Friday, June 29, 2012

Hunh? I just don't get it.

Ok.  There are things in derby I just do not understand; I'll admit it.  Some things I actively think are stupid and should GTFO of the sport, and some things just baffle me about skater culture and derby.  Below is a list of things that I just don't understand.  Maybe you can explain them to me!

1.  Sore winners.  Whaaaaaaaat?  Are you kidding?  I've seen teams that are ahead by 100-150 points and they are exhibiting behaviors like screaming at the refs, or flipping out at their teammates.  I often wonder if some people just can't enjoy a win.  When I see a team melting down during a crushing win, I start cheering even harder for the underdog.  This is one of those things I think should GTFO of derby!  Please don't explain why this happens, just make it go away.

2.  People who care about what color their wheels are.  Uh....maybe this is a leftover from when women are trained to match their handbag to their shoes, but I couldn't care less what color my wheels are.  I could be skating on purple, blue, green or orange wheels, depending on the surface conditions I'm skating on at the time.   I've heard people say they only buy pink wheels, or they won't buy pink wheels, or ugh!  Pink wheels!  Who cares?  If the wheels I like only come in pink, I'm buying them.  Weirder yet are the people who take the time to dye their wheels!  Every once in a while I see posts on Facebook about dyeing wheels, and how awesome it makes them look.  I'd rather be spending my time cleaning my bearings than dyeing my wheels, but whatever works for you ladies and gentlemen!  If you have time to explain this to me, I'd love to hear the reasons why you care.

3.  Why every ref does equipment check completely differently.  Just recently, I played in five challenge bouts at ECDX, and every ref checked equipment in a different way.  I don't mean that they did it in a different order, it was a completely different inspection each and every time!  I guess it wouldn't baffle me so much if a couple of the refs didn't seem so angry that we weren't sure how they wanted to check out gear.  "Arms up first!"  Sorry dude and dudette, the last three refs didn't want our arms up at all.  Also, slightly unrelated, but still a part of equipment check, why do our helmet straps come loose constantly?  I always have to tighten mine after inspection, and sometimes that means the day after inspection!

4.  Women that skate half naked.  We've all seen them on the track, women like Holly Wanna Crackya, Vicious Van Go Go and Holden Grudges.  They are awesome skaters with smokin' bodies, but I'd still want to have more coverage in case I fall down.  Rink rash doesn't care how pretty you are, it loves to feed on skin.  But, I don't condemn the urge to skate that way, I just wonder about it.

5.  Skaters who don't care if their wheels or bearings are making noises.  This one might belong to the  "Q is crazy and hates hearing her wheels" category, but if I'm hearing a squeaky bearing or a strange noise from my wheels, I instantly wonder if my bearing is seizing up.  Trust me, before the next time I skate, I will have investigated the reason for the noise.  I think that some skaters follow the philosophy of "If I ignore it, eventually it will go away" and never look into it.

6.  Don't Stop Believing.  Why?  WHY!?  Why is Journey such a staple in derby?  Please explain it to me with using phrases like "It's awesome!"  I often wonder why derby girls have the same musical tastes as a middle school dance in the 80s.

7.  You people are still smoking?  Damn.  I was really baffled by that at ECDX this year.  It seemed like 40% of the ECDX population was outside smoking between games.  This needs to GTFO of derby, because that is just STUPID.  Stop smoking!  You play a sport!  You need your lungs!  The thing that floors me about this situation is that you all know it is killing you, but you do it anyway!  STOP IT!  Don't explain this to me either, just stop.

And just for fun and unrelated....another derby card.
Now, this one I can totally explain.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lessons Learned and Reaffirmed at ECDX 2012

Well, after two days of recuperation, I can finally look back on the weekend and consider some of the things I learned and relearned by going to ECDX.

