Sunday, December 30, 2012

Resolutions, both Personal and Global.

Being sick really sucks, but it gives me the time to sit and ponder things instead of running off to skate or you know, have a life or whatever.  Being on self quarantine has given me time to think about what I want my goals to be for next season.  I'm not sure that other derby folk think about their derby resolutions, but I do at the beginning of every season.  This year, I offer up a list of resolutions that anyone can take as their own.  Are you going to be able to do all of them?  Of course not, but sometimes it helps to have a list to choose from.

All skaters should be trying to improve their individual skills and game every season.  These individual goals should be sweated over publicly and celebrated privately, or on Facebook, whatever.  Seriously though, you should have a notebook to document your daily improvement.  Go buy one and throw it in your skate bag.

1.  Improve on your footwork.  There is never going to be a point in your derby career when you can say "Damn, my footwork is absolutely perfect."  Look up footwork drills online, go to open skate and imitate the jam skaters, watch online videos of footwork drills and see if you can copy what they're doing.  The great thing about footwork is you don't HAVE to be at derby practice to work on it.  Yea!

2.  Protect your joints.  It's time for everyone who plays derby to come face to face with the disturbing fact that you are most likely going to get injured in this sport.  Most derby injuries happen to our knees, our ankles and our shoulders, so it is your job to protect these trouble spots by making them stronger.  Plyometrics, Crossfit, weight training, whatever floats your boat, can protect your joints and hold some injuries at bay.  Also, are you keeping up with your calcium intake?  Women need to make sure they stay on top of their calcium! 

3.  Develop your core.  Core muscles make you more stable on the track, but many of us don't do enough core work because we're almost exclusively thinking about strengthening our legs.  I used to have a really weak core, and then due to derby, I got a pretty heinous back injury.  Now I'm working on my core strength on top of rehabbing a four year back injury.  Skip the injury part and just work on your core strength!

4.  Do something that isn't derby oriented at least once a week.  For some of you, this is a ridiculous resolution, for the rest of you, this might feel overwhelming.  I do think it's in your best interest to occupy your time once in a while NOT doing derby stuff.  I have my art, and some awesome ex-derby friends who help keep me from going completely overboard on derby.  Remember, this is a fantastic, amazing sport, but it's not your life; it's a PART of your life.

5.  Stretch.  Most of us don't stretch after practice, which is NOT healthy.  I'm guilty.  I'm trying to make this resolution top priority this year; I know my hips and back will thank me!  Being more flexible is important for a long derby career.

6.  Get to some outside training.  Sometimes your league can't give everyone every kind of training they need, so go and take advantage of any outside training that comes your way.  Last year I got the chance to go to Bonnie D. Stroyer's training down in Charleston this year, and it was totally worth the trip.  If you can't swing the outside training, at least try to go to another league's practice.  A different perspective can really change the way you think about your game.


This will be my fifth season playing derby, and I have decided that when I leave derby, I'm going to try to leave it better than I found it.  If you love the sport as much as I do, you should also strive to leave derby better than you found it.

1.  Pass on your knowledge to newbies.  I know that if you've been in derby for longer than two seasons, sometimes it really becomes a bit of a chore to train the newbies.  We all suffer from burn out from time to time and just want to focus on our own thing, but newbies are the future of your league, and if you want your league to be strong for a long time, then get to helping them!  A little attention can really go a long way; it can keep a newbie invested and excited about derby, even when the training, the practices, and the volunteer work grinds them down.

2.  Tell your volunteers that you appreciate them.  Our sport really lives or dies by volunteers, and they really don't get the attaboys the way they should from skaters.  The more positive of an experience volunteers have, the more they will recruit others to volunteer!  Even if they recruit people to volunteer in different states for different leagues, it's still a great thing for derby. 

3.  Become an ambassador for your sport.  If you're wearing your jersey, or league shirt in public, be ready to talk the sport up.  You are a minor celebrity when you're wearing your jersey, whether you like it or not, so behave in a manner that reflects the best of our sport.  Smile!  Talk about your league, where the sport is going, and answer questions when people have them.  Don't be annoyed if people are interested in talking to you about derby!  If you are, then you probably shouldn't wear the jersey in public.

4.  Get involved with the derby community.  Our community is growing, and we are all in this together.  Gone are the days when leagues isolated themselves from each other; it's time to share ideas with each other, learn from each other and support each other!  Leagues that work together can become stronger, while leagues that refuse to share are going to find themselves playing catch up.  Invite leagues to scrimmage with you, or even host a training together.  Your league doesn't have all of the answers, so don't shut the door to your neighboring leagues who might.  Network!

Have a great New Years!  Let's hope we meet on the track this seaon!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Very Superstitious

Derby girls, like every other athlete, have things they believe in, from lucky socks to pregame bizarro rituals.  For fun, here is a list of a few of the things that derby girls believe in, but probably shouldn't.

Do you know these players?
1.  Everyone has a pregame ritual.  One of my good friends really believes that if she shaves everything....I mean everything, she will be faster as a jammer.  Another one of my friends needs to have her favorite underwear on to be comfortable.  I generally eat Sour Patch Kids for an energy boost, and some other teammates like to have their hair braided by someone.  These rituals are comforting, and I suppose they help calm our minds, but in reality, these rituals could happen or not happen and we'd still play to our abilities.  It's funny how sometimes a ritual can take over and play havoc with your concentration. 

I would prefer not to be a part of this picture.
2.  Pregnancies come in threes.   Whenever someone in our league gets pregnant, people start looking around for the other two women to be knocked out (heh) of the game for nine months or more.  Many derby girls believe that pregnancy can be catching, like some strange epidemic from medieval times.  When we have a run of pregnancies in our league, the inevitable cry that goes up is "Don't drink the water at the Skate Ranch."  It's not the water, ladies.  No, I don't believe things happen in threes, but it is a belief the seems to persist in derby culture.

I have unlucky bandanas.
3.  Everyone has a lucky something or other.  For some, it's a song; for others, it's a lucky item.  I know that sometimes I fret over the fact that my lucky purple skate laces might need to be replaced before a big game, but for the most part I'm over the "lucky" item.  I do have the opposite reaction at times.  There are certain songs, or colors, or clothing items that I find "unlucky" and I try to avoid them as much as possible.  Don't judge me!

4.  Every skater truly believes that the refs are paying her special attention.  Who hasn't felt slightly persecuted by the officials?  Every once in a while, I wonder if the the refs single me out because I feel like I'm being tagged for everything possible, including breathing wrong on the other team.  I know it isn't true, but there is a tiny bit of paranoia that buzzes around my head at times.  It doesn't help when I'm getting called on things and yet getting elbows to the nose or low blocked on a constant basis.  It's hard to put things into perspective sometimes when you're in the middle of a jam.  Just remember that most players have felt this way, and you need to concentrate on the things YOU are doing, not what everyone else is responsible for, including the refs.

