Buy-In Vitality and What it Means for Your League

What do I mean by ‘buy-in’?

According to the Wiktionary (yea I didn’t know that was a thing until just now):

buyin (plural buy-ins)

  1. Supportagreementblessing (in a secular sense).
    To win, I need to get buy-in from the team to have alignment with our mission.

    Let’s show the idea around and get buy-in from marketing.
    Synonyms: alignmentapproval

You know how there are teams and groups where people are willing to go the extra mile, even without threat of punishment? Have you ever seen a rec sport team or a school group where people are putting out information to the public without being asked? Where members are talking up the team in their local coffee shop or favorite dining spot? Where members get sponsors just because they were at their favorite spot and talked to the owner about how great the team is and the owner asked about sponsorship?

You know that feeling when everyone is in for the same goals, everyone feels valued, and they all believe in the mission of the team?

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That’s buy-in.

Why should we value the buy-in of our members?

The more a person buys into a team, the more likely they are to perform league duties without being begged, they are more likely to train hard, and are more likely to have a positive attitude at practice. I am speaking of skaters, coaches, announcers, officials, EMTs, and every other piece of the derby pie. We all matter, and we all make the derby machine run. When we feel valued, we are motivated to work harder on and off the track. When your membership works off track the result is:

  • Increased membership & volunteers
  • Increased in transfers
  • Increased membership & volunteer RETENTION
  • Increased sponsorship opportunities
  • Increased attendance at games

“I’m happy at practice, and I want to tell everyone, so I do! SQUEE!” When we value our people, and they work harder on the track, the result will be:

  • More effective practice sessions, thus an improvement in game play
  • More effective official training, bringing up the level of all who participate
  • More realistic scrimmage/game situations, with a more complete production element (when you have full officials and announcers show up to a scrimmage night, it is incredible)
  • Volunteers will travel outside of the league and bring back valuable information and experience to increase the quality of home scrimmages and games.
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Buy-in for officials and announcers is critical too. Having people willing to spend money to travel outside of the league can bring valuable experience back home.

 

So how do we increase buy-in of our roller derby league, individual teams, and yearly tournament events?

Integrity

Do you have rules? By-laws? Stick to them. I don’t care who they are. If you want a special exception to be made, take it to a vote. “But that’s too hard!” It shouldn’t be, because you shouldn’t be breaking the rules to begin with. If you’re going to try to as leadership, you should have to do extra work. By-Laws should be reviewed regularly, and as situations come up within a league culture, the league or representatives of them can discuss actions and revisions. Nothing will destroy the buy-in of your membership like breaking the rules for certain people.

Integrity also needs to be in how we treat one another, on and off the track. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If a league is going to do something, do it. That’s everything from donating money to the charity you’ve partnered with to being honest with skaters who are seeking feedback and a path to charter teams to following through on events and appearances with sponsors.

Let me say it a little clearer: Don’t lie to people. It’s not nice. People won’t trust you.

Transparency

Training, rosters, staffing changes, vision of the league, finances, and goals of the team are all things to be transparent about. If your charter team suddenly has new faces on it, while your B-team sits in the wings wondering where that person came from … chances are you have some things to come clean about. This goes for other volunteers too:

Let’s say you’re never staffing that announcer who’s actually pretty ok because you want to give your regulars more opportunities, but you never tell that announcer. You just let them keep signing up on the sheet. Maybe you don’t let the newer refs skate during home team games because you would rather bring in outside officials, but you never tell those home team refs what they need to do to improve. These are cases where you need to re-evaluate your communication and transparency about your goals. (‘You’ as in the grander ‘you’ of leadership).

In this sport, we all control our own destiny, we all get to decide what type of team and culture we give our beloved energy and hours for. We just want to know what’s going on. When skaters feel like secrets are being kept from them, resentment grows. Transparency and communication get easier as we practice it. Just like the sport.

Let me say it a little clearer: Don’t lie to people. It’s not nice. People won’t trust you.

Structure

There are plenty of studies that show that clutter raises anxiety. It should be no surprise that clutter and frazzle in an organization can have the same effect on its membership. Tryouts, charter changes, rosters, and training models all need to be structured. We crave structure. It keeps us informed, it gives us goals and focus. Structure allows us to be the best player and team possible!

Pain and Khaos
How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re at right now? Photo by Down n Out Photography

Many leagues only have new skater tryouts during prescribed times of the year to keep the program focused and moving forward. Why not for your charter teams? Why not have quarterly skill checks that double as charter tryouts, but also to give feedback to your skaters so they all know what they should be working on? Some teams fear to change the charter because of seniority, having tryouts a few times a year can alleviate that pressure to not disappoint people. Overall, there needs to be some sort of path to the All-Stars, even if your team is not competitive. It gives people something to shoot for, and can up the commitment of skaters during practices and over the year. Remember that integrity thing I just talked about? Charters, feedback, and roads to higher levels of play are what we need the most honesty about.

Moving to the back-end, structure in your business is critical. If your league or team has shoddy leadership practices or business framework, then money is just going to fall through the cracks, and people are going to transfer as soon as they are brave enough. Lack of leadership or behind-the-scenes organization leads to last minute decisions, people getting left out of the loop, events being mishandled, and people being mistreated. We’ve all seen that league that might play derby well for a while, but their infrastructure is a hot mess and they are constantly turning over people.

Keep in mind: Just because you have structure, like by-laws, it doesn’t mean the work is done. Things need to be able to change over the years to accommodate the shifting trends of your league. I have seen many teams get stuck in the circle of “Well this is how we do it”. It’s fine that it’s how you do it, but is it the most efficient way to do it, or is that way to protect certain people/convenience/because you like it better? This means everything from charter team structure to board structure to captain expectations and behaviors.

Believance

Your people are awesome. Seriously. Even that one skater that is always nosing into people’s drama. Or the one that has severe anxiety and ends up doubting themselves by the end of most scrimmage practices. So is that one super bossy one that really is just covering up their insecurity. And the one that is really tiny that you think can’t be a successful jammer but really is. And the one who chatters when they’re nervous. And the one that always looks mad. And the one that is injured.

They’re all awesome.

DUTCHLAND FUN
No one is perfect, and that’s kind of awesome as it is! Embracing the fun, accepting each other, and believing in our friends is what can make this sport so amazing.

 

Guess what isn’t awesome? Telling people that they’re not good enough because they look mad. Or because talk to themselves. Or because don’t hang out at the pool with the team, but watch the derby instead. Or because they officiate. Or because talk a lot. Or because they’re trans. Or because they don’t fit the social norm. Or because they have a kid and can’t travel to outside tournaments to officiate.

Leadership has to put value and believance in all of their people. If you have a charter of 9 or a charter of 19, you have to value every person and build them up. Not just with words, with actions. Pumping them up at practice is necessary, but when it comes to game day, you need to keep up the high fives and positivity.

If you tell your jammer rotation that you DEFINITELY have faith in them, but then turn around and invite skaters from other teams to jam for you on game day – you are not showing that you have confidence. You have just undermined all your effort to build up the buy-in of your skaters because they were just benched for a ‘ringer’ from another team that didn’t practice with the squad all year. You have been shown that they are replaceable, and that a W on the scoreboard means more to leadership than their development and commitment.

If your team only does charter changes when an old friend comes back, while others continually struggle to get attention by the selection team, what motivation does anyone have to improve?

If leadership always gives feedback as, “Well you’re little so…” or “you’re big for a jammer so…” how is that going to make the skater feel valuable? They have just been told that their body is wrong, and so how can they think that leadership believes in them?

If you tell your announcer that they are great, and experienced and valuable, but then never staff them for home games, how long do you think that announcer will stick around?