1.  Always watch the Philadelphia game.  Philly may not be my favorite team (this year it's Rose City), but they always are trying something new in the game.  This weekend was no exception.  In their game against Texas, Philly tried something new for scrum starts.  Texas would line up on the jammer line, and Philly would take the pivot line, kneel down and face Texas; when the whistle blew, Philly would run back to the Texas wall, turn around in unison and wall up in front of them.  I didn't think it was incredibly effective, because both teams were getting awarded lead jammer status, but hats off to them for trying something new.

2.  Smart bench coaches can win games.  During the Boston AZRD game, it came down to the last jam; Lil' Paine of Boston got lead, but Atom Matrix broke the pack too.  Because Lil' Payne listened to her bench coach, she burned the clock down correctly!  You could tell she was tempted to make points instead of just skating outside of the pack, but her bench coach did not want to chance her going to the box.  Trust your bench coaches!  Sometimes they know better than you do!

Boston vs AZRD
3.  Derby girls are tough as hell.  Speaking of Lil' Paine, I saw her take a terrible fall on the small of her back, get up and skate through the pain.  The people closest to the track could hear her saying "Ow ow ow ow" and it was heartbreaking.  I admire her for pushing through the pain and finishing the game on a high note.

4.  Penalties will bite you in the ass.  Over and over, I saw teams destroyed by penalties; it happened in the Montreal/ Charm City bout, and in the Philly/ Texas bout.  People were in and out of the box so much, I thought they were going to get dizzy.  You may be a badass on your team, but if you constantly get booted from games because of penalties, are you really helping your team?  We all need to work on our penalties, stop talking about it and get it done.

5.  You need to have the trifecta of great footwork, awesome transitions and amazing endurance.  Watching the games from the weekend, all I could think was "Damn, derby has really evolved into a game of stopping and starting on a dime." Sprinting, and then stopping.  Practice it!  Also, you may have the best footwork ever, but if you can't keep skating because you're tired, then you aren't a jammer or blocker your team can count on.  As awesome as the "Pegasist"was, it can't replace the trifecta.

6.  Amazing derby is completely mind numbing.  Unfortunately, after watching three great games in a row, I actually forgot to eat dinner.  By eleven o'clock I was feeling pretty sick and I couldn't figure out why until I realized I hadn't eaten anything substantial since twelve o'clock.  Oops!  At least I was drinking water and staying hydrated.

7.  Sometimes you need a break from derby.  I started Saturday at 9 that morning, played in two challenge bouts, watched the Quad Squad whoop the Boston B team in a third bout, and then decided I needed some pool time.  It was nice to splash around and talk to people about "normal" stuff for a couple of hours before heading into a marathon of watching derby.  Our league takes a couple of small breaks every season from derby, and I think it's a healthy practice to follow.  Every once in a while it's ok to say no to derby, and yes to everything else.

Plus, it's fun!

8.  Montreal has dedicated fans.  There was neon everywhere!  I think it's really great that Montreal has become the perennial fan favorite of the extravaganza.  Also, Plastic Patrick announced one of my challenge bouts, and may I just say I was impressed by the fashionista!

Montreal has super fans...and not all of them wear neon.

9.  It's hard not to buy all of the gear!  I really needed to save my cash this weekend, and I did it!  There were so many great vendors there and I was so tempted!  Unfortunately I have this issue with gear in general, so it is an ongoing fight for me.  I start thinking about new wheels, and then I find myself looking at plates, toe stops and everything else under then sun.

So there they are, the lessons learned and relearned at ECDX this year.  If you didn't go this year, you really need to try and get there next year!  Maybe we can caravan!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The perfect item to have to identify derby folk!

So, I was running into people at ECDX this year and I couldn't place the name and the face sometimes.  I decided that having the derby ID card would have been a huge help!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

For fun.

A lighter hearted blog after Monday's serious one.  You can find the original here.
I have several people I'd like to send this to.
And a bonus one because I will be on the road on Friday.  Original found here.

