Mar 312011

I received one of the most clever requests from a league training manager I’ve ever seen; Holli Lolli of the Mississippi Brawl Stars sent this:

“…I was really hoping to do something special for these girls because most of them have never played in front of a crowd before. They don’t know what it’s like to have the crowd cheering and hundreds of eyes watching them. I’m sure closer to the date, they will start getting jittery and nervous about it. I was hoping your seasoned ladies could write letters of wisdom and motivation to our girls and I would have them read it right before their first bout. I want my girls to know that they aren’t alone feeling nervous and maybe ya’ll could write a story about your first bout and how every thing will be all right afterwards.”

So, here were my thoughts for a fellow derby sister regarding her first time:

Performance anxiety- Let it work for you!

It’s scary. And there’s a hundred things to remember: be aware, stay low, look for the jammer, stay by me, get me out, make a wall, watch your elbows, call it off…

The crowd? You can cross them off your list of worries- you’ll be entirely unaware of them very soon. Besides, you roller skate better than they ever will- so no matter what you do or how you do it, you’re looking great out there. The wonderful thing is that when you’re traveling in circles, you can’t see them at all.

Once the whistle blows the first time for your first jam to start, everything will be a whirlwind. It will be over as quickly as it started. You may feel like you didn’t do anything, or you may feel like you were lost. This will happen many more times in your skating career, so get comfortable with that learning process. Everyone around you is sharing this feeling. If you were isolated on a planet alone with these 9 other people -and you are- would you be lost? No. You are just where you need to be. So go into it with confidence. You are doing this because you are ready. You’ve done it countless times! You’ve been preparing for months. Doing it here, now -it’s really no different at all, relatively speaking. Don’t let the first jam (or even the first four) get into your head. Learn the team you are playing for and the one you are playing against and adjust accordingly.

Focus on your teammates more than you do anyone else and you will do well. Trust each other and stay in touch. Don’t be a rockstar and try to do everything yourself. Talk to your girls. Let them take some chances. You won’t know the jammer’s path, the blockers’ choices, or the outcome of the jam. All of you as a unit is really the only thing you can be sure of, so let that sense of unity be your anchor.

Know this:

  • Your first few bouts are just a necessary learning experience, not the be-all-end-all event of your skating career. So relax and enjoy it, and take away important lessons. Don’t forget to feel the love and passion that brought you to this point.
  • Don’t let your goal just be “to win”.  Anyone can come up with that one. Take the game jam by jam, and don’t put too much stock in the scoreboard. Just make your first bout your best effort. You can worry about points plenty later on.
  • Let minor penalties that you are subjected to literally roll off your back. The other skaters are out there doing their best just like you.  They’re called “minor” penalties for a reason. Don’t let the intense atmosphere affect your judgement and levelheadedness. Besides, if you have time to talk on the track, you probably could have been blocking someone.
  • The above goes for skaters on your own team. They know they missed the jammer. They don’t need your criticism. Discuss what will happen next- not what didn’t happen in the last jam. These are your league-mates; when you scold them for doing their best -whether it resulted in a penalty or not- you hold back their development in the future. As previously stated, “All of you as a unit is really the only thing you can be sure of, so let that sense of unity be your anchor.”
  • Be kind and objective when it comes to officials. Don’t speak to the center of the track. Take your issues to the bench and ask your captain for a time out if necessary. Don’t argue with them. It won’t change anything (at least, not for the better). They are caught up in their own tasks and, like you, are simply doing their best. They are only the messengers.
  • Until you are experienced at bouting -a phenomenon that cannot be emulated by any practice- your sense of time, space, and all things therein are distorted. Be willing to believe that things may not be quite what you thought they were. You are high on derby and some incidence of hallucination has been known to occur.
  • In intraleague derby, everyone wins. Look around you. Be so grateful for the best (AND the worst) of all of these individuals. They are responsible for one of the most relevant events of your life.
  • Be happy for the success of others, smile, and tell everyone thank you. Twice.

On a more technical note:

  • DO make hits- but DON’T hit back. “Venge-hitting” is a waste of your focus. It keeps you busy with a blocker when you should be looking for a jammer. You’ll have a better reason to hit her later -one that will improve your team offense. Be patient.
  • Find out who you are playing with next and make a plan. Being absorbed in the game is hard to resist, but skaters in bout mode become like dogs in a dogfight -they are oblivious to many things around them. Eight times out of ten, they cannot hear all the things you are screaming at them, especially since everyone on the bench together is screaming their own different thing. Save your energy and plot what you will do when it’s your turn to go out there.