Now I ask you:

Would you want to brag to your local coffeeshop about your team after these experiences?

Believe in your people and their abilities and you’ll never force someone to question whether they should pass out those flyers or tell their friends to transfer.

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Flyering groups would go out after Saturday practices in Baltimore to promote. We believed in our league and wanted to tell everyone about it. Even when it was really cold out.

Conflict Resolution

When problems do come up (and they will) having an action plan of addressing it in an adult manner is key. Friends of mine who just moved to us from Albany introduced me to the OUCH / OOPS method that I absolutely love. If you hurt someone with something you say or do, you say OUCH. They are then obligated to take a second, digest what has happened, and say OOPS as the acknowledgement. From there you decide if you want to talk it out now, or deal with it later – either with someone or one on one.

We should also keep in mind to assume the best intentions. We have a lot of people in our sport, and a lot of delivery methods in our voices at different times. I speak way differently on the track then I do in coaching mode, with my team, or even with my pod of blockers. Voices are tricky to navigate, we all have different experiences. One person may hear inflection and be unaffected, and another person is going to hear a voice and subconsciously be triggered remembering the way their father would talk to them before hitting them.

We do not just navigate roller derby when we have interpersonal reactions, and we have to keep it in mind. Getting mad that someone misunderstood you only exacerbates the issue. We have to be understanding that people will hear us differently, since some of us just have inflection and cadences that do not always jive in the ears of others. People need to be open to the fact that they may have one of those voices that is going to be misunderstood and work to be understanding (while the people around them need to assume best intentions).

Trust me.

TRUST ME.

I’m pretty sure over the years that I (and a few of my friends) have been held off of teams, rejected from tournaments, and denied access to the pool because of our voices, cadences, and individuals assuming the worst instead of the best. We have to always strive to do better. I always preach self-assessment. That’s for both sides. Don’t assume the worst. If you have a question, you can always ask. Or OUCH it. That said, think about what you’re saying. How you’re saying it. How you can always say it better or different.

 

So what can we do? What are some action items to make things better?

Changing a league culture and leadership mentality is not something that happens overnight. Having a team of individuals that create a list of league norms and expectations is very helpful. And don’t just make a list. Talk about them. Post them. ENFORSE THEM. Empower everyone in the league to talk about how to make their time better, and how to hold people to the new norms.

League surveys are also a great easy and quick way to get a beat on the way your skaters are feeling. If you’re not doing one at end and halfway point in the year, you should. Ask the hard questions:

  • Do you feel valued? Why/why not?
  • How do you feel the tryout structure could be improved?
  • Describe the league culture in 5 words.
  • How long do you see yourself staying with our league? Are you considering transferring?
  • How would you rate the communication of leadership to skaters?
  • Are you satisfied with the roles everyone has in the league? How do you think they could improve?

Again these are just some example questions, there are a ton you could ask, just depending on where your league is, and how the vibe of the whole place has been recently.

Keep in mind: Officials, announcers, and individual teams can have their own cultures as well. If the overall culture of the league is healthy and happy, but a sub-culture has undercurrents of turmoil, that could spill over into the league culture eventually. Each team is responsible for creating and maintaining cultural norms within their groups.

If everyone is empowered to make it a happy place, and if issues are dealt with as they come up, and if we all assume the best intentions, and feel valued and heard – why wouldn’t you buy into that league?

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ROLLER DERBY IS FUN. We forget that sometimes.

I truly believe that no one wants the experience of roller derby to be miserable for anyone, and if the buy-in of a team is low, it’s usually just because the people in leadership don’t realize there is a problem. In all my years, the most recurrent theme I have seen is this:

Leadership does not see the issues on the ground floor because they are not on the ground floor, and the system works great for them. Why would they actively change something that they don’t see as an issue?

So that means it’s up to the people who see the issues to raise the concerns. Be brave enough to come to your board with ideas and ways to solve the problems you see. Or at least ask if you can have a round table with them and some others to talk out personal issues. It’s not always fun. It’s definitely not comfortable, but to increase buy in of all skaters people have to be unafraid to say something.

Increasing how much you care about the buy-in of your league will have great results (maybe not immediate, but over time): More skaters, more sponsors, more people at games, more people promoting the events, more people coming to events, more opportunities to do events, etc etc

Alright so go out there, talk to your friends. Believe in your team. Encourage your volunteers. Hear what people say. Be fearless in the face of change. And go make the best team you can!

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Harrisburg Area Roller Derby 2011 – we weren’t perfect, but we worked together for our goals.

 

** Cover photo by Keyesboard 2014

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RollerCon ’18 Ups, Downs, & Being Better

“Roller derby is a mind f*ck.”

If you’ve ever taken a class or practice with me, you have probably heard you say this. Roller derby is a series of weird skills and strategies that will undermine your confidence and sense of self-preservation. Usually our brains do this subconsciously, or at most, it brings up the “status bar” of attempting to do a skill.

RollerCon for me this year, was not me coming in and overcoming physical barriers, this year it was all about the mental mind fucks of not knowing where I belong. In our jammer pod in Tampa, we have all adopted dessert names, and I chose Cronut since I’m always in identity crisis. For those who came into RollerCon (or any other mixed scrimmage event) with trepidation, you are not alone.

Usually at RC I come in knowing that I’m not the best, but I’m solidly competent. I’m a decent coach, I’m good at skating, I’m a good blocker, an OKish jammer, a pretty reasonable ref, and an occasionally funny announcer. I’m not the best at anything, but gosh darnit – I can hold my own with the big guns on any of it.

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Look at how many people came to my Fancy Feet class! And this is after about 10 people on skates and 8 people off skates left. ❤

Jammer paralysis. Blocker doubts. Ref misgivings. Announcer stage fright. Coaching faux paus. All this during a year where I just wanted to show my friends that I’m really good. I just wanted my friends to agree that I am just as good as they are, and can hang. I Just wanted to look at everything and go “Yup! I’m still relevant. I’m still growing. I’m still good.” And midweek I found myself in panic mode thinking:

WHAT THE FUCK AM I? WHAT HAPPENED?

Ok, the background. This year at RC I ….

Played in 8 (?) 30 minute games

Officiated 1 B&W scrim, 1 30 min game, 2 full length games (OPR Fury Road/Matrix & JR East/West)

Announced 2 30 minute games

Taught 4 hours

Took two 2 hour classes

Helped the SM of the Drag Show get sorted (before getting a concussion & having to pull out from helping)

Spent around 6 hours at the Roller Derby Elite Booth

…..And this was a light year of activity for me.

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Before officiating with two of my favorites: Pete in the Pool & Milikin Cookies

I didn’t have any full-length games to play this year, and was taken off of the rosters of games I had previously been rostered. Between the removals, the lack of games, and my guilt over switching schedules, I was already in a bad headspace coming into the Con. Match that with low performances in front of my friends on day one, having the jammer star taken out of my hand in 3 different games on day one, and feeling overall ineffective, I was a train wreck.

RollerCon is supposed to be fun. I’ve always gone because it was fun. Let me say that playing with AA skaters this year was, overall, NOT fun. And I hate that.

I miss the challenges & scrimmages where we ran every jam because we only got to play 3 times in 30 minutes. This year, people were screaming from the bench to call it off so we could win. This year, I didn’t see people pull back to allow for a fun, even up scrimmage (unless we were shouting “C level!” as officials). I saw dirty (and dangerous) hits and hooks happening from skaters that know better, simply because they were frustrated with not being immediately successful. I was told that I didn’t deserve to be on the track as a blocker in one game, that I wasn’t good enough to jam in another, and scolded about being wrong when I was trying something in a third.