Occupy the pivot line.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Roller Derby Didn't Save My Soul

Everybody who has been in derby is familiar with the song, "Roller Derby Saved My Soul."  If you don't, you need to check out a bit of derby history here.  I've seen the stickers, looked at the shirts and and have read the testimonials on Facebook and Twitter about how derby has saved people's souls.

I'm not going to lie, roller derby didn't save my soul.  My soul was firmly ensconced in my body and I had plenty of things in my life that gave it meaning before I tried out for derby.  I joined derby because I was interested in learning something new, skating, and I wanted to compete in a really intense sport. 

Recently on FB, I saw this photo post.  I wish I could remember where I originally saw it, but it has become a meme for derby folks.
Everything in this picture is true about derby, and it is true about every other sport people love to play.
A lot of derby peeps are posting this picture and vaunting the fact that they feel that derby is not just a game.  I disagree.  Derby is a game; it's one of the most exciting games I've ever played, but it is just that, a game.  Since 2009, I've been training to play an amazing sport; it has rules and skill sets.  People all over the WFTDA and USARs have been striving to make derby a "recognized legitimate" sport,  (I put quotes because it IS a legitimate sport) and we are all close to seeing this happen.  I find this incredibly exciting!

Unfortunately, I feel like some derby folk are sabotaging this goal by making derby a special case.  Considering derby as anything else than a sport at this point in its development opens up leagues to a lot of unnecessary problems that other sports teams do not have.  I firmly believe that the level of drama would drop if we all started to treat each other more like sportsmen and women, and less like "family".  I know that is a difficult concept for a lot of people, but think about it this way; you may have up to 100 people in a league, or more.  How many people like EVERYONE they've ever met and want to be best friends with them all?  It's not realistic.  Don't get me wrong, I have met some amazing people in derby, but I would have gotten along with them outside of this sport too.

If we can start thinking of ourselves as teammates instead of families or sorority sisters, we can all behave in a more professional manner and leave the back biting and ridiculous drama issues out of our sport.  I love love love derby; stop by and talk derby with me, you might get bored before I do.  But, it is a sport.  It's not a magic fix to your life, it's not a higher and noble cause anymore than any other sport, but it is a hell of a lot of fun and I would love to see it continue to be that for everyone.

Just my two cents. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Some survival tips on going to ECDX

It's officially a week away, and I know that droves of you are heading up to Philly to participate in ECDX!  For some of us, this trip has become a yearly ritual, but for some people, this will be their first visit.  Here are some survival tips from several awesome and seasoned derby folk.

1.  Bring a great attitude & be ready to meet awesome people like you that challenge you. (Lucy Lastkiss)  Networking is becoming more and more important in our sport, and ECDX is one of those events where you are able to network with so many people!  I met people from Chicago and California and Texas; where else would a little ol' skater like me meet those kinds of folk?

2.  Bring every team shirt with your name and number on it.  (Dixie Diesel) Challenge bouts are often looking for people to fill in spots.  If you have good timing, the right colored shirt and your number on it, you have a chance of playing in a bout that you weren't planning on.  Yea!  

3.  You need a chair or something to sit on.  (Paris Kills)  Yes, sometimes there are bleachers, but seats fill up, and having a butt pad or something to sit on makes watching all of that derby more bearable.

4.  Bring buttons or stickers to swap with other skaters.  (Dixie Diesel)  Yeah, that sounds silly until you realize that this might be your best chance of getting a Texas Rollergirl button straight from Texas skater! girl moment.

5. Notebooks are awesome.  (Dixie Diesel)  Yes, there will be a quiz!  Seriously though, ECDX is a great time to get ideas from other leagues and bring them back to your own!  Because there will be SO much derby to watch, you need to take notes to remember all of the strategies and keep them straight in your head.  STEAL ALL THE STRATEGY!!!!  Yeah, I said steal.

