I haven’t written too much this year (it’s been an interesting ride), and I am sorry for that. After my second ACL surgery I dove into studies of a Sommelier. In the past 7 months I have achieved certification of WSET2, Level 1 from the Court of Masters Sommelier, and my Cicerone Certified Beer Server. All those notecards left little time for writing.
I was seeking inspiration for a derby topic the other day, and Facebook delivered. This idea came from Noah Tall in Fayetteville, Arkansas: “Why not do team and wine pairings?” Talking to others they agreed it would be a neat idea, and I decided to do my pairings a la the embodiment of the team in a beverage.
So here we go! With all the Champs excitement I thought I would start with MRDA Champs and then after this weekend I’ll do the WFTDA Champs! ENJOY!
PS: this task is way more daunting than it sounds!
Cava comes from Catalanya, Spain and is [most often] a blending of indigenous grapes. It’s bubbly, refreshing, and a ton of people haven’t experienced it. Is it as expensive as Champagne? No. Is it just as fancy and satisfying? Absolutely. My saying in my wine bar is: “When in doubt – Cava.” When I’m thinking about favorite MRDA teams, when in doubt: Austin Anarchy. They too are light and bubbly (have you picked up Wombo yet? Goldie Gloves has a whole FB album of “People Picking Up Wombo Combo”). Plus, Austin is always a great addition to a party.
DERBY CLUB LE CRES LATTES MONTPELLIER ie The KamiQuadz Pairing: Chilean Carmenere
“The Lost Grape of Bordeaux” has found a home in Chile and it is delightful. Lost Grape? Yes, Carmenere was thought to have been wiped out by Phylloxera in the 1800s. Turned out it survived just elsewhere (Chile). When picked early it has green notes (Cabernet Franc is one of its parents, and Cab Sauv is a half-sibling), when it develops more fully, it has velvety tannins, chocolate, and red fruits. The KamiQuadz are a green team with lots of depth and experience, but most of us don’t know them. I expect that as the years progress, French men’s roller derby will continue to be saved by this new bastion of play and I expect the green to turn to rich fruit rewards.
GOLDEN STATE HEAT Pairing: White Claw
WAIT WAIT – HEAR ME OUT!!!
Just like White Claw, Golden State Heat came out of NOWHERE this year to put everyone on the ground. Teams play them and wake up the next morning wondering what the hell happened and what their name is. White Claw is booze + sparkling water; it’s a blend of two things coming together in harmony and busting up a scene of regular acts for something refreshing and different – just like Golden State Heat. With all the deliciousness I don’t see either one of these things fizzing out any time soon.
NEW WHEELED ORDER Pairing: Dry Mosel Riesling
This aromatic wine always catches people off guard. They expect it to be one thing, but then they are served with something completely different. Dry Rieslings are refreshing, like Sauvignon Blancs, but without the grapefruit pith that can come with it. People always seem to forget about Rieslings, but it pairs easily with some of the most difficult foods (like vinegar and asparagus). NWO is a team that [American] people forgot about this year until Champs came around. They served up game play that people were not expecting, and for the second year in a row, NWO came out and broke expectations with adaptability and finesse.
DENVER GROUND CONTROL Pairing: Coppertail Unholy Belgian Trippel Ale
Belgian Trippels (the best ones) are light in body, sharp in spirit, and they hit you harder than you ever thought possible. Trippels are crafted with precision in mind, and tradition behind them, especially this one. Coppertail is in Florida, but Unholy rivals the best Belgians in the world. It might not be everyone’s go-to beverage of choice, but they are remarkable to all of us that pay attention. Ground Control has a long derby history behind them in their coaching staff, and one can tell that they focus on routine and perfection. Their jammers defy gravity, and every blocker can annihilate you.
SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT ROLLER DERBY Pairing: Merlot
No, I was not going to say Southern Comfort; that would be taking the easy way out (Plus I had a bad experience with SoCo in my younger years and I really didn’t want to think about flavor profiles).
So why Merlot? Merlot is the underestimated monster of the wine world. Merlot was a queen, and a movie (Sideways) came along and kicked it off a pedestal. That said, Merlot is a critical grape for blends of the Old AND New World wines. Not only that, a 2004 Saint Emilion would make anyone weak in the knees. My point? Despite hardships, SDRD keeps on giving amazing derby and producing exceptional players from their program. Merlot has incredible balance and versatility, as does SDRD. Wine Enthusiast called Merlot “the best red wine you’re not drinking”; SDRD could be the best MRDA team you’re not following.