PS...don't make eye contact and then you won't have to jam!
5.  Don't say the "last jam."  I didn't really know about this one until I posted my query on Facebook.  Evidently, many players worry that the last jam is one where you have the greatest chance of getting injured.  I know that people get tired and get sloppy at times, but you can be injured at any point in the game.  If you are fatigued, it doesn't matter what point of the game or practice it is, you can be injured.  Stop worrying about what jam it is, and be more aware of your situation on the track.

6. Bad practices the day before the game means your game will be great.  When people have a crappy practice before a game, it seems like it's a good thing because your game will be amazing.  I know there are some leagues who don't even do contact drills the practice before a game.  Bad practices, good practices, I don't care, as long as everyone shows up both mentally and physically.  It always blows my mind when people don't show up for the last practice before a game; what are they thinking?

The smell of winning...or a zombie.
7. Washing your gear might end your winning streak.  At one point, someone told me that you should wash your gear before each game, so "the other team couldn't smell you coming!"  I personally don't wash my gear before a game anymore, because I don't CARE if they smell me coming.  I sweat a different kind of sweat during games; because I'm under stress, my pads get really disgusting, so I tend to wait until after a game to wash them.  Now, have I not washed my pads because I might destroy a winning streak?  Oh hell no.  I wash my pads on a pretty regular basis because I'd rather not get MRSA.  Trust me, your awful stench isn't making you win games. 

By the way, everyone have a great Christmas, or Winter Solstice or whatever you enjoy celebrating during this time of the year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Demise of a League.

Recently, something awful happened in our region; a derby league died.  The Charlotte Speed Demons were trying something new in our area.  "Established in 2010, the Speed Demons are part of the movement to drive roller derby to a professional level sport with an eye on inclusion in the Olympic Games. To promote the athleticism of the sport and create a family friendly environment, its athletes compete using their legal names and wear traditional sports uniforms."  They were a team that was run and owned by a non skater, and in theory the skaters were just there to skate.  A lot of the WFTDA leagues around here weren't sure what to make of it; some of us were critical, because we truly believe in "By the skaters, for the skaters" while others were hoping it would work.  Wouldn't it be great to not have to pay dues to skate?  Wouldn't it be even more awesome to be paid to do what you love?  Either way, it is really sad when a league disappears.  It might be something that happens more often since there are so many leagues around the country and world.  Some people might feel like it's a culling of the herd, but think about those skaters left bereft of a league.  Here is a Charlotte Speed Demon's reaction to the death of her league.

Genea Morfeld Swan wrote:

I am a derby girl without a team. It still makes bile rise in my throat when I think it.

What do you do when your derby team dies? Most people will never know this feeling. Our team was unusual in that it had an owner. Apparently an owner under a lot of stress with no contingency plan if he could no longer keep the team afloat. We had been moving towards more player involvement and had even developed committees like other teams. But our players had been sold on the idea that we would just get to skate and weren’t going to have to spend our time on the business side of things. So when the owner went, we just didn’t have enough dedicated bodies to keep the team going.

Favorite picture of my team.
It was a Friday when we got the email. To summarize, it said: “Sorry, I can’t do this anymore for medical reasons but if you can get it together in 48 hours we can talk about how to transition the team to the players.” We scrambled. We begged for a little more time. We scheduled a player meeting on Sunday but only seven people showed up. I saw the writing on the wall. If people can’t make the time to come to one meeting, how could we ever take over the team?

Those of us at the meeting decided to start a junior team and a rec league -- something Charlotte lacks. A few of us have also contacted other local teams because we can’t imagine life without competitive derby. That’s our attempt at carrying on. But not everyone. Some are still in mourning. They’re not on Facebook. They’re not talking. I am pretty sure all of us might be crying privately. I certainly know I am. Everyone grieves differently.

So many wonderful teams opened up their arms to me and offered me a spot, or practice time, or words of comfort when we made the announcement. I am truly thankful for such a wonderful derby community.

Like many other derby girls, I talked, dreamed and practiced derby so much I was at a risk of having no other interests or friends. Now my very first derby love is dead. How can I open the presents under the tree knowing I have an arm band with my numbers on it and a hoodie with my team’s logo on it? My team is dead. It won’t be back. Players that I worked out with are just friends now. But perhaps without our commonality we will grow apart. We will all focus on our own futures. Different teams, different goals, different lives. We will all carry on.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? If my post college co-ed water polo team had ceased to exist would I have been crying all the time? If my college had dropped my tennis team would I have moped around? I can’t honestly say... but I do know that I didn’t talk about them the way I did my roller derby team. I never went on TV to promote them. I never gave every penny I had in my bag to buy new bearings, a new mouth guard, new wheels.... I was just dating those other sports. I was married to the Charlotte Speed Demons.

And what do we do when someone we love dies? We mourn. But we also carry on. I can’t help but be excited to skate for a new team. To train young upcoming derby girls. The crying may not stop for awhile, but I’m not ready to hang up my skates just yet.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Speeeeeeeeeed: How Do You Get Faster?

Posions. Good for grip, bad for speed.
Seems like a lot of new skaters are struggling with speed and endurance; when I joined derby, speed and endurance was all I had going for me, so I really didn't have to work as hard at it as some of my fellow fresh meat skaters did.  But that doesn't mean I don't have advice (because when have I ever been silent on any topic?)  I know I've shared on this topic before, but I have thought about it a lot over the last year as I've been working with newer skaters, and I've discovered a few new things about how to increase speed and endurance.  If I repeat myself in this blog, it's because I think it's important.

1.  Look at your skates.  Are you wearing Poisons?  Unless you weigh 90 pounds, or are skating on the slipperiest floor ever, I suggest you ditch the Poisons.  I don't know why this has become a thing, but I see a ton of newer skaters rocking all Poisons.  First of all, this is TERRIBLE for your knees and secondly, the soft wheels are deforming and slowing you down.  Bleah.  Ditch them.  Borrow harder wheels if you don't have any, but try skating in something a little less grippy.  Also, how are your bearings?  When was the last time you cleaned them?  Crappy bearings steal your energy, and if you're struggling with your speed and timed laps, every little bit counts.  Clean and lube your bearings, or invest in a better pair if you've just been skating with whatever came with your skates!

Some people suggest that you loosen your trucks.  Well, it really depends on what kind of speed laps you are skating.  If you are doing your speed work on the derby track, having looser trucks will help you make more efficient turns; you may be sacrificing some stability to get more flexibility out of your turns.  If you feel like your trucks need to be looser, I do recommend you do what Paris Kills suggested and only loosen them a quarter of a turn for each and skate on them for a while.  Never go hog wild and go from tight to wiggly loose in one adjustment!  I know it sucks to keep fiddling with your trucks, but be patient.  It will be worth it.  If you're skating on the long speed track, then loosening your trucks might actually be detrimental to your speed and control.  You can build up a lot more speed on the long track than on the derby track, and having shaky, loose trucks isn't always the safest option.  Adjust your skates accordingly!

