Building You as a Better Skater (Blog Reboot)

REBOOT: I’m slowly moving some of my more popular articles from my 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. 😉


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.

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


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 It’s kind of what I do when I’m not writing things like this.

Have an amazing mindset!

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.

2014 MRDA Champs Preview: #1 Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby

Your Mom is coming.

Your Mom

Two time MRDA champion, Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby is a collection of some of the most talented skaters in the world who also just happen to be phenomenal at roller derby. Disclaimer: I talk about roller derby pretty real at a couple points in this blog. This is not meant to make anyone #butthurt (as Elektra Q Tion would say), but if a blog about derby can’t say it, who can?

Your Mom is known for fast skating, and intense walls. When you watch them, they are not hard hitters – they don’t have to be. Their non-verbal communication and self-awareness is so sharp that if they rarely have to hit opponents to contain them. Their work is smooth and effortless. Hits are not short strikes, but rather elongated motion that carries the intended target out of bounds, or drives the target behind the blocker’s hips. Edges, edges, edges. Study it. Their bursts. Their control. Their awareness.

Against Mass Maelstrom at Spring Roll. Photo by DeFord Designs
Against Mass Maelstrom at Spring Roll. Photo by DeFord Designs

Your Mom knows what you’re going to do before you know what you’re going to do. They aim for where you’re going, not where you are, and they rarely have to catch the jammer, because the jammer is so commonly ensnared in their net.

How do you know that their blockers are interchangeable and their rosters fluid beyond measure? Think about this: Who are their big hitters and which jammer has the best differential? Sure, Seahorses Forever and Sugar Boots stand out because of their height. Yes, everyone knows Frank NotsoHotra. Otherwise it is hard to picture any skaters that are exceedingly more important than the others. On every other team you can look at a line up and pick out ‘key pieces’. Sure, every team SAYS they don’t have any players that are more important than the rest, but we all know that’s not true.

Close the gap. Photo by DeFord Designs
Close the gap. Photo by DeFord Designs

Double Excel. Magnum PIMP. Jonathan R. Szabo. Dilly Dally. Speed Dealer. Cozmo Damage. Shreddy Mercury. Richard Gaudet. Wes Turn. Sutton Impact. Reaper.  Keith Rucker. TJ Binkley. Are these the only players that matter on their teams? Absolutely not! Do you want to beat that their teams would be a tad concerned about overall performance if one or both of these skaters were missing from the line up? Yes, I honestly think so.

On Your Mom they don’t have to worry about it as much. No Cleveland Stever? You’ve Dirty Larry. No Tony Muse? You got Dante Muse. No B Stang? You got Rollomite. No Sugar Boots? You’ve got Seahorses Forever. No Lily Pad? You’ve got Suicide Snow Cone. You getting the idea? There is no one on the roster that Your Mom can’t respond to with a “But we’ve got these 5 people that CAN do it”. And they have up and coming skaters that they’re training so that the tradition of winning continues.

Frank Notsohotra - commonly referred to as "The fastest man in roller derby." Photo by DeFord Designs
Frank Notsohotra – commonly referred to as “The fastest man in roller derby.” Photo by DeFord Designs

“But Khaos!” You say, “You can’t really appreciate Your Mom.” (giggle) “They fly in all their skaters!”


There are 3 remote skaters that I know of. And by “remote” I mean living more than 3 hours away. And even if there were more, so what? Charm City, Philly, and Tampa Bay Men’s (for example) all have skaters that travel upwards of 3 hours to play with their teams. Those skaters could play for Charlottesville, or Suburbia, or Brevard Area Men’s, but they have chosen a different league and has made a commitment to the league of their choice. It is a hobby, we don’t get paid, so why should anyone feel that they are not allowed to play with the league of their choice? Why do we not hear about the skaters that travel across state lines to be a part of PRG or CCRG or TBMRD?

Because they’re not world champions.

As soon as a team starts winning division titles (Oly) or champs (YMMRD), suddenly it’s an issue. Jack Hammer’d lives in South Carolina (everyone in the MRDA knows that he moved, so I’m not exactly revealing a scandal). He is here with Maelstrom this weekend. Why? Because he fulfilled the attendance requirements set forth by his league, and thus qualified to play at Champs with Mass Maelstrom. Here is your tiny bit of beeswax so that you can mind your own.

