Monday, April 27, 2015

Ch Ch Ch Changes in derby and all the trends!

Every once in a while, I start thinking about how many things have changed since I started playing derby in 2009. I know derby is a young sport, but there have been so many different trends and rule changes, that I'm surprised I can remember most of them. Of course, Timehop has helped!

My face says it all.
1. Kneeling on the jam line to start the jam. Good grief, y'all. This might have been the dumbest year in derby ever. Jams where nobody skated, kneeling jam starts, people lying down across the jam line to hold a spot for their teammates. Every team did it too, because if you didn't, either the jam wouldn't start, or someone else would make something stupider happen. Yes, I said stupider. We all kidded ourselves and patted ourselves on the back. "This is strategy." Ugh. No. This was monkeying with a technicality of the rules, and I'm so very friggin' happy that it went the way of the dodo. Two whistle starts? Not anymore. Look, not skating, after all of the time and effort we put into training ourselves to skate is not a strategy. It's a gimmick. Bye bye strollerderby! Go back to the loophole hell from whence you came.

2. Putting KT tape all over your body like war paint. Look, KT tape might be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but in 2013, everyone and their brother/sister had every part of their bodies taped up to play. The use of KT tape is still being debated in sports; most physical therapists think it's great to help with swelling, but not for support. Regardless of how it's used, it must have been a good year for KT tape manufacturers. I should have bought stock! So many colors! So many patterns! Well, I guess it's cheaper than tattoos. (But not by much)

3. Minors. Whenever I bring up minors, I feel like I need to be sitting in a rocking chair holding court over all of the newbie skaters while I knit and reminisce about past. Get granny her tea and don't rile her up! Minors were the bane of my existence as a new skater, because I was thrown out to jam a lot, I would inevitably pick up three minors and then be benched for eternity, because they wouldn't jam me with three minors. Smart! But then they'd throw me out to block and to get my fourth minor; suddenly, I could pay clean as a whistle and never get my fourth minor. Hey, at least I didn't have to jam again!

When they ditched the minors, the ditched the outside white board, which still kind of bums me out because I loved NSOing the outside white board. When I was manning the outside white board, I used to hear a lot of talk from the refs, and I learned a lot just by paying attention.

Those are just a few of the trends and rules that have come and gone since I joined derby. When I posted that I was blogging about this people threw in their two cents. Trends mentioned were tutus, belts and fishnets. Of course, these particular derby fashions have become less popular over the years, but there are still die hard tutu enthusiasts, belt aficionados, and fishnet mavens. I hope derby doesn't lose the fun stuff completely, even though I don't wear any of that stuff anymore myself. After seven years, it just got to be too much, and I go for comfort now. But my hat is off to anyone who is rocking the fun!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Etiquette for visiting other practices by Sesamean Streak

Etiquette for visiting other practices
by Sesamean Streak, Smoky Mtn Rollergirls

The (well, ONE) beautiful thing about roller derby is the presence of teams spread across this country and the world.  Though my travel has been work-related and within the US, I get excited to find out where a conference will be and who I can visit. Visiting other team practices can be invaluable, and sometimes you can find a “home away from home” with a team who you really have fun with (Med City Mafia, I’m talking to YOU).  Here are some tips for preparing for and visiting another team’s practice. 
Photos by Tiffany Sanderson

Is there a team there? The internet makes it pretty darn easy to find out teams in an area where you will be. Search and find out which one(s) you would want to visit.  And DON’T be intimidated!
Check dates prior to going- If they have a practice schedule posted ( like Duke City did when I visited Albuquerque, NM)  it makes it easier to email someone and see if you can join a certain practice-or if there aren’t any at all for that time. If there is a bout when you will be visiting, I feel it is better to go cheer than to ask about crashing a practice around bout time. That being said, I have seen teams who don’t mind either way because it will be a home team bout OR the league is so big there is another practice you can join. 

Ask ahead of time- I cannot stress this enough.  As soon as I know about a trip, I start messaging/emailing the team. I want to give them as much time as possible to discuss it with their coach and/or trainer, ILC, and whoever else would need to be involved. It also gives them time to decide which practice may be appropriate for you. 

