as silly and fun knee-highs, fishnets, booty shorts, and shiny skirts. Derby fashion is a big part of roller derby fun—you need to look stylish on the track.
Expense #2: League Fees
The local flat-track league I want to join requires a one-time initiation fee of $80 and a monthly membership fee of $60. The membership fee includes all practices and off-skate sessions.
While gear and insurance are one-time fees that I can save up for, league fees would be a recurring expense and the one thing I’d really have to factor into my monthly budget. Because I am a stickler about staying within my spending limits, any recurring expense undergoes close scrutiny. As someone who has never joined a gym, I’d have to get used to this new kind of expense: I would either need to readjust my budget by cutting back on something else or try to work a little more.
Expense #3: Insurance
When you join a league, you’re required to purchase supplemental accidental insurance, which I found for an annual flat fee of $70. After purchasing my own medical and dental plans last year through the health insurance marketplace at a little more than $300 a month, an annual flat fee of $70 seems totally doable—especially if I save for it ahead of time.
Expense #4: Committing the Time
Roller derby is very much a lifestyle. It’s not like joining a parks and recreations baseball league, where you play for a few hours a week and then go back to your regular day to day.
Although I’ve been attending practice sporadically for more a year and have qualified for “Fresh Meat” (the rookie league), I haven’t had enough free time to join. Now that I am a freelancer and have more flexibility in my schedule, I may commit to joining a league. I would need to attend most practices—which happen about three times a week—and, when I start with Fresh Meat, I’ll need to join a committee and volunteer at all home bouts.
And Then…A New Derby Name
Roller derby is also a commitment to camaraderie. You are known by your derby name and you hang out with your teammates outside of practice. You also need to secure a derby wife—who is your best skate buddy, perennial cheerleader, and confidante.
Like all handles, there is an art to coming up with a derby name. An ideal name is a blend of cheeky and fierce, to show that you can hold your ground on the track. Some are so hilarious they’ll make you pee in your pants (e.g., Susan B. Agony, Naomi Cannibal, Demi Lition). Once you have a name and register it through the official Derby Roll Call site, you become that much more legit. Mine is Pepper Grindr.
Roller derby is commonly depicted as a fierce high-contact sport where girls beat each other up, but it’s really about amity and developing confidence. I know that in order to take my skills to the next level and compete in a league, I’ll need to support my goal by modifying my budget and committing time.
Jackie Lam is the creator of Cheapsters, where she helps freelancers get by in the gig economy. She lives in L.A., where she is on the perpetual hunt for the perfect breakfast burrito.
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