And guess what? We saw from the WFTDA championships in previous years that sheer talent doesn’t win titles, teamwork, and practice time does. Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby has teamwork, communication, and ‘synergy’ (that’s for you, Austintatious). That doesn’t come from a bunch of people randomly showing up on bout day and not ever practicing with one another.

Positional control. Photo by DeFord Designs
Positional control. Photo by DeFord Designs

This weekend is going to be tough for teams to oust Your Mom as champions. Many of the men on the roster are very accustomed to a sticky hardwood floor like that of the Tacoma Armory. Several of the skaters were GLOWING at the opportunity to play Champs on such a surface.

Every team that faces Your Mom is going to have to bring the strongest walls, the ability to multitask, awareness like woah, and the endurance of a Champion.

Check out YOUR MOM (giggle) on Facebook to get continually information about them. They play Denton County Outlaws in the opening bout of the tournament at 9a PST on Saturday. Yes. That means in about 9 hours. Get some rest, and if you’re not in Tacoma check it out on! Thank you DeFord Designs for all the photos in this article. Hey Photogs! YMMRD needs more pictures taken of them next year. #JustSayin #BloggerinNeed

2014 MRDA Champs Preview: #2 St. Louis GateKeepers

The GateKeeper defense are the thing nightmares are made of. Like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens of eggball, the GK have line-ups of monsters that have one objective: Ruin your jammer’s day [and do it as a team].


Another old dog of the MRDA, GK has been growing since Magnum PIMP and Bat Wing decided to form the league in 2009. With over 50 active members, the GateKeepers (and their highly competitive B team the B-Keepers) strive to bring a balance of speed, communication, airtime, and pure pain to the roller derby track.

This season, GK appeared at Spring Roll and RollerCon. From an outside perspective, ti seemed that they approached these two events with one goal: Establish unquestionable dominance over every team they meet. And, for the most part, they did.

Gnat King Kill getting it done at Spring Roll against Southern Discomfort.
Gnat King Kill getting it done at Spring Roll against Southern Discomfort.

If you’ve ever seen GK play than you know that they rely on super strong blockers who are huge AND have amazing lateral motion across the track. Coming up against a wall of Monster Jam, Double Excel, and Neil Death Experience is a terrifying prospect [and I am not even skating this weekend]. Not only does each take up the entire track by themselves, but they know how to seal holes to prevent jammer breakthroughs and their timing is all excellent.

Mixing in blockers like Bane-Ana, Debaucherous Prime, and Gnat King Kill into lines help to keep the GK diamonds fluid and fast. These are the blockers that can dart out of a pack and pick off a stray jammer or destroy an opponent’s brace to give Shane Bower some space to run.

GK 1
“The Totes Adorb” Bane-Ana and Wrecking Bill team up to hold Jonathan R at RollerCon. Photo by Brangwyn Jones.

In every article I have talked about teamwork. The GateKeepers exemplify what it means to have teamwork. What it means to understand how your allies on the floor skate, and how to pick apart an opponent as a two or three wall, instead of as an individual. BUT if the time comes where an individual needs to make a quick save, they know who is bridging, who is chasing, who is baiting the pack to speed up, and how to recycle back to that massive concrete wall.

The only time the GateKeepers get in trouble is when they start landing in the box. Yes, obvious statement, but true nonetheless. I don’t have the stats packs to prove my point, but I remember GK getting into some penalty trouble against Shock Exchange, and that’s when NYSE starting getting a little more ahead. When they finally took hold of the NYSE game is when they calmed down, worked as a wolf pack, and ate the NYSE jammers and blockers alive [while NYSE let them at least].

Flight. By Screecharound. Photo by Mr. McWheeley
Flight. By Screecharound. Photo by Mr. McWheeley

The jammers of GK are not to be forgotten because they are majestic to watch. Remember how I said that they mix in ‘airtime’ to their strategy? These guys eat apexes for breakfast. In fact, if we can have a contest this weekend to have Screecharound from GK and Reaper from Southern Discomfort have a head-to-head ‘jump off’ battle, I’d really appreciate it. (Ironic note: It wasn’t until after I was coming back through and editing that I realized that Screecharound is #66 and Reaper is #666. Obviously there’s a connection.)

