Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Spoonful of Sugar: GIving derby advice/feedback

One of the most difficult things about being in a young sport is how fast it changes.  What is considered good and sound advice one minute may be defunct the next.  How do you know who to listen to, and when?  When I first started skating in 2009, our league detested the use of toe stops.  We were told "learn to stop without them!"  In fact, most of us skated with toe plugs in place of them for a really long time.  I wonder what the current rookies in our league would think of that advice; everyone is using toe stops now, including our former jam skaters.  In fact, we have made the turn around toe stop a part of our level one assessments, and everyone in the league has embraced them at this point.  Who knows what the future will bring?  Maybe toe stops will be considered verboten again.

If you are a veteran skater, I really do feel that it is in your league's best interest to give feedback to those who ask or are struggling, or to your fellow vets!  In derby, we don't have the luxury of professional trainers and support staff.  A lot of derby is developed through the "Let's try it and see!" method; some strategies work, and some don't, but helping your league improve should be foremost in everyone's mind.  Even though you have the best intentions, sometimes giving advice can be a tricky task to pull off.  Remember, people are physically and mentally exhausted during derby, and feelings are raw.  If you follow the following guidelines, you may be more successful that the advice you give is being well received.

1.  Are you giving feedback, or are you being critical?  It's a fine line, but the difference can be huge to the person you're trying to help.  In your advice, are you using phrases like "You always do such and such" or "You never do such and such."  Extremes like "always" and "never" automatically sound harsh to the recipient.  You could rephrase your advice in a question, like "Have you thought about trying this move?"  Questions come out a lot less negative, and if you don't put the recipient on the defensive, you have a better chance of the person actually listening to you instead of getting pissed off and ignoring you.

2.  Choose your timing.  Are you frazzled and annoyed with the skater/practice/yourself?  If you are annoyed, your timing and tone are probably not going to be the best to convey relevant advice; in fact, you're probably going to alienate the person if you sound pissed or aggravated.  Worse yet, they may never listen to your advice again, even when you're calm because they think you're mean. Also, do you yell out your advice while everyone is listening?  Public advice giving may not be the best way to help someone improve.  First of all, if your teammate is in the middle of a jam, she may not even hear you, and if she does happen to hear you, that means the rest of the people at practice can too.  Would you like to receive feedback in that manner?  Probably you were given advice like this when you were new, but was it the best way?

3.  Don't get offended if they don't take your advice right away.  Some people can glom onto advice right away and apply it to what they're doing at that very moment, while others need to process things.  Your advice might have rocked their world, and they need to figure out how to incorporate it into their playing style without taking four steps backwards.

4.  Consider the advice you're giving.  What may be awesome for you might not work for someone else.  Being six feet tall, sometimes my derby experience isn't going to be relevant to someone who is barely five feet tall, and vice versa.  I don't discount feedback from anyone, regardless of their skating style, or physical body type, but some of it just isn't as relevant to me as it could be. 

5.  Does the person really need you advice, or are you just bothered by something the person does?  There is a difference, and if you're honest with yourself, you will be able to tell.  Try to take your personal issues out of any advice you give, and you will find that you will be much better at helping your fellow teammates!

Finally, I asked about giving advice on my Facebook page, and I think that Shawn Dell-Corley, coach of the Regulators and member of the Wrecking Balls wrote "TALK.... to your teammates and coaches.... no one can solve a problem they don't know about."  Remember, 99.99 percent of all skaters want to improve.  Nobody wants to be a weak link in the team, and they aren't "being slack" or "being stupid and clumsy" on purpose.  I have yet to meet a skater that is happy with her present skill level, and most of us are dying for advice and feedback; just make sure it's feedback and not a bitch session!

Monday, May 28, 2012

A funny apology letter to a derby ref

Ever roll your eyes at a ref?  Ever wave your arms in outrage when they miss a call on an opposing blocker or jammer?  I think most people have had that experience at one point or another.  This a humorous letter I composed to all the refs I've ever given a hard time.


