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.

 

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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.

 

Unbreakable: Strengthening your ankles for derby

I have seen three skaters from three different leagues break their ankles during a bout in the last two months. Injuries are

It's worth mentioning that the skater's knee in the bottom left picture is straight. It's her foot that's crooked.

It’s worth mentioning that the skater’s knee in the bottom left picture is straight. It’s her foot that’s crooked. And the skater in the bottom right was osteoporotic due to being post-partum and nursing.

nothing new for derby players. It is a contact sport. But I think in the process of acknowledging that fact, we forget that there are measures we can take to prevent some of them.

After one of my teammates broke her ankle, Jerry Seltzer was kind enough to donate to her GoFundMe. He also expressed worry about our ankles in a blog post. His point that these didn’t happen as often in his day should be taken with a grain of salt. Skating clockwise could certainly have something to do with the increase in ankle breaks, but so could our lower skate boots, more emphasis on plow stops, and an overall lack of ankle strength.

Our ankles need to be stronger to play this kind of derby. We rely on them for so much. Since ankle injuries are the new knee injury, let’s talk about prevention.

Cross training is imperative to being a successful derby player. We lift weights, run, swim; all to make us more effective on the track. So why are we neglecting our ankles?

Far better qualified bloggers have posted on the benefits and how-tos of ankle strengthening. After coming back from my stupid ankle injury (I feel backwards during a drill), I struggled for months with one ankle that felt significantly weaker. Thank the derby goddess for Booty Quake and her feet and ankle prehab post. Using some of her exercises over a few months had my ankle better than ever. I have since scared many coaches and teammates with my ability to seemingly roll my ankle and keep going.

IMG_7290Since then, Treblemaker has also written two posts with great advice to make us less susceptible to injury. One is dedicated to building bullet proof ankles. Here’s another on strengthening feet. You can include these exercises in your team warm up or simply do them on your own.

Will this guarantee that you never break your ankle? Probably not. There’s always the chance that someone will fall on you or you’ll trip and land weird. Stuff happens. We play a contact sport and risk of injury comes with that, but going the extra mile to strengthen our ankles and feet can certainly prevent a good deal.

(Special thanks to all the skaters who contributed pictures to this post. Also, please consider contributing to the GoFundMes to help JBR, Arme Smash, and Ashinator pay for their medical costs.)

In pain? You can still gain.

While writing my last blog post, I fell and twisted my ankle at practice. This put a serious damper on my off season plans. Kind of hard to work on apex jumps when you can’t ankleeven take a step in skates. But just because I can’t run or jump doesn’t mean my off season is going to waste. It just means I have to train around my injury.

During our season, my home team decided that anyone injured could still participate in practice off skates. Most of us know how frustrating it is to sit on the sidelines. The team captains would come up with an off skates workout designed around the player’s injury, so her level of fitness wouldn’t slip while she was healing. The idea was that if a player has an injured shoulder, for example, she could still do things to work her legs and core. If you’re like me, and don’t want to have to fully retrain once recovered, there are some things you can do in your own time.

If you have a serious injury like a torn muscle or broken bone, talk to your physical therapist about safe exercises. For the rest of us, I’ve researched a few things to try.

1. Cross training. There are tons of work out circuits you can try that won’t aggravate your injury. I found a good list of circuits here that concentrate on different areas of the body. You can also scroll through Roller Derby Athletics and compile your own cross training circuits.

2. Swimming. When I injured my knee, my doctor recommended swimming as a way to rehab the muscles. A few of my derby friends also swear by water aerobics. This article on staying in shape while injured also recommends trying deep-water running. I haven’t tried it, so talk to your physical therapist or a personal trainer about proper technique before trying it yourself.

3. Hiking, strolling, whatever gets you moving. Currently, I can’t run at all (a simple jog across the store I work in nearly killed me yesterday). I can walk just fine as long as it’s on an even surface. When I could run, my route would take me past a cemetery. Since the cemetery has evenly paved paths, I’ve taken to walking through now. Adds some mileage to my walks, and it’s quiet (even if my husband thinks it’s a bit creepy). So get off your couch and go for a stroll around the neighborhood or a hike in a state park.

4. Yoga. Yoga gets your heart rate up, tones your arms and legs, and strengthens your core. It’s also fairly easy to make modifications that won’t aggravate your injury.

Remember, I’m not a physical therapist or a doctor, so if something hurts or seems to aggravate your injury, for the love of the Derby Goddess, stop.

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.

dbc

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?

Deadlines. Deadlines. Dead.

Did I mention that Adrenaline Factory can also customize your pads?

Did I mention that Adrenaline Factory can also customize your pads?

I swear I will have a new post up before the week is done. This has been a very busy week (mostly involving derby), so I’m still trying to organize my thoughts. In the meantime, go check out the article I wrote for Examiner.com about a Houston skate shop called Adrenaline Factory.

Tee, the shop’s derby guru, is always willing to help other derby players figure out what they need from their gear. She’s also pretty good at spotting what’s wrong with your skates if you’re having problems. Even if you don’t live in Houston, Texas, I’d still recommend her as a consultant.

Seriously, the next blog post in coming soon.

Learning after losing

why do we fall

For those of you who haven’t seen Batman Begins, little Bruce Wayne falls down an old well (and discovers he’s terribly afraid of bats flying at his face). After his dad hauls him out, he comforts Future Batman by asking, “Why do we fall?” Answer: to learn to get back up.

My home team, the Psych Ward Sirens, lost their April 20th bout against fellow home team, the Bayou City Bosses. It was a great game with good plays on both sides. Ultimately, the Bosses came out ahead. This was the Sirens’ first loss in a long time.

photobombAt our next practice, the captains took some time to let us vent and reflect on the game. While many of us were understandably frustrated, none of us blamed another teammate for the loss. The majority named things they would have changed in their own game play, certain skills they wanted to work on, etc. We went around in a circle, each player taking a minute to voice her opinion until it came around to a member of our bench coach team, Drrty Sanchez. He reminded us that it’s okay to lose as long as we learn something from it.

Think back to the last time your team lost. I’ve already covered how to lose with grace, but let’s talk about what happens after you lose. What are you, as an individual or as a team, learning from each loss? There are a few questions you need to answer in order to move on.

  1. What went wrong? It could be that your team is lacking somewhere.  Narrow down what cost you the game. Notice I said what cost you the game and not who. Never blame a loss on a player. She is one part of a whole. Part of our Sirens’ chant is together we stand, together we fall. You are a team. You win as a team, and you lose as a team. While you may have a star player or two, it takes an entire team to get somewhere.
  2. How can you improve? Whether it’s developing new strategies or improving endurance, figure out how to fix what went wrong in the last bout.
  3. What are your individual goals? Yes, you win and lose as a team, but you also need to be doing things on your own to be a better team player. Declare to your team where you as a player fell short and what you are going to do to improve before the next game.

One loss does not mean the end for you or your team. You’ve begun your derby journey, and you had a fall. Now it’s time to return and rise.

rise

Graphic by Maul McCartney

Shout out to my teammate Maul McCartney for making this sweet graphic.