Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks by Mosh Pit Momma

 Yet another guest blog, but this one is about giving thanks for what we have learned and earned in derby. Enjoy.

It was the weekend closing out my second season of roller derby. Sitting on the floor geared up and ready to go, I watched the B teams take to the track. I sat there, half laughing at the silly mistakes they made and half feeling like I was looking in the mirror. With just over a year or so of skating experience, I still felt (and feel) like a novice.

I was a crazy feeling when I found out earlier in the season that I had made our All Star team and even more so when I occasionally joined our jammer rotation. In the last two seasons, I have tried to take everything as an opportunity, an opportunity to try, to learn new things or simply skate with new people. At some point this past season we scrimmaged Mother State Roller Derby – the cross fit, endurance driven… robots of roller derby. Long story short, I survived and I was able to use that experience any time I was nervous about stepping on to the track.
Photo by Joe Rone

After a long trip back from one of our most challenging bouts of the season (Thanks Gate City!), I woke up early the next morning to venture out to the VA All Star tryouts.

“It’s just a Saturday practice with a different team,” I told myself, “It would be cool to make the team, but, if I don’t we have a busy enough 2016 season.”

I went to All Star tryouts not because I think of myself as an all-star, but because I thought it would be fun to meet and skate with amazing skaters – and it totally was.

During tryouts I skated with skaters from teams we had strived to beat. I occasionally realized how far I had come; reflecting on how this time two years ago I couldn’t skate backwards with anyone watching and there I was, skating backwards, around people and while being judged. During tryouts, I faced a fear I had going in, taking a hit from 40 Ounce Bounce, and to my surprise I survived (thought I am convinced she had toned it down).

The next day the results of tryouts were (finally!) posted to Facebook. Nervous and eager, I scrolled through the post, down to the list of skaters who had made it. Then, I checked it a few more times to make sure I had read it right.

I had made the All Stars.

But, it wasn’t an overwhelming feeling of excitement or pride that I had, but confusion and even upset. I had tried out with four of my teammates and of the five of us, only two had made it. My success didn’t seem fair and it felt wrong to celebrate while they faced disappointment. These were the people that I had skated since I started and some of the people that taught me how to skate.
The thing is, I wouldn’t be the skater I am today if it weren’t for the teammates I tried out with and everyone I have met along the way. Saying I am grateful for the opportunities I have had or thankful for the guidance I have been given seems like an understatement.

Over the last two season, I have had the opportunity to be coached by various coaches, to skate with new transfer skaters and visiting skaters, to work with visiting referees and even visit new leagues. I have meet some amazing people, weather they were on skates or off skates, and I’ve also met some people who I am sure I felt my day could have gone without. But truth be told, if it weren’t for each of those experiences, I am not sure I would be who I am today (on skates and off). The people who I may have felt I could have done without have given me a reason to be better (let’s be real, who doesn’t try to be better than a skater they don’t like?). While the “amazing” people taught me new things, provided me with new opportunities, but most of all, gave me a chance. 

Thank you to everyone I have taken the track with. 
Thank you to all the teams who have played us, as each bout served as a new learning and growth opportunity. 
Thank you to the visiting skaters who dropped into practice over the years and shared both their wisdom and skills. 
Thank you to all the wonderful skaters at Assassination Roller Derby and Dallas Derby Devils for not only being great host, but treating me like part of the team. 
Thank you referees, weather visiting practice or making the calls during a game, for your knowledge and time. 
Thank you coaches who have moved on to new leagues for the lessons and skills you taught. 
Thank you Five 40 Roller Girls for believing in me when I may not have, for encouraging me to keep trying, for your guidance, support and all the lessons along the way.

Thank you all for helping me become the skater I am today. 