6.  Cell phones should go on airplane mode in the sportsplex. (Lacey Williams)  "To avoid running your powerful smart phone's battery down, put it on airplane mode while you're inside and then go outside every once and a while to check messages. I promise you that this is a winning solution because you won't get any texts, emails or phone calls inside but your battery will be drained as your phone searches for signal. plus your phone is just a distraction from the amaze balls derby..."  She speaks the truth...something about the sportsplex kills most cell phone reception, so bring your charger and resolve to check your phone ONCE IN A WHILE.  It might help you break your cell phone dependency that so many of us have.

7.  Hydrate!  Bring water and snacks for the sportsplex. (Sasha Morrigan and Holly Wanna Crackya)  There will be food at the plex, but it may not be food you want to eat every day for every meal.  If you're driving to Philly, bring food!  I'm heading to Costco this week and picking up mega snacks like almonds and cashews and coconut water (gag).  I have always found it best to plan to stay at the event site all day and bring every thing I've ever needed, and only go back to the hotel to sleep.

8.  You need  pair of shoes you can slip on & off easily but that protect your feet a little.  (Jenna Klauk)  "Cuz you're in and out of them all day (b/w skating, swimming & spectating), the venue is jam-packed, and you will have your hands full all the time."  Good point.  You need to protect your feet, and you might be in and out of your skates all day long.  Comfy slip on shoes are a must.

9.  Bring something to do during down time, like knitting.  (Kat A Killzem)  Derby derby derby!  Sometimes you need to step away and take a little time out to mentally recharge.  I suggest doing your mental recharging by the pool if possible!  ;)

10.  Bring some cash.  There are going to be a ton of vendors there, and who can resist the smell of new gear?   

11.  Bring a bathing suit, a hat and sunscreen.  (Every single human being who answered my call for ECDX advice)  ECDX has a fun pool scene; enjoy it!  I'll be rocking my crappy PBR baseball hat and board shorts this weekend; come say hi! 

12.  Bring a sanity check.  These events are fantastic, and sometimes overwhelming.  People get tired and they don't sleep well, and blah blah blah.  Sometimes we just need people around us who remind us why we do derby.  (Hint, it's because it's FUN!) My sanity check is Beth Row and I hope I'm hers!

There she is, my sanity check! 

Are you excited yet?  I am!  I can't wait to make that crazy drive and experience ECDX this year!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Breaking through the plateau

A lot of skaters get extremely frustrated because they don't seem to be getting better with their skating; they've plateaued and aren't being played on the rosters like they used to be.  Here are some tips to up your game and conquering your plateau.

10.  Show up to practice.  People who get better at skating, skate! Yes, some people are naturally gifted and can magically perform a pivot block, but most of us need to work on it.  You can't become better at skating if you aren't wearing skates and practicing!  It always bugs me when I hear someone complain about not getting better or getting recognition when they can barely make one practice a week.

9.  Watch footage! If you don't know what's good footage to watch, ask someone!  If you're not watching footage of the top leagues in the WFTDA, then you have no idea what to strive for.  Also, you should be watching yourself if you can.  If your league records games and practices, it helps so much to get footage of yourself and watch to learn some of your habits.

8.  Celebrate small victories. When you first start skating, improvements often come quick and are accomplished in big steps.  Unfortunately as you keep skating, improvement slows down and you make less showy progress.  Your standards are higher now, so remember that when you're working on precision, you need to take the time to celebrate your small victories.

7.  Never let skating defeat you.  Sometimes that's easier said than done; derby can really play with your ego.  Remember, derby is like any other physical activity.  You will hit plateaus in your training, but if you keep trying, you will break through them.

6.  Enjoy learning new things.  Learning new things keeps us from getting mentally fatigued and worn out.  This last derby break, I even tried to learn some jam skating moves; I sucked at them, but it made me realize that there is always something new to learn in the world of skating.

5.  Chart your successes and your goals.  You need to document your goals by writing them down, and write down your successes!  When you are feeling down and unmotivated because you are frustrated, having your successes in a written form can act as a good reminder that you aren't completely hopeless!  (And you aren't, unless you aren't coming to practice...I kid...not really.)

