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.



You don’t hate kittens or derby players, do you?

HRD all starsI’m very happy to announce that all the months of hard work have paid off for the Houston Roller Derby All-Stars. Not only are they going to be playing in week three of Division One Playoffs, but they also made their travel fund goal on IndieGoGo!!!!! (Cue the band! Throw the confetti!)

I was planning on this post being a push to help them raise the last few hundred, but they made it. As I promised two posts this week, AND I convinced DBC to pose for a bunch of pictures, I’m still going to tell you why these incredible players deserve the help. But first, watch this video.

Doesn’t my home team captain, SyRenge make the cutest/saddest kitten ever? Seriously, if that video didn’t convince people to donate, then they probably hate kittens… and derby. Real talk.

So let’s get to the players.

2x Force, Patti Painz, Hellicious, The Prosecutor, Becky Booty, and Mayhem Angelou. If they allowed six blockers from the same team on the track at once, there would be no hope of getting around these ladies. (In fact, it’s tough getting around just one of them.) They are the Wall of Booty. You may have also heard the announcers at ECDX talking about Pro’s mad NSO skills. There are gifs celebrating her skills.

And speaking of mad skills, who in the name of the Derby Goddess wouldn’t donate to see Big Bad Voodoo Dollie, Brandi Brown, DBC, Freight Train, and SyRenge jam? Voodoo being behind the pack, and then suddenly in front of it. Brandi doing that gravity-defying ballerina move to stay in bounds after a hit. DBC and her many faces and the way she talks smack to the opposing jammer. Freight Train blasting through walls and doing the other ballerina move that was so popular at ECDX. SyRenge’s flaming red hair flowing behind her as she laps the pack again and again. These are all the things people will get to see in September thanks to the donations from people who love derby… and kittens.

Of course, three other people who could easily fall into the fun jammer or Wall of Booty categories are Hot Assets, Jekyll and Heidi, and Mistilla tha Killa. I’ve been stuck behind each of these players, and made futile attempts to block them. It’s not a fun situation to be in, but it’s really fun to watch. In our last home team bout, Heidi knocked the opposing jammer out of bounds. The exhausted jammer took a moment to catch her breath. Heidi turned around and , like Neo to Agent Smith in The Matrix, motioned for the jammer to come at her. In that moment, I was very happy to be on Heidi’s team… and not to be that jammer.

Jenetic Defect, The Angie Christ, Speed’O, Betty Watchett, and Lisa Lava are quiet bad asses. They are loud when they are on the track, but they don’t call a lot of attention to themselves off the track. Even though they are quiet about their skills, they give a lot of good instruction to other members of the league. I know all the members of HRD appreciate everything they do and are also really happy they represent us.

Are you are sitting at your computer thinking, man, I really should have donated to help these incredible ladies travel? You can! The IndieGoGo page is still open for five more days.  You can donate however much you’d like to help these talented players and coaches get to Playoffs and have a good place to sleep and eat while they’re there.

If you choose not to donate, I respect your decision, but DBC does not. She will come to your home and stare at you while you sleep. It will look something like this.


If you are now changing your mind and deciding to donate, she may still come to your house and stare at you while you sleep, but it could look more like this…

dbc 2

or any of these expressions.

dbc 3

I really can’t stop DBC once she decides to do something. The point is, go to IndieGoGo and donate a few dollars if you can. And cheer them on in September because you don’t hate kittens or derby… do you?

Make it work

Sunday, Houston Roller Derby hosted a meet n’ greet for our new junior derby program. During the Q&A portion, one girl asked, “What if I don’t get along with a girl on my team?” It’s a valid question, not just for junior derby players, but all derby players.

You’re not going to get along with all your teammates all the time. I’m not talking about Mean Girls here. There will be people who just rub you the wrong way. Sometimes it’s something specific (They NEVER shut up, ever. Not during drills or league meetings or road trips.) or sometimes it’s vague (I don’t know. Maybe it’s something about her face or her attitude. I just don’t like her.) It doesn’t really matter why you don’t get along with someone on your team. What matters is how you respond.

