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.
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.
Living in a house with powerlifters and bodybuilders, and going to a ‘sweat on the walls’ gym has opened my eyes about training in the last eight months. Not just training for personal gains, but the way roller derby, as a sport trains itself on the track and off. There have been many conversations breaking down the conventions of training in roller derby, and comparing to the conventions of other sports.
Along with rhetoric, I have seen my own progress jump dramatically since beginning a 5×5 powerlifting scheme. I was able to track a noticeable difference in a new league from January (first practices) to May (home team champs), and for me the proof is in the pudding.
We are a new sport. We’re still trying to figure out how to play the game, much less how to train for it. I’ve noticed some habits and some structure about our training process that is not helping us improve ourselves and will not help the sport as we pass it on to our daughters and sons. I wanted to share some things, quickly, that I have been pondering. I’ll be doing expanded writings and I am restructuring the training book I was writing to reflect these new insights.
I think I’m going to get a lot of finger waving at the end of this article. We, as a community, have not be super stoked to hear that we may need to change things. We certainly don’t like hearing that there are ways outside of our league to look at training, business, or the basics of derby. Trust me. I have seen the wrath of derby girls faced with change. However, here I go again, putting my ‘radical’ ideas out there. Feel free to post at the bottom how much you disagree with everything. 😀
When looking at our history, I believe the protocol of training today is largely based on what the women of 2008-2010 did for their own training. Stick with me on this one: This is when the sport started to boom. Suddenly, women of all ages and skills were coming into a rapidly evolving sport. At this time, the average age of the derby skater was PROBABLY between 28-32 years old.
Many of these women had never played a sport before; their way to train to improve was to simply skate more (and that definitely has to be considered in a training plan when you have no experience on roller skates). Some of us caught on that we needed better fitness in order to compete with the women who already had a few years jump on us. This led many of skaters to begin using that derby buzz word: Cross training.
Most of us didn’t know what cross training really meant, or how to approach off skates training for roller derby. So this misconstrued system of Insanity training, land drills, and long distance running started cropping up as part of our system of preparation for bouts.
This brings up my first point:
We need to stop training for fitness
Most of the derby skaters I meet do their ‘cross training’ in the form of high fitness workouts (CrossFit WoDs 4x a week, P90X, elliptical training, Zumba, hours of yoga). Ok, before you get angry let me explain where I’m coming from:
If you are skating 3 times a week at practice, and then going to the gym and doing 2-4 days a week of high cardio work, you are really just burning muscle (and some fat) and [if you’re eating right] getting cut muscles. To look cut is rad, but does not help your explosive power or your recovery from one burst of power in a jam to the next (and it certainly does not help when you get slammed by that 200# blocker looking to take your legs out). Elliptical training does not help prevent bone injury. P90X won’t help you break a wall.
Training like you’re trying to lose the Freshman Forty is not the way you should train for roller derby to be successful in the long term. Training in a way that is purely fun or aligns with your social conventions does not make you better at any sport. These workouts that we’re talking about should be done as secondary conditioning and accessory work. They should not be your primary source of training off skates.
We need to redefine ‘beauty’ within our sport
Oh yea, roller derby loves say that “every shape is beautiful.” Our at home ‘lose weight’ training mentality shows that we are more generally more concerned with 6 pack abs and long, lean limbs than any of us realize. We are fighting the conventions of beauty, especially those of us over 30; we get easily concerned with the myth of a slowing metabolism and how our younger team mates, or the folks at the pool of ECDX will view us. We are more concerned with society’s vision of beauty than we are with what it means to be strong and at low risk for injury in a contact sport (ie having some cushion and mass).
And it’s not just women. Men are not safe from these social norms of beauty and sex, and I have many friends that end up questioning themselves over it, regardless of their strength or abilities.
At RollerCon, there was a very short challenge bout with shirtless men: Magic Mike v Chippendales. On social media sites, admittedly, I was part of the sexist storm of commenters. (One, it’s fun. Two, men in our sport is still pretty new. As a derby-obsessed, straight, single woman of not as many years – it’s nice to be able to turn the male gaze away from the sexy derby girls in fishnets and pigtails and put the female gaze on the shirtless men sweating and hitting each other.)
Side note: I was just excited to see an all-male challenge bout. The shirt off thing was just an added bonus.
Leading up to it, I had several men contact me asking if there was any way to adjust their fitness or nutrition to get better abs in the couple weeks leading up to RC. (I had to disappoint them and say, “unless you want to do some drastic changes and not drink before the bout, there’s no magic pill to shed all the fat in a week”) After the bout, I was asked a question by a skater who is arguably one of the top 5 male skaters in the world: “Did I look gross out there? You know, with my shirt off.”
**Mouth Gaping Open**
First of all – do you know who you are? Are you sure? Secondly, yes, you look great! (I was trying NOT to look too much, actually. I know many women who did NOT restrain themselves.) I wanted to yell at him: “You may not have the photoshop-crafted abs of an Ambercrombie ad, but that’s ok. Know why? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?” Seriously! That bout was sexy in every way, but mostly because highly skilled men were playing roller derby. They could have been playing in parkas and it would have been an amazing bout (though you’d probably have to burn the parkas afterwards due to all the sweat).
