You do not suck at derby


Okay, you may not be that great at derby right now, but that doesn’t mean you’ll stay that way forever.

In 10 years of skating, very little has come to me easily. My first few years, I hit every

first tally bout

Version 2 of the terrible skates. Yes, those are combat boot skates. 

setback. Terrible skates, knee injury, new job that kept me from all but one practice a week. But I kept pushing forward because this was a sport I loved, and, like so many other skaters, this was something I could call mine.


I bought better skates, rehabbed my knee, and took a new job in new city with a bigger league. Even within that league, I was nothing special. I had some experience under my belt, but there were girls going straight from tryouts to All-Star practice. This is when I learned two very important lessons.

1. Experience does not equal skill. You can show up to every practice from now until the end of time, but unless you work to perfect the skills learned in practice, you will continue to linger.

2. Skill does not equal experience. You can have all the amazing skate skills in the world, and still be a crappy derby player. Skills do not teach you how to effectively communicate with your teammates or how to play off each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Only practice can make that happen.

Little by little, I kept inching forward. By the time I moved again, I was good enough to try out for my first WFTDA league and be drafted onto a home team. The excitement slowly started to dim, though. Here I was, surrounded by some of the most amazing players I had ever met, but with every new practice there seemed to be so much I couldn’t do. I felt lost. Part of the doubt was fed by a hyper-critical teammate, but the rest was in my head. No one was really holding me back except me.

A perfect example was when I was attending a clinic, and the instructors asked us to split up into beginner, intermediate, and advanced groups. I shuffled over to the intermediate group. Halfway through the day, a teammate in the advanced group asked who told me to go to intermediate. No one, I told her, this was just where I thought I was supposed to be. Judging from her wide-eyed expression, my words made no sense to her. She felt I should have chosen advanced. In retrospect, she was right. That isn’t to say I was some super, awesome, amazing skater, but I had been playing long enough to push myself to that level.

When I moved back to my second league, I still felt trapped in my head. I was repeatedly told to be more aggressive. What does that even mean? Was I supposed to hostile? Pushy? That didn’t seem right. I was clearly missing something.

Things didn’t start clicking until a few other clinics when instructors told me to take decisive actions. Now that made more sense. That’s about being more mentally present on the track and reacting to plays like I intend to take action.

This seems to be working for me this season. I go into every practice focused. It’s less about trying to make myself look like a badass skater and more about finding opportunities to work better with my teammates.

You may be wondering what this means for you. It means you shouldn’t give up. It is perfectly acceptable not to be great at derby right now. That does not mean you suck. It just means your still improving.

Keep going to practice, find new derby clinics to attend, cross train, and most importantly stay present.



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.


Staying Fit Through Injury

Sprained ankles are nothing new to any other derby player. It sucks, but that doesn’t mean all your cross training goes to waste.

Since I’m currently dealing with a nasty sprained ankle, I’ve been using Booty Quake’s Gun Show Workout. It’s great for first thing in the morning or something to do at practice while my teammates are warming up. (I absolutely hate sitting on the sidelines when my team is warming up at practice. I feel so useless and bored.)

One workout easily gets old, and it won’t strengthen everything. Thank goodness we aren’t the only people who deal with injuries. There are a ton of videos on YouTube with workouts around injuries.

  1. Workout around your ankle, foot, or toe injury
  2. Cardio workout for those stuck in bed
  3. Core and inner thigh workout. If you have a knee injury, you may not be able to do some of this.
  4. Cardio workout for those with knee and ankle injuries
  5. Inner thigh workout for knee injuries
  6. Total body workout while seated.

One of the worst things you can do during an injury is absolutely nothing. Once you’re ready to get back on skates, you’ll have no energy, endurance, or strength. Keep pushing yourself. You’ll be back on skates in no time.

Has this been helpful? Do you have any workouts you’ve done while injured that I didn’t cover? Add a comment.

(A key to working out during your injury is not to push your injury. If an exercise is hurting you, stop. There are plenty of other options/variations to give you the same result without the pain.)

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

Insert Balls Joke Here

While my blog post this week will focus on derby names and privacy, I wanted to share this fantastic post from another blogger. Seriously, if you’re trying to build up your core for derby. She has some amazeballs ideas. (Yes, I said amazeballs, but it actually works in this instance. Don’t judge me.)

