Monday, July 30, 2012

Stuff I like: the Pimp it blog

I'm a derby skater, just like everyone else out there, and occasionally I find gear that I really really like.  Most of the time I just stumble on my prized gear by accident, which can be super frustrating, especially after how much money I tend to spend on my gear.  Sometimes it seems like I have to buy ten crappy things before I find stuff that's worth the money!  I always try and share my discoveries with friends so please share your discoveries in the comment section of this blog.

Danger, danger....high voltage!
My first derby find has to be my Nutcase helmet.  When I need a new one, I'm getting a white one like the one here. I have tried many different kinds of helmets over the years, especially because your brain is the most important piece of your derby equipment, and I want to protect mine as much as possible.  When I was researching helmets last year, I read about the Nutcase helmet and decided that it was probably going to give me the best protection I could get without getting a hockey helmet.  The strap has a magnetic catch, so I never pinch hair or skin in it, and I love the adjustable strap on the inside because it passes ref inspection every time.  Here's what Nutcase says on their site, and I have to agree with the description.  "The Crossover comes with an injection-molded ABS shell, Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) protective inner foam for high impact and multiple impact protection, four sets of removable low-density polyurethane foam insert liners for comfort and for refining fit and it comes in two sizes: S-M (48 cm-54 cm) and L-XL (55 cm-61 cm). This helmet also comes with Nutcase's revolutionary MAGNETIC BUCKLE for easy, one-handed operation and no pinching!"
Nutcase helmets run about $60.00 on their site, but you can find them on Amazon for fifty five dollars.  Dear Nutcase helmets, please let me be a spokeswoman for you!  I <3 you!  (PS....I want a WHITE one please!)

Protech mouth guards, another love of mine.  I wrote about them in my mouth guard care blog, which you should read and then you'll want to throw your mouth guard away.  I love Protech mouth guards so much because I rarely ever have a tough time talking with them in, and I never leave it in my helmet because it stays in my mouth for the whole practice.  I like the white ones because in pictures they make my teeth look really white and even; people who wear the black ones look crazy, but if that's your thing, do it!  Protechs come two to a bag, and cost $40 dollars if you order from them directly.  Now, the good thing is you can get them for a little cheaper at derbylicious!

Finally, I would like to pimp Cheezeball bearings.  After making a terrible purchase of Qube bearings, because the dealer didn't have any 7mm bearings (darned freaky plates), so I went on Facebook and bitched and moaned about the crappy bearings.  Friends heard my call and got me in touch with the creator of Cheezeball bearings, who actually sent me two sets to try out.  I was shocked that anyone would be that generous, and I told him I would put them through their paces and get back to him about the outcome.  Cheezeballs come in three styles, Cheddar, Gouda and Swiss.  Swiss is the highest end, and Cheddar is the more basic.  Zack sent me a set of Gouda and Swiss.  I put the Goudas in my wheels and gave the Swiss set to Elmar Alexander Ashman who is a speed skater coach who works with the CRG at speed practice.  You can see him in action here.  (He's wearing the light blue speed outfit.)

After using the bearings for a couple of months, I fell in love with them.  They felt great from the very first time I skated with them, and Elmar said that the Cheezeball bearings were as good as any he's ever used and will definitely keep them in his racing rotation.  When I switch out my plates and have to buy some 8mm bearings, I'm buying more Cheezeballs in the future!

Feel free to shoot them an email at
This is their website  and according to description Zack sent me, "Cheezeball Bearings was founded by Zack “ Zackeroni N’ Cheeze” Johnson, a longtime referee for the Jacksonville Rollergirls, to find the most durable and long-lasting bearings for the lowest possible price, and to pass those savings along to the men and women that make Derby so freakin’ awesome.  Derby wrecks stuff. It’s a well known fact. We all spend way too much money every year on gear that seems to get smelly, rusty and torn up in a matter of weeks. And that’s the GOOD gear! Have you ever taken a chance on a neat set of pads, cheap no-name wheels or some lightly used plates only to have it all fall apart or not work as advertised? I have, and it really sucks."