I also heard several pods being lectured about how they weren’t playing derby well enough. Feedback is one thing, but let’s make sure that we’re doing it right.

I remember Smarty Pants being on the bench with me during a black and white early scrimmage before ECDX a few years ago. Were the packs perfect? ANYTHING BUT. However, she didn’t talk us down, she talked us up. What did we do right? How can we capitalize on that next time?

Telling people that they are wrong about derby does not help anyone. It takes them out of the fun, out of the moment of strength, and makes them want to quit. I almost stopped skating a few times this week. I felt like if I didn’t have the respect of those AA skaters, if I didn’t look like I could hang with the ‘Big Dogs’ from the audience, then why am I here?

This was only underlined by the fact that some of my friends have gotten very good at derby and are gaining a lot of notoriety. You at home. You that feel guilty for feeling jealous of your friends being noticed while you continue to work hard and go unnoticed? I see you. There are a ton of us in this community.

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711 vs Buckees

We spend so much time at RollerCon oooing and awing the AA skaters, that we forget to acknowledge the hard work and advances made by others. Every year you may feel like you never improve when you go to an event like RollerCon, but I have understood that it just means we’re all getting better at the same rate. This year, I didn’t keep the pace of improvement. I need to work even harder if I want to be at the same level that I have been in the past.

That’s hard for us to accept sometimes: Some of us have to work much harder at roller derby just to keep pace with people who have a knack for the game or have been athletes most of their lives.

For the skaters that are progressing at a quick rate, or that are now a higher level and playing “down” at RollerCon, remember that not everyone has the same story as you. Not everyone has the same training. Not everyone is in the same mental space of “WIN ALL THE GAMES”, especially since what it felt like was “SHOW THEM I’M AS GOOD AS THEY ARE WE CANNOT LOSE NEVER SURRENDER!”

-_- Maybe we all need to stop being so cut throat with this stuff. I personally was a little sad that I got a full uppercut to the face and there wasn’t even an acknowledgement, much less an apology. Yea, it’s derby, shit happens, but come on, yo. We’re not supposed to be ok with injuring each other, ESPECIALLY during a fun challenge that no one gives a shit about 30 seconds later. Just be nice to people.

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MOAR FUN AT ROLLERCON!! With challenges like Matrix v Fury Road, how can you take yourself too seriously??

Imposter syndrome went through the roof because all of this. I know I’m not the only one who dealt with it, and I’m sorry if any of my frustration caused others on the track to question their own ability. That’s the thing about yelling and shouting and putting people down: it spreads like the derby plague. I cried so many times this year just because I didn’t feel like I was good enough. It didn’t matter what track cuts I drew on AA players. It didn’t matter who I cleared, or how effectively I helped to kill power jams. I was told I was lesser and I felt like it.

I was sitting at the Roller Derby Elite booth with my friends Disaster Chief and Peter Pan (Tony Muse) talking about all of this and Tony said, “There was something I was missing, and I had something to learn from everything that happened from this year. Maybe this is all happening because you need to learn something. Maybe you’re missing a piece.” I walked away from the conversation unsure, but when i geared up later I realized what he was talking about.

All this time I had been hyper focused on the physical, but I’ve been ignoring the mental. It’s the same thing that came up at Tiny Tourney. I was missing the fun and the confidence. While my body was getting stronger, my mind was not.

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The challenge: mental confidence after a hard RollerCon while jam reffing the best skaters in the world. Some of whom, you know, think nothing of you. In front of tons of people you respect.

I got so swept up in the competition on the track that I forgot to have fun in a sport that I know I’m good at. I may not be good all the time at all the things, but I am good. The more fun I have, the better I play. I don’t train my ass off to get approval from others (I mean, subconsciously I do but I’m working on that).

When it comes down to it, RollerCon is supposed to be the biggest, baddest, most fun summer camp for adults. And looking back on it, that’s what it was. At the end of everything, the Crew of Cabana 3 made RC everything, even when we had our drunken mishaps or when bogged down in interpersonal ucky.

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Every year I am going to have social anxiety. I’m going to let someone down along the way. I’m going to miss calls. Make questionable calls. Do neat stuff. Fall on my ass too much. Build friendships. Strengthen bonds. Learn more about myself. Get defensive. Get happy. Get sad. Get shouty. Teach someone. Be taught. And maybe even make out with someone.

Every year I’m going to come out thinking Ivanna hates me, that I disappointed Val, that I let down Ump, that Tony’s going to stop sponsoring me, and that Suvi wants me off the team. It’s not true though. I am learning that the minor inconveniences, the little things that happen along the way are a drop in the bucket and we all still love each other at the end of the day.

You should love yourself and your friends too. High five each other, hug each other, kiss your friends. You all deserve love after the trials and tribulations brought on with roller derby in the desert. And next year will be even bigger, even better. Next year, our minds will be overwhelmed by even more incredible roller derby and we will struggle and thrive once again.

So my takeaways this year at the end of everything?

I want to play more derby.
I want to use my shoulders more.
We need to listen to each other more.
I’m actually kind of hot.
I want to get stronger.
I need to take more classes (especially from Grime).
I’m terrible at using a hand drill [but everyone should volunteer & try].

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My “I keep fucking this up” face

I want to get my mind better, and have no idea how to prevent meltdowns in the future.
We should all chill the fuck out a bit.
I want to help build more opportunities for lower level men to play at RC.
I never want to do another RollerCon without a microwave & washer/dryer.
You can never drink enough water. Even when your adult beverages are made with sparkling water.
Cucumber Water beverages at the Westgate are the perfect summer drink.
Ivanna and the team of managers are all made of magic. I think they are unicorns in disguise.
My friends and roller derby buddies are the greatest in the world.
I’m kind of OK with being kind of OK, but I’ll never settle for being as good as I am.

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Until next time, Westgate! Love, Crew of Cabana 3

 

What did you learn from your time at RollerCon?

2017 Musings & mumblings from the wearer of many hats

2017 has been a hell of a year.

This was my year to rebound from my ACL replacement surgery with a hamstring graft on my right leg, the surgery happened on March 22, 2016, and a subsequent partial ACL tear of my left knee which occurred in October 2016. This was my first full travel season with a single league since 2011, every other year had been interrupted by injury or transfer. I came into the year knowing I would be weak. I knew this year would be spent training my body to get back where it was, and if I was lucky, I would advance further.

I went into the season with a scattershot focus: I wanted to reintegrate into my league, gain back my fundamentals of travel team derby, and gain experience as an official and announcer.

I was hoping to make it onto the Bruise Crew (b-team) at some point in the year, but would have been super stoked to make the Sea Sirens (c-team) out of the gate. I applied for tournaments. I worked hard and came to practice, and I think I even made good impressions. I was put onto Bruise Crew. I got accepted to The Big O as an announcer. I looked forward to officiating in the northeast for the first time at Battle of the All-Stars.

Ok, look I’ve rewritten this paragraph five times now, not quite sure how to convey the things I’ve focused on this year, or the ways in which I’ve grown. This is a blog about reflections of a season spent with many hats. It’s going to be a rambling about the good and the bad in our community, and about how I hope we can continue to move and grow forward. How tradition for tradition sake is not always healthy, and change just for the sake of change can be just as bad.

PLEASE NOTE THAT I DON’T THINK I’VE EVER HAD THIS MUCH ANXIETY ABOUT A POST BEFORE. I’m kind of putting a lot of stuff out there from my brain that I didn’t think I’d be brave enough too.. I’m gonna shout out two of my favorite humans, NoMad and Foxxy. They put themselves out there in such a brave way that it inspires me. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t leave your thoughts on this blog, I just thought I should say it. And this is part 1 of 2 so good on you if you actually read the full novel!!

