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The Correlation Between Roller Derby and Academia

I know this sounds nuts, but hear me out here. Previous to beginning playing roller derby at the age of 20, I had a very checkered academic past. My teen angst always led to me refusing to work with uncooperative teachers and blowing off homework because I didn’t feel like completing the assignment. I did have the capacity to do well, I just thought that other things were more important for some reason. Fast forward to a 23 year old Crusty starting at community college after dropping out of art school 5 years earlier. I am on time for class. I am always prepared. I seek out constructive criticism. I email professors to keep a dialogue going. I am taking a stupid large course load and managing to stay afloat and even excel. My academic path is going in an entirely different direction because of you guessed it, playing derby!

Through skating over the last few years I have had to amend how I handled situations in order to be a better teammate and a more effective league member. I have had to find weaknesses in myself and address them (which is an annoying but necessary feat). Here is a listing of skills I have grown through roller derby that help me as a student:

  • Seeking out constructive criticism. Once an unwanted interaction, I am now so excited to receive constructive criticism. Please give me your feedback so I can know how to better myself in all walks!

  • Respectfulness. I have learned to give attention to whomever is speaking. As opposed to letting my inner dialogue run amok, I’m able to focus now on someone who is trying to educate me on something I know squat about.
  • Promptness. Being tardy means being poorly prepared. You need to let your muscles warm up as opposed to jumping in and potentially getting injured. I am now always (mostly, sometimes my car throws a fit) on time especially in my math class to center myself for the brain beating I am about to receive.

  • Communication. In working together with your league mates and board members it is essential to keep in touch because sometimes life happens. Unintimidated, I am able to keep that conversation going with my professors.

  • Accountability. Very rarely in this semester have I skipped homework or blew off a test because I didn’t feel like it. In high school, I skipped class on a very regular basis and my grades suffered. I couldn’t have cared less. Now I care very, very much. I want to do well. I want to smash everything that told me I could never do well.

  • Celebrating small victories. This one is huge for me. Before skating, I was never able to celebrate the little things that swell up and make life great. The quiet internal voice spouting encouragement has become a booming shout with a megaphone. Utilized footwork you never thought possible, even if for a couple of steps? “That was SO COOL do it again!” Made a jammer work for it? “YEAH SELF!” Get a higher grade than anticipated on a test? “It’s time for me to take you out for pizza!”

     

    All of these things were a black void of nonexistence until becoming an active skater. Derby has made me think very seriously about my skill goals, and that mindset has transferred over to my everyday life. I want to do better because I know I can. I know I’m worth more than I had ever given myself credit for. I have faith in myself and I trust myself to succeed (if only by my own standards) which is nothing I have ever been able to do before. My derby brothers and sisters have shown me what it is to love your team, and what it is to love and respect yourself. I’m so thankful for you little weirdos and the path you have all helped me find.

Tons of love from clown town,

Crusty #314

P.S. If any of these new found skills change in the coming semesters, I’ll kindly redirect myself to this post to get jazzed about academia again.

Note to the New Players!

Last night was our first roller derby practice of the year.  It was also the first practice for some of our new-comers.  While I didn’t get much chance to talk to the new folks, it was great to see them there.  As an older skater (meaning that I’ve been playing for a while AND that I’m actually older than others on the team), it makes me feel great to see new people getting involved in the sport I love.  It renews my excitement in the game and makes me eager to get to know some new sisters (or brothers).

I’ve been playing roller derby since 2010.  I started out being TERRIBLE.  A lot of skaters will tell you that they were so bad when they started but I was SERIOUSLY BAD.  As we learned some basic skills, it always took me much longer to get them than all the other skaters (actually, it still does.  Me+new skill+lots of time=mediocre).  When we graduated from fresh meat, it seemed like many of the other skaters started excelling at strategy quicker than I did, as well.  So, from time to time this did get me down but, like derby, you can’t stay down.  I kept trying, kept pushing myself, and I’ve learned a lot!  I’ve been named “Most Improved Player of the Year” TWICE!  I am still not the best player on the team but, I don’t feel like I’m a liability on the track (most of the time).  We all have different strengths and weaknesses and that helps us be a great team and family.  So, to any of our new folks (or to anyone THINKING about joining), below are my tips for you.  I actually wrote most of these quite some time ago and I’ve shared it with a few people along the way.

HOW TO BE AN IMPROVED PLAYER

  1. Start by barely knowing how to skate.  You can only improve from there.    OK, if you know how to skate, you can still improve…always!!
  2. Get Over It!   If you fall down, get back up.  If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on…don’t dwell on it (I still struggle with this).  If a teammate makes a mistake, get over it and keep working with him/her.  If a ref makes a mistake, tough.  They’re human and will miss things or will call things wrong.  But, if they call it or don’t call it, live with it and do what you’re supposed to do.
  3. Listen to what people are actually saying (Get over it part 2).  Your coaches and teammates are probably very wise.  Listen to them.  One of the first times that I was scrimmaging in practice, I was scared to death.  I was like a deer in headlights.  I skated in an oval near other skaters hoping that no one would notice that I was clueless.  After the jam was over, Ninja Hurtle (I miss you) said to me, “You’re not doing anyone any good if you’re just skating out there.  You’ve gotta hit someone or get in someone’s way.”  What I heard was, “You’re not any good.”  If I could’ve just taken the advice and had gotten my stupid bruised ego out of the way, I would’ve learned something that day instead of several weeks or months later.  I also probably would’ve heard and absorbed the next thing that she said:  “Don’t be afraid of her.  She’s on skates just like you.”  How brilliant!!!  I’m sure most of my teammates are more comfortable on skates than I am but we’ve all got wheels strapped to our feet.  What makes her (whoever she may be) any better than me?
  4. If you have a weakness or fear, don’t wait a year to address it.  At my second practice ever, we were supposed to do squats on our toe stops.  So, I got on my toe stops and squatted twice.  My feet flew out from under me and I landed right on my tailbone.  In all the times that I’ve fallen on my tail bone since, I’ve never hurt so bad as that time.  So, I lived in fear of toe stops for about a year.  When I finally fessed up to my derby sisters, they LITERALLY gave me support (holding me up while I took awkward baby steps on my toes) and they gave me encouragement.  Chances are, your teammates want you to do better and no one will make fun of you if you’re working on your weakness.  For quite some time, I spent part of the warm up time taking slightly less awkward steps on my toe stops around the track and I always got a thumbs up or a “way to go” from one of my teammates that knows that I’m working on something that has scared me before.  Although I’m not super comfortable with toe stops still, I’m much better at stops and starts because I’m not as afraid anymore.
  5. If you’re feeling like you don’t want to go to practice, GO!  I want to be clear that I’m not talking about being sick or injured.  People have to miss practice sometimes for other obligations, too.  I’m talking here about that general malaise where there isn’t anything wrong but you’re just not feeling it.  I get this feeling a LOT.  I contemplate hanging up the skates and chucking the whole thing.  When I start to feeling this way, I usually go anyway and start with a bad attitude (sorry teammates).  I’ve never regretted going.  I always have a great time once I get going and those nights are usually my favorites.   I learn something new and feel a sense of accomplishment.
  6. Always Always Always have fun!
     
 

Professor Plum Crazy
#PG13

Do you want to join a great family that helps you improve as a person and an athlete?  You still can!  We have “Check It Out” nights on Tuesday, January 19th and January 26th!  You need to be 19+ (with ID) and bring a mouthguard. Contact our Coach The Dread Pirate Robyn for more info

Keep your fists up.

