In fall of 2010, the Atlanta Derby Brats met for the first time on the basketball court of the Decatur First United Methodist Church. With pads strapped on and skates laced up, each Brat skated their way on to the track. As some zoomed by, others fell to the ground, never having skated before. Each time you heard the thud of kneepads to the hardwood floor, the sound would be immediately followed by “Nice fall!” or “You’ve almost got it!” Coach Tanya Hyde and various other volunteer Atlanta Rollergirls helped us through those first practices. From crossovers to plow stops, the small group of skaters pushed themselves as hard as they possibly could. By the end of two months, every girl left with immediate anticipation for the next season.
A little more than three years later, at the Atlanta Rollergirls practice facility, the Brats meet twice a week, Saturday and Sunday. After growing from only 20 skaters in a small church basketball court, the Brats now find themselves about 50 skaters strong and still growing. On Sunday afternoons, two groups meet for practice: Division 1 and the travel team. The Division 1 skaters resemble those who participated in the first season back in 2010, some having never worn a pair of skates in their life. Despite that, each person pushes to learn the basic skills in the hope of moving up to a higher skill level.
The travel team, on the other hand, consists of skaters who remember skating at the church. After three long and hard years of practice, the team works at strategy and learning new skills for games against opposing junior teams. While the travel team has practice on Sunday, they’re also expected to participate in Saturday morning practices. These practices consist of Division 2 skaters who have either just moved up from the previous season as a Division 1 skater, or those who have been skating for a few years either as a travel team skater or simply recreationally. At Saturday practice, the Brats work on things such as hitting and keeping their walls together in a pack, along with endurance and speed.
As years have passed, both trainers and skaters have come and gone, but the strong support has never changed. Atlanta Derby Brats mostly focus on the athletic portion of the game, but there is also a healthy dose of team building and empowerment. The trainers have built up confidence by telling the team that it’s okay to fall and that “There’s no ‘sorry’ in derby.” The team itself also focuses on helping their fellow teammates in the same sense the trainers do. The skaters may have changed over the years, but the mentality hasn’t. It’s still all about having fun and empowering each other and ourselves. As the Atlanta Derby Brats mantra goes, “I love roller derby!”