While Screecharound and Shane Bower both have the long, beautiful legs that allow them to take flight each bout [without effort]. Both skaters are able to switch up between long, loping strides and the small, controlled edgework to fake out opponents.

Shane Bower has a little more experience under his belt, and you can see it when he comes up against stronger walls. He’s deft at playing offense for himself by simply shifting his weight as he approaches a pack and trying out different spots in a wall until someone over commits and he can easily glide through. He seems to find holes in defenses unperceivable to the human eye on the physical plane.

Magnum P.I.M.P. hops another apex at Spring Roll. Photo by Mr. McWheeley
Magnum P.I.M.P. hops another apex at Spring Roll. Photo by Mr. McWheely

Then there is GateKeeper founder, Magnum P.I.M.P. Magnum is to be feared with the star. He is strong, he is light on his feet, and he has a head for the game. He understands his blockers, and how they move on the track. His offense understands him and can create the smallest distraction for him to take full advantage of. He is definitely a utility jammer.

In the first round the GateKeepers will be coming up against a relatively green Southern Discomfort. While the men from England are ready to make a statement, they are going to have to pull out all the stops and have a stellar game to make a dent in the GateKeeper strategy. GK’s jamming bench is deep and wide, and their blocker rotation is so versatile that the SD jammers are going to have to continually readjust to the styles thrown at them. Do I think So Disco could come out with a surprise for the GateKeepers? Absolutely.

You Shall Not Pass. Photo by Mr. McWheely
Neil tells Ballistic Whistle: “You Shall Not Pass”. Photo by Mr. McWheely

“But Khaos! The Gatekeepers already beat So Disco by 200 points this year!”

True. However, look at the circumstances: SD played GK the last game of Spring Roll in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The GateKeepers had a 6 hour drive to the venue, and had only played two other games that weekend. Southern Discomfort was 6 hours out of their normal time zone, and had already played six games in the previous 8 days (including games against Mass Maelstrom and Your Mom). So Disco did not come into that bout as they will come into this one: Fresh, studied, and hungry.

However, there is still the fact that they’ll be facing off against the St. Louis GateKeepers who are on a mission for Your Mom.

Doing work at Spring Roll. Photo by Mr McWheely
Doing work at Spring Roll. Photo by Mr McWheely

You can see the GateKeepers work to hold back the British Invasion at 11a PST on, if you’re not at the MRDA Championships live. Check out the GK facebook page for updates. Thank you Mr. McWheely for the photos in this article. Visit his page to buy prints! Thank you also to Brangwyn Jones. You should totally go like him on Facebook.

2014 MRDA Champs Preview: #3 New York Shock Exchange

Our goal is to win every game we play.  Keep it simple, sexy. – Jonathan R


And New York Shock Exchange is making a good case that they’re going to do exactly that at Champs this weekend. As one of the oldest leagues in the world, and the first champions of the MRDA, NYSE has a long tradition of work ethic and dominance. Coming into Champs with a full, healthy roster (and a fire in their eyes from dropping to the #3 ranking) means that NYSE is going to battle every team like it’s the final.

Being an East Coast girl, I’m pretty familiar with the men of NYSE. Their friendly rivalry with Mass Maelstrom is the best we have seen in MRDA the Northeast. Getting the opportunity to go to Coney Island and see the evolution of NYSE over the years has been awesome.

At ECDX. Photo by Tyler Shaw - Prints Charming Photography
Buster Cheatin takes away Cilantro’s momentum at ECDX. Photo by Tyler Shaw – Prints Charming Photography

Part of why [I think] Shock Exchange has continued having success while other founding MDC (Men’s Derby Coalition) teams have dropped to the wayside is not just the fact that they have access to an enormous metropolitan area’s worth of skaters or that they have Gotham Girls as their Big Sisters. It’s that the coaching staff has remained open minded about new strategies and training opportunities, while the skaters themselves continually re-dedicate themselves to the goals of the team. NYSE has always been on the forefront of new strategy and pushing the boundaries of what their sheer amount of skill can do. When I asked captain (and Team USA skater) Jonathan R why he thinks Shock has remained at the top, he had a very similar idea:

We have a continuous drive to be better and push beyond barriers.  This is exemplified in our commitment to having regular practices in perpetuity as we seek out new ideas.

