Thursday, June 27, 2013

I Hate Missing ECDX....DAMNIT

This year I cannot make it to ECDX due to excessive travel games this year, and I'm trying very hard not to be depressed about it.  Not only am I missing out on great derby, fun challenge bouts, the awesome pool party, and meeting up with my derby friends, I'm also going to be missing out on Team USA try outs.  I wanted to attend them, not because I thought I had a chance in hell of making the team, but just to see what the process was and maybe blog about it.  Hey, I'm always thinking like a blogger!  Anyway, instead of sitting here feeling jealous about not being at the derby epicenter of the month, I'm going to try and come up with coping skills for the rest of us who are left behind!
No derby soup for me this year.

1.  Stalk your Facebook buddies' statuses to live vicariously through them.  This is a double edged sword because some of the posts are definitely going to bum you out, and some will make you excited you read them.  Also, the coverage at ECDX sucks butt for cellphones, so you might have to wait until everyone gets back to the hotels to update profiles. 

2.  Watch the feed.  I've been stalking their schedule page and I haven't seen a listing yet, but I know they're going to be broadcasting.  At least I'll be able to watch derby this year without my feet going numb, or my back freezing up because I stayed in my one location for SIX HOURS STRAIGHT.  I wasn't going to miss ANYTHING last year.  You can always look for your friends on the feed.  I had a bunch of people tagging me on Facebook "Hey Q!  I see you!" from last year.  That was kind of fun.

3.  Do all of the cross training.  I'm going to be doing my cross training while watching all the derby.  The only bad thing about ECDX is you can't usually do your P90X while you're watching derby...not enough room!

Good luck to the Hurticanes!  Pictures by Ashley Cohen.
4.  Do other derby stuff.  Wait, there's other derby stuff happening?  Yes.  I'm going to be doing a guest coaching stint this Saturday, and I know that there is a junior derby tournament going on too.  I'm sure leagues are still having practice, and you can always lace up your outdoor skates and go clear your head.

5.  Do "real life stuff."  Ah yes, real life stuff is calling me.  I have a house to clean, and laundry, and books to read.  I also should call my non derby friends just to prove to them that I'm still alive.

6.  Or you can sit and sulk.  Let's face it, you're probably going to sulk a little bit.  It sucks that you can't be there, so you might as well just own it.  Sulk away!  Save up for next year!  I'm hoping to be there next year myself.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A letter to my freshmeat self

I've been in derby for almost five years now, and even though that's not a long period of time in real life, it's a career in derby years.  Sometimes I look back at my early years in derby and just flinch, or sigh or smile sheepishly.   Ah, to be able to time travel and give my freshmeat self some advice!
After Ballz' and my first game.

Dear Freshmeat Q-

I'm so glad you've discovered roller derby, and I know by now you've also discovered it's not easy at all, and sometimes it's really heartbreaking.  I know you're hungry for advice, but you don't know who to listen to; listen to your future self and let me give you some guidance.

First of all, upgrade your plates.  You're skating on less than great plates and I know, you're afraid to change them out because you learned to skate on them and you're worried that you won't be as good on other plates.  Don't let that fear hold you back; when you get your new plates, you do have a short period of adjustment on them, but you get so much better so much faster!  Don't let fear of change and superstition keep you from improving your gear!

Speaking of gear, you need to stop dithering about getting a hockey helmet because you think you'll look stupid in it.  Who cares if you look stupid in it?  It's a much better helmet than that Triple Eight Sweat Saver you're tooling around in.  Just get one.  You're going to get one eventually, sooner than later would be better.

Get some good socks; I don't want you to have to live through the blister debacle three months into your freshmeat year.  Trust me, the initials MRSA are bandied about by the urgent care doctor.  It's just an ugly situation that you could head off by getting the right socks, like the Smart wool ones I wear religiously now!  Also, take a picture of your feet right now!  They'll never look that pretty again.