In derby as in life, you can’t control what THEY are doing- only what YOU will do next.

Feb 242011

Me, making my way around the track as the RSRD jammer least likely to actually score any points

So.  This past weekend (Sunday, Februrary 19th, 2011 for those who are keeping track) I played in my first match against an opposing team.

It wasn’t a bout, exactly.  It was a scrimmage.  We were in front of families and a few close friends, skating in our normal practice space rather than on the intimidating floors of the Baton Rouge River Center.  But we were skating together, as a team, against girls from another city.  And as anyone who’s bouted before can tell you, being up against a real opponent makes a difference.  For the first time, I was skating against girls who wouldn’t tell me how to improve, wouldn’t pat me on the back after I survived an especially hard hit.  I was up against people who wanted to get their jammer past me at all costs – people who wouldn’t know the difference between me and any other girl in a purple uniform.  They wouldn’t know that I was new, wouldn’t know how hard I’d been working in practice or how much I’d overcome to be on the floor that day.  They would know only that I was their opponent, an obstacle to be eliminated.

I’m not used to being an obstacle.  I’m one of those “how can I help you” people – the girl who always wants to know what else she can do, how she can facilitate and instigate and accomplish.  If I ever stood in someone’s way, in the everyday world, I’d probably have a heart attack.  Or cry.

Originally, I was going to spend this entire post telling you about the process of becoming an obstacle – explaining how I found my footing in the midst of a game and learned to stand in the way of my opponents and their goals – WITHOUT feeling guilty about it.  I was going to tell you about our 117-76 win, about my unsuccessful jams, and about the way I made peace with those jams and realized that, in the process of failing to become a better jammer, I’d accidentally succeeded in becoming a better blocker.  A solid blocker.  I was going to say “aw shucks, isn’t derby grand?”

But that post-bout feeling subsides.  Obstacles cease being positives, and the desire to score more points returns.  I know that we here at LDG are fond of enlisting derby as a metaphor for all the great challenges we face in life.  But there are times when the answers I find on the track just aren’t applicable to the situations that bombard my everyday world.  Sometimes they aren’t even applicable to the situations I face within my own team.

Racing up to form a wall with teammates Schexorcist and Summer Squasher

Our league, like every league, has its disagreements.  We always bump through them together, but that doesn’t make them any less painful when they’re happening.  Right now we’re in the midst of a debate about shifting our long-standing practice time by an hour or two.  I won’t bore you with the details.  The point is, we’re putting some changes to a vote, and we’re discovering that even seemingly small alterations have far-reaching consequences.  While setting an earlier time might help some skaters with babysitters, early next-day work hours, and late-night study sessions, it would also potentially prevent other skaters from making the required number of practices each month – forcing them out of bouts and eventually off of the team.

When the question was originally put to a vote, I voted for the earlier time.  Because it suited me best, and I was voting for my own interests alone.  When it came to light that other skaters would be severely affected by the change, I wondered whether I’d made the wrong choice, whether I was a selfish bitch for going with my own interests.  I wavered and began to wonder if I should change my vote.  And then I wavered again, wondering whether there were others who would be equally affected by the later time, whose feelings I might not be taking into consideration.  I sat in front of my computer, staring at the debate on our skater forum, and froze.

My entire life I’ve been caught between the desire to perform for others and the need to perform for myself.  When I was on the track on Sunday, I thought I’d found the answer.  Something inside of me had snapped, and I had suddenly forgotten about trying to do what I thought I was supposed to do and had instead done what I knew I could do.  I had gone from being the waffling girl, the one who asks everyone’s opinion before she makes decisions, to being the blocker who thrusts herself firmly in other people’s paths.  I hadn’t worried, even for a second, wether my moves were the right ones.  I simply made them, automatically and definitively.  But now, post-bout, I was right back in my pre-derby headspace – fearing that following my own instincts and acting in my own interest was only going to hurt other people.    I was an obstacle, and I was certain that I ought to move out of the way.

Ultimately, I assume that we’ll reach some sort of compromise – one that will hopefully put everyone on an equal footing.  But in the meantime, I’ve had to realize that derby doesn’t give me all the answers.  Or maybe what it gives me are answers in the form of questions, like Zen Proverbs or something.  When I started skating, I was counting on derby to make me more assertive and less cerebral.  I wanted it to take me out of my head and teach me to assert myself as a person with needs and wants and boundaries.  But maybe wanting to euthanize my old identity isn’t the answer.  Maybe sometimes the girl who weighs people’s feelings, who waffles and is slow to make decisions – maybe sometimes she’s in the right.  Or at least not totally in the wrong.  And maybe neither one of us is the strong one.  Maybe the strength is in balancing two identities, knowing which to inhabit at the appropriate times, being able to shift between the two at will.

