Talking derby with the media

As derby players, we love to see our sport featured on the news or in magazines. Every league should be prepared for interviews and the differences between television and print.

Television interviews are very visual. Yes, what you say is important, but viewers pass judgment more quickly on how you look rather than how you sound. (You have no idea how many phone calls I’ve taken and emails I’ve read from people upset about an anchor’s new haircut.) In newspaper and magazine interviews, how you sound will outweigh how you look. With those points in mind, here are some ways your league can be prepared for both.

  1. Decide on proper dress. talking to jcl
  • Studio interview: If for instance, your league is focused on serious athleticism and playing tournaments, it may not be a good idea to show up to a television interview in a tutu. I’m not bashing tutus. They have their place. That place is not in serious interviews, though. I would recommend wearing your jersey and athletic pants or shorts.
  • Taped television interview: Someone is coming to practice to do a story on your league. At the very least, I would recommend having everyone wear shirts with the league’s logo, but jerseys look best.
  • Print interviews: It depends on if a photographer will be present. If a photographer will be coming to practice, refer to the in-studio interview example. No photographer? Wear whatever you like.

2. Know ALL the details. If you’re promoting a bout, make sure you know the time it starts, where tickets can be purchased and how much they cost. Know if a charity is benefiting from the proceeds or if there will be special activities for children. If you’re worried about remembering all of that, keep a cheat sheet handy.

3. Speak in complete sentences. Giving one word answers doesn’t give the reader or viewer much information. Your words should tell the story.

4. Watch your posture. Standing or sitting up straight implies confidence.

5. Be prepared for stupid questions. I know we’re all sick of being asked if there’s a ball or if we punch each other, but you will get asked those questions. Instead of rolling your eyes, think of a quick and clever answer. Follow it up with examples of what the sport is like now. Recently, I gave an interview for my league where the reporter refered to derby as violent. While answering his question, I pointed out that it isn’t a violent sport, but a contact sport.

6. Offer your own video and pictures. This applies to all three kinds of interviews. Ask if the reporter would like to use bout pictures or video. Make sure you have the rights from the photographer and that the photographer is credited.

7. Makeup. Many television stations use high definition cameras. This means you’ll look like you do in person. While anchors and reporters panic at the realization someone will notice a scar or wrinkle, I can’t imagine this being a problem for most derby players since we’re used to people seeing us sweaty and shiny. If you’re still worried, slap on a little extra makeup. I am the palest Floridian you will ever meet. If I have to be in front of the camera, I use more blush and eye makeup to avoid looking like Sean Patrick Flanery in “Powder.”

8. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” A reporter says she wants to do a story on your league, but you aren’t comfortable with the story idea. It’s okay to say no. Free publicity is appreciated, but ultimately it’s up to the league to decide how it wants to be publicly perceived.

I wrote this for Lead Jammer Magazine ages ago as a guide to help other leagues with PR. Obviously, not every little thing will work for your league, but I hope it gives you a start.



For your (mental) health

Photo by Five5Six Design

I made the above graphic this summer for the Savannah Derby Devils’ Instagram. It’s part of the Recspo series (a little inspiration for rec leaguers). — Photo by Five5Six Design

In derby, we talk about health a lot. What foods we eat, exercises we use, etc. One thing that doesn’t get mentioned as often is mental health.

Sure, we talk about how derby has given us confidence or made us proud of our bodies, but what happens when derby doesn’t fill the gaps? Like it or not, sometimes derby doesn’t fix everything. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, it can even hurt.

I deal with depression. Derby has done wonders for my mental health, but it’s also put me in some bad spots. It’s taken me years to figure out how to deal with the bad spots. I haven’t figured it all out. There are still bad days, weeks, and sometimes months. But I thought I’d share some things that seem to work.