I want to scream, "Yes!"  All of us have bought clunker gear, and it really is a terrible waste when it happens.  Derby costs so much money already, that when you buy something that sucks, it almost feels like a double slap to the face.  When I buy derby gear that doesn't meet basic expectations, I get super irritated each and every time I have to use it.  I almost celebrate when the perpetrating item finally needs to be replaced, and I swear I'm never going back to the company that "burned" me.  Because I so rarely have had derby gear that has gone above and beyond expectations, I don't get to sing the praises for the things I like very often.  So YEA! for gear that lives up to what it says it does!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Care and Feeding of a Zebra

Referees.  You can't have derby without them, and yet they might be the most abused people in our sport.  Some refs come into this sport as spouses and significant others of skaters; some refs just want to volunteer and help.  Sometimes these happy volunteers get turned off and soured by the way skaters treat them or worse yet, demand too much from them!  We'd all like for our refs to show up to every practice ever, train at every offered training ever, and memorize the rules without ever ever making a mistake.  We judge refs harshly at times, even more harshly than we judge other skaters, and because of behaviors like that, we are losing key volunteers.  Remember ladies and gentlemen, it's a LOT easier to retain people than it is to find new ones and start the training process all over again.  So, how can we keep them?  Please read the tips below and ponder how your league can make the reffing experience better for all involved.

 Picture courtesy of SyFy Chanel (Little City Roller Girls)

1.  Make sure they feel appreciated by the league.  The first time I saw a league publicly thank the refs who were at the bout was when Montreal lined up after the game and shook their hands.  I thought that this was extremely classy, and I've always made sure to thank the refs who come to our league's practices.  If you have an award ceremony at the end of the season for your league, please include the refs.  Also, show them a little love at bouts and get them a goodie basket with water and bananas and such in it. Let them know you are aware that they are essential to the success of your league.

Kam N. GetIt from the Camel City Thrashers took this at the Lazy 5 Ranch.  Who wouldn't want to keep a zebra around?

2.  Keep your practice schedules consistent.  Referees are taking time from their schedules to help out your league.  Most refs want to be present for scrimmage or skrills.  They don't want to show up to a practice where you're doing team bonding, or mental training, or just endurance.  Remember, their skills need practice too, and for them to make calls, they need to see a scrimmage type situation happening.  It's awesome if they want to show up for the other practices, but you can't expect them to spend the time and gas money to show up for every practice.  That's a SKATER's job, not theirs.  I know that sounds kind of elitist, but it's true.  They are doing this job to help you have fun; they don't get the same kind of glory you do from it.

3.  Limit their responsibilities.  I know there are a lot of leagues out there that expect their refs to put down the track at practice or on game days.  Really?  I FIRMLY believe that is a skater job.  Learn to be self sufficient people!  Some leagues demand that refs serve on committees as well, which could really burn a referee out.  Think about what you are asking from your volunteers, and maybe reevaluate some of your league rules.  "That's how it's always been done" is not a cogent argument against overloading your refs.

4.  Train them.  If there is a training in the area for referees, please encourage them to go!  Encouragement could come in the form of "The league will pay X amount towards your training if you promise to stay with our league for the season."  I'm not saying you have to pay for everything, or even ask for a time commitment, but it may be considered an investment in your league's success.  The better informed your refs are, the better your training is going to be. Also, does your league have a mentoring program for the refs?  You should.  On that same note, encourage them to ref with other leagues and train with other refs.  The more experience your refs get, the better they will be.  Practice makes perfect!

From the recently held ref clinic.  Tripp n Dale explains pack definition.

5.  Let them eff up.  Remember when you were a rookie skater and you back blocked the crap out of a veteran skater?  Veterans expect rookies to do stupid and illegal stuff out on the track because they're learning.  New and even seasoned refs are always learning!  Remember, this game changes every year, if not every month!  I know it sucks when you get called for something you really didn't think you did, but instead of yelling about it on the track, try and hold your comments for later.  The heat of the moment may not be the best time to give anyone feedback.  Yes I'm guilty of this as well, but I'm trying not to make anyone feel bad for doing their job.  It's a daily struggle, but we all can get better at it.

6.  Encourage retired skaters to think about reffing.  Hey, who knows how to skate and the game better than retired skaters?  I understand that not everyone will want to take up the stripes, and not every retired skater is going to be a good ref, but it might be an option to explore with your league.

7.  Don't date them.  Uh oh.  Controversy.  But once again, if someone comes into the league as a non-partnered volunteer, it might be a good idea not to date them.  What happens when a skater and a ref break up?  DRAMA!  You might lose the ref, you might lose the skater, or you might lose both of them.  I know that we spend waaaaay too much time with our leagues, so it's natural to date within derby, but really consider NOT doing it.  Sometimes the easy choice is not the right choice in the long haul.

I'd like to thank all of the officials who weighed in on the question I posted on FB about this topic.  Every time we keep a trained ref interested in derby, we are doing the sport a favor.

Tart of Darkness is a happy, healthy and well trained ref!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Inspiration to Jam

If you're like me, you get a little nervous when your bench coach is holding the jammer panty and looking for volunteers.  Here are some motivational words to help you quell the fear a bit.  You can download it here.

Rollercon 2012! I'm jealous you're going and I'm not!

