Category Archives: Diary

Monumental update

I’m still here! Just been doing SO MANY derby things all my free time has been spent sleeping and doing my actual day job (booo). But stand by for the most enormous of updates!

berlin_bombshells_bear_city• WAY back in November, Petra, HellCat, Conway and I went to BERLIN to a bootcamp with the gorgeous Berlin Bombshells. I learnt how to hockey stop, and promptly forgot/couldn’t do it on our home floor. Whilst in Berlin, we stayed in Isy’s friend’s awesome converted warehouse, visited Master Blaster’s Skate shop and stroked Marylin Monroe’s furry eyebrows in Roses Bar.

 

Drying out our pads at the venue...

Drying out our pads at the venue…

 

• January saw the arrival of more brand new Fresh Meat – and their subsequent graduation in March, complete with donkey and jockey costumes… I am now both scared and impressed at the rate with which our new rookies are rocketing through minimum skills. In the absolute best way, I feel like I need to up my own game if I want to keep my place on the team, eek!

 

donkey derby

donkey derby 2

• At the end of January, five of us went to BRUGES for Derby Revolution. It was a non-stop skills-fest with coaches like Suzy Hotrod, Sarah Hipel and Mickispeedia (omg!). Amazing classes, sticky as hell concrete floor (with drains and holes to make it more exciting) and a whole ton of amazing skaters. I learnt what happens when you belly flop on concrete (ow), and that ‘intermediate’ means a lot of different things – but most importantly, that over 20 hours of skating in two days is just about the best thing ever. Doubly good as a way of breaking in new skates. This post is so late in the making that they’re actually doing their Summer Revolution RIGHT NOW, and I am incredibly sad not to be there…

That time we met Suzy Hotrod...

That time we met Suzy Hotrod…

Copyright Ian Roofthooft 2014

Copyright Ian Roofthooft 2014

• April was a particularly exciting month – Bath Roller Derby Girls went to PORTUGAL where we played Lisbon Grrrls in our very first public game. Ranked, with the brand new rule set and a proper crowd – it was such a fun game! The final score was 151-132 to Bath, which shot us into the European rankings at 260. Here are some clips from the game, as featured on Portugese youth show ‘Outdoors’:

You can also hear us on BBC Radio Bristol here:

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• Following our public debut we’ve bouted a few more times, both publicly and closed. South Wales has a delicious little cluster of roller derby teams who’ve been great fun to play, and following some hard-fought games with both Portsmouth and Swansea Bs we bounced out – and back in – to the rankings, now sitting at a stable 269.

npt

• Fundraisers have been at an all time high, with pub quizzes, car boot sales, clothes swaps and film screenings, including a showing of Murderdrome (complete with zombie usherettes) and a Fresh Meat film by our very own Trevlock Holmes.

Zombie Usherettes!

Zombie Usherettes!

• May brought us the South Coast Roll, where lots of us enjoyed a day’s skate around Goodwood Motor Circuit. S’Mac Down Angel skated a marathon, just for funsies…

sc-roll

• And most recently, we’ve been getting our bootcamp on again! As well as attending Tiger Bay Brawlers’ excellent Double Threat Tour in Newport, we’ve had an introduction to reffing with Sleaze and Rollin’ Rat, and guest coaching from Team USA’s Juke Boxx…

Photo: Sam Bolderson

Double Threat Tour with Tiger Bay Brawlers. Photo: Sam Bolderson

Photo: Daisy Offer

Team Sleaze! Photo: Daisy Offer

ref training with sleaze

Rookie – and not-so-rookie zebras. A terrifying herd – pretty sure there were more refs than players!

It’s been a hell of a year so far, but no resting just yet – the end of this Summer will bring with it special event… stay tuned for details!

Oh, and here’s the treat I promised for reading all the way down. A positively adorable comic from my most favourite comic writer just now, Lucy Knisley.

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The Fresh Plow of Bath-Air

freshprinceNow this is a story all about how, my plow got flipped turned upside down. I’d like to take a minute, or as long as it takes, to tell you how I fixed the problem of impossible plates.

Iiiin West Southern England, I learnt to plow, on a pair of old skates that were plastic all-round. Chillin’ out, maxxin’, skatin’ with mates, til’ one day I thought I’d buy a pair of new plates. So with the help of my guy, and some internet dudes – I stuck a pair of Roll Lines on my rollerboots. I tried one little plow and my feet got scared and said “you’re doing it wrong – now your plow is impaired!”

I tried and I skated on them day after day, but they just wouldn’t bite the floor in the same way. I loosened the trucks, and I switched out the wheels, I dropped my butt down, and I kicked out my heels.

I whistled for some help, and when it came near, the experts said ‘the problem is the bushings I fear’. If anything, I could say that this wasn’t near, but I thought “naw forget it, I’ll try anything here!”

