1) What pump up song plays in your head when you take the track? I like to listen to #1 by nelly hahahaha 2) What is your favorite city to travel to play derby in? Seattle, the city is awesome and the puget sound guys are a fun team to play against 3) Who is your favorite WFTDA skater and why? Crowe, she skates for the San Diego roller derby starlettes. One has tag says it all #croweknows hahaha the world will know about her soon enough. 4) When the team travels, which team mate(s) do you room with? I room with a couple of my favorites waterboy, boo, Bobby light and my bestie MO oweuone 5) Which MRDA skater pushes you to be better [because they’ve beaten you in the past]? B Stang for sure, I have skated with him and around him since we were young. He’s always been a step ahead of the rest. I work for him now and I use all that time with him to gain knowledge. In my opinion he’s the best skater in the world. 6) What is your favorite post-bout food? I always order a pitcher of shirley temple hahaha
1) What pump up song plays in your head when you take the track? How we roll (fast five soundtrack) 2) What is your favorite city to travel to play derby in? Ft Wayne. Just because we have been there so many times for spring roll I can drive around without gps. 3) Who is your favorite WFTDA skater and why? Ms. Jaxem [Erin Jackson of Jacksonville Rollergirls]. She grew up in my home rink and seeing her go from rink rat to world champion speed skater and arguably the best jammer in wftda is awesome! 4) When the team travels, which team mate(s) do you room with? I normally room with Chef, Bratz, or Moseley. 5) Which MRDA skater pushes you to be better [because they’ve beaten you in the past]? I wouldnt say a particular skater, but Texas men’s has really impressed me this season and shown what hard work and practice can do. 6) What is your favorite post-bout food? If it’s a tournament weekend, the Tour of Italy. It’s a team thing! Carb load!! 😀
The Aftershocks are generally an unknown in the MRDA.They played (and lost) to Puget earlier this season, but their roster has gradually increased with talent over the year. Magic City returns to Champs this year, and they are hungry to prove that they belong in the Top 5.
Both teams play with speed, and both teams prefer a face-to-face blocking game to rotating walls. The Aftershocks have world champions B Stang and Just Mike from Your Mom on their squad, and they bring high level experience to the squad.However, Streak has been ‘getting the band back together’ all year in Jacksonville, you can expect to see the unnecessary spins and extreme lateral coverage that has made MCM a fun team to watch.
East Coast versus West Coast happens on WFTDA.tv at 11am CST on October 17, 2015.
Things that are awesome: tournaments. Things that are not awesome: being injured at tournaments.
I am lucky enough to have a circle of friends that would not allow me to skip the recent International WFTDA D1 Playoffs in Jacksonville, Florida. The tournament is in my backyard, but due to my recent knee injury, I had planned on staying home with a tub of chocolate protein shake. I was planning a weekend of crying into my recovery dessert as I watched the stream and recognized my friends from afar, and cheered my team mates on through gurbled self-indulgent sobs.
Luckily, my tissue boxes were spared. WFDTA House Announcer Al B. Damm picked me up, and the now legendary DJ Ito offered up his place to crash in. I was in the building from open until close since both Al and Ito had to be there that long.
In 2012, I played Philly Roller Derby’s Block Party with the Dutchland Blitz. My knee popped in the 3rd jam, and I was put in a leg stabilizer. The next week, I piled into a tiny car with Lionheart, Toxic, and Kitty and we went to Atlanta to watch Champs. A leg stabilizer. At champs. The WORST. I forgot how bad that was until this weekend.
Convention centers don’t have wheelchairs you can use, are usually all concrete, and everything is spread out so that the space looks well used. Here are some tips if you’re planning on attending a tournament and you’re newly injured:
Borrow a camping backpack
I had a normal backpack, but I couldn’t fit as much in as I needed, which are things that are included in the other tips. A camping backpack has more room, and ways to strap things onto the outside.
Bring multiple pillows
Many tournaments have bleachers, but you can’t get close to the action. If you plan on doing ANY trackside sitting, bring a pillow to sit on, and then one to prop your leg on. Use your crutches as a barrier on either side so that people don’t get to close to the leg. Even if you plan on being in the stands, pillows are great for leg elevation and general comfort. Having a blanket or other device to sit on doesn’t hurt either.
Bring a gallon of water
Yes, it means you’ll have to use the bathroom more often, but it means you won’t have to be refilling a water bottle all day (ie carrying a bottle to the water fountain, carrying it back. Carrying anything on crutches is awful). Besides, your body needs a lot of water normally, when you’re in healing mode, water is SUPER important
Pre-make food and bring snacks
OK, OK, I know. You’re not “supposed” to bring in food and drink to these tournaments. It really makes the venue mad, and if everyone did this on a broad scale, it could cause trouble down the line. That being said, the less I had to move, the better. Also, the concession food at this tournament was not anything that a human body should attempt sustainability on. A HEALING human body definitely should not have tried to live off of $8 frozen pizza or $7 ‘nachos’ (chips and whiz).
If concessions would increase the quality of the food they serve, it would be better but until then, I’m going to save money and give my body the nutrition it needs for healing. I had a shake a day, 2 hard-boiled eggs, a small sweet potato, a serving of pre-cooked shrimp, a ham and cheese sandwich, and dried snap peas while at the event. Before leaving for the event, I had a Healthy Choice breakfast each morning since I knew I would be half asleep and unable to cook a big breakfast. I still wanted to be sure I had hot food to start my day. If you can pre-make some protein powder pancakes and heat those up – do it! (Those are also great to pack in a baggie and snack on) Herbalife has some other awesome snacks, immune boosters, and energy drinks that I love having on hand at events with recycled air and lots of people too.
Occasionally stretch and do PT exercises
Do not do your stretches on cold concrete, make sure you have at least a blanket underneath you, and make sure you do your stretches gradually throughout the day. I skipped them on Saturday and was hurting on Sunday big time. Protip: If you’re crutching around and you’re not used to doing miles on your crutches, skip doing lots of push-ups. I did one-foot incline push-ups (to make it easier) and my pecks and back are still angry at me from overworking.
When crutching, tighten your core and activate your posterior chain as part of your motion
What I really mean is “don’t crutch with just your arms”. Even at the right height, I found myself slouching when I use my crutches. When I made an effort to keep the core tight, and my spine aligned, my speed and mobility and comfort increased dramatically. Also, my abs hurt like WOAH the next day, so woooo for exercise!
Look, I’m sure you’re really used to wearing flip flops, but concrete is a cruel mistress when all you’re doing is walking on it, much less crutching and only using one foot. Your feet need the arch support and cushion of sneakers to absorb impact. This is a lesson I learned in Atlanta, since it was hard for me to put on a shoe in my stabilizer. You are going to have to go a far distance, wear sneakers. It hurts a lot worse when the edge of your flip flop catches a curb or crack in the sidewalk and twists. If you’re bend your knee to crutch, you’re going to have to keep your foot flexed to keep the shoe from falling off, which will fatigue the ligaments and muscles more, and cause more inflammation and pressure. Plus, when the shoe falls off, you’re just going to get increasingly more frustrated. (At least I did.)
Convention centers are cold. This weekend it was arctic level cold. I found myself unprepared. No blanket, one ¾ length shirt, one hoodie, a slew of tank tops and capri yoga pants. You’re going to be doing a lot of physically-demanding movement walking from the car to your spot, or your spot to the bathroom (that feels like it’s a half mile away), and then you’ll sit and the sweat will make you colder. Just, come prepared.
