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.