2. Look at your crossovers.  Crossovers are where you get your power and speed in skating, and most new skaters have unbalanced crossovers.  What does that mean?  It means you're doing more work with one leg than the other, and that's limiting how fast you can move around the track.  Our speed coach makes us just work on our cross over form by skating a full circle of crossovers for one minute each time.  It's hell on the back, but it's very close to skating derby style.  Get low, work on taking equal steps with both legs, and tighten your core.  Keeping your core tight helps protect your lower back from that awful speed skating pain.  To make your stride more controlled, practice with your arms behind your back; arms help so much when you're striding at your top speed, so to build your legs, you should practice not using your arms at times.  Side note, never skate a timed laps like that, you're handicapping yourself for no reason!

3. Ride a bike.  Cross training will help you develop both speed and endurance, but you have to pick the right exercises to do!  I personally hate running because skaters generally have knee injuries from derby, and high impact exercises tend to make those injuries even worse. Riding a bike helps because it is low impact and works the legs and the core muscles.  Hooray!  Riding a bike helps clear my head I work on my endurance by tackling giant hills in my neighborhood...and singing really really loud.  Singing and doing cardio really helps your lung capacity; also, it just annoys people you ride by.  A quick fitness test to tell if you're working out at capacity is can you talk while you do it?  If you can, you need to up your speed or intensity.  So many of us never hit the right amount of exertion when we work out.

4. Hold your breath.  I know, you should never hold your breath while skating, but I meant you should for swimming.  Swimming is another great way to work on your endurance; when our neighborhood pool is open, I get there as early as possible and swim laps.  At least ten of those laps, I swim under water holding my breath as long as possible, while swimming vigorously.  I usually do that at the end of swimming time so my body is fatigued and my muscles need more oxygen.  Sometimes I swim a length and a half underwater without taking a breath.  If you can do that, you can breathe while skating. Just be careful of doing the breast stroke; it can really play havoc with your knees. Also, quit smoking.  I have soap boxed enough about smoking, but if you're smoking and having endurance issues, you do the math.

5.  Strengthen your core.  Core. CORE.  Core.  I think that core is the key to success in derby!  If your core muscles are strong, you take and give hits better, have better form, and can keep your proper skating position.  Having a strong core will help your leg muscles not have to do all of the work too.  My old speed skating coach, Sam Orr, always says that form is the number one reason skaters don't hit their maximum speed.  A strong core helps with all of that!

6.  Disassociate.  Wait, what?  Yes.  90% of skating is mental, and if you're dwelling on how hard it is to skate fast, or keep skating, or how bad your feet hurt, you are focusing on the the wrong things and you will probably fail to meet your goal.  Sometimes you have to distract your brain from dwelling on all of the issues you're having with endurance; I use music as much as possible when I'm speed skating.  It helps keep me from concentrating on how my sock is slipping into my skate, or that stitch in my side, or just how bad the whole experience sucks.  If I can't use music, then I try to occupy my mind with something, anything else than thinking about how miserable and uncomfortable I am during endurance. Pizza works.

7.  Change your goals and write them down.  If you're striving for 25 laps in five minutes, maybe it's time to change your goal and try to do as many laps as possible in the five minutes.  Also, write down your progress right away.  It's important not to rely on your memory directly after doing endurance; with the adrenaline pumping, we sometimes can't hold on to facts and figures, so it's important to record it for future reference.

8.  Get a buddy.  Nothing motivates me more to strive harder than to have someone who will hold me accountable.  Find someone who pushes you, and someone you can motivate back!  The best part of being in derby is having a team who can help you, so take advantage of that!

9.  Keep at it.  Sam Orr, my coach says it takes people three years to develop into a solid speed skater.  I know you don't have three years, but you should never give up....ever.  Also, if you are an older skater, good news!  The older you get, the more your body is geared for endurance.  Older skaters aren't sprinters, but because as you age, your muscles switch to long twitch muscles, so if you're old and crusty like me, you have a better line on endurance than the young whippersnappers.  Hooray!

So there is my advice.  I want everyone to strive to be a stronger, faster skater in 2013 with way more endurance.  Let's take roller derby to the next level, together!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Transfer Skaters: Checking References

In one of the last blogs I wrote I discussed some things leagues can do to make sure their newbies are a good fit for the league.  Now I wanted to address transfer skaters, because in this day and age of derby seriousness, more and more skaters are transferring to more competitive leagues just to play derby  Yes, people are moving for one reason, in order to play derby!   It's no longer just a location thing anymore! Wowee wow wow!  Before derby got more serious, most people wouldn't even think about leaving their first leagues, unless they had to move, but in this day and age, leagues are popping up all over the country; sometimes people leave one league due to drama, or different goals, but sometimes people leave because they are forced to.

So, what do you do as a league if you get a transfer skater?  Most leagues don't have much in place to screen transfer skaters coming into their league.  As more leagues become more professionally oriented, they're putting guidelines in place to weed out the CRAZY!  Yeah, I said the C word, but you know it's out there.  Of course, not every transfer skater is a potential drama queen or mean girl, but how do you protect your league?  And should you? 

I personally feel like leagues should treat all transfer skaters like those getting a grab bag gift.  You might get an amazing skater and font of knowledge, or you might get the next disciplinary case.  Most leagues that answered my post on Facebook said they asked for a letter from the transfer skater's league.

Ava Gore is a great transfer skater! Photo by Steven Hewett
 Hmm.  I think this is a great idea in theory, but it does have its pitfalls. What if the league the skater is leaving is pissed because he or she has decided to step up to a higher level of play?  Would you trust a letter from them?  What if there is bad blood between the skater and members of the board, bad blood meaning personality issues, not league issues?  Some of the leagues volunteered that they accept letters from anyone on the league, not just the Board.  It would probably be a great compromise if your league asked for a letter from the Board and some letters of reference from other skaters.  It might paint a broader picture of the skater's previous situation.  Also, what if the league the skater is transferring from just doesn't have their stuff together and you never get the reference letters?  Most leagues will let the transfer skater come in through try outs and then they can figure out if the skater is good for the league the old fashioned way.

So, should your league have something in place for transfer skaters?  It's up to your league, but I'm sure the issue is going to be more common as more people get into derby.  Once you've been bitten by a crazy transfer skater, you might wish you had the guidelines in place before she ever skated into your league.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Skaters You Should Avoid Being at Practice

The 2013 season is fast approaching, and along with every fresh start, it's a great time to make resolutions about your role in derby and your league.  I started thinking about who would be coming back to derby next year, and of course there were some skaters I am excited about returning, and then there are some skaters I wish would come back, but with a little change of behavior and attitude.  With as many strong individuals in each league,  personality conflicts are bound to crop up from time to time, but wouldn't it be great if we could all step back from our behavior and see what we could change about ourselves?  I have made an over exaggerated list of skater personalities that sometimes make practice time not so much fun. Remember, it's an exaggerated list, but that doesn't mean you don't have bad behaviors at practice at times; maybe it's time to see how we can curb some of these nasty traits for 2013 and make our leagues a better place to be.

