Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to Travel without Stress. Sort of.

This is a blog that I originally wrote for Derbylife.  If you missed it, here it is again.

Derby can be a great opportunity to do a lot of traveling; traveling to play in a derby game is one of the most enjoyable and stressful experiences you can have, and the wrong travel companions can make it that much more of a trevail.  What makes a bad traveling companion?  It depends mostly on your personality.  What is a terrible match for some, is a match made in heaven for others. I’ll admit it; I’m a Type A personality on steroids when it comes to traveling.  I find out when I have to be at function, and then I get there extra early, just in case.  Yes, it’s crazy and control freaky, but I don’t care; it keeps my anxiety level low, and I NEED that before a game.  I also am completely aware that my Type A-holeness can really irritate someone who is an easy go with the flow kind of gal.  Below is a somewhat tongue in cheek guide to make traveling to away games a little easier than they could be.

1.  Only road trip with people who have similar bladder capacity.  Listen, this is a very truthful statement.  I am a camel when it comes to road trips; minimal stops are on my agenda, and that’s how I plan all of my trips.  Usually I try to gas up the car, grab some food, and use the facilities; if it is a four hour trip, I plan on stopping once, that’s it!  Woe to anyone who travels with me who has a tiny bladder.  Yes, I’ll stop for you, but I will think about how annoying it is getting, and why you don’t cut back on the coffee!  It’s just easier to travel with people who have similar bladder needs, and not have the frustration of discussing potty habits.  Plus, it’s really TMI.  Ew.  Please don’t dehydrate yourself for a game either; that’s not helping.
Guess who I am?

2.  People with food restrictions should travel together.  Derby is full of players who are Vegan, vegetarians, or gluten free.  This can make a quick stop on a highway for food nearly impossible.  I eat just about anything when I’m on the road, but if I see a Subway, I’m probably going for that.  Not everyone can eat at a Subway, and I totally understand that, but I don’t want to have to search all over the unknown universe for a vegan, gluten free, cruelty free fast food restaurant on the way.  Do they exist?  I don’t even know.   If you have food restrictions and want to bring a picnic basket, there is always space in my car for you.

3.  Smokers should stick with smokers.  I don’t think any derby players should be smoking, but some do.  Also, some smoke controlled substances; I remember planning a road trip with some derby peeps who asked me how I felt about certain illegal substances being smoked in the car while we were driving. “We promise not to hotbox you, Q!”  I was very thankful they asked, but then I promptly found an alternate way to to get to the event.  Hey, my job drug tests, and I don’t need any second hand smoke messing up my employment.

4.  The sight-seers should convoy.   If I’m going to a game that’s within a four hour drive, I don’t want to turn it into a five hour drive because “we need to stop at The World’s Biggest Fill in the Blank.”  I think people should have fun, and experience ridiculous things, but please don’t drag me along. Now, if we’re going to be in a city for a couple of days, I’m willing to go and sight see as much as possible, as long as I don’t have to drive anywhere.  

5.  Partiers should travel and room with other partiers.  Occasionally I will go to an afterparty; it’s a pretty rare occurrence, but it does happen.  I don’t necessarily want to be obligated to be the designated driver because my travel buddies are going to “win all the afterparties.”   Ditto with parties in the hotel room.  I like to sleep during derby trips because that first night is usually a wash for me; I stay up thinking about the next day.  At some point, I’m going to need to sleep, and if you’re up puking in the bathroom all night, I’m probably going to be cranky the next day.   

Team No Fun All of the WAY!

6.  Don’t be needy.  If you’re in derby, you should be adult enough to handle yourself.  Nobody should have to babysit you.  I know, we all have moments of neediness, and that’s what teammates are for, but you shouldn’t need a handler for the entire trip.  Get to places on time, know what the schedule is, have your gear together, and bring appropriate clothing for the weather.  Some derby folk go on trips and become perpetually helpless.  Be the opposite of that!  Volunteer to help with driving, or gas up the car.  If I’m driving that trip, I’ll probably say no to sharing the driving unless I’m exhausted, and I’ll only ask for gas money.  Most people are like that.  Also, if you’re driving late into the night with your teammates, try not to be ignorant and fall asleep when the driver is trying to stay awake!  It’s so helpful to have someone there talking to you when you’re driving.  If you have more than two passengers in the car, take turns!  

7.  Bring earplugs for your roommates if you snore.  It’s ok.  Sometimes people snore or talk in their sleep; when I travel and my sinuses dry out due to an airplane or crazy hotel air conditioning, I snore.  It happens.  You can soften the blow by bringing complementary earplugs with you for your teammates.  I always buy a pack of them and stick them in my travel bag, along with Benedryl and various aches and pains medicine.  You’ll be a lot more popular if you offer a solution to a problem you’re bringing to the table.  
Ok, I'm not this bad.

8.  Share your food.  When I go on a trip, I assume that the food I pack is going to be communal property.  That way I’m not going to get annoyed if I wake up one morning and find that someone has eaten two slices of my bread and had some of my low sugar peanut butter.  Heaven forbid!  I make an announcement at the beginning of the trip and say “Hey, this is for everyone.  Please just let me have a couple of sandwiches worth by the end.”