I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had and look forward all the new ones to come. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Finding Your Tribe...Again By Stack'ddd Chassi #9er

You will never have a relationship with a group of girls like the one that forms with your first roller derby team.  Talking like sailors.  Laughing like sisters.  Discovering a more confident you (even when you thought your cocky arrogant ass couldn’t gain more pride).  Laughing to the point of tears which started to help stop the not so happy tears in the parking lot after a rough practice.  Sharing wavering emotions and ungodly smells.
Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami

There are many autobiographical chapters of your own derby experiences that almost every skater can relate to--that first moment your skate hits the track as fresh meat, that time you shared your mouth guard, that life changing bout, acquiring your derby wife/husband/widow and the showing of the inevitable bruised body part that you didn’t know could be injured (or shown) in public.  Now take all those stories, challenges and wins...and start over again...because you transferred; perhaps hours away or across time zones (shout out to Sadie Hellcat and Malice).  But not every skater has had the opportunity to work on those transitions and therefore this move can be tougher than a backwards hockey stop.

Movin’ ain’t easy.  However we boast how this great derby community is nationwide where you have the boundless comradery to where you go could go anywhere without knowing anyone, if you just reach out to your fellow derbyites.  I have allowed some derby acquaintances to know where I kept my spare house key to snag a shower/nap while in town and let strangers sleep at my house for an invitational.  As I have been on the receiving end, I tested the “Derby Generosity Without Borders” theory on a larger scale and reached out to a team I didn’t know in an unfamiliar place.  

I, and my wonderful referee fiance (that’s another story), relocated to Chattanooga where I know absolutely noone and nothing in this highly rated scenic city.  With a simple FB message, the Chattanooga team immediately responded with housing resources and welcomed us to join.  It wasn’t until five months later that I was settled enough to attend a practice and meet the new tribe.  

Gleaming with big smiles and asking the staple “When can you skate/join?”, it reminded me of my early days of bootcamp--butterflies, clammy hands and overwhelming joy and fear.  Similar to that first day of school feeling, where you are so excited and nervous to make new friends (peeing a little is okay) but you don’t know where to start or who to sit by.  So in the few months of my new surroundings, here are a few things I have learned to try and abide by, on and off the track...  

Rules To Follow Upon Entering The New Tribe:
  1. Don’t “One time at band camp”
“Well my team used to...with my league we did this...When I was..”.
You can recall the days/years you spent with your former league but you have to give it a rest.  Lend ideas of how you learned how to skate or play but you have to recognize when it is helpful vs obnoxious.
  1. Don’t be eager beaver to help
Just contribute to the team as a great, dependable skater.  Let the pot simmer cause if you start off boiling, you going to burn your tongue (sounds like the spokeswoman for Popeye’s chicken but you get what I’m saying).
     3.  Remember, you are not going to get along with everyone
    Don’t really need to say more than that. Texas offers clinics and programs to help the transplants adjust so that it is not overwhelming.  If a team has a “Welcoming Committee” or some other resource for the skaters from another stater (you like that?), then it would help on all sides with questions regarding policy & procedures.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Calling It Off by Killy from Philly A frank description of dealing with concussions

Anyone who reads my blog knows that concussions are an important issue for me. You can't train harder to avoid a concussion in derby; it's about the laws of physics, and it can happen to anyone who straps on skates and plays derby. I've seen concussions derail many skaters, ending their careers too soon. Thank you Killy for sharing your experiences with concussions on this post.

Calling It Off
by Killy from Philly

I am not one normally lost for words. It has taken me a long time to find the words to talk about my head injuries. Out loud. To talk with my doctors, teammates, my captains, my family and friends. Sometimes skaters I barely know message me for advice because they heard that I had concussions. The loss of your mental capacity is scary enough. It's been challenging to share openly about the symptoms without people being concerned, and suggesting I need to stop skating. I haven't always had the words to educate people on an invisible injury with invisible symptoms.
Photo by Tyler Shaw

You can’t shake off a concussion or skate it out. For me, the hits have added up. Sometimes loud noises leave me exhausted. Sometimes the words don't come out of my mouth when I expect them to. Sometimes I get headaches. Sometimes I get tired easily and I have to rest more frequently than I used to. Sometimes I get angry faster and become more impulsive. Sometimes I become sad for no reason. I can only share my own experience. Other people might have different experiences with their concussions. I am not providing medical advice. There are trained professionals for that. Yes I have a good helmet. No I don't have a face shield. I assume a certain level of risk on the track. All skaters do. With three concussions, continuing to skate is not a choice I make lightly. But it's a choice I have made nonetheless for the last year. In the last year, the high blocks have added to my concussions- hit by hit. 

