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.

 

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.)

Yeah, You’re Hot: Avoiding heat exhaustion

It’s summer, and it’s super hot outside. As athletes, we’re used to pushing through tough practices and games. It doesn’t matter if we’re injured or getting over an illness. We will push through because we don’t want to let down our teams. While heat may not seem like a big deal, allowing yourself to keep playing through extreme conditions and ignoring warning signs could could put your health at serious risk.

Recently, some of my teammates and I went to a skate clinic in a warehouse without air conditioning. Since our clinic was going to last several hours during the hottest part of the day, the trainer gathered us around a sign that listed the symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion signs and symptoms include:

  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heavy sweating often accompanied by cold, clammy skin
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Pale or flushed face
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache
  • Weakness or fatigue

(Source: The Mayo Clinic)

Even though I had hydrated, the odds were stacked against me that day. Sweating constantly, not getting enough sleep, and being on my cycle did me no favors. Everything in me said to keep going, but I could feel my reaction time slowing and my vision beginning to blur. Even thinking became difficult. I pulled off. It was frustrating to spend the last bit of the clinic off skates, but I know it was best for my health.

In derby, we don’t always have the best pick of practice and bout venues or the best times to hold them. Since cancelling isn’t really an option, this is a compilation of research to help you and your team stay safe.

Hydration: Exactly how much water you should drink varies a bit depending on your size. Most experts agree you should drink all the waterconsume one half and one whole ounce of water for each pound of body weight every day.

Acclimation: If you know you are going to be practicing or bouting in a hot space, give yourself about 10 days to acclimate yourself. You could start with some light jogging during a hot part of the day, next try skating geared up for a short amount of time, gradually increase the amount of time and distance on skates. Listen to your body during this time. If you start to feel dizzy, stop. Try again tomorrow. (Source: University Interscholastic League)

Clothing: Make sure to wear breathable materials that allow for sweat to evaporate. Light and loose materials tend to be best. My hockey helmet makes me pour sweat, so I usually bring a few bandannas to wear under it at practice. I’ll switch them out as they get soaked.

So you’ve taken all the right measures to stay hydrated and keep your body cool, but sometimes, just like for me in Atlanta, the odds are stacked against you. Some medications or health conditions can also put you at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

  • Medications. Anything that narrows your blood vessels (vasoconstrictors), regulates your blood pressure by blocking adrenaline (beta blockers), rids your body of sodium and water (diuretics), or reduces psychiatric symptoms (antidepressants or antipsychotics).
  • Stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) make you more vulnerable to heatstroke.
  • Health conditions. Certain chronic illnesses, such as heart or lung disease, might increase your risk of heatstroke.

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

Make sure to talk to your doctor about your training regime before starting new medications.

ice pack placement

If you notice a player starts looking rough, have her sit down and take off her helmet. Heat escapes through the top of the head, so this will help to cool her down. You can bring her core temperature back down by placing ice packs on her neck, under each armpit, and on her groin. (Source: The Mayo Clinic)

Even if you aren’t approaching a heat stroke, an ice pack, cooling towel, or cloth dipped in ice water on the back of the neck between jams feels amazing. I’ve used these during hot bouts and practices, and it’s the next best thing to A/C.

For junior derby players, the Centers for Disease Control recommend they drink water before exercise and every 20 to 30 minutes during exercise. After about an hour of skating, give them something with electrolytes.

Call for medical help immediately if a player isn’t responding well, especially if she stops sweating, slurs her speech or seems confused. Heat stroke can take a toll on your brain and other major internal organs. It isn’t something to ignore.

A Chance to Vent

You have a medical issue. You go to the doctor, describe your issue, explain your derby lifestyle, only to receive some weird blanket diagnosis that clearly doesn’t apply to an athlete. How many of us have gone through this? Probably a lot of us.

I’ve had good doctors, okay doctors, and why-the-hell-did-you-go-into-the-medical-profession doctors. The first one I celebrate, the second I deal with, and the third… well, I just don’t stand for that kind of bs anymore.

I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis for a full year now. While it hasn’t kept me from skating, it has created

See! We even have shiny medals to prove it.