Dear Mr. Zebra,

I am so sorry that I had a random hissy fit on the track last night; I was not myself and I might have made you uncomfortable with my display of annoyance.  For that, I truly apologize, but please hear out my side of the story.

If you don't remember the incident in question, let me review for you.  I hit Skater X out to the inside, and she totally cut me.  Since I was the foremost blocker, she should have been promptly sent to the box.  I know you are aware of this rule (because you called me twice for doing the same thing),  but since you saw it happen and didn't call her for a major, I was a little annoyed and started waving my arms gesturing at where the scene of the crime took place.  Yes, when I fell to my knees and started crying and wailing at the exact spot on the track, it was probably too much.  When I chalk-marked an outline of her feet over the line, that was definitely too much.  I think the last straw was when I offered to get you an eye exam; that was just rude, and I do apologize. (But I do know where you can get an excellent check up, so if you're interested, let me know.)

Now, you need to understand the background of the whole scene; I was suffering from PMS all day, and I think my blood sugar spiked and plummeted from all of the chocolate I was eating before the bout.  I had a new mouth guard in, and it was giving me a terrible headache because I didn't form it correctly; to be honest, it wasn't even my mouth guard, but a teammate's.  I also broke two laces on my skates, and I had to scrounge up a new pair before we started the game, and they didn't match!  Clearly, you can see that I was in a compromised emotional state during the game for very serious reasons.

I hate to take things to a personal level, but please understand that Skater X had been talking smack to me all evening.  She said that I was fat and my booty shorts looked ridiculous, which hurt my self esteem and self worth.  She made fun of my mismatched laces, and the fact that I had a glob of chocolate melted to the front of my jersey.  I also heard her say that you didn't look good in stripes, and I was just trying to defend your honor.  So you see, I felt I was justified in pointing out her egregious and flagrant track cut.

Once again, I do apologize for my behavior on the track.  I also apologize for suggesting that you were being paid by the other team to look the other way.  My coach has had a stern talking to me and I will be starting an anger management course next week.

Skater Z

PS. I heard that someone put a melted chocolate bar in your skate bag.  I apologize for that anonymous act as well, even though I obviously had nothing to do with that whatsoever.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

It's Time to Bid the Honey Badger Adieu.

If you haven't been living under a rock, you've probably seen the internet meme of the Honey Badger and how he "don't give a shit."  I think almost every derby girl on earth seemed to take up the Honey Badger as her very own totem animal on the track.  I've seen some leagues design Honey Badger stickers for "jammer take-outs" in a bout, and there were rumors of a Honey Badger vs. Wolverine ECDX bout.  (It never came to fruition for some reason).  Who doesn't want to be a badass like the Honey Badger?

Well, me for one.  When I think of an animal I want to emulate on the track, the Honey Badger really doesn't readily spring to mind.  Of  course, I want to be a strong and scary player, but the Honey Badger generally hunts alone and is kind of an antisocial.  Actually, the Honey Badger is kind of a dick to other Honey Badgers by nature.  I certainly don't want to wall up with a Honey Badger, or take a whip off of one, and to be fair, the Honey Badger probably doesn't want to wall up with me or help me in general.  Also, the Honey Badger has a really nasty anal gland that it can spray foes with, which doesn't sound that great to me either.  The Honey Badger probably would end up stinking up the locker room something fierce.

Here are some of my suggestions for new derby spirit animals, and some of them are going to sound lame as hell until you see my reasoning.

1.  Be a dolphin.  What?  A dolphin?  The clown of the sea?  Yeah, be a dolphin! Dolphins are incredibly intelligent and agile; they have great eyesight and hearing and are great communicators.  Dolphins are incredibly fast learners, and what they learn and discover, they teach to other dolphins.   Dolphins hunt in groups called pods. They travel together, much like wolves, and when they hunt they swim rapidly around their prey, in this instance, fish. All the members of the family gather together and swim circles about the school of fish and blow bubbles out of their blow holes. This confuses the fish into thinking there's a wall there and they end up swimming in a tight circle. This is when a few of the dolphins break from blowing bubbles and swim through the center of the whirlwind of fish, giving them a meal. The dolphins take turns eating until satisfied.  Also, if you don't think a dolphin is very tough, then you haven't heard how they beat the crap out of sharks...for fun. 