Work on your backwards skating!  You hate doing it, therefore you avoid it; that will bite you in the ass later on.  Last year you spent forever learning how to be proficient at it; learn how to be good at skating backwards now!  Don't leave it for the future!  Seriously, you could be spending your time working on something...anything your crappy side mohawk turn.  Yes, you finally conquer that, but it was a real struggle for a season.

Start training on P90x now!  I waited until last year to start it.  We could be so much more mighty in the future if you started doing the core training now!  NOW!

Let your injuries heal.  You're going to really screw up your ankle in 2010, and you're going to come back too soon and eventually the injury is going to lead your arch slowly and painfully collapsing in your right foot.  Don't let people push you into skating too quickly again.  Rehabilitate your injury!  Collapsing arches hurt like hell!  Be kind to your body, it's the only one you get.

Realize that not everyone is going to take this as seriously as you do.  It's ok to be gung ho about derby, but stop getting personally annoyed when other people aren't.  Not everyone is going to be as into derby as you are; some people see this as a social club, or a fun work out.  Not everyone is willing to make the sacrifices that you are, and THAT'S OK!  STOP GETTING ANNOYED!

It's ok to hate derby, practice or you teammates occasionally.  Sometimes you need a break, and if you find yourself hating everyone and everything about derby, then you need to renew yourself.  Take a break, go and visit another team, get away from your league's drama and just get your head cleared.  Don't feel guilty about needing to get away, just go.

And there you have it.  You've done most of the other parts of derby right, so I can keep this letter pretty short.  Keep going, Q.  You can make it, and don't ever let anyone tell you you can't wear your pink fuzzy leg warmers.

Present Day Q

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Respect Your Derby Creatives

Every day in derby, I see some amazing art and photography donated to leagues by various photographers, designers and illustrators.  I'm lucky that I get to work with some incredible artists, such as Punk Blocker, A Boy Named Tsunami, Joshua R. Craig, Bucket, and Eva Lye; it's a real thrill to have people want my art on their posters, and I'm glad to donate the hours and hours of time to do them, without a fee.  Usually, I only ask for credit, a couple of copies of the poster or shirt, and maybe ticket to get into the bout if it's local.  Considering that my freelance fee is usually fifty dollars an hour, it's a pretty good deal, and one service I'm happy to donate.

Art from one of the very first posters I ever did.
Unfortunately, some leagues don't have this kind of access to various photographers and artists, and have to rely on poster design by league members.  There is nothing wrong with that at all; I love to see the personality of each league being reflected in the posters and marketing materials I find.  Sometimes I even like to Google for "roller derby posters" and find some pretty amazing stuff.  The bad part of that is when I find some of MY art being used without my permission or credit.

When I notice that a league is using my artwork without permission, it's usually because one of my friends has found it on Facebook somewhere.  I'm so thankful that I have people who look out for me and my artwork, by the way.  Thank you for having my back (Thunder and Camo, just to name a few!)  Usually I can contact the league who is posting my artwork and let them know I would prefer credit for any of my art.  Most of the time the leagues in question do the right thing, and they apologize.  "I didn't realize this was your work; we're terribly sorry and will credit you."  If they link to my blog, even better!  For the most part I don't get too angry (if it's not a repeat offender), because I understand that people don't always understand how much time and effort goes into doing artwork, taking photos, or laying out a poster.  Even though most of the artists that donate their art don't want to send a "take down" order to derby leagues, it would be better for all involved if people didn't randomly "borrow" someone's art in the first place.
I did this one for fun. Don't steal it.  Ok?

Just because you found an image online, doesn't mean it's free and clear to be used.  Most roller derby art or photography is created for and by people involved with roller derby.  It doesn't just appear on the internet by magic!   It was most likely created or photographed for a specific reason, and that reason wasn't for your poster or league.  Now, if you contact the artist and ask permission to use the image, they probably will be ok with it.  I usually am pretty free with my art being used by derby leagues; but if you decided to just steal something from my site, I'm going to be a little more irate, and if you don't correct it, I'm going to be less than agreeable.  Remember, I volunteer my artwork as do other artists, and it sucks when you take advantage of a volunteer in derby.  Don't be that league who steals artwork, and yes, if you don't ask permission, you're stealing.  And don't doubt for one minute that I won't be watching to see if you're using someone else's art without permission either.  Artists have a bond, yo, almost as strong as derby girls!  Having issues with someone taking your artwork?  Try this site.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Head Trauma Policy