VANCOUVER MURDER Pairing: Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon
I was not Bourbon fan about 3 years ago. I didn’t understand it, I didn’t have the tasting ability for it. After a trip to Louisville I fell for Angel’s Envy. On the first sip, it’s a bit of a punch to the senses; to experience it fully you’ve got to do 3 sips in a row (and really “chew” the bourbon). Then, you’ll experience the nuances. You have to take your time to truly appreciate how well crafted and deliberate it is. Finished in port wine barrels, there is a deep respect for flavor and quality. It took me a couple years to really appreciate how well the Murder work together. At first you think it’s just about flash, but then you look deeper and you realize that there is a dance Vancouver executes in every jam. Maybe not everyone will see it, but pay attention and keep going back to the Murder, like you would with a bourbon. You’ll discover more each time.
TEXAS MEN’S ROLLER DERBY Pairing: Frosé
You can make it with a rosé of Sangiovese for a more cherry variety, or with a Loire Valley for something more chalk-driven. Stir up a frosé with a Vinho Verde for a pool pounder, or use a California rosé for strawberry candy. There is a Frosé for all occasions, and if you know what you’re doing you can make them for anyone. Here’s my point: Frosé is super likeable, great in hot weather, and totally underestimated as to their greatness. I am hard pressed to find anyone that HATES Frosé. That’s Texas. They work great together, they get you buzzed, and you’re always excited for more.
MAGIC CITY MISFITS Pairing: Orin Swift Machete
This is a blended red wine with Petit Sirah, Syrah, and Grenache sourced from no less than five AVAs in California. It has deep notes of cassias, ripe red cherries, and stewed blackberries. It has a velvet texture that makes you go back for more and more. Blending is critical to the success of many wines, since you cannot always harvest the best grapes from single sites. As long as all the aspects are quality and work together to create a symphony, what does it matter which AVAs the grape comes from? Machete is a dance of flavors and wine-making techniques that has some of the best people in the industry almost mad about how good it is. MCM is a blend of friends and players, though the majority of their roster have been a part of the Florida roster for a few years. They are fast, they are undeniable talented, and they work incredibly well together. You might be mad about it, but they’re just doing good at the derby.
ST LOUIS GATEKEEPERS Pairing: Romanee-Conti Grand Cru
This single vineyard Pinot Noir is considered possibly the greatest that ever was, or ever will be. Pinot Noir is a very difficult grape to grow effectively; it takes time and finesse and care to get the best out of it. Sometimes it can take years for a grower to fully understand the complexities of the grape. The Gatekeepers have spent a decade (or more) cultivating their teamwork, style, and nerve under pressure. They are what other teams aspire to and use as a model. They have layers of complexity and courage, and no matter what adversity befalls the team, the roots seem to expand and flourish.
This is a team of legend and a team that no other will ever be like, now matter how they try to emulate these behemoths.
Here we are, continuing our journey through the world of jamming. I know talking about things to do at home, or without wheels on your feet is boring (but it’s important so do it anyway). So let’s talk about practice and game time and what you can do to increase your jammer prowess.
Practice on different surfaces
Sounds basic, but hear me out.
Our mental game is a huge part of our successes and failures as jammers, and one thing I have seen more skaters freak out about is the floor. If floor surfaces were not so scary to people, we would not have people buying multiple sets of various durometer wheels and frantically researching flooring before each game. I’m one of them!
It’s a bit of a dig, but when someone mentions that they do not ever change their wheels I respond with “I’m not good enough at roller skating for that”. This is both true and false. I’m pretty good at roller skating at this point, but I know that my biggest weakness is my inability to release pressure from my wheels. I’ve been working on it for nine years. I understand that I am better at asserting more pressure into my edge than I am at letting off the pressure.
This means I am better on a slicker floor when I can press into my wheels and dig than I am on a sticky floor where I must RELEASE pressure to slide. Having ‘grown up’ at Olympic Skating Center in Enola, PA, you would think it would be opposite. It has one of the most beautiful polished maple floors in the country, and it will rip through tights like nothing, and leave scars of road rash that we bear 5 years later. I never achieved a hockey stop on this floor. Hell I could barely plow stop. Some people can play on Poisons regardless of surface, regardless of game. I am not one of them. I have accepted and embraced my need to adjust my gear the last two years and the results show.
How I adjust my gear is based on the surface, and I know what to do because I have sought out every kind of floor I can, and travel games have put me on everything from polished concrete, to sport court laid on springy astroturf, to what looks like a basketball court, but is actually a foam mat. While team mates panic, I have it handled.
