Sunday, October 26, 2014

More derby truths

Sometimes I get philosophical. Long derby trips in the car can do that to a gal, and I get way more philosophical towards the end of the season.  Lack of sleep, candy and junk food helps fuel the fire.

1. The more time I spend around derby people from different leagues, the more I realize we all are struggling with the same issues. Whether it's training, finding and keeping a practice space, recruiting, getting sponsors, putting on bouts, drama, and intra-league relations, we all are dealing with the same shit. It's funny, since I put TimeHop on my phone, I can see my posts from when I first joined derby; guess what!  They're the same complaints I have now. Shocking. Nobody is 100% happy in any league at any time; there are money worries, equity issues, interpersonal dust ups and everything in between. No league is perfect, and they all take a lot of work to keep up, which brings me to truth number 2.

The mythical "I just want to do BOD work and you all can skate" unicorn.
2. Everyone wants to "Just skate."  Oh boy, I hate hearing this particular lament. I mean, who doesn't "just want to skate" and not take any responsibility for keeping the league running. I don't want to worry about recruitment, skater dues, filing WFTDA sanctioned documents, and setting practice schedules. I don't want to think about designing strategies, I want someone else to do all of that, just so I can skate! Well, that's not a reality in any league, so we all need to buck up and dig in, or nobody gets to skate.

3. Having better equipment doesn't necessarily mean you're going to skate better. Ok, I know my friend Ballz has a saying that you can shamelessly improve your performance through better equipment, but the longer I'm skating, the more I know that this isn't a truth for me. I mean, you should have gear that works, but for the most part, it doesn't really matter what you put on your feet after a certain quality level. I mean, look at Seahorses Forever, that man skates in peanutbutters and crap bearings. I don't think anyone would argue that Seahorses Forever isn't an amazing skater, no matter what he's wearing. I've even seen a picture or two of him wearing two different boots in a game. Seriously. Look, derby is a business, and people are going to try to sell you the next and bestest thing they've created, but you have to figure out what works for you. This weekend, I skated a great game on brand new plates, and even though I only had one practice in them, I knew I'd play well no matter what I was skating on.  It's so important to worry more about your skills and your basic abilities than the newest and greatest boot evar.  This doesn't count when it comes to helmets though, so don't even try to skate with a crap helmet when I'm around.

4. Derby peeps need to learn more about skate maintenance. The previous post doesn't excuse the dirty bearings, crapped out pivot cups, rotting bushings and the general use of duct tape to hold skates together. Keep up with your skates. You should all own a set of tools that work with your particular plates, and be able to take apart your trucks to switch out your bushings. Every time I hear a skater say "Hey, does anyone have a skate tool?" I die a little inside. Go get the appropriate tools! Also, be proactive about skate maintenance and supplies. You know you're going to need certain consumables, so have them handy when your skate needs to some TLC.

5. Diversity is necessary in derby. At work, some of my office mates were discussing a diversity training they had to attend, and the take away point was that diversity is necessary in a group. It keeps people from thinking we all come from the same place and the same experiences; it keeps a group healthy.  Diversity means that there are people from different races, different cultures and differently-abled people. I think that derby accepts people from different races, cultures and sexual identities, but after reading about the ridiculous comments made by Team NZRDA's coach about dealing with a hearing impaired player, I think we have to strive harder for diversity. I myself have played with hearing impaired players, and leaguemates who spoke English as a second language without issue. Communication, trust and cooperation are the ideals we should be striving for no matter who is on our team or in our leagues. Learn to embrace diversity, derby; it will make our sport better.

Just some thoughts.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This is how I ROLE. What role do you play in your league?

 There are different roles in each league, and we all rotate through them at one time or another. Some of these roles are good ones to be in, but some are definitely pitfalls and should be avoided like the plague.

 1. The Bright Eyed Enthusiastic Newbie- Hopefully we all start out as the Bright Eyed Newbie! Newbies love derby, love going to all of the derby events, and have unbridled enthusiasm for all the derby things ever. They can be a little hard to swallow sometimes, if you're a weathered veteran, but they're good for the league and keep it going. Without bright eyed optimism, derby wouldn't exist.

2. The Chaperone- Anyone who has been a captain or on the board of directors in a league has felt like the chaperone on a school field trip. Does everyone have a buddy? Does everyone have their milk and snack? Did everyone go to the bathroom before we left for the trip? Did everyone make attendance? Did everyone do their volunteer work? Sometimes being the chaperone makes you crazy. It makes you not enjoy derby for a while, because you're always worried about someone not doing what they're supposed to be doing in the league. Smile chaperone, you were once one of the potential disasters.