IMG_2887You’re on a team together, and unless you feel like quitting and moving to another team/league, you are going to have to make it work. I usually try to find something in that person I do like, (she’s got an amazing hit, she’s a wily jammer, her hair is shiny) something, anything I can hold onto to get over the fact that, in general, I can’t stand her. If I concentrate on the good points long enough, I usually find myself liking the person in spite of whatever it is about them I don’t like.

Shawshank answered the little girl’s question by saying that sometimes you’ll form bonds with people that don’t translate into other areas of your life. As an adult, you make work friends. But you don’t necessarily hang out with those people outside of work. They’re your friends, but they are friends in a certain setting. Outside of work, you may not have that much in common. Same thing with derby.

You may find that you can get along with certain people, but only at practices and bouts. Any other time or social setting, they get on your nerves or you just don’t have anything to talk about. Perfectly okay. No one is saying you have to be besties with everyone on your team/league. And if anyone does tell you that, that person lives in the land of candy and unicorns where everyone always gets along, not the real world.

Bottom line. Don’t stress if you don’t like everyone on your team. Look for the good and hold onto the good. In the immortal words of Tim Gunn, make it work.

Proving my worth

My writing has been suffering lately. I have had no inspiration for my blog, my articles or my fiction. (Oh, btw, I write fiction.)

On March 23, I will have my first bout with Houston Roller Derby, and I am stressed. This is new for me. HRD will be the third league I’ve skated with in my derby career. I’ve been nervous before plenty of bouts, but never stressed.

Perhaps I should start lightning a derby prayer candle before practice.

Perhaps I should start lightning a derby prayer candle before practice.

Every practice is a strange mixture of joy and pain (physical and emotional). I come home feeling ridiculously worn out. It isn’t that things aren’t clicking between me and my teammates. We’re meshing well. I’m just legitimately worried that I’m going to get out there and disappoint them.

The Sirens, one of HRD’s four home teams, drafted me. The captains picked me with purpose. I have no clue what that purpose is, but they saw something in me during tryouts.

As I lace up my skates before each practice, I decide to overcome one of my shortcomings. Every practice, I feel as if I’m doing better. But with the 23rd getting closer, I desperately want to feel that I’ve proven my commitment and skill to them. I’m not there yet, and I am FREAKED OUT. The panic has consumed me so much that my inspiration to write is just gone.

I’ve never felt this way about derby or a team. Has anyone else ever felt this way? I need a little reassurance that this happens, and that I will wake up March 24 feeling relatively normal again.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Last night was the third and final night for Houston Roller Derby Tryouts. All the girls showed up on time, eagerly gearing up and hitting the track. After some warm-ups and a few drills, we split into two teams and scrimmaged.

I could feel the butterflies in my stomach throwing a fit, but I tried not to let it show on my face. From the looks I caught from a few other girls, I wasn’t the only one carrying a befuddled butterfly sanctuary. Time to shake it off and concentrate on our game.

My jammer skills were on (at least it felt that way). I looked for the holes and aggressively pushed at walls. But when it came time to switch, my blocker skills were all over the freaking place. Don’t get me wrong, I had a few good moments, but it felt like I hadn’t blocked in months instead of days. I hit people with my helmet, I tripped over my own skates. It was embarrassing. Once again, I tried not to let it show on my face.

Towards the end of practice, I was asked to meet with two HRD players for an interview (yes, the dreaded interview). They asked me if I understood that being a member of HRD was more than just showing up to practice. I told them I am always more than willing to volunteer for anything. They asked me if I had any questions. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I have a ton, but I could only think of one at the time. They answered it and that was it. Then we all played the waiting game.

Practice ended at 7 p.m., and the list of girls chosen wasn’t posted until 7:30. Some girls took the time to hydrate and stretch, some gathered in groups to talk, some nervously texted loved ones. We were all thinking the same thing: what if I don’t make it?

I knew if I didn’t make it that I would keep skating. I would join HRD’s rec league or try skating for one of the other teams in the area. Whatever it took to pass tryouts the next opportunity, I would do it.

Half an hour felt like half a millennium. When the list was finally posted, I didn’t want to see it. I waited for most of the girls to check it before walking over. There in the middle of the page was the number 12, my assigned number for tryouts. I passed.