If we can take out the scary part of floor surfaces changing, we can bolster our confidence. When we feel confident, we perform better. The easiest way to take the scary out of floor surfaces is simply by skating on all of them. Not just once, but whenever you can. I miss having an outdoor hockey rink within reach. The polished concrete was so vastly from the maple floor that I practiced on in Harrisburg, that I felt like I could practice my skills in a new way and it taught me how to control my body weight differently.
Not everyone can spend time on their own to go to other rinks, so even putting your skates on at home or encouraging your team to go scrimmage or practice somewhere else from time to time can help you break away from the barriers of “Oh s***, I can’t slide/grip/jump on this floor!” Sometimes we encounter the mental hang up, but we do not even realize it. Learning how to deal with things (whether it means changing your gear or your style) will improve your ratios pretty quick.
Speed DOESN’T kill
If there is one lesson I have learned this season is that speed is your only true ally as a jammer. If you are faster than the blockers (in physicality, awareness, and prediction of game flow) you will win [mostly] all the jams.
When I was a baby jammer, I thought speed meant “How fast can I get around the track?” But even when I hit a 6 second lap, I was not getting as many point passes as desired. Going to the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup in Calgary I started to pick up on what true QUICKNESS really is: It’s micro movements. It’s the stuff you do not see until your eyes adjust to a higher frame rate. It’s the slightly stronger push in your duck run at the last second.
It’s the difference between a juke that gets you through and one that gets you put out of bounds.
It’s the difference between cruising into a pack to get picked off and sailing through on the outside line easily.
It’s the difference between blockers keeping you locked, and you popping them open through the middle.
But it’s more than just having speed on your wheels. It’s about how fast you can transition from skating to duck run, or duck run to hockey stop, or wheels to toe stops. Transitioning from wheels to stoppers gives you an added edge over your opponent, because of the change in acceleration it causes and your ability to maneuver in different ways. Being able to drop, at speed, onto your toe stops can let you hop, spin, jump, and high step. It can also give you a chance to run an angle to outpace blockers when they’re not expecting it.
If you are not comfortable skating fast and transitioning to your toe stops: Get going. Start practicing it.
Do speed work. On skates, off skates. Do it in your office. Do it before dinner. Do it when you wake up in the morning. Integrate it into your life. That might sound extreme, but it’s not as hard (or as ridiculous) as it sounds.
Training your muscles to twitch is the greatest tool a jammer can have. You have heard people yell “Pick up your feet”. If you can’t twitch, you won’t be able to fake out your opponents, juke, or change direction suddenly. Picking up your feet means you can generate speed and mobility. Picking up your feet means you are generating momentum, not losing it. It means you are faster than you were when you were planted and coasting into a pack. Picking up your feet while approaching a stopped tripod is absolutely terrifying, but it lets you hit with momentum. It gives you a chance to explode a wall. It gives you more options: Do you hit with speed or do you redirect at the last second. Maybe you aim for the middle and drop the toe stops to run the inside line. Maybe you hit a seam and slide through the blockers.
Side note: You may have to spend time practicing what to do after you hit a seam and burst through it. Moving your feet will keep your momentum moving forward. It has happened where a jammer (hi) was so surprised that they did the thing and it WORKED, that they stopped moving their feet and immediately fell. So don’t be surprised if that happens.
Talk to your blockers
Some people think that being a jammer means floating out in the ether by yourself, getting to control your own destiny. The best jammers will never think of themselves as an autonomous unit, but rather a part of the pack they are matched with. Success of the team depends on the ability for jammers and blockers to communicate, adapt, and work together.
As a jammer you need to understand how your team fields blockers and the strategies preferred by each. Many teams will do packs one on, one off. Some teams set up blocking pairs and rotate through pairs. Some teams use blocking lines that seem random, but [hopefully] have an underlying method. Every pack is going to prefer different tactics and be good at different things.
For example, we have two packs that primarily play for my team. One pack is very good at stopped derby, the other team is very good at rotation and movement. If my team is playing a ‘long game’ strategy and I am going out with my pack that prefers a stopped pack, I need to understand that I have a different responsibility as a jammer. Not only am I playing for points, but I am part of the defense.
Hold up, I don’t mean that I’m responsible for blocking the jammer, I mean that I am responsible for 1) doing as many laps as possible while the jammer is being held by the blockers, 2) not breaking up the defense for selfish point gain, and 3) whenever I enter the back of the pack, I need to create forward movement so that my own blockers are not forced to bridge or get drawn out of play. By me forcing the other pod forward, I help my own blockers maintain a pack.