Dolphins are in control of that pack.  Image found here.

2.  Try the Spotted Hyena.  Really Q?  A Spotted Hyena?  Yes, really.  Spotted Hyenas are a pack hunting animal that take down medium to large sized ungulates by wearing them down and out-enduring their prey.  They're fast and they use confusion to cut their prey away from the rest of the herd, and bonus!  Hyena clans are led by an alpha female, and can have as many members as 80!  Plus, they just look tough.

My pack is here!  Image found here.

3.  Channel the Cape Buffalo.  Ugh!  Why would anyone want that to be their derby spirit animal?  They're big and ugly and smelly and they look dumb!  Au contraire, the Cape Buffalo is the most feared herbivore in Africa; because they've had to deal with lions, hyenas and every other hostile predator on earth, they've learned to defend themselves with their sharp horns and heavy hooves.  The Cape Buffalo will absolutely curb stomp the crap out of a predator that tries to attack one of the herd regardless of whether it's a crocodile or a lion.  Cape Buffalo will actually build a protective wall around their weaker herd members and aggressively defend them. When Cape Buffalo are in a herd, very few predators have the balls to attack them.

I wouldn't want to mess with her jammer, would you?  Image found here.

4.  Consider the hippo!  Once again I can hear the groans, but think about it.  Hippos look sluggish and slow, but they are extremely fast swimmers and can run fast on land too.  They are territorial and predators and humans avoid them.  Hippos kill more human beings a year than other predators in Africa, and they often capsize medium sized river boats if they come into their territories.  The hippo seems to me to be the best spirit animal for a blocker, especially one that is holding in the inside line.   Oh yeah, did I mention that they can bite a crocodile in half?  Yeah.  Try doing that, you Honey Badgers.

Slow looking, but fast and nimble!  This is a jammer's nightmare.  Image found here.

5.  Finally, my favorite, the humble honey bee.  Ok Q, you have lost your ever-lovin' mind!  Who wants to be a small bug on the track?  Well, get enough honey bees together and they can sting a person to death.  Honey bees are like minded and react to threats to the hive as one creature.  Honey bees are fantastic at communicating amongst their kind, and the whole hive reacts at the same time.  I love to use the word SWARM out on the track, and it warms my heart when I see my teammates respond as one!

Honey Bees work are communicators and relentless in their teamwork.  Image found here.

I don't really have a problem with the Honey Badger itself, but I like to remind people that derby is a TEAM sport, and Honey Badgers are, well, all about themselves.  Derby is moving away from the superstar, and is evolving into the super team.  It's all about teamwork, folks.  Let's start finding inspiration in those animals who play well with others.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What is the Ultimate Super Power in Derby?

Best 1970's super hero evar..with skates!  Image found here

I'm a nerd, there's no escaping that conclusion; I read comic books and watch nerdy movies.  Often, my friends and I will talk about silly things like "If you could have a super power, what would it be?"  Some of our answers in the past have been "Telekinesis, so I could sit on my butt and change the channel without a remote."  "Teleportation, so I can stop paying for gasoline."  But, when it comes to derby, the ultimate super power really has to be patience.  This is a lesson I keep learning day after day.

First of all you have to be patient with your own development.  I think there is a lot of frustration in derby because skaters become impatient with their ability to hit, or juke, or jam.  Plateauing is a natural part of skills development; at the beginning, skaters seem to be learning at leaps and bounds, but as your skills get better, you make less noticeable headway.  Stay patient, and keep working on your skills, you will begin to notice the improvement, slowly.

On this note, you have to be patient with your fellow teammates.  Not everyone is a born Suzy Hotrod, and you need to remember that no matter how talented people are as skaters, they still need to learn the basics of the game of derby.  Be patient with your teammates; if they don't understand a new strategy right away, don't roll your eyes at them or get disgusted.  Taking the time to help them learn will make your team stronger.

