Jul 232010

As I write this, I’m sitting on my couch after practice, wearing my Red Stick Roller Derby jersey for possibly the last time, after a photo shoot we had tonight. My house is quiet and rather sticky and hot despite the air-conditioning (which is never sufficient), and the Southern humidity clings to my sweaty limbs. Soon I’ll leave here for the bustle and chill of New York City, to begin an entirely different life, one which I hope, but can’t guarantee, will include roller derby.

My path here has been long. A year and a half ago, my friend Dee persuaded me to attend one of her roller derby bouts. I’d been to one before – in fact I’d seen Carolina Roller Girls play Arizona Roller Derby, which was no small scrimmage, I can tell you. I still remembered the grace and power and speed of Princess America and others, but it had never previously occurred to me that I could be one of those tough, beautiful, unstoppable women. When Dee Zasta asked me to come to her RSRD bout, it was with an eye towards recruitment – I’d just finished a half marathon, and she assured me, “Skating’s a hell of a lot more fun.”

Skating did look a hell of a lot more fun, and that night I pledged to attend the next practice, which was open to newcomers. Said pledge happened in front of an ex of mine, so even if I’d wanted to flake out I had to follow through to save face. I knew he didn’t think I was competitive enough, and I wasn’t sure I was, either, but I had to give it a shot.

By the end of my second practice, I was hooked. Within months, my team was like a second family to me. Eventually, I formed a pretty, erhm, intimate relationship with a teammate. These are all familiar details of the transition from civilian to roller girl. But what makes my time with RSRD really exceptional is having been part of a period of amazing growth and development for the team. When I joined, RSRD had a core group of around 10-12 girls, and most of those girls had been working their asses off for over a year to get the league off the ground. We had a coach and rented time at a professional rink twice per week. But we were still so fledging that I skated my first bout within five weeks of joining, and we brought a roster of 8 girls to that away game (which we won, btw). At each practice, we hoped enough people would show up so we could scrimmage. A pregnancy or an ankle injury could mean losing a tenth of the team, and hardly anyone in our city knew we existed. I was new and passionate, and I was in recruitment mode all the time. If I saw a nice round booty, I HAD to talk to the girl who owned it, to see if she liked roller skating. I even tried recruiting the dressing room attendants at American Eagle, until I discovered they were 16 years old.

And we all had this mindset – to help grow this amazing thing that we’d found, to share this source of strength and tenderness. We made some progress. And then Whip It happened, and the girls started coming to us. They wanted to be a part of us, and before they were even roster-ready, their families and friends came to ours bouts in droves. Word spread and roller derby became a rather glamorous thing here in Baton Rouge.

While we were gaining all this momentum, my graduate school acceptances started coming in, and I had to face the fact that I would be leaving. It was terrible at first; I even sort of wished I hadn’t gotten in, that I could just re-apply next year and have one more season with my girls. But the fact that RSRD is so strong now has helped me let go. It’s hard to leave when everything is so amazing, but it’s great to leave full of pride for the team that has given so much to me. Not only do we now have a travel team that we can rightfully call “All Stars,” but we have a home team, the Capitol Offenders, full of incredible skaters in their own right. Just recently, we were accepted as a WFTDA apprentice team, with incredible Houston Roller Derby skater Carmen Geddit as our mentor.

And then, last weekend happened. In my very last bout ever with RSRD, we beat our biggest rivals, Big Easy Roller Girls (their Crescent Wenches team, specifically). The score was 144 to 100. We had never before won against them, and prior to our very recent, overmatched bout with Houston, they were the only WFTDA team we had played. They were the skaters that the founders of RSRD has first seen, and they had always been the ones to learn from, the ones to envy. And I just cannot even begin to describe how incredible it was to skate that bout. Every single skater on that roster did her job, everyone communicated effectively, and the strategies that we had been developing in practice actually worked, over and over. I even felt perfectly happy about my performance, during which I got just what I wanted – mostly blocking as #2, with some jamming. And my team started the bout by having me skate a farewell lap while announcing my departure in words written by my amazing wife, Moxie Balboa (awesome photo of us here). The fact that the bout ended with a tearful, beaming, RSRD victory lap made it an absolutely perfect evening. It was a truly historic moment for RSRD, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it.