Before I go out for a jam, I check in with my blockers. If it’s scrimmage, I’ll ask “What are you working on?”, if it’s a game I ask “What are we doing?” In practice, you get a chance to learn your habits, what works for you, and more importantly what DOESN’T work well for you. I like using practice time to work on different goals. Often that includes my improv ability, which is why I like letting my blockers work on their goals, and then I can adjust my plan accordingly.
When we go into a game situation, I work with the blockers to analyze what has or has not been working against our opponent and how to incorporate that into our own game strategy while also helping me to get the f*ck through for lead jammer. It’s all about getting lead.
Mid-jam, my favorite things to say to the blockers include “Keep them moving!” “Sweep” “POINTS” and “I need the pivot!” Talking to your blockers when you can, and them talking back (I like when they call for me before offense or when they remind me to drive a pack forward), makes a huge difference in game play. We all have to trust each other on the track, and the key to trust in any relationship is communication.
Blaque Jac knows the importance of communication on the track. Photo by Phantom Photographics
Consider shapes and angles
Roller derby is math and science. You always hear your coaches say move your feet and get lower. Hopefully, as you improve, you start hearing them say “run the angles” and “turn your shoulder”. Why? Geometry and physics.
Moving your feet (the basic advice to make any starter jammer better as stated above) simply takes advantage of Newton’s 1st law: An object in motion tends to stay in motion. With inertia on your side, it is easier to get past more stationary objects. I just talked about this but I feel it bears mentioning again! Get lower? The lower your center of mass and gravity, the harder it is for you to fall (this also gives you more leg to gather up potential energy from the floor to transfer to kinetic energy and inertia).
Running the angles means that you are not picking straight lines on the floor, so can take advantage of vectors easier. You are a moving object, with magnitude, and can put that force into something else if necessary. Think of it this way: If you run in a straight line to go between a flat two wall, you have to time your hit, speed, and body movement very precisely to avoid getting sandwiched or stuffed completely. If you come at that same wall at an angle, your timing does not have to be as precise. The angle assists your momentum, and you can take the space of a blocker in a wall to either bounce off of them and through the wall, or to move them completely and keep on your path of momentum.
When I talk about angles, I’m also talking about BODY angles. Think of the shapes bodies take when we play derby. We can be squares, rectangles, triangles, stars, lines, strange quadrilaterals… If we look at what the blockers are doing with their bodies we can be proactive with our own. While warming practice the different ways you can contort. One on one and hurricane blocking (where you can spin around each other) is a handy way to learn how your body can move and contort. The more time you can spend getting out of your comfort zone with body positioning, the better. Why think about shapes?
When coming up against a square, you probably don’t want to be a square. Squares have a harder time getting through because they have generally have more target area for blockers to hit. Dropping a shoulder to make yourself a triangle will allow you the mobility of being square, while letting yourself either duck underneath OR into the blocker coming at you.
“WHAT? INTO THE BLOCKER? I THOUGHT THE IDEA WAS TO NOT BE HIT.”
Something I learned long ago is the Bazooka Method: If someone is pointing a bazooka at you, do you run away? No. You run towards them. Often, this works very well for derby. If you run at a blocker, you take away the angle and momentum they were just planning on having to hit you effectively. I don’t want to give blockers wind up space. I tend to run right at solo blockers and use their bodies to get around safely. They can’t hit me as well, and their team mates often back off a bit because if they don’t time their own hit right, they’ll take out their team mate instead of me.
Back to the shape thing: I have always thought about moving my body differently but never could words as to why things worked. I was chatting at the jammers I coach, and I had the epiphany that our jammers were coming in as rectangles to the pack (we usually say square, but that implies that they are compact). I explained that sometimes we need to make ourselves triangles, lines, or half-moons. Looking at how blockers are set, and how we can shape our bodies to slide through seams at angles or move past blockers while not taking too hard of a blow.
Next time you’re on the jam line, look at the blockers and look at how they are shaped, and how you can counter the shape with your own. Triangles to lean against triangles, half-moons help against parallelograms, lines are effective between to squares, circles can go under triangles.
Move your body in different ways and practice with intent to do something different than normal.
Look at the world around you
Look at the scoreboard, the penalty box, the other jammer before and throughout the jam. Do a quick rundown of your ideal jam in your head. Keep tabs the whole time.
Where you are in the game, the score, how many timeouts you have left, and who is in the penalty box should all factor into your call off strategy. Make sure you talk to your coaches before the game to know whether you are playing a long game or a hit & quit strategy. There are going to be times that you don’t immediately call it off if the other jammer escapes and you will not always be to see your bench coach (or have a bench coach to look at). You should also know what the plan is as far as springing people from the box.