We need to release the ideals of Western beauty and embrace the awesome of each of us. If you’re skinny: fantastic! If you’re not: fantastic! If you’re jacked naturally: great! If you have skinny arms: that’s cool! Now let’s lift some heavy shit, flip some tires, put on our skates, and hit each other without worrying about being judged by our team mates about our body.
I have written about this before. It’s a struggle for me big time. I’m single in a growingly co-ed sport. I also powerlift. I am trying to be highly competitive at roller derby. I had the internal conflict months before RollerCon: do I want to look awesome in my bathing suit, or do I want to be able to get past Tink on the track?
There was a moment where I thought to myself, “Oh wait.. it is hella sexy to be able to get past Tink on the track. So, in theory, if I accomplish THAT, I will look AMAZING in my two piece, because it’ll be ME.” (At least that’s what I keep telling myself)
When I really think about it, beauty conventions vs training modes may be our biggest adversary.
We need to start training for a contact sport
No football player is doing 5000 burpees to prep for the season. No rugby player is only doing yoga to prepare for the pitch. No hockey player is trying to cut to a ridiculous body fat percentage mid-season. Roller derby is a brutal, physical sport. We need our training to reflect that physicality and hardness.
Like any other sport, there are a variety of pieces to the training puzzle. I am not implying that anyone should cut their WoDs, or their yoga, or their P90X completely. To be successful, the incorporation of weight training and conditioning must be included in our system of norms as the primary ‘cross training’ piece, with the other stuff as accessory work. We need to train for strength, not weight loss.
Side note: Many skaters come in, as I had said, with no athletic background. Many come in overweight and out of shape. For many skaters, fat loss does need to be a part of their training consideration. Too much weight in a roller sport means extra strain on knees and hips, and the higher probability of injury. However, let’s not get obsessed with getting from 23% body fat to 19% body fat [like I was].
“The improvement of performance in athletics over the past few years has been phenomenal. For example, twenty years ago the average football lineman weighed 250 pounds and ran a 5.2-second 40-yard dash. This was considered to be nearing the genetic limit for a player. Now running backs that weigh what the lineman used to weigh are running 4.4-second 40-yard dashes! Strength training has made the single, most positive contribution to this type of improvement. Today strength training influences every athletic program in the country, no matter what the sport – male or female. Athletes now find it necessary to lift weights and participate in conditioning programs to better prepare themselves for the competitive rigors of the athletic season.
Just a short time ago, most coaches thought that strength training would cause athletes to become muscle-bound and would be counterproductive to good technique. Now it has been proven that athletic performance depends either directly or indirectly on qualities of muscular strength. We must remember that strength builds the foundation for ALL other athletic qualities. For example, if you do not possess great relative body strength (strength in relation to your body weight), you will never be able to run fast. This is due to the fact that all aspects of proper running technique require high levels of muscular strength. In other words, if you can’t achieve the proper knee drive, arm swing, posture and push-off, you can’t be fast.” (DeFranco)
You call it extreme, I call it “what it feels like 185# on my back”
Let’s be real honest here: Weight training isn’t fun. It’s fun when it’s over. It’s fun when you successfully lock out twice your body weight on deadlift the first time. It is fun when your friends tell you that your arms are awesome (Your derby friends will say this, of course. Your lifter friends will comment about the improvement, but will never imply that you are at the pinnacle of your journey). Not every hockey player likes to lift weights, but they do it because it is necessary for improvement. Every player of every competitive sport lifts weights because it is necessary.
“But Khaos! We’re on roller skates. Look at how successful all the speed skaters are in our game. They don’t lift weights. If we just spend more time on our skates, we’ll be successful.”
“Weight training for speed skaters is not all that different from what you see in other athlete strength programs. The key for skaters is to build up strong legs and core. They also put quite a bit of emphasis on balance.As for the legs, squats of several varieties are important, as are leg extensions and hamstring curls (and so much more). The upper body work is also important and typically includes a tremendous amount of midline work. It is typical to see these athletes utilize some basic strength programming including supersets and dropsets in different capacities and arrangements.” Read the whole article here (it’s got a lot of good training tips in it!!) (Chasey)
Also, can I make a note that the top men’s team in the world, Your Mom, does not spend all THAT much time on their skates? They don’t have to train their skaters how to do crossovers, they can do that on their own time (and I’m talking the none speed skaters too, folks). And Gotham? They have weights in their warehouse so they can make weight training part of the weekly program. The focus is more on the strategy, the training, the understanding of the game than it is on using practice time to go over 360 turns.
We need to properly warm-up and cool down for practice time
A 2 minute dynamic stretch is not enough to get our bodies primed for the hell we put it through on roller skates. We are not teaching our new skaters how properly warm up before activity and subjecting all of us to the probability of injury. On the other side, it is rare that I have been a part of a practice of any league that has a proper cool down.
