Monday, December 30, 2013

Stupid Reasons Why I Like Derby Names

Yeah yeah, everyone has an opinion on derby names.  Some of them are fantastically hilarious, like Jabba the Butt, and some of them are just gross, like Harry Coin Purse.  You never know what you're getting with derby names; sometimes it's a toss up, and sometimes it's the most cringe worthy discovery ever.  Sometimes derby names are so complicated, I can spend half of a bout trying to figure out if the player has a derby name, or just is using their government name. So confusing!
Don't hate the player...hate the name?

I am a big fan of derby names when they aren't super duper offensive and are clever.  Clever people with clever derby names really impress me.  I'm always super excited when I see a new skater with a really great name; I want to point him or her out to the derby world and say "See!  It can still be accomplished! Try harder derby world!" If you have a clever derby name, you're already pretty cool in my book, even if I've never met you in person.  Yes, I have a list of awesome derby-named skaters I'd love to talk to....some day.

I love it when a skater has a really descriptive derby name too; I am HORRIBLE when it comes to remembering "real" names.  I'm not exaggerating.  I have to really work at remembering someone's name, especially because their first and last names rarely have anything to do with each other.  Not so with derby names!  Usually the first and last names in derby have something to do with each other, so I can remember them as a string! Also, it's a lot easier to find you on Facebook if you have your derby name in your profile.  Without your derby name, I would never know if I had the right person, or a completely random stranger. I mean, is anyone in derby ever a stranger?  Maybe?

Sometimes knowing somebody's derby name can make yelling for them in public way more fun than yelling their "real" names. See someone cutting across the Target parking lot, and you yell "Hey Beth Row" you're going to get their attention, and also probably the attention of a lot of Target customers.  Let's face it, it's a lot of fun to drop some derby names in public.

It's funny, but I tend to use my derby name in public more and more.  I guess it's because  "Q" is unique and easy, but not TOO weird for the norms to understand. After practice, if I go to a stand and order restaurant and they ask for my name, I always say "Q." What are the chances there is another Q ordering food at that same time?  Probably close to zero, and I like those odds. My government name is a lot more common than Q, I can tell you that. Last night, I had dinner with my non derby friends; it was fantastic, but they kept calling me Renee.  Half of the time, I kept wanting to turn around and see who they were talking about. Oh yeah, my name is still Renee.  For now.

Do I think that derby should ditch derby names?  Hell no! Basketball is letting their players put their nicknames on their jerseys.  Seems like "established" sports are heading our way, and not the other way around. Also, their nicknames don't hold a candle to our derby names, but it is nice to have the other sports follow our lead for a change.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Things I Believe About Derby Part The Third

Derby is weird.  Derby people are weird too....don't lie, you know it.  People come into this sport for all sorts of reasons; they want a challenge, they want some excitement, or they want to meet new people and have new experiences. For whatever reason you joined derby, I know that there are certain inalienable truths that I truly believe about skaters and derby in general.  Of course, I don't have the science to prove any of them, but my experience tells me that they're true.  So now, I share them with you. Aren't you excited?

1.  Smart, strong, intelligent men and women lose at least ten IQ points temporarily when they strap skates to their feet.  I mean, seriously talk to your fellow teammates when they're off of skates.  They're intelligent, right?  You can have a conversation about higher and complex topics without them getting a glazed over look.  Now, talk to them after they put their skates on. Try having a conversation about simple strategy while you're all on skates.  Suddenly, you're all speaking gibberish and have various forms of shiny squirrel syndrome. This is one of the reasons that I'm a giant fan of taking a knee when having team discussions.  As soon as you try to talk about anything serious on the track at practice, and your entire team is on skates, most of their brain power will be dedicated to fidgeting on skates.  Why does this happen???? I know I'm smarter than this, and yet I still succumb to it.

2.  Some people don't know who they are before they join derby.  I think this is dangerous, because derby is chock full of dominant personalities, and people who don't know who they are before they join a team can find themselves under the sway of these stronger personalities.  I have seen it happen over and over again during my time in derby, and I find it troubling.  Derby is supposed to be a sport which empowers people; when I see someone who is meek falling under the power of a dominant personality and not realizing it, I think "that's not what this sport is supposed to foster." Part of the reason this happens is because people come into derby thinking it's a life style, which is why I often fight against that approach, but to each her own. Remember, you don't have to change who you are to be a derby girl or guy.

3.  Some people have a perpetual blind spot when it comes to the skills of certain players.  It's human nature to have certain perceptions about people. First impressions go a long long way, but if everyone stayed with their first impressions of derby players, just think of how much we would lose out on realizing how much people have improved?  When I started derby, like so many others, I sucked.  I SUUUUUCKED!  Over the years I've gotten so much better, and people have acknowledged that.  Not everyone did!  There are still some people who see me as the bumbling rookie that I was, and they'll probably see me like that forever, because they've formed a first impression of me.  Conversely, there are some people who started out strong, and people will always see them that way, even if their skills erode due to lack of understanding the present game, or lack of working hard. They still get a "buy" because people know their names and have a certain expectation of them.  Make sure you're really looking at people and how they've either progressed or have stagnated.

4.  People who have played team sports or worked in groups like marching band have a leg up
Who cares who hit her? The wall stayed together.
on people who only played solo sports or didn't play any sports before they started derby.
  People who are used to working with others, who sacrifice and not worry about the spotlight make such amazing teammates.  Sometimes derby peeps come into this sport without having any experience in working as a team; it's incredibly difficult to learn how to be a part of a team while you're learning skating skills and derby, but it is essential for your success in a TEAM sport.  Derby isn't about individual glory; it's about a team gelling together to create success.  The TEAM wins the game, the TEAM earns the accolades, and the TEAM takes the credit.  Even if the crowd has its favorites, you as a team need to not fall under the sway of the individual glory. This teamwork skill is just as important as any skating skill you can learn.

Just some things to ponder while you're enjoying your team's break. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Are You Over-Booking Yourself?

Derby runs the gambit of being a hobby or a mania for players; ask anyone about their relationship with derby, and you'll get a rainbow of answers about how derby fits into their lives. Ask the same question on different days of the same people, and you might get a different answer as well.  For me, sometimes derby is this amazing, cathartic experience which relieves all of my stress and makes me grin from ear to ear.  On other days, I feel like derby is this horrible weight, possibly a GIANT SKATE MADE OF SHAME AND DRAMA crushing me down to the ground. Am I exaggerating?  Maybe. A little. Derby can be an obsession for people, but not everyone is uber super duper committed to it, and those who are aren't necessarily committed to it at the same level each and every day.

We're all human, and nobody can do this thing non stop without having to deal with real life once in a while. It happens, things come up, work decides to become a tornado that sucks up all of our free time, family drama happens, and car issues hit us when we're down. It's okay to step away from the derby ledge every once in a while, and in fact, I suggest that everyone give themselves down time once in a while. Unfortunately, derby has such a spectrum of commitment levels to it, and sometimes people bowing out of what they've said they will do becomes more than annoying; sometimes they are down right demoralizing to the people who are left holding the bag.

As a derby player, you have to figure out what you can give to our sport realistically, and sometimes that will change with your life's circumstances. The question is, how do you avoid over-committing and then having to back out of derby obligations? 

1.  First of all, be realistic with yourself.  Are you working two jobs?  Are you trying to work, finish a degree in your spare time, and raise kids? Maybe it's not the most opportune time to sign up for extra stuff in derby, like invitationals, running for team captain, or heading a committee.  (Yeah, committee has COMMIT right in the word, doesn't it?)  Be very honest with yourself; you can't do ALL THE THINGS if you're already doing all the things.