Don’t drink to intoxication
Alcohol is bad for recovery, even if it’s good for killing the pain. I’m not going to tell you to not enjoy a beverage while getting stoked out of your mind as the two seed upsets the three seed, I’m saying be smart about the drinking. Easing the pain is great, but don’t then act like your injury is fine. Also, crutching while intoxicated is a thing I never want to attempt again. I was off balance, my rhythm was off, and I kept catching the rubber stoppers on the cement, sending me forward. Learn from my mistake, Kids.
Don’t feel ashamed asking for help
I was a bad Khaos this weekend and would often leave my crutches somewhere, and complete tasks without them. What I should have done was call on those who had offered their help. You are injured and it sucks. Most of us have been there, had a close friend be there, or have thought about how we would feel if it had happened to us. While you shouldn’t treat your friends like pack animals to be used to your delight and amusement, if you need help carrying something, or really just want a pretzel or drink from the concession stand – don’t be afraid to your buddy to walk with you, or for you.
Don’t let being injured stop you from enjoying your sport
You may not be able to strap on skates right now, but you can still celebrate and be involved with the sport. Tournaments will have volunteer positions that you can do while seated, so lend a hand! When you’re not volunteering, actually WATCH derby. You can learn so much by just watching how teams deal with one another. Even the blowout games have lessons to be learned in handling your cool in hard situations, how certain movement may (or may not) be effective, and how to adjust strategy when your current plan isn’t working. While you’re injured, you get to be a fan and volunteer for derby, and you can better your game through observation, internalization, and visualization.
I’ll be posting more injury related blogs in the next months, and hope to be doing some writing on analysis. Also, with the Men’s Roller Derby Association Championships coming up next month, I’m going to start my articles previewing the 10 teams going to Champs. Very exciting!
If you’re interested in sponsoring a blog, team preview or a topic, contact me at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com. I am raising money since I currently cannot work. On September 2nd I jumped off of a bouldering wall after a great day of successful climbing and my knee displaced to the right. I have a chip of the tibia, a strain in my calf, a partial tear of the MCL and PCL, a hook tear in my meniscus, and my ACL is completely gone. This will be a long recovery, but I’ll be reporting along the way!
Thank you to all my supporters around the world, and as always, if you have a topic you are interested in hearing me talk about and research, drop me a message. And thank you to Phantom Photographics for providing rad photos yet again. Go on his Facebook and like his page, buy a print, get a koozie, buy a shirt.
There’s been a “12 Reasons you should watch roller derby” buzzfeed article floating around. Guess what, folks? Some of it they got right! Some of it they got eeeehhhhh…..
So I’m rebooting this blog! It was one my first popular article on Examiner.I’ve re-written some of the explanations, but I’ve kept the headlines the same. 2010 derby or 2015 derby, these are still the 10 reasons you should watch roller derby. (PS Most derby leagues still don’t have seating, so you may want to pick up a Coleman Stadium Seat for your comfort at the game.)
The WOW factor How many of your friends watch roller derby? If the answer is “many”, then maybe there is something to this. Maybe they have an in on something. If your answer is “none”, you can introduce your circle to the fast-growing sport on the planet. How cool does that make you look? Roller derby is a completely unique, high-impact sport that is totally inclusive of age, gender, nationality, etc. It is an international phenomenon that grows every year. In 2018, the third Roller Derby World Cup took place in Manchester, England, hosting 38 countries, including the Czech Republic, Korea, and West Indies. Barcelona is the stage for the third Men’s Roller Derby World Cup in April 2018, where 24 teams, including Japan, Chile, and Denmark will compete. The speed, power, and finesse on 8 wheels is enough to keep you entertained, even if your local team isn’t allowed to sell beer!
The social works of derby teams Roller derby teams are often non-profit organizations themselves; regardless you will find your local teams out at charity events and raising money for good causes at their home bouts. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised worldwide for charities. Whether promoting suicide prevention, helping wounded animals, collecting for homeless shelters, promoting love as love, or helping a city rebuild after tragedy, derby has covered the spectrum of charitable causes. The Girls on Track Foundation was founded to keep young girls involved in the sport of roller derby, thus building their confidence, courage, and leadership skills. Locally, our own Tampa Roller Derby is involved with Big Cat Rescue and Girls on the Run,
Athletic prowess These are athletes. Teams practice between two and six times a week, and the participants work out beyond their practice limits. Yoga, crossfit, powerlifting, Spartan Races, aerial silks… the cross-training of roller derby knows no limits.
Impressed by your favorite hockey player doing fancy footwork and scoring points? Wait until you see Lil Slinky of Stockholm duck and dance through the pack effortlessly. Get hyped up by your favorite safety playing all over the field defense? You will love seeing Alli Kat Scratch of the Tampa Tantrums crush the hopes and dreams of her opponents. The feats of agility and pure strength are display at any game (whether it’s the 500-person strong Rose City Rollers or 20 strong Twin City Terrors).
“Any Given Sunday” Just like in any other mainstream sport, roller derby has the “any given Sunday” mantra. The Oly Rollers came out of nowhere in their first season as a WFTDA* team, and took the Hydra as the underdog. It is possible for any team to sweat and bleed their way to beating a giant of roller derby. Tournament play has seen a lot of international teams come in and shock the world with their undeniable strength. Teams from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia have been doing damage in WFTDA and MRDA** rankings the past few years.
Less expensive than a movie date
An American movie date can easily breach $75 (IMAX anyone?), and if you’re counting dinner, you can bet on a night breaking $100. Yes, there are some games that offer beer or full entrees (thank you Charm City). Yes, buying merch from Tampa’s Wrecking Mall might up your final cost for the night. However, most teams still play in roller rinks with small concessions and bake sales. A derby date can easily stay under $30! Derby encourages interaction and conversation, whether you are with one person or a group, and it’s way better than sitting awkwardly in a dark theatre with your Tinder date. Bring them to derby!
Community! The roller derby community is a very inclusive place; if it’s a tailgate kind of game (you can check with the league on their event page ahead of time), get a group together and hang out in the parking lot. My first team was notorious for cookouts and beer trading in the parking lot of the Olympic Skating Center before games. Groups often mix and mingle. Don’t know what’s going on during the game? Ask the people beside you (or look for someone with a “Ask me about derby” sign). Regardless of the side you are rooting for, everyone is super friendly and inclusive. You will make friends in the fans, the refs, and the league members themselves. Labels and judgement have no place in our house, so come one, come all!
Direct interaction with athletes
How many sports teams offer one-on-one time with their athletes? Every game and after party is a meet and greet, and leagues host events throughout the year where you can meet your favorite skaters. You can catch up with league scores from those directly involved, and can really feel like a part of the organization even as a fan. Websites like Flat Track Stats even gives you chance to follow how your favorite travel teams are doing, even if the team hasn’t received official sanctioning ranking. With the popularity of tournaments growing in roller derby, keep your eyes peeled to your team’s social media, it’s likely their travel games will be live streamed at some point. Then you can even watch them from home.
Unique characters Mainstream sports are chuck full of big characters, and roller derby does not disappoint. Be warned: It is not make-up and fishnets. It is the heart, soul, blood and tears that they pour into their work that make these athletes into giants and idols. Big characters in derby are the big hits, the big jams, and acrobats on skates. Whether your team matches in black compression pants, or dons old school mis-matched DerbySkinz and stickers on helmets, you will see the personalities on and off skates. It’s not just the skaters that make the game exciting: The announcers of roller derby are some of the most colorful characters you can imagine. Plus they are super knowledgeable about the game, so make friends with them.