Trigger Warning: This blog post deals with suicide and depression in a very open manner. Mental illness is very common among the derby community and by talking about it, we hope to raise awareness while removing the stigma. We encourage all leagues to create a safe space for those with a diagnosis and hope that by sharing this post we can start a dialogue about how we can help one another.

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Dr: Do you have a plan?

Me: Yes.

Dr: Mr. Johnson, you….

Me: You tell me to make lists when I panic. Lists become chores, chores become tasks, tasks become a plan. Yes, I have a plan.

I am not writing this for sympathy, or help or for concern. I’m writing this for those struggling. Or for those that love the struggling. For those lost and losing. This is very difficult.

This is going to get very personal and very real. My apologizes to anyone hurt or offended by this.

5 years ago

**Phone vibrates**

NL: I love you and I’m worried about you.

I took the serrated edge of my knife away from my arm. I let my cat that was crying at my bedroom door in and we went to bed on a pile of dirty laundry on the floor.

A well-timed text saved my life. Thanks Lith.

I woke up the next morning more than 5 years ago with my eyes matted and a pounding headache. I missed work that day.

Depression is painful. Emotionally, Mentally, and Physically. Depression is isolation.

I told myself that morning that I won’t stop my fight. I laid there and told myself over and over that I can’t be the only one going through this…feeling this way.

I wasn’t. I’m not. Neither are you.

I’m not the same person I was then, but he still exists and will always be a part of me.

I’ve had several counselors and been through countless psychiatric evaluations. Diagnosis: panic attack disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and severe depression.

Just like addiction there is no cure. Just a different level of recovery. There is a high likelihood of relapse. Also like addiction, most of the people suffering from depression don’t realize they are in danger until it is too late.

For those who know someone battling demons – be there for them. Listen. Be available. Know that if they lose their fight it’s not your fault. Know that for those suffering there are things worse than death.

Depression isn’t weakness. Fighting it takes a considerable amount of strength.

This is a fight. A dirty, unfair fight against an opponent that doesn’t care about the outcome. Depression has nothing to lose. Sometimes it feels like the fight is over. It’s not. It never is.

For those of you who are fighting. Keep the fists up. Never put them down. NEVER.

For those in their corner, in my corner  – Thank you. There is no way to ever express gratitude for the help and support you’ve given and continue to give us.

I’ve been involved in roller derby for more than 6 years.  Between coaching, skating, watching, attending clinics, traveling… etc – The more people I’ve met, the more I’ve interacted with, the more it reinforces the quality of this community. We are a microcosm like any other. We help one another and share in each other’s struggles. Thank you roller derby. You have been instrumental in helping me stay on the sunny side of the soil.

Ghost Faced Thriller #36

PS. To all SIRG and BHG members: I’m here for you. Reach out.  (DPR edit: I’m here for you too, always.)

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out to a team member or to the resources below.  

Suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

Textline: Text “go” or “hi” to 741 741

In Defense of Derby Heroes

You've heard it before, "be your own hero!" It's sort of the unofficial mantra of modern roller derby. Anyone can do it and for many who play, this is their first real involvement in team sports of any kind. So we do! We strap on skates and we go around in circles, trying not to die, mostly. It is, after all, a contact sport played on quad skates. We put in our hearts, our determination, our sweat, sometimes our tears, and we try to believe in ourselves.

As a child, it's encouraged to find someone to look up to, to pattern after, to idolize. Super heroes and princesses line the shelves of every toy store. As kids, we find real life inspiration in coaches, teachers, and parents. But as we grow older, we are taught to focus towards empowering ourselves and being proud of our own accomplishments and we move away from having heroes.

I'd like to throw a maybe controversial statement out there, though. Even as an adult, I believe you shouldn't be your only hero. I think we should have heroes and we should be actively working to be better each day. Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't be confident or proud of yourself. In fact, the opposite! Roller derby is hard. My point is that I believe you should also find people you respect to learn and grow from. I have a few heroes I'd like to share with you.

First, there is Kill. When I began playing roller derby in 2012, I didn't know much about roller derby at all. I watched the ladies of Cape Girardeau Roller Girls and Southern Illinois Roller Girls and I was enthralled. I watched Laryn Kill, who now skates for Tampa Roller Derby, dance around on her skates and be amazing, even then. I watched this amazing sport I knew nothing about, except that I wanted to play. Now I watch Laryn Kill on my WFTDA feed in D1 tournament play. Kill gave me my first skater evaluation as a fresh meat skater and she wrote a list of things for me to work on and then signed it, "You're AWESOME! -Kill" I still have that note. For a long time, it rode around in my derby bag. Now it lives in my box of derby memorabilia. Kill gave me one of the first real inspirational moments in roller derby that sticks in my mind. Kill coached the first time I jammed, scored points, and celebrated with me. I watch her play now and get excited every time she takes the track. She's one of my derby heroes because, of course, she is great on the track but also because she inspires me to be better.

Second, there is Splatter. When I joined the Southern Illinois Roller Girls in 2014, I was in a transitional period for derby, I had recently returned from having a baby and a ton of things had changed. I wasn't confident in my skills as a skater and I felt extremely defeated. I think this might be a common feeling for skaters who return from injury or pregnancy. It was at this point, I really started to learn from So Ill skater, Splatter. She noticed that I was not attempting skills because, at the time, I just felt like I couldn't do them. She would not accept that I "just couldn't" .. She broke down each skill. She spent time after practice showing me that I was a more capable skater than I knew. She continues to stick with me when I can't find the courage to try new skills and kicks my butt all over the track. She has taught me that giving up is never an option and I feel really proud to be her teammate and friend. I now watch Splatter on my WFTDA feed play with DCRD in D2 tournament play and she has been chosen to play with Team Illinois in December. Splatter is my derby hero because she's a fantastic derby player and because she is a great coach and an amazing friend.

My final hero to share is Kayla Seiber. Kayla plays for the Arch Rival Roller Girls in St Louis, Missouri and is a member of Team Missouri. I have watched her play before but I had the extreme pleasure of being able to play against her in a mashup tournament called The Great Midwest Mashup, recently. She is obviously an extremely talented skater! She was out on the track doing the kinds of things I dream about. I received an MVP blocker that day but she earned MVP for every game she played in that weekend. When it came time for us to play, I was so nervous! I went out there and did my best. I told myself, I would not give up, no matter what. We jammed against each other several times during the game and exchanged some fun back and forth on the jam line. After the game was over, she was awarded MVP jammer. She came over to me and told me she enjoyed playing with me so much she wanted me to have her MVJ trophy. I cried and went serious fan girl. I may or may not have made her sign it. (Okay, I did.. ) Kayla is my derby hero because she's a seriously amazing player but also because she probably had no idea what that gesture meant to me. The lesson that day was that we all have more to give than just skills on the track. It is a moment that I will never forget.

Roller derby, in it's modern form, is an exploding sport of athleticism and strength. Though roller derby may seem like it is about knocking people down, that couldn't be farther from the truth. The people who play this game are some of the best I've ever met. We lift each other up and with the growth of junior roller derby; empower the next generation. I encourage you to find your heroes and do them proud. Find your own Laryn Kill,  Splatter, andKayla Seiber. You're stronger than you know and someday, maybe you'll be somebody's hero too. Maybe you already are..