Be patient with new strategies.  Sometimes it's so easy to discount a new strategy because it feels awkward or strange and uncomfortable.  You can almost physically feel the frustration people are dealing with when things aren't working, but it takes patience and perseverance to stay with the strategy and give it a chance.  I've seen it happen again and again, and because I'm NOT a naturally patient person, I have to remind myself to take deep breaths and give the strategy a chance!  It's almost always been worth the time and frustration.

Patience is key when jamming as well; if you don't calm yourself and be patient, waiting for the most opportune time to strike, you can find yourself charging ahead and getting nowhere fast.  I don't know how many times I've been blocking for someone, and I'm yelling 'Just wait one second' while I'm clearing a wall for them.  I think jammers get that fight or flight syndrome when they're running.  They forget that other people are out there trying to help them get through and they panic.  If you can control your urgency, and follow your blockers through the pack, you might be more successful, which leads to less jammer panic.  I'm a humongous fan of less jammer panic...unless I happen to be blocking you.

Patience is not as flashy as super strength, or heat vision, but when it comes to derby, I'm striving to turn it into my superpower.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Don't be a derby dinosaur

Derby is an evolving sport, and because the evolution is developing so quickly, all players are in danger of being a derby dinosaur if they don't keep up with the rapid changes happening in derby. Here are the signs that you might be creeping into being a derby dinosaur territory.

Dinosaurs are extinct for a reason.

1.  You refuse to cross train outside of practice.  Remember the good old days when people would joke that their cross training was drinking beer or partying?  Yeah.  Those days are gone now.  If you're not running, lifting weights, working out, doing Crossfit outside of your practice time, you're not training for derby.  Trust me, you can keep doing nothing to make yourself stronger outside of skating, but just know that there are thousands of determined derby girls working on their endurance, strength and agility just aching to kick your Jurassic butt.

2.  You still smoke, even "just at the afterparty".  Sure, smoking used to be ok in derby, but have you seen what people are doing to increase endurance?  Are you seriously still smoking?  Are you really ready to turn your lungs into the La Brea tar pit? 

3.  You don't want to learn new strategies.  Derby used to be "skate fast, turn left, knock someone down." Those days are done unfortunately.  Scrum starts, backwards skating, crazy apex leaps are the wave of the future.  Are you watching video?  Have you been keeping up with the changes?  Did you catch any of the controversy from the MRDA Spring Roll, or do you bury your head in the sand like an Arabian ostrich?  (Which is extinct, btw)

4.  You don't read the rule book.  I know, you didn't get into derby to read, but have you read the rules?  I've read the rule book many times, and I still discover situations where I yearn to have a walking talking rule book on my team to check.  (Either that or Tripp N. Dale in my skate bag to answer my every little question.)  You can bet that every team that comes up with a great strategy has at least one person on their team who is pouring through the rules looking for every weakness to exploit.  Call them the discoverers of fire, but they're hot on your heels and they are going to burn up the track.

5.  You don't know how to fix your own skates.  That's just sad.  All derby girls should be able to to make rudimentary repairs to their gear, such as changing bearing, fixing toe stops, cleaning bearings and changing out your pivot cups.  Otherwise, you're just waiting for Prince Charming to save you, and that's mixing my metaphors, so stop it!

6.  You let your emotions impact others.  Derby dinosaurs bring all of their personal crap to the track and expect their teammates to make allowances for it.  Do you act like a pouty brat when things don't go your way?  Do you snap at your teammates?   These derby dinosaurs suck the fun out of practices and the games, just like a Jeholopterus, which was some sort of prehistoric vampire bat.  Ha!  See?  This blog is funny and educational!

So, the bullet point of this blog is, don't be a derby dinosaur.  Let's leave all of that crap in the past and keep up with the flat track evolution!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's Easy, just put your lips together and blow: whistle skills

 Every once in a while, I like to tease a ref or a coach who blew his or her whistle and all that came out was a wimpy "squeak".  Believe it or not, blowing a whistle, and whistle maintenance is way more complicated than you would think.  Here is some advice from Percy Q-Tion about reffing and handling your whistle.