I just want to run marathons again without breaking into tears from all the pain.

changes to my cross training. (Basically, I go till I either lose all feeling in my foot or the pain is enough to make me cry. Neither is much fun.) On the advice of my massage therapist, I decided to go back to the doctor about a new development that she thought could be a sign of something more serious. (It isn’t, thankfully.) During my appointment, I confessed that I missed really being able to run, so my general practitioner recommended I see a podiatrist. Great! Maybe I’ll get a handle on this stupid foot thing and get back to a normal training schedule.

When I saw the podiatrist, I explained to him that while I my job keeps me at a desk most of the time, I play derby and cross train a lot. His solution: wear dress shoes with a slight wedge. What? How does that help with cross training?

Fortunately, my league is sponsored by a podiatrist who actually understands athletes, so I’m making an appointment. I’m not standing for a write-off diagnosis and neither should you. So here’s you chance to vent. Share your worst medical experience and how you reacted to it.

5 Things every derby parent should know

Girls get so excited about the opportunity to play junior derby. The first thing I hear from new juniors is when can we play real derby? I love the enthusiasm, but I see girls struggle with the same issues over and over again.  They are all easy fixes. So for the junior derby parent who has never played roller derby, I’ll save you some trial and error.

1. Mouthguards are not one size fits all. I know the list of required equipment you are handed says mouthguard (or gumshield in some places), but not just any mouthguard will do. If all you can afford at the moment is a cheapy from a sports store, that’s fine, but make sure it’s a youth size. I see young skaters choke on oversized mouth guards all the time. They can’t breathe much less communicate with their teammates. I know you want to protect your skater’s teeth, but a thinner guard, like SISU or one from your dentist (yes, your dentist can make those), will protect just as well.

Also, make sure they are properly molded to your skater's teeth.

Also, make sure they are properly molded to your skater’s teeth.

2. Hydrate. Young skaters would usually much rather chug a soda than a glass of water. I see them pay for this in practice. Maybe you can make it a family initiative to drink less sugary drinks and drink more water. And remember, hydrate! Did I say hydrate? Because they should really hydrate. Also, HYDRATE!

3. What-if pads vs. derby pads. The idea of dropping a ton of cash on protective gear is a bit scary, especially since you don’t know if your skater will stick with it or how soon they’ll hit a growth spurt.  It seems more cost-effective to buy some pads from Walmart, but junior gear sets really don’t cost that much. (You can find some here.) The pads you find at stores like Walmart are what-if pads. You wear them because what if you fall? Derby pads are for when you fall. We fall a lot, and those other pads just won’t hold up. Also, if your skater mentions she is falling on her butt a lot, there are these amazing things called padded shorts.

4. Know the difference between hurt and injured. You and your skater should have a discussion about identifying the difference. Watching your skater take a nasty spill is scary. The first thing every derby player learns is how to fall safely. Safe doesn’t mean there won’t be some bumps and bruises. If they can get up and skate, they are usually fine. I talked more about it in this post.

5. It’s all about the team. This is something suggested by my friends on Facebook, and it’s very true. Your child is embarking on an amazing journey with new friends. The important bit is the friends. The coaches decisions will not revolve around your child. Instead, it will be about the betterment of the team. This experience is about your skater growing into an outstanding athlete, teammate, and friend. Give them a little growing room.

i wishEvery junior derby coach wishes she or he had had derby around when they were younger. We want this sport to be a positive experience for your skater. Please help us by making sure your little derby player has good equipment and encouragement from you.

Protecting your privacy

When I introduce myself in a derby setting to someone who doesn’t play, NSO or volunteer, there is a question that always gets asked. So what’s your real name? I usually tell people that my real name is hard to remember and pronounce (which is true) or that Eenie Meanie is the only name that matters right now. If they really push it, I ramble off my full name really fast and don’t repeat it (it’s ridiculously long).

paranoidI’m very protective of my personal identity. Why the paranoia? Working in television as a news producer has shown me how scary some people can be. Let me tell you about how much fun it is to take the phone call from the guy who thinks your news station is spying on him through his television set or the woman who is mad at you for a story you ran and screams “it’s on” before dramatically hanging up. These people sometimes show up at the station. As public figures, it isn’t a stretch for this to happen to us (except that we don’t run news stories, but someone could get mad we lost/won a game).

I’m not saying we should avoid fans (I’ll discuss the difference between fans and stalkers next week) or shut down our Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I am saying we should be prepared.  Now is a good time to start thinking about how much personal information you are willing to share with fans.