Maybe all the people who’ve been trying to convince me just to stand up for myself were reading me all wrong.  Maybe sometimes other people’s interests are my own, and the line between selfless and selfish is thinner than it seems.

Either way, I think I’m going to make a damn good blocker.


Brain, Meet Body

 Posted by at 1:04 pm  3 Responses »
Aug 112010

Image courtesy of Circle City Socialites @

When I was a kid, I played softball.

Briefly.  Very briefly.

To be more precise, I played exactly one game.

Things were going pretty well at first.  I’d spent most of the first inning standing in the outfield staring at bugs and thinking about how funny colors looked under the bright park lights.  No one hit anything in my general direction, and I was content being left to my own thoughts, far from the action.  But soon enough my team’s at-bat came, and I was standing in the lineup waiting for my turn to hit the ball.  The line-up wasn’t as fun as the outfield; there weren’t as many bugs, and the people around me were noisy.  But I was still mostly left to my own devices, able to stare at the sky and dream whatever dreams are available to 9-year-olds.

Then I felt someone nudging me.  “Go!” some voices whispered.  “It’s your go!”

I stepped up to the plate, raised my bat, and stared vaguely in the direction of the pitcher.  The ball was already flying towards me, and I kept my eye on it dutifully until it connected with my bat and FLEW into the air right over my head.

“RUN!” someone shouted.

“GO!” said another voice.

I didn’t.  I turned my head and looked straight up, keeping my eye on the ball.  It looked so strange against the night sky and the lights.  I wondered if it would keep flying forever, defying gravity and coming to light in thin air somewhere above our heads, like a nearby star.

And then, just as I was beginning to realize that people were yelling at me, just as I was about to put my head down and run, the ball fell from the sky and landed right above my still-staring left eye.

Various coaches and parents swarmed around to stare at my quickly swelling eyelid.  One of them – the head coach and father of the most athletic girl on our team – also took the time to ask me what, exactly, I’d been thinking just staring up at the sky like that.

I wish I’d been clever enough to answer him, to explain that thinking was the whole problem.  Even as a kid I thought too much.  About everything.  I thought about how many blades of grass covered the dirt of our playing field.  I thought about the ants crawling over the toes of my shoes.  I thought about the funny way my teacher held her hand over her mouth when she was angry, and about what would happen to me if my parents died.

Playing a sport like softball – even at the low-stakes little-girl level – required a synthesis of body and mind that I simply didn’t possess.  Even as a kid I positioned myself in the world strictly as an observer.  I hid quietly behind my long curtain of hair attempting to maintain the maximum level of invisibility, attempting to watch and record the things around me and leave them unsullied by my presence.  In order to play well – or at least without eye-swelling incident – I needed to turn my attention to myself within the world.  I needed to notice the set of my feet on the ground, the weight of the bat in my hand.  I needed to understand how my own shape and movement affected the things around me.  I needed to see myself as solid and forceful.  I needed to see myself, period.

I never quite got over that refusal to see myself as a physical force in the world.  There are countless boundaries between my mind and my body – boundaries that I’m frankly terrified to dismantle.  But last night, as we practiced for an upcoming bout, I realized how much roller derby is beginning to put a dent in that fear.

Every time I put on my skates for practice, I know that – if I’m playing right – I’ll have no choice but to recognize my own physicality.  My muscles will strain.  My back will hurt.  I’ll lose my breath in a jam.  And I know that if I stop being aware of myself – even for a second – one of my teammates will slam her body into mine and knock me down to wake me up.

Roller derby reminds me that I’m a real person.  It asks every girl on the track to know her own weaknesses – and to understand her own power.  I wonder, sometimes, if that isn’t part of the reason so many of us seem to become new women once we join a team.  Because derby teaches us that we’re real – that the nebulous mass of thoughts and feelings we call a self exists in a solid state in a solid world.  It teaches us that our presence is undeniable – that we matter, even when we try not to.

I’m glad to have been that little girl with the swollen eye who couldn’t hit a ball.  I needed to be her, for a while – needed to live inside my head and stand at the edge of the world, just watching.  But now that I’m all grown up, I need to realize that I’m more than just an observer.  Derby is helping me to understand that, one big bruise at a time.

Apr 222010

Hey Derby obsessed.  It’s Madie here again.  This time taking you deeper into the world of quad skates and booty blocks.