You might find a new love Skaters, refs, NSOs***, announcers, medics, and coaches have to come from somewhere. Often, they come from the audience. Fans, friends of the fans, and the munchkins of fans are the future of roller derby. Even if you never end up skating, your support is vital to your league. Being a fan and posting about the games, inviting your friends to the events, watching WFTDA.tv, watching the YouTube archives of bouts… it spreads the goodwill of derby to people outside of the community who may never have heard of derby before. Or, maybe they went to a game three years ago and “have been meaning to return”. Maybe you can be the one to remind them to spend a Saturday night at the rink.
It’s just plain FUN The excitement is infectious. Regardless of your familiarity with the sport, the skill and strength of roller derby pulls you in. It is impossible to resist cheering as your jammer breaks through the pack. Try not to flinch when your team knocks an apex jump out of the air. The more you learn about your league, the more fun you will have each game. BUT the only way to learn more is to actually go!
If you have been pushing off attending a roller derby bout, it’s time to get off of Facebook and head to the rink. Friends, excitement, and real social networks await you. Youtube offers some great fan tutorials, or wait until you get there and inquirein person. Spend some time at your local games. You’ll be cheering more than at a Marvel movie, you’ll get closer to the action than nosebleed seats at Lincoln Financial, and you will build relationships unlike anything else you have experienced before.
*Women’s Flat Track Derby Association
**Men’s Roller Derby Association
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What makes us want to be on a roller derby team?
I’ve been thinking about this topic for months. Tried writing a blog a few weeks ago and I couldn’t actually translate my feels into a coherent written structure. I’m not talking, “Why do we love the sport?” or “Why do we join a league?” But rather, what drives us all to make a travel team? Or be drafted to a home team?
Before my home league’s travel team votes on the charter, each skater gets to talk about what they had to offer, and why they wanted to be a part of the team. It was interesting to hear the answers from those dropping their name in the hat for the all-stars versus the b team. There was quite the difference in theme of statement from one team to the other. I realized that those going for the the all-stars had a much different theme of answer than those wanting to be on our b-team. It got me thinking more and more about WHY we want to play on teams so badly.
If you ask a derby skater why they want to be on a team, the most common answer you’ll probably get is: “I want to play in bouts!” (Or do I call them games in the blog now?) **winky face**
They want to travel. They want to play other opponents. They want to prove themselves. Playing in bouts is a bit about the attention of everyone watching you, but should also be about the practical applications of skills and drills. Bouts are the place we test ourselves against an opponent to see if we have improved. I have been on many teams at this point, and I can say that being in a bout means different things based on the culture your team builds.
Some teams value bouts strictly as ranking potential.
Some teams just want to enjoy the fun of the sport; including all that boutfitting, production shenanigans, and after parties offer up as they play against your family from a different city.
Some teams want to try out what they have been drilling in practice, to see how their strength and mobility have improved.
Some teams play bouts just to raise money in their home venue and have their friends and family come and watch them do the thing that they love.
Some teams work really well together on bout day, and everything is low stress and fun.
Some teams may work together, but tension runs so high that benches become explosive.
Maybe a team just has that one player that yells at refs or complains about calls, and because they’re a “superstar”, the behavior isn’t squashed. That behavior spreads to the rest of the team, and the bench becomes a 3 headed monster.
Maybe the bench coach is that one superstar yelling.
Or maybe everyone loves each other and the sport so much that everyone is just focused on the fun of the game.
I should mention that teams don’t always take the time to create a culture. Some are self-aware enough to create a mission statement of culture to promote and strive for. Most derby teams, I have seen, do not even understand that a culture has manifested through coaching habits, attendance enforcement, and superstar treatments. Sometimes an awesome derby culture of fun and support is born organically through individuals gathering for a common purpose. Too often, I have seen leagues succumb to the expectation that certain players get praise and playtime, and those players can do and say no wrong. Everyone else are plebeians and must fall in line and teach themselves.
If you just had an ‘ah-ha’ moment, recognizing that your team has not given itself a Culture Goal (or worse, you’re in one of those cancerous league situations!), maybe it’s time to sit with your steering committee and decide on some core values for the league and individual teams.
Many cultures have this idea rooted into their core values without realizing it: “You will play bouts when you are on the travel team, and we do this to play in bouts.” So the skater immediately begins lobbying for a spot on the travel team, despite dedication. Despite training. Despite safety. Despite their willingness to play on a team. Endgame, we are taught, is: PLAY IN BOUTS.
I have a radical suggestion for you, Roller Derby:
You should not want to be on a team to play bouts. You should want to be on a team to practice roller derby.
You should want to be on a team to PRACTICE roller derby.
What do I mean?
I mean we need to adjust our mindset.
Bouts are fun, yes. Bouts are what count towards our ranking, absolutely. Bouts are the culmination of our practice time and work together, yes. But it’s just 60 minutes on the clock.
I am not saying we should undervalue bouts, or want to play in them less. Rather, I think we all need to shift focus to being excited for practice time. Most of Roller Derby practices at least twice a week. You are spending far more time with your team in drill, skill, and endurance situations than you are in bout situations.
I do my best to not even worry when my next bout is, because my intensity does not change from practice to practice. I do not show up with different intentions or drive when I know a roster is being decided that night. Every practice is 110%. I pay for this time on the track, so I am going to love it and use it. If I am put on a roster, great! If I’m not, it’s OK because I have practice again Sunday night. I know I won’t be short on derby for the weekend.
Too often skaters put so high a priority on bout day that all they think about is making the roster. They show up just in time, and with just enough intensity to play in the bout. If we could shift the prevailing thought in roller derby to be less “BOUT DAY!!!” and more “PRACTICE DAY!!” think of how many people would value their drill time more? How much would attendance change?
Bout day is a priority because Roller Derby puts an emphasis on it.
To me it is just as fun and invigorating to stop Tazmaniac in a wall drill in practice, as it is to stop her in a bout day situation. Putting our focus on the awesome of practice means more excitement, which means more bodies, which means more opportunities for strategy and teamwork. Which will, unsurprisingly, lead to MORE SUCCESS ON BOUT DAY.
When practice time is the center of attention, you can focus on goals as an individual and as a team mate. You can put your energy into what is being practiced instead of worrying about making the next roster.
When your focus is practice, not bout day, you think about your daily cross training differently, and with the mind of making practice better. You know you’re going to be doing five minute jams at practice on Monday, so what can you do on your off day, Saturday, to improve your conditioning for it? Thinking about that every week builds into months and then years of cross training, almost by accident!
When you focus on practice, you get to struggle and laugh with all of your team mates in all the different situations. You get to love the sport and the nuance of the sport.
When our focus is bout day, we get caught up in the spotlight of it. We get caught up in the pressure of performance, but when we focus on practice day, we are all Superstars, and egos are left at the door because no one is watching. When our focus is practice, we work hard for two hours at a time. If we can work hard for two hours, we can definitely work hard for our piece of 60 minutes.
Practice is the proving ground for bout day.
Practice is where we get to push ourselves and learn.
Practice is where we get to high five our family and celebrate victories.
Practice is where we get to tell our friends that bad days happen, and that one bad practice will not equate to a lifetime of failure in the sport.