When I was with Harrisburg Area Roller Derby, we had an amazing volunteer who was dubbed Full Commando. He was our Yogi. At the end of each practice, we would spend 15 minutes doing yoga designed to bring down our heart rate, stretch us out, prep us for bed (Harrisburg practices ended at 11:30p), and prevented future injury. When our sister-in-arms, Stella Stitc’Her broke just above her ankle, she had minimal ligament damage. She told us that the doctor had attributed to the flexibility developed through skating and yoga at the end of practice.
We need to understand that sometimes, less is more
I came from the P90X-obsessed mentality of “If I’m not wasted at the end of my workout than it wasn’t a good workout”. I have come to learn that you can put in excellent work, and an appropriate amount of excellent, hard, teeth-grinding work … and sometimes you feel like you have more to give at the end of the workout. And that’s ok. In theory, everyone should be running a specific program (do what the numbers on the sheet tell you – don’t make it up as you go). Programs are designed for certain things on certain days. Deload weeks in weight training may be boring, but they allow your body to rest so that you can perform stronger the following week.
This also touches on the subject of CrossFit. Those of us who have done work in a CF box may have the thought ingrained that you have to go until failure. True progress does not [always] require that. Look, imam just leave this editorial (written by a certified CrossFit coach) RIGHT HERE about the “keep going” culture created in CF gyms. There should be pain and struggle and a question as to whether you’ll finish your rep, but having been lifting for a while now – that last set of 10 pause squats feels SIGNIFICANTLY different than that last 5 minutes of “Super” Angie.
If I didn’t get enough people riled with that section, let’s see if I can stir the pot with:
We need to restructure our season
And in turn, how our rankings are created. Have you ever encountered any sport where athletes train 11 months out of the year?
Roller derby athletes do not have the benefit of the pre-season/season/post-season/off-season structure that other sports have firmly in place, that determine their intensity and type of training. Derby is forced to ignore the season and mash all of their training, as best as possible, into each week of the year.
Strictly home team players are the only ones that [seem] to get any kind of break from gameplay, but it is the travel team skaters that you want to be fresh. January through June is when most travel teams smush most of their game play into, right?
But now with the new WFTDA rankings, more all-star teams are pushing their seasons later into the fall to be sure they maximize the equation in place currently. Plus, if you do make a divisional tournament, your now have an extra 3 game week of intense play put onto the end of your season [a month or two later]. If you make champs, you again have another intense weekend ahead. If you play on a home team (which most leagues require of their travel teams), then you have extra competitions layered into your already intense season.
Men are running into this too. The MRDA ranking system is still shaking out its bugs, and as of right now the majority of rankings come from the January – June season. However, July and August are the months where you get your final shot to break that Top 8 for champs. There are teams playing tournaments into these months for a shot to increase their rank. Then? They won’t play until October.
From what I understand, USARS has a similar schedule for their championships. Oh, which some flat track teams have been participating in. Add one more piece of your season in. Then there are also the extra tournaments…
The last couple years we have another element to think about: mash-up teams. All-Star mash-up games and tournaments are being placed in the only off season that organizers can find: the winter. This means that players on your top tier are never resting. Their only chance for a recovery period is if they actually injure themselves.
This is a real problem. This is seriously going to hinder our sport from achieving maximum levels of top competition. We are destroying our athletes. This needs to seriously be taken into consideration. We are the only sport I have found where ranking competition can (and does) take place in any month of the year.
Recently, I took a couple weeks off to start to heal up my ankle. I skated a scrimmage here or there, but really nothing major. I was concerned about getting to RollerCon and having no idea what I was doing. They say you lose it a bit as you stay away from the sport. You know what actually happened? 7 out 9 bouts I felt on top of my game like never before. Coincidence? Maybe. Rested? Definitely.
SUBTOPIC: Rest is cool
In general, derby doesn’t like to rest. #NoRest. But recovery in your weekly routine is critical for healing, progress, and injury prevention. Teams that play a 4 game event on Saturday/Sunday and then turn up for practice on Monday BECAUSE IT’S REQUIRED are at a greater risk for injury. Your muscles need to a chance to rebuild after a game. Teams really need to look at their practice schedule and include ‘deload’ time before a game (like not scrimmaging), and recovery time right after a game (like canceling practice or doing a couple days of non-contact, lighter skills, and team work basics).
We need to stop encouraging a culture where unhealthy eating is cool
That’s great that you got cheese fries and a beer after practice. It won’t help you recover. That’s awesome that you’re taunting your friend who is drinking her shake for the first time that you’re eating a burger while they’re trying to limit saturated fat. You’re making her feel bad for a healthy decision just because you don’t want to make it.