In my last entry, you learned the basics of the sport of flat track roller derby.  Today, I’m going to talk about something I considered as seldom seen as cool inline skaters (sorry guys but its all about the quads). A procedure called duh duh duh duh wait for it…


Here, Rock Bottom and Sour Patch Kid would've been secret my mind.

First, a basic explanation.  Pivots, the ladies with the striped panties, and jammers, the ladies with the star panties, have a special relationship.  In my mind I always treat this as some sordid affair that takes a lot of work, which is the reason for its rare occurrence.

The procedure known as “Passing the star” occurs when a jammer takes her panty off and passes it to the pivot, who puts the panty on her helmet and skates on as the jammer.

The reason for my affair idea is because only the jammer and pivot are allowed to touch the panties.  If for some reason they drop the panties, only the pivot or jammer can recover it.  And it is possible to drop them because blocks are legal for attempting to prevent a star pass.

There are a few catches to this:

If the jammer who wants to pass the star is the lead jammer, the second she takes off her starred panty she forfeits that position and the jam continues without a lead jammer.  If she decided to remain jammer after taking off her helmet cover and puts it back on, she still has lost the lead jammer status.

Passing the star can only be done legally inside the zone of engagement.  The zone of engagement is 20 feet in front of and behind the pack.  So say a jammer was exhausted and fell way behind the pack, a pivot couldn’t fall way back and get the star to go on and score points.  That jammer would have to push until she was in the zone of engagement.

The star cannot be passed back to the original jammer or to anyone else after the pivot takes it.  This sucks because maybe that pass didn’t do anything for the team’s point predicament.  Or the original jammer was doing better than the newly elected.


Ms. Volatile goes charging around the pack (Photo by Maggie Bowles)

Now I’ve only ever seen this once in my short nearly 8 months of roller derby and trust me when I say you never really know when it’s coming, and it’s quite hard to catch.  It was when my team played the Psyche Ward Sirens of Houston Roller Derby.  I was watching the merch table (kind of but I was missing an impeccable match so I sort of watched the table and bout from a spot rather distant from both). What I saw was our lovely, loudmouthed jammer Heidi Volatilee go charging into the pack with no avail (HRD is a kickass league).   She screamed something that I’m sure was unintelligible to nearly everyone and next thing I know Rock Bottom is slipping the jammer panty on over her pivot panty and pushing her way out of the pack.

Afterward I asked Rock Bottom about it and she said she had no idea it was going to happen.  And honestly I didn’t see it happen.  I saw Heidi as the jammer, then Rock as the jammer.  If this had been an official account that was all I could give. No more, no less.

So passing the star is almost some sort of mythical act, like something you’d see in Harry Potter. But it happens.  And if you catch it, you’re a lucky one.  Trust me. Watch this video a million times so you can prepare yourself for catching a glimpse because that’s are there are.  Glimpses.
Toronto vs Detroit

Apr 102010

What up y’all! This is Krissy, derby girl from Los Angeles. Your Goddess of Good Nutrition. Your Captain of Crunches. You’re Princess of Protein. Your… Your… Well, you get the picture. I am Health Coach by trade and a lover of all things related to hitting girls on roller skate. I am here to guide you through the ups and downs of how to maintain balance between Derby and Life. Get tips and info about how to eat like an athlete and train your body to be an ass kicking machine while not neglecting the finer things in life like beer, chocolate and sleeping in.

Roller Con 2009 Challenge Bout Team Awesome vs Team Sexy

A little about me. I have always been athletic and into training and nutrition through the various sports I have played. Soccer, bar room boxing, snowboarding and surfing I don’t care what the sport is. When I started playing roller derby almost 4 years ago it was no different. I immediately wanted to be the best I could be. I would cross train, lift, study you tube videos and read up on the best ways to stay fit and hit hard. I focused hard on honing in my skating skills, while using cross training and balanced nutrition to help with muscle strength and recovery.

Derbalife is a mindset of skaters in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK who know that roller derby is about more that just looking cute in fishnets and roller skates. It’s about kicking major ass while looking good in fishnets and roller skates. We respect ourselves as athletes and strive to boost the level of athletic play in our sport. And the only way to hit hard, skate faster and look hotter in your hot pants is to combine balanced nutrition, cross training, and setting goals to constantly improve your own game.

As the season starts gets kicked into high gear, I challenge all you readers to ask yourself what it is that you want to improve about yourself this season. What do you want to accomplish over the next 12 months? What can you do if you put YOUR mind to it and created the steps to make it happen?

Ready to improve your game but you want some support in developling a game plan? Leave a comment and declair your goals!

**The views and values on this site are those of the author and are in no way affiliated with the views and values of any league**