May 142011
 

Let me begin by saying that we’re not going to cover wheels here. I know, I know. There’s nothing I’d like more than to spill my guts about wheel hardness/softness/grippiness… etc. I’m not going to talk about it mainly because wheels deserve a post all their own but also because I have relatively limited knowledge about the diversity of wheels. Granted, I know more than freshmeat, but I’d rather let a vet really do justice to the all-powerful DERBY WHEEL. (Yes. All in caps because wheels deserve it.)

Same thing goes for skates, but I’ll go on the record with my setup – Riedell Vixens with 88A Radar Flatouts and 93A Atom Jukes. I dare you to try that combo and not have multiple feetgasms. Truth.

 

Anyway, let’s talk about the other part of Derby Gear. The things that draw some women to the sport and then the things that eventually keep them there.

THE DRAW

 

Fucking fishnet. Hell yes. I’ll be honest and say that the look of derby was attractive to me. The dichotomy of badass motherfucking women in clothes that told an entirely different story oddly fascinated me. I know a lot of people have problems with the scantily-clad nature of the sport, that it’s a “sexification” of female athletes (and we are athletes), but then again not all teams wear skin-tight, ripped midriffs with cheek-accentuating panties that say “EAT IT.” Honestly, if I had the ass for that, I’d be totally onboard. Another part of me really loves the stream-lined uniforms of teams like Gotham City or Philly’s Broadstreet Butchers. Either way, “accessorizing” seems to be a really important part of the draw to derby. Even if your team has a strict uniform at bouts, practices are an entirely different story. I can’t count how many times someone’s come to practice with new knee-high glitter socks and everyone shat their panties. New, unique fishnet? Cause for a celebration! Cute derby shirt with clever quip? TIME FOR A SHOPPING TRIP.

 You pick a name and then adorn yourself with the clothes that help define that name… in the beginning, that is. I almost bankrupted myself on fishnet and knee-high socks in the first two months. But once you’ve emptied all of your drawers of the clothes from your “former life” and refilled them with nothing but DERBY, you come to the realization that it’s not the clothes that make the name – it’s the skater. Sure, dressing up is fun and there’s nothing prettier than upper thigh rinkrash in the shape of big diamonds, but once you’ve tested all of the different types of accessories, you streamline. You find what you like, what’s comfortable, and what (possibly) helps make you a better skater.

In the beginning, I wore fishnet, thick knee-high socks, derby panties under shorts (and then REAL panties under them), and any one of a thousand derby-related shirts I’d bought. I also started with the same gear any girl probably starts with – cheap shit from Academy. I had no idea what Killer 187′s were. I didn’t know what Protec or Triple 8 was. I thought, “Hmm. I’ll need to keep from breaking my ass and face open, so I’ll just get this $25 package that includes everything I need.”

Yeah. Well $25 gear is….. $25 protection. The first practice, I tried to do a Tomahawk and did something so weird to my knee that there probably isn’t a name for the move. THE FIRST PRACTICE. Welcome to Lameville, I’m the Mayor – Lamey McLamerson. I showed up to the next practice even though I couldn’t skate because I didn’t want my team to think, “Oh great. Another lame-ass new chick who can’t handle it.” So I got back in there and upgraded.

 

THE KEEP

 

Feisty Psyche

My wonderful, fantastically-giving friend Feisty Psyche (Broadstreet Butchers) sent me an old set of her Killers. LOVE. I still have knee trouble, but doing the Rockstar on Killers is like floating on fucking clouds. The kneepads I had before were like spoons taped to your knees – not much coverage. She also sent me some Riedell skates that ended up being too small, but don’t you just love how giving the women of derby can be?

I have a Triple 8 helmet and am currently upgrading my elbow pads andwrist guards. My old man (Sofa King Bad) uses Protec, which is what I’ll probably go with. I can’t stress enough how important getting good, solid gear is. Three weeks ago, I almost broke my wrist in a bout because the spoon tore out of my right (and cheap) wristguard right before I went down.

Back of fingers? MEET FOREARM.