Note: Your blockers should be aware of goals too (go back to the whole “talk to the blockers” thing).
When you are in a jam it is easy to get tunnel vision, it is easy to forget that the rest of the world exists. I joke that I am best when my FoF (Fight or Flight) kicks in, which usually happens around the end of the first period from cardio exhaustion. When FoF hits, our bodies no longer think about the tools, we just utilize them to get the hell out of a stressful situation (the pack). Without practice, this can mean our field of vision narrows instead of widens, and we may go into ‘default’ mode which often means your oldest tricks and not always your best moves.
“Head up” is said almost as often as “get lower” in roller derby, and for good reason. If you’re in the Sad Place and looking at your feet as you grind away, you’re not going to see your offense coming in to disrupt the tripod. If you’re so focused on that gap that currently exists in lane three as you approach the pack, you won’t notice that your friends are holding a SWEET pick on the inside line to let you jump the apex. If we default to our old habits, we become predictable.
How do we practice widening our view? Do it in your every day life. When you’re walking through the grocery store, use your periphery vision to calculate the rate of speed of other shoppers, and how to maneuver safely through the little old ladies navigating the spice aisle. Take note of shoes people are wearing without looking at their feet, or how many kids are running past you without looking directly to count. When you are at practice doing drills, be mentally active throughout. If you’re waiting for your next turn to go, watch the movement of your blockers to understand their speeds and accelerations. If you are in a paceline, do check ins with everyone’s pace, how everyone is standing, and how players move when their endurance is lower.
Always be looking around you. Always be making note. Always be calculating. At first it will be a conscious decision, but after a while it will become second nature. Then when you’re on the track, you won’t have to pull your head out of a tripod, you’ll already know that your offense is coming on the outside line, so you can disengage and dart to safety.
How do practice incorporating more tools? Repetition repetition. Do the footwork drills. Do them again. Do them faster. Do them slower. Do them on shoes. Do them whenever you can. Eventually your body will just incorporate the footwork into your regular movements and you’ll find yourself popping out of packs in ways you didn’t know possible.
Dziubinski just can’t help smiling sometimes. Photo by Ken LeBleu
Jamming is hard. If you’re a week into playing or 10 years, it never really gets easier. We are in a constant state of flux. Jammers improve so blockers change tactics. Jammers learn how to deal with the tactics, and new shapes and strategies emerge. The biggest lesson I learned this year is that I will always have to work to be stronger, faster, and braver. I also learned that the only constant in derby: is change. Go with it, don’t resist it. Always be learning, always be listening, always be adapting, but mostly: always be loving it.
Did you like this blog? How about the others? Consider buying me a coffee from afar so I can keep writing!
I recently got home from my latest gypsy romp in the world of roller derby, starting in Calgary, Alberta and ending in the grand Las Vegas derby mecca of RollerCon. I watched, I studied, I contemplated, I watched again. Not only did I learn a lot through watching the elite athletes from 20 nations, but it hit me in the derby feels. There was more than just tactic and technique I saw, and after a few weeks to let it all settle, I wanted to share with you all things I realized through the adventure in Calgary. Editing note: Please excuse formatting inconsistency. WordPress continues to be the worst platform in which to write and create. 😀
Here are my take aways from the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup in Calgary, Alberta:
Bashing the snot out of each other on the track isn’t always the most effective derby strategy – unless you can mix in control… then it’s highly successful
Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Finland, Italy – they are bruisers. They are teams with hard hits and fast feet. Their blockers will leave welts the size of a softball with ease. They play the “let’s kick their ass” game. Teams like USA, Canada, England, Scotland, Belgium are just as brutal and imposing, but there is a game play different: they beat their opponents to a slower speed and then catch them in a net of positional blocking. The successful teams at the World Cup were able to balance brutality and control.
Just trying to beat a jammer senseless alone often has the undesired result of pushing them forward and through the pack like a pinball. I watched many jammers face (what I call) a turnstile of blockers facing backwards. The blockers would, one at a time, take a ding at the jammer, who would rebound off the hit, regain their feet, collect the point and move onto the next. It wasn’t successful at stopping them, merely bounced them about a bit.
From a jammer perspective, the skaters who were able to use their shoulders like jack hammers to bully their way through a wall, around an edge, or to level a backwards blocker were the ones who scored a lot of points. AS LONG AS they had the footwork to capitalize on the hole. I would see jammers come in hot to a pack and use their shoulders to drill a hole, or duck to get around a pack, but without the proper burst to get past the blockers, they would end up as a smear on the concrete.