Not everyone is going to be into eating like an athlete, and I understand that. But can we please stop this culture of “Doesn’t bending over for a cupcake count as a squat?” No. It doesn’t. It’s fine that you don’t want to be at the peak of your game, but don’t mock others for their athletic nutrition. And if you do mock? Don’t be offended when they lap you during cardio, start getting more play time on the team, or transfer to a better league because the current league has encouraged the bully culture.
The sad thing is that it’s usually our friends making the jokes. They think their being funny. It’s not funny.
One more thing to make me unpopular… our AFTER PARTIES. Can we please talk about not encouraging our athletes to drink copious amounts of alcohol, while providing fried bits of vegetable-like substances, and dinner rolls? Can we talk about an after party that is for the fans, not for the athletes so much? You can try and tell me (and yourself) all you want that beer is a fine post recovery drink, but guess what? It isn’t. Plain. Simple. It doesn’t count. Here’s a short read for you.
Ok, this blog ended up being WAY longer than intended, but I needed to start putting these things out to the universe. I feel very strongly about starting this health and strength revolution, and I’m glad to know I do have some other people on my side. For our sport to get to the next level of athleticism, and to be one step closer to professional play, we must take a hard look at our training: How it is structured, why it is structured that way, the culture that supports/negates it, and our behavior to our fellow skaters. We need to put these things on the table within each league so that, one by one, we can revolutionize roller derby for the betterment of the sport and our athletes.
My name is Merry Khaos, I am a member of DNA Coaching and a health and wellness coach with Derbalife. We are currently booking boot camps for the next 15 months. Send me an e-mail at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com to get the ball rolling on having us come to your league. Want to incorporate a “how to train for roller derby” day? Let’s do it! I am also available to help you piece together a nutrition plan and training schedule so you can smash through your goals. Let’s work hard together!
Imagine rushing up to the backs of four very strong, stable skaters at near full speed. Imagine the blur of the yellow tape on the floor, the glare of flashbulbs off of the plexi glass, the noise and the cheers, and the pounding of your heart in your head. And then somehow, you’re backwards and ducking. Suddenly you’re pushing through a hole in the wall you had not seen, but you sensed. With twist and turns and ducks and power you hold your ground and then see daylight. You push. You push like you pushed the prowler, you twist like you did in practice and you move your feet like you have been training for four years.
And then you’re in the air of the arena again, crossing over with fluidity against the draining sap of the sport court that sags when you stop pushing. You’re in the wide open with people looking at you and cheering and unsure who this skater is that they’re just really seeing for the first time. And you think about what just happened, and you don’t view it from a first person perspective, because you don’t feel like you really did it, you just let it happen. Your body did it for you. You let yourself go to the situation and trusted your instincts and let power and intent wash over you and drive you through.
And you were successful. But you don’t quite know how.
That was most of the Championship bout with the Mobtown Mods for me. I remember doing things, kind of. I couldn’t tell you how. I just let my body go on autopilot. The vets had always said that eventually it would happen. You would find your zen and just start doing things. It started in practice that week and continued into the game.
What is the MENTAL GAME?
In every sport there is the talk of “The Mental Game”, but I feel that the term gets thrown around to mean many different things. Your mental game could be how you handle pressure, how you react to new situations, how you trust your feet, how you read a pack, how you release fear and go on autopilot, how you steel yourself after a team mate has gone down with injury. I am going to talk about a few things you can do to increase your mental stability during game play and practice time and what I have done to help better myself internally for roller derby.
Make Practice Time Harder Than Game Time
You play like you practice. We have all heard it, and hopefully digested it and spewed at someone else. If you play like you practice, and you allow yourself to get away with drills at 50% than you are going to play at 50%. If every sprint you are pushing your hardest, and every step of footwork is done with hard, clean precision than you will slowly prepare yourself for the intensity a game demands.
If you find yourself able to go through the motions of the drills easily, you are not pushing yourself. Gotham is not a three-peat champion because every practice they do fancy new drills that you haven’t heard of. They are champions because they do the same drills over and over and over. Not until they are perfect, but until they can’t get it wrong.
The moment that you are bored in a pace line, that you catch yourself thinking “This again?” that is the moment the mental game kicks in. You need to build the mental strength to do that drill, and do it with focused strength and intention. Bring yourself internally in that moment and think about doing the drill in a way you never have: look behind you more often, take note of the wheels the people around you are wearing, learn to sense the people around you and how close or far they are, learn the width of the track while you are bursting harder and stopping faster.
Every moment you can sharpen your mind while in drills will translate to better gameplay at game time.
How will your mind know where it’s going, if you don’t decide where you’re going?
Goal setting should not be arbitrary or hastily done. Take 30 minutes of quiet time. No TV or internet, and turn off Spotify; just you, a notebook, and a pen sitting together. Center yourself and think about what you want to accomplish in a year. Write it down. If it’s one over-arching goal or many goals, write them down. Now look at them and see if you can turn them into SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relative, Time-Specific).
Statement: Be on travel team.
SMART Goal: By June 30, 2015, I will be a starting player on the All Stars.