9.  Poop downstairs in the lobby bathroom.  Hey, if someone is going to blow up the bathroom right before you have to take a shower, wouldn’t you like it if they went somewhere else to do it? Is it just me?  Really?  Moving on.

10.  Turn off your cell phones at night, or at least put them on silent.  Once again, it can be hard for people to sleep in a new place, and if you have your cell phone set to buzz, chirp or ring every time someone on Facebook updates the food they just ate, it’s probably going to wake someone up.  You might be used to the sounds your phone makes, but the rest of us aren’t.  

I am kidding a little about some of these things, but I’ve discovered in my five years of derby that if you can minimize the drama over every day conflicts, you can make a road trip way more enjoyable.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bring It On

There are some movies that I love to watch, even though they're horrible movies.  If it's a lazy weekend afternoon, and one of my secret favorite movies come on, I will probably stop and watch a few minutes of it, if not the whole thing.   I'm sure everyone has a list like that; mine include "Ten Things I Hate About You", "Big Trouble in Little China", "The Thing" and, hanging my head in shame,  "Bring It On!"
Image found here.

If you're unfamiliar with Bring It On, it's a throw away movie about a cheer leading squad who discovers at the last moment before their championship, they have to create an entirely new routine. In order to make their routine exciting, unique and challenging, they research all types of dance styles, mime, and even martial arts.   Of course, they have a great routine and even learn a lesson or two about how to be a team, blah blah blah.  I never said it was Shakespeare, but I think that it does have a lesson that derby training can learn from, we all need to think outside of the box and look to new areas for training.

Derby is a fairly new sport, regardless of its several incarnations in the past; we have to look to various sports and physical exploits to glean some skills from; it's fine and good to watch derby and see what other teams might be doing to get those footwork skills, but have you looked at non roller sports to make your team even more awesomer?  (Awesomer is a perfectly cromulent word.)  Here are some ideas for you to research if you're looking to up your game.

1. Soccer footwork drills.  According to some of the Gotham team members I've been lucky to interview,  soccer drills can make all of the difference in footwork.  Off skates drills are not my favorite part of derby practice, but they do seem to be working.  The great thing about soccer drills is you can literally find them anywhere on the web; I can't wait for derby to be as universal as soccer is.

2. Watch all of the hockey.  Seriously, why aren't derby peeps watching more hockey?  They have excellent footwork and are capable of skating every which way on a dime.  Hockey players have great transitions, and have you seen those hits?  Damn.  I want that kind of control!

3.  Football blocks.  I think we all saw the wonderful footage of Scald Eagle clobbering a blocker who was facing the wrong way, but if you have been living in a cave, here it is.   Boom!  BOOM!  Every time I watch the footage, and I watch it a lot, I think about how football players drive with their legs and hit hard.  I think if someone is skating backwards on the track, or moving in the opposite direction, it's your duty to put them on their butt.  With love.

4.  Martial Arts.  Sounds extreme?  It shouldn't.  Martial arts can help you with your balance, core strength and awareness.  So many people skate and don't pay attention to their surroundings on the track; jammers have it easy when it comes to the knowing they'll going to get hit; everyone wants to hit a jammer, but blockers are easily distracted and in danger of getting blindsided.  Martial arts can help you increase your awareness and focus.  Most of us could use that kind of training.

So go out and find some skills from other sports; beg, borrow and steal from the other sports and bring all of that yummy goodness back to derby!  I think that we can get some great ideas from the other sports and make ours even stronger, all it takes is creativity and drive!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This Is Not a Bitching About the New Rules Blog

It's 2013 and the new rule set is upon us all. Some leagues were smart and started training with the new rules since the end of November; oh how I wish our league could have done that instead of taking a long break at the end of the season, because this is going to be an extremely awkward transition for a lot of people.  Everyone is going to feel the weight of the new rule set, from jammers, to blockers, coaches and refs.

First of all, jammers are going to have to give up cutting anyone!  We all know that jammers sometimes would say "eff it" rather than deal with a particularly tenacious blocker, and cut the track.  Now if you're going to say "eff it" then you might as well say it on the way to the box.  Enjoy telling that to your coach you decided to say "eff it" as he or she is pulling his or her hair out.  Also, jammers, stay the hell away from the outside!  I know, you're fast and it's worked out for you in the past, but now if a blocker takes you out of bounds, they have the quicker path to get behind you.  Don't give them that advantage!
Theme of 2013
 Blockers now are more powerful than ever; you can completely change the course of the game just by knocking a jammer out and moving back.  Of course, you're also changing the direction of the game by making the whole pack skate backwards.  Eep.  Watch out for those unintentional clockwise blocks!  Also, blockers, we're all going to have to be ready to ACTUALLY DO REAL OFFENSE INSTEAD OF THAT PASSIVE CRAP.  Oh, did I say that last part out loud?  Sorry.  What I meant to say was all blockers have to be ready to stop the other team from going backwards, or knocking that blocker out of bounds immediately.  You know, play derby.