Sunny D'Sasster #100

Evolution of a skater: how I traded my stripes for a star

It doesn’t seem like it’s been 5 years since my cousin first introduced me to roller derby, but it really has. Back then having guys skate with the ladies was unheard of. With that respect, I spent my time studying the rules to become a referee. That has been a great advantage to me since I have since transitioned to skating as a player myself. Back in the winter of 2013 I first got to lace up my skates as a player instead of a referee. Nothing has been the same for me since then.

The ladies of the Southern Illinois Roller Girls have become my newest home. I’ll never forget all the people that brought me up from the West Kentucky Rockin’ Rollers, but as life happens we tend to move on to other things. It still seems like a dream that in March of 2014 I started skating as a member of the Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen. We were just a group of guys that wanted to play derby. We spent every Sunday in a moldy, hot building for 5 hours working on getting the basic skills everyone needed to be able to skate. Those days were amazing.

Already having some sort of skating experience is nice, but going back to the basics and building on the skills I already had was more than necessary. Some of the guys saw me and thought “look at this guy. He’s already pretty good”, but that wasn’t the case at all. I was confident in my ability to skate forward, but at that time I struggled with the most basic things. I was still in this mindset of “I’m a ref.” I was timid and quiet on the track. I had the knowledge there of what the roles of each person were, but I had no experience in applying them myself. I was lost. Until this year I wasn’t even able to plow stop. I know “who can’t plow stop?!” Me. I couldn’t at all. The concept was as foreign to me. I had spent so much of my time as a referee that I never got the chance to stop and appreciate the little things.

How does that relate to anything at all? Well, this year I had the awesome opportunity to attend a scrimmage-a-thon hosted by Demolition City Roller Derby in Evansville, Indiana. From where I began to where I was just a few short months ago was a journey I’ll never forget. I had never been in a jammer mentality. I could do it if it was necessary, but never more than a time or two. My coach had faith in me, and I’m fairly certain she somehow had a part in making sure I was going to jam a bunch in Evansville.

Evansville. Those ladies know their stuff. Throughout that day there I had to opportunity to skate with many great skaters. I also had the chance to get their insight on my skating and how I could improve my skating.

The day was a long one. Awake super early, driving for 2 hours to get there at 8am. Waiting was a big part of the day. The anticipation of “this is really happening. I’m really here.” That first game though, everything melted away. All of the fears and anxiety of the day ahead of me washed away as that first set of four whistles ended the jam. I was here. I was where I was meant to be. The star kept getting handed to me. I kept taking it. It was a day where I had to challenge myself to be the very best that I could be. I stepped out of my comfort zone and that has been a world of difference for me. I had skated in scrimmages before, but nothing like this. Here I had a crew of people with varying skill levels all around me. I had the people I needed the most to help me grow as a player. I also had the chance to help other people grow. This place was much needed for me. I found my confidence in myself again. I found people that skated like me and ways to help grow.

Learning how to play, the way I did, gives me something most other guys don’t see much: my hips. In a world where shoulders dominate, I use my hips. It’s not the greatest thing in the world, but it’s something to me. It never lets me forget my roots. Watching these people that I look up to most skate and seeing the way they work makes me want to grow even more. I’m learning now that shoulders are ok. They aren’t going to kill me. My challenge now? Finding my Tao while skating. I want to find that perfect balance of how I block and skate. I want to become my fullest potential.

This October, on the 24th, the Southern Illinois Roller girls are hosting a scrimmage-a-thon that they have named “Brawl-o-ween”. I’m super excited for this. It gives me another chance to help other people out and to find a new way to learn and grow. The day will also mean more to me than just that. That day is also the day the Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen get to host their very first home bout. It’s going to be amazing just to be there for it all, for me at least.

In the end, I’ve grown so much in the 2 short years I’ve been skating as a player. I never dreamed I would get the opportunity to learn new skills and grow. I never once thought that I would go to a scrimmage-a-thon and spend almost 10 hours on skates. I couldn’t foresee where roller derby would take me, but I’m glad it did. I’m so glad that I fell into this culture. I have a massive family now of people from all walks of life. For that I am eternally grateful. I love you all. Thank you for letting me be a part of your world. Thank you for showing me a whole new world.

P.S. To those of you it concerns, my glitter is running now.

Zazzles, #42

Of Brains, Brawn, and Balance: Parting Words from a So Ill Roller Girl

When I returned to Carbondale four years ago to pursue a doctorate in English, I didn’t anticipate joining a roller derby team.  I came to the Southern Illinois Roller Girls as a spectator just looking for something to do on a Saturday night.  That lasted about 10 minutes, before I asked Dread Pirate Robyn how I could eventually join.  Her response:  “Start now.  We need some volunteers.”  I was voluntold to hold a scoreboard in the middle of the track, not knowing anything about the game that was happening around me.  All I knew was that I was very excited and very confused, and that I wanted to come back for the next bout and the one after that.  Although a friend in my program came with me to that first bout, she never returned, and I came to the Fresh Meat program the following spring on my own.  I remember talking to Devil Doc, Jr., one of the other non-skating officials, about wanting something to do with my free time, and her response was, “you won’t have any if you do derby.”  She was right.  I have had to work to balance my career, friends, and derby, and I’ve not always been successful with it.  

Brains

I rely heavily on my brain for my income, livelihood, and enrichment, as most people do.  As a teacher and researcher, critical thinking is imperative.  What I didn’t expect was for my skills as a teacher, student, and collaborator to be relevant on the track.  It is.  And I’m finding that those skills are far harder to build than the athletics involved in derby.  Now, I’m not saying that derby isn’t physically challenging. It is.  But the ability to work with other women, with varying personalities, to step back from myself, to take criticism, to absorb strategy, these are all brain based activities.  No matter how strong my body is, if I can’t make it work with other people, I don’t belong in the game.  

I’m not always successful at working with the other girls.  Not one of us IS always successful at it.  I have thought through things, then over-thought them.  I have made some of the best friends of my life.  I have hurt people with my comments.  I have been hurt by others’ comments to me.  I have confronted other girls about their comments to me, and have lost those girls as friends.  I am flawed as a human and flawed as a skater, and derby forces me to work on my shortcomings.  I have to confront these flaws head on and make decisions about who I am, what I want, and how I am going to get it.  Derby has made me a better thinker, communicator, and problem solver, both on and off the track.  But it’s not easy.  It’s not always giggles and butt touches.  Sometimes it is humbling oneself in front of my team, in front of my coach, in front of my mirror.   

Brawn

Sometimes, strength comes from unexpected conversations, realizations, and confrontations, and not from exercise. The rest of the time, though, to quote RuPaul, “you better work”! I am stronger, physically, than I have been since I was a competitive highland dancer in my teens and twenties.  I am not smaller.  In fact, I am at a heavier weight than I have ever been in my life.  It’s both demoralizing (when I can’t fit into my pants) and self-affirming (when I see myself power through a pack as a jammer).  But again, it’s not easy.  I struggle with body image issues. My arms are large - well, with as many push-ups as we do and as hard as we push, of course they are.  My calves, thighs, and ass no longer fit into anything that is not constructed using elastic - nor should they with the number of squats and hours of skating.  Yet, these are not feelings that sit easily with someone who was told to take up smoking to keep her weight down as a ballerina.  I have to work to keep the evil in my head at bay.  To tell myself that strong is sexy.  That these arms, because they protect my teammates, are beautiful.  That the giant calves I have cultivated don’t need to fit in jeans, they need to get me through holes in walls.  