1.  The Flip the Switch Skater.  I think that most leagues have one of these.  This is a skater who is trying super hard to be positive about everything in derby, because she has a temper.  If things don't go her way, she throws the switch and goes from being over positive to skating off the track and possibly throwing her helmet down in frustration.  First of all, you're damaging your helmet by throwing it on the floor, so just stop that right now.  Secondly, you have to knock off the hissy fits.  You are part of a team; you're not a diva.  People get just as frustrated with you, and yet they don't throw their helmets or go stomping off of the track.  Grow up.
How about you flip that switch to "chill the eff out."

2. The Doom and Gloom Skater, AKA the Sulker.  Some skaters can really screw up a practice by sulking after either not doing well in a drill, or not getting their way on the track or during practice in general.  All of us have had a crappy moment at practice where we've removed ourselves from scrimmage or a drill to get our heads back in the game, but this skater tends to upset the emotional balance of the entire league by doing it.  She's doing it to make a point.  She wants people to notice she's upset and to either be uncomfortable, or go over and try to coax her back on the track.  Please don't be this way at practice!  If you need a moment, take it and regroup, don't make a federal case out of it!
"Go home cloud!  You're bumming us all out!"  (An awesome quote I stole.)
 3.  The De-Motivator.  Whoof.  This one is hard because I am a firm believer in "tough love" in derby, but the De-Motivator is all tough and hypercritical without the love part.  The De-Motivator thinks she's helping you by hounding you constantly, but having someone constantly point out your faults without giving you any positive feedback ever just beats your spirit down.  Nobody is perfect, I get that, but nobody is constantly screwing EVERYTHING up.  You might be a de-motivator for someone, so really think about the feedback you're giving out to your team.

It may not be what you're saying, but how many times you said it, and the tone...and....well, just think about it.

4.  The Chronic Denier.  Now I know most of us have been this skater; we get called on a penalty and we immediately say "No I didn't."  It's ok, we all have a bit of the Denier in us, but a chronic denier gets pretty old pretty fast; she NEVER thinks she's committed a penalty, even if every ref at practice or in a game says she did.  The Chronic Denier has a core belief that she couldn't possibly be cutting the track that much, and that the rest of us are completely wrong.  I always want to ask the Chronic Denier what the color of the sky is in her world, because she's obviously living in another reality.

Uh, yeah you did.

5.  The Maverick.  The Maverick is a really skilled skater who just won't play by the same philosophy that the rest of the team is following. She is such a great skater, that people have allowed her to do her own thing, but she never wants to follow the team strategy, tends not to work in a wall well, or takes over any drill and does what she wants instead of what the objective of the drill is.  If you are a maverick, reign it in!  You're a part of team, they don't follow your lead, you WORK with them.
Pew pew indeed.

So there you are.  Did you see yourself on this list?  I hope not!  If so, clean your act up and get with the program!  If you see you teammates on there, maybe send them this link and hope they get the clue!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Derby Break: Derby Constipation

My name is Elektra Q-Tion and I'm addicted to derby.

I don't know about your league, but our league takes mandatory breaks every year; during the summer, we have a three week break, and during the holiday season, we have a two month break.  UGH.  I know that people who skate a lot need a break from derby, but I can tell you that every year when break comes up, I get a little anxious.  Ok, I get a lot anxious.

I'm a kinesthetic kind of person, which means I learn more and retain more when I'm in motion; you can read about it here. Most of us have different learning styles that overlap, but if you're a kinesthetic learner, "resting" can be serious torture.  I don't like sitting around, because I need to exercise, but I hate exercising by myself.  Part of the reason I joined roller derby was because I wanted the group support in exercising.  Please don't tell me to go running, because it hurts my knees and back like crazy, plus it bores the crap out of me.  I know that some of you are runners by nature, but to me it's just plain dull, and when I'm bored, I start thinking about how bad my body feels and I want to quit.  I never want to quit when I'm playing derby, mostly because I don't have time to dwell on things when I'm playing.  I do work out and do weights, but man, it's a struggle for me without the distraction of skating.  I'm even starting to do Insanity, but it's still way less fun than training with my team.

I personally like small breaks; our speed skating coach once told us that taking a week off from skating gives your muscles a chance to mend those small tears, but so many teams tend to take months off.  Most of the arguments about taking a break in derby come from people comparing derby to professional sports.  "The NFL takes a break, so we should too."  I'd like to remind people that most derby girls and guys aren't practicing 8 hours a day for the entire season.  That's what professional athletes do; they practice 6-8 hours a day, and the definitely need to take a break and heal their bodies for a couple of months.  Most leagues aren't there yet, so I don't always think we in the derby world need to take two solid months off.

But Q, people need a break to heal, live their lives and take a mental break.  Of course they do!  Spend time with your family and non derby friends (if you have any left!), get more sleep, get that awesome tattoo you always wanted to have but couldn't because you wouldn't normally have time to heal.  Breaks can be good things; I get that completely, but I hate being forced into taking a break when I really don't need an extended one.  I think some derby girls and guys who go on break don't do anything, so the first couple of months back in the season are spent trying to get endurance and strength back.  If you're going to take a break, don't just sit on the couch and eat bon bons. You shouldn't take a break from fitness.   Also, if you're taking a long break this year, please read that new rule set!

Sorry for my rant, but I have noticed that I'm a lot happier playing derby than not playing derby.  I've been able to keep my habit in check by going to a couple of invitationals and practices with other leagues.  I can't wait until the new season starts!
Deck the Dolls Invitational with Palmetto State

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Derby Ideas

Are you looking to get that special derby someone a fun and derby related for the holidays?  I often am looking for derby gifts that aren't just going to get stuck up on a shelf somewhere or thrown into the bottom of a skate bag.  I try to buy those ladies and gents in my life who are involved in derby (willingly) something amazing, just for them.  It's always good to discuss price-range with your derby partner before you get into the Christmas shopping; it can get out of control quickly because there are so many cool options out there.

On the practical side, I really have to suggest getting your friend a Sisu mouth guard.  They come in packets of two, so you can have one and you can get one for him or her.  People do not change their mouth guards enough, and the usual excuse is that they're too expensive.  If you give them one before the new season, at least they're not hanging on to the nasty one they used all last year!  GAG! Give the gift of a clean mouth this year!

Another practical and affordable gift could be Triple 8 wrist gaurds.  I don't know about you guys, but I tend to destroy a pair of wrist guards every season, and at twenty dollars, that's not a bad little stocking stuffer that will be used and abused in every practice.  If he or she doesn't love them for derby, it's always good to have a spare set around, for skating in parades or outside.  You can't really go wrong with protective gear to keep your derby friends safe.

If you're looking for cool shirts, you should totally check out Derbyology (with a shameless plug for my designs on there.  :P)   Derbyology is a skater run shop that has fun shirt designs that are seriously diverse.  They carry merch too, so go and check out their site!  Where else can you get a Wonder Woman shirt with a derby saying on it? 

I'm a big fan of this lady's jewelery design.  Eva Lye from my league makes amazing, fun necklaces that are customizable and affordable.  I have a lot of her jewelery, and I especially love my star necklace purchased by my derby wife.  I was so touched when I got mine, and I think at 35 dollars, it's a great bargain.   Can't afford that necklace?  Derbylicious has plenty of other options for less money.  Go and check them out!