Once you have your year goal, you can work backwards. Your relative goals don’t have to be a replication of the long term goal. If your goal is to be an all star, what smaller goals can you set for yourself that will make you all star material?
Between now and December 31, I will attend 1 boot camp per month.
Between now and December 31, I will decrease my 30 lap time by 15 seconds.
Between now and December 31, I will increase my squat PR by 75 pounds.
These goals are not “I will be looked at by the all stars”. You cannot control when the all stars will actually begin considering you, however if you make self-improvement goals that make you a desirable skater for the all stars, you’ll be working towards your goal of being one. Let’s break it down further. So you have mid-range goals, so let’s make some shorter term goals.
Possible short term:
In 6 weeks, I will decrease my body fat by 3%
In 6 weeks, I will be able to do a 120 pound front squat.
In 6 weeks, I will be able to hockey stop.
Boom. Just keep making your goals smaller and more precise, and keep working backwards. If you find that you are creating goals that do not relate to the longer term goals, ask yourself why you want to achieve those things. If I just randomly say I want to be able to do 5 pull ups, ask yourself why? How does it relate? Maybe add in another long term goal so that you can see the long term advantage of being able to do those pull ups.
When your training is hard, when you are feeling discouraged, come back to these goals. Read them daily. Put them in a spot where you can be reminded of them. Use post-it notes. Get dry erase markers and write on your mirrors. Remind yourself and you will be motivated forward. Your brain is easily set astray – keep it on track.
Make declarations, set intentions, listen to motivation
I am a firm believer that the energy we put out is the energy we put in. Motivation and mental clarity takes work and maintenance, just like our fitness and nutrition. Our mental game does not only come when we put on our sneakers or skates, our mental game is present in every facet in our life. We believe what we tell ourselves. If you spend your ‘real life’ enveloping yourself in negativity, no amount of positive reinforcement during training will help you overcome a difficult drill or a plateau.
When you wake up, listen to an audiobook of personal development, or go onto YouTube and find a motivational video to watch and listen to. (Ted Talks has a lot of good stuff too.) Listen to it, without distraction. Absorb it. Take those first minutes of the day for yourself and for your mind.
Then, write your intention and declaration for the day. Make them strong and clear so that you and the Universe know what it is you are going to achieve that day.
Examples of intentions:
I intend to meet 1 person today who I can help.
I intend to complete my full training circuit without taking extra water breaks.
I intend to run for 45 minutes.
Examples of declarations:
I am worth a healthy life.
My past does not define me.
I am greater than my bank account
Words of negativity are not my truth. I do not have to bend to meet them.
I deserve happiness and strength.
Audiobooks full of Personal Development and Declarations: Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T Harv Eker
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan
Start. Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, Do Work that Matters by Jon Acuff
Fish! The Book by Stephen Lundin
“Fear is excitement, without the breath.”
We hear it all the time, but why do we hear it? There is the obviously the direct physical advantage to having more oxygen in our body as we’re trying to complete a task. There are multiple mental aspects as well that are often not thought about.
For example, did you know that your brain uses about 20% of your oxygen intake when you are at rest? So if that much is used while you’re sitting doing nothing, can you imagine how important it is to keep your brain running while it’s sending out electrical signals to every muscle and nerve in your body while keeping your mind sharp for physical reaction and strategic thinking? If you are not breathing, you are depriving your muscles of strength AND you are depriving your muscles of strong neurological signals that they need to work powerfully.
Let’s also think about heart rate and breathing and the brain. “Fear is excitement, without the breath” (Robert Heller); when we are scared, we try and starve the fear by holding our breath. Think about when a hit was coming for you, and you weren’t confident enough to dodge it. Think about your first time wearing the jammer panty. Think about if you have ever been in a car accident or ridden a roller coaster.
When we hold our breath all we do is increase the fear. When we are afraid, part of our brain shuts down and stores memories independently – which might be fine if you’re in a car accident, but if you’re in the middle of a jam, you need to be in control. When we breathe, and stop starving our brain of oxygen, the fear turns to excitement. It is a complex chemical process within the brain where we understand that we are not in danger, despite a feeling that we should be. I can’t say it nearly as eloquently as Shirah Vollmer.
Breathing also has a direct effect on our heart rate. (An increased heart rate, which can be effected by the lack of breath, can also cause fear within the body, ps) When we breathe steady, our heart rate comes down. Our heart can keep up with the athletic needs of our body and we can perform more optimally. Breathing has been a source of centering and focus for thousands of years, so why turn our back on the practice now? When it gets hard, when you get tired, breathe.
When I jam, for example, I will count my strides after I break from the pack. I will also have made conscious efforts in every training session to breathe in and out distinctly (whether I’m skating, running, or pushing a sled). It helps me to focus on the task at hand while my body is getting the oxygen it needs.
Moral of all this: KEEP BREATHING!!
Practice and scrimmage and practice and scrimmage
We play a sport that is unlike anything in this world. We must play offense and defense at the same time. We take away the stability of our feet and play on wheels instead. Everything about all of the techniques we use are unnatural to our body and must be trained.