Practice is where we get to put our head down and do work.
If your heart doesn’t beat with excitement when prepping for training (sometimes up to 5 in a week), why are you in the sport?
Glory should come from within. Achievement should be felt when doing something awesome with your team mates. This is no longer an individual sport. No longer should we put the spotlight on those who have talent, who don’t come to practice or fundraisers or do committee work.The spotlight should be on the weekly warriors who sweat with each other and create the bonds that only practice time can.
Practice IS our sport. I feel like the leagues that recognize and promote that in their culture, have the most success over the long term.
Stop counting down to bout day. Start counting down to Monday.
For coaching and nutrition help for all athletes, or to ask questions, propose blog ideas, or just give feedback, leave me a comment, or drop me a line at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com. I’m always booking league coaching for all levels.
Like my EAT BIG PLAY BIG notes, this is not going to be a verbatim dissertation of what we went over, but more the bullet points of things we talked about and maybe some WHYs involved. We talked about nutrition too, but because I have my notes posted from EBPB up and running, why don’t you just check them out and get the full picture of the athletic nutrition.
WHAT I MEAN BY LIFTING WEIGHTS
Big lifts – Build all over strength and power, utilizes the full bar
Barbells – Build stabilization muscles and helps support big lifts, small movements, and quick twitch.
Free Weights – Barbells and bars; your body must do the work to keep things in place
Plate/Smith Machine – Training wheels; no real accurate measure of weight. Some plate machines are useful (like the leg extension) but usually you can pass by these.
Cable Machines – The baby of free weights and plate-loaded; there is some stabilization work done here.
Free weights and cables should be used as your supplemental workouts. Like your vitamin and protein supplements, they are the extra stuff you do to support the mainline of work. They should not be your primary form of ‘weight lifting’. Mostly because you’re not really lifting weights when you do them.
WHY SHOULD YOU WEIGHT LIFT?
The easy answer is: Because you play a contact sport.
Show me one contact sport that does not require their athletes to weight lift. If your coach tells you to do dry land drills, do you question? No. You question weight lifting because it’s different and new and super difficult. The resistance to lifting in roller derby is not because it’s not helpful or proven to advance skaters – it’s because it takes more effort to do it. And, honestly, it can be intimidating.
From the physics standpoint think of this reason why you should weight lift:
If you can only squat 130 pounds, that means you can only push that much weight (approximately) into your wheels. If you have someone who is 170 pounds hitting you, but you can only respond with 130 pounds – who is going to win?
This is a very basic, crude example, but hopefully you get the point.
Why bench press? I learned during Beat Me Halfway that if you have Magnum PIMP doing truck-and-trailer with you, your arms and core better be able to hold up to the resistance he’s giving you. If he then directs you into a full-speed Screecharound, your arms and body have to be able to deal with as much power as he’s putting into you to transfer to your skates, to transfer to Screecharound to take him all the way to the line.
(and also, I was so sore the next day)
If you can push a sled with 150 pounds on it, you can push through a link giving you 100 pounds of resistance.
WHAT IS CONDITIONING?
We talked a lot about lift days verse conditioning days.
Your lift days are just that. You’re picking up heavy weight. Your conditioning days involve cardio work, particularly HIIT. This is your tire flips, your hill runs, your wind sprints, your heavy plyometrics. If you do Crossfit, those WoDs should be your conditioning days … so the extra days. WoDs every day will not build your strength the way lift days will.
WHAT DOES THIS FEEL LIKE?
Like with derby, we have to adjust to a new feeling when we start weightlifting. If you’ve done plate machines in the past, then you are not used to what it feels like to have 180# on your back, or to pick up 200#.
It feels heavy. It feels miserable sometimes. It feels like you might hurt yourself. Just like it feels when you’re doing a new advanced skill on roller skates. Like those one foot “chomps” or one foot plows.. Picking your foot up and putting it down in front of you, with your toes turned in and your knees touching? That’s terrifying! I was sure I was going to break my leg. I didn’t. And you won’t break your shit just because it feels heavy.
It’s supposed to feel heavy. That’s the point.
DO I NEED SPECIAL GEAR?
I wear knee wraps because I can feel things shift around in my right knee when I squat and it’s weird and I don’t like it. With lighter weight, you don’t need belts, wraps, wrist grips. As you start lifting, talk to people around you about the gear they have. You’ll learn when you’ll need to get a belt, or if you want to get gloves.
Wear flat shoes or no shoes. Those weird toe shoes? They actually work really well for lifting. So do Chuck Taylors. So does nothing. Just like you wouldn’t buy Bonts for your first pair of skates, you shouldn’t go buy the special fit lifting shoes before you start lifting.
WHAT ARE THE LIFTS I SHOULD DO?
No questions asked you need to do:
Lifts that I think you should incorporate:
Sumo Deadlifts (or Sumo/Russian)
WHAT SUPPLEMENTAL LIFTS SHOULD I DO?
This one is tough. It depends on your programming. Ones that I make sure I incorporate:
Hanging Leg Raise
Bent Over Row
Lat Pull Down
WAIT – HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TO DO?
Guess what? More reading for you!! What I recommend to EVERYONE is to pick up Mark Rippietoe’s “STARTING STRENGTH”. There is an app you can download called 5x5Stronglifts that will help you through the whole process.
Here’s the idea that I can pass on to you that I started with… 5×5. So you’re doing 3 lifts each day, 5 times, 5 reps. This does not include your 5 rep warm-up. When my plan was set for me, we did one lift for the upper body, one for the back, one for the legs.
I then did 1 or 2 supplemental lists each day (unless I was crazy spent). Getting someone to help you set up a training plan around your skating schedule is awesome. I had a couple people helping me along the way. And don’t be afraid to tweak your schedule as you progress. After your first four weeks, you should be in a routine, but before that it’s ok to move things around and figure out what works best for you!
Learn form on your own through the BUFF DUDES series. They’re really a great, short series of tutorials.
HOW DO I KNOW HOW MUCH TO LIFT?
Again, having a friend that knows lifting is helpful here. If you don’t, go to your gym and find the biggest dude or lady who is both strong in the upper and lower body (or ask someone at the desk of who to ask), and humbly request help.
Think of it this way: If someone came up to you at an open skate and said, “Hey you look like you know what you’re doing. I’m trying to get into roller derby, but I don’t know how to plow stop, can you watch me real quick to help me?” You’re not going to tell them to fuck off. Lifters feel the same way about their sport. I promise they’ll be nice to you.
Step one is to find your personal record (PR), also known as your one rep max (1RM).
Do not plan on doing your 5×5 during max days. You also shouldn’t try to max out multiple workouts for the same body part. For example, don’t try to max out back squat and front squat on the same day.
To max out, do your warm up weight (people can help you figure out what that would be… for me, my deadlift warm up has ALWAYS been 135#, and my squat started at 100#, bench was 45# … these are good starting points). Do 5 reps. Your buddy can help you go up in weight. Do 3 reps. Then up in weight and do 1 rep until you can’t move it. Boom. 1RM.
Plugging these maxes into your 5×5 Stronglift app will create a nice little “oh this is what I lift today” guide for you. You can contact me if you want something more specific.
SO I JUST LIFT FOREVER NOW?
Things can change up, but yes, now you just lift. In a 5×5 program, I do like incorporating a deload week either on week 5 or 6. A deload week is when you do your lifts, but at 50% of your max. It gives your body a chance to recoup.