So you're headed to Rollercon this year!  Congrats!  It's a great experience and it's one I think that every skater should have in his or her skating career.  If you take advantage of the classes and seminars while you are there, then this will be an extremely informative trip for you.

I went to my first Rollercon last year, and I felt like it was a baptism of fire for derby travel for me.  For the first time since I had joined derby,  I had to deal with bringing my gear on a plane, which was awkward and a little anxiety laden for me.  (See my blog entry about derby travel).  I'm a control freak, so packing was an ordeal for me.  I probably packed too many clothes, and if and when I go back to a future Rollercon, I will pack fewer articles of clothing and more food.

Things you should pack:

1.  Your skates and gear.  This should go with you on the plane.  Never check your gear and skates!  Find a great gear bag where you can put everything you need to skate, plus your black and white shirts with your numbers on them.  Also, pack your necessities for one day, like underwear, socks and your tooth brush.  I know you don't want to be disgusting for the five days at Rollercon, but you're mostly going to need black and white shirts with your name and number on them to participate in the classes.

2.  Food.  Pack food for breakfast if possible.  Pack dry snacks like protein or breakfast bars, nuts, dried fruits, whatever you might need for snacks.  The most expensive part of Rollercon for me was buying food, and breakfast is not provided by the Riviera.  If you can get a car while you're there, find a grocery store off of the strip and stock up on food.

3.  Swimsuit.  The pool, or as I'd like to call it, "Derby Soup" is great, especially at night.  Personally, I found the pool too hot during the day, and I was too busy going to classes to hang out and burn in the Vegas sun.
The pool was a great way to relax at the end of the day.

4. Black and Blue "formal" wear.  The Black and Blue Ball is held outside by the pool.  People really do it up, and I saw everything from sailor outfits, to full body suits of zebra stripes.  I rocked a blue and black tiger striped mini skirt and a black shirt for approximately 20 minutes before I went back upstairs and changed into my swim suit and stayed in the pool for the rest of the event.
It was so hot I ditched the outfit for swimwear.
The more eye catching your outfit is, the better.
Little black dresses are boring; be more creative, like this lady here.

5.  Space.  Hunh?  Space?  Yes, you need to have room in your suitcase for items you buy at Rollercon.  Don't kid yourself, you will buy stuff.  There are so many awesome vendors there that you really will want to stock up.  Definitely drop by the Sin City Skates booth!

6.  Pen and paper.  Take notes after each class to help keep the lessons from turning into a jumbled mess in your brain.

What to expect:

1.  Heat.  It's hot in Vegas, even at night.  You will need to drink lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of water.  Did I say lots enough?  Drink more.  The hotels are dry because they have mega air conditioners, and duh, it's the desert!  Even when you walk out of the hotel at night you will feel the dryness in the air.  Bring water wherever you go, and if you decide to drink alcohol, know that you will have to drink even MORE water.

2.  Lines.  I was shocked by the lines to check in at the Riviera.  Maybe everyone arrived at the exact same time, or the Riviera is just slow about checking people in, but it took us an hour to check in.  I was pretty grumpy by the time I got to the desk, but the room was really nice, and I never heard the people next door to us.

You will also have to wait in lines to get access to certain classes.  I don't know how they will be handling that this year, but last year you had to get a ticket and wait in line for each class.  The more popular classes have lines that start waaaaaaay before the classes do, so plan accordingly.  Also, make sure you have your Rollercon pass and driver's license with you at all times!  You will not get into the area without them.  Also, be prepared that once your class is over, you will be asked to take off your skates.  The hotel is very adamant about NO SKATING inside.
Waiting in line for a class.

3.  You're not going to make every class you want.  Sometimes you have to juggle the schedule, or sometimes you're just tired.  Being at Rollercon is a WONDERFUL experience, but it is overwhelming at times, so it helps if you have a buddy who can cover some of the classes you couldn't make.  Beth Row was my travel buddy, and she and I divided up the classes by subject matter; she took the jammer classes and I focused on the blocker classes.  When we got back home, we shared our notes.

This was on the the outside of the and my buddy.

4.  There is always something going on. Rollercon is a full on experience, with classes, seminars, games and social events; add to it the fact that Vegas never stops.  You can go down into the casino at 7:30 in the morning and see people gambling; sometimes you need to take a break from derby and Vegas.  Just remember that you're there to learn and experience new things.  I did see a lot of people basically treat Rollercon like a full on vacation, which seemed like a waste of time and money to me.  Don't be one of those attendees who decides to do Vegas instead of Rollercon.  It's got to be easier to go to Vegas WITHOUT your skates.  Remember why you're there.  Go and enjoy Vegas, but concentrate on your skating interests.
Go see the Bellagio fountain show at night.  It's free and happens every 15 minutes.