Offense is a thing
If anyone from Puerto Rico or the Netherlands are reading this they’ll flash back to me LOSING MY MIND during NO-ffense. When blockers watch their jammers get beat to hell on power jams it makes me very protective of those jammers. Yes, sometimes they need to do it for themselves, but sometimes you need to stop the tough love thing and HELP. You have 30ish seconds with which to score as many points as humanly possible. “Blockers make points, jammers collect them.” (Smarty Pants) So go make some goddamn points!!!
Plus, you only have so many jammers. Protect them like they are delicate lilies; whether it’s day 1 of a 4 day tournament or the 7th and last game of the weekend.
Americans are super lucky that the rest of the world speaks multiple languages.
So many times I had people come to the Elite booth that were from Europe (and not England) and they spoke fluent English. Actually, most of the teams were made up of people who spoke multiple languages. Every now and again I’d have someone come up who was not English speaker, and I felt dumb and lost. Dammit, Americans: Teach your kids multiple languages! I have made so many friends from the World Cup because they happen to speak my language.
Champ UnKind and I agree: Uptown Funk should be played during every half time
Why? Having to do with #3, dancing breaks borders. There is nothing more phenomenal than a Sunday morning early bout and seeing participants from the Netherlands, Spain, and Puerto Rico grooving together. Hell, maybe if Uptown Funk was played in the streets we’d all love each other more because we’d see that we’re all the same. And we just wanna dance.
After hours, don’t trust the shirts on the backs of MRDA players
I kind of knew this already, but after several “Oops I’m an asshole” moments [that I was able to play off (thank you, white wine)] I learned to ask this question first: “Are you actually Flustercluck or is your jersey lying?”
Honestly, I love the tradition of swapping jerseys! It shows community and camaraderie that stretches across oceans. I kind of wish WFTDA skaters did this. A few of the men I talked to were confused as to why we don’t. Maybe we’re too protective over our kits. It’s a thing of pride and friendship to swap out at the end of a hard tournament with someone you respect. But yea, always ask if the person in the jersey is the one whose name is on the back.
THE KEY TO SURVING THE LAVA AS A JAMMER….
Ok, so my big Sherlock mystery from this weekend has been this question: “Why are some jammers so successful taking outside lines, while others get splattered when they try to do [what seems to be] the same technique?”
As I have been re-watching games, I have spent most of my energy looking into this. The jammers of Team England, particularly Sully, Fish, Alien Al, and Giggity all were able to attack the lava (the absolute edge of the track/tape) and come out on the other side often unscathed. Meanwhile, teams like Italy and Japan had jammers that would attack in a similar style and get constantly recycled.
The first thing I noticed as a difference is the acceleration going past engaging blockers. Team England jammers are excellent at bursting with speed a split second before passing opponents, which throws off the blocker’s timing. To achieve this, more pressure most be applied into a toe stop or edges as the blocker you’re attempting to pass is ALMOST hitting you. The chance of survival increases significantly when the burst is timed so, while other jammers would get flattened for their hesitation.
The second part that I noticed (and it was Finland that helped me realize), is that many jammers turn their hips to open into a transition a moment too soon. The result is that they are trying to get past a blocker either A) after they have completed their turn, so their hips are a wider target to the incoming blocker or B) After the momentum from the torque of their initial turn has been lost, so the jammer does not have enough energy to counterblock the energy being put into them by the blocker.
Ok, let me say that again:
If you turn too early, your hips are going to be square to the track and you’ll be skating in the opposite direction, when you are hit. OR if you turn too early, you will have lost extra energy you gain while spinning. When you are driving, and you make a sudden, sharp turn you feel the inertia playing on your body, right? You feel more force driving you, don’t you? (Protip: It’s not centrifugal that’s a made up word). That’s angular acceleration, and you want more of that happening when Optimus Grime is coming at you full force with dreams of Gold shining in his eyes. Want to know more about the physics I’m talking about? Just go watch this video.
When you watch game play these are minuscule adjustments. I can only guess that the timing change comes through diligence, IMMENSE body control, brevity, and a squad of mercenaries to practice against. Rolling off a hit from Sutton Impact hurts a lot less than taking it square in the ribs, so your body learns and adapts.
^ It may seem to you a basic realization, but finally seeing it with my own eyes made a world of difference. Now to practice it………
International superstars don’t mean everything to a team
Who wasn’t dazzled by Sausarge Rolls, Bled Zepplin, Reaper, Pibe, or Tank? These are men known on the international stage. There were plenty of derby celebs dancing around at World Cup, infamous for their strength, smarts, and prowess. However, there were also a lot of teams with names unknown that pulled together when the time was right and stunned us all.