Coaches, you get the joy of possibly losing your prime jammer due to box trips; I know a lot of leagues have been relying on a three to four jammer rotation.  Gone are those days, folks.  Are you training up new jammers in your league?  Are you working on everyone getting those jammer skill drills?  Being a jammer is no longer an exclusive position; everyone should be ready to grab the star and GO GO GO!  Does that mean you have to work more on footwork or endurance?  Hell yes.  HELL YES!  I'm getting derby rabies.  I need to take it down a notch, or wash my mouth guard.

Finally, there are the referees.  Let's all take a moment to thank the zebras who now have to become experts on the fly during scrimmages and early season games.  Right now, there are a million discussions going on in the ref world, and most of them are so esoteric that no derby skater would ever come up with those scenarios in a million years, but the refs are ready, JUST IN CASE.  The first game I played in this season actually had a jammerless jam; welcome to the future of derby, everybody!   Many refs are focusing hard on calling those cut tracks; I'm sure they feel a lot of pressure to get that call exactly right because it has such a giant impact on the game.  In fact, from the couple of games and scrimmages I've played in so far, it seems like that's the call they are the most focused on.  Just remember, Zebras, there are other calls to be made out there.  You have a plethora of ways to make derby girls and guys cry!

As the season progresses, I'm sure some team will figure out a way to "game the system" and ruin it for everyone, but right now it's great to be at the beginning of something exciting!  Rules don't change often in derby, so just imagine how cool it is to be at this point in history with our sport!


Monday, January 21, 2013

Hockey Helmet Testimonial

A month ago I bit the bullet and decided to change over to a hockey helmet instead of the regular skater helmets I've been using up to this point.  Why?  I was in the middle of scrimmage when someone tripped me, I fell down, and then got kicked in the back of the head where the helmet didn't protect it.  Oof.  It hurt and it terrified me, but I was lucky.  I didn't suffer from a concussion; it was incredibly fortunate, because so many derby skaters are dealing with concussions and head trauma.

Derby skaters, just like any contact sports athlete, are at risk for serious head injuries.  A lot of skaters skate in helmets that weren't originally designed for the risky contact the sport demands.  Some skaters also skate in helmets they've had for years, YEARS!  Even if you don't decide to get a hockey helmet, you should be aware that your skater helmet is not doing much protecting if you have taken a hard hit with it.

I know there has been some confusion with helmet ratings over the years. Some people believe that because hockey helmets don't go through the same testing that the skate helmets do.  Hockey helmets have been designed around a sport that has similar body checks, falls and added hockey puck impact.  Watch this video if you don't think that hockey helmets, depending on the model, can protect your brain from a high impact puck hit.  Now just imagine that being someone's skate going into your helmet. 

I've had my hockey helmet for month now, and I love it.  I got the Bauer 4500 in red, and I really think it was one of the best equipment buys I've made during my derby career.  My helmet is adjustable and it fits my head perfectly.  I made sure I ordered the right size to begin with, by going to the Bauer site and measuring my head.  My helmet has two screws on it and they can expand or contract the size of the helmet as needed, so if I decide to grow my hair out (God forbid) I can make the helmet bigger or smaller, depending on what I decide to do with my hair.  The great fit let's me giggle when a ref checks my helmet at equipment check, because it is a snug fit.  Sometimes, I think refs relish making you readjust your helmet; I'm kidding of course, a little.
Photo by Stallion Entertainment

One of my primary worries was about the derby panties fitting the helmet right, and so far so good!  I haven't had any issues with losing the panty or not getting it over my helmet.  My helmet also has ear coverings, which have saved me from a couple of shoulder hits to my ears.  I really don't even think about my helmet being different from the other ones on the track, although I will say that I was concerned that they looked ugly.  Yes, I made a stupid decision based on vanity instead of safety. Mea culpa.

Now, there are some things I don't absolutely love about my hockey helmet.  First of all, I'm a sweaty, sweaty skater, and because the hockey helmet doesn't have a sweat saver, I tend to have a sweaty head after practice.  I've gotten used to it over the last month, and I do bring a towel to practices and games to mop up.  The air vents help a lot, but I still need that towel.  Also, because I want to keep my hockey helmet adjustable, I will never be able to make it fabulously glittery, due to the adhesive and the glitter itself.  Oh well. Finally, I am not someone who does this anyway, but if you are someone who constantly puts a mouth guard into one of the vent holes of your helmet, you won't be able to do it with a hockey helmet because the holes are shaped differently.  May I suggest you get a comfortable mouth guard and keep it in?

Overall, I love my hockey helmet.  It thrills me to see more and more derby players adopt the hockey helmet as their protective gear of choice; we need to protect ourselves the best way possible, and I think that a hockey helmet is a great way to keep yourself safe.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sex Before a Game?

Welcome to one of the giggliest blogs I've written in a while.  It's a funny topic, sex.  Then you add derby on top of it, so to speak and it becomes even funnier.  Derby people are both the most uninhibited people on earth, and the silliest when it comes to bodily functions.  It's ok to giggle, but pay attention while you're reading.  Some of the following blog will have the appropriate terms for anatomy and yet I will still throw in colloquialisms for the fun of it.
You giggling yet?