When I first started this program, I was going up in weight for some of my lifts each week, not up for others. The stronglift app helps you with that.
Setting goals will help keep you focused and your training tight so that way you don’t get bored.
You will plateau. You will have bad days at the bar. It happens. Just like derby. Sometimes you have enough sleep, you’re hydrated, you’ve eaten enough, and you just can’t squat the bar the way you did the week before. It’s ok. It happens. Seriously.
This can be new and can be scary. Just like derby. Don’t be put off from lifting by yourself because “You don’t want to hurt yourself”. There is just as much risk for injury in this sport as others. If you play derby, you know that you can have someone there with you, you can be in the process of being coached, and you can do one thing and still hurt yourself. Don’t fear injury for the sake of fearing injury.
You are probably not going parallel on your squats. If you have never squatted before, start with BOX SQUATS. Your new gym bro can find a good box for you. It should be low enough that when you sit on it, your legs create an angle lower than 90 degrees.
Your back is going to hurt. That’s because this will be the first time you’re fully using your back for a lift. All the time I hear “Oh man, my low back hurts! I must not be deadlifting right.” Or you’re deadlifting exactly right and you’re using muscles you never have before. Your back is going to hurt.
If your back is weak, your squats will suffer. “What?? But squats are a leg lift!” Yes, but the bar is on your back. So if you can’t support the bar, you can’t squat it. It’s possible that your squats may be lighter than what your legs can handle at first, because your back is not strong enough.
RECORD YOURSELF SO YOU CAN SELF-CRITIQUE AND GET NOTES FROM FRIENDS. It seems super narcissistic, but you can correct between sets sometimes! You can send the video to your friends from around the country and say “Hey is this parallel?” or “what am I doing wrong?”
When you’re lifting, EYES UP HIGH! Pick a spot towards the ceiling, look at it. Do not look side to side. Keep your weight on your heels, you should be able to wiggle your toes.
I think that’s about it!
Drop me a line if you want some extra help or have other questions about setting up your program. Your offseason program is going to be different than your in-season program, so I can help you with that stuff too. When in doubt, read books! 531, Beyond 531, and Starting Strength are the ones that have been recommended to me. Drop me a message at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com with questions or if you have anything you want me to address.
How the hell do you run practices when your league has practicing membership from Level CobraSnake to Level NewbornFoal? THIS is the biggest question asked across the world by coaching committees in roller derby right now. How can we keep our vet skaters challenged and satisfied with the training process [so they don’t transfer out] while bringing new skaters up [quickly] to a level to be able to play with those vets?
I had such a huge response to the blog I posted two days ago, about League Rebuilding that I wanted to make sure that my blog about training the leagues that are rebuilding went up quick!
There are fundamental corners to The House that Derby Built: Skills, Teamwork, Strategy, and Health. Without one of the corners, the house will not fall, but it will lean a little funny. Without two of the corners, you don’t have much of a house.
TESTING THE FOUNDATION
First you need to understand where your league is at with each of these fundamental pillars. The first step is to take an honest look at where each skater is individually and as a league. For Skills and Health you can actually do measurable tests to help you with your mapping process.
Set up a practice to set benchmarks and test skills, and I would recommend asking coaches from nearby leagues to come in and help with the ranking process, since the will be more impartial in the process. Create a list of skills (crossovers, one foot glides, lateral motion, hip checks while moving, jumping, counter blocking, 180 toe stops, blocking to the line, etc) and have them ratable 1-10. Move your way through drills, as you would when doing a certification, but make sure you have more advanced skills on the list than a strict certification process.
For Health, you simply create a list of ‘events’ like a football combine. You can test squat strength, bench strength, 100 yard dash, 400 yard dash easily. You can create short ‘obstacle courses’ and time each player through it while rating their cuts, bursts of speed, jumping, and footwork. You can do one foot balance, long jumps, pull-ups, or anything else you think would be applicable to strength and endurance needed for derby.
Once you have your 1-10 data points you can put them into a spreadsheet and simply create a point chart! Boom. You now know where people are. This is not to make anyone feel bad. This is simply a way to benchmark individuals so that the training staff can develop upcoming practices and make recommendations about cross-training. This information is also a great starting point for goal setting! Part of setting goals is that they have to be MEASURABLE. With benchmarks in hand, captains can meet with skaters to create a real list of SMART goals for the skater to focus on in upcoming months.
To benchmark Teamwork and Strategy is harder. Teamwork, though very easy to see the presence (or lack of) teamwork, it is not easy to quantify. You may want to ask those coaches to come and observe your team in a scrimmage against another league to rate overall Teamwork and Strategy. When you map, you will not be mapping for your team, but you will be mapping for groups of skaters, or the team as a whole.
Things to rate from 1-10 in Teamwork could be: Proximity of skaters, holding lanes, communication, mobility of walls, awareness, recycling, and protecting edges.
Things to rate in strategy could be: Offense, O to D/D to O switch speed, Bridging, Jam line start, power jam defense, preventing recycling. Watch some bouts and make notes of how to describe strategy and teamwork and create your list to test (use the words and ideas that I listed as your example).
CREATING THE PLAN
After you map the data, you can analyze it with your training staff. You’ll be able to see weaknesses very easily. Data doesn’t lie. Create the charts however your brain can deal with the data. After playing around a bit, I decided that I like the bar graph, since I can see distinct lines across. I just made up a mock chart for an example (I picked derby names at random, I didn’t actually rate people on things).
From looking at the chart, you can see that some people have strengths, and some have extreme weaknesses. You do not want to use those as your focus. You want to teach to the median weaknesses. Note: This does not mean ignore the strengths, it just means you now know where to focus more of your training energy. Looking at this chart, I immediately notice that NO ONE has even a 7 on narrow plows. Next thing I see is that while we have a few people strong at left foot plows, the rest are not, and no one is strong at right foot plows.
If you have a team that is primarily new skaters, and you are noticing that in the corners of your house, the median score is 1-5 in most areas, than grade on the curve. So you can’t look at the data and go, “Oh man, there are only a couple 7s. WE MUST FOCUS ON EVERYTHING.” Right, ok, so, bring the top grade to 7 and look at the skills from there. If 7 is the top and you’re noticing some skills have more 4/5s and others have more 2/3s, focus on the 2/3s.
You do this with all four of your pillars. Identify your team’s overall weaknesses.
“But we have too many new skaters to do this!” No. No such thing. If your skaters can’t complete skills they get a 1 on the scale. That’s it. Everyone can run, lift, jump on sneakers.
“But we don’t have any place to do the off skates benchmarks!” Really? You know that? I just suggested it and you’re already coming up with an excuse to not do it? Have you called the gyms in your area and asked about it? Tell them what you want to do. Offer them advertisement in exchange for use of their gym to do benchmarks. They can be the “Official Combine Location of the Blankety Blank Roller Vixens”. Local, privately owned gyms or franchises are the best place to start. You may want to approach CrossFit gyms about it, because they’ll usually have sprinting space too, and some of those coaches have experience in combines.
“But we already spend so much time at derby, we don’t have the time for this! We know how our skaters are, can’t we just use what we know?” Cancel practice for a week and do this. If you want to improve and you’re serious about focusing your training program, you need to know what you’re working with and you need to have an OBJECTIVE view of where you are starting. Without data, provided with the help of people who don’t know you from Adam, all you are doing is continuing old habits. Your current training is based on what you think you know about your skaters. Chances are your advanced skaters are not advanced. Chances are your fresh meat have skills you didn’t realize.