And the showgirls will walk the Strip for pictures!
5.  Men in tights.  Rollercon is dangle friendly, and they will be playing in most of the challenge bouts, so if that isn't your cup of tea, be ready to bow out of your bout.  Also, be prepared for men sporting the Iron Doll lift and separate shorts.

I'm jealous that I can't go this year, but I'm happy for you for taking this step to further your derby education!  Hopefully I'll be attending again next year!

Some links to check out, if you haven't already.

Fun bout to watch in a fun space.  Vagine Regime Sky Box

Scavenger Hunt details.  More info here

Reidell Luau info here.  Also, their jam skate crew will be teaching classes at Rollercon this year.  Go and learn something new and expand your brain.

Vegan friendly restaurants are here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Vegetarian in Derby: It is possible!

I am not a vegetarian, but I have often wondered about derby girls who were.  Spaghetto Fabulous of the Low Country High Rollers guest writes this blog to answer some of my questions.

I’m a derby girl. I’m also a vegetarian. Yes, you can be both.

Spaghetto Fabulous Photo by Badjon

People outside the sport have said to me “How can you be a vegetarian? I thought derby girls were supposed to be tough!,” as if my decision not to eat animals somehow makes me a wimp. A meatless diet does not make me any less aggressive, competitive, or focused when I am out on the track.

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 10 years now, so I’ve been veggie for a lot longer than I have been a skater.

Going vegetarian was a slow process for me, and it started in my early teens when I decided I just didn’t like the taste or texture of steak and ground meats. Then, the fetal pig dissection in biology class my freshman year of high school permanently destroyed any desire to eat pork products. I continued to eat fish and fowl, but really considered becoming a vegetarian since I am one of those sappy, bleeding-heart animal lovers. But, being a notoriously picky eater still living at home, I didn’t want to add any more stress for my parents who were already frustrated by what I wouldn’t eat. When I left for college, what I did and didn’t eat was completely up to me. Having just finished a grilled chicken sandwich before my cross-campus walk to art class, I decided “eh why not?” and gave the whole vegetarian thing a try.

My friends had mixed reactions: support, confusion, apathy. My parents were not on board with it (I remember my mother just saying, “Megan. Why would you do that?” over the phone), but I think after nearly a decade, they are finally kinda-sorta okay with it. My dad does still ask me if I “eat meat yet” every time I visit them for dinner, however.

I have always been active in sports, and my mother main concerns was I was going to become unhealthy, iron-deficient, and lethargic. I actually found the opposite to be true. While many of my friends came home with the “freshman 15,” I actually lost weight. Being a vegetarian has made me more aware of the types and quality of foods that I eat, and has also put me more in tune with what my body wants and needs. Being totally meat-free isn’t for everyone (and I mean that as a statement, not some snooty “I’m better than you” kind of thing), and some people just don’t do well on that type of diet. The cool thing about vegetarianism is that you can make it your own. There are actually a few vegetarians in my league, all who have their own variations on the diet. I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means I eat eggs and dairy, but no meat. And yes, I do consider fish, chicken, and seafood to be meat. That’s just my personal thing though. I don’t think meat-eaters are bad people, and I certainly will not moo at you while you enjoy a hamburger.

One of the biggest challenges for vegetarians in derby, and in any sport for that matter, is eating healthy while on the road. It’s easy on short road trips where I can pack my own food, but it gets more difficult on longer trips that go several days. Where an omnivore can grab a grilled chicken sandwich or other lean protein at pretty much any fast food place, healthful and filling vegetarian meals are harder to find. Just because something is meatless doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. Yes, things like pizza, French fries, and onion rings are all vegetarian, but they are not smart choices to have before a bout! Many places have salads, but personally, I don’t feel that salads really make a meal. I may not eat meat, but I also don’t want to just eat a plate of leaves. Whereas some people can get fueled up just on fruits and veggies, I’ve learned that my body needs some protein and complex carbs to feel energized.

I usually end up at Subway, which I don’t like all that much because I feel like their limited selection of vegetables are meant to be little garnishes for the sandwich meat (shredded iceberg lettuce – ugh!) and not the bulk of the sandwich. You can add more “value” to your sandwiches by bringing some of your own protein sources, like cooked black beans, quinoa, or hummus spread. It makes your sandwiches tastier too!

Being a vegetarian athlete is not impossible, unwise, or unhealthy. You just have to do a little extra planning to make sure you get everything your body needs, especially on game day.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Derby Butt Hurt Complaint Form

I was reminded of the butthurt meme the other day on Facebook, and I decided that we needed a derby butthurt form.  This was done in jest, but I have seen all of these behaviors and hurt feelings happen in derby at some point.  I think we all have to remember that not everything that happens in derby is personal; sometimes it has nothing to do with you.  I once heard that all feelings are valid, which I agree with.  My point is that not all feelings are rational and need to be acted upon.