Need a cute stocking stuffer?  Check out the String Doll Jammer for 9.99!  Bruised Boutique has them in different colors, and that makes them a little more customizable.  When I finally passed my pack assessments, my derby wife (did I mention she's an angel?) got me one of these and I still have it.  She's a little worse for wear, but after four years, so am I. 

This year I went in a different direction for my friend's derby gift.  I discovered that Monster High dolls have four "roller derby" figurines.  They are ridiculous, with crazy high heel skates and very little protective gear, but I bought one of these silly dolls and customized it to be a mini Beth Row.  It was fun and I got to play with can you beat that? 
See? Looks just like her!

Anyway, those are just a few ideas for Christmas this year.  Please, if you do decide to buy something derby oriented, please support the derby community!  Don't put your money into pockets that don't care about our sport! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Apples to Apples: Blockers vs Jammers

I asked a provocative question on Facebook today; I asked, "Who do you think is smarter, blockers or jammers?"  With all of the reaction I got, you would have thought I had asked, "Which should we eat, kitties or puppies?"  Oh the outcry!  Oh the outrage!  Oh the boring politically correct answers of "Both are equally smart" and the more humorous ones of "Refs are the smartest." (I kid, I kid.) I know I like to start trouble, but the real reason I asked that question was because I was curious how derby folk really see the two positions.  I think how you and your league answers the question shows a lot of how you train your players.

If you are on the side of "blockers are smarter", then your reasoning most likely is because blockers have more than one job to do.  Blockers have to do offense, defense, and be completely aware of where both jammers are at all times.  Blockers have to constantly be ready to assess the pack definition, respond to out of play calls, rethink strategy when their jammer is in the box, or when the other jammer is, and what to do when their teammates are in the box.  Being a blocker is often times compared to being someone juggling flaming chainsaws.  Blockers have to work together, and they have the greatest risk of getting a crazy surprise block thrown on them, because they're probably not looking in the right direction at the right time!  Don't you hate when that happens?  Of course blockers are smart!

If you're on the side of smart jammers, your reasoning comes from the fact that jammers need to know when to call the jam, if they're lead, whether or not to "waste some time" and how to read their blockers.  Jammers know they're a moving target at all times, and have very little time to react to the ever shifting dynamics of the pack they have to play matador and bull with the opposing blockers.  Poker face?  Let's rename it jammer face, because jammers are the ballsiest bluffers I have ever seen.  I really am tempted to take a pack of the best jammers I know to Vegas and let them loose at the poker tables.
Crazy jammer is crazy.

So, which one is smarter?  Honestly, if you want to be a great player, you have to be smart in derby, period.  I hate it when a league lucks into a really talented skater and then only lets her jam.  Exclusively jamming doesn't necessarily teach skaters about pack dynamics.  Don't limit your talented skaters by making them exclusively jam!  You really can learn so much from the game by being a blocker; it raises your awareness, makes you understand how your blockers are trying to help, and it just gives you a better perspective on the game.  Don't isolate your jammers!

On the other hand,  I've noticed that so many teams only are using a small jammer rotation in most games; usually three to four jammers are put into the rotation, and I often wonder if these same leagues only train a couple of people to jam per season.  I think this is going to be a huge problem, since the new rule set looks like it was custom designed to put a three jammer rotation in the box at least seven times during a game.  Every cut against an opposing player is a major, and most jammers get sent to the box for cutting players.  What happens when two out of three of your jammers are cooling their heels in the locker room?  Everyone should receive jammer training.  It makes your footwork, mental focus, and your endurance better.  It might be a good idea for everyone in your league to be able to pick up the jammer panty with some confidence.

So who is smarter?  Who cares!  You need to be smart to be successful in either position...duh!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Accepting and grooming new skaters

It's the end of one season and the beginning of the 2013 season; most leagues are starting to recruit and train new skaters to keep their leagues going.  Of course many leagues have stringent skating requirements, but have you ever stopped to think it might be a good idea to approach skater recruitment and retention in a more holistic approach?  I mean, who wants to train twenty people and have half of them drop out because derby wasn't a good fit, or they were overwhelmed, or they had health issues?  As a league, you have limited practice time, and you should definitely try to maximize yours on skaters who are ready, willing and able to commit to derby.

1.  Do an interview.  When I proposed this question on Facebook, I got a lot of responses from many leagues who do interview potential skaters.  Charm City and Gotham were just a few of the leagues that answered, saying they interview potential skaters.  Most people agreed that it's a great way to weed out the potential drama queens, the crazy, or the skaters that didn't seem to be fully committed.  It's important to sit down in a more intimate setting and talk to the potential skater; it's also important for the skater to talk to you and ask questions.  Did any of us really understand just how much of an effort it takes to maintain a league?  When I joined the league, (waaaaaaaay back in 2009...ha), I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting myself into.  I didn't really talk to anyone; I just skated and was invited to join the league, so I had a pretty interesting time trying to figure out just exactly what I had signed up for!

2.  Ask your fresh meat to get a physical.  Hoo boy, I can just hear the outcry of "I'm a grown-ass woman!  I do what I want!  DIY!  It's none of your business if I'm healthy."  Just settle down there and listen to my reasoning.  Roller derby is a sport, and if you're involved you know that you have to work your butt off to play on any kind of competitive level.  Many skaters come into derby without much sports or athletic experience; they haven't ever strenuously trained athletically, and because of that, they may be blissfully unaware of any potential health conditions lurking.  Let's face it, schools make it mandatory for all of their athletes to get a physical before participating in their sports program; maybe derby should do the same.  Here's a blog that points out a similar thought.  Also, it's HARD playing derby; if your skaters are using derby to get into shape, they have the wrong idea from the get go.  You have to get in shape for derby.....period.

3.  Give them big sisters.  Yeah yeah, I know.  It's not a sorority.  I agree completely, but fresh meat need help navigating the tricky path of derby leagues.  It's a long, hard road, being fresh meat; if you can give them someone who cares if they show up for practice, you have a better chance of retaining them.  If you're like me, and the name "Big Sister" makes you instantly break out into Greek hives, then call them something else; you're all clever, think up something.  Veteran skaters paired up with fresh meat can help them by motivating them to come to practice, talk to them about the odd customs your league has (and you know you do) and the ins and outs of gear.  All of these things help make fresh meat feel like they belong to the league, and we all know how lonely and isolated it can be when you're learning how to do a hockey stop or fall small.  My big sister was Daisy Rage, and I can tell you, she scared the hell out of me because she was such a great skater.  We most certainly didn't braid each others hair or have sleep overs, but she helped me with my mohawks and a pretty major injury I had to deal with in the first few months of scrimmaging. 
See?  Isn't she a badass?  Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami

As derby becomes more and more competitive and athletic, leagues are looking to the long-term future; that means recruiting the right skaters and keeping them in the league.  The above suggestions might give you a chance to be more successful in your league's recruitment and retention of skaters!  Bring it on, 2013!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A checklist for the end of the season

So, I know a lot of teams don't really take a break from derby, but I'm going to pretend that everyone is going to step away from derby for a little while.  During your off time, you should be organizing your physical, mental and spiritual stock piles to be ready for the next season.