3. The Hall Monitor- The Hall Monitor is always worrying about what everyone else is doing wrong or getting away with in the league. They watch the attendance sheet to make sure people have made attendance, know when people come in late to practices and exactly how much play time everyone gets compared to them. Being a hall monitor is tough on your psyche if you're always worried about what everyone else is doing, it's hard to concentrate on the positive things going on in your derby experience. If you constantly look for the negative in your league, you will find it; the one thing I've learned from writing my blog and having leagues contact me over the years is that there is no such thing as a perfect league. All leagues have issues, and it really depends on the season, and your particular point of view at the time.

4. The Cheerleader- Every league needs a cheerleader, and every league needs to know that the cheerleader may not be the best judge of skills. Cheerleaders always have something positive to say about everyone and everything. Their glasses aren't full, they're running over! Yea Derby!  If you're a cheerleader, you are essential for your league's spiritual health. Hooray! Just try not to blow too much smoke up people's asses. Some smoke is ok, and possibly necessary.

5. The Dodge Ball Coach- Some vets are like the coach from the Ben Stiller movie Dodge Ball. "If
I've been known to be the Dodge Ball coach.
you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball" style of advice and feedback comes from the Dodge Ball Coach, and sometimes it's a wee bit harsh to swallow; to be fair, the Dodge Ball Coach has probably forgotten more derby than most people have learned.  "When we learned how to hockey stop, they made us sprint at the wall full speed! That taught us how to stop in a hurry!" Yes, but how many people slammed into the wall? Actually, if you find yourself in the Dodge Ball Coach role, just remember that derby has changed, and mostly for the better. Have a sense of humor about surviving the crazy old times.

6. The Gifter- Some people in the derby world are just givers. They do crafts, they bake awesome foods and stuffs and they always remember a special occasion. I am in awe of the gifter, because I can barely remember my own birthday and I'm rarely able to think that far ahead and bring anything other than myself and gear to practice! Gifters always make me feel a little inadequate as a teammate. They just seem to be more in tune with people and social stuff than I am.

7. The Critic- The Critic has either been a leader in the league, or has never taken a position of authority, but BOY HOWDY do they have lots and lots of opinions! "You should have done this, or that." Critics like to criticize after a decision has been made, but rarely do they offer insight BEFORE the decision is made. If you're going to be in this role, please try to make suggestions before decisions are made; I know it's scary to offer the league an opinion that might be contrary to the leadership, but it's a good thing to speak up and share your ideas. I always get worried when a league doesn't allow people to express contrary opinions.

8. The Bleary Eyed Vet- The Bleary Eyed Vet is just trying to enjoy the remaining derby years she has left. She doesn't really want to learn new strategy, or skills; she wants to play the game she wants to play and have some fun while she finishes up her derby career. She can be a lot of good on a less competitive roster, but she can also be a detriment on a team trying to work on new strategies.

9. The Guest Star- I could have also called this role the "reoccurring character" but basically it's that league member who can't really commit to that many league practices at the moment. She pays her dues, does her volunteer duties, but can't really commit enough to make a roster. Everyone loves when she shows up, but we all know that it's not for good. Enjoy the Guest Star while she's there, but don't count on her for anything more than a few appearances.

10. The Martyr- My goodness, we've all been the martyr, haven't we?  "I do so much for this league and nobody appreciates it." I know I've been there, but leagues take a lot of work, and if you want to skate in a successful one, work has to get done. Unfortunately, when you find yourself in the Martyr position you are prime material for burning out. LEARN TO DELEGATE!!!!!! You can avoid martyrdom burnout if you aren't the one trying to do ALL THE JOBS EVER! Here's another thought, if you went around and asked most derby peeps who does a lot of work and gets no thanks in the league, many people would say "me!" It's all a matter of perspective.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How far do you drive for derby?

Neuralize Her is a former CRG skater that moved away recently. I miss her terribly, but I'm excited that she and Glenn Hur have found a new home with the Big Easy Rollergirls. (You owe us bigtime, ladies. ;) ) Neura used to travel a LOT to come to our practices, and she asked me if she could share her experience in my blog. 

Honestly, if everyone was this dedicated to derby, just imagine the possibilities.

How far do you have to drive- or how far are you WILLING to commute to play roller derby?

When I moved from San Diego, CA to New Bern, NC I was faced with this very question...with a small league 40 minutes away but a more competitive WFTDA league about 2hours and 15minutes away, I thought I would settle for the closer, smaller, less competitive league.

After about 6 months more or less on the smaller league, and realizing that if I continued with them I would never have more than likely 5, and this was a BIG night, at a practice, I was ready for a change....and I decided to tryout for Carolina Rollergirls and to try the 2hr and 15min drive twice per week.

