Name: Helen Parsons
Derby Name: Girl Almighty
Length of time skating: on and off for 3 years.
What made you take up roller derby?
After having seen that film Whip It, I thought roller derby was just a sport only played in the USA. Until I met my friend Tilly, she moved here from Sheffield and told me that she had transferred to the local team. She gave me their details but I had to wait several agonising months to join their fresh meat programme.
Once I started fresh meat it became apparent just how unfit I was, I really struggled and then I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. As well as having to deal with diabetes, I was recovering from anxiety and depression which had led to a breakdown just a few months previously. I struggled on trying to learn my skate skills and made lots of friends. I started to take an interest in the non skating side of things for a while and started officiating at games. I loved it but still I longed to be in the pack skating. Needless to say I didn’t pass fresh meat as my heart just wasn’t in trying to reach what felt like an unattainable goal. I spent the summer at skate school practicing my skills ready to resume fresh meat in the following intake.
The next fresh meat format changed and we had to try out for a position on the fresh meat programme, there were to be 10 places available! I tried so hard, blood, sweat and tears but to no avail. I was told there would be a rec league, but the whole try out situation had really knocked my confidence and I vowed never to put myself through fresh meat again.
“Knowing that Exeter Roller Derby ran all gender sessions I was a bit apprehensive as I had never skated with men before! I needn’t have worried as they were welcoming and they let anyone skate with them! It didn’t matter that I hadn’t ticked all the boxes.”
A few months went by and I joined rec league, I persevered for a while but my heart just wasn’t in that format plus it’s difficult getting around when you can’t drive. It was around this time that I decided to give the other local league a shot. Knowing that Exeter Roller Derby ran all gender sessions I was a bit apprehensive as I had never skated with men before! I needn’t have worried as they were welcoming and they let anyone skate with them! It didn’t matter that I hadn’t ticked all the boxes. Over the next few months I listened, I learned a great deal and got to try blocking and jamming in training.
“Joining the junior coaching team was hands down the best opportunity I have been given, it’s a great feeling and confidence boost to see our younger skaters looking up to us.”
Then it was suggested I join the junior team as assistant coach. Hands down the best opportunity I have been given, it’s a great feeling and confidence boost to see our younger skaters looking up to us. They work hard and I make sure they know it’s ok to struggle and that we all progress at different speeds. In fact they remind me I need to practice my right knee taps, and I can’t back out after I have just asked them to persevere, I need to lead by example.
I’ve been given a new challenge recently as I have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I inject insulin twice a day and make sure I eat plenty of food before training. I will not let diabetes beat me and I hope I can inspire others to keep trying regardless of whether they have diabetes or not. I have my own sporting heroes, so I know I can do this! I admire, Sir Steve Redgrave, five time Olympic gold medallist and type 2 diabetic. Also local rugby player for Chiefs and England, Henry Slade. If I feel like things are getting tough, I just remember that others have been through this before me, I can do this!
Where do you see your skate journey taking you in the next 12 months?
Playing my first game! Also more coaching with the junior team. Maybe coaching newer adult skaters with basic skating. I really do love helping beginners to start their own journey.