Insert Balls Joke Here.

Pump it up! Exercising in the Roller Derby Workout Challenge

Going from a few days of derby practice a week to exercising almost every day can be a bit of a shock. Your muscles are sore. You’re always hungry. And after the first week, finding the motivation to go on can be tough.

The Roller Derby Workout group on Facebook is a great way to stay connected with others going on the same adventure. But some need an accountability partner they actually see.  There are a couple of ways to do this.

  1. Team up with a teammate. Ask someone on your team who is also doing the RDWC to partner with you. You can report to each other on how your daily workouts are going, if you’ve had any food lapses, or discovered any good recipes that follow the guidelines.
  2. Group thing. One thing that helped me in years past was working out with my friends. A few of us would meet up at my derby wife’s house one or two days a week. We would workout using the Roller Derby Workout DVD. When one of us struggled, the others were there to cheer her on. Even now, I hear them in my head when I struggle through workouts on my own.
Stretching = happy muscles

Stretching = happy muscles

For those of you who have been participating in the challenge, maybe you’re looking for new workouts. Roller Derby Athletics offers new videos and exercise every few weeks. It’s a great way to keep your muscles from getting to used to the same workouts.

Notice you’re hungry all the time? You’re burning more calories, and you’re changing how you eat. That’s why the challenge also lists snacks. Don’t overindulge, but do use them. You should also be drinking more water. I found a good article here explaining all the benefits of water, including helping you feel more full and energizing your muscles.

For some, the real challenge is sticking with the plan after an intense workout. Most of us have evening derby practice and a bit of a drive home after it’s over. Houston Roller Derby’s practice space is next to restaurants. Don’t think I’m not tempted to gorge on fast food with the smell of fries and barbecue wafting through the building. I’ve been curbing this with a protein drink from either Bolthouse Farms or Odwalla. I’m not saying they’re the best option, but they get the job done.

Several of my teammates chose to drink chocolate milk after practice. I’ve read article after article on chocolate milk versus a protein shake after a hard exercise. It seems everyone has an opinion and no one agrees. Jillian Michaels recommends a whey protein drink and says chocolate milk has unnecessary sugar and calories. (See her tweet below.)

I don’t know who is right, but I think it’s time to try whey protein. I’ll let y’all know how it goes.

Do any of you have tips for those trying out the Roller Derby Workout Challege? Leave a comment with your suggestions.


Roller Derby Workout Challenge 2013: A New Hope

On January 20th, the new Roller Derby Workout Challenge will begin! I’m a little excited. I’ve joined the challenge for the past two years, and it’s greatly improved my conditioning for roller derby. This year, my goal is to shed the fat I gained while off skates last month and improve my leg strength. And that’s part of what makes this challenge so great: you set your own goals.

Roller derby can be a great way to lose weight, but that isn’t the primary purpose. Any woman of any size can play and be an effective member of her team. It just takes will and work. If you lose weight along the way, great! But don’t ever feel like you have to lose weight.

It’s not uncommon to hear derby girls, who have taken some time off, complain about getting smaller. By getting smaller, they mean losing muscle mass because they aren’t exercising as much. In derby, size matters, but we tend to desire more not less.

Excuse me, Slim-Fast, but derby girls consider a big butt a real asset.

Excuse me, Slim-Fast, but derby girls consider a big butt a real asset.

Recently, Slim Fast started an ad campaign targeting brides-to-be. It made me so angry to see these ads because, instead of simply encouraging a healthy lifestyle, it played on our fears that we won’t be loved if we’re a little heavy. Screw that!

With the Roller Derby Workout Challenge, participants are given a realistic food plan and encouraged to exercise more. Some women lose weight. Some women gain it. Every woman is different, and every woman is fantastic for committing.

In the next few posts, I’ll cover a few food plans and workouts I’ve discovered to compliment the RDWC. Remember, I’m not a dietician or a personal trainer. These are things I’ve discovered work for me. You may be different.

Let this post serve as a reminder to those who are about to start the challenge. Set your goals now. Do you want to lose weight? Improve endurance? Tone certain areas? Gain strength? Figure out what you want to get from the challenge and work towards it.

If you haven’t bought your copy of the Roller Derby Workout DVD, click here for more information.