Here is the pdf to download.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Men in Derby: The Elephant on the Track

Just posting this caveat as a reminder to everyone who gets easily butthurt, this is my blog and my opinion only.  Thank you for not getting your panties in a twist over an opinion.  Open a dialog about it!

A long time ago, on a Facebook page far far away, I asked a question about what derby folk thought we should call mens' derby: merby, broller derby, merby?  It opened a flood gate of people opining on everything from what to call it, to the role of men in derby.  At the time of my first posted question, I was still becoming aquainted with the whole concept of men's team, so I backed off of the topic and decided to do my own investigation.

The first time I saw men's derby in person, I was at the 2009 Eastern Regionals, and the men played a game in between bouts.  I was still fairly new to derby at the time, and men playing derby felt like an oddity to me; I'm not going to lie, but I approached the game like I was going to the circus, which was unfair of me, but it was how I felt.  When the guys got out on the track, my first thought was  "Dear lord, they take up the whole track just by skating!" As the game progressed, I thought "They hit a lot using their shoulders" and finally "They don't seem to have very good endurance."  I'm not saying any of these observations from a rookie skater were accurate, but that's just what I thought, and as soon as the bout was over, I promptly forgot about the guys and watched Philly beat Gotham.  Epic.

Fast forward to 2011 when a men's team started up in Raleigh, called Collision.  A few of our male volunteers, refs and various boyfriends became interested in skating in this fantastic game we all love.  During our league's break, I decided to see what the guys were doing and participate in their practices.  I mostly was curious, but I also wanted to keep my skills up while we were off for six weeks and I had a list of skills I needed to work on to get up to snuff on my skating.  At most of the practices, I saw men who wanted to learn to skate, suffer with newbie injuries, and have the need to build up muscles that they weren't used to using. In other words, they were skaters learning what derby is and what it can do to your body, just like every woman I've seen go through the basics of derby.

Shocking: they're just like women.  (They might smell a little worse though)
Don't they look excited?
As I've worked more with the guys, they have improved in their skills and dedication.  They talk derby, talk skate maintenance, and talk cross training.  Quite a few of our men skaters travel over an hour to make it to practice, and set up other skating opportunities when they can't get a rink to themselves. Many of these same skaters pull double duty with the women's leagues in their areas, by reffing, setting up the track for bouts and doing NSO duties.  They watch the women skate and try to learn as much as they can from their games; they're hungry to learn from us, just like our newbies are.

So why do some women feel threatened by men in derby?

Many women in our sport declare that "This is the one sport that is our own!  Let the men play the other sports!" This may be true, this was a female dominated sport, but guess what ladies, men have always been involved with derby.  Men are reffing us, coaching us and just helping out at practices and in games.  Men are NSOs, announcers and fans.  Without men in derby, we would have a lot of holes to fill, and I'm not sure every league could pull off putting on a bout without them.  They do a lot of work, ladies, and in my humble opinion should not be treated like second class citizens.  The very concept of derby is inclusive, so why are people making men an exception?

The other argument I've heard about men is that they tend to be able to jump more and excel at derby at a faster pace than the women who train to do it. Well, then I say we ban anyone who can skate well before they join derby!  That includes speed skaters, jam skaters, ice skaters and figure skaters, which is ridiculous.  If someone is progressing faster than I am because of natural talent or prior training, I say to myself "Dammmmmn..." and then I try harder.  We all need to be trying harder; competition is what makes this sport progress.

Finally, I think the real reason women are concerned about men's derby is the fact that they think more people might consider it the more legitimate form of our sport, merely because men are involved.  I don't have the answer for this concern because men's derby isn't as developed as women's derby, and let's face it, women's derby is still working on being accepted as a popular sport.  Women's derby has a cult following at this point, and it is slowly gaining a foothold in popular culture.  I can understand why some people might be worried that the men would overshadow the women; personally, I don't think this will happen since women have been dominating in the sport for so long,  but only time will tell.

My parents have seen a total of four derby games since I've been playing; they've watched a local team play, me play twice, and  Collision play the River City Rejects.  When I played, my dad was excited that I was "hitting the big girls and knocking them down."  My mom was disappointed that I didn't jam.  When they saw the local team play, they thought that it was funny that people fell down in general.  When they watched the Collision game, they also liked that people got knocked down and fell over each other.  Imagine that, there is a common theme here; my parents like to see people fall down and get knocked down, which is probably a pretty common thread in non-invested roller derby fans.  I'm guessing it doesn't matter if the people taking a spill or male or female to them, they just like mayhem.

