There is nothing more iconic to Roller Derby than the idea of the Derby Name. It feels kind of like being a Superhero, right? It’s like a secret identity. There are very few times in your life where you get to pick your own nickname, and that lends a kind of gravity to the situation that leads to you reading this article right now. Don’t worry. I’ve got your back.
B.F. Skin-her has got your back too.
Consider Your Real Name
Sounds super boring, right? I just said consider it. A lot of skaters have been choosing to use their actual names when they skate. It means you never have to worry about how family-friendly your name is, filling out paperwork is way easier, and any success that you have while skating is attributed to you, not some mystery person named “Toughie”. Plus you'll be more likely to respond to it when your teammates call your name during practice.
Brainstorm Early Decide Late
A lot of freshmeat (new skaters) are super pumped to have a derby name right out of the gate. I'd suggest holding off for a little while. Your skills will develop in ways you might not have expected. You wouldn't want to pick "Split Pea Swoop" and then realize that you aren't very good at swooping. And if you're big and beefy, "Block Stock and Barrel" might sound great, but what if you discover you LOVE Jamming?
Also consider that being the Freshmeat skater that's already picked a derby name is kind of like being that guy that introduces himself as "Hi my name is Jim, but my friends call me Wolf." No they don't, Jim. No they don't.
Document Your Ideas
Come up with a bunch of ideas. Come up with good ideas. Come up with terrible ideas. Did somebody just say something punny? Put it on your list.
If you're stuck, it helps to start with a list of things that you feel as defining you, and the person you want to be on the track. Maybe your job, your hobbies, your favorite media, political ideas that are important to you, your religion and ethnicity, bodyparts you like, bodyparts you hate, qualities you value in yourself, qualities you wish you could improve about yourself. Anything that you think speaks to the person you want to present yourself as on the track.
I am a computer programmer.
I am extremely proud of my biceps.
I like dinosaurs.
Then, for each of those categories, list some people, places, things, and sayings that could spawn a pun.
Sun's Out, Guns Out
Use these words to brainstorm puns, either on your own, or with the help of friends, keep the list going until your decision needs to be made, adding whenever you think of one.
Gun Show a Go Go
Narrow Them Down
You're going to want to find out about your league's name policy, and just the culture in general. In some leagues, most skaters use their legal names. In others, it's completely unheard of. Some leagues register their names with the International Rollergirls' Master Roster, and will ask you to pick a name that is unique. Others ask that you make sure that you use the tools available to you (Twoevils register, Google, word of mouth) to verify that no one is skating under that name on a team you are likely to play, or a very famous team. Others just don't care at all, since the refs are just calling the numbers anyway.
Consider each name on your list, and how practical they would be. If it's an obscure joke, will people get it? And will you mind if they don't? How long is the name? Will it fit on your Jersey? If it's longer than a syllable, people will shorten it. What nicknames do you think will be the most obvious for the name you've chosen, and how much would you enjoy all your teammates calling you “Thighs” forever?
Consider your audience. Is your league mostly moms or punk rockers? Or punk rocker moms? Are your bouts billed as family friendly? Are they sponsored by yogurt parlors or breweries? How sexy or vulgar or nerdy or violent are the other names on your team, and how comfortable would you be as the odd-woman-out? Ooh. Odd Woman Out. That could be a derby name. Better add it to the list!
Consider Your Number
Your number can be totally random, or related to your name, and this is one that has to be unique. Only one player on each team can have any given number. It can be fun to make your number go with your name, but make sure to follow all the rules for the organization you skate with. In WFTDA, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, starting in December of 2014, all player numbers must be 4 digits long, using only numbers, but may have small characters before or after it that aren't part of your official number. So 55 is fine. 55mph is fine. 55MPH is not. But who cares? No matter what the fine print says, the ref is going to be calling you "BLACK FIVE FIVE" anyway.
So pick a number you like. Pick a number that is unique on your team. And also consider how long it is. If you have a really long number, it takes refs and penalty box NSO's longer to say it if you get a penalty. You're going to have to put it on your arms, so if you have tiny arms, you might want fewer characters.
Short number. Straight lines. Perfect.
When In Doubt Ask Your League
They will probably have a thousand opinions for you and help you pick one. Some of our league's most beloved derby names are on people who struggled 'til the last minute to find one. One skater couldn't decide on a name, our first bout of the season was swiftly approaching, and she needed to pick one in order to be rostered. She joked, "Maybe I should just pick something terrible like 'Pukeface'." Everyone said "YES YOU SHOULD BE PUKEFACE," and now every time she jams, the entire crowd just screams "PUUUUUKE!" the whole time. It's amazing.
Whatever you do, don't stress about it. When you're playing roller derby, and the crowd is screaming your name, exactly what name that is is going to feel pretty unimportant.