Skip to content

The roller derby team offering skaters a space to be themselves

Words by Adam Jolley
The roller derby team offering skaters a space to be themselves

“Nothing beats skating with your pals and beating each other up.”

In divided times, roller derby stands out as a beacon of inclusivity. Sure, it’s action-packed, physically demanding, and at times, pretty chaotic. But it’s the community of players, coaches and fans that really make it such a joyous sport. And not to mention, of course, there’s the tattoos! Wanting to find out more, we spoke with three players from Wales' premier roller derby team, Tiger Bay Brawlers: Rebecca (aka Bosh), Cerys (Cerosene) and Krista (Battered Sausage). Here’s what they had to say.

Hi team, could we get a quick intro please?

Rebecca (R): My name is Bosh (The Mighty Bosh), and I play as a blocker and occasional pivot. I've been playing roller derby for just over 7 years and I've been part of Tiger Bay for 4.

Cerys (C): My derby name is Cerosene (#220) and I'm blocker/pivot for Tiger Bay Brawlers. I've been skating with the Brawlers for 3 years.

Krista (K): Legally I’m Krista but my teamies know me as Battered Sausage, I’m a pivot and I’ve been skating with Tiger Bay Brawlers since 2021.

How did you get into the sport?

R: A couple of friends knew people involved in roller derby and said they thought it would be the sort of thing I was into. I'd just moved to a new city and I was looking for a way to meet people so I joined a learn to skate course.

C: I had been interested in roller derby for a while but was waiting for an "in" when a work friend said they played so I accompanied them to training. It's easier to go with someone you know but definitely not necessary!

K: Saw a clip from Whip It, thought it looked fun and googled the sport (didn’t watch the film itself for years!). Joined a recreational league in London back in 2011 and learned how to play, and here we are today!

Cerys aka Cerosene of Tiger Bay Brawlers. Photo by Rachel Saabor

What do you like about roller derby?

R: Everything! I love the physicality and the mental challenge. I love that it is always pushing me to get out of my comfort zone. I wouldn't have considered myself to be athletic or sporty before I got into roller derby, and now I love to lift weights and go to crossfit and spin classes. It's really given me a lot of confidence to take up space in places I wouldn't have gone to before.

C: I hadn't enjoyed many other sports growing up and nothing had stuck with me. Roller derby has the culture surrounding it for each individual to take what they want from the sport. Want to play at the highest level you can and tap into your competitiveness? There's a place for you to do that in roller derby. Want to find a community but only play casually? That's cool too - you do you!

K: As a sport it's such an adrenaline rush, nothing beats skating with your pals and beating each other up! The community is fantastic as well, you make great friends even with your rivals. It's chaotic and fun - as someone with a brain that's just some coffee beans rattling round in a jar it's the perfect sport!

Game time. Photo by Paul Jones

What skills or personal attributes do you think are important to have in the sport? 

R: Tenacity and a willingness to try new things (even if it means falling over a lot at first).

C: I think everyone brings different skills to the sport. There is a diverse array of body types in roller derby and finding your personal strengths and bringing those to your gameplay is what keeps it interesting! Some people find they are more suited to a referee or officials role and find their roller derby community there. Some people are incredible at coaching and develop that within the sport. There's such a wide skillset that makes grassroots sports happen and keep happening.

K: Persistence! It definitely attracts the type of person who never quits, and if not you’ll soon learn to become someone who always gets back up after being knocked down. 

Do you get hurt!? 

R: I've never had any major injuries, but I get a lot of bruises.

C: Yes! I had a lot of time off in 2022 after breaking my wrist ramp skating and then breaking my ankle playing derby. The Brawlers couldn't keep me away though. I was benching games and at most training sessions in my space boot trying to still learn while off skates! Mostly it's just bruises and aches though. We all love pictures of bruises in the group chat!

K: Bruises as standard, sprains and breaks and all sorts could happen. We wear lots of protective gear but bodies gonna body!

Have you had to overcome any challenges or obstacles in your roller derby journey? 

R: I have anxiety, especially in social situations, so going into any new environment is quite difficult. I was really anxious when I first transferred to Tiger Bay in 2020. Fortunately everyone is super lovely and I've been really supported during times when I've struggled with my mental health both at and outside of training.

C: Training with Tiger Bay gave me semblance of a routine when other things in my life would change. I had moved to a new city on my own and have changed jobs or moved house several times since playing with the Brawlers but training several times a week with the same group of people gave me consistency. This sport has given me a community and a support network of people who want me to do well in life, not just on track.

K: Discovering I had a weird heart condition was… interesting. I never would have investigated it without seeing how hard it was to breathe during training (I didn’t really exercise pre-derby!), it turned out to not be garden variety asthma but an artery growing across my windpipe. Turns out I have a weird shaped aorta! I had surgery to move the rogue artery but the dent in the windpipe remains. It was a long recovery but roller derby gave me something to come back to, to keep me on track and take good care of myself.

Do you have any words of advice / encouragement for people who may be nervous about joining a team?

R: Roller derby is one of the best things I've ever done. The team I'm a part of is a huge part of that - the opportunity to be around such an uplifting and inspiring group of people at training is amazing. I'm obsessed with us. 

C: What have you got to lose? You can try something once and it might not be the right time or you might not be in the right head space but you might also surprise yourself. If you try one session and then don't come back for a few months, no one is going to judge you for doing that... We all know how life gets in the way sometimes! I wish I'd tried roller derby years before I did.

K: You’ll never know until you try it out! Come to a game and ask about a training session for beginners you can attend! Some leagues can even lend you gear.

Inclusivity seems to be very much part of the team’s ethos (and roller derby in general). Can you tell us what this means to you?

R: It's more important than ever to provide a safe inclusive space in sport, particularly for LGBTQIA+ people. I'm really proud that Tiger Bay is committed to always improving our diversity and inclusivity practices. My favourite thing about roller derby is that there's not just space for everyone, but that we all collectively benefit from that diversity.

C: This is extremely important to me. As a trans non-binary skater, I don't know if I'd have even had the confidence to come out without roller derby - never mind having the confidence to play a contact sport. I've never felt like I'm not safe in roller derby. Nowhere is perfect but this sport is moving in the right direction with it's approach to inclusivity while a lot of other sports are moving backwards and excluding marginalised genders from taking part. Many roller derby leagues, including Tiger Bay Brawlers are actively supporting trans people belonging in sport as a whole.

K: Inclusivity is so important and it's work that should never stop. We’re all always learning and there's certainly an openess to the kind of people I've met in derby. I've learned so much and I know I can learn more and be better. It's definitely one of the most inclusive sports for LGBTQA people. Trans people have the right to take part in sports. If you take issue with that then this is not the sport for you. If you find yourself skating with people who disagree with that then they're the outlier and need a good hip-check out the nearest exit. 

Any final words?

R: All the thigh tattoos 😍

C: We bloody love a group chat. There's one for gym chat, crafting, lift shares, gaming, plant care, footage watching... We can't get enough of each other it seems!

K: I’m not saying we’re collecting tiger tattoos on Tiger Bay Brawlers… but I’m not saying we’re not…

Keep up with Tiger Bay Brawlers @tigerbaybrawlers