So, is there room in derby for the dangles?  I believe there is.  I'm not saying you have to support the men by coaching or reffing or even watching them, but don't make this wonderful sport into an exclusive and bitchy sorority.  Have faith that you are an athlete and what other people are doing shouldn't impact you or your league.  At this point in time, there are leagues who follow the WFTDA, MRDA, and OSDA.  Some leagues are experimenting with the USARS rules, while others have gone to renegade derby. Don't forget about banked track!  Men's derby is just another facet of our growing sport, and facets are what make the gems sparkle.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Do I have to? Refocusing your derby motivation

When I was a newbie skater, I was so excited to go to every practice.  I don't think I missed one practice all year, including speed practices.  I couldn't even fathom other skaters not wanting to be at every skate practice ever!   But, as I grew from a newbie, to a rookie, to a seasoned veteran skater, I no longer was obsessed to go to every practice.  After a while, I was still super excited to go to derby practices, but speed practice became a struggle; my body would hurt after each speed practice, and sometimes the ache would bleed over into the next day's practice, which began to dampen my enthusiasm.
This is an homage to Hyperbole and a Half  She is a funny funny lady, go visit her site.
It's hard to keep your motivation going, especially if you are plateauing in your training.  Unfortunately, this can be a vicious cycle where you find yourself stuck at a certain level, and your frustration rises while your motivation tailspins out of control.

So, how can you shore up your motivation?  How can you keep your newbie enthusiasm in your veteran brain?  Below are some tips to keep you going and keep you yelling "All the practices!"

1.  Really answer the question "why do I do this?"  If the answer to that question is "I don't have anything better to do tonight" then maybe it's time to find a new hobby.  If you're just going through the motions and showing up to practice because "that's what I do" then there is no wonder your motivation has taken a powder.  Find a reason to be there.

2.  Find a role model and try and surpass her.  I call these people "stalking horses".  My whole goal at times is to find someone awesome in my league and try to do what she does, only better.  Do I ever tell my target I'm stalking her and her skills?  Hell no.  It's really none of her business and probably won't impact her, until it's too late.  Mwah ha ha!

3.  Remember that skating is fun!  Sometimes I chant that really loud when I can feel my motivation bottoming out, and I can feel the frustration of other skaters at practice.  It sounds corny, but skating is fun, and that's half of the reason why I was even mildly interested in derby in the beginning.  Of course I became addicted immediately, but the fun of skating is what prevails.  Try it one practice..."Skating is FUN!  Skating is FUN!"

4.  Throw a temper tantrum in private.  Remember when you were a kid and you didn't want to go to the doctor, or school or whatever?  Well sometimes I look at the practice schedule and see "Toe stop drills all practice" and I just want to throw a tantrum.  It's ok if you do it in private.  Seriously, just whine out loud and stomp your feet, throw your hands up and cry, yell and pout.  Feel a little better?  Good, now move on and get your gear packed for practice.

5.  Find a buddy to keep you motivated.  There are certain skaters that just make me happy that they are at practice; maybe it's their sense of humor, or their smiles, but I know that if I'm working with them in a drill, I will feel better about practice.  Teammates can be a great motivating factor to keep you coming to practice.  Also, don't forget, you might be somebody's reason for showing up to practice too.

6.  Take some time for yourself.  Maybe you're burned out and you need to take some "you" time.  Sometimes missing a practice can give you a break and let you refresh and refocus yourself.  Most of us feel guilty if we miss a practice, but there are days when you need to be a little selfish.  Just make sure to come back refreshed and ready to put your all into it the next practice!

7.  Watch footage and become inspired.  Who wasn't inspired by the "Pegasist" or the amazing skating going on at ECDX this year? Challenge yourself at practice and see if you can become the next inspiration for someone else!

So remember, when you're trying to dredge up the motivation to get your butt to practice, just remember you've come a long way baby, but you have further to go.  Now get up off of the couch and get ready to sweat.

Monday, July 2, 2012

“It’s Not You, It’s Me” What Retired Derby Players Want Their Former Teammates To Know

This excellent blog post was submitted to me by Red 'Stang of the Circle City Derby Girls.  If you've ever wondered about what it is like to retire from derby and how said retirees would like to be treated, here it is!

Dear Active Roller Derby Players,
Once upon a time, I was just like you: my world revolved around roller derby. Every single day my body and brain were obsessed with practices, gear, strategy, stats, travel plans, committee work, and boutfits. I ate, slept, breathed, and lived derby… it was fitness, fun, camaraderie, and therapy all rolled (pun intended) into one incredible package. Like you, I gained so many valuable things from derby that I couldn’t imagine ever quitting — ever! Then things changed. I retired, and found that derby still had some very important lessons for me to learn. With much love and respect, on behalf of all past and future retired derby players, I’d like to share them with you.
Red ‘Stang, #289 (retired)
Circle City Derby Girls

Red 'Stang!

