Post-edit note: I have realised that I have written this partly for the unassuming reader, but mainly for everyone involved at Wiltshire Roller Derby.

I’ve decided to use the quote below as an analogy, or mantra, for some of what I have written below. I think it sums up many of Wiltshire's Beliefs and Values as a team, something that may have been overlooked at times. Also I loved The Jungle Book as a….yeah, here goes.

“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” - Rudyard Kipling, 1894

What an awesome 2017 season Wiltshire Roller Derby have had. We dominated Tier 4 East with an unbeaten British Champs season putting us at the top of the table. Meaning we will be promoted to Tier 3 next season if champs remains organised in the same format, to get battered and bruised against many other quality opponents. Well done Wiltshire, you really deserve what you achieved this season.

As a team and league everyone involved with Wiltshire loves roller derby, likes the gameplay aspect of the sport and also the support that they get from each other which is part and parcel of being a team.

“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”


Okay, so with congratulations out of the way I will now take you through the journey that these athletes (yes, you are athletes) have been on over the last couple of years.

For those of you who might be thinking, who’s this guy and why is he talking at me?

I’m Tom, I’ve been the bench coach for Wiltshire the last year. I have also been helping to coach a few sessions, particularly towards the end of Champs, when the team really needed the coaches who also play to train alongside them rather than coach.

Let us rewind to 2016 Champs season where I first started to get more involved with the team as LUM and/or Bench. During training the team were starting to think more about gameplay. Including breaking down defaults for specific scenarios, e.g. Power Jam Offence or 3 Wall Defence, to try to get the whole team singing off of the same hymn sheet. In the hope that by game day, they could trust one another from drilling these situations, to do what they had practiced and knew best.

Sometimes these worked sometimes they didn’t, but that’s what happens, Right?

In hindsight we should have probably discussed the situations where these plans weren’t effective and worked on how to make them better. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, now we know these issues are resolved more easily through experience.

But still, they worked most of the time so we drilled them over and over until everyone was working together.

There was some form of intensity in the training and focus on different roles within the team. Blockers would practice blocking skills and Jammers would practice their skills during these drills against the different packs.

From where I was sat there was often a lack of discipline, intensity and structure. This isn’t a bad thing, it just meant that sessions weren’t being re-capped as often as they should. So when it came to a similar session focus a few weeks later many people had forgotten/not practiced the main point or technique of what they were trying to achieve!

I would often hear skaters saying “It’s okay, we’re a second half team” during half time, which to me showed that it took them a while to warm up and get their heads in the game and remember how to ‘Derby’ together.

This wasn’t through lack of trying however, each player put in a lot of effort and their own personal time. Did what was asked of them at training, giving it their all but as we all know, life happens. Which come game day can mean that our brain sometimes doesn’t help us out, you know what I mean?

Anyway…...Wiltshire were unbeaten for the whole of Champs 2016. Which brings me to their final game in Wales against Neath Port Talbot Roller Derby (NPT).

All of the players, coaches, skaters and members of Wiltshire had been watching NPT during the season at games that we played alongside them, as well as following their progress on flat track stats. As you do.

In our eyes, not taking away anything from any of the other teams we played, they were the team to beat.

We played NPT and lost 192-117.

This sucked in a BIG way, especially as NPT were the final game of the season as well as ‘Our team to beat’. Instead of dwelling on it the team moved on with what felt like to me, a more positive attitude and better focus.

So Champs 2016 was overall a very successful year for Wiltshire Roller Derby, winning approximately 90% of games.

The question on my mind was, how would we manage next season if we came up against another team like NPT, the team which Wiltshire would have to step up to, the team to beat, our crux if you wish.

For the 2017 season we were playing to win, we didn’t want a repeat of the NPT game. Our focus was on high intensity training which we hoped would simulate gameplay. With a streamlined approach to defaults for specific scenarios we would encounter on track. Every player and coach on the same page.

The coaching staff also introduced more off skates into sessions, trying to do 1 or 2 sessions a month. This gave skaters an idea of exercises they could do at home to help their own fitness and skating development, as well as making training a little different every once in awhile.

The coaching staff made sessions more structured, focusing on specific areas to help the team improve and stay on track (no pun intended).

The high intensity training at first was hard work, stamina was tough and skaters were tired.

As one of the coaches I noticed that although people were struggling they always got up and carried on, or got picked up by a team mate in the process.

Similar to when Wiltshire lost to NPT, no one gave up, everyone embraced the burn and because of this improved massively in the process.

If someone wasn’t loving life we would bring them back into the team, we would discuss what was/wasn’t working from an individual point of view and make it work for us as a whole, as a team, as a pack.

“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

This specific, disciplined training meant that when it came to game day we didn’t take 20 minutes or even 1 period to warm up and get our heads in the game. We already had our heads in the game, because that’s how we trained, that’s who Wiltshire had become.

All of the teams we played gave us a run for our money, each one bringing different challenges that we worked hard to overcome. But Wiltshire always managed to come out on top, the stronger opponents. We weren’t a “second half” team anymore, woop woop!

Finally, none of anything I have written above matters. It was the last game of champs and (please excuse my French) it was fucking boiling. So, first of all for either team to want to put skates on was bewildering.

Wiltshire versus Lincolnshire Bombers, Lincolnshire were neck and neck with Wiltshire all season. Both teams winning all their Champs games so far, this was the decider.

Lincolnshire were this season's NPT, the team to beat, the team everyone had been watching. Was this a dream or a nightmare? Why was this happening again!!! We’d been here before and we knew what defeat had felt like the previous year. As you can imagine nerves were abundant, the scoreboard loomed over us like an ominous conclusion for all the effort we had put in.

This is why we had trained to win, we had done everything possible to be the team we wanted to be. From taking on board criticism from our peers to working at bettering ourselves and becoming cohesive as a pack, as well as individuals too.

This was our game.

60 sweaty minutes later, amongst the sweat and emotions. Thirteen of the happiest most relieved, sweaty, crying, sweaty and most importantly improved players and teammates had won. All the hard work did pay off!

Wiltshire 222 - 164 Lincolnshire Bombers, finally an unbeaten season.

The plan for 2018 Champs is to continue where we started, to keep building on the solid foundations we have laid for ourselves and to keep working together to improve.

It’s not going to get any easier, if anything it’s going to get harder. But we now know that we can be successful, we can trust each other to carry on putting in the hard work.

If somebody falls behind, the team can pick them up, they can rejoin the pack. We are small but mighty, we are Wiltshire Roller Derby.

And if you ever feel lost just remember:

“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”