Everyone loves attending sports events. I know, because I ref roller derby. It is more than just being around a lot of sweaty competitive people and the concession stands. But the reason fans attend things like this is because it reaches all of our senses. It touches our sense of taste because of the nachos we eat, it touches our sense of touch because of how the seat makes our butt feel, it affects our sense of smell because of how the snacks and the competitors smell, it appeals to our sense of sight because of the spectacular actions we are watching. But the most overlooked point, is how the sense of SOUND is affected.

Fans attend roller derby to watch something but also to "hear" things. They listen to the announcers and DJ because it makes us feel something, but to also listen for the whistles from the strange people that wear stripes Blowing a whistle is not as easy as you think. You will learn this in time, but more in experience by practicing. Yeah, my neighbors in the apartment complex were not thrilled with my practicing. But the following information are suggestions to refs about whistles. You have to remember, that as a ref, that is your most powerful tool/weapon and everyone in the arena/complex where you are, are depending on it.

The whistle recommended by WFTDA is the Fox 40. Of course you can get them online, but that one is available at Dick's, Target, and most other places that have a sports department. My recommendation? Get at least 2 of them. You never know when the one you are using will be filled with drool and you need to switch to another. Also get a lanyard for each individual whistle you have. Yeah, they have the "quick links" to snap on easily, but why not have it ready to go when you only have a few seconds to retrieve it from your bag or pocket? I needed a back up when I actually bit through the tip of my whistle during a bout. That is why I always have a spare in my pocket.

Have a finger grip Fox 40. As an OPR or IPR, it keeps your mouth free to call the minors (until they disappear in the rules) but also be able to QUICKLY blow a major. Fumbling with a whistle that swings around on a lanyard just to make a call consumes time and doesn't always result in you doing your job effectively. I tend to only use my lanyard whistle when I am jammer reffing because it has to be in my mouth to declare LEAD and to call off the jam. Other than that, I use my finger grip whistle. Okay, I know a lot of people will say that a finger grip one isn't needed, but in the bigger picture, using one means I can respond quicker to making a call and not be blamed for affecting the bout. If you only use a whistle that is always in your mouth, how clearly can you talk with it? That is what I've experienced from skaters that said they couldn't understand what I was saying or didn't hear them being called for something.

Learn to blow a whistle. I think that is wrong to say as a description, because you need to learn to CHIRP a whistle. Tripp N Dale from the Carolina Rollergirls taught me more about whistles than I ever knew. You have to use your tongue more than you ever thought possible. Trust me, it isn't a bad thing to have a strong tongue. But, you need to learn how to maximize your chirps. A suggestion about this is to have more water available than you thought you would need, because when chirping your whistle that many times in a very dry arena means you need hydration on the tongue. I've made some very bad whistle chirps because of a dry tongue, and even gotten it stuck IN the whistle because it was too dry. Hydrate. I work with a junior roller derby league and their refs, and have actually taken them outside of a rink to practice how to chirp.

Learn how many chirps you need to make. A single chirp (or tweet) starts the blockers, a double chirp starts the jammers. During a jam, a single whistle means someone is getting a major, a double means the jam ref is indicating LEAD. Four whistles means the jam is over. I call it the Pavlov Theory. Skaters and refs need to KNOW what they hear, not what they see. That is why the audio is so important to understand for EVERYONE on the track. We can't see everything, but rely on our ears to indicate what is going on. But, you have to also understand that you might hear a whistle even though it doesn't apply to you. You have to visually confirm. There have been a lot of times where I was calling a minor on a skater, but she heard a whistle so left the track to go to the PB and I had to call her back on. Please folks, remember, a bout is visually and audio chaotic. Don't blame the refs for all of it.

Even though skaters swivel their heads, they often RELY on what they hear. Your job as a ref with a whistle, is to make the bout as enjoyable and correct as possible. Learn your trade.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random lessons learned in derby

Everyone knows that derby is a topsy turvy world-shaking experience we all live through.  Some lessons we learn are funny, some are sad, some make us question who we are and what we believed about ourselves.  Sometimes we tend to dwell on the serious ones, but the small lessons that make us laugh and make us smile are just as important.  Behold, here are a few of the lighter derby lessons I've learned over the last four seasons.