2017 BREAKDOWN

Games played:
– As jammer: 3 (home teams)
– As blocker: 10 (1 home, 9 travel)
– As alt/stats: 3
– Mash-Up Scrimmages: 4

Games NSO’d: 2
Games Refereed: 39 (17 sanctioned)
Games Announced: 32 (8 streaming, 21 house, 3 production)
Games Recapped: 23 (I think… I deleted my D2 folder)
Total games doing SOMETHING: 116

Tournament Totals:
Attended: 10
– As Player: 4 (Tiny Tourney, Golden Bowl, Franky Panky, Hostile TACOver)
– As Ref: 4 (BotAS, Spring Break Swarm, Mayhem Tournament, Classic City Crush)
– As Announcer: 6 (BotAS, The Big O, Southern Discomfort, Spring Break Swarm, Franky Panky, Classic City Crush)
– As Writer: 1 (WFTDA International Championships)

These numbers don’t reflect coaching at Eckerd College the last couple months, all the hours of playing/reffing/coaching/announcing at RollerCon, scrimmages, boot camps, extra footage review, regular practices, league committee hours, or other training that I have done over the season. The numbers don’t reflect all the games I watched FOR FUN, blogs and social media I’ve done for sponsors, or partial blogs I’ve written for myself and then never finished.

In 2016 I was off-skates during tournament prime-time, saving and waiting for surgery. I was still able to announce 25 times, and ref 28 games at four tournaments (and go to MRDWC for funsies) that year.

Also keep in mind that this year, I moved to a new house this year and had a new job, as did my significant other. We took about six weeks off between February and June to move and settle a bit. This gives you a bit of background as to what I’ve been up to.

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Got back to jamming this year with my home team, and had a blast challenging myself against incredible league mates! Photo by Phantom Photographics

On the subject of multiple hats

This has been the hardest part of this season. Not that I wear multiple hats and try to juggle them, but rather that no group seems to like the fact that I do. The vast majority of the time at practice, I am discounted on my assessment of a penalty or rule by my team because I’m “not really a ref.” The vast majority of the time the officials do not listen to my input because I’m “just a skater.”

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of misinterpretations, missing new clarifications, or simply having been told the wrong information, but there have also been times where I have been correct.

Regardless, it is infuriating that both groups look at me as if I’m just pretending to be an official. It has been easing a bit, but in home state especially, I run against scrutiny because of the stereotype that skaters cannot ref well, and vice versa. Even though people like Ninja Sass’em, Keiran Duncan, Spin Diesel, and Jazzy (to name a quick few) have shown that crossing the streams does not end in disastrous results. All have been outstanding officials and players. The mentality that the groups must be separated hurts our game in the long run.

Skaters make easy transitions into officials because we’re familiar with the game, and referees have to be better at rollerskating that the people playing. Remember they have to do all the skating, every jam, with particular body positioning, while doing advanced calculus and geometry equations and assessments in relation to the case and rule books. It is not easy. If you have to think about your feet while you’re watching the pack, you’re already a step behind.

Now, my skater/ref examples have all picked one primary job at this point, but it’s not really a surprise based on the attitudes we come up against. Sometimes we choose because we’re ready, sometimes it’s because we’re told to. We’re told that you shouldn’t do more than one thing in derby. We’re told that if you play too much, you won’t rack up resume-building games which will affect your cert and tournament applications. We’re told that if you officiate too much, your team will see that you are not dedicated enough to playing, even if your hit all your attendance. Better to focus on one, or the other, as to not upset those around you and cause yourself more strife in the future.

Maybe if we taught more vet skaters how to officiate, and the value and fun of it, we wouldn’t be so desperate for trained eyes in some parts of the world. If we wouldn’t shrug off a cringe-worthy four-whistle blast as “oh well, it’s just a skater, no need to teach”, maybe we would have more people willing to drive down the road to another league and help jam ref.

Now, the announcers embrace the ref/skater combo. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve sat down to call and my announcer buddy has remarked something like: “Oh good it’s you! You’ll know all the things!” (Ironically, this group too has told me that I need to settle down and just choose what I want to be. The knowledge I bring to the table is valuable in game calls and is the reason I’m a good announcer. However, I’ve been told if I want to go anywhere, I need to focus on just one thing.)

rc announcers
When I wasn’t playing, reffing, or coaching, I nab the mic at RollerCon with friends.

Before I get into more problematic stuff I noticed this year

I need to say that I learned so much from so much since I’ve been back on skates. I have had an opportunity to work with people of all levels and from all over the world. I rework and recreate myself as an official every time I have a new encounter. They have pushed me to be a better communicator, quicker responder, and more accurate in my impact assessment.

THE LAST 14 MONTHS OF OFFICIATING HAS BEEN COMPLETELY OUTSTANDING FOR ME. Regardless of anything problematic that I have experienced or learned of, I need all the people whom I have interacted with to please know that you make me better. I am going to be getting into observations I have made that reflect the community as a whole. I do not want it to detract from the individual friendships i have forged, and thank you for teaching me, helping me, and being patient with me.

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One of the best crews I worked on at RollerCon, I was given the chance to jam ref a full length bout with one of my best friends. The East v West game came down to a single point difference. The crew was supportive & communicative. It was high pressure, but still fun to officiate. It really was close to officiating perfection in my mind. ^_^ Photo by Tristan King Photography

The Volunteer Tournament Trap

I love tournaments. I love them. LOVE. ALL THE LOVE. I played softball growing up and the All-Star season was my favorite because we would load up the van and go sit on the fields in the blazing July sun in Central Pennsylvania and I would play and watch the sport my heart beat for. I got accustomed to marathon days of cycling activity and recovery.

The first derby tournament I ever went to was East Coast Extravaganza and I was immediately hooked. I love overdosing on my sport. When I thought about getting to volunteer at tournaments around the country (and world) to officiate and announce, I get really excited. There are always new people to meet, new leagues to discover, and an array of levels of derby to enjoy. The first tournament I ever officiated was the first State Wars, and I was hooked. I knew I wanted to officiate in tournament settings. The amount of practice, feedback, and ability to meet and connect with new people was off the charts. The challenge of it thrilled me, all while helping other people compete in the sport I love. So I decided I would put emphasis on officiating tournaments.

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Tangent: NO LEVEL OF DERBY IS EASY TO OFFICIATE. “Low level” derby is not easier to officiate than Top 10, it’s just challenging in different ways. I have had conversations with very experienced officials that commented on how hard it was for them to shift into a D3 game because their eyes were trained for D1 experience. It’s not that the rules are different, but you will see a trend towards different kinds of penalties, different kinds of impact assessment, and a different game flow. If you are one of those people that ‘doesn’t waste their time’ on anything but D1 derby – you’re wrong, and your experience is narrow, and you are doing a disservice to other leagues as well as yourself.
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D3 level game play can be just as exciting and challenging as D1; the challenge of officiating it just comes in a different form. Photo by Phantom Photographics

Here come the chicken and egg circles of logic. Let’s break this down…

Where I live, within a 90 minute drive, I can get to maybe seven leagues including my own (and that’s assuming they are all still functional). Out of those leagues, two are sanctioned (we are D1 the other D3), and there is one apprentice. To get to another D1 team, I must drive 4.5 hours.

This is magic compared to places in New Mexico or Montana, I know, but keep in mind that if I still lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I would have 15 leagues at minimum within a 90 minute drive of my old house. That’s assuming that others haven’t popped up. Eight of them are sanctioned (a mix of D1 – D3), and at least three are apprentices. I really feel like that number’s low. I’m sure I’ll have people popping on here to tell me I’m wrong (or right) about how many leagues exist in that circle.