I have learned to take care of myself after a concussion, to share how critical it is after one not to jump back in too soon. I have learned how the concussed person is not the best judge when it comes to their condition because, hello, they just got hit in their head. Quietly I talk about the nightmares and depression that kicked in afterwards. If you suspect you have a concussion, you probably do. One of my concussions was from the whiplash off a hit; my head was never touched. I share about how to ease yourself back into physical activities after a concussion. I have learned to come back to practice slowly. I have learned to turn down jamming when I just got back from a concussion.

I talk more loudly about how no helmets can prevent a concussion. It doesn’t matter what the commercials say or how many safety certificates they have. A helmet can reduce your risk but they cannot prevent a concussion. It’s about informing yourself about head injuries because it's a matter of when, not if. I ask about WFTDA and different leagues' concussion protocols. I read articles and medical journals on concussions in the NFL. The medical field is still learning about traumatic head injuries. There’s a lot they do not know.
Then there are things that I've come to terms with: it is difficult for referees to see and call high blocks. There are too many things they need to see. As a referee, the head is one of the last places you look. 

I no longer feel the rules can protect me. No amount of cross-training will prevent another concussion. Changing up my skate style or stance is not enough to prevent another injury. Jamming less helps but it wouldn't eliminate the risk. Getting a high block at practice has become the rule, not the exception. I have sustained enough high blocks this season alone to break two pairs of glasses at practice. In the four years of skating, I have not broken a pair in the first 3 years of skating. I know I will be at risk for another hit every time I put on skates. I acknowledge concussions can happen doing non-skating activities. I know I cannot take another hit. I know I must stop playing derby.

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Pet Peeves of Roller Derby: by Motown Mayhem

Once again another guest blogger has stepped up and taken the helm of my blog for a week. Enjoy! Q

The pet peeves of roller derby

By Motown Mayhem

Roller derby is one of the most awesome things I’ve ever been involved with athletically.  I
Hey Joe, whaddya know?
frickin’ love it, and plan on playing until I absolutely know I can’t anymore. I’ve been playing roller derby coming into my 5th season. I have played on the same team for all those years, before my league’s first real season. We’ve had many of the same players, and we’ve had the same coach for all those years.  However, over all this time I have to say I’ve developed many pet peeves. I think they’re kind of universal though. With that said, here are some things I see happening in roller derby that I absolutely cannot stand with all the deepest part of my soul. Solutions, suggestions, and/or recommendations are greatly appreciated since this is something that has bothered me for some time. Enjoy!

1.  “Work the drill!”

You’re learning a new drill, or doing a drill that has been done before. It’s being shown, and then it’s asked “anyone have any questions?” Usually, there is always questions if it is a new drill.  Totally cool and understandable. It’s when it’s a drill that’s been done for some time, practically years, that when people want to ask questions for 5 minutes I get bothered.  Same question asked 5 different ways with same explanation said 5 different ways  just to come to this saying, “Just work the drill.” Why not say, “I don’t have any more time to explain this to you because you just don’t get it.” Why not have your athletic leader’s take the people who seem most unsure and questions work with those people during the drill. Why does the whole team have to listen to the same drill being explained because either a. said person hasn’t been at practice enough or at all to know the drill, or b. said person just like a theoretical explanation because you enjoy lecture, or to make the athletic teacher look like a fool. We only have a couple hours to practice. Deep questions should be explained during cool downs or after practice if it comes down to it. A team meeting going over the drills before practice may be helpful. But don’t blow it off with “work the drill.” I hate that shit. 

2.  I want to play but I can’t make it to practice to get requirements.

I get it. Derby is a very demanding sport if you want to play. You got to meet requirements of sorts, and that means you have to be present to achieve this. But time and time again I have heard people moan and groan about how they want to play so bad, and then never come to practice.  And I’m talking about once every few months, if that. Or they’ll pop in for a while, make requirements, and then fall off the face of the planet when they make roster.  Yeah, that was helpful to your team. If you can’t commit, then you can’t commit. Don’t say you want to play and then flake out. I never doubt people’s team spirit, but derby = dedication on a team level. If you can’t do it, that’s fine. But don’t go competing for a spot if you can’t do it, absolutely, through and through.