2.  Be realistic with your time management. Sometimes I want to commit to more activities in derby, but I look at my calendar and see how I've mapped out my time already, and realize I just can't commit to more derby stuff.  Where would I make the cut?  Cut down on family time?  Nope. Cut down on work time?  I wish!  Sometimes you can't makes any more room for new derby stuff.

3.  Can you realistically meet the expectations?  If you're trying out for the travel charter roster, can you make the requisite number of practices?  If you're running for a position in your league, can you perform the tasks required for the league to keep functioning? If you volunteer to do get something done for a committee, make sure you follow through and actually complete it. Don't wait until the last minute to say "Oh hey, I didn't get this done. Can someone else do it instead?"  That's just a plain old dick move.

4.  Be honest about your money.  Sometimes your wallet is the one who gets to say no. There is no shame in that.  Wallets control almost everything we do with our lives in the first place. Why should derby be immune? 

5.  Sometimes the answer is just no. No, you can't always up your commitment to derby,  and sometimes that means you have to say no to more derby activities. Will you miss opportunities?  Hell yes.  Sometimes it will be an amazing invitational, or a great training, or a chance to take a leadership role in the league, but it is what it is. It's better to not make that commitment and then break it, but that's just my opinion.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Are you ready for 2014?

This is my second year writing this blog, and I am excited and amazed that I still have things to write about!  I'm not kidding, at one point I was worried that I would write myself dry; derby, on the other hand, said "I'll take that challenge" and still supplies me with fairly rich fodder to opine about.  Hooray!  One of my favorite moments to think about in derby, is the preparation for the new season.  Even though your league may be taking a derby break, there are a lot of things you can do to prep for 2014's fast approach.  Where does the time go?
Are you ready?

First of all, how about you really check over your gear and see what you need to replace, or maybe upgrade.  How is your velcro holding up? If you have to tape down every piece of protective gear you own, then it is time to either learn how to sew, or get new pads.  Look, I know gear is expensive, but with the amount of duct tape you're using, you're spending serious amounts of cash just to maintain something that should probably be in the garbage...or possibly an incinerator.  Protective gear companies are getting better about velcro placement, sizes, and generally just designing gear for derby. Look into some of your options and donate that crap gear to your team's "emergency" gear bag for those awful days when you flake out and forget your left wrist guard.

Now is the part of the blog where I nag you about getting a new helmet. Sometimes I fell like I'm contractually obligated to nag all of derbydom at least once a month to get a new helmet. Do you still have a crappy soft foam helmet?  Why?  Please upgrade to a hockey helmet or an S-one toute suite!  Sure, you may have never had a bad fall where you hit your head, but how many times have you accidentally dropped your helmet while loading your gear in the car. Once? Twice? Most helmets aren't rated to take too many hits, and dropping a helmet out of a car counts. Sorry, it does. Get a good helmet.  Just do it.

Psssst....your mouth guard is a swamp of bacteria. Get a new one.  Nobody wants you to be the new Typhoid Mary of Trench Mouth.

Enjoy your long and manicured nails, until the new season starts.  PLEASE TRIM YOUR NAILS!  I know, you have pretty hands, but the problem is that because people are turning around and anchoring a wall while skating backwards, you tend to get fingers and hands everywhere. Nails are becoming a problem, grabbing your teammates to keep them from getting pushed down the track results in some interesting and new cuts on arms, on necks, and heck, even through uniforms. You can have long nails until the season starts, but then trim those claws and file them smooth.  But Q, I love my nails.  Yes, and I love my skin without your claw marks in it, just sayin'.

Now that we have the physical details handled, how about we think about what our goals and plans are going to entail for next season?  I'll share my personal goal for 2014: discipline. My goal is to have discipline in all that I do in derby; call myself out on any fouls, and work on skills I suck at.  I know that my edges are getting a little sloppy with all of the toe stopping I've been doing, so I will be concentrating on NOT using my toe stops during skills practices. It's going to be hard, but that's where discipline comes in.

But wait, there's more! Discipline doesn't just impact physical aspects of derby; I have great self-motivation to get to derby practice, but discipline is really what makes me get my butt up early on a Saturday morning to go to a cold rink and do a two hour skills practice.  Discipline is what makes me go to bed early enough to be well rested for that early practice too.  Discipline makes me work on my strength training and forces me to work on my flexibility with yoga, even if I hate every minute of it.

Finally, discipline is mental. Discipline is what keeps me from watching footage as a fan, or as someone who cringes at every mistake I make on the track; it makes me keep my attention to issues like finding certain mistake patterns our team does, or consistently awesome things we do.  Discipline gets me through disappointment and frustration, and keeps me on the right path to success.

So what are your goals for this upcoming year?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Time Blog: What to get the derby person in your life.

I try to do one of these every year around this time because I think it's fun and hey, shopping for derby people can be kind of a challenge at best. Sometimes it's easy, your friend breaks laces right and left?  Get her some good, waxed laces. But, if a derby person has been playing for a while, she's either stocked up on the gear she needs, or she's incredibly fussy about the gear she'll use.  Ah, sometimes I long for the days when people were just getting into the sport and wanted to "TRY ALL OF THE THINGS!!!!!!" So....what gifts do I suggest?  I have my own special likes and dislikes in and out of derby, don't we all? If you don't like my choices, you can just ignore them, or pass them along to someone else, but what doesn't float your derby canoe just might be the perfect gift for your derby wife. Most of these shops are owned by derby peeps, so support the derby community, yo!

Hygiene products
Derby peeps stink. Face it, you smell really really bad, even when you take a shower, you can probably still smell the nasty wrist guard STANK still ground into your skin.  STINK!  People should not stink this much, so I suggest a couple of gifts to help your fellow leaguemates out.

1.  Get them Notorious RED  spray.  Yes, you've heard the ads at D1s, D2s and Champs, so go to their site and pick up your friends some spray for your teammates.  This is one of those gifts that secretly is a gift to yourself!  I mean, especially if you have an extremely smelly friend, and you know that there's always one.....gah. I've actually stood next to people on the track that smelled like they died in a hot car a week ago.  Please help those people out! Nobody should smell like hot death. 

2.  Get them some soap!  Soap?  What's that?  Check out WitchBabySoaps for some awesome scrubs, bath salts (not the drug) body butters and soaps. She has a lot of soaps that are based on holiday scents and can do custom orders so that you can get your team logo on bars of soap.  That's kind of cool if you think about it! I think soaps make a great stocking stuffer, and hell, even if they never take the bar out of their skate bag, it might help deodorize all of that nasty ass gear.  Win win.

3.  New mouth guard. Wait, what?  How is a mouth guard hygiene?  Um, look at your teammates' mouth guards...can you say gross and old? Yeah, they're gross and old. I change mine every six months, and it still looks pretty disgusting after month five. Derbylicious has the Sisu mouth guards in all of the millions of colors that are available, and they are offering free delivery until the end of the year.  WHOOT! Give the gift of a clean and bacteria film free mouth guard this year! Hell, get yourself one too...have you really looked at your mouth guard????

Pretty stuff
Who doesn't like pretty stuff that's made by derby peeps, about derby, and for derby peeps?  Grinches...that's who.

1.  Aw, look at these fun earrings!  Check out Derbyholique and these jammer and pivot earrings.  They would make an awesome stocking stuffer or that special gift for your derby crush.  Also, check out the really really cute mustache NSO pendants.  Give those hard working NSOs some Christmas cheer too!  If you order from Derbyholique, she's offering a ten percent coupon for my readers. The code is "derbyblog."