This season, only one regular season WFTDA game on my resume for officiating was in my home rink, and only one other was in the state of Florida. I did four JRDA home games in The Wrecking Hall. Were there not other games to officiate in Florida? Sure, but they were 3 hours away, or they were on the same day as our home game, or the crews were full. See, while we sometimes experience the ‘shortage of refs’ crisis seen around the world, there is also a healthy enough community of officials where I am that the local games fill quick. And while I have no problem traveling a long way for derby now and again, it cannot be an every weekend adventure. It’s not possible.

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Officiating at Molly Rogers, a 2.5 hour drive is always a great time, but not something I can do every weekend. Though it is a great excuse to visit the family… Photo by Eric Vicara

And I certainly can’t do it to be an alt. While alts are important (and trust me they are very important), too much emphasis has been placed in the last two years on the idea that you have to “just suck it up and be an alt for a while to prove that you’re willing to work hard.” I see it primarily at tournaments where old standards get in easily, and new blood gets shunted to the side as an alt. THRs want to accept new people, but aren’t willing to decline someone who has been coming for a while. Seniority and Nepotism, even in Learnaments, have become pervasive problems.

“No problem,” I think to myself, “Pete [bf] goes to tournaments all the time. I’ll go to tournaments for games! I like them anyway! In the last two years I have refereed 67 games. Not a mind-blowing amount, but that’s a pretty healthy number… Especially because I know that I have shown improvement and some really great officials are my references! I’m sure I’ll get into tournaments!”

Getting into the tournaments started to prove tricky

Whoops, nope. 67 games is not as many games as Joey McJoeFace from an area where there are as many leagues as there are Starbucks. And the tournament experience, including having done 9 games in a weekend three times (thanks State teams!), does not count for much because they weren’t regulation. The couple of tournaments I was able to get with some sanctioned games, well they just weren’t enough to impress.

I KNOW THAT THOs WANT TO ACCEPT EVERYONE AND HAVE TO MAKE TOUGH CHOICES. Honestly, I don’t think I’d want that job. I had a hard enough time putting together crews for a small league in Florida. However, here are some things I have heard at least once in the past three years:

“Your experience isn’t as good as their experience.”

“Well if you had done ALL your tournaments as an official, you would get into more tournaments.”

So I have been told that my experience on my resume does not count as much, thus I cannot get into tournaments, but if I want to get more experience and be accepted more often, I should do more tournaments. And then there’s my favorite feedback:

“You have the chance to do something else. I would rather staff someone who is actually an official.”

This isn’t just one chick on a rant: I have heard this from MANY other officials this year, and most of them are also women. Women are more likely to have responsibilities at home and with children than men are, and thus are not able to dedicate as much time to travel. Women are more likely to also be skaters or hold other jobs within their league, thus limiting how much time they can miss from their own practices and board schedules. Without getting to travel to do all the learnaments in every region, you do not get to meet and network. No network, no acceptance.

I’d venture to say that this cycle of ‘you need to travel more to get into tournaments’ probably has a lot to do with the lack of PoC in officiating as well. Lower wage earners have less chance to travel, and there is a direct link to gender identity and race when it comes to earnings. Low wage earners often don’t have the ability to sink $500 into traveling six hours to officiate two games for a league over the state line. Remember, there’s food, gas, wear and tear, hotel stays, and possibly child or pet care to worry about when we travel. So it gets skipped, and that lack of travel translates to the resume, which often gets misinterpreted as the person being UNWILLING to travel instead of acknowledging that they are simply UNABLE to travel. No experience outside of the home league means less likely to be picked up for larger events, particularly in other regions.

Even within a tournament, the newb is at risk. I was alted because I was an unknown value in that region. Our crew’s first games were messy so I understand that things had to change. However, I had gotten positive feedback about how I handled the situation and was confident that I at least didn’t muck it up over the course of the day.  However, one official just did not keep it together (which happens), and another just did not seem up to the speed of the tournament (which happens). One had a patch on his arm, and the other had worked with the HR previously. I was sat, being the unknown. The patch was moved to my position, the other official continued their performance, but mercifully they added a third OPR (yes you read that correctly).

Again, I would not bring this up if others had not shared similar experiences with me (or if I hadn’t had something similar happen at another game). This is not me whining that I got benched (though I can understand that it sounds that way). I absolutely chewed this situation to death in my mind, trying to figure out why my performance had been substandard. What things I had messed up in a 2 person OPR rotation to show that I needed to be the one taken out. In the end it turns out, I did nothing wrong. I had a positive experience by the time I left the tournament, getting feedback from several people about having a strong showing.

I was going to chalk this up as an outlier; a thing that happened but is mostly  unheard of. Then I overheard a group of officials talking at RollerCon with similar experiences. Getting benched last minute because someone in the crowd was known to the HR, or getting moved from their spot because a patch showed up with the traveling team so they got first dibs, or not getting put onto a game with the team they traveled with in favor of friends with less experience. While I’m sure some anecdotes were overblown, or not a true representation of the events that happened, the fact that SO MANY people have stories to share indicates that something is going on.

But this leads me into the next note…

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Cert Patches don’t matter & we should stop acting like they’re the end-all sign of a good official

Guess what? Your certification no longer shows me that you are up-to-date on the rules or a reliable official. Two years ago, perhaps, but even then a patch did not guarantee you were better than the non-patched ref.

I have met my fair share of officials who had racked up 100 games (which is easier when you can’t walk down the street without tripping on a regulation game), had good relationships with people, did well on a test, and got their Level 2 ref patch. Impact assessment cannot be gauged by a written test. You might be able to recite the rules and clarifications having to do with star pass procedures, but if you can’t tell that the clockwise block from white 0-2 prevented the pass from red 3, it doesn’t matter.

I know this section is going to incense people, but think about it: a person has the ability to spend the time and money to officiate, conservatively, 150 games. They happen to squeeze out enough evaluations to apply to cert, and those evals are handed off to a board who has never even met the person. Often, these evals were written days after a game or tournament, sometimes by other officials, sometimes by teams. I know I have been given eval forms to fill in, in the past, because I “actually know what should go on them and what to look for.” These evals were the basis of awarding certifications, and it is common for them not even to be filled in DURING the game in question.

In the last two years, you could have not read the new rulebook once but still display the patch. You could still check the box on applications. You could ditch on tournaments and still be picked up because you passed a test, got enough positive evaluations, and maybe were lucky enough that they did not dredge up team affiliation social media posts from three years before you even started to officiate. *ahem*

Hell, I might be barred from ever getting certification simply for writing this blog, but I think I’m ok with it.

 

Yes, there are many THOs that recognize that the patch is no longer a true symbol of consistency, simply because being committed two years ago does not imply commitment in the now. However, many people still think it matters. There was a thread where a guy essentially said, “Well I have a Level 2 patch so I’m going to use it to my advantage, and I hope tournaments still ask about it because it shows that we have done more.”

NOPE.

You’ve got two years of officials who were waiting for one more tournament to apply, or got serious about their learning after the cert closed, or who just forgot that they were in their grace period. I am not a cert level official, don’t get me wrong. I can’t pass that damn written test for starters, but we need to stop making it out as if the certified officials are the only ones who matter.

PS that goes for after cert opens up as well. Not having a patch does not make you a bad official. Having a patch does not make you a good official. What makes you a good official is effort to grow, in my humble opinion. As long as you are always getting better, always listening to feedback, and always learning from mistakes, you are a good official.