For those of you who may not know, I recently lost a very good friend due to complications to a head injury he received outside of roller derby.  If you knew Percy Q-Tion, he was a very dedicated ref in the derby community, who often traveled to Virginia and North Carolina to help out with my team's games.  He was passionate about rescuing dogs and loved his son very much; I cannot say enough kind things about Percy, but this blog post isn't really about him, it's about what he happened to tragically die from.

According to national statistics, 1.7 million people a year suffer from a form of traumatic brain injury, or TBI.  30% of TBI sufferers die from their injuries.  Read that again, 30% of them die.  In the United States, the annual incidence of sports-related concussion is estimated at 300,000. Estimates regarding the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion may be as high as 19% per season.......PER SEASON!  TBIs can be mild, or severe; mild TBIs include concussions, which has been a growing in popularity in our sport of late, especially because of the changes in the game.  Have you noticed that more collisions are happening on the track?  You can blame all of that clockwise skating going on; whenever two people collide face to face, there is a good chance that someone is going over backwards.   It's not just for newbies anymore!   Concussions are a real danger now and we as a sport have to be ready when they happen to our teammates.

I have been on my soap box about crappy helmets in derby.  Yes, if you have a "sweat saver" helmet with soft lining in it, you are courting a concussion.  I don't care if sweat savers are more comfortable, they are doing less than nothing to protect the most important thing on your body, and that is your brain.  Derby isn't forever, but brain damage can be; if you aren't using a top grade helmet, you are taking a huge risk with your brain health.  I understand that no helmet can completely protect you from brain injury, but hockey helmets, Nutcase brand helmets and helmets with the harder foam liners can help protect your brain better than fluffy liners.  I beg of you to get yourself a better helmet, NOW.  Stop making excuses.  Stop denying it... you need to protect your brain and that should be worth any cost. 

So, enough about helmet safety.  Let me move on to a second and higher soap box.  What does your league have in place if a skater hits his or her head at practice?  Do I hear crickets?  You should, as a league, have something official in place in case one of your skaters receives a TBI.  No longer is it ok for the league to leave it up to the skater to make the decision on whether they should seek medical help.  Someone suffering with a head injury cannot be trusted to make the correct medical decisions for themselves; if they have a brain injury, even a mild one, they may have impaired judgement and teammates need to step in. If your league has a procedure for head injuries your members will feel like they are backed up in any decisions needed to be made.

I think that many people have the fear that they don't know what they should do.  "What if it is just a bump on the head and I'm making a mountain out of a molehill?"  Well, I personally don't think you can screw around with any kind of head injury, but there are some of the warning signs someone is suffering from a TBI.  Here are the observable behaviors that coaches and other teammates can be aware of.

1.  The skater appears to be dazed or stunned.  People with head injuries are stunned.  They may not react quickly and appear to be "Out of it."

2.  The skater is confused about what is happening on the track.  Ha ha. I'm not talking about that jammer brain people get sometimes, but they are genuinely confused to why they are skating or on the track.

3.  The player is unsure of game, score, or opponent.  If someone seems to be suffering from a head injury, ask them what's happening.  If they can't tell you with any clarity, the chances that they have a concussion are pretty high.

4.  The skater moves clumsily.  Balance is the first thing to go in head injuries.  After Percy hit his head, he fell two more times due to the primary injury.

5.  The skater answers questions slowly.  Sometimes a person's language skills get compromised due to a head injury.  Percy was unable to communicate well after he fell; he sent me a text that was completely nonsensical and when he approached other people in person, they thought he was suffering from a stroke.  Not all symptoms will be that acute, but it can happen.