At some point in history, I blame the Greeks, athletes were told that if they had sex before a competition, they would lose precious energy.  Yes, the ancient Greeks truly believed that semen contained a man's spirit and to lose even a teaspoon of it would be detrimental to their performance.  Unfortunately, so many coaches have jumped on this idea as if it was real; sports are full of erroneous beliefs and superstitions.  Even Rocky's coach told him that having sex with a woman before a fight would steal power from his legs.  Really?

Here's why sex before a game might be a good idea for you.

1.  You want to relax and get to sleep the night before.  I don't know about you, but I sometimes have trouble turning my brain off the night before a game.  Athletes that have sex (and by sex, I mean GOOD sex, not some half assed sex) say they sleep better and it clears their minds for a while.

2.  Sex can lower your blood pressure and stretch your joints.  Female athletes especially benefit from the hip opening effects of intercourse.  For both male and female athletes, you can get a great core work out.  Who needs P90X?

3.  Sex can make your confidence rise....along with other things.  Being intimate with someone makes you feel confident, and that can translate into better derby play.  We all know that derby is 50% mental anyway.  For women, it can increase testosterone production, which may help your game and aggression.

4.  Sex can make you happy.  Once again, if it's good sex, it can make your outlook a lot more positive; you can shrug off stress better, and make you a nicer teammate.  We all want nicer teammates, right?

Of course, it's not for everyone.  Here are some situations in which you probably shouldn't have sex before a game.

1.  You're chasing sex.  People put a lot of energy into sexual conquests, probably more than they should before a game.  If you're on the hunt, this may not be the best time to be indulging in sex before a game.  Save that energy for the game. 

2.  You lose sleep over it.  Sleep is so important before a game, and if you're trying to "seal the deal" so to speak,  and that means sacrificing sleep, it just may be a no go.

3.  Sex before a game is probably a bad time to experiment.  Put the whips and chains away during pre game sex.  It would really suck to have a sexually based injury hampering your play on the track.  Adventurous new positions out of the Kama Sutra might not be the best choice either.  Nobody needs a back strain holding your jamming back!

4.  You're just not into it at that point.  Some people eschew sex before a game because they're getting their mental game together; there's nothing wrong with that.  Do what feels right to you; if it's not a comfortable part of your routine, don't feel pressured into adding it.  I personally test my pregame routine by trying it out before a scrimmage practice.  That includes the food I eat, the stretches I do, the mental game I play and any other decisions I make.  If you want to try it and see if it works, do it the night before a scrimmage practice.  Figure out if you want to incorporate it into your routine.

And there ya go.  Of course, masturbation can be substituted for sex with a partner in these situations.  You'll still get most of the benefits, and you might get to sleep quicker.  ;)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Attention newbies...again...again....again.

This is what you sound like to non derby folk.
Yea!  You've joined roller derby and you're gung ho full on roller derby rabies crazy!  Hooray!  You've probably thought about your new bout day outfits, poured over various socks online and of course, your new derby name.  Those things are fun, and great to get excited about, but here are some tips to help you navigate the slightly bumpy road of being a new skater in derby!  I wrote a blog about newbies last year with some of the same tips, but I have added some things to the list, and the rest is worth repeating.

1.  Learn to speak about other things than derby.  As we become immersed in the roller derby culture, we become a little fanatical.  Don't let it completely take over your life!  Your family is going to lose patience with you if all you talk about is derby derby derby!  Same with your friends, your coworkers, people standing in line with you at the grocery store, and your neighbors.  Derby is never going to be as important to them as it is to you, so learn to curb your derby diarrhea every once in a while.  You had other interests before you got into derby; don't let them wither away just because you've joined the sport.  Remember, most skaters stay in derby for about three years on average.  It's not a lifestyle, it's a hobby and sport.

2.  Spend your money on good protective gear.  I know those booty shorts look super cute, but spend that money on protective gear that will prolong your skating career.  Get gaskets, good knee pads and a safe helmet.  I've recently switched to a hockey helmet, and I absolutely love it.  Is it pretty?  Nope.  I don't care.  I want to keep my brain protected and thus far this is the best solution I've found.  When it comes to a choice of cool socks or better gear, better gear should always win.

3.  Learn to do basic, and I mean BASIC skate maintenance.  You need to know when your skates need to be tweaked.  If you're having problems with your hockey stop, your trucks may be too tight.  Learning the process of adjusting your trucks is a good, basic and low risk way to introduce yourself to exactly how your skates work.  Ask a veteran skater to help you with the process, read about it online, or talk to your coach.  I have found that a lot of women are reluctant to pick up tools and fiddle around with their skates; they tend to be afraid that they'll break them are screw everything up.  That fear keeps us from learning about our skates; take baby steps and get over that fear.  Remember, you have a whole team there to ask questions to when it comes to skate maintenance.  Ask!