1. Find an Accountabilibuddy. Find someone on your team who knows what you’re dealing with. Talk to them. Let them know when your struggling. Maybe they’re dealing with something similar, and you both can work through the issues together. Sometimes, having someone to watch out for you and recognize when you aren’t yourself can keep your mental state from degrading more.

2. Get some sleep. The training schedule and all the extra events that you need to participate in for derby can wear you down. All those commitments may be robbing you of sleep. You don’t think as clearly when you’re sleep deprived. That can make your brain play tricks on you. Clearing time to get some quality sleep, even if you think you’ve been sleeping okay, can do so much to get your brain back on track. (Here’s a good article with sleep facts that may surprise you.)

3. Say no. You hear about burnout towards the end of the season. It’s commonplace, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. If you realize you’re overcommitting, learn to say no. This one is hard for me and something I constantly have to remind myself of. Decide what’s really important and what can be handled by someone else. You aren’t Wonder Woman, and even she needs help sometimes, too.

4. Take some time off. The pressure of all the practices, the committees, the organizing can put you in a frenzy. I’m sure there are tons of things you’d like to accomplish before you’re done with derby, but derby isn’t going anywhere. Take a week off. Take a month off. Take a year off. Stepping away from something that has taken over your life can give you a chance to breathe and reevaluate. When you feel more in control, come back. Derby will be waiting for you.

After going all out with Houston Roller Derby, my husband and I had to make a quick decision to move back to Savannah. I immediately hit the ground running. I coach junior derby once a week, I head PR for the Savannah Derby Devils, and I play for the B Team. Couple that with getting used to a new sleep schedule (day-sleeping makes me feel like a vampire) and falling back into the swing of a demanding job, I’m worn out: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I took this past week off from derby because I desperately needed to sleep. The lack of proper sleep was keeping me from giving my all for my team, and frankly, making me a horrible person to be around.

The World Health Organization has released it’s first ever report on suicide prevention. First. Ever. According to WHO, more than 800,000 people successfully commit suicide each year. That number doesn’t even include how many try. Last Wednesday was Suicide Prevention Day. We don’t all get to the point where suicide feels like an option, but dealing with mental health issues sucks. I hope you’ll see this and recognize that you aren’t alone. We play derby as a team. Let’s tackle mental health as a team.

im not ok

Are we there yet?

It feels a bit like I time-traveled. If you know me, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know I moved back to Savannah. (Hurray for awesome job offer!) While I love being back in my old town with my old team, it’s definitely a change of pace.

The Savannah Derby Devils are currently in WFTDA apprenticeship soon to be fully WFTDA (fingers and toes crossed). After skating for a WFTDA team, I know where this will go, but it’s a process. Savannah is doing a great job of organizing and preparing. I just have to keep reminding myself to chill, while they do their thing.

you must chill

There have been moments at practice where I feel like I’m jumping out of my skin. It isn’t because I have some lofty opinions of my own skills, but because I can see where the team is headed, and I just want to get us there already. Luckily, I have an amazing derby wife who is more than happy to give me the calm-yourself-down look when I start getting antsy.

I returned to Savannah in time to help out with an important part of our league’s evolution. In preparation, I compiled a bag full of tricks. Some we can use now. Some will just have to wait a bit. Until that happens, I’m learning patience, which like WFTDA apprenticeship, is also a process.

Drowning in a sea of derby responsibilities


This season sees me falling back into my old habit of volunteering for EVERYTHING. Not only am I working full time, I’m also still skating for the Psych Ward Sirens, coaching Houston Junior Derby and heading up Houston Roller Derby’s media and PR committee. This last one is WAY more work than I had anticipated.

I don’t regret it, but it wasn’t long before I realized I couldn’t handle media relations for HRD by myself. Thank the derby goddess for Taz Maim Ya, Terminal Val-ocity, and Bullet Sucker. If it weren’t for them, I would currently be buried under a pile of past due newsletters, press releases, requests for interviews, and calls from Sweden. Yes, I have taken media requests for HRD from Sweden, but that’s a post for another time.