Earlier this year, I participated in Cory Laymon’s Body by Derby for SIRG. I was the first to step in front of the camera, and although the images are lovely and show me in all of my sports bra/hot pants glory, they aren’t easy for me to look at.  I see the flaws, not the strength.  And I make myself look at the pictures he made to appreciate myself.  My work. My struggles.  And I hope that the images inspire others to do the work required by a strong body,  that others work to cultivate a balance between the brain and the body through this amazing sport that values all bodies, all women.

Balance

Derby requires discipline.  I can go on all day about exercising right, eating clean, and staying sober, but none of those things are really concerns for me.  The discipline I have to exercise has to do with saying ‘no’.  And I hate to say no, especially with my belief that there are, to quote Empire Records, “twenty-four usable hours in every day”.  This is, by the way, untrue, and I struggle to remember that every time I see a request for derby volunteers, extra bouts, more practices, and social events.  I have to remember why I came to Carbondale to start with - to finish my education.  And most of the time, I do.  However, derby has proved to be an education all on its own.  

I have learned that I can lead on the track.  I can jam.  I can block.  I can soul-crush.  I can pick my teammates up off of the track when they have a bad day.  I can let myself be supported when I’m sad or injured.  I have learned that I can’t be friends with everyone.  I can’t say ‘yes’ all the time.  I can’t rely solely on myself, nor can I rely solely on my teammates.   I have to take time off of derby to achieve my goals; I have to take time from my personal life to help others reach their goals on and off the track. I have to strive for balance.  It’s tough.  And it’s been a hell of a learning curve.  

Saying Goodbye

Now, I’m finishing my doctorate and Derby 101, and am moving on to Colorado Springs, where the (currently) #34 team in the nation resides, practices, and plays.  I have to determine what my new balance will be, and where I will fit, if at all, on a team that is so different than this one.  I am coming to terms with the fact that no matter what team I play for, or don’t play for, I began here, with the inspiring women who shout “Wu-Tang!” before we “Kill, Kill!” on the track.  And the “Wu” is strong with these women.  Hella strong.

Last weekend, I played my last game with the Southern Illinois Roller Girls, after having bouted with them for nearly three years.  I bonded with girls on the drive, got to know our freshest skater, Slayor Swift (who did us proud on the track during her first bout!) and stayed with Splatter’s extremely generous family.  Unfortunately, I got hurt early in the second half and sobbed like a small child when I was told to go to the hospital instead of playing or even watching through the end of the game.  In the larger scheme of recent injuries within our team, mine is minor - a hand contusion that requires me to wear what is, essentially, a derby wrist guard for a couple of weeks.  But I am heartbroken that I missed those last minutes with my team.  We were down when I left, and we came back strong to win with some of our friends and family looking on; I could feel the “Wu” all the way at the hospital.  

I’ve cried off and on through the writing of this blog, trying to figure out how to get to this part of it.  This morning, I folded and packed that unattractive, yellow, black, and grey jersey.  Don’t get me wrong about my dislike of the jersey...(I am a pasty girl who should not wear yellow)...I have come to love those colors.  I have had to earn the right to wear that jersey.  I have had to work for the right to declare that I, Belle Bruising, can and will kick some ass.   I cried while I carefully placed it in a suitcase.  I will miss each and every person associated with this amazing team of women.  I will miss our Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen.  I will miss the butt tickles, and the crass jokes, and the pocket sandwiches we sneak into games.  I will miss our supportive fans and reaching out to the Southern Illinois community.  But black and yellow is in my blood and blood does not forget.  

 

 

I love you all.  Ohana.  

Belle Bruising, #1895


Broken But Still Good

In what is arguably the best Disney movie (or at least the best one about an experimental alien), Lilo defines the Hawaiian concept of Ohana. “Ohana means family,” she explains. She later talks about her family as small and broken, but is assured by her newest family member that it’s “still good.”  I can relate to that idea in so many ways, most strongly through my derby family.   Sometimes when there are big emotional things going on in the lives of my leaguemates I respond to their concerns with that one word: Ohana.  To Lilo, Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten. To me, it has even more meaning. Derby family means when you hurt, I hurt. When your car gets hit with a cinder block at 65 miles per hour, I'm on the side of the road with you, as are the rest of the teammates. It means going to your kids' events, sitting in the room while you have surgery,  driving 3 hours to see you after a wreck,  going with you to court for custody battles, coming to your baby showers, holding you in your losses,  and celebrating with you in your “real life” victories. 

Sometimes it means going to funerals. I came into derby a broken person.  I didn't know I was broken, but I was.  I used to roll my eyes when anyone said this, but roller derby truly saved my soul.  I lost my dad 11/2 years into my derby career. Though I am incredibly fortunate in the fact that I have the best mother a girl could ask for and a husband with the patience of a saint who has been my rock for nearly 16 years,  it was my roller derby family that got me through that month. I realized then that my derby family was going to be a part of me forever.  Each of them, in their own way, had fixed part of what was broken...like gluing shattered glass back together  into a mosaic in which they had supplied their own colorful bits where pieces were missing.  Through our friendships, I know I have contributed my own pieces to the mosaics of their souls. 

This month our derby family suffered a loss that rocked many of us to our cores. We lost a founding member of the men's league to an automobile accident. He was on leave due to life, but he was still one of us.  Like so many others, he came to derby a little bit broken. I like to think that when he left us, it was with a mosaic of his own. The loss of this young, charismatic brother has left a hole in my soul and in the souls of all of my brothers and sisters in derby. In times like this,  the old me. ..the anxious me. ..the broken me... would have run away from derby.  Away from the pain.  Lord knows I've tried to walk away for less pressing and more selfish reasons. I've even gone to several practices with a letter of resignation in my skate bag but could never quit because I felt like I owed my derby family more than that.  After all, it fixed what was broken and I can't say that about much of anything else.  

I’m not exactly a social person. I’m much more comfortable watching tv alone than being in a loud bar and my favorite part of afterparties is laughing at the silly antics I get to “mom” my group out of. I’ve driven an hour to go to a practice for another league and skipped practice to go to IHOP because I couldn’t work up the courage to go inside. (And let’s face it – I’m a fat kid and IHOP French toast is the best.) Derby has brought me out of my shell in so many ways and made me brave when I don’t want to be and coaching has given me skills I use every day at work. When I have to miss practice or derby events, I always feel a little bit of guilt and I almost never miss “just because.” I feel like derby is much more than a hobby. It’s a way of LIVING. (And let’s face it – I’m too cheap to feel like I’m not getting the most out of my dues.)  I never want to miss the moments when my fresh meat get the derby bug. I never want to miss the stories or the camaraderie or the empowerment. I never want to miss the chance to fix someone who is broken…to be there when I am needed… to try to give back to derby what it has given me. I never want to miss the chance to have one last practice with my brothers and sisters should the unthinkable happen again.

Ohana, derby family. I love you all.

 Dread Pirate Robyn 

#6fingers

Southern Illinois Roller Girls and Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen 

The Magic of Me-Time on the Track

Where will I find time for this? I’ll kill myself! Is it selfish of me?

Being a mother of four boys, a wife, and a full time employee barely leaves time for me. There is always something or someone that needs my attention.  I am not a spring chicken anymore. I hadn't really been skating much since I was a teenager and, even then, only skated to hang out with boys.  I am not in shape, unless you count round as a shape. I will kill myself out there on that rink. 

