Sep 182014
 

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You play roller derby. You’re probably kind of a badass. You probably like skating fast, hitting people, and you probably don’t mind the smell of stinky pads. You probably have strong thighs and a killer ass. You are probably 110% dedicated to this sport and love it with every part of your soul.

Rad. I can get down with that.

You probably also have intensely tight hips. Like when you try to sit cross-legged, your knees come up to your shoulders. You probably also have some thing going on in your neck that you can’t quite put your finger on, but sometimes it hurts in your jaw or shoulder, too.

You might have problems concentrating when you’re body isn’t moving really fast. You might not dig sitting still. You might not really want to deal with your lower back pain unless it involves loud music and sweat.  You might need yoga.

But, you might be dubious about yoga. You might think it’s for waify chicks who get manicures and watch the Lifetime network.

It’s not.

Yoga is for people who want to have healthy long-term relationships with their bodies and minds. Yoga is for people who want to feel better, physically and emotionally. Yoga is for people who want to learn to find concentration and motivation in the midst of chaos.

What I’m saying, rollergirl (‘scuse me, rollerperson), is that yoga might be for you. It might be for you, not just as a regular person, but as an athlete. Because I know you want to know, here are some ways that yoga can help your game:

You can touch your toes, maybe just not yet.

You can touch your toes, maybe just not yet.

1. Flexibility. The number one reason people tell me they “can’t do yoga” is because they “aren’t flexible.” That’s like saying you can’t wash your car because it’s too dirty. Flexibility is a skill like any other. You have to learn it and practice it. Unlike some other skills, like say knitting, flexibility can help you become a better player. Muscles that aren’t in a constant state of contraction (tension) are more responsive. Relaxed muscles work when you tell them to because they aren’t already busy doing nothing. With increased flexibility, you may find that your skating improves in ways you didn’t know were possible because your muscles are available to do what you ask them to when you ask them to.

o-THE-MATRIX-AND-HINDUISM-facebook

There is no spoon, people.

2. Focus. The second reason people tell me that they can’t do yoga is because they can’t focus. So, um, you can’t focus when you practice yoga but you are a single-pointed concentration machine when you’re on the track? No. Either you know how to control your brain or you don’t. Sure, the faster your body moves the more your brain will tune out external stimuli, but eventually your body will get used to the speed of the pack and the noise in the warehouse. And that’s good, because it means that your body is no longer in fight or flight mode when you’re playing and you then have the ability to become an intelligent player. But only if you can focus. I watch so many skaters with solid skills get that deer-in-the-headlights look and start making the same mistakes over and over. Why? Because they can’t focus. They look around the pack and they know what’s happening, probably, but their processing speed isn’t quick enough and their response time suffers. What you need is Matrix-like responsivity. You have to be totally in tune with the pack and the game and your body and be able to know what you need to do almost before you need to do it. That takes intense focus, and either you have it and you can turn it on and off at will, or you don’t have it at all.

Be the girl no one can knock down. Not even Krissy Krash.

Be the girl no one can knock down. Not even Krissy Krash.

3. Balance. I could talk about this on a metaphorical level, but I won’t. Being a good skater takes crazy balance. Balance (for skating) takes core strength and ankle stability. The thing is that unless you are always skating in really good form, you aren’t developing your core or your ankle strength. You’re using what you already have and probably learning bad, inefficient habits. The gym can help, but if you aren’t working out in a dynamic way, then you aren’t practicing using your strength in the way that you need to in order use it when you’re skating. Yoga makes you practice using your core to do things you would usually use other muscles to do (like taking up some of the duty in lifting your leg for a crossover). Sit ups will give you muscles, but they will not give you practice using them in a practical way.

4. Strength. I know that the cultural image of a yogi is of a skinny white girl, but most of us don’t look like that. I have thick thighs, a solid ass, and my shoulders are pretty broad for my size. I have an athletic yoga practice and therefore I have an athletic build. I don’t play sports anymore, but I am strong because I am constantly lifting my own body weight, and the more I lift it, the heavier it gets.

Also, a lot of yoga relies on eccentric muscle contractions, which means that your muscles are contracting and being lengthened at the same time. In sports, this kind of activity is called negative training. It’s hard and, in the short term, it hurts because your muscle fibers are always tearing. But in the long term your muscles are rebuilt longer and your muscles become more effective. Eccentric contractions are about 25% more powerful than other kinds of muscle contractions and they lead to finer motor coordination. Power and coordination, isn’t that what it takes to be a great skater?