Which means that you cannot ever stop practicing.
The mental clarity that you see in the top athletes does not come from luck or talent, but repetition of the game. Earlier I mentioned that drills will get boring. They should get to a point where you can do them without getting them wrong. When you get to that point, make them faster, stronger, harder, sharper.
Push your limits at scrimmage. Play different positions and with different packs whenever possible. I also believe that getting out of your comfort zone in scrimmage can strengthen your mental game. I have spent many years playing in mash up games and in challenge bouts. When I was a lower level, it made me more aware of my surroundings and listen better to the leaders on the floor so I could complete the strategies. I had to think on my feet. My mental awareness and reaction improved because I did not know where these people were going to skate to or do next. I may have been able to hop into a scrimmage with Madhouse Mexi and know where she was going to block, but in a pack with Battery Operated, I had no idea.
So you learn. Now that I’m at a higher level, the mix up scrimmages help me make quicker decisions and communicate more effectively. I am able to play with higher level skaters in a way I never have before, because I understand what they are going to do, despite never having played with them before. At Northeast Derby Con, I had a wonderful jam with Richard Gaudet of Mass Maelstrom. I knew his style of skating because I’ve seen him, but we were able to communicate non-verbally in order to hold the jammer behind me while he guided me from the front. Using my legs and small steps to maintain position, and Gaudet’s guidance and stability, we were able to effectively hold the opposition while we communicated to our other two to play offense for our jammer. (PS when she finally did get around us, we were able to recycle to the front and come back together almost instantly. It was pretty awesome.)
Without having been in scrimmage after scrimmage over the years, I would not have been able to react in such a clean, direct way. The mentioning of Gaudet brings up a good point. Move out of your comfort zone! If you’ve never played co-ed before, why haven’t you? What tools could you learn from playing with different body types? Have you ever played on a bank track? MADE or USARS rule set? Go do something new.
By taking yourself out of your comfort zone in scrimmage, you are putting pressure on yourself that you don’t feel with your home league. Repetition of pressure in a scrimmage situation will help your brain function under conditions of increased endorphin levels and less oxygen (which will be very helpful training if you ever find yourself with the star in the last jam of the game with only 20 points separating you and the opposing team in the Championship bout).
Watch footage, talk shop
To be the best at the game you must understand the game on a deep, psychological level. To understand the game, you must watch the game and discuss the game. Not just what motions skaters use, but you must talk out the strategies and the theory of roller derby. Watching footage is not just useful to understand and train for your opponents, but it gives your mind a visual solution to problems when they come up on the track.
Roller derby is a series of “ah ha” moments, no one can argue that. I have overcome many “What the hell?” moments by simply accessing memory banks of game footage I had watched previously. I knew the solution that Rose City had used, so I was able to attempt the same maneuver, or predict the next motion of the jammer because I had already seen someone else do it.
Watching the bouts and then taking the time to digest and visualize yourself completing the motions successfully and definitively will give your brain a baseline of what to do and when to do it. We do the things we tell our brains we can do or have done. If you take the time to do visualization exercises of making the apex jump, completing a Pegassist, stopping on a dime; your brain will believe that you have already done them, and when the situation comes up in game play, the fear will disappear. Your brain will access the file that says that you have done this before, and will present that option to your muscles.
Creating those ‘card files’ in your brain of different solutions for strategic problems is critical in the development of your mental game. Instead of panicking because you don’t know what to do in the situation, your brain will calmly instruct you on your options. It is easy to see what skaters have not watched game footage when their jammer is knocked out of bounds and drawn backwards. Skater who have seen this done before will move forwards, in the hope to suck in the jammers coming backwards, to put them on a negative pass. Jammers will pace themselves and watch the hips of the person who knocked them out of bounds, so that they can enter legally, but as far away from the approaching wolves as possible.
Skaters who have not watched footage will either come right back onto the track, to promptly get a cut track penalty, or they will stare at their bench with that “What now?” look on their face.
Don’t lie. We’ve all seen that pack of blockers that has no idea what to do in this situation because they’ve never seen it done before. Well. You’ve seen it if you watch footage or go to live derby.
We all fall into patterns, including our coaches. Our brain needs a little bit of variety to stay sharp. When we are in a familiar situation for learning over and over again, our neurons have a tendency to get a bit burnt out, so to keep it fresh – never turn down the opportunity to learn from someone new. Coaching variety not only offers new drills, but also new explanations of old skills. A new explanation could finally help make something ‘click’ internally so that you can complete a physical skill. When teaching plow stops, specifically, I always tell new skaters who are having trouble with the skill to ask EVERYONE how to do it. You never know who you are going to learn from.
If your league is (sadly) not open to the idea of various coaches, or having a guest coach come in now and again, you must seek out new learning opportunities on your own. Boot camps are becoming very popular across the globe. They are a great chance to get a lot of information from a new source, and have access to new insights and teaching styles. The newness of it will keep your brain focused on the drill, even if you’ve done the drill before or you are advanced at the skill it is teaching.