All of these things were going through my mind the first time that I saw these wonderful creatures skating around in circles and turning left and doing all the things at the skating rink.  As I sat there, watching, while holding my 11 month old son, I only dreamed that I could ever do that. “Oh the free time that they must have. None of them look a day over 21 or have any kids, or are married. Oh man, what a life," I thought to myself.

Then my wonderful husband strikes up conversation with these magical majestic people and low-and-behold, they are all just like me. Some have kids, some are married (or close to it), they all have jobs, and no free time. JUST LIKE ME! Now the first words outta my mouth after they tell me they play roller derby are…. “Oh I have seen Whip It, that’s so cool!” I think back on that comment and I am so embarrassed. But it didn't ruin my chances of making friends with these super cool folks - they still talked to me and then invited us to come watch them. As time went by, I Googled a lot of derby, watched a lot of YouTube and, needless to say, I was so interested, but still not really sure how I could ever be one of these majestic creatures.  But I wanted to.

So February 8th 2014, I watched my first bout and I WAS HOOKED! I could not wait to throw on some skates and be just like them! During this time the guy’s league (The Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen) was starting so I would tag along with my husband to his practice. During the first practice, I just kind of sat back in the shadows and watched, but at the second practice, I was out there with the guys. I did all my fresh meat training with the guys and learned right along with them. Becoming Marinated Meat and moving to the vet track was such an accomplishment for me. I was finally a majestic creature.

Then my first scrimmage came up and I felt like I was gonna crap my pants, puke on the track, and die all at the same time. But I did well, minus a last turn mishap (those darn ghost holes).  Getting through the first season, a winning season at that, was the most accomplished I have ever felt with myself, other than having my children. I have never been more proud of myself for being a part of something. The group of people that I have met on this journey are the most amazing, honest, and good hearted people that I think I have ever came across and I am very happy to call them all my family. I am forever indebted to the majestic creatures that took me in and made me one of their own. There is nothing that ranks higher to me than my children and my husband, but MY derby is very close!!! So even though I have four children, a husband, a full time job, and it might be selfish of me sometimes, I will derby!! 

Don’t let the little things stop you from dreaming - release your inner majestic self!

DIXIE DUKE   842 (YA77)

Take your Balls and go Home

 

The history of gender in American sports has been largely one of exclusion.  For most of organized sports history, the thought of men competing alongside women has been largely dismissed.  Men sought to exclude and prohibit women from sports, forcing a policy of “separate, but equal'' that still exists today.  Roller derby, however, has a rich tradition of inclusion and embracing forms of co-ed competition.  In the past ten years alone, roller derby has set a new standard for gender inclusion that many sports should continue to adopt.

Gender discrimination in American sports can be tracked to the earliest forms of baseball.  Women and men organized teams, games, and leagues as the sport developed from infancy.  While the men and women traditionally competed separately, there are several notable instances where women competed against men and had competitive games.  However, before the women's game could get formalized, conservative institutions stepped in to limit womens participation.  Rules were established that limited and discouraged women from participating, mostly in the name of decency.

Softball was generally more accepting of women in sport.  In the 1933 Century of Progress celebration, softball made it's premiere, with separate men's and women's competitions.  Men's and women's softball continued to develop separately until co-ed slow-pitch was introduced in the later half of the twentieth century.  Men's fastpitch softball has since been relegated to a barnstorming sport, while women's fastpitch exists as one of the most popular amateur sports for young women.  Organized slow-pitch, in the male, female, and co-ed varieties struggle to sustain competitive leagues.

Co-ed sports--softball, volleyball, and basketball--are exceptions to a standard of “separate, but equal'' in sports.  These co-ed sports exist largely at the recreational level.  Competitive amateur and professional sports almost exclusively mandate a separation of genders.  Female opportunity in sport grew significantly after the passage of Title IX, which mandates equal educational and athletic opportunities for women in college.  However, this is limited to female-only sports.

Lacking opportunities to compete in separate women's sports, some athletes have attempted to compete alongside men.  These efforts are traditionally met with opposition.  For example, women wrestlers in high school do not have separate competition opportunities; they must compete with men.  They are often harassed, derided, and cat-called by opponents, teammates, and spectators.  Women often see limited competition, as potential opponents forfeit rather than compete against a woman.

In organized co-ed sports, special rules are put in place to elevate women; this is done under the assumption that women cannot compete at the same level as men.  In co-ed softball, if a man receives a base-on-balls, he gets two bases, and the next woman up to bat may elect to walk. Men must be pitched a separate ball that is designed to fly shorter.  In other leagues men must bat opposite handed with a little-league bat.  In basketball, baskets scored by women count for more points; men may not jump to block a woman's shot.  In volleyball, the teams must be balanced in both rows, and a woman must be involved in each side of a volley.  All this, to level a competitive playing field that may not be entirely unequal.

Where does roller derby fit in with all of this? Derby has arguably been more progressive than its historical counterparts when measured by co-ed opportunities.  In its original form, roller derby teams were co-ed, to an extent.  A traditional team was two teams, one male and female.  Bouts would alternate between having the men and the women on the track for a period.  Despite being separate, these two groups skated under a common banner, and were closer than any other sport of its time.

The rebirth of derby began as a revival of women's roller derby.  And while men were involved in the periphery as coaches and officials, the leagues were run by women.  Enter halftime of a 2007 Gotham Girls bout, the New York Shock Exchange exhibits the first modern men's roller derby bout.  Soon after, men's leagues form.  Coaches and referees shed their clipboards and stripes to form early leagues and develop the men's game.  But they do not do it alone.

Men's and women's derby are not separate institutions.  We practice and compete together.  Co-ed derby provides a model for other co-ed sports: No special gender rules.  Men and women jammers each score a point for passing the hips of another skater, there are no prohibitions against who can hit whom and how aggressively it can be done.  Equality of playing field is done by assessing skills and matching up teams and skaters against ones who are close to their own ability, instead of assuming that skill is based on genetic features.

The modern men's game is created with the consent and encouragement of women.  When the Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen started earlier this year, our sister league-Southern Illinois Roller Girls- could have easily echoed history and told us what men athletes have told interested women for years, ``This is our sport and you cannot be a part of it.''  Given the historical precedent of discrimination against women in men's sports, such a response is justifiable. 

However, in a situation that has been echoed in leagues across the world, women have collectively invited and embraced their male counterparts. The acceptance is not universal, several leagues and skaters do not support men's derby or their involvement as skaters.  Our leagues would not exist without the support of our sister leagues, most of us have been trained by women.  We practice together, skate together, and become a family.  The love we have for our teammates and support is not based on sex; it is based on community.

Where women could have told men to stay on the sidelines, they saw the hurt that exclusion breeds and made a historical decision for inclusion.  To my sisters who have opened their practices and bouts to men, it may seem like a simple act, but it sets a new standard for inclusion, one that should be echoed in arenas far and wide.  It is truly a commendable act.

On the week after Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen's first bout. I feel this is appropriate: To every one of my sisters and mothers, thank you.  Thank you for looking at history and not repeating it. Thank you for treating us as equals. Thank you for giving me the last team sport I will play. Thank you for teaching me to skate like a girl.

 

Ronnie Pains

DE Coverage of Boys vs Girls

The Daily Egyptian, SIU's student newspaper did a story on the bout last Saturday which was the first Men vs Women bout in Southern Illinois. Make sure to read the article here and watch the video they made.