That being said, NYSE has had [in the past] the same kind of problem that Puget Sound has. The older teams have a style of gameplay that can only be labeled “SuperStar”. NYSE, in the past, has simply been more talented on their wheels than their opponents. NYSE would rely on their jammers to do all the work, and their blockers would spread out, take swings and make huge hits (with a high rate of success) and it was enough to win.

KenboSlice goes toe to toe with Menace at RollerCon. Photo by Brangwyn Jones.
KenboSlice goes toe to toe with Menace at RollerCon. Photo by Brangwyn Jones.

As other teams have started closing the gap in the last couple years, NYSE’s style has shifted. You still see shadows of the SuperStar play, but now you have power blockers like Buster Cheatin’ and Chris Szabo pulling the team together into walls. Walls which thwarted Mass Maelstrom by a significant amount both times they met this season; Walls that saved them against the Bridgetown Menace at RollerCon.

Shock’s style of teamwork in a pack is a bit unique to other teams (again, more similar to Puget). While they work together, and move as one fluid unit, they don’t have the contact with each other that other teams do. When watching Southern Discomfort (for example), the men link to teammates until engagement begins. While NYSE always clusters near each other, the links are never as prominent (I have noticed). The downside is their partner may be slightly further than desirable, the positive is that it saves them on the multi player blocks, forearms, and high blocks that plague many Top 8 teams. Plus, the skill and awareness of the skaters let them get away with this kind of ‘dropped arms’ linkage to one another.

NYSE sticks close to contain WildStyle of The Replacements at the Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.
NYSE sticks close to contain WildStyle of The Replacements at the Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.

We shall see what happens at Champs with this. Mass Maelstrom is coming in with a bit of a chip on their shoulder and are focused on squarely and definitively beating NYSE. Their fluid diamonds and tight packs could be trouble for NYSE. If NYSE wins, they will square off against Southern Discomfort or the GakeKeepers. GK was the only loss of the year for Shock, while Shock was the only top 4 team that So Disco didn’t skate against when they came across the pond in the spring. All teams that face NYSE really have one thing to worry about if they want a shot at winning: NEUTRALIZE THEIR JAMMERS.

Particularly Jonathan R and Carnage Asada. Based on what I saw at RollerCon, they better keep a tight beat on I A M Havoc as well.

Jonathan R does not let physics restrain him at ECDX. Photo by Tyler Shaw - Prints Charming Derby Photography
Jonathan R does not let physics restrain him at ECDX. Photo by Tyler Shaw – Prints Charming Derby Photography

I don’t even know how to explain how good Jonathan R is. It almost makes me mad when I watch him skate because I can’t wrap my head around how his simple, concise moves can translate into COMPLETE OBLITERATION OF THE DEFENSE. The man rarely looks like he’s even working. He is fluid, has complete control over physics (he may be a Time Lord), and even when he’s making RollerCon look like a CSI crime scene – the man is smiling and cheering on his team.

Carnage Asada doesn’t have the same ease to his skating that Jonathan R does. Highly effective with long legs and toe stop action to die for, Carnage’s plan is to make you over commit on your hit. He is patient and quick, breaking down a line one by one. Defenses are constantly having to shift from long fluid blocks and holds to contain Jonathan R, to the staccato speed of Asada. It makes them lose their rhythm. It simply works.

Carnage Asada does his thing at Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.
Carnage Asada does his thing at Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.

Havoc is up and coming for sure. A new Shocker, Havoc had been on the Dow Jones average to develop is skills. If Carnage and Jonathan had a jamming love baby – it would be Havoc. No, seriously – don’t make that face at me. Havoc has fluidity in his ducks and jukes, but can stop on a dime and use lateral motion to throw off the opposition. Still adjusting to the speed of the game, Havoc hasn’t always had success against teams, but in the GateKeepers bout at RollerCon the entire crowd got to see him Level Up.