3.  Hi, I’m new to this team, and I’ve played for eternity with other WFTDA teams and I think your team needs to change their plays to play like me.

Welcome to our team transferring player! Good to have a teammate who knows the rules and has developed skills. Awesome stuff! Can’t wait to train together! Oh wait, you don’t like our plays? You don’t like how we play? Okay, I get it. There are players who don’t think fast on the track as others. I mean, all teams have players who are quick to act and think and use their team, and then there are others who need to be reminded and coached at the same time while playing. That’s fine, and completely acceptable. So a transferring skater comes in and wants to change everything that has been taught for some time because it doesn’t  make sense to them? Why not tweak the plays you see where there needs a strengthening? Why yell at your teammates when they are playing the plays they have always played when they don’t work with you? Being the loan blocker doesn’t help the game. Work with your team, and be a team player. And if you’re new to a team, the team doesn’t adapt to you. You adapt to the team. That’s being a team player. I know, I know, you think we suck. But we can’t suck too damn bad if we’re an established team who does win games. Take it or go make your own “Team USA” since you’re so grand.

4.   Arguing with the coach/athletic trainers during practice.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I don’t pay dues to stand around for 5 minutes for a step by step argument on something like “I didn’t break the pack, they did, and you just don’t like me” or some other bull.  I’m sorry, but unless I’ve got popcorn and a soda in my hand I don’t want to watch a drama unfold.  I didn’t pay for that.  I pay for the team to train, and learn together.  Argue after practice, but I damn sure don’t want to be involved in your soap box issues.  Time is money, and I think all derby teams can agree that money is tight when it comes to some things.  And that includes practice time.  Nothing good comes from trying to compete for intellect in derby.  I think we can all agree not everyone is an expert in derby.  Get over yourself, and get back to practice.  Because I don’t know want to get creamed at our next game because cumulative time was burned up having some “tift” in the middle of practice. 

5.  “My name is so-and-so, but I’m bitching like Bonnie Thunders and think your technique is wrong” persona

There is and will only ever be one Bonnie Thunders, Atomatrix, Demanda Riot, Wild Cherry, Urkn, Queen Loseyourteetha, and the list goes on and on. And you know what else? There is only one you!  Be yourself. Don’t put your skills off as exactly like someone else.  Guess what. When players like that play together I promise you that they don’t give a crap about the positioning of your arms when you form a wall. All they want is you to know how to make a good, strong, solid wall using your skills that you know when in a line, or you can get through a pack to score points legally. When players come in acting like they are badasses because they “study” someone else so much then hooray! But you aren’t them, you are you, and be you, because you are awesome, Ms. So-and-So. At least you were until you opened your mouth saying you know all of someone else’s moves.  I didn’t know you were someone’s doppelganger. Get over yourself, and come play. F.Y.I. you can watch the best players play all day, but I guarantee you that none of those players achieved what they have alone. They did it as a team. Watch the plays, not the just the player.

I have to say that this is just me sounding like I’m butt hurt because, well, I am. Derby leagues train real hard so that roller derby, in general, will become recognized on the level it very well should, and I do that with my team. Derby leagues struggle, and gosh darnit, fight for those athletic people sitting at ESPN to take them seriously. When you throw in a bunch of bullshit it just makes the dream that much harder to see. The dream can become a nightmare. People quit because they can’t handle that kind of stress. And then there are people who hang with, but still have the stress. You’re only as strong as the players on your team. If people act like a bunch of condescending assholes then you’re getting weak. If someone has problems learning the team’s plays then you’re getting weak. If people enjoy arguing over stuff that can wait then you’re getting weak. If you think you’re the Michael Jordan of derby then you’re getting weak. Pet peeves come and go, and boy could this list continue.  But I think I will just leave it at that.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How to Be a Good Sport by Tara "Silver Fawkes" Moscopulos

 I've been pondering sportsmanship this month, and Tara shared her views of sportsmanship in derby with me.