When playoffs are announced, if they say you need a certification for it I am going to flip a table. Hell, if they even ask about your certification on the application I am going to be angry. While I was ecstatic to see so much fresh blood at the WFTDA International Championships this year, I can’t help but be salty for all of my friends who were not accepted to skate D2s because of non-cert, while high level refs got a chance to work at multiple tournaments. How is that training up new officials? How is that going to help us replenish as we lose our Level 4s and 5s at alarming rates? And how is the serious tone of officiating, on top of being barred from entry at the tournament level going to keep newer refs interested in continued progress?

OK So what does this mean for Khaos officiating in 2018?

All of these things are why I’m seriously thinking I’m not going to apply as an official too much next season. I’ll apply first as an announcer, and then as an official, especially if I enjoyed the tournament this year, or if I have friends in the crews. There has been too much frustration. Over the last two years (I have been officiating for three), it has become clear to me that, on the whole, our sport does not want part-time officials. They do not value hard-workers if that person cannot throw themselves at 100 games a year. My main focus next year will be playing roller derby, and doing the other things when I have a chance.

Maybe it’s because I talk too much, or am too open about my feelings. Resting Sad Face™ and Foot-In-Mouth Syndrome™ have gotten me in trouble in all areas of my life, and it probably has impacted me in the official world as well. Do I still have the ambition to be a certified official? Yes. Do I still plan to study and practice? Of course. Will I reach out to Florida & Georgia leagues to keep up my skills? Hell yea.

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Officiating locally is always great. Even if my “Scuse me why are you not looking at me?” face may get me in trouble now and again. 🙂 Photo by Eric Vicara

I love reffing, and I love the officials I work with, and I love the tournaments I’ve been to… but I can’t keep putting so much effort into a thing that keeps showing me that it doesn’t care if I am there. I wanted to focus more on skills as a player this season anyway, and with Pete’s new job our travel was already going to be cut. These are things that have just been brewing inside me all season.

I see so many people struggle with the same concepts and roadblocks: people that are rejected because they’re ‘not from the right region’ or ‘are seen as an NSO’ or ‘haven’t worked with the right people.’ Meanwhile the guy standing next to them is accepted. And then when the next sanctioned game comes around, guess who’s got a stronger resume? Certainly not the person who was rejected from tournaments.

So … despite consternation I will post this blog and I hope that I don’t too much heat from the community as a result. However, I really feel that it needs to be said. Yes, there is a great push to have skaters be nicer to us (that’s a whole other blog that’ll happen), but I also feel like we need to fix it within ourselves (and from the higher ranks). Not having a private organization for officials does not help the issues at hand. We have to tackle things from a grassroots, social issues problem, instead of creating ways internally to handle what’s up.

2017 Musings and Madness to be continued ……..

Check out the photogs from this blog!

Eric Vicara 
Phantom Photographics
Tristan King Photography

The Reappearance of Khaos

So… my blog has been super quiet for a while. Sorry about that. It hasn’t been for a lack of wanting to write, or for a lack of material. I have about three blogs either outlined, or in the works including “balancing the zebra and the lion”, “creating the plan” (how to schedule your training and why), one about how to overcome the difficulties of transferring, and one about what it means to really be a part of a team.

It’s Why has my blog been quiet? I’ve been back to the life of the “real world”. I’ve lived in three places since I’ve been here in Florida and FINALLY have settled into a little town called Gulfport, and landed me a job at a place called Taco Bus. And quite honestly, when I get home from running around slinging tacos for 6 hours, I have a hard time mustering creativity.

Also, I have been skating 4-6x a week. Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday I train with Tampa Roller Derby. Currently I’m a blocker on the Bruise Crew and the Black Widows, and I hope that one day my team mates will see enough potential in me to make me a Tampa Tantrum, and I’ll get to wear a shiny WFTDA patch on my jersey again.

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Bruise Crew 2015; Photo by Phantom Photographics

Tuesdays you can find me with the Tampa Bay Men’s Roller Derby. I’m officially recognized by the MRDA as a ref (woot!), and technically am TBMRD’s head ref. This rainbows into the other things I do on the weekend. Most Saturdays you’ll find me either making calls and wearing stripes, or you’ll find me playing on Team Zebra.

You can see me in the background there, all disguised in stripes; Photo by Phantom Photographics
You can see me in the background there, all disguised in stripes; Photo by Phantom Photographics

When I’m not skating for Tampa, I’m usually at a fundraiser for the Bruise Crew, or a league appearance, or I’m straight up at the gym. I train 3-6x a week; 3 days of weight training, 3 days of conditioning (assuming my work schedule and traffic allows).

What else have I been up to? Well there have a few times that I started to write blogs, and then remembered that I have deadlines to attend to. I’m now writing a column for JAMMERLINE MAGAZINE out of Canada called “Below the 45th, which is focused on US derby. I also have been asked by BLOOD AND THUNDER MAGAZINE to do articles and blogs concerning off skates training. I’m also piecing my book together. I had to rewrite a BUNCH of it since my perspective on training has shifted a lot in the last year and a half.

Mashing it up, and jamming through; Photo by Phantom Photographics
Mashing it up, and jamming through; Photo by Phantom Photographics

The last piece is Derbalife. I’ve gotten settled in enough that I have started my business of health coaching back up and I’m getting back to my roots of helping people with their NUTRITION. A bunch of us coaches had gone astray and gotten distracted the last few months, but now we’re locking arms and changing the world!

There is another reason I haven’t written much. And that’s because I had gotten a bit discouraged. Over the years, it has gotten more difficult to find photographs to use in my blog. I am not a photographer. I will not pretend to be one with my iPhone. I have too much respect for the craft. But I am also super wordy. ^^^ As you may have noticed. To have blogs without photos to break up the scheme, it’s really hard to read.

I, by no means, want any photographer to feel undervalued or that their work isn’t worth purchasing. That being said, I have been hand washing my clothing for the last 4 weeks instead of going to the laundromat just to have extra money for food, gas, and bills. This blog makes zero dollars. I write because I love to write, and because sometimes people like to read it.

The whole thing had gotten really depressed and defeated honestly. I didn’t want to write because I knew I wouldn’t feel confident publishing without photos. But … now that defeat has gone away. I’m super stoked that Florida has Phantom Photographics down here documenting all of the awesome that is happening.

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Photo by Phantom Photographics

Florida derby is expanding SUPER quick, and the competition is getting very high amongst the teams. Phantom is one of the photographers that travels around the state and takes PHENOMENAL photos! MRDA, JRDA, WFTDA; he does it all. He does a lot of portrait work too, which I’ve always been a fan of.

State Wars Roller Derby
At State Wars Roller Derby; Photo by Phantom Photographics

For those of you from the Northeast, he’s like having a Sean Hale, Prints Charming, Sir Clicks-a-Lot, Rick Odell, or Shutterfly. And he’s super nice. So… Go visit his page because he’s awesome. I’m so happy that he’s letting me use his photos in my blogs, and I feel confident in writing again. 😀 You should buy a shirt from him too. (PS if you’re a photog and you want me to feature any of your photos, don’t be shy in letting me know!!)

Phantom Photograhics

If there’s a topic you want to see me cover in an upcoming blog – drop me a line at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com ! Have you gotten your ticket to RC? I’m submitting to teach classes again. I hope to see you there at the WESTGATE!! If you don’t already, follow me on Instagram at KHAOS24FIT

Building You as a Better Skater (Blog Reboot)

REBOOT: I’m slowly moving some of my more popular articles from my Examiner.com site over here to WordPress! Some of the photos are from a couple years ago, some of the info may be referencing events from a few years ago, but the info is still awesome and useful! (at least I think so). Every now and again I make a more modern note, but I’ll let you know where I’ve added in. 😉

BUILDING YOU AS A BETTER SKATER

At the Northeast Derby Convention this past weekend, common questions among attendees included: “How did she get so good?” “Has she been skating forever or is she just naturally talented?” “Will I ever be that good at derby?” “How can I improve quickly to an elite level of gameplay?”