Which makes me think, well, even if no one’s asking me to wear this jersey any more, I might just pull it out and walk around the city in it on those chilly nights when I know my girls are playing the 3-4 bouts that are left in this season. It’ll be close to me under my coat, and will keep me warm.

Photo: Writer’s own, snapped by Rowdy Reeta Ricochet of Magnolia Roller Vixens.

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 lovers...in 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 142010

RSRD was rolling out to Texas in order to take on the Psych Ward Sirens of Houston Roller Derby in their season opener. As far as I was concerned, this particular bout was a Bigger Deal Than Most. I mean, EVERY bout is a big deal, but the Houston girls are AMAZING. Their rep is solid gold, and there is more than one girl on the Psych Ward roster that I consider a personal hero. I am in awe of these women; they leave me in a state of fawning fan-girly squee.

Clearly, I wished to savage and destroy them.

Nope, no ego here!

I will never admit to this outside of this blog, but the thought of playing HRD was like playing a boogeyman made of awesome: It was just a little intimidating. However, the Heidi in me refuses to DO intimidated and thus began non-stop trumpeting “I WILL END YOU, HOUSTON” whenever I even began to think about the approaching bout. While this kind of can-do (and potentially delusional) attitude is essential in derby, I find that a better way of dealing with pre-bout jitters is to lay down a few clearly defined goals beforehand. As long as I have goals to meet, I worry less and work more efficiently out on the track (bonus: I have something to measure my performance against after the fact). And so I sat down and put together Heidi Volatile’s Game Day Goals (HRD Edition):

Competent playing: Always

Lead Jammer: Oh god please let this happen or my team will disown me

Penalty Box parties: 0

Number of dry humpings on the jam line: 5 minimum

Power hits: 3

Improvement in lateral movement: Noticeable

Bones broken: 0

These seemed like fairly reasonable, meetable goals. By focusing on accomplishing these few items I knew I could hopefully reign in the adrenaline and do the best possible job for my team. That’s really what was most important to me: Not letting down the girls that I sweat, swear, and bleed with two or three times a week during what was basically our biggest game of the season. Next in importance would be not sucking a bag of dicks, followed closely by not humiliating myself in front of mother lovin’ Houston.

Go team!

Setting goals for yourself is probably the most important thing you can do in derby, and those goals can’t just be “win,” “win,” and “oh yeah, win.” You have to honestly look at what you need to improve (and no matter how awesome you are, you ALWAYS have things that you need to improve), and you have to be realistic about how much improvement you can affect in a given amount of time. You have to be ready to measure your performance. This is how you keep your focus and move forward.

So how did I measure up? Let’s break it down:

Competent playing: I think I mostly played a solid game, but there was a moment after I passed the star where I kind of lost the plot. In the future, I need to make sure that I’m always playing WITH my team, and not just pinballing off solo.

Lead Jammer: Check! However, I’d have been happier if I’d done it a few more times.

Penalty Box Parties: 0! The Mighty Elbows of Discontent did not flair out!

You can't hump that. Not comfortably.

Number of dry humpings on the jam line: 0. What can I say, even I am not invulnerable to awe and hero worship. Also, a lot of the Houston girls do this nifty squatting, sprinter-esque start on the jam line, and dry humping that would only lead to awkwardness and skates in uncomfortable place. And, more importantly, a slow start off of the line.

Power hits: While I didn’t pull off what I would consider a power hit, I did hit consistently while blocking. Definitely something to continue working on.

Improvement in lateral movement: While I do believe that my lateral movement improved visibly, I still feel that it’s not quite where I need it to be.

Bones broken: I didn’t break any bones, but I did ding up my ankle pretty badly in the first period. Note to self: Work on falling smaller.

So obviously, I didn’t meet every goal this time around. However, I can definitely see where I’m improving, and more importantly, I can see where I need to be in relation to where I am. And that’s why I believe that, in order to be the best player you can be, you ALWAYS need to be setting goals. So what are some of your goals? What are your goals for your next practice, your next week, your next bout? How do you hold yourself accountable for your progress? Let’s set some goals together and get to work!

Photo credits: Wreckx-n-FX, RM Photography