1.  Get a new mouth guard.  Please, for the love of your teeth, gums and health, GET A NEW MOUTH GUARD.  You know how the fire department advocates changing your smoke detector batteries twice a year?  Do the same with your mouth guard!  It's really not ok to have one for more than six months, which is why I'm a fan of the Sisu mouth guards.  The longer you keep your mouth guard, the more bacteria it harbors....get rid of it!  Start the new season out fresh!

2.  Wash and dry your gear.  That's right, please take it out of the car or the bag you've kept it in all year.  After you wash you gear and it's dry, take the time to inspect it.  Maybe some of your gear is in good shape, but I'll bet your wrist guards might need to be replaced, since they seem to fall apart at the drop of a hat.

3.  Check your skates.  Are your bushings worn out?  How about your pivot cups, do you see any cracks?  If so, the off season is a great time to replace these things.  Learning how to maintain your skates is the best thing you can do to be a self-sufficient skater!  (Check those toe stops too.)

4.  Have a bearing cleaning party.  I know, I know, cleaning bearings is boring, tedious and something a lot of skaters avoid.  Maybe you could get together with your team and support each other and maybe teach each other the best ways to do it.  Hey, in these bad economic times, maybe a bearing cleaning party would be better than a gift exchange.

5.  Think about getting a new helmet.  How many hits have you taken on that helmet?  Really?  Are you sure?  Derby girls have a great ability to forget pretty serious falls and hits to the head.  I've heard of some people putting a hash mark on the inside of their helmet for each serious fall they've taken so they know when to get a new helmet.   A yearly swap-out of helmets might not be a terrible idea, especially with so many derby girls getting concussions from our sport.  But Q, that's so expensive!  Yeah, but my brain is priceless, I would hope your brain would be priceless too.  Also, think about having a game helmet and a practice helmet, especially if your league has a special color or type of helmet they use in games.

My new mantra.

6.  Contemplate all of the things you've accomplished this year.  I'm pretty sure that most skaters don't take the time to do this for themselves.  Have you improved your endurance?  Have you worked hard on lessening your penalties?  Acknowledge the good things you did this year! 

7.  Start thinking about what you want to accomplish next year.  Without a plan for your training, all is luck and coincidence.  Write down some goals and make them happen...captain!

Just to wrap it up, use your off season time to get yourself organized and relaxed, but don't just sit on the couch!  It's not your league's job to get you into shape for each season, that's YOUR job.  That means your gear, your mind and your body need to be ready for derby when it starts up again. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

New rules. "I'm not touching you"

I know this is going to be hard to believe, but I do not like causing arguments among derby folk; I know that's a shocking thing to admit because I do have strong opinions about everything derby related...sorry....not really.  If you don't have strong opinions about something that costs this much, or takes this much of a toll on your body, then why do it?  So, if you are offended about what I'm going writing about today, I'm sorry.  I don't mean it as a personal attack, but I do really want some of you to stop and think about what I have to say.

Just in case you feel like you'll need this at the end of this blog.

Last week, the new rule set was released by the WFTDA: huzzah!  This is a momentous occasion because for some players, these are the only rules they have ever known.  The WFTDA took a long time to release this set, in hopes that the rules would be well thought out and not chock full of loop holes that slow the game down even more.  I know I was looking forward to seeing how no minors would impact the game, but instead of thinking about what kind of impact the new rules would have for skaters, all I heard about was how skaters and coaches are joining in and trying to anticipate loopholes so they can be the first people to take advantage of the newly found loopholes.

Wait, what?

Why aren't you working on learning the new rules, and for some, the old rules, so you can skate cleanly and effectively?  I guess that's too boring now; all of the cool kids seem to be trying to be on-track lawyers instead of amazing players.  Compare the idea of people focusing on the potential loopholes in the ruleset to the kid that isn't allowed to touch you by parental decree, but who stands there with his hand in front of your face saying "I'm not touching you!" Yes, legally the one kid isn't touching the other one, but we all know he's ignoring the spirit of the law to honor the letter.


Personally, I feel like coaches should be focused on how to tweak their training programs to deal with things like one whistle starts, cutting an opponent being a major, and whether or not your team is going to get thrown into the penalty box for the hyper vigilant multi-player blocking calls that are going to happen now. Those things are the BIGGER picture!  Whether or not you can be the first to game the rules really shouldn't be your primary objective, at least in my opinion.  Should your team ignore the fact that there are ways to "game the system?"  No.  Let's face it, I'm sure there are hoards of people meeting feverishly to find the new "passive offense" in the rule set.  Good for them, but wouldn't it be even more amazing for your team if you put all of that kind of effort into planning your training regime instead of focusing on the one tiny, stupid aspect of it all?  I know many people say, "Other sports do it all of the time."

I don't care about other sports; I care about derby.  I have no control about how football strategy happens, or the newest d-baggery in soccer, but I would like for derby to have fewer "masterminds" and more talented skaters please.  I'm not going to actually shun you for getting together and putting all of your time and energy into figuring out what the newest "passive offense" crap might be, but for most leagues, putting that time and energy into training better skaters might be a better investment.  In the end, which would rather be remembered for, your amazing skating or how you figured out how to do the new "back block flop?" Just my two cents.

Now. if you need to, go and fill out that butt-hurt form I posted up top and let's move on to a less controversial topic, like sparkly helmets!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Dangers of Derby Facebooking

Oh boy, Facebook!  Facebook is the best way to connect to a lot of people.  My own "friends" list is really stocked with mostly derby folk, and I love being able to talk to derby peeps from all over the world!  Unfortunately, Facebook can be a double edged sword and what you post on there can be read by your friends, your friends' friends and their nauseum. Sometimes we aren't making the right judgements when it comes to what we post. I think people forget just how close knit the derby community really is, so in the best interest of stopping TEAM BUTTHURT from forming, please try to avoid the footfalls of posting offensive crap on Facebook.

1.  Don't be a passive aggressive poster.  We've all posted vague posts on Facebook.  It's sort of like taunting a bull from behind the protective wall, but trust me, there is always someone on your team or league, or the team you just played that is going to take your passive aggressive post personally.  Even if you WANT certain people to take your vague posts to heart, I guarantee that at least three other people you didn't intend to will as well.  If you have a problem with someone, and you aren't brave enough to confront them directly, then just don't post it. 

2.  Don't make fun of another team you are going to play or have played.  It's just better to focus on your own team's accomplishments.  Don't even bother with enumerating their defects or how you stomped them, or whatever it is you want to write about how much you hated playing them.  Remember, even though the personnel of the team may switch out, but reputations rarely do. Leagues have long and bitter memories of how they are treated, so be careful of what you post about them. 

