Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Derby Pet Peeves: Part the First

So, I was tossing around the idea of writing a blog about derby pet peeves, which was mostly going to be about aspects of the game I didn't really appreciate, like slow derby.  I innocently posed the question on Facebook, and my inbox started blowing up!  Now, the funny thing about that is that my alert tone on my phone sounds like it something from Silent Hill, and I was in public most of the morning.  The bad part about this response is that there are a lot of frustrated derby folk out there, and a lot of them are more than a little angry about some things in derby.  Hopefully, by airing out some of these gripes, we can make the sport a little less frustrating!

And in no particular order.....

1.  "I don't jam."  I'm sure this irritates coaches and players and captains in every league; you hand the jammer panty to someone and they say those three, little, annoying words.  When a coach or captain hears them, they almost have a rage stroke and want to punish the person who said it somehow.  I know it's tempting to to bench them, or force the panty on them anyway, but take a deep breath and consider what these words actually mean.   For most people, these words mean "I'm scared to jam" or "I suck at jamming and don't want to let my team down."  I would probably compare the fear of jamming for some players to the fear of public speaking for most people; most people rank the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death.  What?  Yes.  Most people would rather face the prospect of death than be EMBARRASSED by screwing up a public speaking situation.  Jamming is the same fear for a lot of players; they don't want to screw up, and the don't want to be embarrassed by being shut down for an entire jam, or worse yet, go to the box for something stupid.  Of course, there are those freaks of nature who love to jam, and I thank the derby goddesses for creating those people, but for most it's a little stressful.

So how do we fix it?  Well, it might come down to how your league views practice; what are your expectations at practice?  Do you foster an environment that allows players to try and fail, or do you have an environment where people are snide, snap judgements are made, and feedback is mostly negative?  If there is a lot of snarkiness and eye rolling at your practices, I wouldn't want to jam either.  In fact, I wouldn't want to step out of my comfort zone at all.  Think about if your league allows players to fail, to screw up, and to learn; if it doesn't, then don't be surprised by people refusing to jam.  If you feel like your league fosters learning, and you still have people saying "I don't jam", then maybe make it a policy that every practice everyone will jam.  Constant exposure might make the fear more tolerable, and the next time you hand them the panty, you might just get a groan instead of downright refusal.  Hey, it's start, right?

2.  Yelling at the refs.  Hoo boy, who hasn't done this?  I know I have, and it's one of the things I've been working on for a while now; I think that reffing derby is one of the hardest things I've ever done on the track.  It's confusing, and fast, and you have to worry about fifty things at once!  I know this in my rational brain, but sometimes that derby brain kicks in, especially after I really disagree with a call, and I say something.  Of course, I usually immediately regret it, but sometimes it's out before I can stop it.  It comes out of frustration, which is a constant thread in this blog entry.  People are feeling the pressure of their penalties, and a lot of skaters are trying to correct their actions on the track; if they've really been concentrating on not repeating their offending behavior, and they get called for it, they are going to feel frustrated, because they feel like coaches and captains are noticing when they screw up.

So how do we fix it?  Well, first of all, we the players need to STFU while we're on the track.  That's step one, and it is the hardest.  Just shut it and go to the box, even if you really feel like you didn't commit a penalty.  Talk to your coach or captain about the call when you return to the bench.  Let them bring it up to the refs if they see a pattern.  Keep a notebook by your water bottle, and vent in there; just shush!  Also, if you really have a question about why you were given a penalty, you can ask the refs after practice or the game.  They may not remember the situation exactly, but if you approach them in a calm manner, they most likely will be willing to discuss it with you.

3.  People wearing Tutus and glitter.  GUILTY!  I have a derby tutu, and I love it.  I also wear pink furry leggings and sometimes shiny silver pants.  Of course, I wear these items during certain games, like invitationals or home teams vs home teams; I tend to "dress more sport-like" when I'm playing in more competitive games, out of respect for my teammates.  Some people don't like it when you "dress silly" and I can respect that, but it doesn't make me any less of an athlete.  Are you going to give Demanda Riot crap about her warpaint?  I'm not, but I'll sit back and watch you do it.

If your league really has an issue with players "being frivolous" in what they wear, adopt a total uniform.  Teams are starting to "normalize" normalize their uniforms, especially during competitive play; it's better to blend in as much as possible, including helmet colors, jerseys and bottoms.  Our captains always tell us what uniform we are wearing, including leggings/bottoms.  The one thing I do ask is that you don't hate on someone for wearing something silly once in a while; the fans love to see a little flair out on the track, especially the little girls who look up to us like we're super heroes.
I've also rocked the stars and stripes while reffing.  Photo care of TCP Carolinas

4.  Drama.  Booooo.  I hate drama, as does every person who answered my Facebook question, yet it persists in almost every league I've interacted with.  Hmm.   Here's the problem with drama; being a human is dramatic.  We love to gossip and clique together, and what's more exciting than gossiping about other dramatic humans?  We spend a lot of time together, putting a lot of effort into something we all love, derby.  Drama is going to happen.

So, how do we fix it?  First of all, the fix has to start with you.  The only person that you can control is YOU; are you gossiping?  Stop it.  Are you listening to gossip or repeating it?  STOP IT.  Listening to gossip is just as bad as spreading it.  When you're at practice, are you focused on derby, or are you socializing?  Socialize after practice; at derby, it should be mostly business...sweaty sweaty business!  Maybe people will notice and follow your lead.

Whew.  Those were just four of the pet peeves that got listed as answers to my question on Facebook.  I'll post another blog about pet peeves later because they're STILL COMING IN!!!!!  Remember, we all do feel passionately about this sport, so don't let the pet peeves overpower the fun you have!  If these pet peeves irritated you....quick!  Everyone look at this cute baby goat video!  Everyone happy now?  Good.  Go and skate!


  1. That is by far the cutest baby goat I have ever seen.

  2. I don't jam, I would love to but my body (and sometimes my brain) isn't built for it. Simply put, your don't ask a football guard to go in and quarterback.

    1. Jamming can teach you to be a better blocker. So doing it in practice will help you.

  3. I never like to jam but at some practices we will have a "everybody is jamming" night.. I think I don't like everyone focusing mainly on me and I'm not a very good jammer (I don't have 'quick feet'). But every time I've jammed I've done well! Our coaches make us all jam because they want us to see what the jammers go through and how hard it is when your blockers don't help you out too well. And making jammers block so they can see what blockers have to go through. It's good to have that little reminder sometimes.

    I have yet to yell at a ref. I've helped out with reffing once and it was so ridiculously confusing to me that I vowed to never yell at a ref about a call. But it doesn't mean I haven't seen things or been sent to the box for things I don't agree with, I just say them to myself. Lately at practices we will have a "Learning moment" where our refs will take time to explain what happened and why the person got the penalty for it. It helps :)