“But we’re not Gotham or Bay Area. We don’t need to train like a D1 WFTDA team.” Well I will respond with a Vince Lombardi quote:
“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?” You don’t have to be a D1 team to want to be successful or to train to be successful.
What it comes down to is that this is new, and new is scary. What it also comes down to is exposure. Exposure is scary. Skaters (especially self-proclaimed ‘vets’ and those who like to pop into practice when convenient) do not like being told that they need to improve at something, or that the ‘lowly fresh meat’ is actually better than them at a skill. This is not about belittlement. This is about recognition and understanding. Without it, you cannot move forward.
DON’T FEAR TO START AT THE START
If you have to grade on the curve, and you have noticed that you have that moment of “We have to work on everything”, then step one is take it back to the beginning. Begin training the TRUE fundamentals for individuals and teamwork: The mechanics of roller skating & speed skating New derby position (tailbone tucked, feet shoulder width)
Toe stop & duck runs
Holding a lane
Skating without using your arms or looking at the floor
Skating in a pack
Pace lines & Speed control
Lateral motion/Laterals using edges & leading with your knees Carves (short and long)
Narrow & One foot Plows
Stopping with edges
Making a wall
Moving as a wall
Anatomy of hitting Sticky blocking
Transitions both directions
Communication & awareness while in motion
This is the start. These are the building blocks. You cannot do a box drill if skaters don’t know how to control their speed and skate close to other people. You cannot do a weaving pace line if your team doesn’t know how to do a basic pace line. This is your first check list. And honestly? I probably missed things. (I have walked away from this list and come back to it several times.)
“But my vets will be bored!” No, they won’t be. In any drill that involves team play, the vets should be focused on helping their team mates cover lanes, maintain position, and work on speed change. The vets need to be the coaches through the drills with the new skaters. For any individual skill, the vets need to be focused on cleaning up their own abilities. Encourage the vets to work on precision, quickness, reaction, depth of skill, and visualizing they’re in a game situation.
Your vets can plow? They should work on plowing narrower, sharper, stopping quicker, keeping their hips more square, their back stronger, and their head up and looking around while doing it. Your vets ‘know how to roller skate’? Encourage them to make their stride deeper, lengthen their pushes, and focus on breathe work and mental tricks as they go around the track that they can access during game play to calm themselves.
***THERE IS NO PERFECTION IN ROLLER DERBY***
Every skater needs to review and practice these fundamentals. These building blocks are not things to check off a list and never visit again. I recommend revisiting these fundamentals often, even after every skater on your crew can rank at an 8+ with them.
NOTE: Every skater is responsible for their own progress and should be empowered by their team and coaching to take responsibility for practicing fundamentals on their own time as well as whatever happens in practice. Just like with the health section at the end of the blog, it is not the coach’s responsibility to mother each skater to make sure they are keeping sharp on their skills on their own time.
DO NOT COACH DOWN
Just because you are working on fundamentals, it does not mean that you need to treat your skaters like 5 year olds, or offer them drills that do not challenge them. Create drills that push your new skaters. Do not assume that because they are fresh, that means they are incapable. Keep your pace lines challenging. Do not skip a drill that works on something that needs to be addressed because someone thinks the fresh meat won’t be able to do it.
You do not get better unless there is a challenge. Making drills JUST above the median level or intensity will push your largest faction of skaters. Dotting in more advanced drills or more basic drills, will keep everyone confident and working hard.
Let’s say you are working on edgework! You can start with carving long and slow and then short and sharp. Time these for about three minutes, with all skaters moving around the track.
Next, put dummy blockers around the track, facing proper derby direction, near the inside and outside lines. Have them stand NEAR the line, but with some space. Have your skaters carve between the blockers and the line, showing their back to the blocker as they go through (they’ll have to twist their body). After everyone has done it for a few laps, have the dummies take an extra step away from the line, and have skaters get by them by bursting past with a 3 step duck run (which utilizes edges).
Then put obstacles in the track – one in the middle of each straightaway, one at either end (trashcans or chairs work great). Have skaters rolling and approaching the object, then bursting around the object with the 3 step duck run. They can challenge themselves to get as close to the object (without touching it) as they can before they burst around it.
After this, bring the practice back down by practicing lateral motion, leading with the knees, from line to line across the track. You have started with something very basic, upped the intensity a few times, and then brought it back down to a lower intensity, more precision-based drill.
So the moral of the story is – don’t think that your new skaters can’t do it just because it’s harder. You can always offer ways to adjust a drill harder and softer to accommodate for all skaters.
MIXING LEVELS IN PACKS
“Do we have levels mix together in drills?” Yes and no. I will define who skaters should get with as we progress through a coaching plan. This is something that the coaches need to decide. I will say “vets with tots” or “Get with someone of your skill level” or “find someone on your home team” to define who I want them to work with.
You may want to rotate skater partners too, so that way the newer skaters get the advantage of in-drill coaching. Don’t be afraid to spend a longer amount of time on drills and skills. You do not have to rush through practicing; it’s through repetition, repetition that our bodies learn. It takes 5000 SUCCESSFUL repetitions to establish muscle memory. Let them practice in mixed levels, then switch them to equal levels to allow themselves to push and challenge each other.
LESS IS MORE
Less talking, less complication, less spending of energy: in roller derby, less is more.
Do not spend 30 minutes talking about a drill. Do not spend 30 minutes arguing about a better way to do the drill. Do not allow other skaters to try to bully the coach into doing the drill a different way. Explain the drill, demonstrate, try it, observe it, correct misconceptions, do it again, observe it, tell everyone what you’re noticing, do it again, bring everyone to the center, talk about what you observed, take quick questions, move on.
Do not think that you have to bring drills to practice that have 15 steps. Simplification is critical. One piece at a time, and build your blocks. Practice your one foot plows/chomps. Then practice stopping in a two wall. Then practice stopping in a three wall. The practice stopping a jammer in the three wall. Then practice stopping a jammer in the three wall, and having the wall step in front of the person blocking. Build.
Do not think you have to be good at every strategy. Vince Lombardi is one of the most decorated NFL coaches of all time not because his Green Bay Packers could do ALL the plays. It was because they did a handful of plays SO WELL that no one could defeat them. By keeping things more concise, you will give your skater tots less to learn (less overwhelming), meaning they’ll be able to advance quicker and get to the level of working with the vets and having everyone be successful.
Teamwork, communication, being on the same page, and focus. Less is more.
3 FAVORITE PRACTICE THINGS FOR ALL LEVELS
Boxes: Everyone is in a tight box, on the whistle the box completes an action. You can either pick actions before the drill starts, or coach can shout the action before the whistle. Actions can be: rotate right, rotate left, inside line, outside line, hop, front to back, back to front, make a wall, make a line, make a box, speed up, slow down, 180 stop, etc etc etc. Start basic. Work up from there.
Double Pace Lines: Especially if your league needs some long endurance work, double pace lines can be beneficial to teach speed control, footwork, skating proximity, and awareness. You can have individuals weave, teams weave and lead, teams race, individuals block, teams weave and hit between the pace line, and more.
Games: Soccer (use an empty water jug instead of a ball), dodgeball, tag, and more! Get your team distracted from what they are doing by making them do something that isn’t roller derby. It’s amazing how the footwork, stops, awareness, avoidance, cuts, spins, toe stops, and communication improve after just one session. Plus – it’s really really fun!
