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!