Thursday, January 19, 2012

How's the weather up there? A tall girl's pain.

When I joined derby, I was one of the tallest people on my team; I am six feet tall, and the median height of my team was five foot six.  I felt like Godzilla stomping around Tokyo, and I soon earned the nickname Stiltz.  For the first six weeks of training, all I heard was "you're standing too tall, Stiltz" and "Take smaller steps, Stiltz!"  Now, having been tall all of my life, (I was mostly grown by sixth grade) I am used to the prejudices the world offers to tall women.  Pants and shirts aren't long enough, men are usually intimidated, and don't get me started on the whole struggle with pantyhose situation.  Roller derby really was no different.

During your first year as a tall skater, you are going to have to compensate for your height.  Tall girls have issues with getting low, sprints and smaller stops.  I personally used to find it maddening that someone who was five feet tall was showing me how to do teensy tiny stops, I mean, my feet were longer than her legs!  But I studied them, and studied them, and eventually learned how to do the moves the way my body could do them.  And really, isn't that the point?  Roller derby is a sport where you need all sorts of body types out there on the track, and yet I still felt like there was something inherently wrong in being tall.

Here are some myths I'd like to expel while I'm on my soap box.

 "Jammers aren't usually that tall!  Smaller girls make better jammers!"  I actually heard an announcer say that at a 2009 ECE game!  Thank goodness this attitude is changing; jammers have to be able to block for themselves now, especially with the "derby scrum" starting on the jammer line lately.  At this point, I don't think that anyone would tell Rock Nasty that she's not "jammer material", but there used to be a slight prejudice which has slowly seemed to disappear.  Jammers are jammers...big, little, short, tall.  As long as they get through the pack!

"You're fast because you're tall!"  Well, gee, thanks?  Maybe I'm fast because I'm just fast?  I've never said "You're short, that must mean you're slow!"  Skaters are fast because they train hard and work at their speed; if someone has long legs, then yes, they might have an advantage in a long race, but they have to really work on their quick and short sprints.  All skaters have to make adjustments to their speed and steps based on the situation at, at feet.

"I get hit in the face by you tall girls all of the time because I'm short!"  Well, guess what?  I get hit in the face all of the time too because I've learned to get low.  I've broken my nose, lost my contact lens, busted my lip wide open, and had Velcro rash on my face more times than I care to count.  Everyone gets hit in the face at times, it's derby.  (I'm hoping my mother doesn't read this blog, she doesn't know about the broken nose...yet!)

Some advice from some of my Glamazon pals!
Tall girls are great to hang out with!

Lucy Lastkiss (CRG retired) says: Long legs step over little peeps, easy. Long frames counterbalance in sticky situations. Oh and you can stretch out across the track. Instant intimidation factor!

Rigor Morticia (Blue Ridge Roller Girls) offers: Get yourself a plow stop that can cover half the track...use the gams you were given!   If you can get low and 'scoop' someone with your back/butt, you will take them off their feet.  

Shiv Tyler (Richland County Regulators) dishes out: "Practice hits with a short girl on your team. I know it helped me. Less high blocking!"

Denise MillerLightnin'  (Greensboro Roller Derby) advises:  "Get a good can opener. the added height makes for an extra awesome hit!" A can opener is also called a Johny Crash...FYI

Tigra (Blue Ridge Roller Girls) suggests:  " Practice Skills: Quick feet. Getting low. Keeping those long limbs within your center of gravity (and legal) for balance and agility. Strengthen core - you have a lot to hold up."

Maya Rulz (Tampa) advocates: "Practice your quick stepping constantly. It seems we glamazons are afraid to pick up our baby deer legs when we first start derby. The sooner you get over that, the more agile you are and can feel more comfortable with all of these other amazing tips!" 

I was average height in this photo!  Whoo hoo!
One last thing before I leave you; Rollercon 2011 had a whole class dedicated to "Taking out the tall player."  Be aware that people will see you as a threat or possibly a challenge to knock down.  Also, know that players will chronically low block you; this is the reality of being a taller girl (or guy).  Don't complain, the refs rarely call it, and it will just make you mad if you concentrate on it, so let it go.

And, other skaters have tall and short issues.  Read this blog about tall figure skaters
Just for a giggle.

Here are some funny pictures from Rollercon 2011's Amazons vs the Short Bus
Amazons won....FYI.


  1. Thank you, I've been struggling with my footwork so I like the comments from all the tall players that you included. I have not seen you since I decided I needed to ask you about it. I admire your footwork and wanted to get your opinion on what worked for you and what didn't even though I had plans to try any drills that you may have said didn't work for you.

  2. I will gladly talk to you about anything you need!

    Another key advantage to tall that I've discovered is with partner blocking - sometimes referred to as a pendulum. I have a lot of success with using my longness to kind of windshield wiper people across or off the track using a partner as an anchor. If any one has any doubt about the viability of height in roller derby, please see Sexy Slaydie of Gotham Girls. Love, Ruth Enasia (WCR), 6'1'' off skates and the center gal in the bottom pic.

  4. Absolutely helpful and amaing info, as I am researching for a mixed teams bout where us the Scarecrows (tall ladies) are head to head with the Lollipop guild (guess... the short ones).
    I am 1.74 (no idea about inches and ft lol) and quite broad for a woman (I felt so touched by your description of our everyday problems), and since I started Derby I had the same idea, that being tall wasn't quite a good thing. But I am working in changing it, my mind I mean, not the whole Derby world lol.
    I loved this article, thank you for sharing your experiences!!!

    1. Yea! Tall girls totally rock! Don't worry, the longer you play, the more you will realize how awesome it is to be a glamazon!

  5. Thanks! For the first few months of derby training I thought my middle name was "GET LOWER!" Now I know it is. :)