2.  Skulls are always cool in my book.  Rivet Jewelery is owned and
operated by my teammate Eva Lye, and she makes beautiful and fun jewelery. Check out the skullee gusto for that special derby guy in your life. Not into the silver stuff?  Check out Eva's Toi jewelery for some fun ideas related to Lego, mustaches and fun, acrylic shapes!

3.  Not exactly derby stuff, but still interesting. Inblue was one of the vendors at D1s in Asheville this year.  People loved their flask covers done in leather, sketch books and wallets.  Who doesn't like leather?  No need to answer that out loud please.

4. Live across the pond?  Want jammer panties and armbands? Try FrocknRollers.  Not only do you not have to pay for overseas shipping, but they also have a gift certificate available for that hard to choose for derby person!

5. Live in the US? Try Katakillzem's etsy shop for jammer inspired knitted hats, custom water bottle koozies and custom reversible armbands. I have one of her hats in my team's colors, and I love it. My teammate Beth Row has one of her custom water bottle koozies and it's really held up to all of the abuse she gives it.

6.  Want toe covers for your skates?  Yes, you really do. I have some that were made by Derby Vixen and they are freakin' amazing.  She can do just about any design, any font or any color combination you've thought of. She even has a Star Wars line.  Squee!  My covers have lasted for three years, and I couldn't be happier with them.

Gear. It's what's for Christmas.

1.  Live on the east coast? Head on over to The Department of Skate on Facebook. Owned and operated by the inimitable Velocityraptor and the incomparable Helena Handbag, Department of Skate is DC's one and only roller derby skate shop. Helena is a friend, and she described her store as "Our focus is on knowing our customers really well. Building them the best skates for them. Working within derby girls budgets. Teaching the girls about their skates so they can take care of them. (We do free maintenance classes) we lend our personal wheels etc out all the time to make sure they find the right gear. We've won 2 best of DC awards and I've done an interview with 5 on5. We are smaller than the big guys but growing slowly." Their phone number is 202.642.iSk8. Tell them Q sent you!

2.  Who wants a great skate bag?  I actually saw the ads for the Red Reed bags on the WFTDA feed this year, and pretty much half of our team decided to get them. They're making them for us now, and I cannot WAIT to get mine. Of course, they're pricey, but so are every other kind of skate bag in the world. I've had mine for three years, and it's finally giving up the ghost. I'm so excited about this bag!

3. Custom helmets are the hot new thing for both leagues and individual skaters.  Both Rose City and Charm City pretty much have forged the path for league helmets, but Bay Area and Denver have really stepped up the glittery aspects of team expression.  Looking to grab some of that sparkly goodness yourself? Check out Star Pass helmets. Many of my teammates have gotten their helmets customized by this skater owned company, and they look great. Makes me jealous because I have a hockey helmet and I want to keep it adjustable. :(  If you're hanging out on the West Coast, this company might be closer to you and more convenient Custom Helmets by Tyger Bomb.

Cool T-shirts
I'm not going to lie, but most of my damned wardrobe is derby shirts, but I always manage to see more shirts that I want.

1.  Derbyology has some of the funniest meme t-shirts available in the derby world. That one about
the combination of committees and violence is a perfect example of one that I need to acquire this year. Of course I design for them, so check out my derby witch shirt.  Hey, I have to pimp myself out too, right?

2.  Laid Out Clothing has one of the funniest t-shirts that I really kind of want, but don't know when and where I could wear it on a regular basis. Curious?  Tough. You'll have to click on the link.

Whew. That's a lot of options! I'm going to stop now, because I could literally go on and on and on for hours supporting derby run shops! We need to support our brothers and sisters who offer our community different goods and services. I remember back in 2009, when you could barely find anything specifically designed and marketed for the sport of derby! Change is good!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Under Pressure: Da da dum da da dah dum.

Roller derby is a sport, but it's also a lot like being under fire or in a war game. How many times have you felt the stress about your performance, or lack of performance?  How many times have you and your teammates started sniping at each other, making team morale fall apart?  Some teams just can't handle the pressure, and melt down at the worst times ever. Why do we let this happen to ourselves over and over again?  Unfortunately, it happens in all parts of life, but in derby, which is such a fun and exciting sport, it seems doubly intolerable to have this kind of frustration or stress.  I mean, don't most of us play derby to relieve stress?  I know I do.

But what do you do when you feel overwhelmed with stress and frustration?  What can you do to combat the feelings that your are spiraling out of control while you're trying your hardest to NOT melt down?

I'm glad you asked, citizen.

They ain't judgin'.
1.  Don't be so impatient with yourself and others. Whoops. This is hard for a lot of us because we're perfectionists and we are super duper hard on ourselves. It makes sense, because derby attracts so many Type A personalities.  Unfortunately, because we hold ourselves up to a higher standard, sometimes we hold other people to those same standards.  It's unfair.  We beat ourselves up, and then we beat our teammates up, and they don't even know why it's happening. No wonder we're stressed out.  Now imagine a whole team doing that to each other in perpetuity. Gah. You're human, your teammates are human too. Learn to be patient with yourself and your teammates. Remember, nobody is judging you as harshly as you are judging yourself.

2. Let feelings that things are unfair or unjust go.  Nothing makes me feels like I'm going crazy and out of control when I feel like I'm being unjustly singled out, by my captain, the refs, or the coaches.  Am I not getting enough play time? Am I getting called on a million and a half penalties, and I'm sure I have only earned about 50% of them legitimately? (ahem) Sometimes we feel singled out in a game or at practice; most of the time, this is because we are so focused on ourselves, and we forget that there are a ton of things going on, and WE ARE NOT THE CENTER OF THE DERBY UNIVERSE!!! Wait, we aren't? Sometimes you get the short end of the stick, and sometimes you don't.  Games are chaotic at best, and it's most likely that all of those people, refs, coaches and captains are focused on how to make you miserable.  Take a step back from your butthurt and remind yourself that you are a small part of a bigger picture, the team picture.

3.  Don't let communications break down. Sometimes, when I'm really frustrated I feel like I'm speaking Esperanto to my team, and even though that was supposed to be an international language, it never caught on. People forget how to communicate efficiently when they're under stress; we're all guilty of it, so try extra special hard to be clear and not bitchy with how you address your teammates. Also,  learn the fine art of listening. Listening is way harder than talking.

4.  Stop being a brat and having a tantrum.  Most tantrums come from frustration+self centeredness = tantrum.  Do I need to say more? If you are having a brat moment, keep it to yourself!  Every time you come back to the bench and are a sourpuss, you infect the other members of your team with your bad juju. Don't infect your team! Concentrate on the positive things that are happening, even if they aren't happening to you. You may not be the most successful jammer on the track, but I guarantee if you watch your teammates, you're going to see them doing amazing things. Let them know!

5.  Be grateful. Be grateful that you're involved in this amazing sport, that you're surrounded by people who have your back, and that you have something to focus on other than tv shows and your neighbor's antics. Be grateful that you can strap on skates and forget "real" life for a while; remember that derby is play. Why did we all love recess in elementary school?  We got to play! Enjoy the playing and be grateful we have a chance to do it as adults.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Obligatory Thanksgiving Blog

I personally do not love Thanksgiving; historically, it's pretty horrendous, and I am not a fan of a holiday dedicated to eating.  Just my opinion, you don't have to agree or disagree. But, in the spirit of "taking the season back" I'm going to reflect on all of the awesome things that I've experienced with our sport this year.

1.  People are paying better attention to their brain health.  Hallelujah!  Mark my words, we are going to experience way more issues with concussions.  Hey, everyone is getting onto the awareness wagon, including professional football players, so it's about time our sport did too.  I also see so many people upgrading their helmets from those crappy soft foam core helmets.  Yeah, I said it.  Get rid of those crappy helmets and invest in your brain's safety!  Seriously though, I am totally thankful that people are taking this a lot more seriously.