Be honest about your skill level and how long you have played-
the last thing you want is to go and feel really stupid about how you play with another team.  I have always been very honest about my playing history and experience. When I attended an endurance practice with the DC Rollergirls a couple of years ago, I knew I would probably die.  I ended up on the floor a lot of the time, but I
never gave up.  I learned a ton- and they were great to skate with. 
Me with the DC Rollergirls!

Find out the rules set they play under-
is it WFTDA or USARS, and which do you play with? Some teams might not want you to attend a scrimmage practice if you play by a different ruleset. No big deal, it’s just the way it is and sometimes they may feel it would be difficult to adjust. 
Don’t take over their practice-only offer up drills/advice/criticism IF ASKED. Remember, you are a guest and thankful for the opportunity. 

Be open-minded- even if you NEVER jam at your team’s practice (does that happen?), if that is what the team/league you’re visiting does go for it. 
Ask about a visiting skater fee-some teams charge a small fee to visit. This is normal, and it is usually bigger leagues that do this. But, you do want to know ahead of time so you don’t look stupid or show up empty-handed.  Usually, they will tell you when you are making arrangements.
Make sure you have insurance (no brainer)- this may sound obvious, but just make sure you are covered and don’t put another team in jeopardy.  They usually ask you about this when you visit or during your pre-visit correspondence. 

Give them time to respond- don’t harass them if they don’t get back to you within one week. Sometimes, leagues are extremely busy, or don’t check their facebook/emails regularly. They may take a while to get back to you. I usually wait 2-3 weeks before checking back in; but honestly, I only needed to wait that long once.

Ask if it is a closed practice/scrimmage- usually this applies if you have family with you in a strange place and they are driving/riding with you. They may not have anywhere to go while you are at practice. I am not saying to take your three children to a practice with you- but if you have one or two family members traveling with you, it is ok to ask about them hanging out.  I made the mistake of not asking about this when I visited Rat City in a cab- my poor mom and her friend ended up walking around the neighborhood in pouring rain until I was done. Luckily, they found a cupcake place that had been on the show “Cupcake Wars” and were pretty happy about it.

Work for getting merch or a t-shirt exchange – most people want a memento of visiting a practice, and what better loot than an awesome t-shirt? Most teams have a merch person who will gladly bring you a t-shirt you can pay for when you visit. Some will even do a shirt exchange for your team merch. 

Unpredictable things happen- sometimes a practice is cancelled last-minute, there is a team emergency or death within the team’s family, or other unforeseen circumstances may occur. Don’t get too bummed about it- just tell yourself it didn’t work out this time, but you may be back! This has happened to me twice, and the only time it really sucked was when the team didn’t tell me they moved practice. So, while on vacation, I traveled 30 minutes to a practice spot and waited for another 30 until I realized nobody was coming.  This leads to the last point….

Get a contact number- a cell number of the person coordinating your practice visit is super-helpful, if only for them to let you know if something comes up last-minute.  It is also a good idea to let that person know that someone from your league may contact him/her to ask about you attending that practice/scrimmage.

And, DO IT! Visit other teams! You will feel so happy about who you meet and what you learn! Thanks to all of the teams who support and welcome visitors-it is appreciated!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Keyboard Reffing, and Why You Shouldn't.

Social media is a blessing and a curse. I've written quite a few blogs naming the pitfalls that many skaters trip into on Facebook and such.  Last year, I saw the drama of a coach commenting on photos from a bout, and basically telling the refs they were biased or plain incompetent. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but it is only a single moment in time from a single perspective. Don't let those thousand words paint a picture of you as a jackass.

Keyboard Reffing, and Why You Shouldn't. 
By Amy Roundhouse

I very rarely say the words “I really dislike this thing about the roller derby community” because I generally love everything about it. However, there's one dislike that has been bugging me more lately as it keeps popping up: keyboard officiating.

We all love looking through post-game photos. Hilarious faces, epic moments, and of course, “Oh look she DID elbow her in the face! HIGH BLOCK! ELBOW!” We sometimes have this tendency to start calling penalties based on only the small, still point of view of a photo, and that is not cool.