6.  The skater loses consciousness (even temporarily).  This is a gigantic red flag.

7.  The player shows behavior or personality change.  This one is a little more long term, and the league should contact the skater's family to alert them that head injuries can make people act irrationally or change their personalities.

8.  The player forgets events prior to hit (retrograde amnesia).  This can be seconds before they received the blow to the head or up to an hour. 

9.  The skater forgets events after hit (anterograde amnesia).  People suffering from a TBI may not remember what happened to them after their injury.  Whole conversations can happen, and they won't remember them. 

It's so scary to demand that someone go and see a doctor in this day and age. You don't want them to spend the money they may not have, but in the case of a head injury, the injured player needs to have his or her teammates watching her back.  It's better to overreact than it is to let someone bleed out in their brain.  Percy was alone when he had his fall, and because of that, he didn't get the help he needed as soon as he needed it.  In roller derby, we are lucky enough to have teammates who are there; be a good teammate and take care of the people in your league.

And get a fucking decent helmet.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How Do You Know if You're Over Training?

I remember when derby folk used to say "I have to train outside of derby?  Are you crazy?"  Many derby players smoked at half time and proudly announced that their cross training included lifting mugs on the beer drinking team.  My, how things have changed!  People are investing their time and efforts into outside training; our league has die-hard fans of Crossfit, Ballet Burn, and fitness programs such as P90X and Insanity.  I'm excited to see people take charge of their fitness, but I'm also a little worried that people are going a little overboard and over training.

Is that possible, Q?  Yeah, unfortunately it is.  Derby peeps tend to do things full throttle, and since many of us haven't had much experience with regular fitness programs, sometimes we do too much and end up sabotaging our own progress.  I see people hit the gym, go to practice, and then do an ab work out when they get home.  Sometimes a lot of a good thing doesn't actually make it better!  So, what are the warning signs that you're over training?  Well, I'm glad you asked, citizen.

1.  You have a general lack of energy.  Exhaustion is a word that gets bantered around on a regular basis, but it's a real event in your life if you're over training.  Your brain is numb, you can't focus, your eyes are drooping and you feel like getting up off of the couch is like climbing a mountain.  Listen to what your body is saying, and rest!

2.  You have pain in your muscles and joints.  Yes, soreness can happen after any activity, but when you over train, you are constantly stressing your muscles and never letting them recover.  You feel soreness and pain a majority of the time, which is a major warning sign that you are taxing your muscles to the limit! 

3.  You have a sudden drop in your performance.  Your body is a machine, and when you push it to the limit, it can't recover and it starts showing in your performance.  Our speed skating coaches used to say that it was good to take breaks from training; they said that when you came back after a week or two off, you would be faster and less fatigued.  I tried it in speed, and they were right. 

4.  You experience insomnia.  Your body is aching, your muscles are twitching and you just feel crappy.  Of course you can't sleep!  When you over train, your stress hormones rise, and that can make your brain whirl and keep you up when you're dying for sleep.

5.  You're getting more injuries than normal.  Your body can't recover when you over train, and eventually you reach a breaking point, literally.  Stress fractures, muscle pulls, and sprains suddenly start happening to you.  It's not by accident!  Your body is in stress mode the entire time, and can't spend the energy to heal your injuries.  REST!

6.  You aren't as enthusiastic about your sport.  This is a real tragedy, because that's why most of us are over training in the first place, so we can be better derby players!  If you find your enthusiasm is starting to dwindle, it might be time for a little mini vacation.

7.  You have a compulsive need to exercise.  Did you know that exercise is addicting?  Yep.  We get addicted to the endorphins, which makes us crave activity.  You know you've felt the whole "If I don't get on skates and hit someone, I'm going to explode" feeling.  The same thing can happen for weight training and running. 

8.  You're moody.  This is beyond a PMS kind of moody; people who over train are stressed out and over train have so many stress hormones floating around their systems.  They may be happy one minute and a complete bitch the next.  Beast mode?  Talk about Bitch Mode!

9.  You get more infections, especially nose and throat infections.  Evidently, throat and nose infections are the body's early warning sign that something is not going well in your health.  If you are taxing your body to the limit, a nose or throat infection might be your body's way of telling you to slow down.  