2.  In fact, I'm thankful for protective gear in general. This weekend I noticed one of my shin guards had a gigundous (Gigundous is trade marked by me btw) divot taken out of it.  This was the first time I've noticed it, but I'm sure the impact could have happened at any time in the last couple of months.  Why do I bring this up?  I'm thankful that the pretty spectacular kick to my shin guard wasn't even a memorable occurrence for me.  If I hadn't been wearing the shin guards, I'm pretty sure I would have a giant, uncomfortable way.  I've also found a pair of kneepads that don't slip down when I'm skating. Yea protective gear!

3.  I'm incredibly thankful for the volunteers that come out and support derby.  I am always amazed at the army of people who make this game happen. Derby leagues sweat and strain and train, but the volunteers are the ones that make us able to put on a bout for the public. I'm a derby addict, but I don't know what makes people who don't put on skates be as dedicated as I am. I tip my hockey helmet to all of you.

4.  I'm thankful for the WFTDA feed for playoffs and champs.  Oh pipe down. I know there were issues with the feed...I was cursing at my computer right along with the rest of you, but have you noticed that the QUALITY of the feed has gotten so much better? It looks pretty damned professional.  When Hotrod let the Texas jammer sneak some points off her scoring pass, you could see her expression perfectly, and it was priceless. Things have changed from the days where you could barely make out one player from another on a team.  Is it perfect? Oh hell no, but it's headed in the right direction.

5.  I'm also thankful that people are starting to figure out that derby is not what you do to get in shape. You have to get into shape for derby. I've been saying this for a couple of years now, and I know others have believed the same, but I'm starting to see it from more and more players. People are cross training, doing yoga, working on their flexibility and strength. Of course, not everyone has completely bought into that philosophy. It always blows me away when I see derby skaters huddled outside and smoking before a bout, or worse, during half time. FACE PALM!  Why don't you just take one wheel off of each skate, if you're going to handicap yourself like that?
Photo by a Boy Named Tsunami

6.  I'm thankful for derby photographers, because without them we would have no awesome pictures of jammer face. Do I need to expound on this one?  Just when you feel like you might be handling derby like a rock star, you see the photos the next day. Hello reality check!  Some of the pictures make me smile, most of them make me cringe. I am very thankful because those cringe-worthy pictures keep us grounded.  If you find yourself really disheartened by your derby action shots, just remind yourself that it only a moment in time. You might have done something amazing in the next shot, but maybe that shot wasn't lined up well, or in focus, so it never sees the light of day.

Now, go enjoy your turkey day! Hooray for the off season!

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Do You Do After Derby?

 My fellow fresh and meatie, Ballista Blockheart had her last official bout as a rollergirl last
2009 at Regionals
Saturday.  I was so proud of her in her last game.  I remember back when we both started derby...back in the olden days where people still lined up on the pivot line and the term "scrum start" hadn't been invented yet. My goodness, was that only 2009? Sheesh, derby time goes faster than regular time, doesn't it? Ballz, as we all call her, was my partner in crime. We both passed assessments at the same time, passed pack abilities at the same time, and played in our first games together.  I would not have made it through the roughest parts of my derby career without her good-natured smile and laugh. She has been my rock for almost five years, and I'm both happy and sad that she will no longer be derbying. 

But...BUT that doesn't mean she's hanging up her skates.  Ballz is talented shuffle skater and enjoys being on wheels for all reasons.  She's going to keep teaching skating at the local rink, and this lady can teach, because I couldn't do a mohawk turn to save my life before she showed me how. After her bout, Ballz made it crystal clear that she wasn't going to ever stop skating, and wanted to write a blog entry encouraging ex derby skaters to not give up on fun skating.  Below is her entry.

Leaving Derby? Please Don't Stop Skating!

We're older...and wiser? Maybe?
I often read about people “hanging up” their skates, or their skates “getting dusty”.

Um, what?  I find it hard to believe you spent any time in derby unless you love the act of skating. Lots of people retire from derby, but who says you have to stop skating? There are so many reasons (and so many ways!) to stay on 8 wheels...

1.  As you already know, skating is great exercise, so find a way to keep doing it. Skate at a local rink. (Be sure to find out which session is right for you.) Go to a speed practice (if available). Skate at a local park, on a greenway, or in a neighborhood. (Bring music!)

2.  Lots of cool and amazing people skate. Have you been to open session at your local rink(s) recently? Most rinks have a great group of “regulars”. If you haven't already, introduce yourself and get to know them. It's likely you will find people there to bond with, just like you did in derby. If the closest rink is too far away, go twice a month instead of weekly. It will be worth it. 

3.  You can skate with your kids/parents/significant other. There are so few activities you can do together with your family. Sign your kids up for a class. For that matter, sign your spouse/partner up for a class, too. (Get them some protective gear.) On date night, go skating and be sure to do the Couples Skate. :) 

4.  You might find some (gasp!) new kind of skating which you enjoy. Is there an adult night at your local rink? Try some shuffle/jam skating. Can you keep up? :) Are there “road skaters” in your area? Some of those groups do weekly trail skates. If your rink offers classes, you might even want to consider becoming an instructor.

 I don't think most skaters intend to quit, they just get out of the habit when they stop playing derby. Don't let that happen--find a way to keep some skating in your life!

Ballista Blockheart

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why is Derby so White? No, Seriously, I Want to Know.

First of all, I would like to thank each and every person who contributed to this blog entry, from the photographers, skaters and refs.  Thank you for your input.

When I interviewed DBC at Asheville this year, one of the things she said that made me chuckle was
Photo by Bill Rhodes
her first impression of roller derby.  Her friend had asked her to join derby, and her response was "Derby? Isn't that the crazy shit white people do?" It was funny, but it started me thinking about race in roller derby. Even at the Play offs, I looked around and noticed almost all of the teams were predominantly white.  How did this happen?  Roller skating isn't an exclusive hobby for white people, so why were most of the team out there manned by white women? Of course, I can't just keep my thoughts to myself, so I started bothering friends of mine to help me answer that question. I am lucky enough to know Paris Kills from the River City Rollergirls team which is located so close to Raleigh, that we travel back and forth to scrimmage each other for practice.  I asked Paris to weigh in on this idea, and then I put it up on Facebook for others to contribute as well.  Below are the responses.


"The River City Rollergirls are the most ethnically diverse league in the WFTDA and have the most minorities on their all star team.  We had since the 2010 season, 7 African Americans, 2 hispanic and two Asians on the All Star team Charter. We were the first WFTDA all Star team to have enough Minorities that we could have a full pack on the track that wasn’t white.  No other WFTDA All Star Team to date can say that.  The first time I realized that we were indeed the most ethnically diverse league was our first appearance at ECDX when one of my team mates came back to the team and informed us that someone had said we had too many black girls on the team.  This got me to thinking and researching and I realized that yes… we were indeed the most ethnically diverse team.  This made me sad because we aren’t a major team in the WFTDA. 

How does something like that happen in the capital of the Confederacy, where we have a museum of the Confederacy and people with Confederate flags still flying high in their front yards?  It’s all about the marketing and what people see. Please name the last WFTDA Tournament Poster or promotional item that featured a minority skater.  When it comes to interviews I am happy to say I was one of three Minorities that have been interviewed since its inception.  While there are more and more minority skaters out there, there are usually one, maybe two on an all star team. These are the teams that are seen by hundreds and thousands when they play in tournaments and games that are broadcasted/streamed internationally.