90 days later, I was still plowing sad; I had to do something so I called up my dad. “I need my birthday present of some money real bad; I’ll try another plate, see if that makes me rad”.

I looked and researched, and I tried a few out; Avengers felt good, but I still had my doubts. I really thought the problem was just my technique, but that vanished the second they were strapped to my feet.

I, pulled, up to a session exactly at 8, and I yelled to my teammates ‘check out ma new plates!’ I tried one little stop and the wheels screamed loud. My mojo was back, I was plowing and proud.

(I realised after writing this that my experience with plates isn’t actually that positive, in terms of a learning model. I do truly believe a good skater can work ANY equipment, with enough practise and the right technique. And I desperately want to say that four months of very dedicated training improved my plow at least a bit, and that the Roll Lines are great and wonderful in every way. But it just seems they didn’t suit me at all. They were beautiful to skate in; very responsive and smooth, and great in every other way – but despite trying every technique under the sun, I found it impossible to get any friction out of the wheels when plowing in them. The Avengers (whilst feeling obviously different from my original plastic plates) were not like this at all. I had to adjust my plowing angle, but that was it. I adapted to them pretty much instantly.)

P.s. Does anyone want to buy a pair of Roll Lines? 😀

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Good communication or friendly fire?

Lately I’ve been finding it hard to moderate my communication on track – as games get faster and opposition seems stronger, I find myself shouting lots, and not always in the most effective way.

In the last 6 months, my internal monologue has moved from ‘don’t fall down, don’t fall down, don’t fall down, CORNER!’ to ‘lane 1, lane 3, lane 4, (don’t fall down), bridge, bridge, HUSTLE, (CORNER!)’.

Progress.

Economising communication

“Excuse me teammates, I know you may be otherwise engaged, but I could do with a little assistance up front.”

But with this comes a great big new challenge: externalising the internal monologue, and filtering it appropriately for the track – being concise, correct, calm, audible, (and polite!) all in a split second is hard. ‘Please excuse me, I’m your jammer coming past in lane 1‘ comes out differently when you’re pumped full of adrenaline and need a quick reaction.

But whilst urgent communication is important on track, so is team morale. If you get frustrated and shout aggressively at a teammate, I think it’s important to take the time to say sorry after the jam, rather than ‘DON’T DO THAT NEXT TIME’. And important to accept similar apologies from your teammates as a simple lapse in voice-control in the heat of the moment. I’ve been on both sides, and both times felt shit about being a bad teammate. We all make mistakes, but I think a quick recognition of ‘oops’ after the jam can make the difference between two people having a bad 20 seconds, and a bad whole game.

On-track feedback is something else I’ve been thinking about recently, and I’m interested to know what other leagues do. As a skater who also coaches, I find it hard to switch between the two modes in scrim sessions. I catch myself calling ‘penalty warnings’ when I’m in a pack – not to alert the refs, but to get skaters to check their play and make sure we’re not developing bad habits. In my head, it’s the right process for team learning.

In reality though, it can be kinda demoralising. It’s frustrating hearing ‘Steg, watch your forearms’ from teammates when I’m scrimming. It’s frustrating because I know they’re correct, so I check myself, feel a bit butt-hurt, but am suddenly more conscious of forearms – and I know my teammates are helping me become a better player. Overall it’s positive.

It occurred to me, though, that not everyone takes criticism in the same way. And this is my quandry: is it better to develop the mental toughness to take immediate feedback on track when it’s relevant – or should we be saving all our comments until after the jam/after the scrim, when it might feel less relevant, but can be said with the right tone of voice? It seems like a small decision for a team to make, but one that can massively effect the morale – and expectations – of teammates in training.

I also think that as a team grows with newer skaters, it’s important to be clear about what ‘appropriate’ communication on track actually means, and that everybody feels confident within the team environment to know that ‘LANE 1, GET OUTTA THE WAY’, doesn’t mean your jammer hates you, it just means they’re economising their energy for skating. And if there is feedback to be done, it should be given – and taken – in a positive way. Roller derby is an emotionally and physically tough sport; let’s build each other up, keep working harder, and optimise THE HELL out of our communication with teammates.

tin can phone

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Failure, success and Pegasus

BeFriendswithFailure0003

This isn’t a post about coping with failure. For starters this comic already did it better, and secondly I realised I’ve actually been confusing failure with ‘failure to constantly achieve’. 

I’m talking about The Derby Lull. Specifically, the unquantifiable skill wilderness (skillderness?) that exists between passing-minimum-skills and being Suzy Hotrod. How one minute you’re acing your minimums, learning a skill a week and feeling hella cool, and then suddenly BAM you’ve passed and there’s no standardised measure for success any more. Just a whole load of complicated rules and gameplay and LEFT TRANSITIONS.

