On January 29, 2012 I published this article. It’s funny that the argument is still going. Not only the old school versus new school skaters but the idea that the rules of new school are broken. The argument that if it “ain’t fast it ain’t derby”. Yes the Puget Sound v Your Mom game was an awesome one at MRDA Champs last weekend. However, the more staccato, stronger-yet-sometimes-slow Southern Discomfort against Bridgetown Menace was no less exciting. Anything italicized, ps, is different from the original article, I didn’t want to re-write this. It was popular for a reason the first time around. The photos have also been updated.
So with that I bring you my next reboot:
Old School vs. New School. Strategy vs. Smash ‘n’ Grab. Jammer Line vs. Pivot Line. Booty Block vs. Big Hits. Rules vs. Free Form. Beer & Camaraderie vs. Cross Training & Team Commitment. Sharp, Strong, Stops vs. Fast, Fluid, Sweeping.
These are the dichotomies that have bubbled to the surface of the sub-culture of derby. A generation gap has arisen between the vets of “the good ol’ days” and the skaters of the modern culture.
Since the new revolution of roller derby started (back in 2001), the landscape of the sport has shifted considerably. When it was first gaining momentum, skaters and leagues were looking to the tradition of 1970’s over-the-top antics for inspiration. They had to learn how to play the sport from the only people that had played the sport.
The result was a show of big hits, cages as penalty boxes, personas and spectacle. Game play was spotty during the early years. Leagues were figuring out through trial and error what worked, what did not; what was dangerous and what was just fun. The game was unrefined. Those who were drawn to roller derby wanted to together with friends, to hit things and drink beer. It was not about refining strategy and being at your healthiest. The ultimate goal of roller derby was to have fun, skate really fast and hard, and maybe, be a little bit of show.
When leagues started (the boom of flat track roller derby really started at the end of 2005), girls who are now legendary did not know how to skate. Everyone was new. Other than the speed, jam or artistic skaters that joined the ranks, few girls were adept at the art and skill of roller skating. Forget putting a sport on top of that! This is what made the game unrefined for a while. Everyone was still learning their balance and stability on eight wheels, so being agile and clean on a grand scale was near impossible.
Times, they are a-changing.
It is common now for leagues to have skaters with six years of experience on wheels. From just that one element, the game has changed. Girls who are now coming into the game must train more seriously in order to compete with the vets who have simply been wheels for years. At a boot camp by the Gotham Girls, Suzy Hotrod stated to skaters: “Yea I can do a lot [on skates]. I’ve been doing it for seven years. If you put up with this sport for that long, you’ll be just as good.”
Most skaters do not want to wait seven years, and they realize that if they cross-train, improve their diet and treat their body like a professional athlete, they will accelerate exponentially. There has been a health revolution! More leagues are partnering with gyms and personal trainers. More skaters are paying attention to their nutrition and workout routine off the track, because they realize it will have a direct impact on their performance during game play.
Support groups and workout routines focused on derby have emerged. The Roller Derby Workout Challenge ran for three years. The Derbalife Big 5 Challenge has operated several times; both are challenges designed to teach and motivate. Derbalife is skater-centered nutrition that includes skater-to-skater coaching. Learn about Derbalife.
Winning is fun, and the way to win in 2012 (and even more now in 2014!!) is to be strong of body and of mind.
Speaking of ‘mind’, game play and strategy have changed dramatically in the last three years (five years!). Since the inception of W.F.T.D.A., skaters and refs have taken note about what works on the track and what are health hazards. While the rule set that has evolved over the years can be confusing to the untrained reader, it is so because it has developed organically. If an established rule continually gets challenged, interpreted differently at different bouts, or has shown itself to not protect the skaters, it has been changed. One of the best features of the W.F.T.D.A. set up: voting member leagues have been able to shape the sport itself over the years. Modern Note: And for the M.R.D.A. the ability to look through the rules and make any further clarifications or adjustments as their organization feels is needed.
Now, we get to the crux of it. Because skaters have shaped the sport over the years, skaters have been able to control how they want the game to be played. The best leagues are able to look at the rules and understand the implicit meaning behind the rules. Most leagues look at a rule set and understand what it says. The winning leagues are the ones that understand what the rules DO NOT say. From what the rules do not say, a league can exploit the loopholes and skate circles around leagues that do not understand the implicit meanings.
So, this causes a bigger need to pay attention to detail. In order to compete, every league must understand the new loopholes and strategies being used by the leagues around them. It means watching bout reels. It means watching other bouts. It means extra strategy sessions. It means extra hard training at practice. Those skaters who do more outside of practice to understand the game and new skills and tactics will be the ones most successful in scrimmage, and therefore in bouts.
Five years ago, girls could walk into a league and party. They could practice twice a week, play dirty and laugh about it later because they would still make the all star team. They would still win games. They would still be super stars. No more is it the case. Drinking teams with a derby problem do not exist in the modern world of roller derby: it is an ‘adapt or die’ sport.
Skaters who do not care about their craft simply do not skate on high level all star teams, and even the smallest leagues are becoming highly competitive. Leagues that do not care about their strategy do not win. When you do not win, you do not have fans. You lose skaters to more serious leagues, your sponsors drop off. You perish.