As for the clothes - I now  wear thin, black leggings cut off at the knee, ankle socks, and bout panties. For a top, I wear a black/white wifebeater. Why? Because it was fucking hot wearing all of that other shit. And while I still love the look of fishnet, I prefer the leggings because of the way I do my crossovers. Let me keep it real by saying I’m not a pixie blocker. I’m a buxom, red-blooded BLOCKER and my crossovers became smoother because of the leggings. Does everyone have that issue? Probably not, but I’ve found my comfort-clothes and I’m sticking with them.

Ok, so the moral of the story is – flash and glitter might be what draws women to derby, but it’s the comfort and safety (funny enough) that keep them there, because believe me – there would BE no Coma Splice if my gear hadn’t evolved with my skating.

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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.

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Derby Divine

 Posted by at 12:00 pm  2 Responses »
May 142010
 

Kickass practices feel like this.

It’s 10:42 p.m., Thursday night, and I just got home from one of the best practices we’ve had in some time. I had a little smile on my face the whole ride home, driving the car I’ve borrowed from my RSRD teammate, Violet Reaction (thanks, Violet!) through the humid, murky Baton Rouge night. I played Tear for Fears’s “Shout” as loud as possible with the windows down and the hot, dark wind blowing in, and only blushed a little when I realized my stoplight partner also had his windows down and was privy to my ecstatic ‘80s nerd-out.

Best of all, the song ended the moment I parked for the night. Perfection.

And this ballad-worthy endorphin rush accurately reflects the tone of the practice I was driving home from – for two hours, I think every one of us had a good time. We laughed. We yelled more encouragement than criticism. We skated at our personal top speed when asked. We communicated more when asked. We communicated more, period. Our pivots were loud, our #4’s swept the back, our jammers juked and charged like mad. People called formations and worked in them. Sure, not everything was perfect – a lot of those packs were sloppy – but we identified things that weren’t going so great and worked on them. I think our leaders for the night – Turbo Tyke, Unholy Horror, and Sigga Please – had a lot to do with this. They each have a supportive, encouraging style, and people don’t seem to mind listening to them. But in addition to that, there was some sort of derby-magical thing happening. I’m tempted to say it was the one-minute jams that kept everyone in a good mood, but I think we were just on, and then, as a group, we recognized that we were on, and everything got, well, fun.

Keep trainin', kiddos.

Remember fun? We’re rollerskating two or three times a week with like 30 of our best friends. Wouldn’t you have just died if someone had told you, when you were about 8 or so, that you would get to do this when you grew up?

I’m grateful tonight, and not so wordy.

Tricky out.

Photo credits: TKBBBlog, Tears for Fears fanpage on Ning.

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Apr 292010
 

Dolly Rocket of Charm City Roller Girls doing some amazing pivoting. (photo credit: www.fracturemag.com)

So last week’s post was all about the jammer, who often gets the most attention anyway so I move on. This week I’m going to tell you more about the Pivot.
Now I’ve said multiple times but for those who are behind, the pivot is the lady with the helmet cover (panty) with a single stripe down the middle. I also discussed the privilege that pivots have of being eligible to become a jammer if for some reason the current jammer cannot swing it.
But this isn’t the only thing that differentiates the pivot from the rest of the blockers in the pack.
Often you’ll hear of derby girls referring to the pivot as the last line of defense but only after being around for a few months do you truly get the understanding of what the purpose of this position is (or at least it took me a while to truly grasp the understanding). Luckily for you though, I’m here to impart my knowledge.
Okay, the pivot is pretty much like the captain away from the bench. The pivot calls out the plays and helps to control the speed of the pack ALONG WITH being the last line of defense against a jammer who has just busted through the pack. But being a pivot is not just about having the mouth guard that’s easiest to talk around. It’s about being able to take in the situation and call what play needs to be done right there on the track.
From what I’ve seen with my own team, the captain, Sigga Please, and co-captain, Zarathrustya, do tend to play pivot a lot not only for their abilities to scream at their blockers but for this insane skill we derby girls like to call panty chasing. First they put their hips square in front of those jammers and try to

