During the week, Rachele Manett is a graduate student at Dalhousie, but every Sunday night she becomes “Fresh Meat.” No, not in a derogatory way; rather, it states her skill level at roller derby, a unique sport that is quickly becoming the fastest growing sport in the United States.
Founded in 2010, the Anchor City Rollers offer a chance for women looking for unusual leisure activities and sports to get involved in the community. The league consists of two teams, the Harbour Grudges (the travel A team) and the Dockyard Brawlers (the travel B team), with an intermediate level that focuses on skill development.
The “Fresh Meat” level, geared toward beginners, is where athletes “learn how to skate and all the technical stuff,” according to Manett. She says even the basic skills needed for roller derby don’t come easy.
Players are not drafted onto a team until they level up to seasoned skaters. Intermediate skaters is where skaters learn how to play the game (as opposed to Fresh Meat which teaches basic skills of skating).
The sport itself has tons of rules, but the basic idea is simple. Played on a flat oval track, there are two teams consisting of five players each: four blockers who act as the line of defence and try to block the opposing players, and the jammer, whose job is to score points by skating a lap around the other teams’ blockers without getting blocked themselves.
Here are the rules: the players all play on roller skates, which are similar to roller blades but with two front wheels and two back wheels. There is no net, goalie, or ball. The sport is full contact, so many bumps and bruises are expected. Skaters play both offence and defence and skate around the track in the same direction. There are two periods – 30 minutes each – with a series of short matchups, known as jams.
The greatest part about roller derby is that is accessible to anyone, no matter sexual orientation or gender identity. Roller derby doesn’t turn anyone away, making it a truly inclusive and accepting competitive environment for LGBTQ individuals. Manett says that some of the coaches identify as genderqueer and non-binary, “so the league is very open and accepting of everyone.”
It also does not involve a large time commitment for beginners as the Fresh Meat program only trains once a week, on Sundays for two hours. There are meet and greets at Freeman’s Pizza a few times a year, usually before new Fresh Meat intakes, where prospective players can talk to current players and coaches to find out more about the league.
However, roller derby may not be the most financially-accessible sports for students. For 12 weeks of practices, there is a $250 registration fee, not to mention the equipment that can cost anywhere from $200 (if used) and up.
That being said, there are options available if students want to get involved, but don’t have the means to do so on a regular basis. For students living Halifax year-round, the Anchor City Rollers are always looking for volunteers during the competitive season, which takes place from May to August. This is a good way for students to get involved in the league without any financial obligations, and it also provides valuable volunteer experience.
Games, commonly referred to as bouts, take place at the Mayflower Curling Club, and are open to the public. There is also a two dollar discount for every person that brings a non-perishable food item for Parker Street Food Bank to games.
For students who are unsure if they want to buy equipment and commit to a full league, or just want to get a feel for roller-skating, Dal After Dark is hosting a roller skating event on Sept. 17 at the Emera Oval on the Halifax Commons.
The event is free (including equipment rentals) and open to Dalhousie and King’s students with a valid ID. (Equipment rentals are also free all year!) This is just one of the many ways that Dalhousie students can make the most out of their time in Halifax, while staying active and making some new friends.