Things To Remember About Your Retired Derby Brethren
We Needed To Retire
We don’t want to retire! But for whatever reason, we’ve been forced to make that decision. Some of us suffer injuries that prevent us from playing — some so early that we never even get to bout! Others realize that we just aren’t cut out for derby due to health problems, lack of skills, or emotional reasons. Still more just find that life has intervened and needs more attention than derby can allow. Jobs change, babies are born, finances shift, bodies protest in pain. Regardless of our reasons for retiring, remember that we had to make that choice based on our own lives, not yours. We spent long hours reflecting and weighing the pros and cons, and many of us feel guilty for leaving vacancies in the league, especially if we handled a lot of tasks. It hurts — a LOT, physically and emotionally — to say goodbye to such a huge part of our lives. Some of us even retire, return, and retire again. Ever notice that sometimes even big-name pro athletes do this too? There’s a good reason. We’re not trying to be a pain, truly… it’s just such a tough decision to make that we may need the comparison in order to truly commit to retirement. We aren’t wussies or quitters! We’re intelligent people who are aware of our own need to re-prioritize when necessary. Please support us for caring about our own well being, and don’t spread gossip about our reasons for retiring, even if we don’t share them with you.

We Didn’t Quit You
It's not personal. (Well, usually.) Derby demands huge personal investment, and staying on your game safely and skillfully means being able to focus without distraction. There comes a time for each of us when that just isn’t possible anymore. Please don’t take it personally. We miss you! (Sometimes we even miss those we didn’t like, because you challenged us to grow.) Very few of us wish to leave our derby families permanently. If you miss us too (and you know you do!), invite us to skate at public sessions or open practices, call us up to have dinner, a few beers, or just to chat and share the derby love.

OK, Maybe It Was Personal
Nobody wants to admit it, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Shove a bunch of alpha types into a DIY outfit that requires working, competing, traveling and just plain getting along together six or seven days a week while playing one of the most violent sports ever invented and well… shit happens. Not everyone can handle the stress and strain, and people erupt like volcanoes. In extreme situations, sometimes a skater is asked or forced to retire, and that’s hard on everyone. Maybe we’re able to smooth it over and continue contributing in some other way, or maybe we have to remove ourselves from derby entirely, at least for a while. We don’t hate you, and really hope that you don’t hate us. Try to keep league BS to a minimum and prevent this from happening, but when it does (and it will, unfortunately), take the high road. We didn’t join the league to cause trouble, and we’re sorry for how it turned out. Bad-mouthing any player, ref, or league isn’t OK, ever — it hurts us all — and don’t we have enough bruises? 

We’re Still the Same Awesome People

Quickly list the shared traits of your teammates. Did you use the words strong, smart, confident, and talented? Well, guess what? Retiring from derby takes the same amount (or more!) of those traits as playing does, and we are not the sorts of people who make frivolous decisions or allow ourselves to stagnate. Retiring frees up enormous amounts of time that we can now use to attend to things we may have neglected, and also to tackle new and different adventures. We’re proud of our derby careers, and hope that you’re proud of us, too, whether we were MVPs or second-stringers, refs or volunteers. Have your league founders retired? Know that we sacrificed our own time, money, reputation and sanity in order to get those wheels rolling, likely long before you joined. Whatever our roles were, please let us know you appreciate our contributions: list retirees on league websites, give us a shout-out when we attend bouts and events, remember us in league histories. At the risk of sounding trite, respect your derby elders. We skated the same rough trail, and being acknowledged means a lot to us.

We Aren’t “In the Loop” Anymore
We aren’t on the league forums and aren’t privy to what’s going on all the time. We might not be as interested in rankings, scores, or stats as much as we used to be, and probably have other things we need to do besides gluing ourselves to DNN. Please don’t be offended if we don’t realize that you had a bout last weekend or a big event coming up, or even if you got hurt — we can’t know unless you tell us. Include us on the invite lists, and when we can, we’ll come cheer you on. When we can’t, we’ll appreciate the thought. And when you’re laid up in traction while all your teammates are at RollerCon, call us! We’ll bring you ice cream and walk your dog and listen to you whine, because we know what it’s like, and we still care about you.