3.  Don't post injury pictures.  Now hold on Q, I've seen you post them.  True, but most of my family is not on my Elektra Q-tion page, and it can be rather shocking for "civilians" to witness some of the spectacular bruises and other various injuries we accumulate on a regular basis.  My mother still doesn't know how badly some of my bruises and injuries have been.  Neither of my parents have no clue that I've broken my nose, cracked my sternum and badly sprained my ankle, and I would like to keep it that way.  I'm also pretty careful about how I post on other people's pages if they have a derby injury.  I never know who might be monitoring a teammate's page, so asking things like "How are you feeling, lady?" is better than saying "Oh my God!  That was the craziest derby injury I've ever seen!" 

4.  Don't post stuff about the WFTDA that hasn't been released to the public.  Hey, if you're not on a WFTDA league, then you really don't have to worry about this one, but those of us who are should remember, WE HAVE SIGNED A CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT.  Don't be stupid and post something about the rules changes that hasn't been announced!

5.  Don't post inappropriate pictures of teammates while they're wearing the uniform.  Ok.  This one is tricky, but if you have those special pics of your teammates at an afterparty doing something that would be slightly or more than slightly embarrassing to the league, then DON'T POST IT!  Now, you  can't stop people from posting their own embarrassing pictures, but you don't have to add to the situation!
Ok, this isn't's just funny.

6.  Don't post crappy things about your teammates.  Just don't.  If you don't like what someone is doing, then please have a grown up conversation with them.  Don't air your league's dirty laundry out on Facebook.  Remember, your heartfelt drama becomes someone else's soap opera entertainment when you post about it on Facebook.

7. Don't post nasty things about volunteers.  Yes, refs are volunteers.  Stop being a douche and posting about how they piss you off.  They aren't there to make you look awesome; they're there to keep you safe.

I could keep writing more "don'ts" in this  blog, but I'm hoping that you can see the many pitfalls of bad Facebook etiquette.  We're all human, and everyone is going to make a misstep every once in awhile.  Just try to keep the mistakes to a minimum!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Care and Feeding of Photographers: A Boy Named Tsunami

I asked A Boy Named Tsunami to share some of his knowledge about how a league can keep its photographers happy!  You know I'm a fan of keeping your volunteers happy, and yes, photographers are definitely volunteers who cross the line into being a sponsor.  I often get sick and tired of hearing "Well, they are just following their hobby, why should we care?"  Art takes a lot of work folks, and if you don't reward people who work hard at it, you won't have any documentation of your bouts.  Pay attention and please read the following from a photographer.

Care and Feeding of your Roller Derby Photographer:
A Boy Named Tsunami

So your team is the proud owner of a new roller derby photographer. Congratulations! Your team photographer (or videographer) makes the team look good. It’s his* images that your town sees when it thinks of your team in action. He works both during the bout, and then spends time processing those photos during the week – probably as much time as you spend at practice. His contributions help your team succeed.

But why do you have to take special care of your photographer? Isn’t he just another one of the volunteers? Well, yes and no. The photographer straddles the line between being a volunteer and a sponsor. He volunteers his time, AND he gives you something that has tangible (and legal) value – his photos. He’s both volunteer and sponsor at once; that’s why he takes special care.

On the volunteer side:

It’s all about the relationship. As in any relationship, communication is key. Knowing what each side’s expectations and needs are. Photographers need appreciation, just like the refs, NSOs and all the other volunteers who help out on bout day.

Is your photographer on or in touch with your bout planning committee? Photographers need to be involved in decisions that affect them. Are you sectioning off areas near the track for special fans? Make sure they aren’t where the best shooting positions are. Is your new venue going to make it impossible for him to set up his flashes? If you make it harder for him to shoot, you’re not going to look as good in the photos. It’s time to talk.

Does your photographer shoot from center track, or in other high risk zones? It may be time for him to be insured like the skaters and the refs in those areas. Make sure that he and your head referee are communicating about when and where shooting from the center can happen.

Does your photographer get comped into bouts? Get compensated for travel to away bouts? While things like this aren’t always necessary, it should be something that the team considers along with all the other volunteers.

On the sponsor side:

In every sponsor/team relationship, there is an agreed-upon exchange. For instance, a local restaurant may give the team money, in exchange for ad space. A photographer gives you photos. You not only get the enjoyment of seeing them, but the team may also use them for advertising or other promotion of the organization. What compensation does your photographer get? Is it a beer and thanks at the afterparty? Is it ad space to promote his business? Is it cash? I’ve seen examples of all of these. Any of them could be appropriate – as long as both the photographer and the team are in agreement.

Another thing to consider is the use of photos (especially in the age of instant on-line sharing). Do you have a media agreement between your photographer and team concerning the use of images? If not, here’s what the law defaults to: the photographer, or any other GWAC (Guy With A Camera) at the bout, owns the copyright to the photos that he takes. He can: publicly display them, sell prints, and use the photos for any news or other editorial usage online or in print. He cannot use the photos for any business (advertising) purpose without the written consent of the skaters in the photos.  Skaters and the team can only use or distribute the photos with the photographer’s explicit permission. If those rules work for you, great! If not, you and your team photographer need to sit down and talk, and come to a mutual agreement.

Photographers aren’t that hard to care for. Generally, they love the sport of roller derby as much as everyone else in the organization, and they’re willing to do a lot to help your team succeed. In the end, it comes down to communication and coming to a common understanding of each side’s roles. If you pay attention to this, your roller derby photographer should provide you with a lifetime of enjoyment!

*For this post, I’m going to refer to the photographer as male, like me, even though there are a lot of great female derby photographers!

Check out Tsunami's work!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Enigma from KC: Skater profile

Photo by Lesley Etherson
Champs was a crazy crazy experience for me; not only was I at "The Big Show" for the first time, I was also trying to track down interviews and talk to people I didn't even know remotely.  Gulp.  I'm not someone who is that outgoing, but I had a job to do, and people were counting on me.  At times, interviewing these rock stars of derby got to be a little overwhelming, but some interviews were so easy going, I appreciated them even more.

Enigma (#10) of the KC Roller Warriors Allstars was kind enough to sit down with me after one of my friends pointed her out in the crowd.  It really is unnerving how different people looked after they took off all of their gear, but her bright, orange hair was a dead give away. 

How long have you been playing derby?  
-I've been playing derby for three years, sort of.  In my first year, I suffered from a spiral fracture, and now I'm bionic.  Now when I skate, I have a plate and it is a paralyzing experience when I get kicked there.  It aches when it rain or when the temperature changes, but I can still skate!  This was my first year on the Allstars, and then I got to go to Champs!

How did you guys prepare for Champs?
-We went in pretty confident.  You can underrate us, but that's ok.  We were here!  We focused on staying together and recycling while stopping the recycling of the other team. 

Because there is a lot more media coverage of derby, how does your team deal with the occasional negative review?
-We usually laugh about the reviews, but the one thing that does bother me is that people constantly compare our team to past teams of our league.  This is our team now.  We've had a lot of people retire, and they're all happy.   We have more people retiring after this season; a lot of them want to have babies, so we will be a different team next season.  We have to focus on our present team.