Falling is not failing

Some people know that roller derby is one of the fastest growing sports in America. What they might not know is roller derby is often so much more than a game to those who play. I found derby as a mother of two small children. I was looking for a physical outlet and I thought if I could make some friends too.. Bonus points!   Little did I know, it would be much more than a little exercise and some girlfriend time. Roller derby would change the way I viewed myself and how I viewed life.

Photo Credit: Molly Mcnally

The biggest lesson I learned was that you MUST fall down.. and falling is not equal to failing.  When I first started playing derby, I did everything I could to stay on my feet. My worry was that if I fell, it would mean I wasn't good enough ..or strong enough ..  Derby has taught me that even the best players fall. In fact, the best players are often the ones who have fallen the most. Why? They get back up. Which brings me to my next point.

Getting back up after a hard fall is one of the hardest and most rewarding things in derby. When I began playing derby, we did a drill on skates where we would sprint around the track, stop quickly, drop to the ground, lie down flat, then immediately jump up and do it again. I thought I would die. It took months, but I finally came to a place where I enjoyed it. I could see how far I had come and I was confident that I could get back up. I began to see falling in a different light. This was making me stronger and I really could do it! Falling? No big deal. Why? Because I can get up. Falling is not failing. It is just one more stair step to being better.

Derby has taught me that comparing yourself to others, especially those who have been playing longer than you, is not only unfair, but will most certainly lead to disappointment. I can remember being new and thinking that I would never master certain skills. I would look to players who had been playing for years and think, "why am I so terrible at this?" Duh! I had  not practiced this skill. I was not only selling myself short, I wasn't honoring my teammate's hard work. I resolved to compare myself to only me. To push as hard as I could each practice. Did I do MY 100%?  If I answered myself honestly with, "yes" then I had done my job.

One universal truth and so very true in derby is there's always something new to learn. Because roller derby is relatively new, as sports go, it is a constantly evolving sport. Strategy. Rules. We are kept constantly on our toes. Forced, often, to step out of our comfort zones and develop a new way, a new "normal." In derby, the team most effective in evolving will nearly always win.

Lastly , the people make all the difference. They say, "Friends are the family you choose for yourself." Derby is made of a diverse group of people .  We are professionals, blue collars, moms, dads, single, married, students, young, and.. Not as young  .. we are lawyers, nurses, taxi drivers and tattoo artists.. but one thing you will always find with derby, is a sense of community. We will show up when you're hurt or sick and we will help any way possible. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen the derby community pull together to put right what went wrong. I have met some really rad people playing derby and couldn't imagine my life without them now.

So, having said all this,  I'll probably not play derby for the rest of my life but I'll take these lessons with me always: Allow yourself to fall down. Then get back up, you'll be stronger for it. Never compare yourself to others. Instead, try to be a better you each day. Always, always be learning. And you can never ever go wrong by surrounding yourself with people who make you better.

 

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Shelton

Sunny D Sasster

b7

Body By Derby

Some of your favorite Southern Illinois Roller Girls participated in an ongoing project known as Body by Derby, with photographer Cory Layman. The project highlights the many different body types that make up some of your favorite teams in derby. 
While many sports have a general size/body type that you see playing, derby is drastically different. We have body types from every part of the spectrum, and you see most of them exhibited in the photos of SIRG in this project. All photo credits and thanks go to Cory Layman

Check out these amazing skaters!

Check out these amazing skaters!

Derby Strong

When I first started derby I really had no idea how physically weak I was.  I knew I was basically a couch potato for many years and had just lost over a 106 pounds so I told myself to go for it.  My supervisor “Earthquake” had been trying to get me to do it for years.  I had been to bouts and supported the team several times over but it was finally my turn.  The week before I tried out I ran around buying gear and my cheapo R3s (which lasted three years btw great starter skate) and I was ready to try.  Tuesday I showed up with all my gear like yeah I can do this, the class of several girls also had the same attitude.  Some were like OMG this is totally awesome and others were just there to skate.  Paper work filled out and waiver signed I was ready to try on the concrete.  Literally not the skates but the concrete since it and I became close friends that night lol.  This is when I met Captain Obvious and Lizard, they both were so supportive their eyes gave me a virtual hug every time we did a knee drop and it took me 3x as long to get back up than the other “freshies” trying out.  If it were not for those visual contacts I probably would have walked right back out the door.  I wanted this, I wanted something for me…. I wanted to be physical.

Wednesday, OH MY GOD what was I thinking this was horrible everything hurt my head, body and feet.  I wanted to cry thank goodness I worked from home.  Simple tasks of sitting on at toilet and attempting to stand were painful, this was worse than my surgeries in my past.  I kept saying I want this I want this but my body was like oh heck no girl stop.

Thursday second night of tryouts, I showed up.  Over half of the so called skater girls did not come back, I did.  I kept saying wow if this was hard on me and they didn’t come back it must have been hard on them too.  I kept telling myself you can do this don’t give up you can do this.  At one point during tryouts I went down it hurt I didn’t want to cry and look wimpy but my knee pad had moved and my knee was in pain.  I looked at Captain and whispered I REALLY WANT THIS.  He told me to keep going and I did.  That night I became a Southern Illinois Roller Girl.  You see if you want something bad enough you don’t have to be the best, fastest or wealthiest.  You need drive, love for the sport and support from others, I am the picture child for that.  Over the past three years there have been struggles emotionally, financially and family driven but I have stuck to it.  These girls on the track are not just girls they are my supporters and family.  We are “nothing without each other” we are WUTANG and nothing can stop the clan when we work together.

Here we are three years later and I am stronger happier and healthier.  I am getting ready to end my journey with SIRG as a rostered skater but not as a friend/family as I move to a new area of the state.  I love SIRG for giving me so many opportunities like legally hitting men, skating with international skaters, expanding my travel log and most of all helping me find that I am STRONG BEAUTIFUL and A GREAT DERBY MOM.  I will mom you so hard if you’re around me but its only cause I care about your best interest ;)  In closing I love each and every one of the people I have shared the track with skaters volunteers and refs and I will never stop being derby strong.

 

Much love,

The Italian Booty Queen

Derby Arrested Development

I live in a derby state of arrested development.  I am caught somewhere between old rules and new, between newbie and vet. I began playing for the Southern Illinois Roller Girls in October 2011 and moved away in July 2012, literally the day after I played my second ever game as a rostered skater. I found a team to play with in central Illinois but it wasn’t the same. Somehow as a skater who was relatively low in the ranks of her old team, I was suddenly near the top with my new team and wasn’t sure what to do. Slowly but surely I worked my way into the group (if you know me, you know it takes me a LOOOOOOOONG time to get comfortable with anyone/anywhere). I became a coach and eventually vice president of the league, but I was never happy.  I could never motivate my team, quite like my old coaches had motivated me, I wasn’t getting any better because most people I played with were on the same skill level as me or lower. I tried going to camps, practicing on my own, or you know when all else fails googling new drills to try on my own.  I also kept up with my other physical exploits sticking with running and biking taking up soccer. Unfortunately I ended up isolating myself and eventually left. I took a break for a few months started what was once described as a “rogue traveling” team with girls from all over central Illinois and Iowa. It was fun while it lasted, but the responsibility was a hard burden to bear on my own. So in October 2013 I headed to Bloomington with an old friend to play what I assumed would be my last derby game. It was an informal co-ed scrimmage. It was fun and I was done…or was I? As the derby fates would have it about six months later I got into graduate school at Southern Illinois University. I would be headed back to Carbondale land of my first derby love SIRG.  I was nervous, should I start playing again? Would my schedule let me? Would I even have the skills? I hadn’t practiced in almost a year! I hadn’t been taught or coached in almost two! The rules had changed since I left, the game was different, and all these thoughts overwhelmed me until I felt sick to my stomach (much like I feel on bout day up until my first jam), but I decided to give it a shot; and you know what the game is different and it is overwhelming. But I’m different too. I may not have the best set of skills, I may not always agree with the new rules or strategies, but I’m scrappy as hell and will get back up even if you knock me down over and over and over. So here I am, not old school, not new. Not fresh meat, not vet and I’m doing just fine a derby girl in arrested development.   