It’s not completely the fault of how things are marketed though.  Some minority girls, especially African American girls, are prissy and they don't want to mess up/sweat out their hair. They don’t want to be physically fit; they want to be cute, not sweaty.  However, that is just some not all. The main way you recruit more minority skaters is by person to person interaction.  Answer these questions.

1. Where are your promotions being held when you go out into the community? 
2. Are they in a predominantly white area?   
3. Who goes out to promote when you promote as a league?
4.  Is it the same 5 tatted white girls with blue hair?  
5.  Do any of your minority skaters go out promoting and recruiting?

Even if your team only has one minority skater, it’s important for her to go out and be seen when you have a big event.  If minorities don't see that there are others on the team like them, they are less likely to want to be involved or will shoe horn the sport as something "crazy white girls do." It’s hard being the only one (aka the Token.) If minorities see that they aren’t the only one, they feel more welcomed and willing to participate. Most people don’t understand that feeling, however as a child I was not only a military brat having to pick up and leave and readjust to a new area every two years, but I was the only minority in my class room a lot of the time.  As I child you don’t realize you're different, but as you get older it becomes more and more obvious as stereotypes start to sink into our thought processes.

At River City, when we go out into the community we always have a multicultural group of skaters out there.  I have to admit when I went out places, I made sure I looked my absolute best and my hair was on point because again, it’s one of the main things I hear. "I don’t want to mess up my hair." If you’re out there and your hair’s on point, they realize that it’s possible to still play and look good for work the next morning. It’s silly I know, but it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.  And it’s worked time and time again.  As a transitioning INTJ thinker of tomorrow to an ENTJ leader of today, I found that the more proactive you are, the more you walk up and talk to someone when you’re out, the more you engage the customer, the more they want to come and see and then do. Roller Derby is a viable sport, if it’s promoted as a sport.

More questions you should ask yourself when you wonder about why there aren’t more minorities out there:

1. How many minority skaters are sponsored by skate companies?
2. How does your league present derby? As a sport, or a family, or a girl’s only club?

All of these are factors on how the sport of Roller Derby is perceived by minorities. Minorities are more inclined to join a sports team, but try to avoid cliquey group activities with what they perceive is a "bunch of white girls" who they see as catty. It hurts to hear, however, it all plays into stereotypes.  I’m African American and some of the first things someone asks me in an attempt for conversation are: "How many kids do you have? Have you heard the new Two Chainz album? Can you believe what TI did?" Unfortunately, I then have to correct them by informing them I have no children, and I don’t listen to current rap music, and I am a purveyor of Scandinavian rock. This makes them instantly uncomfortable because they have stereotyped me; they know they’ve stereotyped me, I know it and now we have that uncomfortable silence and no conversation. By breaking stereotypes and presenting the sport of Roller Derby as multicultural sport in advertising, in interviewing, at promotional events and on the big stage with, tournaments, and print ads we can actually increase the amount of minorities coming into the sport. "
Paris Kills

"I am obviously a minority being Mexican and all, I have been the only one in my old league but never felt differently. Now that I've moved from VA to CA I still don't see a lot of minorities in my new league which is weird because being Mexican in California is the norm. I mean there are a hand full but I would have expected the majority. It doesn't bother me but I couldn't tell you why."
Bomb Gnarly

"I know one of the things that was a stand out for me was going to a league and seeing that there is one other black person there and they treated me worse than anything. She actually came out and said she liked being the only black girl on the team and wanted to keep it that way. After awhile she basically ignored me or threw little barbs out during tean meetings. Most girls chalked it up to personality differences but then another AA female showed to fresh meat a few months later and she treated her bad as well. She eventually moved to another league."

Photo by Gene Lazo
"Unfortunately, I think a lack of minorities is what keeps minorities away. when I told my mom I was playing she said "do we play roller derby?" I am the only minority on my team and many times the only one on the track. When we traveled to Alabama last year,  I experienced racism like never before from players and fans. Sometimes it makes for a lonely team sport. Once, when our league discussed bus advertising, someone said " That's not our demographic." This makes me wonder who is our demographic? I don't think our culture excludes minorities, but it may not draw them in either. From a personal note, I would love to see a roller girl image that doesn't have European features. Unless they are live and in person, roller girls don't look like me."  
Do U Juana 
"Hello- I am a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.  (Smoky Mtn Rollergirls based in
Photo by I-Lie Kit Ruff
Bryson City, NC) has several tribal members from my tribe and others. I have tried hard to find other Native Americans in this sport- and this is why Navajo superstar Mick Swagger is one of my heroes. I have joked with her about having an all-native team, and how scary that would be lol. I even recommended to Nike N7 that she be an ambassador to represent female Native athletes and they said "Nike does not support roller derby". Maybe we don't want to be represented by Nike anyways. 

Regardless, I feel privileged to have so many awesome tribal ladies on my team. I think our diversity makes us stronger, and sends great messages to communities around us about unity. Our last two home bouts were held on the reservation- And at half-time we had traditional dances at one. It was amazing. I have pictures. Anyways, please tell me if you hear of other tribal members who skate."
Sesamean Streak

"This is the only sport that I've participated in and I have forgotten about the color of my skin. It wasn't always this way. When I first started playing, I was the only non-white skater on a new team and no one seemed interested in becoming best of friends and that was frustrating to me. However, after being involved in this sport for almost 2 years, I realized that they may have been jaded. In this sport see new recruits stop before they stop and it irritates some people more than others! To them I was freshmeat and didn't know nothin bout playin no derby! Anyway- I moved, joined a new team in a more diverse area and my race didn't seem like it was a problem. I'm now on a team with only 1 other minority and I kind of forced myself into the group during my first practice . I love this sport and I have other things to focus on besides my skin color."
Georgia Scorch'er 

"I realized once I started traveling as a referee that I rarely saw other refs that looked like me. I only know of 3, maybe 4 others and only one of them is a woman as well.

It doesn't bother me because I am well used to being the "token" in a group, and being the only different looking one isn't going to stop me from doing what I love to do. However, that will deter others. For example, there is a league (I decided it would be best to omit where because it will be very easy to figure out, thanks) where there are only white skaters. My cousin is athletic and and excellent skater, but will not attempt to join the league because she doesn't want to be the only black one there. What's sad is that she didn't even know about the league until I told her--I don't even live in the same state!!

Photo found here
I believe that most minorities look at Roller Derby as a "White People Sport"--why is that, well it's the same reason that tennis and golf was classified as that before The Williams sisters and Tiger Woods, there aren't many that really shine and are well known throughout the entire derby community. Even now the only black derby skater that is considered "famous" is Quadzilla---where is a female equivalent? I know there has to be one, because I have met many skaters of different ethnicities who are amazing.

How can we change this? From the derby side we can only do so much. Skaters and Officials of color need to realize that they are derby ambassadors and must reach out to show that Roller Derby is for everyone and to encourage others to step outside of this racially divided box and just enjoy a kick ass sport. It is up to the individuals to become open minded and look past the color of each other's skin."
Shorty DuWop, Referee, River City Roller Girls Richmond, VA

"I started in 2008. Beyonslay was blowing people up on the track and I encountered people who figured any black skater was a potential Beyonslay. It was meant as a compliment, but I'm a separate person, let me make my own way. There were some positives. I have a lot of trouble talking to new people, but I automatically had the shared experience of being the only or one of a few in a league. I actually used that to break the ice with a complete stranger at my first Rollercon in 2009. I was in an elevator with a skater from Bay Area. She looked cool and intimidating in her awesome satin jacket and wanted to do better than squeaking out "Hi." I thought about it and settled on, "Are you the only one in your league, or are there others?" She turned around, smiling and warm and said, "I'm the only one!" We chatted for a bit and agreed to keep in touch. It was a pretty cool experience!"