What do you think about the present day game?
-I think the system is flawed.  There are so many loopholes that make the game not as much fun.  Lots of clockwise blocking due to direction of game play now and a ton multi-player blocking goes on without being caught by the refs.  We were one of the first teams to experiment with passive offense; we used it during the first Minnesota game we played this season, and we caught a lot of hell for doing it.  Now it's part of the normal strategy of derby. 

 How do you handle the stress of being on the travel team and "real" life?
- I'm really lucky, I have a lot of support from my family, even through the injury.  They know that even if everything can go wrong during the day, putting on skates makes it all better.

 Do you have a role model in derby you try to emulate? 
-That's a tough one; we have so many amazing skaters on our team.  Kelly Young would probably be my role model, not just because she's a fantastic skater, but she's a quality human being.  Even as we were going in to play our game at Champs, she was texting all of us to tell us good luck.

Enigma was a refreshing interview because she had a great attitude about derby and is proof that you can come back from a majorly traumatic injury and wind up on the travel roster, representing your team at Champs! I know a lot of people go through ups and downs during our derby careers, but seeing someone overcome a major injury like that should give a lot of people hope!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Prosecutor: The NSO with FLAIR!

Photo by Lesley Etherson
Well everyone, if you were at Champs this year, you were told that it is officially NSO-vember, and in order to celebrate the unsung heroes of derby, I decided to interview and write about The Prosecutor.  If you don't know who I'm talking about, you clearly weren't watching Champs this year; The Prosecutor was starting the jams with such authority that often she was the secondary star of the show.  A true pet peeve of mine is when NSOs don't have the confidence to start jams with authority; I have been involved in several games where the jam timer just didn't seem to have the chutzpah to start the jam with a strong whistle and gesture, which makes it hard to know what's going on sometimes.

Not so with The Prosecutor.  This lady knows how to start a jam and let's the WORLD know she is starting the jam and when the jammers are cleared to go!  Not only are her whistle blasts strong, but her gestures are easily read by the crowd, the other officials and of course the skaters.  So, where did this mystery lady come from, and how did she get so amazing at jam timing?  Of course I had to sit down with her and find out what made her tick.

When I finally reeled in The Prosecutor, she had just finished NSOing her second day of Champs, so I was super excited that she wasn't too exhausted to sit down and talk to me.   She is a very soft spoken person, and smiled during the entire interview, which made the interview even more fun.

 How long have you been involved with derby, and do you skate? 
 -I've been skating since 2005, and I'm a founding member of the Houston league.  I got involved with NSOing at the second Dust Devil, because they needed officials.  I read the description of the job and thought "I could do that."-

How did you develop your unique style?
-When I was NSOing, we were in an area where you couldn't hear the whistles on the track, so I added the gestures so the team would know when the jam actually started and the jammers would definitely know when they could go.  I feel like it reassures the jammers when I point at them.  Some of the best practices for NSOs are based on some of the moves I came up with, like the time out call and pointing to the team's bench.  Also, in Champs 2010, the jam timers started taking the pivot line during time outs so skaters wouldn't get confused and think the jam had started.  It was a little intimidating at first to stand facing those skaters, but at this level, most skaters won't run you over.-

Do you NSO in other postions?
-I have, but not at the level I am at jam timing.  I really like jam timing and it is my niche.  I also help organize the NSOs for Houston.-

What do you think about the scrum starts, since you're the jam timer.  Are they confusing?
-Aw, I really liked the pivot line starts, but I celebrate that the sport is not stagnant.  I can't wait to see what changes next.-

Thus ends the interview.
Photo by Lesley Etherson
 Look folks, we all need to have more NSOs like The Prosecutor out there.  She's incredibly dedicated, and strives to make her craft even better.  I know I am a big proponent of training refs, but so many games can be won or lost by improperly trained NSOs.  Time is the third opponent on that track, and if you have NSOs that don't understand the subtleties of their positions, then you won't have a successful bout.  Celebrate NSO-vember by letting your volunteers know how important they are to your league, and how important it is for them to be trained.  Are you training your volunteers?  Do you have a Prosecutor, or a Paris Kills or a Dr. Stats Boy in your league, keeping the jam running on time?  Well, why not?  Take the time to let the NSOs know they have your league's love and admiration!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Top Ten Things I Learned at Champs

10.  There is always going to be somebody in the audience wearing a cape.  At Champs this year, I saw at least two people wearing capes.  What is it about capes people?  I also saw a sock monkey and some girl sporting Loki horns.  You people go all out!

9.  Setting up an interview with Rangeon is awesome, until she's announced as the MVP jammer of the tournament.  After that, I had to wait for every single human being to take a picture with her!  She's so awesome, and she made sure everyone got their chance!

Photo by Lesley Etherson
8.  Sitting on a concrete floor for more than an hour is a no can do in my book.  Good lord I was so happy to be able to get a seat in a real chair for days two and three.  My hat is off to any of you who sat on the floor all day Saturday!  I also have to thank Atlanta for setting up an extra riser between turns one and two; it helped so many backs!

7.   Take advantage of the opportunities.  When I saw someone I wanted to interview, I took the chance to talk to them at that moment.  I also snagged an interview with Amooze Booche by accident because I took the chance to ask her if she was from Naptown.   I'm a shy and reluctant person by nature, so approaching these amazing skaters was a bit daunting at first, but everyone was so open and nice, that I soon forgot about being shy.  Also, that scrimmage on Sunday was FUN!

6.  Always talk to the vendors.  I skate in Reidell's so I make sure I check in with them every time I go to one of these tournaments.  I was super lucky this time, because they gave me free pivot cup replacements for my plates.  Sometimes there are informal recalls in derby, and the supplier will be able to let you know if you need to update your hardware!

5. Sparkly helmets look amazing in person.  The video feed just does not do them justice, but I love the sparkly helmets.  I'm hoping that our team will jump on the bandwagon and get some red sparkly ones soon!

4. You can never drink too much water at Champs.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I was chugging water like a fiend, and I still got dehydrated.  Maybe it was because I was non-stop interviewing people, or the fact that I was screaming like an idiot at the Texas Denver game.  Who knows? 

3.  Nobody looks the same out of their gear and helmets.  After ECDX, I drew a cartoon helmet with a cut out face to carry around and identify people with.  Even with that piece of paper, I was still having trouble identifying people out of uniform.  I want to thank my Facebook friends for spotting people I needed to interview!

2.  You can always see something new in derby.  When I spotted the KC skaters with the tape around their arms, I knew I had seen a story waiting to happen.  I'll be getting more in depth with that when I write my article.

1.  Bonnie Thunders isn't human.  I'm not sure what she is, but I think she's some kind of cyborg or robot.  Actually, I think we need to make a new meme about Bonnie Thunders and replace all of the Chuck Norris quotes with her name.  You know....ghosts sit around the campfire and tell Bonnie Thunders stories.  Bonnie Thunders can cut a hot knife with butter.  Please share your own.

Since I have so much information to sift through, I will be writing about Champs for a while. but I thought it would be fun to share some silly thoughts as soon as I could.