4.  Listen to all advice and then figure out what works.  Everyone can teach you something, including your fellow newbie skaters.  Sometimes you are going to get unsolicited advice.  Guess what, every derby skater gets that, veteran or newbie.  Your job is to take it all in and think about it; some advice is not going to make sense right away, and some advice is going to be stupid, and some advice is going to make the light bulb in your head glow like the sun! 

5.  Don't be surprised if the vets don't care about your bruises, blisters...etc.  You have a bruise?  Welcome to derby.  I used to document my derby injuries as a newbie, and then I only documented the spectacular ones, and now I just shrug and accept that I will have bruises, scrapes and various boo boos while I'm involved in this sport.  If you show me your new bruise, unless it covers one quarter of your body, or is in the shape of a smiley face,  I'm probably going to say "Yep, try some arnica" and go on with my business.  I'm not trying to be dismissive of your boo boo, but we all have them.  Share them with your fellow freshmeat; it's definitely a bonding experience!

6.  Learn the difference between discomfort and pain.  There is a difference that you have to learn quickly; sometimes you're going to be pushed to your physical limits by a drill or endurance and you feel exhausted.  That's a good thing.  You're uncomfortable, and you should keep pushing.  Pain is a completely different animal.  Below are some of the signals of something serious happening; if you feel any of these, you should stop and rest.

A)  You feel something "give" in a joint.
B)  You feel a muscle pull or tear.
C)  You get dizzy.
D)  You can't breathe.
E)  You feel a sharp and defined pain.
F)  You have an extremely fast or irregular heartbeat.
G)  You have chest pain. 
H)  Blood is involved. 

You need to learn the difference between "This makes me feel crappy" and "This is dangerous for me.  Nobody can tell you how you're feeling; that's your responsibility.  If you feel one of the symptoms above, you need to communicate that with your coach, immediately.  Learn the difference so you don't quit pushing yourself just because you're uncomfortable.  Most strong athletes live in the land of uncomfortable; it makes them push harder.   Remember, there is a definite difference between "I don't want to" and "this is scary."  For most newbies...."I don't want to" is where they are.

PS, sorry everyone, but if you puke because of endurance, this is not on the "dangerous" list of most sports trainers.  However, it is on the gross list.  So is crying.

7.  Come to every practice you can.  It always amazes me when newbies don't come to practice opportunities.   You're not going to get better if you're not on your skates as much as possible!  Most leagues are tightening time tables on when you can assess to be a rostered skater; new skaters are often not given as much practice space or time as the rest of the team, so take advantage of what you have!

8.  Work out outside of derby.  Derby is great exercise, but it does overwork certain muscle groups and underwork others.  It's important to balance out all of our muscle groups, and because we "Skate fast and turn left" most of the time, you have to make sure you're protecting yourself and not becoming too unbalanced.  Do core work, strengthen and protect your joints and lift weights.  Weight lifting keeps our bones in good shape, and in derby that is extremely important!  So many women have weak bones; lifting weights helps keep them dense and fracture free!

9.  Don't get butthurt.  You're a part of a league now, but you are on probation to a lot of the vet skaters.  So many people join derby, and then they decide it isn't for them and leave.  It's hard to get close to people and then have them disappear from the league; many vets are a little cautious about getting personally close to newbies until they prove they will stick around for a while.  Don't worry, it will happen!  For now, be friendly to everyone and bond with your fellow freshmeat.  People will come around when you prove to have longevity with the league.

10.  Start watching derby.  I am always surprised that newer skaters don't know some of the bigger leagues in the derbyverse.  Some people have been skating for years and don't seem to keep up with the movers and shakers of derby.  Step outside of your league's tiny world and look around at what other people are doing;  don't know who Bonnie Thunders is?  You need to.  Are you aware that there are several versions of derby out there?  No?  Start educating yourself about this sport!

So, welcome to derby!  I'm excited that you have chosen to be a part of the best sport in the world; I hope that you bring great things to derby, and derby brings great things to you too!


Monday, January 14, 2013

I was so proud my name was approved.
Derby names are fun and controversial.  There is definitely a movement in derby by some skaters to skate under their "Government" names, while others fiercely defend the right to have a derby name.  I personally love my derby name, and I enjoy trying to figure out other people's personalities by the choices they make in naming themselves.  Some people like to integrate their professions or other interests; it's fun to try and figure out why they made the choice that they did.  What other place in the world do you get to choose your own nickname?  I will always heart derby names.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a bottleneck in the derby registrar; because of the popularity of the sport, is a little behind in getting the names registered.  In fact, some leagues are reporting in that they are almost a year behind.  Yikes.  Don't get me wrong, this is a site run by volunteers for volunteers in a volunteer sport, and what they're doing is great.  They have taken on a service to the derby community, and probably never expected the sport to grow so fast and big in such a short amount of time.  It's frustrating to wait and wait and wait, but it is what it is. 

For a lot of derby girls and guys, you don't feel like a legit skater until your name is officially registered with  That's completely understandable, but at this point, it may not be feasible.  The long wait times mean that skaters start their careers thinking that they might have one name, and then they find out someone has claimed it over a year ago.  Just imagine that you have had your jerseys printed, set up your Facebook account, or even worse, gotten a tattoo!  What can you do to avoid the frustration of not having your name registered?