 

Zooey SlayChanel

Have derby, will travel

When I chose Carnage Sandiego to be my derby name, I had no idea that I’d be living up to it.  (For those who are younger, it’s a throwback to the character criminal Carmen Sandiego who was constantly moving throughout the world to deceive authorities whilst teaching kids geography.)  Although my derby exploits have remained within the continental U.S., I’ve managed to play or practice with 5 teams in 4 states.  Derby has accepted me in Illinois, Texas, California, and Nevada. 

What was that like?  Here are my observations thus far:

-          Different leagues use different lingo.  It makes warmups interesting, but it can get a little confusing trying to interpret names of maneuvers while on the track.  I’ve heard the same stretch referred to as Bad Kitty, Hello Kitty, the Stripper Stretch, Saturday Night, and Come Get Some.  (Please add your variation in the comment section as I bet there’s more…). 

-          Every league has a mom.  In derby speak, the mom is generally the responsible person who makes sure that everyone’s okay.  Like real mothers, the “duties” will vary from person to person and are self-designated.  It’s super helpful when the “mom” identifies herself up front!  Note: the role of mom is not gender specific nor does it require having bred children.

-          Every league I’ve skated with has accepted me into their little group.  Sometimes it takes longer to get comfortable than others, but that’s on me.  When in doubt, I always skate by (heh heh- threw in a pun there) with “that’s what she said” jokes.

-          All of the names!!  Roller derby skaters respond to a multitude of names: their derby name, an abbreviated version of their derby name, their given name, and perhaps an additional nickname or two.  For example, I’m Carnage Sandiego.  I’m also Carnage, (insert my real name here), and now Nevada and sometimes New Girl.   It gets tricky with Facebook as players may only choose one name to identify themselves.  Luckily, we tend to have our derby names on the backs of our jerseys.  Whew.

-          Unicorns are awesome.  ‘Nuff said.

Like having a new job or a new school, there’s always a breaking in period.  Derby shortens the time of that awkward period.  I already have common ground with my new team because we’ve put ourselves into this crazy situation that is derby.  We’re in this together and we need each other.  I look forward to the new friendships and stories to come and will always cherish the escapades I’ve undergone with previous teams.  Until next time...

 

Carnage Sandiego, 117

Are you Right- or Left-brained? Either way, we want YOU!

SIRG is reaching out to both our creative fan base AND our smarty-pants friends!

We are running an art contest - the first in a looooong time! - and welcome submissions. The winning design will be featured on a t-shirt we'll be promoting just in time for the holidays! =)

 

Here are the crucial details*:

The image size should be 17.5"x19" and file size limit is 5MB saved as either JPEG (.jpg) or Adobe Photoshop (.psd) image only. Guess what! Unlimited colors!! Embrace your inner Lisa Frank - or don't, totes up to you.

We aren't focusing on any particular theme, so let your creativity run wild! Show us what inspires you about roller derby in Southern Illinois. =)

 

DEADLINE to email your submission to eartha(dot)kick(at)gmail(dot)com is Tuesday, November 4th. Yeah, that's right - Election Day! But even after the polling booths close, you'll still have time to submit, until midnight Central time to be exact.

 

The winning designer will get a free SIRG 2015 season pass and a free t-shirt! Runners-up will each get one free ticket, good for use at any SIRG 2015 home game or even our Dec. 6, 2014 season-ender which is going to be a blast! The winning and runner-up images will also be featured on our website with a credit (& weblink, if applicable) to the artist.

 

"Well, what's the selection process?" I just know you are dying with an...tici...pation!

That's where the smart folks enter into the picture.

 

SIRG will reveal the top artistic submissions at our November 8 Trivia Night, taking place at Brehm School in Carbondale. Those attending our trivia night will be the first to view the designs, and every person will get one free vote - with opportunity to purchase more. ;-)

So in addition to all the fun and shenanigans always in store at our Trivia Night, this ‘early voting’ is one more incentive to come join us that night. Start assembling your trivia team and reserve a table asap – space is limited! Btw it’s BYOB, so while you’re deciding table decorations also make a shopping list for snacks and drinks. More details on Trivia Night can be found on the flyer at our website & also facebook.

 

After trivia night, we will also utilize social media for some additional remote voting for the t-shirt contest (Nov. 10-20) so we can include the participation of as many as possible! The winning artist and design will be announced after Thanksgiving.

 

So there you have it, SIRG nation! We’re offering up outlets for your creative fervor AND all that dusty accumulated trivia knowledge. We look forward to seeing what you’ve got! Please remember to email art submissions and trivia table RSVP to me!

 

*more specific details for the art contest are in the Submissions Requirement document

I am MADE. I am [also] derby

When I left Southern Illinois in summer 2013, I returned to my hometown in Franklin County, Missouri and was thrilled to see there was a new roller derby league starting up there. The at-the-time unnamed league was only a few months old, and still trying to find its identity. When I joined up, there was a lot of discussion about what ruleset to follow, because for whatever reasons, most of the skaters were uninterested in WFTDA. This was puzzling to me. Everything I had previously known about derby had come directly from SIRG, so the thought of trying a new set of rules did not appeal to me at all.

After much discussion/deliberation/debate, at our league meeting last November, what became known as Franklin County Fury  voted unanimously to go MADE and skate under the Modern Athletic Derby Endeavor ruleset. Well, I should say nearly unanimously—I was the one stubborn skater who abstained on this vote because I could not see possibilities beyond skating the rules I had worked so hard to learn and understand with SIRG. I was hellbent on sticking to WFTDA. “Ninety-nine percent of teams skate WFTDA!” I argued. “Nobody knows what this is!” I was skeptical, to put it mildly.

Nevertheless, that night after the vote, I sat down with my MADE rulebook and got ready to play.

The first major difference a former WFTDA skater will notice when switching to MADE is the size of the rulebook. MADE’s rules are six pages long—seven if you count the cover page. It’s very bare-bones, which I’ll admit can feel frustratingly vague to some, but the simplicity can be encouraging to others.

Gameplay, at its essence, is still derby, but a MADE game looks a little different than WFTDA.

Probably the biggest difference with MADE is that either a jammer OR a pivot can score points for her team. Stay with me here, because this was one of the things I rolled my eyes at a year ago, but it’s actually really fun and simple. So, if Team A’s jammer gets through the pack first, as soon as that happens, Team B’s pivot can break from the pack and become her team’s Active Jammer. No star pass nonsense, the pivot just GOES. Of course Team B’s jammer can still try to get through, but whichever one of them (Team B’s pivot or jammer) gets 20 feet ahead of the pack first becomes Team B’s Active Jammer. (The other hangs back as a blocker.)

And then it’s ON. Because another difference in MADE derby is that lead jammer status can change throughout a jam. Whoever’s in front is the lead. So ideally, if you’re lead and the other jammer is on your tail, you wanna call it before she gets to you, otherwise you just lost control of the jam. You must be upright and in bounds to call the jam too, which is another significant difference between WFTDA and MADE.