Oh, look who's not freaking out. As usual.

Oh, look who’s not freaking out. As usual.

5. Calm. I saved this one for last because I think it’s the most important. Is there anything more valuable? People who have a real sense of calm are almost never freaking out. They don’t yell at the refs and they don’t get in fights with other skaters. They don’t freak out when they lose and they don’t freak out when they win. They are able to take what they’ve learned from each game and process it into usable material for the next game. They don’t waste time beating themselves or other people up. Calm people are trustworthy and reliable. They are not the people pushing themselves to the front of the line to become leaders, they are the people you choose to be leaders.

How does yoga teach you to be calm? That’s another mental game. If you spend a lot of time on your mat dealing with yourself you start to notice your personal patterns of thought and habit. Eventually you become aware of you emotional reactions in a way that allows you to predict them and observe them with some degree of objectivity. Once you do that, you have the freedom to pick and choose your responses to things based on how effective their outcomes will be instead of basing your reactions on how you feel in one split second.

 

Here’s the deal. I want to help you be a better skater. I’m retired, but I love roller derby and I want to contribute to the sport. If you live in or near New Orleans, I’m giving a workshop on Yoga & Roller Derby starting September 27th. It’s cheap and all your friends will be there.

If you don’t live in New Orleans and you want to help me think of a way to bring Yoga for Roller Derby to your team or league, email me at duncan.tracey@gmail.com or hit me up on Facebook.  I’d love to help.

If you want to know more about me and my classes, check out my yoga site, More Yoga, Less Bullshit.

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The Best of trAC/DC

 Posted by at 2:17 pm  No Responses »
Oct 212013
 

IMG_0432I think it’s totally  weird to write about myself in the third person, so I’m not going to. I’m trAC/DC: founder, editor, destroyer, and resuscitator of LDG. I started LDG in 2009 when I was fresh meat for Red Stick Roller Derby in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This site witnessed the blossoming of my love for roller derby, the demise of my marriage, multiple personal epiphanies, and eventually the frustrated fizzling of my love affair with the sport. I started it back up now because I think LDG has something unique to offer the derbyverse: thoughtfully written and thought-provoking writing by a diverse group of women from around the globe. And I started playing again.

It’s also totally weird to write a “Best Of” of your own work, so here’s a combination of my own most popular pieces and the ones I personally like best. I put them in order of my personal preference.

1. Overcoming the Dark Side of Roller Derby: This is the most talked about piece I wrote for LDG. It’s about the real social and political aspects of being involved with a team. It’s about not pretending that roller derby is a perfect world of rainbow-covered relationships. It’s also about learning to be a team player on a not perfect team.

2. Roller Derby Ate My Marriage: This piece is about how playing roller derby led to a series of personal revelations that led to my divorce.

3. It’s Not You. It’s Me: This is the breakup letter to roller derby that I didn’t know I meant to write.

4. Unpacking My (Personal Skate) Baggage: This piece is about letting go of expectations that hold you back from becoming a better player.

5. The Accidental Derby Girl: This is the first thing I wrote about derby, and it’s about how I happened onto the sport totally by accident.

 

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Apr 302011
 

This is not going to be a happyhappyjoyjoy post. It’s not going to make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the wonderous sport we all know and love and it’s not going to lead you to some revelation about yourself or derby.

This is a look at how I was (and probably still am) a total n00b.

For those of you who are slightly to moderately internet-dyslexic, according to “Lord Emperor” of urbandictionary.com, a n00b is “A[sic] inexperienced and/or ignorant or unskilled person.”

Ok, so anyone entering into derby would be considered a n00b, in a way. I remember when I first heard of derby I thought it was for badasses. And I don’t mean like, sassy women who “tell it like it is” or something, but women who were so amazingly confident in themselves that they didn’t HAVE to tell anyone how it was because it didn’t change the TRUTH of it all. “It,” as it was, existed with or without the telling of it. Women so amazingly confident in themselves and the other women they surrounded themselves with that they all got along amazingly because of this unspoken truth.

Right, so you see how I was n00bish, huh? Yeah.

So right off the bat, I saw how wrong I was. The women I skate with are amazing, make no mistake about that, but I made the mistake of buying into this mythical derby ideal that doesn’t fucking exist. Granted, my derby family is different than all of my “normal” friends and family and that’s why I love them. They love me because I’m not “normal” either. How can normal exist in derby anyway? It takes a special kind of girl to wake up in the morning and say, “Today’s a good day to get my ass handed to me in the rink.” And you always love your teammates for putting you there and making you stronger for it.