So are “the good ol’ days” of derby gone? Maybe, but the motto of “Skate hard, turn left” endures. There are still bruises to show off, rink rash to brag about and beers to buy after a hard fought bout. Rivalries still happen, and what happens on the track still stays on the track.
The game may feel different than it did in 2006, and the training may be far more intense, but it does not make any of it less awesome. Whether beers and brawlin’ or hydration and smarts, roller derby is a uniquely intense sport. The vets should be proud of the foundation and history they created. The current generation should be just as proud of how they have cultivated their craft and shaped modern roller derby.
Have you ever been so burdened with so much swirling around in your brain that you don’t know how to get it out or organize it? That’s what’s going on. I’ve actually put off writing blogs in the last few months because there has been SO MUCH going on (positive, negative and everywhere in between) that I didn’t know how to get it out in one smooth, amazing, life-altering blog.
Today I finished listening to Jon Acuff’s Start. Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do Work that Matters. If you haven’t heard of Jon Acuff, go find him right now. If you know me personally, you will know that I’m not always willing to jump onto bandwagons that involve heavy religion, but his “Stuff Christians Like” blog always has some good insight and anecdotes (and it’s not just about Bible-Things … so that’s a win).
Finishing that book this morning (after listening to a fair bit of it on the plane ride home last night) really solidified my vision for the future:
IT’S TIME TO STOP PRETENDING AND TALKING AND IT’S TIME TO GET TO WORK.
Hey, luckily, I’m working right now. I’m writing. I’m doing what I love. I’m sharing my thoughts with the world. OK, maybe this sentence isn’t work. It’s not a direct sale or getting anyone to a Fit Club, but it’s the first step to habit. It’s the first step of rebooting.
My Khaos Theory Blog has been a mishmash of things from Public Relations (which is why it started. I got a poor grade as a PR project, but I gained 100 followers during that first semester, so I call that an A+) to roller derby. Now I will be focusing it to health and wellness and sports. It will be workouts for those on and off wheels and nutrition that will benefit everyone. It will be my journey and thoughts and motivation for the world. It will be a documentary of what it means to coach and train within a Healthy, Active Lifestyle.
I’m ready to take over Baltimore and the Internet. I’m ready to get back into what I love: filming coaching videos (no matter how low budget), talking about drills, teaching and practicing. I have a new nutrition plan that will be kicking in with the next 24 Fit Challenge that our team is doing online (and I still have 15 spots open on my team, so let me know if you want to join).
I’m also going to do better at compartmentalizing my blogs. So… instead of telling you all about California, I’m going to end this blog, post and then write a separate one.
So I just realized that it’s been 20 days since I posted. INCONCIEVABLE! So here I am. My brain is at a point where it feels like it should be doing work, but it’s been DOING work all day and has run out of what it can do with real precision and effectiveness.
I have blogs to write and articles about Spring Roll that I have wanted to put up, and now the Northeast Derby Convention. They will come in a fuller form tomorrow or Friday however. I’m still waiting for more pictures… Nothing worse than a blog with no pictures.
So here is the brief rundown of what’s been going on in life, the universe and everything: both a lot and not much at all.
Roller derby, Herbalife and my future have been taking up all of my brain space. I am working on moving out of the place I am in now to a spot in Lititz (closer to Lancaster than I am now). The move is a new chapter in life: The closing of doors and the opening of others. I have been both extremely confused as well as supremely invigorated in the past few weeks.
Spring Roll was a hell of an experience.
I played a few of the hardest games of my life within a 48 hour period. Not only that, but I had a few revelations about how much pressure I put on myself in derby… how many assumptions I had made about my teammates that weren’t true. They didn’t NEED me to be anything. They just need me to play and to work hard. What happens from there, happens. A lot of tears and insecurities came out after my bout against the Chicago Outfit (who were awesome, btw).
By Sunday morning, my entire outlook was changed around. Confidence in my feet, my team and MYSELF really came out. I not only was able to accept, but also understand that no matter how much you may want something – sometimes relationship issues cannot be resolved. Sometimes, you can’t just say you’re walking away. You have to.
Not only did I play two games (better than I thought against two teams that were tougher than I imagined), but Sunday was where the friendships took shape. I had scouted out a bunch of the juniors and men’s teams on Friday and Saturday, but it was Sunday that I can say that I bonded with people. Doing push-ups with the Carolina Wreckingballs in my sports bra and Skinz for the Mass Maelstrom was one of the highlights. I’m hoping no one got a picture of it though – I was drenched after my game against Arch Rival and my abs are not exactly photo ready yet!
Getting to follow up those friendships the next weekend at Northeast DerbyCon was fantastic. Dutchland wasn’t able to stay for any of the crazy Spring Roll after-parties so it was nice to share a few pints with folks in Providence and relax a bit.
I will do a separate blog about the COMPLETE AMOUNT OF AWESOME at the convention tomorrow.
For now, I prepare for bed. I have upped my training. I have refocused my nutrition. Yes, again. Tomorrow I’ll try CrossFit for the first time. I’ve got deliveries of Herbalife goodies and I have to stop by 717 Tattoo to talk to a piercer about getting on a plan.
I do love what I do. I do love the life that I’m carving out for myself. Things can be rough sometimes, and I can be unsure of what is coming next, but I know that the next three months will be some of the most important of my life.