4.  Cross train!  Derby cannot live by skating alone.  Ride your bike, lift weights, crossfit....whatever!  Just do it!

3.  Stalk other skaters.  You know you have skaters on your league that can do amazing things on wheels, so why aren't you stalking them?  Ask them for help, ask them to show you what they do, or if you're embarrassed to ask, then watch them do their thing.  (Just don't follow them home)
2.  Push yourself.  You're not going to get out of your slump or plateau if you don't push yourself.  Do you have a bad turning side?  Is your plow stop weak?  Conquer them!  Nobody else is going to know what you need to work on but you!

1.  Don't compare yourself to others. There is nothing, NOTHING that sucks the motivation out of a skater than comparing yourself to someone else.  You are a unique skater, and you will always have something to work on, so give yourself a break and be the best "you" you can be.

You can totally break through that plateau!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Don't feed the derby drama monster.

Drama.  It seems like it's unavoidable in most leagues.  Is it because derby is a drama magnet?  Probably not; most groups of people have drama involved with them.  I've been a part of plenty of organizations that have drama, not just derby.  Most likely drama happens because you get to know the people in your group TOO well, which applies directly to derby! So, how do you minimize the impact drama has on your derby experience? 

Don't let this disgusting thing mess up your league.

1.  Tart of Darkness suggested that your league do things that are drama free.  Their league gets together and plays Rock Band and goes swimming.  If your leagues are too big for that kind of get together, offer several, or do it by teams.  A couple of years ago, the Bootleggers went to the State Fair as a team; the most dramatic thing we did was compare gross fair food that we ate!

2.  Communicate face to face and not behind someone's back.  Many people gave this advice when I asked for feedback on Facebook. I know it seems scary to approach people about an emotional event in derby, but it is much better to be upfront with people than griping behind their back.  Also, if the problem is serious enough to gripe about, it should be serious enough to try to fix.

3.  Treat derby more like a casual work place and less like a family when you're at practice.  If you're at practice, you should be talking about derby, techniques, strategy and maybe aches and pains.  You shouldn't be talking about how Skater XYZ is a bitch.  Let's face it, you may not like your co-workers, but you have a common goal; treat derby that way.  You're not going to love every single human being in your league (and that is OK!), but you need to learn how to tolerate them. Also, if you have the time and energy to talk crap about your leaguemates, then you aren't working hard enough!

4.  Keep the drama off of Facebook.  Don't call each other out on Facebook!  I know it's funny to watch flame wars between members of another league, but really it's not the best place to air out your league's dirty laundry.

5.  Don't get drawn into drama.  We're all human, and we like to talk about other humans, so I understand how easy it is to get suckered into drama.  The greatest thing about derby is the fact that we have wheels on our feet; when the drama monster tries to suck you in, slowly roll away!  We're all accomplished enough at skating to manage to back away from conversations without drawing too much attention to ourselves.

6.  Miller Lightnin' suggests that if you screw up, apologize as soon as you realize it!  In her words "Crow tastes better when it's hot!"  I would rather apologize right away if I've done something wrong, but conversely, please don't be one of those guys or girls who sulk or make you wonder "did I do something wrong?"  That's just passive aggressive BS and it should stay outside of the league.  If you find yourself sulking in the corner and wanting people to tiptoe around you, either talk to someone about it, get over it, or go home for the day.  Energy is contagious, and your league doesn't need that kind of crap; be respectful, don't ruin it for everyone else.

Now of course, you're not going to be able to avoid all of the drama in derby, but you don't have to contribute to it!  Don't feed the derby drama monster!  It gets plenty of meals out of us already!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Taking a break from derby: The long and the short of it

"I can't, I have derby."  Sound familiar?  Ever look at your calendar and think "How am I going to get all of this done and get to those three games, watch that awesome tournament on DNN, get my volunteer hours in, make the league meeting and cross train?"  "Oh wait, I have laundry, work, cleaning, dentist appointments and family time to squeeze in there too?" "How am I going to do all of this?"