Sometimes It’s Just Too Painful
If you’ve ever been injured and forced to watch from the sidelines while your teammates kicked ass, you’ve had a taste of what it’s like to retire. Our feet want to duck run, our bodies want to smash, and our brains want to call out strategies to the pack. We yearn to be on the track and sometimes it’s just easier to stay home rather than put ourselves through the agony of wishing we were still out there with you. Please keep inviting us, even if we don’t always show up. We’re your staunchest fans and we’re still rooting for you, if only in spirit. And eventually we’ll be able to attend bouts without wanting to fling ourselves into the abyss… give us some slack, and know that it’s an internal struggle that can last a really long time.

Our Identities Are Important To Us

We all choose our names and numbers with great care and attention to who we are. Some of us love being remembered and called by our skater names, and others need to lay those names to rest. Ask us which we prefer, and respect that. We understand that our names won’t be protected on the master roster anymore, and that new skaters may adopt our old numbers after we’re gone, but those names and numbers were (and still are!) a part of who we are, and we cherish them as our own.

We Like To Toot Our Own Horns
We have piles of derby gear and clothes that we refuse to part with, and many of us still love to wear our old jerseys. Why? Well, they’re practical exercise garb. But really it’s because we miss the feeling of being part of a team, the recognition of fans and the pride of having those logos on our chests. Remember that we earned our jerseys with blood and sweat just as you did, and understand that by wearing them we aren’t trying to pose as active players or disrespect those who are. We’re just proud to have been a part of derby, and like to show it off once in awhile. Besides, it’s excellent marketing — when people see those jerseys, they ask questions, and we answer — in your favor!

Our Game Wasn’t Your Game

Modern derby is still in its infancy, and the rules and strategies will continue to evolve as the sport grows and matures. We played by the rules that were current while we were active, and we may not be up to date on the latest WFTDA revisions. We might innocently yell dumb things at bouts, or ask questions that seem silly to you. Treat us like you would your cool grandma who doesn’t realize that cars now have remote door locks. We don’t mean to be ignorant; we just aren’t as aware of all those details anymore. Please don’t laugh when we make a mistake, and clue us in (gently!) on the new developments if we make a bungle.

We Are Still Skaters

We all get asked, “Why did you quit skating?” Sigh. We know you mean no harm, but the vast majority of us love skating and should still be called skaters. Many of us have skated all our lives, and if we haven’t, we’ve likely gained a love for skating that will never die. We just aren’t derby players anymore. Ask us why we retired, and if we still go skating (unless you know we can’t due to injury or health, please). Let us know when you’re heading to an open rink session or an outdoor trail — we’d love to come skate with you! Some leagues even hold special practice/fitness sessions that are open to retired skaters. If your league has the time and space, please consider doing this! Retired skaters are often willing to sign waivers, keep up their insurance and even pay a little extra for this privilege. We can offer a lot to newbies who need help, and we miss skating with folks who understand our derby love. Ask if we’d like to help coach, or run a skills workshop — we really appreciate being known for our skating skills, and now that we aren’t active players, we might have more time to share them than you do.

We Want To Stay In Shape

We’ve all literally busted our asses to gain the skills needed to survive and conquer on the track. Skating is great exercise! Retired players miss that fitness regimen, and most of us look for ways to keep up the strength, stamina, and hot bods we gained from all that hard work. Derby Lite was invented by players who recognized the benefits that a modified version of derby could offer retirees and those who can’t or don’t want to commit to a regular league. Please don’t make the mistake of labeling Derby Lite or any other sort of skating for fitness as less “respectable” than being on an active roster. Remember that we retired due to lack of physical ability and/or available time to handle all those practices, and respect whatever method we choose to stay in shape post-retirement. And please… don’t tease us if we aren’t quite the muscle mavens we once were. Derby teaches us all to love our bodies, whatever their size and shape, remember? That’s a valuable gift and we aim to keep it!

We Still Want To Be Friends
“It’s not you, it’s me.” A shoddy way to break up with a lover, but it’s so true. It just can’t be said enough: we miss you so much! Derby builds amazing friendships, and we miss seeing our special pals. We know your time is limited (do we ever!), and we understand how hard it is to see outside the derby bubble when you’re still on the inside. But please, make time to hang out with us when you have a few hours. Keep in mind too that we enjoy league news, invites, and even a little gossip, but… you know how your non-derby pals complain that it’s always “derby derby derby”? They’re right. Tone it down a little, and remember that we’re all made of other things besides who we are/were in derby. Foster those friendships in and out of the league so they’ll remain strong long after retirement.

Many thanks to all the retired derby players who divulged their personal feelings in the hope of helping active skaters understand them a little better. Someday you’ll be a retiree too, and I promise you… the impact is no less jarring than being knocked ass-over-teacups by a 250lb stack of Amazonian power blocker. In fact, I think most of us would rather take the hit.
Happy retirement, ladies! You’ve earned it.