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Sweet and Sour of Meeting your Derby Crush

Our sport is in such a weird period of its development; everyone in our sport is accessible to everyone else.  If you're at a major derby event, such as Champs, playoffs, Rollercon or ECDX,  the chances of you being able to stand next to, talk to, stare at, or just plain stalk one of your derby idols are high.  Sometimes this can be an amazing experience!  It's fun to stand next to your derby crush and get a picture while mouthing the words "Oh MY GOD!" at your friend taking your picture with her i-phone.  Who cares if that picture is blurry! (of course my friends take amazing pictures regardless of what kind of camera they have at the time.)
Or photobombed....dammit! BTW Ruth is nice.

Most people have a derby crush.  I personally have a new one every season. We study these players relentlessly; if there is footage easily available, we watch it over and over again.  If they're putting on a clinic somewhere nearby, we're in the car at the buttcrack of dawn to get there and learn!  We follow them on Facebook and Twitter, we read the interviews with them and we try to practice their moves when we have time at practice. We are their adoring, if not a little creepy, fans. We want to be just like them...yes please.

Unfortunately, not every amazing skater is an amazing person.  Sad, but true. Some people are just incredibly talented at being on eight wheels; they're magical when they're on the track, but they fail as nice people.  The question is, do they have to be good people for you to admire their skills?

This is a question that comes up in all popular sports; should we idolize people just because they're talented? The answer, of course, is maybe.  I can want to skate like someone without actually liking who she is as a person. A skater doesn't owe me anything just because I happened to pick them out to admire, unless they're trying to sell me something.  Hey, if you're trying to sell me something, you'd better be charming and nice to me in public. You can motherfuck my existence in private, but you'd better be a smiling and hospitable celebrity while I'm there and willing to buy your product.

What if we see our derby crush doing something douchey at an after party? It happens, especially after a tense derby tournament. People aren't always at their highest level of emotional maturity after three days of grueling derby. We may see them get drunk, flip someone off, or undertip a server.  It happens all of the time. In fact, we see our league members sometimes do the same thing. The difference is, we don't expect our league members to be perfect, but our derby crushes should always be pristine. Is that fair? The answer is no, but it's how we feel. How quickly love and admiration can turn to scorn.

So, how do you keep your derby crush from getting tarnished?  The best thing you can do, if you truly want to hero worship her, is never really talk to her.  Get your picture, smile, cheer her on when she's kicking ass on the track, but don't go further than that. Keep your derby crushes light!  Give them a high five, gloat when they pull off something amazing, and study their style. The only way most derby crushes can survive scrutiny is being at arm's length.

And remember, you might just be someone's derby crush too.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Email isn't Emo-Mail

It's hard.  So much of a league's communications tend to be over email, because we are busy busy busy people!  I love email, because I can go back and get the information I need if I forget a date, or a time, or a pertinent piece of information.  Hooray for email!  Unfortunately, email has its own baggage and pitfalls for communication, and misunderstanding the tone or the intent of the email can cause hours and hours of butthurt to reverberate throughout the league.  I'm all about ending the butthurt, or at least minimizing it, so here are a few things to remember BEFORE you send someone an email.

1.  Some people have a permanent chip embedded on their shoulders.  I know that every league has one person or another who seems to be looking to be offended by something you've written.  Be very careful when sending this person email!  Of course, you're not going to be able to anticipate every imagined offense caused by your "insensitive" email, but you can probably head off quite a few disasters if you're especially careful about email sent to that one special snowflake.

2.  Remember that email is never private.  Email is the easiest thing to share, ever.  Don't deny can forward it easily and copy and paste it into a chat faster than you can say "NSA." If you don't want your opinion of certain people in your league or policies to become possible public knowledge, don't email it to someone. Hey, we've all done it, so I understand that it's not always avoidable, but send those bitchy emails with care.  You never know when they're going to come back and bite you in the electronic hiney.

3.  Don't use all caps. YOU ARE YELLING WHEN YOU USE ALL CAPS.  Enough said about that, right?  Seriously, all caps are just like someone yelling in my ear when I see them in an email. Don't be that league member.

4. Your tone can't be "heard" in an email. Unlike all caps in an email, tone is really really hard to convey in an email.  Sometimes you can say something that can be taken several different ways, and of course most people will take it in the worst way ever.

5.  Spell check that mofo. Spelling counts, typos count, fixing typos count and resending another email to correct your mistakes just makes the whole event less serious.  You lose a lot of gravitas when you have to send another email to fix a typo or a wrong word.  I should know, my phone likes to substitute all sorts of wonderful words when I'm not looking.  (Bad phone!  Of course it isn't me typing that wrong word. Damned homophones.)

6.  Reply no matter what. People don't necessarily want an immediate answer, but if you never answer an email, people either feel ignored, or worried that the email got lost in a spam filter.  Be kind, you should especially be kind to your league mates since they have the ability to slam you on the track on a pretty regular basis.

7. Think before you send it. Do you really think you should send this email?  Did you read it carefully?  Did you answer out of anger and disgust?  If so, hold on to that email and WAIT (yes I was shouting) a couple of hours to send it before you make a misstep.  Sometimes you don't need to IMMEDIATELY answer every email.

8.  Remember not to be offended by email you get.  Yes, we've all gotten that occasional email that hurts our "feeling."  Take a deep breath and read that email again.  Was your league-mate trying to be a dick? Probably not. Try to stifle that butthurt before it blossoms into BUTTHURT GIGANTE! 

Always avoid the Butthurt Gigante.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Do you noodle at practice? How to doodle noodle.

I am a fidgety person by nature, and the older I get, the more fidgety I think I get. I'm one of those people that learn best by doing, and I hate sitting still and just listening or watching things.  In other words, I'm a kind of nightmare for any teacher than has tried to teach me while I was sitting in a desk. That being said, you put skates on my feet and I want to move move move!  Once I have my skates on, I don't want to sit down, stand still or just kind of shuffle around the floor.  One of my former coaches called my need to be in motion restless foot syndrome, but he didn't realize that I was actually moving with a purpose.
This is a doodle doodle

Yeah, that sounds kind of goofy and arrogant, but it isn't....arrogant.  It's definitely goofy.  Because we have such limited practice time, I tend to take advantage of every minute I can on skates. If our coaches haven't told us what to work on at that moment, and there are a few spare minutes before the rest of the team gets their gear on and out on the floor, I will work at some skill in footwork.  I am never happy with my footwork, and I have a mental list of things I need to work on, and WANT to work on; during those few spare minutes, I try to work on some little skill to try to conquer it.  Lately, I've been working on my one footed transitions from front to back.  Is it something that will make me a better skater?  Maybe.  Do I need to take up league practice time to do it?  Absolutely not, but during those short and unoccupied minutes, I try to work on my personal skills.
 So, how do you noodle-doodle without disrupting practice or distracting others?  First of all, pick your noodling times.  The best times it seems to get some noodle time on the track is when people are gearing up. Get your gear on fast!  Gear up before everyone else does and take advantage of the free time on the track.  Another prime time to noodle is during an extended water break.  Some leagues have longer water breaks than others, so if your league is one of these, get your water fast, and spend the rest of it working on your footwork skills.  If your noodle list includes contact, see if you can find a partner in arms to work on things during down time.  Combine your noodle time to make a hell of a casserole!

Now, you don't want to be a douchebag and disrupt a practice because you're bored and your feet are bored.  Don't interrupt the coach by fidgeting, don't go off and do your own thing because you're bored, and don't drag other people into your noodling if you're all supposed to be listening or watching people do a drill.  Don't doodle or noodle between jams at scrimmage either; you should be talking to your team and figuring out your next plan of attack.  Be polite about your doodling; remember that people get easily distracted by moving objects, noises, or just about anything at derby practice.  Don't be a distraction.