Mexico came out with skates blazing against Canada, causing everyone to rush to track 2 to see what was going on. Chile, after a hard time in their group play, stunned us all by beating Spain by double. Puerto Rico’s final game involved coming back from a 50 point difference, and holding the game to an 8 point differential at the end, even as 4 of their ‘star’ players fouled out from the game. It was awe-inspiring to watch a pack of 5 people who had barely known each other before the weekend, a few of whom had barely played entire derby bouts in their life, come together into strong defense and rally to keep Italy on their toes and out of bounds.
Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Belgium all played tremendous derby throughout the weekend. Some names rang familiar, but the world now has solid memory of skaters previously unknown to them. These teams came in without huge superstars, and played well together, and did amazing things on the track. They created new derby celebs in the likes of Ashby, Lt Damn, Optimus Grime, Track Vadar, Jones, Skate Plissken, Roche, and Trick or Threat. Ok and please know there are a TON more skaters that I want to recognize, but I don’t want this to become a blog of names ❤
The point is this: yes, having tried and true players on your team is awesome, but don't get hung up on them. I've seen too many teams panic when their star player can't make it to a game, or gets injured. Every single one of us can do amazing things when we pull together with our squad and work as a team. Don't undervalue 'the little guys' in your league. Lift them up and expect the best out of them, and they will give it.
“You can either yell about the call or play derby. I suggest you play derby.”
I had to say/yell this at least 12 times during the Cup. Ok we all get peeved on rules stuff. We all see things happen or [not] get called that makes us go “DAFAQ REFS?” however when you’re in the middle of a jam, that is not the right time to stop what you’re doing to throw your hands in the air in disgust. Play the game. Control what you can control. You standing in the middle of the track signaling for a forearm penalty is not going to put the ref in the position to have seen it 5 seconds ago. Move on. Skate hard.
ONE HAND IS EVERYTHING
Dear folks who have mastered the ‘one hand out of bounds’ thing: TEACH ME YOUR GODDAMN JEDI WAYS. I know that a ton of folks have used this since the clarification came out. I was impressed by how many jammers got knocked backwards, caught themselves with one hand VERY out of bounds, only to regain their skates after the blocker had triumphantly removed themself from the ENTIRE PACK thinking a cut was imminent. The jammer, meanwhile, skates forward to freedom. I think Rollomite had the move patented by the end of the weekend.
WORK ON BALANCE PEOPLE! And back bridges apparently…
Even if you don’t leave with a medal, you still win at the World Cup
The amount of stories of pride I’ve heard during the event and since brings tears to my eyes. The people who have met new friends, taken on derby legends, and scored little victories with a team of their nation is remarkable. The officials, photogs, announcers, vendors, EMTs, volunteers are not left unaffected. To watch Japan get their first win, to watch Argentina who were the little guys of 2014 finish 6th, witnessing Mexico coming out of the gate with something to prove, to see Australia unseat Canada on the podium, to see England give the USA a run for their money, to witness all the apex jumps, tremendous blocks, and incredible timing, to be in the room when so many proposals happened … it leaves a mark on you. Every person who was a part of the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup in Calgary, Alberta will have friends around the world for the rest of their lives. We took care of each other, cheered, danced, had our hearts broken, and triumphed as one.
If there’s anything I regret about the World Cup is that I couldn’t be on both tracks all the time, and there are some teams I didn’t get to watch as much as others. But that’s ok! 2018 isn’t far away. You should go like the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup on Facebook, and maybe host the next one…..
Thank you Chinook City Roller Derby. Thank you Roller Derby Elite. Thank you nations of the world. Thank you roller derby for being the best thing that has ever entered my life. It’s hard to believe that my World Cup experience was followed up by as equally of humbling of a RollerCon experience… but I think I’ll save that for another blog.
Khaos Theory Blog is run completely off my own funds. Make a donation now to keep the blog going!
Kristie Grey (Merry Khaos) has been playing roller derby since 2009 and has coached almost as long. She has worked with over 20 leagues in 11 states, and five countries. She has coached on and off skates at Beat Me Halfway 2014 & RollerCon (2012-2015). She currently skates with Tampa Roller Derby. Active in health and wellness, she is an active Herbalife Health Coach, rock climber, and power lifter. For questions, booking, requests of topic, or help with a nutrition plan, message Khaos at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com
It’s that time of year: we are less than a week away from the MRDA Championship in St. Louis: River City Rumble. I have taken on the task again of giving the derby world a look at what the can expect this weekend. With the expansion of the tournament to 10 teams, my task this year is more daunting than ever before. I will do my best to keep each article even in length. It will depend on how much I know about each team, though. You have been warned.