But we’ve already covered this, haven’t we? trACDC did a rock-solid job on the taboo involved in your derby family. But what about other teams? What about other leagues?

So you see, I learned early-on that I had a misguided idea of what a derby girl is, but I still assumed that other teams filled with similar-minded women could still uphold that sense of comaraderie I’d always heard about. If you’ve skated in even a single bout, you know exactly what I’m talking about: both teams skate their asses off, knock each other into next week, then party together like they’re long lost sorority sisters or something. I assumed every bout was like this since derby has always seemed like a left-of-center sorority to me. Fucked up chicks who are sisters because we’ve all taken the same beatings, bruises, broken bones, and rink rash. It connects us in a way that is unbreakable, right?

Until you meet the one team that doesn’t operate that way. A team that doesn’t adhere to this supposed code and plays, well, however the hell they want. And that’s ok. It’s the real world and we’re all big girls, so we can pull our glitter-panties up and be big girls about it. It doesn’t take away from the fact that unsportswomanlike conduct still pisses you off.  

See to me, that sense of interleague comaraderie is an important part of what derby is. And yeah, maybe that’s why I’m still a n00b, but if that’s the case, then I’m ok with that. I want to be friends with the other team (after the bout, of course). I want to be able to go up to the tiny girl who somehow managed to put me on my ass and say, “DAMN. That was awesome,” and I want her to be able to do the same thing. What I don’t want is to wonder if I’m going to have to defend myself from a fight-happy derby girl at the afterparty. I don’t want to wonder if one of their fans are going to jump me when I leave the bout. That’s not what derby is about.

I don’t know, I think my biggest rant here is that once you’re a “derby girl,” you sort of start assuming a lot of things about a lot of people. You assume that someone else who has earned the same title respects the sport as much as you do. You assume that she has also worked her ass off like you did and that she wants to play as fair as she can – like you do. We assume the best in all of these women because we want them to assume the same is true about us. The thing is – assumptions are for assholes because you can’t assume anything about anyone because we are not all cut from the same cloth, ya dig?

So yeah, I’m still learning. I’m still discovering the idiosyncracies of the women on my own team while also trying to figure out how to navigate the testy waters of other teams. I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve learned/bruised/broken in derby because, like every other experience in my life, it’s shaping who I’m becoming…. and I kinda’like that girl.

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Mar 302011
 

Slimenem, Schexorcist, Madie Sans Merci, and Villainelle - different names for very different ladies

What’s your name?

That’s a complicated question for a derby girl.  Every time I meet someone new, hold out my hand for them to shake, I pause and wonder What name am I supposed to give?

My boyfriend calls me by my derby name when he’s around my derby friends.  But I doubt he’d ever use it in private.  I’ve never talked to my parents about my derby name specifically, but in the video my father took of my first public scrimmage, it’s clear that he starts calling me “Vill” halfway through, without any prompting.  When I introduce myself to fresh meat, I give them both my names; after all, they don’t have a derby name to give me yet, so I feel like I’m only greeting them on an equal playing field if I hand them my parental-given moniker.  In my home, where I live with another derby, and where other derbies can always be found hanging out, we use a hodgepodge of different epithets – I’m Vill and Villainelle and my other name too.

But I don’t have to tell you any of this.  Because you know.  It happens to you too.

Unless you’re one of the number of girls beginning to form teams that play with their legal names blazoned across their jerseys.  I didn’t know about these teams until our discussion, a few weeks ago, about derby fashion and choosing an appropriate team image.  When Moxie introduced the topic of derby dress, several commenters participated in the discussion, letting us know that their teams have eschewed all the traditional trappings of derby – including the nicknames.

In the ensuing weeks, I’ve thought about this every time I’ve had occasion to use my derby name.  But the issue finally came to a head for me when, after a bout last weekend, my boyfriend pointed out that he’d spent a good deal of time during the first half explaining my name and number to his friends.

I have one of those names that most people don’t get right away.  It’s not that it’s inherently complicated; it’s just that the things it references are highly personal and relatively obscure.  And I did begin to wonder, at first, whether it’s really worth the trouble.  After all, it could be argued that skating under an assumed name – a false identity – distances the players from the fans, and from each other.  It could be argued that as long as derby girls insist on playing under wild names, their sport will never be taken seriously in a world of sports players known by their familial nomers.