#1  Tampons, while useful for staunching a broken nose that's bleeding, are not glamorous at all.  In 2010, my nose was broken in a jam, and would not stop bleeding all over the floor.  Eventually, one of my teammates gave me a tampon to put up my nose.  "Are you serious?  I thought that only happened in movies!"  Well, the first tampon didn't fit, and I had to find someone who had "slim fit" tampons.  After practice, my friends took me out to dinner and I then fully realized that "tampon chic" hadn't caught on as nasal adornment.

You checkin' me out, or you just admiring my nose bling?
#2  The Newbie of today might just be the Badass of tomorrow.  Derby has a ridiculous learning curve, and I think people sometimes forget it.  Just because you played against a team or certain blocker six months ago, and they weren't great, it doesn't mean that time has frozen and people are going to stay at the same level.  Remember to work hard, because those baby giraffes are going to turn into Honey Badgers one of these days.

Aw, isn't it cute!  Give it six months and it might be your worst nightmare.
#3  Velcro scratches only seem to show up in the shower.  Ever come home from a practice, strip off your nasty gear and jump into a long awaited shower, only to feel every horrible Velcro scratch make itself evident as hot water hits your body?  I know its petty, but ow!  I hate Velcro.

I feel like I was a scratching post!

#4  Pennies can really derail your skating routine.  Pennies, Skittles, washers, all of these things lurk on skating rink floors and can be unexpectedly disruptive to skating.  I mean, LOOK at a penny, how bad can it be to skate over?  The first time I hit a penny on the rink floor, I swore I had skated over a pencil, or maybe a two by four.  How chagrined was I when I actually found the penny that had practically sent me head over wheels.

Abraham Lincoln hates skaters.
#5  Nobody but you and other derby people get excited in a positive way about bruises.  I know this is shocking, but most people are not thrilled to hear how you got hurt, especially the people that love you.  When I was a kid, I would come home with scraped knees, bruises and cuts from riding my bike or climbing trees; my mother was less than thrilled.  Now that I'm getting some pretty heinous hematomas from derby, my mother is WAY less than thrilled.  "Haven't you grown out of being a tomboy yet?"  Evidently not.  BTW, I do have a derby injury photo album on Facebook.  It used to be way more up to date, but many injuries, so little time.

I often look for shapes in my bruises, like the clouds!
 #6 You don't always answer to your "real" name in "real" life.  I'm around a lot of derby people for a lot of hours, and guess what?  Every once in a while I find myself signing a business email with "Q" instead of my real name.  I have also discovered that I don't know many of my teammates "real" names either, because I think of them as their derby personae.  Honestly, if I learn your real name, I'm probably going to use it on the track, and nobody wants that.

Ok, maybe I'm ignoring him because I don't want to cook dinner.
I know there's nothing earth-shattering here in this blog, but I just thought I'd share some of the silly things I've picked up due to this sport invading every aspect of my life.  Just keep these things in mind when you're at the grocery store and feel the urge to pull down the top of your pants to show your friend your new bruise.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hating My Gear

Ow, rink rash.  Ow, my pad slipped.  Damn, this is the four hundredth time I've tightened my toe stop!  I know that derby is a young sport, but sometimes our gear really lets us down and at all the wrong moments!  Here are a few of the problems I've encountered with my gear.  I'm sure you have had similar problems, and I would LOVE to have a company take our sport seriously enough to design gear just for us.  And by the way, please skip this blog if you don't want to read a lot of griping. 

1.  Toe stops come loose.  I don't care what kind of plate you have, what kind of kind of toe stops you have, they come loose.  You can keep on top of the maintenance, use Locktite or whatever, but it still sucks that they seem to have a mind of their own.  Speed skaters rarely even have toe stops, jam skaters definitely don't, so derby is putting a lot of stress on toe stops. And maybe it's too much for the present design.  I don't know if this could be fixed, but I'd like someone to look into it.