How can you recover from over training?  Well, the only answer is rest.  You have to rest in order to let your body recover, and when you're over training, you're ignoring your body's need to have a rest.  Eventually it's going to force you to rest.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Entitled Skaters: Part II Are you a narcissist?

I wrote a letter to the entitled a while ago, but I think it was too subtle.  People didn't get that I was talking to them, so here is a new and more pointed blog post.  Entitlement is a giant problem in our sport, and I'm going to try to call some people out and give them a clue that they might be behaving like an entitled douchebag in derby.  I can't necessarily define entitlement, but much like pornography,  I know it when I see it.  Remember, ladies and gentlemen, this is a team sport.  If you want to be a diva, go play tennis or golf.  That way the only successes and failures will be totally up to you.

1.  Do you think your talent makes you above certain duties? You're the bestest jammer ever; you win every MVP and people love you, so that means you don't have to actually do volunteer hours, or lay down the track when everyone else does,  or show up on time for practice.  Guess have to do all of those things.  Get over yourself and stop treating other skaters as your entourage.

2.  Do you demand special privileges? "I'm late to early morning practice, but it's only like ten minutes.....I need my coffee!" 

3.  Do you think thoughts like "I am...therefor I deserve special treatment"  I have actually heard skaters say " I'm really good, so I shouldn't have to come to as many practices."  My jaw hit the ground when I first heard it; this is a PRIME example of entitled and narcissistic behavior. 

4.  Do you expect major amounts of praise for doing your job on the track or in the league?  Some people get butthurt because they don't get patted on the back for every thing they're supposed to be doing in the showing up...or doing volunteer work...or showing up.  Did I say that one twice?

5.  Do you feel like the rules don't apply to you?  You criticize fellow players or refs on the track, but you jump all over someone else who acts in the same way.  Why?  Because you're ALLOWED to do it; you're justified in your behavior, but your teammate is just being a bitch.  I hate to break it to you, but you're a bitch too.  Your behavior is just as crappy and you should be shutting your own mouth first. 

6.  Do your needs have priority over other people's needs?  Do you really think that?  Have you acted on those thoughts?  Do you hear the sound of me rolling up a newspaper to swat you on the nose? 

7.  If people don't do what you want, do you make threats, get highly offended, or criticize them when you don't get your way?  Threats can be anything from "I'm quitting derby" to "I'm not playing in this next game!" This is a classic narcissistic trait, and even if you aren't a diagnosed narcissist, you should probably stop acting like one because you're hurting yourself in the long run, and your league in the short run.  Plus, you sound like a tantrum having bratty kid. 

Do any of these criteria fit your personality?  Are you a little embarrassed by your behavior in your league?  Well, the good news is you can change!  The steps are pretty concrete and spelled out below.

Ways to break out of being an entitled narcissist. 

1.  Believe that your position in the league is only justified as long as you contribute something of value.  Contributing something doesn't just mean showing up and being YOU, it means working your butt off to make your league a good place to be.

2.  Tell yourself you are responsible for making this league a better place for all players.  All players, not just you.  That means you must worry about the group before you worry about your individual needs.  Start small.  Show up early to practice and tape the track down.  Sign up to help with Fresh Meat training; take on a league job that other people have avoided.  Start doing the small things and your attitude will change over time.

3.  Take ownership of your league and feel responsible for its successes and failures.  Own it when your league does well, or when it does poorly.  You aren't independent of the league.

4.  If you see an inequity, then fix it.  A lot of derby players focus on themselves and what they're doing in derby, but sometimes there are BLATANT inequities in a league, and people just shrug their shoulders about them.  Stop shrugging your shoulders and do something about it.  If you're as awesome as you think you are, you can make a difference and change a bad situation.

So there you go.  If you feel like you're better and more amazing than your teammates, maybe you should consider playing a solo sport.  That way you'll always be the star and special.  Otherwise, learn to be a good teammate and league member.  Remember, it's not all about you.