The point is I am up to my eyeballs in all kinds of work, but there are people willing to help. I just have to ask. You don’t have to feel buried under your derby responsibilities either. If it’s too much, ask for help. Unless you have a team full of douchebags, there will be people willing to help you fold t-shirts for merch or man a booth at a festival or hang banners on bout day. Also, food and booze are great motivators.

Off season doesn’t mean you’re off

Hurray! It’s the off season. Well, it is for some of us. This down time is a chance to rest and prepare for the next season. It does not mean you get to eat ALL the bad things and stop exercising. Now is the time to set your goals for next season and create a plan to get there.

My sister may not skate, but she does work.

My sister may not skate, but she does work.

1. Identify your goal. Do you want to skate faster? Need to improve footwork? Learn to take hits better? What one thing do you feel held you back this last season? Figure out what it is and write it down.

2. Make your plan. If you want to skate faster, try taking speed classes. No speed classes in your area? Then have a friend video you skating around the track. Analyze your stance and compare it to video of jammers you admire. Work on getting lower, improving your crossover, and swinging your arms more effectively. Keep videotaping your progress.

Improving footwork and agility can be done both on and off skates. Plyometrics will help you with lateral movement and apex jumps. There are tons of exercise videos and how-to articles that can help you. I enjoy using the P90X Plyo video for my off-skates footwork training. On skates, you can work with your coach or training committee to put together footwork lesson plans for the whole team. A quick search for agility drills on All Derby Drills brought up these.

Hitting seems like a pretty basic skill, but if you find yourself making friends with the floor all the time, it means you need to improve your core strength. A strong core will keep you from getting knocked to the ground when taking a hit and keep you from losing your balance when you give a hit. You can’t get a strong core from sit-ups alone. Your core includes your abs and your back, so whatever resources you chose to use, make sure it is strengthening all the muscles. From my own experience, I know Pilates and yoga build core strength and help with endurance.

3. Set your schedule. Knowing what you want to improve and how to improve it is great, but you can’t work those things every day. Muscles need rest. Don’t neglect other areas of your body. If you’re concentrating on your legs, choose days to work on core and arm strength.

Don't forget those push-ups.

Don’t forget those push-ups.

Also, be forgiving. Sometimes your schedule gets messed up. You may miss a day or possibly a week. Don’t panic. Just start over.


Booty Quake of Roller Derby Athletics offers some great workouts for the off season, including core, agility and leg strength training. Seriously, I can’t recommend Booty enough.

Also, my sister is a coach for Team BeachBody, the company behind P90X and Insanity, If you need a little motivation, I highly recommend her. (She’s not paying me to write this, unless sending me cute pictures of my niece counts as payment.)

Coming next week: how to train during an injury.

Smooth derby player: pre and post practice smoothies

Earlier this week, I asked people on my Facebook and Twitter to share some of their favorite pre and post practice foods. The foods most people mentioned were sweet potatoes, kale chips, nuts, fruit, and granola bars. Two people said smoothies.

I love smoothies! They are my favorite thing for both pre and post practice. Since I have pinned a bunch of different recipes, I thought I’d share some of them here for you, (Note: I am not a nutritionist, I am a journalist who likes to research things, in this case, smoothies.)

peanut butter smoothie time Peanut Butter Lover Smoothie

1 scoop peanut butter protein powder (vanilla will also work)

1 TB natural peanut butter

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 banana (preferably frozen)

3-5 ice cubes

Since I also love chocolate, I like to add a tablespoon of cacao powder.

Blend and enjoy!