2.  Skate laces fall apart.  I know it's mostly an eyelet issue on your skate.  You do enough one knee drops, and you drag your foot the wrong way and the metal eyelets become razor sharp.  They cut through your laces at the worst time.  I know, "Get hockey laces!"  Blah.  I have filed my my eyelets down with sand paper, and they still cut through the laces every once in a while.

3.  Knee pads slip and fall.  Nothing messes up your knee quicker than a knee pad slipping off out of position and then you land on the same knee.  I started wearing gaskets and Pro-tec knee pads when I was a wee newbie, but I quickly found out that they weren't protecting my knees the way I needed them to; I switched to the 187s, and felt like I was wearing armor, that is until they slipped when I was jamming in my first Dorton game.  I was lucky, because I just got hideous rink rash because my gasket managed to protect my knee.  As my derby thighs grew, and my knees stayed the same width, my 187s began to slip more and more.  I traded up to the Smith Scabs, and within the first month, the top Velcro strap just fell off.  Awesome.  Also. I've had the left knee pad slip down on me and I bruised my knee cap because it took the gasket with it too.  Perfect.  I'm looking into Pro Design knee pads, but at this point I'm just annoyed with derby knee protection.

Dear Smith Scabs, please stop making pads that fall apart in a month.  Sad face.

4.  Elbow pads slip, and the Velcro never stays put.  This happens to me a lot and I end up duct taping almost all of my pads so they stay put and the Velcro doesn't get a chance to attach to someone else during scrimmage or a game.  At first, I had the Pro-tec elbow pads, which seemed to stretch really fast and start sliding down or twisting out of place, so then I got the 187 elbow pads.  I thought they were perfect until I fell on my elbow and it actually split the skin open.  Ever want to know what the inside of your elbow looks like?  It's pretty gross.  I'm now using Triple Eight branded elbow pads, which seem to fit better, but the Velcro is still an issue for me.  By the way, duct tape ain't cheap either!

5.  Wrist guards have all the issues.  I used my Pro-tec wrist guards for a long time, but I have narrow wrists and the velcro has always been an issue for me.  Sometimes it attaches to random people, sometimes it just attaches to my uniform and slowly destroys it.  Sometimes the "leather" around the bottom brace rips and the brace falls out.  Triple Eights I have now seem to be doing ok, but the Velcro still has a mind of its own.  I've pondered the Atom Gear wrist guards, but they don't have the top brace on them, which means all of the small bones in your wrist are at risk.  Since I'm a designer by trade, I kind of need to be able to use my hands to make my living, so I'll stick with the Triple Eights for now.  But dammit...they aren't perfect!

Don't get me started on helmets...that really is its own blog.

I will probably get a few replies to this post from people who are absolutely in love with whatever gear they have right now, and I am happy for you!  Really!  Please share what works, because we all have different body types and skate differently.  I'm just sharing my frustrations with gear.  I understand that we are pushing this gear past what it was designed for, but that's why I wrote this blog.  I want companies to look at derby as the unique sport it is.  You can't expect to get the best protection from gear that wasn't designed to take the beatings we give it.  On this note, I've decided to approach the Industrial Design School at NC State to see if the professors and grad students would be interested in taking on this challenge;  I think it's going to take experts to really investigate the design of our gear.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Overnight derby trips! Such fun....such a hassle.

This weekend my team and I went up to Boston and Maine to play some awesome derby games.  Even though this wasn't my first overnight derby trip, it did remind me of some of the things I've learned over the years about flying to a derby event.

1.  If you snore, please bring your hapless roommates earplugs.  They may choose not to use them, but you need to provide them.  Sometimes I snore, especially after my sinuses get dried out on a plane, or I'm really really really tired.  I bring earplugs for myself and my roomies, and I also bring my ipod with my headphones.  It tends to help me drift off when I'm having problems getting comfortable.

2.  Bring Benadryl.  I am one of those people who take a while to get comfortable in a strange bed, so I bring Benadryl to make me sleepy.  It tends to work in about a half hour, and it is non-addictive.  I also tend to run the air conditioning fan just to block out ambient noises that most hotels have.