Is that a forearm or am I being wingy?

I spoke to another skater about this who wished to remain anonymous, and she had a mouthful to share on the topic: “I'll never understand the need of others to start making officiating calls based on photos and/or sometimes video after a bout. We have officials that work our bouts...let them do their job. Use these as learning opportunities to share with your league, not to comment for the masses, which can be damaging to a skater, team, league, or the sport itself. Individuals are quick to give their 2 cents without a thought or care of the repercussions of their comments. After every bout I see someone that feels the need to do this and, to be honest, it doesn't make anyone look good. I am happy that it is something we talk about as proper derby etiquette (in our league).”

All of her points are great, and ones I agree with completely. First, we have our referees to consider. These volunteers spend their time, money, and energy learning the rules of the sport and applying them to their officiating. By calling penalties based on the very narrow point of view offered by bout photography, you are undermining your officials’ skills, publicly. Penalties are called based on a very particular moving spectrum involving action and impact. A photo can only tell one minor part of a larger situation. If you have an issue with calls, address them during the game with the officials, not on Facebook weeks later.

Secondly, certain comments can be hurtful to other skaters. As a whole, derby skaters want to play their game as cleanly and legally as they can. Most skaters do not want to intentionally shoulder you in the chin, but it happens sometimes. She or he will already eat a guilt sandwich over an illegal hit, they don't need a side of guilt beans piled on their plate by numerous comments on a photo calling them out or whining that it didn't get called. We play a hard hitting sport, and sometimes the hits may be illegal, and sometimes caught in stunningly edited photographic glory, much to the offender’s embarrassment. If you feel the need to vent about a frustrating moment frozen in time in a folder on Facebook, do it privately with  teammates and avoid the possibility of hurting anyone's feelings.

Third, you could hurt your leagues reputation with your comments. It's one thing to sit at a desk with teammates flipping through photos and discussing what you see. It's another thing entirely to leave accusatory comments all over bout photos. If your team plays four games, and after all four of those games a certain couple of skaters spend their time going through the photos trying to keyboard officiate everything they see, people may not see it as “Betty Rollergirl and Jessie Jukejumper always leave very hurtful and negative comments on bout photos,” they'll see it as “Northsouth Rollergirls have a tendency to leave hurtful comments on bout photos.” It reflects on the league as a whole. You may end up losing officials or opponents, and no one wants that. We want the derby community to grow, we want your league to thrive, and we want you to be a part of our sport. Rule number 1 in derby is supposed to be “Don't be a douchebag.” Let's get back to that.

Is there a high block happening?
Obviously I'm not saying don't ever discuss any bout photos online ever. There was a photo posted in the Facebook group iDerby that had over 500 comments discussing whether the action in the photo was legal. Some of it was arguing, but much of it was constructive talk about rules, and there's nothing wrong with that. Rules discussion is always a good thing. But be mindful of what you're posting. Ask yourself, is what I’m about to post helpful? Will it contribute to anything? Could it hurt someone's feelings? Will what I'm saying possibly make my league look bad?

As my anonymous friend said, “Do what is best for derby, then your league, then your team... that should be the order of priority.”

Photos used in this blog were provided with permission by Shon Higgs.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

You should talk about Sexual Harassment in derby

It happens everywhere, even in our sport, and people are starting to open up about it. This is reblogged from Derbylife, and the description of the video is also from their site.

"Todd Bradley, Y.I. Otter, and many other officials and derby folks have a message they want to share with the derby community. They’re hoping to spark a conversation about a hard, uncomfortable topic in the derby world."

You should watch this video and open up a dialogue with your league; there may be some skaters, refs or volunteers who have been suffering in silence because they feel like they've experienced sexual harassment.

You may be surprised.

You can find the link to derbylife here.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A hate letter to derby

Photo by Kent Smith
Everyone has a love hate relationship with derby. Sometimes the hate outweighs the love, and sometimes it's a draw.  Quiet Storm of the Ohio Roller Girls has graciously shared some of her struggle with the love hate relationship with derby.