Well, I think that the first step is DON'T GET A TATTOO YET!  After that, it might behoove you to do some research on your potential derby name; Google your name and roller derby, and see what pops up.  If nothing does, it might be in the clear, for now....for now.  Also, you can check just to see if your name idea has already been claimed.  If you don't see it there, you might be on the way to a decent derby moniker.  I remember thinking that I had come up with the perfect derby name, Betty Rage.  HA!  Betty Rage was already on Twoevils, as was about six other names I had brainstormed.  Boo.  It is also a safe move to not get your derby name printed on your jerseys until it's okayed.  You only need to have a number on there to skate in sanctioned bouts; you can get your name printed later.    I know that a lot of derby girls and guys think that it's almost impossible to come up with a unique name, but then you get to see Shark Week play and realize that there are so many options out there!

Grace Killy (TM) of the Brew City Bruisers offered a great suggestion for skaters stuck waiting for Twoevils to register their names; she has trademarked her name, and I think that's a pretty cool idea.  Elektra Q-Tion is becoming my brand, not just my derby name, and I should probably protect it.  Grace Killy shared this. "I was TM'd as my 'compensation' for licensing my likeness to the Jam City Rollergirls Wii game. It was approximately $750 plus lawyer fees. I wasn't allowed to accept any potential royalties directly (per a league participation agreement, that sort d thing goes to the league) but I was allowed to accept services and it was required as part of the participation in the video game as well. I don't know that I would have done it without that, but it definitely got me thinking about derby 'personas' more so than names and about how to protect them an what their value really is."

$750 dollars is pretty steep, being that Twoevils is FREE.  Maybe we are getting the service we pay for with Twoevils, which is to say, we aren't paying for any of it.  This is a job they do because they love the sport, so if it is taking a long time, do we have the right to complain?  No, we really don't.  It's something we have to live with until there is another option out there.  I know it's frustrating, but it isn't the worst thing we face in this sport.  Maybe someone will come up with a better solution, but for now, we need to deal with the reality of the derby name register.  Until then, be flexible and go with the flow. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Derby reputation

Shocker Khan and I were discussing why people buy derby gear; certain brands have die-hard customers, while others tend to vacillate on the gear they use.  Sometimes personal opinions of the skaters who are involved with certain companies can cause people to buy the gear, or avoid it like the plague.  Shocker and I collaborated on related blogs in dealing with gear preferences, loyalty and everything in between.  You can check out her blog  here.

Transfergate.  If you had to sum up scandals in 2012 for derby, Transfergate absolutely would be at the top of the WFTDA list.  If you aren't up on your scandalous situations, basically Oly was under fire because they placed three skaters on their Regional and Championship rosters who hadn't skated with them for most of the year.  Atom Matrix, Joy Collision and Hockey Honey were the three skaters involved, and the derby world had a mixed reaction to the whole thing.

Unfortunately, Atom Matrix is a derby business owner; her Atom wheels grace the skates of tons of derby girls and guys around the country.  Evidently, she feels that transfergate might be having a negative impact on her business.  Last week she posted this on her Facebook status.

Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami. 
 "As I reflect back on 2012, I realize now my selfishness in my decision to skate for Oly late last season was a mistake. I want to apologize to the community, especially skaters/teams in the West Region that were directly affected (AZRD, Oly, RMRG, Rose city...among others). To the WFTDA for not respecting the model....unwritten rule. To my Team USA teammates. Also to Oly and to AZRD. I made a mistake...yes I'm human. The worst part is the friendships and integrity I've lost. All I can do now is apologize and hope some of you may accept it.

I'm sad now as everything our company has done for the industry seems clouded by "transfergate". We were the first to sponsor athletes with Atom All-Stars followed by our male Front-Runner program. First to sponsor juniors and always heavily involved in advertising and making extra efforts to support as many events/teams as possible. The "official" wheel sponsor of WFTDA and DNN's largest supporter for the past 3 years.  I hope the good things we've done for the sport has not been forgotten.

Her status really made me think about my buying strategy.  Did her actions in Travelgate cause me to boycott Atom Wheels?  I remember the first set of Atom Wheels I bought, back in 2009.  I miss skating in the Strokers, but they really were a gateway wheel.  I went through Omegas, Lowboys, and Poisons on a pretty regular basis, and for the most part, I was really happy with them.  And then, last year I noticed that I was losing my edges on all of my newer wheels really fast.  At first, I chocked it up to my awesome skating and how aggressive I was being on the track (I kid, I kid) but after talking with other skaters, I learned that a lot of people were having the same issues with the wheels.  Some people contacted Atom Wheels and were told that if they got a month's use out of each set, then they were doing well.  Personally, I can't really afford to buy a set of wheels a month, so I've stopped buying Atom Wheels.