So that “health” corner of the house? Here’s the tough thing: You cannot make people do anything outside of practice time. If a skater wants to live on McDonalds and potato chips and watch 5 hours of television on their non-practice nights, that is their prerogative. Doing the benchmark combine may be the shock some people need to start developing some outside healthy habits, but you cannot count on that (You would think being winded after a lap and dreading the 27 in 5 would be enough motivation, but not everyone motivates the same).
YOU CANNOT WANT IT FOR THEM.
You can give all the Braveheart speeches you want, but each person makes their own decision of what to do with their body. If you are a decided rec team, what you can do is make recommendations as a training committee of how people can train for roller derby outside of practice. If this blog hasn’t tired you out completely, check out my SHIFTING PERSPECTIVE blog about training for our sport.
Some leagues I have come in contact with have an ‘extra practice’ that they must complete each week on their own – it’s a set of workouts that they can do at home or in a gym. More serious leagues (or leagues that want to become more serious) are requiring their all-stars to have gym memberships (these leagues usually also have some kind of agreement with their local gym for discounted rates). In the future, some may require a level of baseline fitness in order to qualify for all-star rosters.
Every league is different. Do not be afraid to adopt these health requirements for your league, simply because it is unprecedented in your area. Do not be afraid to not adopt such policies because you do not believe it would be right for your league. Either way, it’s a discussion that the league as a whole may want to have.
My first league was not a D1 level of play, but it was understood that we did NOT drink alcohol the week of a bout.
Nutrition is as critical a part of fitness as the weight lifting, yoga, land drills, sprints, etc. As a Derbalife coach, I spend a lot of time simply teaching skaters what is and is not good fuel for the body. Creating a voluntary fitness challenge with rewards within your league could be a great way to get your skaters to do something good for them (and their skating) without the league instating rules and policies. It can be something people ELECT to do.
I guarantee the people who lift weights and do extra conditioning work outside of practice will, in the long run, excel past those who do not.
PROTEIN! HYDRATION! VITAMINS! EATING BEFORE PRACTICE! EATING PROTEIN AFTER PRACTICE! CUTTING DOWN ON SUGAR! These are things that can play a huge role in a skater’s success on the track.
Wow you’re still here? Well done!! I hope I have addressed your questions, concerns, and issues at least a little bit. This is a difficult problem for a league to have.
If your league is looking for bodies all the time, then you will continually have to rotate in fresh skaters into your tots. It’s imperative that you develop a new skater check list for each player to practice and complete and be tested on before they make their way onto the track with the vets. This way you can be sure that each player that is introduced to your team have spent time building up each corner of their house before they mix it up with more advanced skaters.
Remember that you are not the only league going through this training process. Pick goals, plan out your trainings a few weeks at a time, keep communication open, and evaluate and adjust after each chunk of training plans.
Skate hard, skate fast, be excellent to each other and do it for THE LOVE OF DERBY!!
Like me, Merry Khaos, on Facebook! Like DNA Coaching on Facebook! Want me to come out to your league to help with this stuff? Need nutrition and fitness help for you or your league? Drop me a line at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com and let’s chat about Derbalife.
Every time I start to get comfortable with the idea of going on a temporary hiatus, I watch roller derby and then convince myself that I can stretch my time for a little longer before my pause. Thank you for making my decision more difficult, Nashville & Madison. This bout at Ashville’s Division 1 playoff has been an awesome way to wake up on Saturday!
Now your next question might be, “Wait, what? Temporary hiatus?”
Life happens, sometimes folks. And so do injuries. I’ve been dealing with knee pain since last October (and to be fair, my doc thinks that the injury I received against Philly is not the same as I incurred when I sprinted into a gopher hole during softball practice). The further I get into physical therapy, and the more we don’t see long term improvement, the less hopeful I am that it can be solved with just nutrition, exercise and patience.
To give you an idea of what I’ve been dealing with – extend your right leg completely. First of all, I have only recently been able to do that. When I do, and when I extend it fully as I walk, there is pain. What kind? Well the spot is just south of my kneecap, on the inside of the leg, and each time I step, it feels like someone is digging a blunt screwdriver into it. When I walk fully (striking on the heel, rounding to the big toe with full leg extension) it feels like a nail and then the blunt screwdriver.
If I stand with all my weight in my heel, it feels like the joint gets “heavy” and everything inside and around my knee cap aches with a dull pain. Every now and again, I’ll be walking and I will experience a pop on the outside of my right knee – I acquaint it to the plucking of a guitar string. This is the flare up some of you have heard me talk about. After a flare up, I cannot straighten or bend my leg for about 5 minutes, and can put zero weight on it.
My flare ups have been improving. The intense pain used to last hours, or days. Now it’s less than a few minutes and I’m fine again. It used to be that I couldn’t straighten my leg for weeks. Now it’s an hour. That being said, there is no rhyme or reason to them. I have had a flare up while demonstrating 180 toe stops, while standing up on my wheels, while bringing myself down off of a bank track, while jogging and kicking the edge of a sidewalk, while sprinting and falling into a gopher hole, while jogging to first base, while walking to the bathroom, while laying down watching a movie.
I have been playing with the idea for a little while now of taking next year off of competitive play to focus on my Derbalife business and to heal up a bit. It’s so hard to make that full commitment to non-competition. If I need to have surgery, than I will be off skates for a while regardless. It is hard to voluntarily say, “I’m taking myself off skates pre-surgery”. I’m really struggling with it.
The plan is to transfer to Charm City. I want to try out for the All Stars (because, c’mon! it’s the Charm City All Stars!! I’ve looked up to that team since I began skating). But for the sake of my body, mind and business I may just aim for B-team and home teams for the majority of 2014. I am hopeful that I can focus on Harm City Homicide for 2014. I am hopeful that I can find the money for an MRI and, past that, surgery.
Even if I hang my skates up, it will not be a permanent retirement. I still haven’t skated at a Divisional playoff. I have a goal of skating at Champs one day as well. It will be realized. It will happen.
Head up. Keep moving. I will do what I can in the meantime and constantly be analyzing and evaluating. There are two more Blitz bouts this season and I just don’t know whether I should push through them. I can’t help but wonder if my team would be better if I just stepped away now so that they can work together without me getting in the way.
How do you make a decision of what to do when you have no idea what is wrong? How do you make a choice when you have no idea when you’ll be able to fix it? Anyone want to start a GoFundMe to help me with my MRI or surgery costs? Anyone want to book me for some boot camps to help me pay for my MRI and surgery costs?
I know in the end I will be stronger. I know a year from now, everything will look different. However, I am so hyper focused on the next two months that it feels impossible to see 12 into the future. I will be pumping some personal development into my skull and continually evaluating my position in life, work and roller derby.
Encouraging words are always appreciated. And thank you for keeping up with my misadventures in recovery. At least my nutrition has kept me peppy through all of it.. #Herbalife #FTW
No matter how confident a skater may sound, she is lying when she says, “Oh no. It doesn’t hurt that badly. I’ll be fine!”
In her head and heart she is seriously wondering what is going to happen when she puts her skates on. She is honestly worried that she will not be able to push, turn or stop. Even if she can, can she cut? Juke? Thrust? Can she be an effective derby player, not just an effective roller skater?
I hobbled from my car to the rink. I hobbled through the rink to the locker room area. I did my best to tell everyone I was ok, just a little slip at graduation – nothing to fear! Inside though, I was absolutely trembling of what was to come.
