They are spending hours each week training, strengthening, learning—they’re being tenderized, they’re fresh meat. Women from across the region are rearranging their lives and priorities to learn the skills needed to be a part of the Pottstown’s Roller Derby League.
Tamrin Steinmetz of Pennsburg, most commonly known as her derby name Splinch, coaches the Fresh Meat program will the help of Dee-Dee “Bomb Digga-Dee” Kelly of Barto. The program trains new and former players to be “league-ready.”
“The program is designed to get you to the league,” said Splinch, explaining that individuals enter the program with various skill levels, and will ‘propel forward’ through the 12 week program.
During these evenings of practice, the coaches are training these women to be fast and sharp, honing in on basic skills. Skaters are able to ask questions freely and receive personal guidance; skills and skating techniques are demonstrated.
Leading up to the program, members of the league were busy actively recruiting women interested in learning the ways of roller derby. They were looking for a group of about 15; more than 30 people arrived the first night. The women now fill the rink and flood it with the sounds of roller-skates and words of encouragement.
“Roller Derby has been a journey for me, full of eye opening challenges and sometimes self-defeating obstacles,” said Splinch. “I truly believe if the thought of participating in derby has ever crossed your mind that you are actively seeking a transition in life, even if you’re not fully aware of it.”
Splinch has been involved with derby for four years and is currently a league member of the All Star team. Having helped coach last year, she says this year’s format is different, describing the fresh meat program as a “separate entity.”
“Some girls won’t make it,” said Lisa Varley, derby player, in regards to the fresh meat players making it into the roller derby league. She emphasized that women of all ages and all walks of life are involved in the derby.
“The reason I’ve chosen to coach fresh meat is that I believe it is a pivotal point in the growth of many skaters. The first weeks are the most challenging both in physical and mental demand. Your strength of will and physical strength are repeatedly tested. You will fall, fall, and fall again. The point is that I want to be the one to make you get back up. I say ‘make you’ because I’m not there to give you a hand—I’m there to assure you that you can do it yourself,” said Splinch. “It’s a delicate application of motivation and honesty.”
Dee, who became a liaison for the Fresh Meat program last year, described last year’s program as a boot camp structure that lacked restrictions.
This year’s program, which is larger than previous years, meets once a week for two hours at Ringing Rocks Roller Rink. Skaters cannot miss more than two practices. Each fresh meat skater is required to serve as a Non Skating Official at league scrimmages in order to gain a firm understanding of the sport. Also, upon completion of the program, skaters will be given an assessment to determine skill level.
“The goal is to make it different from previous years and improve, in order to solidify skills and focus on struggles,” said Splinch. This program is broken up into four week segments. Each segment focuses on specific skills. She noted that a majority of the women don’t limit themselves when it comes to practicing, and will often skate on their own time.
“First you learn to skate, then you learn derby,” said Varley, in regards to the program’s NSOing requirements.
Dee says that she never once skated before she joined the roller derby three years ago. This year will mark her second season on the team and her third in the derby, having spent her first year in boot camp. However, she says she has always loved coaching.
“I have coached field hockey and lacrosse in the past and something just draws me to the fresh meat girls. I love being a part of their start into derby. I love how excited they all are to be there; their smile when something finally clicks and they get a skill they have been trying so hard to do,” said Dee. “I know that feeling--that was me.”
She added that Lida “Low-Blow Lida” Addison, ran the beginners boot camp when she started and was one of those people that made derby fun and got her excited, taught her what derby was all about. “I want to be that person for these Fresh Meat girls,” said Dee.
“I want to be a guide to other women on this life altering journey,” said Splinch. “Each journey is unique to the individual, but the results--if you stick it out--are always positive. I always tell my skaters to never say the words ‘I can’t’ around me. My goal is to help you prove to yourself that you can and to positively impact the lives of as many women as I can.”
As far as where they recruit players from—Splinch says it completely depends on how far a person in willing to drive. While a majority of players reside in the Pottstown and Boyertown areas, some reportedly travel from West Chester and other areas.
This year’s program, which will end in April, is going well, according to Dee. The next Fresh Meat Program session will begin in May.