I really like this one because you get protein and a natural sugar boost before going into a long (and sometimes hot) derby practice. It also offers potassium (prevents muscle cramping and balances electrolytes) and healthy carbs.

apple pie smoothieApple Pie Smoothie

5 raw almonds

1 red apple

3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup non fat milk (I substitute unsweetened almond milk)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3-5 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients

This is really more of a morning practice smoothie to me. But if it’s the end of the work day, and you still have a two to three hour practice to get through, this has plenty of protein and natural sugar to give you a boost,

Chocolate Banana Berry Protein Smoothie

1 banana

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup raspberries

1/2 strawberries

1/2 cup chocolate milk

3 oz. nonfat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup water (I like to use coconut water for extra rehydration)

3 – 5 ice cubes


This is an excellent recovery smoothie for several reasons. The water or coconut water replaces what you sweated out during practice. The berries are high in antioxidants, and the vitamins prevent muscle soreness. Also, you get some much-needed protein. Protein after a workout helps you build lean muscle and prevent muscle soreness. If you really want to read all the details about how much to eat or drink, I found this article and this article.

Now if you are going to work right after practice, you may want something more substantial. When I was a morning news producer, my routine was to rush home from practice, shower, scarf down a salad and maybe a bowl of lentil soup, and then go. Booty Quake of Roller Derby Athletics recommended a bowl of lentil soup as a good post practice meal, so I feel pretty confident in recommending that to everyone… unless it’s still ridiculously hot where you live (like Texas). Then maybe stick with the smoothie.

Don’t neglect your body. You need to have something on your stomach before and after a practice to fuel your exercise and properly recover.

Assemble your team

Team: (noun) a number of persons associated together in work or activity

(verb) to put together in a coordinated ensemble

(adjective) marked by a devotion to teamwork rather than individual achievement

The Psych Ward Sirens have one more bout this season: the Championships. Something that will set this game apart from the rest of the season is the loss of our All Stars. The championship bout happens to fall on the same weekend as the WFTDA Division 1 playoffs. Mistilla, Lisa Lava, Jekyll&Heidi, Brandi Brown, SyRenge, and AngieChrist (our bench coach) will all be playing in North Carolina the same day we defend our title against the Bayou City Bosses. I’ll admit that it’s sad and more than a little daunting, but now is the time for us to come together as a team.

At Monday night’s practice, Mistilla told the blockers to stop trying to save the world by themselves. Each of my teammates has some amazing skills, but we need to figure out how to use those skills in a coordinated effort… like The Avengers. (For the purpose of this post, we’ll use the movie version.)

Image Courtesy: Scarlet Avenger

Image Courtesy: Scarlet Avenger

What ultimately united the heroes was not fighting a common enemy, but bonding over the loss of a valued team member. We are losing our All Stars, but that shouldn’t be a cause for division or doubt. This is our rally point.

Those of us who will be in Texas for the Champs have talked about what we need to do. We agree that we need to dump the egos, train harder, and support each other’s progress, much like the various heroes in The Avengers. Alone we each have specific skill sets that make us good derby players, but together we can be an unstoppable force.

This isn’t just for my team. There will be moments where your own team has to face a very powerful opponent. That opponent may be another team or it could be a circumstance. Now is the time to ask what makes you a team? What do you offer, and what do your teammates offer? How can those skills be combined?

Not every member of The Avengers can fly or has super strength, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. They just have to figure out how to combine their existing talents.
avengers gif photo: natasha 17pge_zps5b97bc0c.gif

The Avengers didn’t win against Loki and his Chitauri horde by concentrating on the negative or by putting each other down (though Tony Stark did have some fantastic one liners). You are only as strong as your weakest link. I hear this all the time, but it is very true. You need to encourage your team. If someone is doing something wrong, don’t be dramatic about it. Point out what needs to be improved and how to improve it.

“Maybe your army comes, and maybe it’s too much for us, but it’s all on you. Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can make damn sure we’ll avenge it.” — Tony Stark to Loki

So, derby players, are you going to let that big, scary team or some derby drama or a season worth of losses beat you? I didn’t think so. Pick up your hammer, load your quiver, suit up, and kick some butt.

avengers gif photo: Avangers Movie avengers.gif