Six of our intrepid rookie skaters went all the way to the Thunderdome, Rainy City's home training ground in Oldham, for a fun-packed Minimum Skills Bootcamp. Here's how they got on.
Walking into the Thunderdome – Rainy City's very own dedicated practice space in Oldham – is a little bit like getting to Diagon Alley. Whilst Harry Potter passes through a greasy spoon no Muggle eye can see, the Thunderdome is accessed through an equally rough exterior (peeling paint and soggy posters plastered on the walls of a building that has seen better days, opposite a handful of fried chicken shops and a tram line), but the effect of passing through such a gloomy façade to what waits beyond is just the same: there's magic at work here.
Centred on a permanent track, laid out in plastic tiling the deep purple of a Dairy Milk wrapper, the Thunderdome is a derby dream that many teams across the UK would kill to see come true. On one side, a row of spectator's seats; on the other, a penalty box ready for use. There's a merch stand with t-shirts covered in thunder clouds and umbrellas, and the walls are lined with posters for try-outs, adverts for The Knight's of Oldham men's league, and banners for added home-game support (“Forecast: Rainy!”).
As we entered, a low, nervous hum of chatter buzzed around the edges of the track. 30 or so pre-min skaters had gathered together on a dreary-looking Sunday for a full day of minimum skills training. The bootcamp had sold out weeks in advance; alongside the Minxters were rookie members of Deathrow Hull, Spa Town, and Halifax's Bruising Banditas, to name a few. Some had been skating a month; others, nearly a year. All had a look of excitable anticipation as they kitted up around the edge of the track, unsure what to expect from the session.
From speed-starts to laterals, jumping to 27-in-5: in five hours, we covered most of the minimum skills, gaining a new perspective from our expert trainers, and relishing the challenge of performing under different conditions. Over the course of the day, our cohort of rookies grew more confident, pushing harder and attempting new methods of approach for each skill. The pack got lower; the pace line tightened up. We skated faster, and hit harder. We stopped sooner, and with more skill. We transitioned until we were dizzy. Literally: there was so much enthusiasm, our trainer had to move us on to another skill before we span ourselves sick. Who knew you could enjoy transitions that much?
The pros: Whilst guest trainers and bootcamps often try to cram too much into one session, the Rainy City Minimum Skills bootcamp managed to be information-packed, but not too dense to absorb. There was definitely a lot to take away and use back home, and the constructive criticism given was useful to help hone those all-important skating skills.
The cons: Five hours sounds like a lot, but it flies by. The day was well-structured and thoroughly knackering (in the best way), but as with all good things, it left us wanting more.