As you progress through the lists, thoughts and derbys please remember that the background for all of this should be enjoyment. Drop the ego and HAVE FUN! It’s just f***ing roller derby, and I think we all forget that sometime.

Everyone has a tip to offer, and some of these probably sound familiar. Being in my fourth season, I have been through a lot of ups, downs and across many plateaus. So here is my humble insight.

Be a goofball on your skates
Photo: ParaNorma of the Susquehanna Valley Derby Vixens has fun during an open skate event hosted by As the Bearing Turns. Photo by Toxic Shock.

Be a goofball on your skates

Step one to getting better is spending time on your skates. Any vet will tell you that. What they may forget to tell you is that it’s not just a matter of skating circles. Getting better on your skates means that you are challenging your balance and your confidence; it means you are pushing yourself to improve.

The easiest way to challenge yourself is simply to goof around when you roller skate! Throw yourself forward and backwards. Hop. Go to open skate or an outdoor rink with your friends and skate backwards, turn, play games. The more comfortable you can get on your skates in odd positions or pulling a balancing act, the better you will be able to control yourself during drills and gameplay.

Play and watch ALL the derby
Photo: The flat track mash-up, Team Rogue, took on MADE skaters in the Derby Ink Tournament in April 2013. We all learned a few things about physics. Photo by JPaden Photography

Play and watch ALL the derby

When I say “ALL the derby” I mean beyond your own scope of derby. Yes, if you’re a WFTDA skater, you should absolutely be eating up WFTDA game play to understand how the mechanics and flow of game and strategy work (also to see how skills are being newly applied to the game). That being said, I cannot express how much I have learned in the last three months because of:

Playing MADE rules on a bank track, watching junior derby, watching men’s flat track, scrimmaging men with MADE rules on the bank track, going to open flat track scrimmages, watching the All Star bout at NEDC.

Being a woman, playing derby with boys really helped me to challenge my own perception of strength and balance. It can be intimidating to go up against a man who is a head higher than you and significantly bigger (and has a bit of a temper, but I still love you Yosemite Slam) AND you’re on a bank track against him… But then you play anyway. Then when you’re on the flat track against another team – they don’t look nearly as scary or intimidating. (Note from today – I feel like I can take on anyone now that I’ve gotten past Sutton Impact and Tink as a jammer at RollerCon.)

You never learn when you’re in your comfort zone. Just like with going to open scrimmages with new people and throwing off your balance at open skate, playing and watching unfamiliar types of derby will teach you techniques and strategy more than you think is possible. Seriously. I love that damn tri-block.

RollerCon has some awesome classes for skaters of all levels.
RollerCon has some awesome classes for skaters of all levels.

No. Really. Go to the events and trainings.

The world of roller derby is so much more expansive than it was when I joined in 2009. Back then, we felt lucky to get a guest coach for the night and we all dreamed of having the money to make it out to the only collection of trainings available – Rollercon. The times, they are a-changin’!

Not only are there a ton of boot camps and trainers available (DNA CoachingDerbalife,Getsome Athletics, Left Turn Coaching among others), but there are more conventions and events than ever! This past weekend the Northeast Derby Convention had a successful second year. Beat Me Halfway promises to be an awesome time, as does the addition of classes at Virginia is for Shovers. And this is just a small piece of the training pie.

Leagues are now able to bring in guest coaches or boot camps whenever they want. Elite leagues also hold camps throughout the year to train and coach skaters. And just because you’re a vet doesn’t mean you can’t benefit. I did a Team USA boot camp last summer next to Holly Go Hardly (most would say she ‘doesn’t need’ training , but there is no perfection in roller derby and some of us always strive for more). At NEDC this weekend, when coaches weren’t coaching – they were in other classes!

Do you know how many friends were geeking out about being in a class with Demanda? Or Punchy? Always strive to be better and take the training when it is available – if it’s not available, seek it out or bring it in!

Read and absorb
Photo: DNN may be gone, but DerbyLife and other publications (like mine!) still are around. Photo by Ryan Starr.

Read and absorb

Bout recaps, new skill explanations, boot break-downs. Read it all. Absorb it. Seek it out. Funny memes. Blogs. Discussion groups. The more knowledge you have about derby off the track, the more you can apply to your footage viewing, your live consumption of derby and your own on-the-track game.

Derby News Network, DerbyLife, FiveonFive Magazine, Rollout Magazine, Blood & Thunder, Inside Line, Elektra Q Tion, RollerDerp Tumblr, Khaos Theory and more… they are are all great places to hear about thoughts on derby, derby related life and how derby works itself into other aspects of the world. Go and read some stuff.

Do that thing you hate
Photo: The Dutchland Rollers take on a new physical challenge with theCrossfit Collective

Do that thing you hate

When I joined roller derby I decided that suddenly, I didn’t have to do cardio outside of practice. I thought I could use the occasional weight machine at Planet Fitness – and that would be enough. I avoided anything outside of derby, made faces at it, and was absolutely convinced that I could just skate more and that would be enough.

In 2012 I decided, finally, to become a runner and cross-trainer. And in 2012 I became the derby player I should have been previously.

Cross-training gives your body a chance to develop the muscles and stabilizers that derby doesn’t work on. It doesn’t work on them, but can utilize them. Incorporating strength, interval training, plyo metrics and other sports (I’m a fan of rock climbing and kick boxing myself) will give your body extra balance, strength and endurance that you can use on the track. Show me one elite skater that hasn’t cross-trained.

That’s what I thought. Want to learn more about real crosstraining for derby means? Check out my Shifting Perspective article.

Southern Discomfort gets together to watch footage. I've heard that they watch other teams as well as themselves (may have something to do with their quick rise in rankings)
Southern Discomfort gets together to watch footage. I’ve heard that they watch other teams as well as themselves (may have something to do with their quick rise in rankings) Photo by Matthew Sutton

Watch yourself play through footage

Watching yourself can be brutal.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it. Nothing like having a game that you feel awesome about only to watch the footage and think to yourself “Why didn’t I go there? What was that? How come I didn’t do ______” and so on. It’s also very easy to get caught in the trap of “Why didn’t the ref call that?” or “Did you see that terrible call?”

Watching video should not be an exercise in negativity. It should be an exercise in study and analysis. You need to be able to watch what you and your team mates did and deduce what worked and what didn’t. To be able to think about how you could move or position differently in the future. To think about where you are and what you need to work on next.

Visualization after you watch video can really help you incorporate your findings. Take 10 minutes after you watch bout footage (and you can do this with any team’s footage, not just your own!) and play out the scenarios in your head. Imagine your reaction, the quickening of your breath, the sliding of your wheels against the floor. Create the images of what you see and how you feel and what you do next in different situations that you saw in the footage. Imagine yourself conquering the situation and bursting past the blocker, spinning through a wall or blocking a jammer out of bounds. Visualization is an amazing tool to give to your unconscious.

Remember that watching bout footage with your team mates of OTHER bouts is super important too! Not only will it help you talk through the strategy of other teams, but it’s a bonding experience for you to all know derby a little bit better. You can talk about what teams did that work, didn’t work, or what you think you could incorporate into your own blocking or jamming styles. Team derby-time is awesome.

SCRIMMAGE NIGHT!!
Jerzey Derby Brigade have great scrimmages available once a month. Photo by JPaden Photography

SCRIMMAGE NIGHT!!

