It’s almost here: The 2014 MRDA Championships. This week, skaters, officials, announcers, and fans will descend Tacoma, Washington for Maritime Mayhem, hosted by Puget Sound Outcast Derby. I figured that I should do a preview of the teams, like last year, to get us all amped up about the tournament. Coming in as the Eighth Seed is a new team (to the MRDA and the tournament): The Denton County Outlaws.
Fun fact: Denton County is debuting in the Top 8. A feat not easy now that there are so many member leagues. BOOM. Nice work, fellas.
I got to watch DCO play at Spring Roll this season. Truth be told, most of us watched their bouts because they (as well as the Cincinnatti Battering Rams and Southern Discomfort) were giant wild cards in the MRDA at that point. Most of us fans had not seen any of the teams play and we were curious at the showing they would make. Denton was of particular interest, since many of us had watched some of their vets play on Dallas Deception, Magic City Misfits, and Team USA previously.
DCO definitely came out swinging. They played the Carolina Wreckingballs (ranked 16th at that time) first. They came out with a definitive strength and speed that the Balls just couldn’t handle. Game 2 of Spring Roll brought them against a different kind of Wreckingball: the lads from London, Southern Discomfort.
Side Note: After the game against the Carolina Wreckingballs, the lady fans of the Balls decided that Denton won the “Team Sexy” award for 2014. “Bout Sexy” of Spring Roll went to the Denton County Outlaws v Southern Discomfort. (For those who have been reading my writing, you may recall that 2013’s SR winner was Bridgetown Menace v Mass Maelstrom.)
So Disco was able to [mostly] capture the jukes and ducks of DCO jammers (it was a blast watching Haterade give them a hard time though). The walls of Denton blockers just didn’t have the same experience as their competition, but it was a phenomenal bout. DCO only lost by 99 points (super impressive considering So Disco had lost to #4 Mass Maelstrom by only 53 points the night before). DCO rounded out their Spring Roll with a definitive win against the Canadian powerhouses on the Mont Royals.
The Outlaws have only been together since March of 2012. They skate out of the House of Quad (just north of Dallas), and get to share the space with North Texas Derby Revolution and the Rolling Rebellions, a junior league. While they have picked up vet skaters, newbies to derby like Keith Rucker are making their mark on DCO. Vet TJ Binkley says:
“Keith is our under-rated jammer. He is a rink rat but fairly new to derby. [He] has some moves …that he shouldn’t be able to. The guy is fearless.”
When mid-season rankings came out, DCO was still unranked, since they had not played their 5 sanctioned MRDA bouts. The world of men’s derby (ok, maybe just me and a few other people who are rankings nerds) were waiting with baited breath to see how DCO did at the Arizona Rattleskates’ Southwest Sausage Fest.
Well let’s talk rankings for a second. In the WFTDA there is a fancy new equation that helps the organization calculate rankings. In the MRDA they’re still doing things a little old school. So the member teams vote. That being said, if a team has established wins that calculate out properly, they tend to move upward. Here’s what we need to look at:
Southern Discomfort played 3 of the 4 top teams in the MRDA and lost to them, but … only lost to Maelstrom by 50 points (almost a tie in derby standards). Denton lost to So Disco by 99 points. DCO was slated to play Deep Valley Belligerents at SW Sausagefest. DVB was ranked #8 at mid-terms. Right. So if DCO could beat DVB, that would mean that they were better than the #8 ranking and since So Disco had beaten DCO by a larger margin, it would mean they were at least better than at least the 8 seed. (Ok, so maybe me and So Disco were waiting with baited breath for Sausagefest).
Sorry. Back to writing about derby now. //EndRankingNerdMoment
As you may have figured out, DCO DID beat Deep Valley. The walls of DCO had strengthened since I watched them play at Spring Roll (through the magic of the interwebs, I got to watch the stream of Sausagefest). The walls were more fluid and worked as a unit to contain, play offense as they were playing defense (yay!), and kill penalties. Deep Valley simply couldn’t contain the DCO jammers. I wish I could give you stats on this one, but it seems that the stats package hasn’t been uploaded to FTS. Womp Womp. I will say that I particularly enjoy watching Lucky Charmer magically break through packs and Phillip Stout working with his team mates to destroy opponents.
So let’s talk Champs. Denton is facing off in the first round against Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby. To say they’re the underdog is a bit of an understatement. Especially since one of their primary jammers, aforementioned Haterade, is out recovering from surgery. Binkley says the guys aren’t looking at their underdog status as a negative stance though:
“Our main goal is to have fun and learn from each game. We just want to the rest of MRDA that we belong here. Whatever place we finish in at the end of the tournament accomplishment since this is our first time being ranked. I know the DCO guys will soak everything in and come out of this tournament that much stronger. [Denton County is] extremely excited to be a part of the years champs. It’s every team’s goal to make it to champs. I’m just happy to see our goal come to life!”
Regardless of how this weekend turns out for Denton, you can be sure they are going to come out with fast feet, spins, hops, and powerful blocking.
I’m not going to lie: ECDX was a challenge for me.
I have this habit of putting really high standards on myself, and putting too much pressure on myself to perform. Then, when the team needs me in a different capacity than expected or something happens to change the way the game goes (compared to what I envisioned), I become stressed. I beat myself up. I make it harder to compete at that high level I hold for myself.
The whole cycle can get utterly ridiculous.
We all play a mental game when we step onto our track. How we perform depends on a myriad of outside forces not limited to how much sleep we got the night before, if our trucks feel tighter than normal, if we’re unsure what wheels to use and even who may or may not be watching us in the crowd.
The ability to shut off the receptors to the outside world is the first step to mental game dominance. Figuring out a bout day routine that you can take anywhere will help you prepare for the challenges ahead. So many of us create routines that rely on the comfort of a home bout; you need to be able to perform your warm-up (mental and physical) in any arena, at any time of day.
You are not preparing for an opponent. You are preparing to overcome your own physical limitations and to play the best game of your life. Preparing mentally takes just as much practice as preparing physically. Many of us ask the question, “How do we play a better mental game?” But few of us consider the repetition involved with developing it.
Mastering your mind, creating preparation routines to set yourself in the right frame of the game and then stepping into each jam with clarity and confidence – that is what we aim to do. This game is supposed to be fun. The physical nature, the mental challenge and the constant motion of the game is what every derby skater craves. Doing it to your highest limit, and even surpassing what you thought was possible – that is what we strive to achieve. Overcoming our own internal limits to accomplish a physical feat is what we all train daily for.
So now back to the self-destruction.
Stepping on the track tired, dehydrated, irritated, without proper mental prep, worried about an injury, etc etc etc will cause you to spiral out of control. Create triggers in your head right now so that if those things are happening to you as the game approaches, you can stop, reset and re-invent your mindset.
At first, you may need a team mate to snap you out of it. When that moment of realization of game day-crankiness occurs, stop. Acknowledge. Think about how you feel. That way [if there is] the next time, your own internal alarm will trigger and you can get your mindset right before disrupting your own gameplay or (worse) the mood of your team mates.
This is my challenge: understanding that I am better than I believe, that I can do more than I think and that I am quicker than my opponents. My challenge is to not be concerned that a motion is going to hurt me, and that I am going to break the pack. My challenge is to always have a smile on my face, even if I don’t play as much as I want to; even if my team needs me in a different capacity than I want to play. This is why ECDX was tough for me. I did not have my mental game in order. I did not go through my routine and I did not understand that I wasn’t going up against an opponent.
My challenge is to go up against myself, play to my limits and savor the joy of that 25 point jam with the team that loves and supports me as much as I love and support them.