Going to training events like Northeast Derby Con, RollerCon, and Beat Me Halfway are great opportunities to learn from a smattering of coaches in a short amount of time. It is a great way to learn, and for many they serve as a reboot. They refresh the brain with new and interesting techniques to apply to the drills and skills and coaching that is going on at their league that they may previously have been mentally fatigued by.
Also, it again trains the body and mind to function and perform together in new and difficult circumstances. You’re being watched by those who you may admire. You’re on a floor you are not used to. You are working with people you are unfamiliar with. The situation demands a mental focus and clarity that will benefit you in the comforts of your home rink.
The mental game is a complexity that we must not forget in our journey through training. Even in this blog, I barely touched on how to create new focus in cross training, motivation to complete the tasks you set up for yourself, or how to tackle the depression and disappointment that comes along with injury, naysayers, or plateaus. Continue your journey and continue your personal development. Continue to breathe and continue to challenge yourself to make everything come together in little pieces. Never stop learning. Never stop practicing. Namaste.
I am unsure what it is about our brains, but one common theme amongst all humans I have met or listened to is that we doubt ourselves, our abilities and our dreams. Even those who have risen to the greatest heights compete with negative self-talk, upper limit problems and limiting belief structures.
Since I have been down here in Baltimore, life has been a constant roller coaster of ups and downs in emotions, and the only thing that has remained constant is the self-doubt within. The difference is how well I handle it. Personal development has been critical to my remaining sane, and I have noticed that the days I handle my internal thoughts poorly are the days that I did very little personal development.
It’s more than just “the power of positive thinking”, it’s about training yourself into recognizing self-destructive thoughts and behaviors and having the will power to re-direct the energy or reframe your state of mind.
The triggers I have. I can definitely tell when I am being self-demeaning and destructive. I even know how silly the words in my head sound. There are times where it feels downright laborious to turn around the negativity into positivity. It feels like lead in your chest and salt in your eyes. The tricky thing is that I can only tell you, who may be facing these same issues, what works to get me out of my valley. Every person is going to have something a little different.
1) Remember that if anyone else talked to us the way we do, we certainly wouldn’t be friends with them.
If we’re not keeping toxic people around us, why should we keep toxic thoughts? Yes, easier said than done, but if you remind yourself of this every time the negativity creeps in we can start to eradicate it. If you do have friends that say things to you that make you feel terrible, maybe it’s time to think about cutting the toxicity out of your life. If you hang out with people who wear shirts that say “My Life Sucks”, chances are you are going to begin to believe that too. Not good.
2) Partake in a physical outlet
If you do something on the regular for workout, do something different. Challenge yourself. “But wouldn’t I just be setting myself for failure?” Maybe you might struggle with rock climbing or racquetball if you’ve never done it before, but if you focus your energy on learning the new thing or practicing the new hobby, that’s less time for you to dwell on whatever it was that set you down your negative path to begin with.
3) Write down 10 things you are grateful for
Gratitude journals are amazing. Keeping a small book in your purse, car or even just a piece of paper in your wallet can help you when the mood of depression or despair randomly strikes when you’re out and about in your day. Write down what you’re grateful for, or even 5 things that are going really well for you in your life or that you’re looking forward to. You can even write a gratitude list or goal sheet and put it on your wall or on the dashboard of your car.
4) Eat well
So many of us turn to food when we get bogged down in life. If you keep healthy snacks and treats in your house, then even if you lose self-control and binge out on celery. Well. That’s a good thing. That bowl of berries may have sugar, but at least you didn’t just put away 3 frozen burritos. Eating healthy can help your brain produce all the good hormones more often, and those with a healthy diet and exercise routine have been shown to be less depressed.
5) Schedule one day a week to spend with friends
This could be a girls’ night, game night or LAN party. Whatever you want to do to make sure you’re getting out and being in a positive frame of mind. It’s easy to feel guilty about setting time for ourselves, the self-talk may tell us that we’re not working hard enough or we don’t deserve the time with friends. But you do. No matter what you think, you deserve the time where you are happy and surrounded by friends.
6) Begin saving for something fun
Even when you’re stress comes from financial worries, having a coin jar that you put money into (and don’t smash!) to build up for something big can help you feel better about the direction you’re going. Plus, it gives your brains something to dream about. And dreams are always magical and happy things.
I get funny looks when my radio is working (even more when it isn’t working) and I have my windows rolled down and I’m belting “Defying Gravity”, “Rent”, “Nobody Does it Better”, “Let it Go”, “Dog Days Are Over”, “Radioactive”, “Edge of Glory” … you get the point. Pick the mood that you want to be in and grab a song list from there. If you need to sing out some angst get it out and move on. Use it as the release and then move forward.