What I really like the most about the MADE ruleset is that it just feels more like teamwork to me. As a jammer, my pivot has my back in case I get held up in the pack for too long. As a pivot, I can help my team every jam by keeping in the front of the pack either to hold the opponent’s pivot back or to prepare for my own breakaway. And as a blocker, I’m kept on my toes watching for two potential scorers on the other team instead of just one. The game moves faster. MADE derby moves only counter-clockwise, so there aren’t any passive offense stops on the track or reverse-direction soul-crushing. It makes things simpler for both skater and spectator once you get the hang of it. As a new league especially, I think going MADE has helped our skaters get into the game more quickly without feeling overwhelmed by rules for so many different pack situations.

I could go on about the differences between WFTDA and MADE, but someone else has already done a good job of that elsewhere.

Now that I’ve gotten a couple of Fury games under my belt, I’m willing to publicly proclaim that I’ve come to prefer skating MADE. I will admit that it IS a new way to derby, and it IS still finding its legs, but those aren’t necessarily bad things. MADE’s reach is expanding throughout the Midwest—there will be an All About MADE session at Beat Me Halfway this year, and our Nationals tournament will be held in Lebanon, Missouri the weekend of October 24-26. I learned so much from skating with SIRG, and now I’m excited to be a part of a new conception of roller derby—I’m excited to see what the future holds for both MADE and Franklin County Fury.

Dolly Bomba is a former SIRG skater who currently skates for Franklin County Fury in Union, MO. She enjoys helping fresh meat and is working on perfecting her can-opener.

No, no… I’m fine… Can I go in the next jam?

**Disclaimer** My team/athletic trainer is not allowed to use this blog against me.

I can’t even tell you how many times that phrase has left my mouth after my coaches and teammates have watched me wince when my knees hit the floor, and then not get up right away. ‘Are you ok?’ *Head shake* ‘Yeah, I’m good.’

I came into derby with a knee ‘syndrome’ (my patella goes off-track and the cartilage on the back of  it gets all inflamed). Now, take that and add falling on my knees on a concrete floor...Apparently, that’s not good for you.  My knee is now swollen and sore most of the time. Playing with a chronic injury is more annoying than inhibitive, but it should probably be both.

I’m REALLY stubborn. REALLYREALLYREALLY. My best friends, coaches, significant other, family, and athletic trainer have all said that I should take time off...and I did once...but only after I ended up on crutches after a few rough falls in a game. I was off for one game. Just one. It was an away game, and I went to watch. Heart-wrenching. I sat in suicide seating, and watched, trying to communicate and will the blockers to close the holes in the walls that I saw the jammers heading for. I’m sure you can guess how well that worked.

Skating with any chronic injury is a pain, and I can only speak to a knee injury, but I feel like the general gist of chronic injury is the same; you don’t want to stop. Normally the injuries take about a year or so to manifest, because it takes that long to really get totally into derby. I started playing knowing that I had knee issues, and it started to bug me about a year or so in, so I bought gaskets, and voila! All better...for a few months.  When it got worse, there wasn't much I could do to help it...physical therapy wasn't much help, resting it didn't help (and by resting it, I totally mean not skating 3-4 days out of 7), and ibuprofen became my candy.

It’s a battle between knowing you should stop, and not wanting to be a quitter or give in to the pain. Or being of the mindset that you’re already in pain, so there’s no reason to stop now. It took me well over a year to get checked out by a doctor and get an MRI. I still don’t  have the results I need, because the only suggestions that he really had revolved around PT because he thought my quads and butt muscles weren't strong enough...WUT?!?!

The moral of the story is: do as I say, not as I do. If it hurts to do something don’t. Soreness and hurting are not the same. Your body knows the difference, and it will tell you. Playing and practicing hurt will lead to further strain, and if you want to do this until you are 80, then you better start listening to your body now. If you’re in the clutches of a chronic injury, this is exponentially more important. You know what you can and can’t handle, and your team would rather you be on the track with them, than in the crowd because you wrecked yourself at practice or in a game doing things you shouldn't have. Don’t use your injury as an excuse, use it as an opportunity to strengthen other parts of your game. I don’t really jam anymore, because it stresses my knee too much, but I will block in every other jam if needed. Adrenaline is a hell of a drug and I’m a track hog.

 

 
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Lethal Objection, 5TH

From the other side

Recently, for a couple reasons, I decided to dive into the officiating aspect of roller derby. I feel being able to understand how the game is seen from the referees perspective will not only make you a better skater but will also teach you to respect the calls made (or not made) by officials whether or not you agree. The referee’s perspective of gameplay is substantially different than a skater’s perspective. Consistently, when I make calls, skaters argue with me or act as though they didn’t commit the penalty. From their point of view perhaps they didn’t, but from mine, it was clear as day. Being able to have this experience makes me realize how my own actions on the track may seem legal to me, but the referee may be seeing something else and can result in a penalty.

The biggest thing I am learning from refereeing is how difficult it is to actually see what is happening within the chaos that is 10 skaters, all doing different things, while simultaneously trying to maintain safe gameplay for all involved.  As a skater, there have been several times I thought to myself how a referee needed to ‘pay closer attention’ because they were staring directly at me when I was hit in the face or illegally. After throwing on stripes I realize this is an unfair thought. When I have jam reffed (the one who counts points scored), there have been times I was staring and watching my jammer when her head would snap back and was immediately followed by holding her face. I didn’t see the hit. I immediately thought I was doing a terrible job as a referee. By not seeing what was in front of me, I had somehow let down the skaters. It was then I realized, the skater was looking at me how I have looked at countless refs, as if to say, “Hey ref, how did you NOT see that?” But I didn’t see the hit, I only saw the aftermath, which means I cannot call the highblock. That right there was one of the biggest learning experiences in roller derby I have had. I knew reffing wasn’t easy and wouldn’t pretend it is. However, I have gotten very mad when calls didn’t get made that happened while the referee was RIGHT in front of the illegal activity or seemed as though they were staring at me when it happened. I can attest that while you may be looking at a penalty as it happens, the focus may be on a different spot or skater entirely in that area.

I have not been reffing long nor have I reffed a lot of games. I just started this journey 3 months ago but I can already tell it is changing my attitude on the track during gameplay and my interactions with officials. I encourage everyone to get this type of experience so there is an understanding of just how difficult and stressful making calls actually is. It is not the referee’s responsibility to skate safety, it is the skater’s responsibility to play by the rules. When illegal situations arise, everyone needs to remember this is a contact sport which will result in injuries, penalties, and missed calls, but the referees are doing the best they can.

 

Splatter, 87

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SIRG Springs into a winning streak

The Southern Illinois Roller Girls had a fantastic and full first half of April, celebrating the new WFTDA ruleset with a victory over the Demolition City Roller Girls on April 5th. After that, the Roller Girls led the 4/12 Southern Illinois AIDS walk through Carbondale and rounded out that evening with a double win against Chicago Outfit's Shakedown and our sister league - The Cape Girardeau Roller Girls. 

The coming weeks have even more in store for the skaters, as they host a recruitment camp on the 22nd and 24th, participate in the Autism color run on the 26th, and head to Clarksville to take on the Clarksvillians on May 3rd. 

If you are interested in joining this fun and busy group, check out www.soillrollergirls.com. If you would like to meet some of the roller girls, swing by our sponsor Castle Perilous on May 3rd for free comic book day.