I already have deep-seated fear issues from my injury last October that I have been diligently working on uprooting. Now I have a new injury? On the other side of my leg? That can be agitated from slipping in dress shoes? Well damn.
My team mates are awesome.
My coach, Jocelyn Bassler, told me to just be honest if it hurt too much. Captain Laverne N Surly told me to let Shots know if I needed a break during the game and not to feel ashamed about it.
Treasure Chest told me to ‘fuck it, man. Just go for it’.
She shrugged at me, as she does, and continued to gear up. I made the decision right then to do as she said.
I wrapped up the knee (Using some of the capsaicin in the mix which ended up being more burny than I EVER expected) and I gave it a shot. I drank my 24 Prepare/Hydrate mix to give me that spark of “Whatever! I have so much energy that I can do anything!” and I found out quickly that if I stayed low in PROPER derby position .. It really didn’t hurt. So much that even if I popped up for a quick move, it still didn’t hurt! Ok. Ok. I can do this. No fear. Aggression.
And then something even more amazing happened. The Dutchland All Stars clicked. We played like the team we can be. The defensive blocking was absolutely spot on. The offensive blocking was appropriate and controlled. The Cape Fear Roller Girls were awesome to play. Everyone had fun. Everyone played solid, hard-hitting derby.
Did shit happen during the game? Yes. It’s a high impact sport on roller skates. People get knocked around a bit. But there were not tempers flaring, which is the way I prefer my roller derby. I prefer it hard, fast and FUN.
I had my best bout in months. I had maybe my best bout EVER. I only got to jam seven times during the bout, but (with my family looking on) I was able to focus in to the strength and power that I know I have. I was able to score 70 points. I was able to get lead jammer 86% of my jams. I was able to juke and accelerate past opposing blockers. I was able to power through on starts, and take advantage of holes on my way through the pack.
Cape Fear had some awesome positional blocking and definitely played with my head on a few jams. They had some great heavy-hitters and some awesome recycling. They definitely kept me on my toes (and many times, on my behind). I felt like, for the first time in a long time, I was just really good at avoiding the hits coming at me, or rolling off the ones that hit, or absorbing hits as I worked towards the middle of the track.
It’s been a while since I felt very confident in my ability to misdirect my motion, or roll off of a hit to SUCCESSFULLY take advantage of a hole, but on Saturday I did it. It was also fantastic to hear (every time I passed the bench when she wasn’t on the floor) Treasure Chest yelling: “You got this!” “One more lap!” “You’re faster than her!” “Push!” “Don’t you call it!”
My team mates did a lot of amazing stuff too – I have to throw a shout out to Marie Antiothreat who, in a moment of amazing awareness (with just herself an Bayou on the track in a power jam situation) – was able to knock the jammer out of bounds at the edge of the engagement zone so hard that the jammer fell. This gave Marie the opportunity to not just run back TO the pack, but she was able to Mohawk along the inside line PAST the entire Cape Fear team to force the jammer almost 20 feet BEHIND the pack. It was pretty glorious, I have to say.
So this was Saturday against Cape Fear. It was a great confidence boost for going into Spring Roll (which the goal there is – HAVE FUN). I know that my quick twitch endurance is not what it should be (these injuries have really halted my plyometric routine) but I am focusing on getting that stronger currently.
I also have to say that this time around I was on my usual routine of tabs (Multivitamin, Cell Activator, Herbalifeline, Total Control and 2x a day dose of Niteworks) and I felt a definite alertness difference. I didn’t even need the LiftOff that I had made for the second half. My long endurance was fantastic. My short burst was still very good – I just forget that when my short burst is good it means I push harder.
So sites are set on Spring Roll. Nutrition is getting a bump this week (less carbs, more protein, more veggies) and I guess we’ll see what happens next!
I posted on my Facebook a hint of our Saturday bout. I promised to write about it. I have gotten out of my own way and finally am writing.
Saturday was big for me. I had my Penn State commencement ceremony at the Giant Center in the morning. At night, Dutchland had a double header scheduled. Cape Fear Roller Girls were coming to play the All Stars. This was going to be my first game where I got to be in a fuller rotation. This was going to be the first time my attendance and injury was not going to get in my way. It was also going to be the first time in my 4 seasons that I would have any family member there to watch me.
And it wasn’t just one. It was eight of them.
I was more nervous about the bout than I was about walking in graduation. (Though, we’ve all seen me walk, so maybe the nerves should have been shifted to the morning.) I have heard so many stories of “My family never came to see me and then when they did I tore my _________”
There was also the factor of pride. I hate admitting it, but I was putting pressure on myself to prove to my family that I ‘deserve’ to play roller derby. Whenever I hear of others seeking approval for their passion, I react negatively, and it wasn’t until the day of the bout that I understood that I was doing the same thing. However, yes. I wanted to show them that I haven’t just been skating left and having fun for the past three and a half years. That I have working on an athletic endeavor that has made me the woman that I am today.
Not only that – I wanted to show that I was finally GOOD at a highly-intense sport. The theatre girl who was good at slow pitch softball and mediocre at soccer is actually really good at this.
My body was not completely on board with my plan.
As I left the Giant Center floor, climbing the steps to the main concourse in my cap and gown, I felt my knee become tight. We had just spent 3 hours sitting with our feet on sport court that was laid directly on ice, after all. I had to use the restroom before getting pictures (You know, all that hydration) and I made my way against the crowd to do so. I made a move to avoid an oncoming walker and couldn’t. They bumped me just enough that my foot slid on a little wet spot on the ground (damn you dress shoes) and my knee popped.
I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t put any pressure on it. I was in the middle of the Giant Center with a dead cell phone, half way between the bathroom and the doors to the outside world. This moment was defining. For the first time, I had to deal with this injury all by myself. I didn’t have Matt there to help me. I didn’t have anyone. So I hopped (literally) into the bathroom, tried to straighten it out (which hurt like a MOTHER) and then realized that if I bent my knee –I could put full pressure on my leg.
PERFECT!! I’m not against looking silly after all.
I low walked out of the bathroom (for those of you who don’t know what a low walk is, it’s half-way between a lunge and a walk) and down the main concourse and out into the light of the afternoon where I met my family for photos. They were very surprised to see me as I was, and unconvinced that I’d be on skates in a few hours.
“Nah. This happened a couple weeks ago. I’ll be ok!”
We parted ways.
I went home, not to take a nap as I truly had intended, but to go to work on my knee.
I could have given in and said that I was too weak to play. I could have avoided the nerves and the pressure and said, “I’m sorry. I’m injured.”
But I’m tired of limiting myself. This injury was a representation of the upper limit problems I have put on myself my whole life. No more would I let outside factors decide how I am going to live my life or play my game.
I came home and spent 3 hours stretching, applying ice & heat, elevating and pushing my body to understand the pain and adjust to it. I took in a lot of protein, lots of water, lots of anti-inflammatory foods, and circulation supplements (like Herbalifeline and Niteworks). I made a plan to get arnica on my way to the rink when my knee was not ‘popped back into place’. I also planned on asking team mate Treasure Chest to borrow her capsaicin for my knee. I also knew I was going to have to go to the gym before getting to the rink to do some weights to try and loosen everything up.
I would not let this defeat me. I got in my car, took a deep breath of spring air, put my “Going Rogue” mix on loud and drove away