The slippery minx that is I A M Havoc at the Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.
The slippery minx that is I A M Havoc at the Mohawk Valley Cup. Photo by Hispanic Attack.

In fact, I would say all of the NYSE rolled over experience point to gain a level during that GK bout. I’m going to say the thing that everyone has been thinking and whispering but no one has said in a public forum before: NYSE, in the past, has relied too heavily on jamming skill. Particularly Jonathan R’s magic feet. When he suffered a nose bleed at RC, the GK’s score steadily rose, Shock looked a bit lost without their fearless leader. But then they figured it out. Then, the entire bench of Shock had this moment where every single skater stepped up and made adjustments and did whatever they had to for success.  Every jammer that was a secondary brought their game to the level that Shock needed it to be.

NYSE works as a team against Bridgetown Menace at RollerCon. Photo by Brangwyn Jones.
NYSE works as a team against Bridgetown Menace at RollerCon. Photo by Brangwyn Jones.

If that team shows up for Champs? If Shock Exchange has maintained that level of “We need to do this as a team, we can’t rely on our jammers alone” – there is no question in my mind that they will smash through the first two rounds of their bracket while barely breaking a sweat. If they don’t work as a team, if they allow Maelstrom’s blockers to dominate in offense and defense, NYSE is going to have a hard bout ahead of them.

Teamwork at the GateKeepers at RollerCon. Photo by Brangwyn Jones.
Teamwork at the GateKeepers at RollerCon. Photo by Brangwyn Jones.

Regardless, Shock is coming to play and I have a feeling we all are in for some amazing hard-hitting, strategy-driven, blow-your-mind roller derby.

Make sure you check out Shock Exchange’s Facebook to keep up with all the awesomeness that they have happening. The Dow Jones Average, NYSE’s B-team, is in the middle of an UNDEFEATED season! If you can get to a bout, you need to. Also, NYSE is raising money for SHOCK DOWN UNDER!!! They’re going on a tour of Australia with bouts and clinics on the docket, and they need a little help getting there. The FB has all the details and how you can support the strengthening of Men’s Roller Derby around the globe! Get hooked up with some rad NYSE merch at their online store.

PS Check out the NYSE v Maelstrom match-up on at 1p PST on Saturday at the MRDA Championships. Thank you to Brangwyn Jones, Tyler Shaw, and Hispanic Attack for the photos in this blog!

Photo by Brangwyn Jones.
Photo by Brangwyn Jones.

MRDA Champs 2014 Preview: #8 Denton County Outlaws

It’s almost here: The 2014 MRDA Championships. This week, skaters, officials, announcers, and fans will descend Tacoma, Washington for Maritime Mayhem, hosted by Puget Sound Outcast Derby. I figured that I should do a preview of the teams, like last year, to get us all amped up about the tournament.  Coming in as the Eighth Seed is a new team (to the MRDA and the tournament): The Denton County Outlaws.


Fun fact: Denton County is debuting in the Top 8. A feat not easy now that there are so many member leagues. BOOM. Nice work, fellas.

I got to watch DCO play at Spring Roll this season. Truth be told, most of us watched their bouts because they (as well as the Cincinnatti Battering Rams and Southern Discomfort) were giant wild cards in the MRDA at that point. Most of us fans had not seen any of the teams play and we were curious at the showing they would make. Denton was of particular interest, since many of us had watched some of their vets play on Dallas Deception, Magic City Misfits, and Team USA previously.

DCO definitely came out swinging. They played the Carolina Wreckingballs (ranked 16th at that time) first. They came out with a definitive strength and speed that the Balls just couldn’t handle. Game 2 of Spring Roll brought them against a different kind of Wreckingball: the lads from London, Southern Discomfort.

Side Note: After the game against the Carolina Wreckingballs, the lady fans of the Balls decided that Denton won the “Team Sexy” award for 2014. “Bout Sexy” of Spring Roll went to the Denton County Outlaws v Southern Discomfort. (For those who have been reading my writing, you may recall that 2013’s SR winner was Bridgetown Menace v Mass Maelstrom.)