We all love scrimmage night. All of us. It’s why we put on our skates and deal with freshmeat training and months of knee fall and hip checking drills. We may say that there are other reasons that we do the roller derby thing – but let’s call a duck a duck. We do it for the PLAY TIME. Taking advantage of your scrimmage team with your team I very important: here you learn how to interact with each other. You build bonds of trust and you learn how to react and rely on each other.

Another important piece of this puzzle is taking advantage of OPEN scrimmage nights that other teams have. Why? At open scrimmages you can learn how to react quickly in new situations. You can learn how to adjust to new floors, new opponents and new obstacles. Also, it’s a great way to make friends in derby and learn how opposing skaters play (could be useful in future games, don’t you think).

Plus, remember why we are part of derby? PLAY TIME!

Embrace your inner zebra
A zebra pow wow at Spring Roll IV. Photo by Mr. McWheely

Embrace your inner zebra

Wait, what?

Yes. I said it. Go visit another league to get practice at it. Volunteer to help your league if you’re team doesn’t have a bout coming up. Reverse the roles now and again so that you can see the game from a new perspective. Remember, you aren’t learning anything inside your comfort zone.

Not only will you get a new perspective on gameplay, but you’ll have a new found respect for refs. Part of being a ‘better derby skater’ is keeping your cool on the bench during a bout. Not getting riled over penalties will help you keep an even demeanor and a clear head in each jam.

Best way to understand the refs is to put yourself in that spot. I bet you’ll be surprised at how hard it actually is. Aside from that all, you get to give back to the sport that has given you so much. When you’re not skating, help others to skate! Don’t have the attention span for a zebra huddle? The NSOs could use a hand, too.

Goals are your friend

Goals are your friend

I have found that setting goals is best to do with a buddy. Captains and coaches are preferable, but if you have someone in your league that you trust that you want to go on this journey with, that’s awesome too. Remember that goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-specific).

To set a goal such as “Block better in the next bout” is a goal that you cannot hope to measure and it’s certainly not specific. Say instead: “Practice blocking techniques 3 times a week for a half hour for the next 4 weeks.” Through the practice of it, you will become sharper and thus, “Block better in your next bout”. It’s a matter of phrasing and giving yourself something to focus on.

For example, the photo is from May of 2012. I had decided that I wanted to be the top scorer for Harrisburg Area Roller Derby against Providence Roller Derby. (In 2010, I had the star taken from me because I couldn’t break their walls. This was redemption year.) Instead of making the above statement my goal, I worked on the strength in my legs, running and plyometrics. The photo is me and Craisy Dukes getting our MVP awards for that bout. And yes, I was top scorer.

Vision boards are awesome too. I’m a big fan of writing down your goals and putting them in places you can see them so that you’re reminded of them daily. Mixing that with positive images and mantras, your goals will crumble under your powerful skates!

Nutrition nutrition nutrition
Nutrition nutrition nutrition

Nutrition nutrition nutrition

Just like with cross-training, I thought I had my pulse on “good eating”.

Truth be told, 90% of us in derby have no idea what we’re putting in our bodies or why it’s not good for us. Yes you have some folks that are uber informed (I am now) and then others who like making a joke out of their lack of nutrition (go ahead and have that burger and Red Bull, I want to see how many times I can lap you).

I thought my diet of farm food and whole grain was awesome. I couldn’t figure out why, after 2 years of skating, NOTHING happened with my skill level or my body.

Turns out I didn’t know everything.

There are lots of diets, regiments and philosophies that have been coming into the world of roller derby. It was only a matter of time. The health and wellness industry in America alone is a multi-billion dollar one. Some programs are based in science and research, some really are not. I, personally, confine myself to dietary restrictions for performance reasons that I have imposed on MYSELF. We all have different goals, and your program should reflect those goals and desires.

Here’s what I will say about nutrition (and yes this is coming from a Derbalife coach – this is our philosophy):

  1. Protein. 35-40% of your calories should come from protein. If you’re really looking for a quick adjustment to your diet and want to go at things hard? Think of consuming 1g of protein for every pound that you weigh.
  2. Hydration. Half your body weight in ounces. Minimum. Daily. When in doubt, drink a gallon. We’re made of water. How can we function as humans if our cells don’t have water? How can our body flush toxins (like the by-products of lactic acid) if we’re not hydrated? This is just good sense, people. No, you will not be at risk for water overdose. Unless you drink that gallon in a very short period of time.
  3. Vitamins. Guess what? You’d have to eat about 3500 calories of fruit and vegetable to get your recommended daily amount of the 65 vitamins and minerals the body needs for function. Now couple that with the fact that your body needs it throughout the day (it flushes vitamins it can’t absorb at the time), so that one-a-day you’ve been taking is mostly ending up in the sewer line. Oh yea, if you’ve been eating poorly for the last X number of years, it means your body isn’t even able to capture all the vitamins you put into it because, chances are, the good bacteria in your body isn’t healthy. Vitamins need to happen 3x a day MINIMUM in a dose of about 30% of your RDA.
  4. Metabolism. Keep the furnace going throughout the day. You should be eating small meals 4 to 8 times a day (depending on your size and activity level). When you go 5 hours without eating it means the metabolism shuts off. Vitamins aren’t being distributed. Protein isn’t being used. Calories aren’t being burned. No good at all.
  5. Quick burning carb are bad if you’re trying to lose fat. Complex carbs are good – like in vegetables, sweet potatoes and quinoa. Quick burning carbs like bread (yes, even stone ground, whole grain), pasta and corn spike your blood sugar and turn to fat in your body more often than are burned off. That being said, in sports like roller derby, it doesn’t hurt to have a little extra padding. If you’re weight lifting or doing lots of activity, don’t be afraid of adding in carbs.

Look, if you want to talk nutrition more (Derbalife or not) send me an e-mail at DerbyAmerica@yahoo.com. It’s kind of what I do when I’m not writing things like this.

Have an amazing mindset!
Cutandjacked.com

Have an amazing mindset!

The biggest piece of the derby puzzle is confidence.

If you do not believe in yourself, then you are never going to be successful. I’m sorry if that is harsh, but I have seen too many people self-sabotage because of their own self-doubt or because of toxic influences coming from their personal life.

You are good enough to play this sport. Every single woman, man and child can be as successful and strong as they want to be. It just is a matter of time, effort and having the mindset to go along with it. You are not going to be Suzy Hotrod overnight. It takes a combination of all the things listed here (and more) to get you to that level. It takes years of dedication and focus. If you want it to come quicker, you have to work harder.

If you quit the moment you get tired, or your feet hurt or you sweat … guess what? Your league has plenty of Non-Skating Official positions that are ready for you to help with. Everyone has a different gauge on accomplishment and everyone has a different bar they want to conquer. What commitment is really necessary for you to hit yours? Take a hard, honest look at what you are doing now.

Take a good, honest look with how you handle situations. Do you invite negativity into your life? Do you spend more time complaining about the stuff that happened or looking forward to the way you’re going to overcome it? Do you have the attitude of “This will make a great story one day!” or “Why do bad things always happen to me?”

In life and in derby, the cancer of negativity will kill your hope, drive and spirit. You must be diligent to be a happier person with a positive outlook. Maybe you can’t do a 180 toe stop. Do you say “I try really hard but I can’t do it.” Or do you say, “I’m going to work on it UNTIL I can do it.” That’s the difference. That’s the key.

Need a help with this part of the puzzle? Personal development readings, audios and videos are amazing for your mind. May I suggest some Les Brown, Jim Rohn or Eric Thompson? May I suggest TED Talks? Reading books likeThe Slight Edge and The Big Leap.

Believe in yourself the same amount your coaches do and you will do amazing things.