When we joined derby, most of didn't think that it would become the time eating monster that it is for most of us.  Yes, we were all warned when we first joined the league that derby was a lot of work, and a lot of time; I'm pretty sure none of us really understood the level of commitment derby can be.  Four years later,  I have come to the realization that the derby monster has pretty much eaten my life.  Just recently I had a long talk with myself and decided that I was going to take some time for my real life.  Instead of traveling up to Richmond to see my Carolina Bootleggers play in Richmond, I stayed home and worked on art, cleaned the house, did the shopping, and went out to eat with non derby folk.  It was weird and wonderful at the same time.  I felt a little guilty, but as the weekend progressed, I felt like I was regaining my center as a person. This next weekend, I'm back in the derby travel mode; our team is taking on the Chicago Outfit in Chi-town.  I think I'm ready to spend another weekend immersed in derby; if I hadn't taken this mini-break from derby, I don't think I would have been as ready.

It eats your time, and money, and knee cartilage, and sometimes your self esteem.

Sometimes you have to take some time off and get away from derby;  whether you're taking a weekend off, an afternoon, or you need to take even more time, it is important to renew the connections to your "real life".  It's important to remember that you aren't a skater 24/7.  Nobody's derby career is paying the substantial bills, or will last a lifetime.  It's your job to make sure that after derby, or A.D. you have a life to return to!  I am lucky that I have friends and family who understand my addiction.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Grain of Salt: Taking derby advice and feedback.

"Stop hitting me in the face!  You always do that!"  I cringe just thinking about someone yelling this at me. Being butthurt is no fun, but I think we all experience it at some point or another in our derby career.  Someone gives you feedback while you're on the track and it hurts your feelings.  Ugh.  We've all been there, and it sucks, but with a little distance, we might learn something from the unwanted advice we just got.

1.  Consider the source.  I like to pretend that everyone who gives me feedback has my best interest at heart, but that isn't always the case.  Sometimes people have a bad day on the track and get irritated; it could be that you have done something to irritate them, but it might have been a legal something.  Keep your cool and sort through the advice givers. 

2.  Develop a thicker skin.  Sometimes people are not nice when they give feedback; derby is a harsh sport, and it doesn't always bring out the best in people.  Feedback is often given through clenched teeth (or clenched mouth guards) in the middle of the track.  This is not an ideal time to receive feedback, but it might be the only time you get it!  Take a deep breath and fight the urge to answer back with more negativity. If someone says "You're back blocking me!" don't answer with "You cut the track too much!"  I either say "OK" or nothing at all.  You shouldn't ignore feedback from the track, but you shouldn't let it crush your soul either.

3.  You will get conflicting advice.  Derby is different for everyone, and everyone has a different perspective on strategy, style and stance.  Keep your mind open to new ideas.  If you get conflicting advice form people, measure it and take in what works for you.  Remember that derby is constantly evolving and if your don't keep your finger on the pulse so to speak, you get left behind.

4.  Not all advice is for your present abilities.  Sometimes people give you advice or feedback that you cannot use with your present abilities.  Don't get frustrated, but keep it in mind for the future.  You will get better! Eventually that advice you got a long time ago will come in handy when your abilities are at a higher level!

5.  Ask people you trust to give you specific feedback.  If you can ask someone you trust to give you feedback before scrimmage starts, then you have a chance of getting focused feedback.  If you come up to someone after and ask "Hey, did I forearm anyone?" the chances are you will get "Uh, I wasn't watching you."  as your answer.  Useless!  You want to get the best feedback, so ask your observers to look for something specific ahead of time!

6.  Write down the feedback you receive as soon as possible.  I think it is a great idea to keep a notebook by your gear and then write down the feedback or advice you get right there and then!  Having a written record let's you know if there are trends you should look at in your playing.  Also, with the adrenaline we all experience, our memories don't always hang around long enough for us to be calm and introspective about the advice we received.

That's crappy advice too...helps nobody!