Yes, you can always noodle at open skate, but like I said, I'm interested in using up every little bit of practice time I can. Don't forget to move with a purpose as often as possible when you have your skates on!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Derby Has Made It to Popular Culture. Yea?

Costume found here
If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know I like to lampoon when popular culture tries to do something with roller derby.  TV shows and movies are a special target of mine because they get so much so much.  I'm a little more forgiving with Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations. Maybe I shouldn't be, but some things are too ridiculous to get completely annoyed over.

So let's tackle Halloween first.  Take exhibit A standing over there to the right. This is one version of a "sexy roller derby girl" costume.  Is it wildly ridiculous?  Yep, and I  know you're wondering if the skates come with the costume; they do not. I'm not really sure what the heck is on her head either; is it a panty?  Is it a pretend helmet?  Did she steal her grandma's underwear and decide to make it into a hat? I really don't know, but it is funny.  Am I offended?  No.  All professions seem to be victims of the whole "Sexy fill in the blank costume" syndrome, so I'm kind of oddly ok with this dumb outfit.  Does she look like a derby girl?  Absolutely not, but does the sexy nurse look like a nurse?  I feel like she should be "sexy Xanadu movie extra," and if you don't know what Xanadu is and you roller skate, shame on you.

I also looked at the site "How to Dress Like  Roller Derby Girl for Halloween" found here.  I don't think I've chuckled that much in a while at lines like 'most skaters like to wear fishnets' or in the tips section where the authors recommend 'add temporary tattoos to your costume to look tougher.' The article gives some seriously bad advice about fashion, but more importantly about safety gear.  'Purchase new or USED pads and a helmet...' Uh, please don't purchase a used helmet ever, even if you are a fake roller girl.  At least they remind people not to drink while on skates! Hooray for safety!  I know it is easy to take pot shots at these sites, but part of the article does recommend that if after Halloween, the costumee wants to try out for derby, then they should buy the correct skates.  I guess Halloween could be considered a gateway activity for roller derby.

Is it worth 80 bucks?  Um, yes!
The best thing about derby coming into its own is this monstrosity.  Just look at this thing!  It's a blow up reindeer derby girl!  How do I know it's a derby girl?  It says so on her jersey, duh. The website describes it as "This cute Reindeer is ready for the roller derby rink. If you're looking for something different for your lawn this Christmas, well look no further. Easy set-up - just plug it in to inflate. Looks great during the day and lights up at night." You can find it here. 
Sweet!  They have roller derby RINKS now?  Hot damn!

I know, I know.  She's wearing a pivot and a jammer combo panty, and most female deer don't have antlers, as one of my astute league members pointed out, but I don't care.  I want this thing in my front yard!  I live in a neighborhood where ever house has these ugly blow up decorations in the front yard, and I want to DOMINATE over all of them with this derby deer.  Is it wrong of me to want to put it on wheels and drive it around the neighborhood?  Is it bad that I want to get five of them and decorate my front yard with a derby pack of these pivot/jammer deer?  Probably, but I've been sucked in by the fact that finally our sport has a tacky representation that I can challenge my neighbors with.  PROGRESS!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Should Refs Look Forward to Skill Practices?

Sometimes leagues have to have skills/drills or "skrills" practices to get certain strategies down pat.  Skaters don't always squeal with glee when it comes to these drill practices; in fact, one of the biggest laments most skaters have is "why aren't we scrimmaging this practice?  Scrimmaging is way more fun than drills." Yes yes, scrimmaging is way more fun than drills.  Who doesn't know that?  I know a lot of skaters compare doing drills and skrills to eating your vegetables; you have to do things that you don't want to so you can be healthy.  Sometimes drills are like that for skaters; they make us better in the long run, and sometimes they're actually fun.  But funner than scrimmage?  No way.
Scrimmage is the funnest!

I am one of those skaters who sometimes approaches a skrills practice with a heavy sigh;sometimes it's hard to get excited about the idea of drills, but I usually enjoy them after I get started.

It's interesting, because I hear the refs say the same thing.  Some refs tend to turn up their noses at attending a skrills practice, and I get it. I really really get it, but I don't necessarily understand it very well. A couple of years ago, I started coaching and reffing our Collision men's roller derby team; I didn't care if they were having a skrills practice or doing an actual scrimmage. Either way, I knew I could learn from whatever they were running.  Scrimmage is fun, but sometime having to watch for certain penalties in certain situations is a great way to train your eye for a game. Narrowing your focus can take away some of the crazy distractions that derby can provide during scrimmage or in a game. Practice in all forms does a ref and a skater good.

Just think about it this way, refs have a chance to talk about calls during a skrills practice.  They may even have MORE of a chance to talk about calls because they can step away and discuss something while the drill continues; you can't do that during a scrimmage.  Skaters get impatient, they don't want to "waste" scrimmage time while refs discuss the definitions of certain penalties.  Also, skaters are probably going to be more receptive to hearing a penalty while they're in learning mode.  Maybe that doesn't factor into your motivation, but it should!

Just look here if you have doubts.

Don't believe me?  Listen to some of the refs and skaters I propositioned, I mean questioned.

 "It helps the players and myself. I also participate in endurance and footwork drills. Any sort of contact or pack/bridging type drills I'll assume the ref role to make the applicable calls or facilitate as needed." Freddy Mercury Poisoning

"Yes. If I don't work out like the players, how the hell am I supposed to keep up with them?  I ref anything with contact during practice. Even if it is something like 2 on 1 or a line hitting drill. It helps me to see things on a smaller scale so I can recognize it better during a game. Our TC does touch base with me and I have a good working relationship with them so I know what is coming during practice. Also, I explain to the skaters that it is practice for the refs too, and we are in a constant state of learning." Vanna Down by the River

 "We've actually been discussing with TC making the drills more structured so our Wed ref practice can be more efficient. Front load the drills that need refs so the refs can spend the rest of practice that night on rules discussions or drills for our own footwork/skating. That way, we won't be pulled into drills piecemeal throughout the practice." Frag Doll

"Most of our refs come to practices as well; not every ref at every practice, but at least 2-3 at most practices. They warm up and do agility/skating type drills with the skaters, then ref our contact and scrimmage type drills, even if its small scale drills like 1 jammer/3 blockers and such. It helps us get used to getting called when we commit penalties, rather than learning bad habits that are going to land us in the box, and helps them learn what/when to call it. And after drill/jam, skaters and refs can ask questions for rule clarifications/etc. If its a full scale scrimmage situation the skater actually takes the penalty, but in smaller drills the penalized skater either exits, does five pushups, and returns immediately to the track, or waits till after the "mini-jam" to do their push-ups." Becky Bloody Professor Misenheimer

It's a win win situation.  Refs get to practice and hone their skills, and skaters learn to play even cleaner. Who doesn't love a win win situation? I'm hoping that all of the skaters who read this actively encourage their refs to show up, even if it's for a "lowly" skrills practice! 


Friday, October 18, 2013

Planning Practice

All leagues have different ways that they handle practice planning; some leagues have coaches who
can come to all of the practices and run things.  Other leagues have to fill in when the coaches can't make it, so they might have skater coaches or skaters who take turns designing and running practices.  If you find yourself in charge of crafting an amazing practice, then read on McDuff, and maybe the next practice you get to plan will be even more amazing.