So Disco was able to [mostly] capture the jukes and ducks of DCO jammers (it was a blast watching Haterade give them a hard time though). The walls of Denton blockers just didn’t have the same experience as their competition, but it was a phenomenal bout. DCO only lost by 99 points (super impressive considering So Disco had lost to #4 Mass Maelstrom by only 53 points the night before). DCO rounded out their Spring Roll with a definitive win against the Canadian powerhouses on the Mont Royals.

You're not seeing double. That's Haterade and TJ Binkley showing off their Spring Roll MVP bandannas.
You’re not seeing double. That’s Haterade and TJ Binkley showing off their Spring Roll MVP bandannas.

The Outlaws have only been together since March of 2012. They skate out of the House of Quad (just north of Dallas), and get to share the space with North Texas Derby Revolution and the Rolling Rebellions, a junior league. While they have picked up vet skaters, newbies to derby like Keith Rucker are making their mark on DCO. Vet TJ Binkley says:

“Keith is our under-rated jammer. He is a rink rat but fairly new to derby. [He] has some moves …that he shouldn’t be able to. The guy is fearless.”

When mid-season rankings came out, DCO was still unranked, since they had not played their 5 sanctioned MRDA bouts. The world of men’s derby (ok, maybe just me and a few other people who are rankings nerds) were waiting with baited breath to see how DCO did at the Arizona Rattleskates’ Southwest Sausage Fest.

At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.


Well let’s talk rankings for a second. In the WFTDA there is a fancy new equation that helps the organization calculate rankings. In the MRDA they’re still doing things a little old school. So the member teams vote. That being said, if a team has established wins that calculate out properly, they tend to move upward. Here’s what we need to look at:

Southern Discomfort played 3 of the 4 top teams in the MRDA and lost to them, but … only lost to Maelstrom by 50 points (almost a tie in derby standards). Denton lost to So Disco by 99 points. DCO was slated to play Deep Valley Belligerents at SW Sausagefest. DVB was ranked #8 at mid-terms. Right. So if DCO could beat DVB, that would mean that they were better than the #8 ranking and since So Disco had beaten DCO by a larger margin, it would mean they were at least better than at least the 8 seed. (Ok, so maybe me and So Disco were waiting with baited breath for Sausagefest).

Sorry. Back to writing about derby now.  //EndRankingNerdMoment

Everyone is looking for the cut [that didn't happen]. At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
Everyone is looking for Lucky Charmer to cut… yea, he didn’t. At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
As you may have figured out, DCO DID beat Deep Valley. The walls of DCO had strengthened since I watched them play at Spring Roll (through the magic of the interwebs, I got to watch the stream of Sausagefest). The walls were more fluid and worked as a unit to contain, play offense as they were playing defense (yay!), and kill penalties. Deep Valley simply couldn’t contain the DCO jammers. I wish I could give you stats on this one, but it seems that the stats package hasn’t been uploaded to FTS. Womp Womp. I will say that I particularly enjoy watching Lucky Charmer magically break through packs and Phillip Stout working with his team mates to destroy opponents.

Ladies and gentlemen: Phillip Stout at work. At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
Ladies and gentlemen: Phillip Stout at work.
At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.

So let’s talk Champs. Denton is facing off in the first round against Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby. To say they’re the underdog is a bit of an understatement. Especially since one of their primary jammers, aforementioned Haterade, is out recovering from surgery. Binkley says the guys aren’t looking at their underdog status as a negative stance though:

“Our main goal is to have fun and learn from each game. We just want to the rest of MRDA that we belong here. Whatever place we finish in at the end of the tournament accomplishment since this is our first time being ranked. I know the DCO guys will soak everything in and come out of this tournament that much stronger. [Denton County is] extremely excited to be a part of the years champs. It’s every team’s goal to make it to champs. I’m just happy to see our goal come to life!”

Regardless of how this weekend turns out for Denton, you can be sure they are going to come out with fast feet, spins, hops, and powerful blocking.

Streaming information is forthcoming from the MRDA. Keep your eyes peeled on the MRDA Championship Facebook Event for up to date information. If you want to support the Denton County Outlaws, check out their Facebook Fundraiser page for merch!