In the photo Zara is squaring her hips in front of jammer Rock Bottom and even though Sigga does not have the pivot panties on, she is getting the pack to slow down and force Zara out of the zone of engagement. (photo credit: Skunk Rolla, RSRD)

keep them in the zone of engagement. If for some reason this fails, they haul ass and swing their hips around in front of the jammer and slow her down. The hardest part about this is that most of the time, pivots are at the front of the pack. This is their rightful place, so when they take off to engage in some good old fashioned panty chasing, the pack is busy doing other things; and the pivot ends up out of play and has to let the jammer by.
Another two fellow Red Stick Roller Derby ladies who make amazing pivots are Sour Patch Kid and Rock Bottom. Whenever they are pivots, I know what is going on with the pack and where I should be. My team was playing against Magnolia Roller Vixens and they have this badass blocker named Kamdemic and she and I were out for blood from each other. At one point we both completely passed the pack up and just kept hitting each other. I still remember the sound of Rock Bottom screaming “MADIE LET HER GO, FALL BACK! SLOW DOWN!”

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This is that moment that will live forever in my brain. Kamdemic and I going at it while rock yells at me to let her go. (Photo credit: Cajun Eject Her)

That’s how a pivot works, you should always be able to hear her mouth, she should always be barking commands at you, and you should always be trying to keep her in the zone of engagement as she tries to nail the jammer. After writing this I’ll never be able to get this out of my head.

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I Trust in Derby

 Posted by at 11:31 am  2 Responses »
Apr 262010
 

Grrrrrr!

As much as I love derby (and I really do) I always dread going to practice. All day long I’m totally psyched about getting back into my skates, and then it hits me out of nowhere, that feeling of terror. My hands start to sweat and shake, my neck and back get tense, I can hardly breathe, and I feel like I’m gonna puke. I worry that I won’t be able to leave the outside world off the track. I get that feeling about an hour before every practice. Usually it’s because I’ve had a rough day and I’m in a crappy mood, I’m stressed, sleep-deprived, and/or just plain exhausted. I could think of a thousand excuses not to go to practice on any given night, but I don’t. I trust in derby and the good feeling I know it will bring. I drag my ass to practice.

I’m not, nor may ever be one of those girls that can block out all of her negative emotions as she crosses the threshold onto the track. I just put on a smile, tell everyone “hello,” and put on my skates and my gear. When I get all my gear on, I feel bound and constricted and hot. My skates feel like they weigh a ton.  I think, “How the hell am I gonna get through this?” Once again, I trust in derby. I drag my ass onto the track.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I start to feel good again, psyched again. It happens though. It happens every time. Roller derby is cathartic. It lets you, or rather, makes you get rid of all the bad thoughts that you dragged with you into practice, and replaces them with nothing but full-on derby love. Being allowed to be aggressive is great. It’s something we don’t get in the real world. Case in point: When that jerk cuts you off in traffic almost causing a ten-car pile-up and then has the nerve to flip YOU off, what do you do? If you’re gonna avoid going to jail, then you either do nothing or, at most, yell at said jerk and return the bird. Either way, not very satisfying.  At derby, when some chick tries to pass you up, knock you down, hold you back, or cut you off, what do you do then? You drop that bitch. And it feels soooo good.

Smile if you love derby!

Before I know it, practice is over and I’m suddenly sad. I wish I could stay and feel like this forever. I know the real world is waiting for me right outside those doors, and I don’t want to go back there. I stretch and chat with the girls, pack up all of my gear, and hang around until they start turning all the lights off on us. As we’re all leaving the parking lot and driving away in the dark, I worry that one day I’ll get injured or I’ll lose this great feeling and not be able to get it back. I worry, but then I trust. I trust in derby and the good feeling I know it will always bring. Battered and bruised, high on derby love and endorphins, and smiling ear-to-ear, I drag my ass back home. Rinse and repeat.

Photo Credits: Turbo Tyke, Cajun Eject-Her

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