Then I started thinking about what I would do if I still was getting great performance out of Atom Wheels; would I still buy them?  My answer is absolutely.  I don't like Apple products and the self important people who boast about owning them, but I'm sitting here typing this blog on a Mac right now; I use Apple products in every design I do, and I have an i-pod.  Do I really care about Steve Jobs' personal ethics?  Even if he was still alive, the answer would be no.  In reality, I should have a bigger problem with how Apple gets its products made in China, and yet I still buy the products.

Atom Matrix made a decision that I wouldn't necessarily have made, but that wouldn't stop me from purchasing her products.  I know that some people feel differently, and that might be why she wrote that Facebook apology.  If I could get her wheels to last as long as they used to, I'd go back to the Omegas.  I miss them!  They truly were my favorite "go to wheels" and I've been searching high and low for a replacement for them, and I have found some likely candidates, but it's just not the same.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

It's not just you: getting your spark back

It's the new year, and everyone is excited about derby and the new season, right?  Except, this is your third, fourth, fifth, seventeenth season, and you're just not feeling it the way everyone else seems to be. 

Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not just you; a lot of vets tend to find their Get Up and Go has Gotten Up Left, especially after a couple of seasons under your derby belt.  Let's face it, when you're a newbie, you really don't know what to expect with derby.  You have no idea how much work is ahead of you, in practices, committee work, and away games.  Everything is new and exciting; derby is the unknown and newbies are just happy to be there experiencing it!

As a vet, you know how painful derby can be; squats, falls, suicides, endurance, and off skates drills can really make walking difficult for the first month of derby.  Unlike the pain of childbirth, most derby vets remember the agony of planks and suicides.  Then there's the mental agony of worrying about roster placement, volunteer hours, learning the new rule set, etc etc; no wonder some vets are feeling motivationally deficient.

To keep yourself motivated, you can follow these suggestions; they may not answer every need, but if you can get over the hump of your lack of motivation, that would be great, right?

1.  Acknowledge that you're just not feeling it right now.  You don't have to wallow in it, but admitting you have a problem is the first step in dealing with it.  Some people suggest you "fake it until you make it" but with motivation, denial is rarely the answer.

2.  Talk to a teammate.  Once you sat down with yourself and admitted you're feeling this way, talk to someone you trust and figure out exactly what is draining your enthusiasm.  Is it the endurance?  Ask your teammate to be your endurance buddy.  Is it a skills problem?  Work with someone who can help you.  Talking to someone can help pinpoint the exact issue.

3.  Talk to your coaches.  If you are losing your motivation because you're worried about your spot on the roster, ask your coaches for feedback.  Don't approach them while they're slammed at practice, but write an email before practice and ask if they can give you some specific things to work on. The key word is specific.  "You need to work on your aggression" is not specific feedback. 

4.  Look outside of yourself.  Watch the newbies get excited about derby, and use their enthusiasm to help fuel yours.  There's always a skater who smiles and is just excited about being on wheels; go stand next to her and soak in some of that positive energy.

Me trying something new last season.
5.  Try something new.   If you are in a rut, you're not going to be excited by the notion of derby.  Try a new committee, try leading a drill or a practice, try and learn something crazy, like jam skating! 

6.  Keep track of the small successes you achieve.  Even if you're not motivated, if you're going to practice, you will getting better.  Maybe you managed to get through endurance without feeling like you're going to puke, or maybe you made one of your stops tighter.  You might be the only one who notices your success at the time, but after you start accumulating them, others will notice too.

If none of this works, you really need to sit down and make a list of the reasons why you enjoy derby, and why you're having motivational issues.  If your list of negatives is longer and more serious than your positives, you might not be in a slump; it might be time to take a break.  Give yourself some time and space away from derby, and you might find that you missed it, or you might find out it's time to hang up your skates and try something else.  Yes, there is life outside of derby.

Monday, January 7, 2013

If you have to let a volunteer go...

We are a unique sport because we have such a heavy reliance on the good graces of volunteers.  Everyone in derby is a volunteer, including the skaters, but there are so many volunteers that give sweat, blood and tears for this sport, and never get the glory of skating in a bout.  Why do they give so much to derby?  The answer is different for each and every one of our volunteers; but, sometimes there comes a point when you have to have a parting of the ways from a volunteer.
Awesome volunteers!  Photo by Joshua R. Craig

Many skaters confidentially shared horror stories of volunteer relationships gone terribly awry, some of them were negotiable, but some of them were deal breakers; these included stealing money from the league, and sexual harassment.  Yikes.  Nobody wants situations like that to happen, but life being what it is, weird situations are going to come up.

Most leagues don't want to think about having to "fire" a volunteer, but almost every league has had to face this problem one way or another. How do you ask a volunteer, someone who has donated time and energy into your organization, to just leave?  Some leagues just hope that the volunteer won't feel welcome anymore, and that they'll get the hint and leave on their own accord.  This probably isn't the best way to handle a volunteer dismissal, especially since legal action could be taken against your organization for making a "hostile working environment."