Your 10 seed is here by (for them) fortuitous circumstances. The Twin City Terrors are actually ranked #14, but due to a variety of reasons the #10-#13 declined the invitation to Champs. Having done a lot of research for predictions before the rankings were released, I can say that (according to math) TC is as good of an opponent as any that declined. I do not think they will be a dull team to watch.
This team is no stranger to tournaments, having played in two every year for at least the last three years. This year they had a particularly daunting tournament schedule: 3 tournaments: Midwest Brewhaha, Rolling Along the River, and River City Warm-Up. They lined up 7 times this year against top 8 teams including playing the Gatekeepers and Texas Outlaws twice, and also Bridgetown Menace, Puget Sound, and Your Mom on top of an additional 5 sanctioned games. Since TC obviously has had Champs on their mind, this highly challenging season had to be chosen by design for solidification of team work and to test nerves under pressure. They’ll need that experience for champs: they meet the Bridgetown Menace again in the first round, and the winner will play the Gatekeepers. The loser will play the loser of the Magic City/Aftershocks bout.
But who ARE the Twin City Terrors?
They are a team that has the potential to play like Shock Exchange, as long as they keep up their training and focus. Their walls can grind down jammers when the game is slow, they have far better bracing and positional blocking than I was expecting when I sat down to watch Brewhaha footage. In a sport where players love looking jammers in the eye, Twin City looked as comfortable plowing a jammer to stop as they did tossing a backwards block at them. If there is anything I have learned from watching the WFTDA playoffs this year is that the difference between a good team and a great team comes down to their ability to plow stop. If Twin City can take a note from their WFTDA counterparts and begin to really ratchet down their speed control and recycling, they’ll be in good shape.
In both their Texas and Puget games at Brewhaha, Twin City came out strong with slow walls, coordinated offense, and a protection of the lines that slowed down Scott Slamilton and Dr. Feelgood. Steve Sweat #808 and Egon Strangler #42 are impossibly fast at the top of the pack. Often they can catch jammers who have a head start, and knock them out of bounds before the end of the engagement zone. At the same time, Timchilla #3 (whether as pivot or jammer) has ridiculous fast feet, and was able to take advantage of the offense given. Derby Monster #00 and Freight Train are the bruisers of this team that also moonlight as seriously effective jammers. In the tournament I watched, jammer penalties (cuts primarily) killed the momentum of a team with many weapons in their tool belt.
If Twin City can keep calm and keep their packs together, they’ll do well this weekend. Their blockers are strong, they just have a tendency to get split up when the game gets fast. If they can use what they learned from playing Puget Sound at Brewhaha and apply a pack definition strategy to keep the game slow and at their pace, they will do well. “The Great Wall of St Paul” is what coach Betsy Wrecksie calls it: working together to remove speed from the game and control the other team’s position. Twin City has had the advantage of Wreckie’s experience this season, she was formerly Minnesota All-Star’s head coach in 2014. She knows how to help a team gel.
Baron von Bean #609, Luce Wheel #103, Jamnit Dim #31, and Sampson #66 are the guys you put out to glue the walls together. You may not always notice them, because they are quietly holding their team mates use them as the rock to form around. Recent transfer Ogden Smash #64 will only add to the solidity of walls, being a very smart strategist and very effective at getting in the opposition’s way.
Bridgetown is also a ‘jack of all trades’ kind of team, so it will be fun to watch these two trade blows in the first round. If Twin City can stay focused and engaged the Great Wall and not allow the bruisers of Bridgetown to split them apart for too long, they’ll put up an excellent fight. Where Bridgetown will have a solid jammer rotation, Twin City seems to come into games a little looser. They have a deep jammer pool and tend to throw in a variety of people ‘to see who sticks’. They may need to call on the power of Freight Train to push through the likes of Cozmo Damage, but keep an eye out for rookie N8s Gonna Nate who made a big impact at Brewhaha.
Coach says of Twin City’s attitude going into Champs:
We’re pretty sure we’re not heading home with a first place medal as we’ve already played the one and two seeds and while it was a welcome challenge – they were pretty one sided games… If we can go as far as to beat [the Aftershocks], I think it says we were supposed to be here at champs even if we weren’t the first choice. Win or lose; we are all extremely excited to be taking part in MRDA Champs and proud to be the first Terrors squad to do so.