git init derby

by Brittany Martin in

Lead jammer. Grand slam. Cherry popper. My sister has won me over and I'm giving Roller derby a go with the Pittsburgh East Roller Villains (PERV).


As I'm trying to jam roller derby rules into my head, it occurred to me that I have felt this way before: when I was learning to code. As a coding mentor for Bloc, it is beneficial to be placed back in the beginner's mindset. There are clear parallels that can be drawn from learning roller derby to learning to code. 


Roller derby is incredibly time consuming, and on top of practice, I need to spend extra time on my core skating skills. Roller derby can completely take over your life, and what’s more, I bet I will gladly let it. When I was learning to code, I remember waking up early, going to bed late and trying to sneak any available downtime to study.

A funny paradigm exists when you are experienced. Training is recalled as being fast and easy when a lot of of commitments were sacrificed so you could practice. 


You have to be able to get hit, and get back up quickly. If you can’t take being hit, sometimes illegally, this is not the sport for you. As the famous philosophers of Chumbawamba chanted, "I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down".

When I took on an assignment I couldn't solve during my coding apprenticeship. it felt like I have been smacked back to square one. When we were young, we were bad at everything we tried but didn't care. As adults, we have few opportunities to be bad at a new interest. Embrace that learning to code is going to be more stops than starts at first.


I've already gotten frustrated and had a bad derby day. But if you can’t shake it off and approach learning with a positive attitude, you’ll hurt your team’s morale. I love PERV's attitude around this:

Everyone is welcome regardless of abilities. We all are here to have fun! No negative Nancys allowed. Laughing is strongly encouraged!

The normal experience of programming is to try to solve something, get frustrated, try harder, pause, have an epiphany (for me: overnight or at the gym) and suddenly my code will work. Feeling frustrated is completely normal, and will never completely go away since you will just choose harder problems to solve. In some ways, the frustration makes the success that much sweeter. 


Roller derby is a real sport and the training is hard. If you’re not interested in being an athlete, this is likely not the extracurricular sport for you. The same goes with being a developer. You're inevitably going to crash your program in production. Dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes and deploy again. 


I'm privileged to have the financial resources to pursue my interests. Roller derby is not a cheap hobby. Depending on your league, dues alone can be between $25 - $50 a month. Purchasing a lasting pair of skates and thick safety padding can add up. Before you commit to joining a league, ask a current skater (hi, sis!) about what kind of expenses you will need to budget for. 

A full-time developer bootcamp will typically cost $10,000-$20,000, but there are a lot ways to learn the fundamentals of web development through a self taught regimen. Don't forget to purchase a robust computer and invest in a strong wifi connection. 


Roller derby is hard and time-consuming but I know I'll get to do something really fun and rewarding with an incredible group of skaters. Learning to code was the one of the best decisions I have ever made. I love my job(s), developer community and the opportunities coding has opened for me.

Remember, it’s hard to be a beginner. It’s scary, embarrassing, overwhelming, and intimidating to try new things but we've got this!