8) Dance like no one is watching
Yup. When I’m not singing, I’m dancing. Again… usually in the car. “How to Be a Heartbreaker”, Glee’s mash-up of “I Will Survive”/”Survivor”, “Miss Jackson”, “4 Minutes”, “Body Movin’” … if you see a black VW with derby stickers and a chick rocking out in the driver seat – that’s me. Say hi. And throw down some moves yourself.
Why do you think I did this blog?
Not just writing out your gratitude journal, but sitting down at a keyboard and opening yourself up to be a little vulnerable. You don’t ever have to share the thoughts with anyone, but expressing them can be highly cathartic and help you get through whatever valley you find yourself in. If you have a passion, sit and write about it! It doesn’t matter if it’s knitting, cooking, lizards or Sumerian art… it doesn’t have to be your feelings, it just has to be something that will redirect your energy into something positive.
10) Listen to personal development
30 minutes a day of reading or listening sets a solid foundation for positivity in your life. Doing it in the morning, when your mind is most open to new thoughts and ideas is the best time. If you need a reboot mid-day, don’t be afraid to look up a video by Eric Thomas or Jim Rohn or Zig Ziglar. They are wonderful and can give you the energy to puff up your chest, do the hard deeds, keep your integrity and get things done.
Sometimes I just have to close my eyes, take a breath and remember that no matter what is happening… no matter how something may have fallen apart or shifted directions, it is not because I am fundamentally unlovable. It is not because I am doomed to be a failure or because no one stamped “WORTHY” on my forehead when I was born. Sometimes, it’s just the Universe throwing things in our way. Sometimes, life happens and the strongest among us rise above it, and the rest stay in bed and wonder why the pit in their chest won’t go away.
Breathe. Dance. Write. Sing. Be Grateful. Love your Friends & Family. Find art that you love. Find a new hobby. Be active. Be healthy. Listen to positive thoughts. Create triggers to recognize negative self-talk. Overcome. Be your best. Step into greatness. Love and you will be loved.
I have to be honest, until I booked the plane ticket I didn’t even know where Big Bear was. I had associated with (don’t laugh Next Wave people) COLORADO. There was snowboarding and big mountains in the photos … it had to be in Colorado, right? California doesn’t have mountains like that! (Geography student FAIL)
Last February Kristen Adolfi qualified for Big Bear and I saw all these photos of one hundred Herbalifers on the same team in these amazing mansions in the mountains – they were drinking healthy cocoa and becoming friends and getting a boost for their business. All I kept hearing was “This is awesome. This is so amazing.” And I made the choice that I would be there in February 2014.
So I qualified.
I found out I qualified only about a month or so before I had to be there. So the plane ticket was booked, I realized my geographical mistake and I realized that 2 major goals of 2014 was going to be checked off the list: Visit California. Qualify for something huge.
This year we only had 24 people qualify and what you had to accomplish was different (though still challenging) and what it did is that it really brought the NEXT WAVE of leaders in the Addy Organization together (Jill and Mark Addy are my AMAZING upline). So instead of being overwhelmed by 100 people I’ve never met, which may have caused me to hide in a corner and not talk to anyone, there were only 20 people I didn’t know and we all got to be friends.
Hiking. Pool. Table Tennis. Food. Shakes. Even some wine. Lumberjack Fit Club. Hot Tub. Team call from the hot tub. Olympics.
I ended up being the Fire-Tenderer because for some reason this weekend, my fear of flames subsided and my excessive need for warmth took over. I also did Warrior Pose on the edge of a drop off this weekend with Krissy Krash- and for anyone who knows me, you know I have a pretty crippling FEAR of heights. I felt it start to go away now. Maybe before it just came from my complete lack of balance…
This weekend really solidified why I work with Herbalife. It’s not just for the energy I get from my nutrition plan. Not just for the amazing way I feel after I drink my shake. It’s not just because I can set my own hours, make full time money with part-time hours or because it’s a great excuse to be fit.
It’s because of the relationships I get to build and the friendships I get to create. I get to work with my best friends and I get to have best friends from every part of the world and I love it. I get to help people change their lives. I get to help people live stronger and longer. I get to help people be healthy and independent. And through doing that, I get to live stronger and longer. I get to be financially independent. I get to teach and I get to be taught. BY MY FRIENDS. I get to dream about all the things that I can accomplish with my friends.
And I can’t wait to meet my new friends in the upcoming years. Who don’t I know yet who will be like Andrea Wright? Teri Bossard? Amber Butyn? These are ladies who I didn’t meet in person before they began their nutrition plan and now I can’t imagine not having them influence my life. They are the reasons I push on and I keep doing what I’m doing.
I’m going to continue my dream of coaching and training roller derby leagues (I’m booking now, actually). I’m going to start inviting people to work out with me when I’m in Baltimore (and when I’m anywhere else). This weekend in Big Bear with new friends who are all starting out their dreams like me – it made me realize that affirmations are amazing and useful. But only if you start doing the work. So now is the time to stop making excuses and start doing the work. Keep your eyes peeled! It’s time to DO stuff and BE awesome.
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