Roller Derby, I Hate You
It was my 26th birthday.  I had made the mistake of eating some of the surprise, happy birthday cake my sister left for me in the fridge for breakfast. Then the stomach flu I had been fending off for a few days decided to rear its ugly head. After spending the morning expelling chocolate vomit into the porcelain throne, I collapsed in a sickly heap in front of my computer hoping to spend a few hours perusing Facebook and delving into my spiral of illness. I had a new email from my team captain. In painfully halting sentences it explained to me that the progress I had shown thus far in my rookie year was insufficient to garner my eligibility for rosters with the team. This was a crushing blow. I had been attending every single practice; dedicating every spare moment to improvement, yet I had begun leaving practice every night exhausted and frustrated. I just wasn't seeing the improvement I had been expecting with the level of time I was committing. It was at that moment I was completely shocked to realize I hated roller derby. 

The second that thought entered my head I was stricken with the most stunning guilt. I was harboring some kind of shameful secret. Everyone I knew loved The Derby. It is a sport built on so much selfless hard work and dedication; my teammates had spent years growing our league into a strong and stable force in the derbyverse. The taboo of hating such a thing stung! After trying to rationalize the emotional hailstorm I was wading through I made the deeply personal decision to allow myself a week of completely hating derby, no forced positivity and no strained optimism. I explained the concept to a few of my fellow rookies. All week long I was jokingly telling them every terrible thing that went wrong derby-wise was irrelevant because I hated Derby, it was the enemy.

Roller derby and I were in the midst of the biggest fight of our relationship. It felt like Derby was continuing to punish me for my hatred of it. That week escalated into a series of closeted altercations between myself and the sport. I accidentally high blocked another player directly into her face and was promptly and verbally put in my place for it. I went home crying and mentally flagellating myself for my sloppy playing. I love and adore my teammates so thoroughly, I contemplated forever hanging up my skates simply to spare them from my juvenile, underdeveloped skating skills I was certain would lead to one of them becoming seriously injured. Then, at my rookie class's first mixed scrimmage with a visiting team, I was ejected early on from the game for jumping at another player. My uncontrolled, sloppy playing struck again. I have never, ever experienced such shame and embarrassment in my life before. I was completely horrified. Not only had I entirely made a fool of myself but I felt I had also tainted my rookie class and my whole team with the stain of my very public disgrace. It's not hyperbole when I admit, it truly was the worst week of my life.

My seven days of roller derby hell afforded me some very surprising revelations. Much like a young child telling their parents “I hate you. I wish I was adopted. I'm going to run away from home.” my verbal and mental abuse toward roller derby clearly did nothing to injure the sport's sterling reputation in its own community. That week, every time I walked into practice, I left it all on the track.  There is no self-pressure to perform when you are completing an activity simply to finish it.  No looking back at the end of practice to seek mistakes and areas of improvement. No over-thinking of strategies or culminating derby dramas. I wrote Derby scathing hate notes, skipped the gym, ate junk food, defiantly cursed it internally during every second of endurance practice. It felt so amazing after months of pent up derby frustration to just hate the shit out of it. People get so burnt out in this community and I feel like it really needs to be said somewhere: You are allowed to hate roller derby sometimes. No relationship can be wine and roses all the time. Nobel laureate and author Elie Wiesel put it succinctly “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.”  After talking to several veteran and retired skaters it became apparent that in order for someone to experience any type of longevity in this sport it requires enduring it through all the emotions that accompany a healthy and evolving relationship. Hatred is a passionate expression. It requires actually giving a fuck. Trying to deny the inevitable hatred and dislike that will sometimes accompany your love for this sport is seriously going to cripple your relationship with it. That week solidified to me, after months of struggling as a faltering rookie, I was where I was supposed to be. I feel a passion for this sport I can't fully explain. For better, for worse I love it. I'm sure I will have many more days in which I will despise Derby and sometimes dislike the way it is challenging and forcing me to grow as an athlete and overall as a human being.  However I fully know the gains I have and will continue to experience are worth every moment of anguish and frustration felt out on the track.

It's okay Derby, I love you but I can hate you sometimes too.