Written by Z Machine
Derby is a pricey sport. Between the large amount of gear required, the cost of skates, league dues, and travel costs, it can get pretty expensive to play. I'm a graduate student, so my budget is tight, but I've found a few ways to make playing derby more affordable. Here's some tips for derby finances, from your first practice to travelling with the team.
Look for a new skater program that lends gear to participants. You want to make sure derby is for you and get the basics down before springing for your own gear. This also gives you more time to look for deals on your own stuff when you're ready for it too. You can get one piece at a time and research what styles and brands you like instead of rushing to buy a whole kit.
Buy used gear. Plenty of people buy gear and discover derby is not for them, or upgrade and want to get rid of their old gear. Roller Derby Recyclables on Facebook is a good group, or see if anyone in your league is selling their old stuff. I'd still recommend getting a helmet new, because protecting your brain is important!
On that note, make sure the gear that you get works for you. Try on your teammates gear and skates to find a fit that you like before buying your own. If you have a skate shop nearby, try on a bunch of different skates. Compare prices between in-store and online, and don't forget to ask about any discounts available to your league members.
Buy basics you can upgrade. If you buy beginner skates, you can change out the wheels, bearings, and toe stops to upgrade and customize them to how you like. I added insoles and ankle booties to make my skates fit better, and changed out the toe stops, all for a much lower price than buying new skates.
See if your league has scholarships for dues, uniforms, or travel costs. PRR offers these, and can even adjust the due date of league dues to better align with your paycheck dates. Most leagues should be willing to work with you to ensure that the cost of league membership isn't an impediment to your participation.
Travel to away games with teammates. Splitting the cost for gas and hotel rooms between 4 people instead of one or two makes travel more affordable for everyone. To reduce out of pocket costs for skaters and avoid waiting for reimbursement, PRR has the league book the hotel rooms. PRR also subsidizes the cost of the hotel to reduce the burden on skaters. Another option would be staying in local skaters' homes at an away game instead of in a hotel.
Consider DIY options or use things you already have. Some people buy gear bags, but I just use an old duffel bag I already had. You can sew your own skate leash with a few supplies from the craft store. There's plenty of recipes for homemade gear spray out there. I DIY-ed a scrimmage shirt with iron on numbers. These things usually fall into the "unnecessary but nice to have" camp, but this is a place you can save money too.
These are just a few tips to consider as you progress your skating career. Hopefully they help make derby more affordable!