The Truth About Co-ed Derby
By Billie Rae Siren
As a member of a coed derby league, I am often confronted with female skaters who are a hundred percent positive that they would never want to skate on a coed team. After talking with most of these women, I have come to find a similar theme in their reasons not to at least try coed.
1. Men hit hard. Yes, male skaters are men but that doesn’t mean they are going to hit you any harder than you will be hit on an all-female team either. The majority of hard hits I have taken over the years have been from some amazingly skilled female skaters. I’m not saying that male skaters don’t dish out a good hit, I’m just saying that male hits are NOT in a different pain category. The major difference in a male hit versus a female hit, is that men often use shoulder hits instead of hip checks. A shoulder feels pretty much the same whether it’s being thrown by a gal or a guy.
2. Men are stronger. I’m not sure which leagues these ladies have skated with in the past, but I know from my own personal experience that the majority of female skaters are extremely strong. While yes, men may have the natural ability to develop greater upper body strength then women, this has very little to do with derby play. Skaters need to have strong legs and core muscles in order to give and receive solid hits in ANY league, and the same applies to coed skating. So, unless you are punching people in the face, upper body strength is not necessarily the advantage that many say it is.
3. Derby is a female sport. I have heard this from both women and men alike. Last I checked, the sport of derby was originated by men and coed teams. While many believe the false rumor that derby is an all-female sport or a sport belonging to women, it is just not true. Yes, derby offers women the opportunity to compete in a full-contact sport and yes, that is an empowering thing. However, men have just as much claim to the sport as women (if not more) and to say otherwise is close-minded and just plain bad form.
4. Men are too aggressive. Having had the opportunity to not only skate with men, but watch many coed bouts/scrimmages, I feel this too is a common misconception on the part of female skaters. Men have a tendency to pick up skills quickly and take more risks while skating. This can be viewed as aggressiveness from far away, but when you look closer, you can see that the competitive drive many male skaters have is a positive and exciting addition to a team. In completely general terms, males have been raised with exposure to full-contact sports and have less fear and inhibition to hold them back as they skate. Women, who have typically had less opportunity to develop a full-contact mindset will put limits on what they are capable of, because they are missing that competitive drive that pushes most men. Of course, there are MANY exceptions, as I know a lot of female skaters who do have that competitive drive, and probably just as many males who do not have it.
5. Men are serious competitors. I believe that yes, the majority of male skaters are serious competitors looking to make not only themselves better but also their team mates. What is wrong with that? I think of myself as a serious competitor and while many leagues like to have that recreational, grassroots feel to their bouts, more and more leagues are moving towards a more athletic, strategic type of game play. I suppose that this all depends on individual skater and league goals more than anything. I know that I have learned wonderful things from the men I skate with and look forward to every opportunity I have to learn more from them.
6. Girl Power! Let’s look at this realistically. If women want to be treated equally, there is no better opportunity than coed roller derby. Derby is the only sport where adjustments do not have to be made for females to participate. The hoop is not lower like in basketball, the ball is not bigger like in softball. The track is the track and the rules are the rules. If women are looking for equality, then derby is the best place to start. Derby allows men and women to compete on a 100% equal track, and highlights personal skill and strategy versus a modified game.
7. I still don’t want to skate with guys! Okay, coed derby is not for everyone. However, this past year at RollerCon I saw many female skaters change their opinion of coed derby after watching the amazing coed scrimmages that were happening all weekend long. A lot of women are intimidated by coed and even men’s derby, but after watching the scrimmages at RollerCon, I had several anti-male derby associates ask if they could stop by for a coed practice or two. The amount of strategy, planning, and skill involved in coed derby pushes the sport to an even more amazing level. Skaters and fans alike, enjoy watching coed bouts because of the talent and skill coed teams embody.
If you or your league has a negative attitude towards coed derby, take a few minutes to google some videos of bouts and scrimmages. Watch the hits and blocks and the way each team works together. Look at the level of communication amongst skaters and watch how awesome it all works together. I promise you will not be disappointed and heck, you may even start looking for a coed team in your area.