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” -Aurelius 

Recently, I had occasion to find myself on the receiving end of a high block. To put it plainly, I got a big ol’ bony shoulder to my right jaw. The hit was so hard, it knocked the plug out of my right earlobe. And it knocked me on my butt. I saw stars, little pieces of glitter in the corner of both eyes. I dropped like a sack and rolled around on the floor, not even aware of where I was on the track. The jam was called off and the person who had hit me skated over with my plug in her hand. She leaned down to me and said “are you okay?” I started laughing, mostly because I couldn’t get up, but also because I was completely loopy from the impact. I whispered back to her “did you feel that?” (translated-“did you feel how hard your shoulder hit my face”) and she whispered “oh yeah.” She offered me her arm, and I yanked myself to my feet and skated to the bench.
Forgive your derby mistress for face punching you (KDDB V DDG 2015) Photo by Chris Ramsay

Want to hear something really funny? Very few people on that track were aware of why I went down and what had happened. Why?  Because of mutual respect and the unspoken understanding that IT WAS NOT INTENTIONAL.

Because I am a good sport. And she is a good sport.

DISCLAIMER: BEING A GOOD SPORT DOES NOT APPLY TO DOUCHEBAGGERY. If you get biffed by someone and it’s either: A) totally bullshit and they do not acknowledge it or B) totally dangerous and needs to be addressed, then being a good sport does not apply.

That very same evening, I pulled two crap moves. Hit one person in the face and practically pushed another down. The two incidents did not get penalty calls, but I made it a point to acknowledge my actions and do the “good sport” thing and tell both persons that I was a spazz and I screwed up. And they responded with understanding and humor. BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD SPORTS.

You see, each and every one of us is going to do something completely stupid on the track. Be it pulling someone down when you lose your balance, high blocking the jammer or blocker coming in hot, back blocking the person in front of you, low blocking someone because you fell weird. It happens. What is unique is how we, as teammates and opponents, react to accidental feats of stupidity.

If you are the dork that does something incredibly or even egregiously dumb, own it. Don’t make up five hundred excuses for why it happened. “Well, I wouldn’t have tripped you if Fancy McSkaterpants hadn’t pushed me” No one wants to hear that and frankly it speaks on your inability to take responsibility for your own actions. Even the rule set indicates that no matter what someone did to you that may have contributed to your penalty worthy action, you are responsible for your own body at all times. We are all going to be that dork. I don’t care how awesome you can skate, you will do something dumb. A true champion is humble is all that she does. Be a teammate, not a douche. Own your mistakes. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, allow yourself the vulnerability of a “oh shit” moment and the payoff comes when the roles are reversed.

If you are the person who has been wronged, don’t be a complete dick. We get it. It sucks to get bopped in the jaw. Or the knee. Or the back (in the illegal area, mind you a large part of the shoulder-blade is a LEGAL target zone, just in case you back block complainers forgot) Get mad, but do it somewhere else. On the track temper tantrums should never be excusable. Nothing is more detrimental to morale or team concepts than a cat fight on the track over a shitty hit. You most certainly will not be able to do that during a game and I can promise you that if you DO indulge in a juvenile hissy fit, the team you are competing with will file your tantrum among “THINGS TO KNOW WHEN I AM TRYING TO BEAT (INSERT LEAGUE NAME)” and “GOSSIP TO SPREAD ABOUT (INSERT LEAGUE NAME) AT THE NEXT GAME”

Again, see the disclaimer above. If you cannot say for certain that either of those two exceptions exist, quit bitching and allow your teammate the chance to acknowledge and correct. I can assure you, no one wants to play with the girl who whines and complains after every jam about what someone else may or may not have done to her. Roller derby is a contact sport. There will be contact. Illegal contact most assuredly. If you can’t handle that you may get hit in the face, or tripped, or pushed, maybe you should find another sport to play.

Every bruise I have incurred has a name on it. I know who has committed fouls on me. But unless the referee calls it, I am not going to spend my precious time making sure everyone from here to Buffalo knows that I am sick of getting kicked in the shin. If you go into this sport with a victim mentality, consistently focusing on who has wronged you, (more like perceived wrongs and not actual ones) you will miss out on one of the things that makes this sport unique: camaraderie.

Is it possible to go have beers after and THEN say “Hey bitch, you hit me right in my jaw, you owe me a beer!”? I think it is. I think it should be mandatory.

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