But this week, I started reading something that solidified my dedication to derby names:  9lb Hammer’s new novel.

9′s book, Pivot (go buy it here!  I’m reviewing it next week!), is the story of a girl finding freedom through her derby identity.  In the narrative, the dichotomy between the narrator’s “real name” (Clementine Byers) and her derby name (Xana Doom) is crucial to understanding her transformation.  Clementine’s journey to becoming Xana raises the question of how “true,” really, our given names are.  As Clem begins to distance herself from her mother, she finds new family with her derby team; in that sense, the name she takes on when she joins the team IS a family name – a name that signifies the creation of a new identity.  When Clementine introduces herself as “Xana,” she’s making a choice about the girl she wants to be and the life she wants to lead.  She is taking control of something that seems largely uncontrollable.

I can identify with Clementine’s transformation, and I recognized myself immediately in her.  My “real name” is suited to me in a number of ways.  It has an old-fashioned feel; it’s longish and formal-sounding.  It sounds stoic and responsible, like it might smell of roses and dish soap.  And in many ways, that’s appropriate for me – or at least for a version of me.

My derby name is different, though.  My derby name represents the things I am and the things I want to become.  It’s about identity, but it’s also about aspiration.

I was a bit uncertain when I first chose it.  I knew I loved the name, knew that it represented an appropriate sentiment.  But I wasn’t sure it would make sense to anyone.  So the first time I uttered it at practice, I mumbled it quietly.  People aren’t going to get it, I thought.  It’s not tough enough.  It doesn’t sound DERBY.

What I failed to realize at the time, though, is that there are different kinds of toughness in roller derby.

Some  of the girls in my league have names that immediately suggest their strengths as players.  Unholy Horror is, literally, a horror if you step up to jam and realize she’s sharking in the back.  Turbo Tyke is fast as fuck, and Tank Goodness plows through the pack like a (super limber) tank.

Other girls’ names suggest as much about their off-the-track personalities as their game-day personas.  TrAC/DC is always rad and ready;  Bout Love is bountifully good-natured.  Little Miss Maggot and Ocean’s Motion both adopted names that speak to their careers off-track, and Zoom Tang… well, Zoom Tang likes pussy.

But Villainelle?  Nobody even knows what the fuck it means.

The answer is that it’s a kind of poem.  Specifically, it’s a brainy, complicated form that appeared a lot in the 19th century.  You probably read villanelles in high school, although you likely don’t remember them as such.  Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is one.  And for the Plath fans out there, “Mad Girl’s Love Song” is another.  I love both of those poems.  But neither of them has anything to do with the reasons I chose my name.

When I joined derby, I knew I wasn’t obviously tough.  I’m not a commanding physical presence.  But I AM a commanding vocal presence.  And an even more commanding written one.  I can navigate words with grace and precision.  When I stare at a blank page, I’m filled with fire and intensity – and with the settled confidence of a woman who knows exactly what she’s doing.  Even if I doubt myself momentarily, if the words don’t spill forth right away, I can rest in the knowledge that if I concentrate and focus, if I place myself in the proper mindset, I’ll eventually conquer the doubts and discover the path to the ideas inside my head.

I’m nothing like my poetic self on the track.  I get jittery and anxious; I get angry when I can’t see a path through the pack.  I lose my voice, and sometimes I lose my mind.  But when I look at the back of my jersey, when I see my name and my number (19LN, for 19 lines), I remember who I really am.  And my confidence returns.  I remind myself that even at my most frustrated, I’m in control.  All I have to do is concentrate and navigate – put my body in the places the words should go.  Manipulate my limbs the way I would a set of lines in a poem.

Derby names are important – whether we skate under our family names, sporting pride in our inherited identities, or under a name chosen to reflect our place on the track – the monikers we choose remind us who we are and what we can do.  They remind us where we belong.

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Jul 102010
 


No, but really, y’all. Live Derby Girls has its very own theme music and its very own music video made by our very own fabulously multi-faceted Rock Bottom. It stars some of your favorite live derby girls, including the blonde ultra-hottie with the bad attitude, Tricky La Rouge and, well, me, trAC/DC. Check it and spread the gospel far and wide.

A big fat shout out to the lovely ladies of RSRD for putting their ass-kicking to music.

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