You need to have a plan in place on the off chance you need to ask a volunteer to leave.  Leagues have policy in place for skaters, but do leagues have anything in place for the dismissal of a volunteer?  If your league doesn't, then you might be at a loss of where to start with your process.  The Sunshine Coast Rollers shared their code of conduct for their volunteers; I feel like it's always good to let people know what the expectations are up front in any situation.

(Examples from Sunshine Coast Rollers Incorporated Compliments of Scaerie Faerie)

Officials and volunteers are:
- to ensure that the rules and regulations match the skill levels and needs of skaters.
- to compliment and encourage all skaters.
- to be consistent, objective and courteous when making decisions.
- to condemn unsportsmanlike behaviour from all participants in SCAR roller derby.
- to be a good sport themselves.
- to be up to date with the latest developments.
- to set a positive example.

This code of conduct doesn't get specific; it's not going to cover every incident or situation that is going to come up, but everyone in your organization needs to be on the same page, and this might be a first step in that process.  Keep communication open with your volunteers, so if you do have an issue, remedying it doesn't feel like it's coming out of nowhere.  Remember, while a volunteer is working for your league, he or she is also representing your league and that could be a great or terrible thing. Sometimes people and certain organizations aren't a good fit, and it might fall on the league to have to make the decision to end a relationship with the volunteer.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

If Derby was more like Hogwarts...

Yes. I'm letting my nerd flag fly high here, but I figure it's a safe place to do it in because derby is more than a little nerdy.

Of course, the jammer panty is definitely our sorting hat.  Jammer panties can really tell you a lot about a skater; some people reach for the panty, some hide from it, and some people will grudgingly take it from a coach if forced into it.  Is there any other thing about derby that looks as deeply into the core of who we are?  Not likely.  Fortunately or unfortunately for derby folk, the jammer panty is constantly interacting with us, judging us, or at least making us judge ourselves.

So who would be the teachers? After asking this question on Facebook,  a lot of people said that the teachers were definitely the coaches.  Do you have a Snape, Hagrid,  or a McGonagall as your coach? Is your coach a calculating task master?   Is your coach all bluster and then kindness?  Is your coach professional but truly invested?  Then you are lucky to have them.  Let's just hope that nobody has a coach like Gilderoy Lockhart, inept and completely without shame.
Dell, the Hagrid of the Regulators.

Shocking to nobody, most people said the referees were Dementors.  Poor zebras.  At least you know that when you send someone to the box for something egregious, the skaters feel like "They'll never be cheerful again."  Not really, but maybe?

So let's get down to the skaters and the four houses of Hogwarts.  This is purely my interpretation, feel free to throw your own in, but please don't go to war because I've insulted your Harry Potter sensibilities!  This is all in fun, so please go be a rabid fan boy on your own blog.

I think that Slytherin skaters are powerful, strong, and really devious skaters.  Are they evil?  Probably not, but they're the skaters who look to violate every loop hole in the new ruleset.  Hate passive offense?  Blame Slytherin skaters.  Hate backwards skating?  Guess who started that?  Slytherin skaters also tend to flirt with almost breaking the rules, but they never cross the boundaries.  Because Slytherins are tacticians, they know the letter of the rules better than anyone in their league.  If you want to know what a rule really says, go ask a Slytherin.  The question is, will they answer you?

The heart of any team is the Hufflepuff skater.  They work their asses off, never complain, put in extra hours on committees, come to every practice, and are most importantly, friendly.  Hufflepuff skaters are your natural recruiters to the league.  They will talk to potential derby skaters they see at open skate, or at games; they network well and keep lines of communication open between leagues and other skaters.  Without Hufflepuff skaters, you will not have a functioning league.  Also, Hufflepuff skaters help make other skaters look better by skating with them in a support role.  They aren't your superstars, but they are a part of the wall that held the other jammer, the person who created the bridge for the best blocker, and generally makes the entire team shine.  Don't poo poo a Hufflepuff skater.

The Ravenclaw skaters are smart, and quick.  They are a little aloof, and therefor make excellent jammers.  Ravenclaw skaters recognize strategy quickly and easily; they can also pinpoint the weaknesses and strengths of every skater they see, which makes them a good choice for assessors.  Unfortunately, they are a little too smart for their own good and sometimes, and can be impatient with other skaters who aren't as quick taking in strategy.  Give them the pivot panty, and they'll be happy as a clam, but make someone their pivot who isn't as smart and watch the sparks fly.

Ah, the brave and the bold, and the often not future planning Gryffindors.  Behold!  The natural born blocker!  This is your wrecking ball, your jammer killer, and your fearless "Sometimes jammer."  Gryffindors are strong and brave; they will take on the meanest enemy on the track without thinking twice about it, and then dance with them at the afterparty.  Oh yes, Gryffindors always win the afterparty!  Even though Gryffindors are excellent skaters, they tend to attract the the attention of the refs, and end up in the box a lot.  It's a good thing they have such a good attitude; I always know a skater is a Gryffindor if they end up in the box and smile the entire time they are there.

So, which house do you belong to?  Hopefully you're a mix of all four of the houses, because that would be the most realistic and healthy, but if you're just one house, then I hope for you that you're Slytherin, and for everyone else that you're a Hufflepuff.