I have to take a moment to thank the Savannah Derby Devils for training me, telling me to smile any time things got hard, to always keep moving my feet, and if something scares me, go for it. I didn’t pass on my own. I passed because of SDD.

All the girls who passed were reminded that there was a thin line between us and the girls who didn’t pass. This is the time to step it up and commit. Call me committed then.

Not Very Ladylike

I was a very active child.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that means athletic. Organized sports never made sense to me. What  I did enjoy was climbing trees, riding my bike, and exploring the woods of my neighborhood.

As I got into middle school, I still enjoyed getting outside and doing things, but something had changed. I noticed my girl friends started doing less and less. They were more interested in sitting around between classes, talking about boys and celebrities, hair and makeup. That just seemed boring. So I made friends with some of the guys in middle school who played kick-the-can and flag football during breaks at school.

It was great! I had new friends. I was being active. And most importantly, I wasn’t bored. Well, I had all that until one particular teacher ended it: Mrs. Garver. (I still remember her name. I even remember how her breath always smelled of stale cigarettes and how she kept an endless supply of  Tic Tacs in her pocket in a vain attempt to cover up the smell.) She told me that I had to stop playing with the boys. She told me that I wasn’t a little girl anymore, and that I needed to grow up and interact with girls my own age. Playing kick-the-can wasn’t very ladylike.

I was always a good girl. To borrow from Against Me!, even at my worst, I’m still better than most. Mrs. Garver was an authority figure, and I was expected to listen to her. If the version of me now had been the version of me then, I would have told her where I thought she and her opinion could go. But no. I was a good girl, so listened.

More than 10 years later, I stumbled into roller derby and found what that 13-year-old girl could have become. She could have been happy and healthy and confident as she grew from a little girl into a woman.

It took me a long time to build the confidence I was missing for most of my formative years, and joining roller derby played a big part in that. I still have manners. I understand what is and isn’t an acceptable form of behavior. But don’t ever confuse that with being ladylike. I speak my mind. I don’t back down when I feel I’m right. And I’ve never been happier.

I’m not a lady. I’m a woman, and a pretty kickass one at that.

For the Skaters, By the Skaters… and a Ton of Volunteers

For the skaters. By the skaters.

We hear that all the time in relation to roller derby. The teams are owned and run by the players, but it takes so much more to put on a bout and learn from practices. It takes refs, non-skating officials, coaches,medics, and a host of other volunteers to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Refs: Poor zebras. They often end up being the people roller derby players love to hate. But without them, can you imagine how sloppily we would play? Elbows would fly all over the place, and no one would pay attention to track boundaries. Also, who would count how many points the jammer acquires?

Have you hugged your zebra today?

Refs make us better skaters. The next time you’re tempted to chew one out for what you perceive as a bad call, take a deep breath. Maybe you really did trip that other player. Maybe it just looked that way. But a ref has a split second to recognize and make a call. He or she is bound to miss something. If you feel like it really is a problem, take it up with your head ref.

Non-skating Officials: Penalty tracker, line up tracker: these are positions we just don’t think about until  bout day arrives, and suddenly, there are all these things that need doing. Derby goddess bless the people willing to volunteer. There’s a really good post about why they’re so important here.

Coaches: Do I really need to explain why they’re important? A good coach can come up with effective plays, see the things that need improving in players or as a team, and reel everyone back in when they start to lose focus during a bout.

Medics: When I skated with Panama City Roller Derby, we only had a medic when we had a bout.  The Savannah Derby Devils are lucky enough to have three medics who not only come to bouts but also practices. When you take a bad spill, it’s good to know if that pain you’re feeling is something serious or nothing to worry about.

All Other Volunteers: The greeters at the door on bout day, the people who work security, announcers: these people make the fans feel welcome, make the skaters feel secure, and let everyone know what the heck is going on with the game. I’ve played and attended bouts where the greeters seemed rushed (probably because they were also skating), there was little or no security, and the announcers had no clue what derby even was. Having good people in those positions pays off and makes the whole bout seem more professional.

So next time you see one of the many people who volunteer with your league, let them know you appreciate what they do. No one cheers for them on bout day, but you can let them know that you see all the hard work they put into making your team shine.