Plan for it.
Seat of the pants practice planning never is a good idea....ever. So many people roll up to practice with a general idea of what they're going to do, but don't really have the details down. Have a game plan before you show up for practice! When I plan a practice, I make sure I have all of my ducks in a row, and that the practice plan makes sense.
  • Do I have a clear objective?  
  • Do I want this practice to focus on blocking, jamming, strategy, or footwork?  
  • Am I combining one or two of those ideas?
  • Are the drills I have planned good for the skill level of the group? Am I planning to teach newbies, or is this a plan for advanced skaters?
  • Do I have all of the equipment I need for this practice?  Do I have cones, jammer panties, tape, whatever? Do I have a stop watch? How about a whistle? You'd think these are duh-hee questions, but so many people lead practice without thinking about them.
It's important to have a warm up that preps people for the task at hand, and is fun to boot.  Think about the warm up as pregaming for the rest of practice.  If you can get them thinking about moving their bodies the way you want them to, or the footwork you need them to rely on later, then you're already ahead of the game when it comes to introducing the actual drill!
Think about what your league needs, and not what you want to do.
Are you amazing at toe stop work?  Great! Run a clinic on that, but if your league is struggling with plow stops and walling up, then your amazing toe stoppage needs to be put on the back burner for a while. If you're being entrusted to plan a practice, then really take your audience into account.  What would benefit them the most?

Do your drills build on themselves? 
Do your drills make sense together?  Random drills jumbled together for no reason other than you thought of them the night before don't make for an optimal practice.  Can you scale your drills to bridge the difference between player levels if you need to? 

Can you explain the drill well?
Explain the drill, now do it again, and again.  Are you sure you really know what the drill is supposed to look like? People need to be given input in different ways, and sometimes it takes more than one way of explaining things for people to get it.  Do you have people there who can help demonstrate the drill?  Can you slow the explanation down so some of your less experienced teammates can grasp the finer points?

Are you keeping the drills on track? (Haha, see what I did there?)
Part of running a practice is making sure that the "practicees" don't run off with your drill.  You know derby girls have approximately seven minutes of attention span at a time; if you leave people without supervision, they're going to change the drill, slack off, or get bored.  People need feedback.  If you're running a practice, you need to really need to be engaged as a coach.  Being a part of the drill really isn't the best way to have a successful practice, and that sucks if you're leading that practice. Tough!  Sometimes we all have to bite the bullet and sacrifice for the league.  Keep people on task and doing the drill with good feedback; you can participate in the drills when you're not running practice.

Are you over prepared?
When I was a teacher, I always made sure I had a ton of activities for each lesson plan I created; yes, I basically planned for an hour and a half class when in reality I only had maybe 55 minutes to teach each period.  You should do the same for practice. Overplan!  You need to be over ready for anything!  Sometimes drills go faster than you think, so always be ready.

Give people feedback, and expect feedback in kind.
You need to be able to give people feedback during and after your practice. Most of this feedback should concentrate on the improvements people are making in general.  Also, you should seek feedback after you lead a practice.  People may murmur "good job" at you directly after practice, but you should try to follow up with more formalized feedback.  It's always good to try to send an anonymous survey out the next day.  Because it's anonymous, you might get some feedback you don't love, but squash that hurt "feeling" and figure out how you can improve your next time leading practice!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Derby and Fresh Air...Do They Mix?

I just came back from one of the best trainings I've been to in a while; it was hosted by the Kill Devil Derby Brigade, and they brought Getsome Athletics to the area for a great invitational and skills clinic opportunity.  I was excited, because it sounded like a lot of fun, and both Carmen Getsome and Shorty Ounce are amazing skaters.  Yea!  Derby training!  But as I was reading all of the exciting things we would be doing, I realized that this clinic and tournament would be held outside.

Uh, what?  Outside?  Madness!  There's sun
Photos by Glenn McGregor
out there! North Carolina isn't extreme with its weather, but  I mean, I know that "back in the day" Gotham skated in a parking lot because they didn't have enough people to rent a rink, and I realize that other leagues have skated in games outside, but it seemed like skating outside was not something most leagues did on a regular basis.  Of course I asked around, and everyone just said "That's where they skate."  Really?  What if it rained?  How bad would my skates get beaten up on the concrete?  Damn.  Rain?  Are they taking this training situation seriously?

It turns out, that yes.  They definitely were taking the training seriously.  Even though it rained the two nights we were there, both the tournament and the training went on as planned.  It was great! Getsome Athletics did an amazing job training us, and the tournament was a blast too. The Kill Devil Derby Brigade made sure there was plenty of water and hydrating drinks on site, and they really were the perfect hosts.  This whole experience really changed my mind about playing derby outside, but I had some follow up questions about why this league was practicing outside.

I asked Blazin' Cajun to explain why and how the Kill Devil Derby Brigade started skating outside, and how they dealt with all of the crazy things that can happen when you don't have a roof over your head and the wind in your face.  My comments are italicized. 

Yes, I'm wearing a sun shirt. Yes, I'm the whitest white woman ever.
"Aviation Skate Park is owned by the Town of Kill Devil Hills, NC, which has been incredibly supportive and good to us. It is a public space for the citizens to use. It was originally built for roller hockey, and the space is free to use. The only indoor track was owned by a church and the derby team was not welcomed to skate there."

"Being located in a resort area, the real estate is is very very expensive; the 2 or 3 buildings that might have been available on the beach were not large enough for a track or in good condition The Outer Banks is a peninsula so the amount of land available is very limited also. We would have to go inland to find a building. In the beginning of KDDB, we only had ten skaters,  so funds were very low. Due to those factors it was decided to make the best of what was available."

"The obstacles we face are all brought on by Mother Nature. You (speaking to me) got to see first hand what rain or a heavy mist will do to the track. We have gotten pretty good at drying it the best we can!"  Boy, they are good at drying the track, by using towels, leaf blowers and a giant squeegee.  It was quite impressive!

"We skate there year round. We have delay practice by an hour a few times in the summer due to the heat; with the heat index, it is not unusual to skate in 98 to 103 degrees. We get a lot of guest skaters in the summer due to this being a tourist area. The guest skaters are always shocked and affected by the heat. We stay hydrated as much as possible and yes there has been some puking on the track due to heat more than once. We are very good at monitoring each other, and we let a teammate know when they are looking like they need a break. We have skated there for almost 3 years. It is very hard to schedule teams here due to only having an outdoor track. I don't blame a team for not wanting to commit the travel time, money, etc and then it rains and they are out all of that." The sun is what got to me.  I was sunburned the first day and trying to stave it off during the second day.  If you're going to skate outside, I recommend some serious sport sunscreen, the water proof type!"
Blazin' Cajun at summer practice. Photo by Roy Edlund

"Our track is very hard on gear. There is several of us that have skates that are only 1 to 1 1/2 years old but if you look at them,  they look five years old. Our pads wear very fast too. The hardest thing to get used to is the hardness of the surface when you fall When we travel and skate on indoor tracks it is like falling on pillows. You really have to be aware of how you fall, make sure gear is good condition, and stay in derby stance to avoid impact injuries due to the concrete. We practice 6-8 hours a week (weather permitting) so your body takes a beating at times." She's completely right, because my body felt way more sore than it normally would after that amount of skating.  I was also mourning the grinding down of me toe stops; that rough surface was having its way with them.

"The past year our team has gotten a lot of great exposure so I hope that will led to some opportunities for an indoor facility."  Thanks Blazin' Cajun!

How hardcore is that?  I know that there are other teams that practice outside, but it just seems amazing to me that they can keep it up year round in crazy Carolina weather.  These ladies are dedicated to derby, and they make me feel kind of wimpy when I bitch about our practice space issues.  Obviously, the Kill Devil Derby Brigade ladies have shown the world what a lot of determination and a little thinking outside of the track can accomplish.  So, what's keeping you from getting your butt to league practice?