Beards doing work! At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.
Beards doing work! At Southwest Sausagefest. Photo by Jennifer Abdulla.

The difference a year makes

It’s amazing how the entire course of your life can change in a year.

Last summer, ECDX was a week earlier (ECDX, for those not in the know, is EAST COAST EXTRAVAGANZA – 3 days of roller derby hosted by the tenacious Philly Roller Girls). So let’s rewind one year and one week…

I knew I had one more year of school left. I was preparing for a Team USA boot camp and 2 WFTDA bouts with Harrisburg Area Roller Derby. I was writing for my Examiner semi-steadily and I had picked up a job at a local pizzeria for cash, and was still working for a fruit farm at a Thursday Farmer’s Market. Matt and I were doing well and we were looking forward to a Florida vacation later in the summer.

I earned MVP of Providence, but it was one of the toughest games I've ever played!
I earned MVP of Providence, but it was one of the toughest games I’ve ever played!

I was unhappy with my skating; I wasn’t completely unsatisfied, but I knew I could be better. I had done moderately well against Dominion and had earned MVP against Providence (which was huge for me*). However I was full of doubt. My quick endurance and strength wasn’t where I wanted it. My footwork was improving but clunky. I never had energy at the end of a jam and I was ALWAYS sore. I thought I was doing everything right, and I was just on the biggest plateau ever. When I looked at it – my body hadn’t changed in nearly TWO YEARS. Annoying.

Team USA boot camp Thursday. 3 Hour black and white scrimmage Friday. Sore. Spent. I met so many skaters that made me want to be better than I was (thank you, Gunder N Lightening, Fifi Nomenon and the ladies of the Columbia Quad Squad).

Then I meet Krissy Krash at her Derbalife booth. I’ve talked about this before so I’ll just fast forward.

One year and one week later, I am different.

Coming into a Cape Fear pack (photo by Juan Paden)
Coming into a Cape Fear pack (photo by Juan Paden)

Not only is my body completely different, but my mind, attitude, outlook and future have shifted so drastically. I’ve been through a major injury. A break-up. A career change. A graduation. A sponsorship. I’ve played new rule sets, played a bank track tournament and am now pushing myself with the challenge of skate parks. I consider myself a runner now. And I’ve been back to rock climbing.

Using the rail and avoiding the hit.
Using the rail and avoiding the hit.

Today, still write, but I do it for my blog as well as Examiner as well as for a book. Now I am in a house in Lititz, shared by myself and two friends. My diet is high performance to match the intensity of my roller derby and Crossfit schedule. I’m a successful Herbalife coach with a HUGE vision of creating online support communities, pockets of local derby support and a series of training centers up and down the east coast. I talk to people from all over the world on a daily basis, and I have skaters contacting me and telling me what an inspiration I am to them.

The Pivot Center in Virginia is one of the training centers I'm so excited to be working with!
The Pivot Center in Virginia is one of the training centers I’m so excited to be working with!

I run boot camps and guest coach fairly regularly. I have people now seeking ME out. I am building my classes for Rollercon since this year I am teaching business classes, off skates workouts and on skates fundamentals.

I no longer have the limiting beliefs that I had at this time last year. I prepare for ECDX with my new team: the Dutchland All Stars. Instead of a Team USA Boot Camp, I will be going to a Team USA tryout. Last night at practice, I was able to not only keep up, but perform consistently throughout practice in a rink with no AC, no air flow and after having done a Crossfit open class an hour and a half before.

I no longer believe that I’m defective. That I’m unworthy of love and that I’ll never be ‘good enough’ for a man to want more than my body. Though, I’m pretty proud of that body, let’s be real. *winks*

I am strong. I am determined. I am a force. Despite the struggles. Despite the hardships of the moment, they will not define me. They do not define me. Not anymore. I am stronger than my struggles. I am the one who will be victorious in the end.

I don’t need a diamond – I am one.

If this is where I’m at this year – almost one year into being an Herbalife Health Coach, almost one year into being a Dutchland Roller … who knows where I will be at this time in 2014. I’m excited to find out.


If you have a big vision for your life, and think this whole Health Coach deal sounds as awesome as I thought .. drop me a line at