3.  Get a good skate bag that can fit all of your gear, uniforms and anything you need for the game.   I use a Reidell rolling backpack model when I travel; you can find it here. I also pack a change of underwear in there and anything else I can cram into the compartments to make it through a weekend.  I will say that I have managed to fit all of my pads in there, my helmet, uniforms for two games, socks, spare wheels, and spare clothes in that bag, so I highly recommend it. Going through security is always interesting when you're carrying your skates, but I have made three trips so far and haven't been stopped yet.  I also tend to ask people who are checking luggage to take any skate tools I may need, that way there is no question that security will confiscate anything.

This is just some of the stuff I had in my skate bag.  No, I'm not taking a picture of my underwear.

4.  Try to book on similar flights as your teammates; it's a lot more comforting to fly with your team than to fly alone.  Some of my teammates are really afraid of flying, so every flight can be an ordeal.  It helps if you're there to hold their hands.

5.  Also, try and book your flights with some time cushions.  You don't want to be arriving within a couple of hours of your game; be smart and plan for the worst.  Three of our teammates had their flight delayed for five hours due to mechanical issues, and I'm so thankful we arrived the day before the game.  It gave us breathing room.

6.  Try to get a ride to and from the airport if you can.  Parking can be a hassle, and super expensive.  See if you can split the pick up and drop off with someone else's friends or family.

7.  Do you know who and how to tip?  Valet parkers (1-2 dollars per car), shuttle drivers (1-2 dollars), sky caps (1-2 dollars per bag), waitresses (15-20%) and taxi drivers (15-20%), should be tipped.  At the hotel, you tip the bell boy if he takes your bags to the room (1-2 dollars per bag), tip the front desk if you ask and receive a lot of extra attention from them, and tipping housekeeping at the end of your stay is nice too, especially if you were giant pigs (1-10 dollars per night).  Oink oink.  And no, leaving your left over alcohol in the mini fridge does not count as a tip.

So there are my tips for airline travel for derby.  If you have any, please post them below!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

To the injured, a letter

It seems like derby takes a lot out of our bodies; I've seen so many derby girls get injured, not just hurt, but injured. We all cringe when we find out someone got broken in practice or a game; every player knows that the chances of the same thing happening to us are very real.  We play an extreme sport; I often describe derby as football on wheels, without as much protective gear.  People are going to get hurt.  In the four years I've played this game, I've gotten a broken nose, a severely sprained ankle, a broken finger, meniscus tears and a cracked sternum.  Each one of these injuries took me out of the game, and sidelined me for a while.  It sometimes is a struggle to come back from these injuries, mentally, physically and emotionally.  Below is a letter I wrote to a recently injured skater.  It might be a good way to start talking to others about your injury, or start talking an injured skater who needs a friend in her corner.

Bionic Bash-

Hey girlie...I heard you made quite an impact at practice! I'm sorry you are hurt, and I want you to get better and stronger. I know that right now you're worrying about derby, but you should be concentrating on healing just for healing. We have to live in our bodies for a long long time, so take care of yours and work on the rehab they give you.

I don't know if you read the Scream Weaver blog entry that she wrote for me, but in the next couple of days, reread it again.  Here it is.

It is ok if you cry, if you're sad, if you're angry about this injury. ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE OK! Don't feel guilty about being mad or sad or whatever! You have every right to feel whatever way you're feeling at the time. Don't let people tell you to cheer up unless you want them too.

Looking ahead, you will be bionic. There are several pick up teams of bionic players that play at Rollercon and ECE...and play banked track challenges. Just to name a few bionicas...Susie Hotrod, Roxy Rockett, MC Fyte, Eris Discordia, Daisy Rage and Ballista Blockheart. You are a strong human being, so please remember that.

Just because you aren't skating now doesn't mean you have to leave derby. You don't. Be a supportive person...hang out...enjoy the activity! Sometimes just being around people who are excited and happy helps heal us.

I hope they're giving you awesome drugs!