I have a Facebook page that is completely dedicated to my derby life. It’s where I share my blog links and upcoming events, brag on teammates, etc. All my derby shenanigans go there. My personal account is mostly for family and friends and some fans who have become friends. If someone likes me as an athlete, that’s great, but not everyone needs to know where my family lives or who my old classmates are or what grocery store I use.

You don’t need to be paranoid, but you should establish what is public knowledge and what is better left private.

 

Derby on the tube

“The Bachelor”, “Bunheads” and “Bones”. Within a week, all three shows featured roller derby. They aren’t the first shows to use our sport to boost ratings.

“CSI: Miami” and “Psych” both featured felonious derby girls. Reality shows like “Anthony

Love "Psych" but don't love this episode.

Love “Psych” but don’t love this episode.

Bourdain: No Reservations” and “Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy” saw both hosts attempting to skate. Larry gets bonus points for actually talking with a flat track team: Sin City Roller Girls. Bourdain tried with the LA Derby Dolls, the team also used in “Bunheads”, “Bones” and “The Bachelor.” (Seriously, do casting agents not realize other derby teams exist?)

It seems Hollywood is cashing in on the derby “trend”. I put trend in quotes because that’s certainly how they seem to treat it. They aren’t treating it like a sport. If they treated it like a sport, the writers would read the rule book, or actually attend a bout. Producers would say, “Hey, flat track is the more prevalent version of roller derby being played around the world. Let’s use that instead of banked.” But none of this is happening, and it’s up to us, the players, to correct all the misconceptions these shows raise.

  • Most teams aren’t banked track.
  • We don’t throw elbows or punch each other in the face.
  • It isn’t staged.
  • I don’t know where the writers for “Psych” got the idea to use tape like that. No team I’ve ever heard of uses tape to mark a player for a hit.
  • Yes, we get hurt sometimes, but we wear safety gear and have rules to prevent a lot of injuries. The contestant on “The Bachelor” should have been wearing a mouth guard. I have no clue how that one chick on “Bones” ended up with a scalp laceration. Was she not wearing a helmet?
  • No, we don’t run around burglarizing stores and killing people (“Psych”). We work, go to school, raise families, and go to practice. Who has time to commit felonies?
  • Yes, I’ve heard of players stealing money from the team (“Bones”), but none of those cases ended with a player being stabbed in the eye. They’re just kicked off the team and sometimes prosecuted.

It’s easy to get upset when people ask if roller derby is like this show or that movie, even I get annoyed. But you have to view it as a conversation starter. Don’t shut down the conversation with a bunch of snarky comments. Maybe the person asking you is actually interested in derby, but wants to make sure she/he isn’t committing to something as crazy as what they’ve seen on TV. Take a moment to explain the realities of derby and encourage them to come to a bout to see for themselves.

Also, I’m not mad at the LA Derby Dolls. Whatever they’re doing seems to be working for them. Those women pack the house for bouts and attract some great sponsors. They are a team located in LA and are obviously known in the television community. The team is only taking advantage of an opportunity that most of us would jump at as well.

monster highHonorable mentions go to “My Little Pony”, and “Monster High” for portraying derby in a more favorable light. Since junior derby is growing, I think it’s great that young skaters have their own conversation starters with these shows. I know that “Weeds” and “Bunheads”also featured junior derby (banked track), which is great for some of the older juniors.

I would like to mention one show that promotes derby in the quietest of ways. Every once in a while you can catch Abby on “NCIS” sporting a Psych Ward Sirens shirt. I’m a Siren, and this makes me insanely happy. The show doesn’t use us as a trope. We aren’t a punch line. We’re just there.

abby-sciuto-and-psych-ward-sirens-shirt-gallery

There are some shows I haven’t mentioned that used roller derby. “Futurama” and “King of the Hill” come to mind. Feel free to add any shows you know of in the comments. Also, what’s your take on derby being used on TV? Does it help or hurt us?

Oh, and one little thing I forgot to mention before. I actually started playing roller derby because of a short-live reality show called “Rollergirls”. It only had one season and aired on A&E. Because of that show, two of my friends decided to start Panama City Roller Derby. Sometimes good things come out of TV shows.
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