It definitely took some thought on my part. I wanted to know that it was doable and I figured it was because:
1. My boyfriend plays derby too and offered to drive so I could sleep in the car if I needed to
2. I am single
3. My job allowed me to leave work early once per week, sometimes twice, with a little bit of changing my schedule around.

Of course everyone's situation is different. Unfortunately, real life does trump roller derby...although sometimes I (we) maybe wish it didn't...

Are you in a similar situation? If you are considering driving a long distance to play roller derby you need to consider a few things:

1. Is your job flexible with your work schedule?
2. Do you have someone to share driving responsibility? Or maybe a skater bud you can stay at their house so you don't have to drive late at night or when tired?
3. Can you realistically make the attendance and league requirements with your schedule? How will you do this?
4. Are you ok with your life being solely dedicated to work and roller derby? You will likely need to sacrifice any sort of family.friends-outside-of-derby time to do this because of the travel distance.

So those are real ?s to ask yourself. It is doable, and I know I wouldn't be the skater I am today if I hadn't. I made the right decision for me because I love the sport and my team so much, but I know it may be a different story for others.
Photo by Joshua R. Craig

If you have more ?s please don't hesitate to email

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Feeling the Pain: How I deal with the "Quit" word.

Every once in a while I have a weekend where I'm tired, possibly sick with a sinus infection, dealing with aches and pains, and aggravated with league duties. I probably have a couple of these moments a season (the season that lasts and lasts and lasts) but they absolutely suck when Division Play offs are on. Why you might ask? Well, I either become completely inspired by watching D1 and D2s, or I get frustrated by seeing all of the amazing skaters, and how far I have to go, and if I want to go that far.

I've been in derby since 2009, and this year I've had to wrestle with the question "why do I keep doing this?" several times. Derby is wonderful, frustrating, and exhausting at times, but eventually I will be hanging up my helmet to move on to a new adventure. Yes, I know that everyone gets into funks about derby and questions why they're still putting in the work to get their bodies beaten up and their free time devoured, but sometimes the questions are persistent, and become even louder than normal.

So. When I'm dealing with the question of staying on in derby, or going on to something else, I do a few activities to see just how much of a funk I'm actually in. It's a big decision, and it doesn't have to be made in one day. These activities I do help me figure out if I'm just being a moody pain in the ass, or I need to ponder things a little more seriously.


1. I draft my retirement letter to my league. Yeah, I know that a lot of people who leave this sport don't actually write a letter or email or whatever, but I will. I'd like to say goodbye to people and know that I'm leaving the league for my own reasons; people need closure, and I will write a letter when I actually do retire. Sometimes my drafts are funny, sometimes they're very emotional, and every once in a while I write a rant that's filled with some spiteful words about derby in general. The spiteful ones actually help give me perspective and let me vent, and since I know nobody else is EVER going to read them, at times they make me laugh at the ridiculous complaints I have. No, you may not read them.

2. I make a derby bucket list. This changes from season to season, and it's gotten shorter and shorter over the years too, which is the natural progression of things. I have been lucky enough to winnow my list down to five or six things I'd like to do. I'd still like to skate on a banked track, and I may have found a lead on that. I'm not sure if I want to actually play derby on one, especially after rewatching that ankle grinding injury from documentary Hell on Wheels, but skating on one would be awesome.

3. I watch awesome footage. D1s are a blessing and a curse to me when I'm feeling wonky about derby. I still get excited about derby, and watching other teams skate inspires me to try new things and come up with new drills and ideas for my league. It also can totally bum me out to see some of the most amazing players doing their thing out there. Yes, I'm talking about Scald Eagle this weekend. I'm not exactly sure if she's human, and I'm pretty sure I will never be that amazing. Today, she is inspiring me to get lower and cross train more, but who knows what I'll be feeling about her amazing skating next time I'm in a funk.

4. I look at my brag/swag wall. I know some players keep accomplishments from derby in a place in their houses, and I have a wall that keeps me motivated and reminds me of games I had fun playing. I also design posters for some teams, and I'm super proud of them; my accomplishments make me happy and proud of my derby career. I know it sounds braggy to have a wall like this in my house, but 1. I'm not very social, so it's mostly Mr. Q and myself who see it, and 2. it's healthy to acknowledge your accomplishments. It feels like women in general don't like to be seen as bragging about their accomplishments, but you should be proud of yourself. I'm proud of the tournament my team got to go to last year, I'm proud of myself for actually dragging my ass to Rollercon, I'm proud of each MVP I've ever gotten and I'm especially proud of my league awards. Eventually, I will redecorate my wall, and put these trophies and posters away, but right now they motivate me.

And yes, the question to stay or leave derby was especially loud this week, but I've answered it for now.