During the day, Janine Berriedale-Johnson works on the Coca-Cola marketing team in London. Away from her desk, she changes into her alter ego, "Mimika Mayhem", to skate in the fastest, fiercest and craziest sport on eight wheels: roller derby.

With her team, the London Rockin' Rollers, she blocks, smashes and jams her way across the rink. Roller derby is a full-contact race on roller skates, played mostly by women. Its slam-bang action is not for the faint-hearted. While the sport is about speed and agility, the fishnet nylons, war-painted faces and skater nicknames add to the fun.

I spoke to Janine to hear more about her passion and a crash course into the world of roller derby.

Team Photo

Photo credit: John Hesse

How did you get into roller derby?

Despite its rough and tumble nature, it's one of the fastest-growing sports for women in Europe. I first heard about it through a friend of a friend who founded a local roller derby team here in London. I skated a lot as a child, and I think I also had the right attitude for it. I joined my first team six years ago and my current team 18 months ago. 

As well as the London Rockin' Rollers, I'm also part of the intraleague team "The Neanderdoll". We train several nights a week after work and play a match once a month. Roller derby is a great opportunity to get fit and meet new people, and the best thing is that anyone can do it; we have women from age 18 to 50 on my team. When I'm not skating, I'm busy coaching the "Southern Discomfort Roller Derby", one of the first men's teams in Europe. I really enjoy coaching... translating the skills I've learned into practice and seeing the team progress.

Tell us more about the game.

The game is played with two teams, each fielding five players competing to score points by overtaking each other on a flat track. Each team has one "jammer" and four "blockers", including the "pivot", who sets the pace for the pack. The jammer, wearing a star helmet, tries to break through the pack scoring points by passing members of the opposing team. The opponents try whatever they can do – within reason – to stop her. I'm an all-round player, serving as jammer, blocker and pivot.

Blocking

Photo credit: Matt Williams

Is it dangerous?

You can strain your wrist playing badminton, so every sport has its dangers. Because roller derby is a full-contact sport, there are a lot of safety measures. Although it can seem quite rough, blocks are actually designed in a way to avoid injury. And anyone who wants to play roller derby needs to go through an extensive training programme before they can enter the rink.

Apart from the usual bumps and bruises, I've never been seriously injured. When I first started, I did get hit in the head, leaving me with a minor concussion. But that was very early on, and mostly due to my inexperience.

Is there a difference between the men's and women's game?

Unlike most sports, roller derby is mainly played by women. It's exciting that the sport is driven by women, deciding on new rules and how tactics develop. In general, the women's game is very strategic, while the men's game is more about brute strength and speed. Men have the natural ability to move around faster and are more aggressive, making it seem more exciting. But if you know the sport, you'll see that the wome's game actually involves much more technique and strategy. As more and more men enter roller derby, the male game is developing and becoming more tactical.

What do you enjoy most about the sport?

Roller derby is much more than a sport. It's a way of life. The roller derby community is an amazing mix of people from all walks of life and all shapes and sizes. What we have in common is an addiction to rolling on eight wheels. I get to travel a lot, see many places and meet new people. It can get pretty intense sometimes, when we get carried away in the game, but that's only because everyone is so passionate about it. Whatever happens on the rink, we always go out together after each game. That's not just my team, but the competing team too and even the audience joins in! 

Freshmeat

Photo creit: Tim Brechin


 
What was your proudest moment?

When we played the British championships with the London Rockin' Rollers last year. Even though we didn't win, that was a big achievement for the team. It earned me the title of top blocker from my league and "most valued player" awarded by the opposing team, which was a great honor. I'm also very proud of the new players – or 'fresh meat' – from the men's team I coach. They just went through their first training period this month, and it great to see all their efforts and hours of training are paying off!

Does your hobby help you in your job in any way?

My job as Western Europe Business Unit Onsite Administrator requires strong problem-solving skills and meeting a lot of new people. Roller derby has helped my ability to deal with people from all sorts of backgrounds. It has also given my confidence a big boost, which can help deal with tough situations. Roller derby has thought me to trust my instincts, make quick decisions and how to take a hit and get right back on my feet.

I actually see quite a few similarities between my work at Coca-Cola and roller derby. They both involve commitment, focus, creativity and passion for what you do.