It’s February now and I still can’t transition left at speed. Or hockey stop. Or do any of the things I’ve been practising my arse off at for months, with REALLY GODDAMN SLOW progression. Only it occurred to me today that I have absolutely no excuse to feel crap about these things. Of course the learning curve is going to plateau, at least until you do something about it.

Any excuse for a fabulous as fuck picture...

Any excuse for a fabulous as fuck picture…

So what can we do, short of hiring the derby Pegasus to bring back the glittery, shimmering awesomeness we felt when we learnt (and re-learnt) to plow stop?

The trick, apparently, is learning to appreciate the art of consolidation. Everyone needs time to collect what they’ve learnt, assess it, and analyze where to go from here. After lots of talking to skaters and coaches at bootcamps, online forums, and reading a whooole load, here is my selection of people’s bestest tips that have been helping me with the lull:

  • Get feedback. Talk to your coaches – and your teammates – about ways you can improve as a skater. This doesn’t just have to be skills feedback either; this can be based on attitude, gameplay, teamwork for example.
  • Set goals. Achievable, measurable goals for every single training session, scrim or bout. Want to learn to juke like that awesome jammer who always gets past you? Set yourself the goal to copy how she jukes. Practise it, a lot. Then try to work a juke in each time you scrim.
  • Get your head in the game. Really in the game. Read up on tactics in your spare time. Don’t just rely on coaches to give you strategies, work things out for yourself and look into new ways of walling, recycling, jamming. Your input will be greatly welcomed, and is important for building a stronger team!
  • Watch derby! Go to bouts, use WFTDA.tv and watch in your lunch break. Watch one skater at a time. Or watch for strategies – try to take one thing away from every bout you watch (even if it’s just ‘holy shit, that’s how to psych out a jammer.’)
  • Find a bootcamp and go to it – with team mates, or even alone if you like. Sounds weird but I tend to focus much better – and learn quicker – when I’m desperately trying to be accepted by peers I don’t know.
  • Be critical. Think back to when you learnt a hard skill, and work out what made that learning experience a success. Work out how you can apply that to a technique you’re struggling with. Even if it’s just recognising that you need to practise it 100 more times. Knowing that it’s achievable with practise will give you the push you need to keep going at it.
  • Write a list of what you want to achieve with roller derby. What skills you want to learn, in order of achievability. What goals you want to set yourself. Then work your way through that list – skip any that you like; this is your list. Keep adding to it.
  • Sweat every session. You will know when your body is pushing you to learn something new, or do something better. Remember the first time you attempted 25 in 5 and nearly coughed up a lung? Give it your all: try to get that feeling back for at least one drill every session. Effort in = results out.
  • Focus. If you’re finding something easy, get lower, go faster, do it on the other leg, do it backwards. Don’t just chat to your mate because you find this drill easy.
  • Challenge somebody else. We are derby girls, we like a bit of competition. Set each other goals – when you sprint laps, try to overtake each other, jump higher, push and encourage your teammates too!

Don’t wait for the Pegasus, BE THE PEGASUS.

Magnificent.

Magnificent.


(I realise Pegasus is a specific winged horse, but no-one knows what an alicorn or a pterippus is (including me before I Googled it). So let’s hear it for generic Pegasi! *tiny cheer*)

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Skates do not a skater make

pedal-skates-classicMy year of saving, training and researching is up – I finally have new skates! It’s exciting, it’s enthusing it’s, well… it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster actually.

Ever had that feeling where you get some new equipment, (camera/running shoes/skates etc) and you suddenly go from being elated and excited at all the new things it can do, to feeling kinda overwhelmed and like you now have to live up to your gear because EVERYONE CAN SEE YOU HAVE FANCY NEW SKATES and goddammit you better be good enough to rock them, or everyone will judge you?

Yeah. That.
(I should add that this was all dialogue in my head, not a thing that happened.)

Don’t get me wrong – I adore my new skates, now that I’ve had 2 months of getting to know them. But it was pretty different at first. Good different, in a lot of ways – metal plates respond fast. But also pretty challenging; I went from being able to pull a sharp, loud, instant-stopping plow on my old skates to just …not. My plows were completely broken – and subsequently my whole derby skating style was screwed. A bit of research and some excellent Facebook help suggested that technique was likely at fault, and suddenly I was back to square one. It made me realise two very important things: 1) Not being able to stop is awful and scary (Fresh Meat, I have a whole new load of respect for you – I’d been forgetting what it felt like to be honestly scared for your life when learning stops from speed) – and 2) pretty much every useful derby technique involves an element of plowing.

I also learnt pretty quickly that high-end equipment does not necessarily fix problems, although it can emphasise strengths once you’ve nailed a technique.

Anyway, fast forward through 2 months of quiet frustration and trying to convince myself I hadn’t wasted loads of money…  After a difficult closed bout and a session of tripping over *everything*, I was sprinting out my frustration when a little glimmer of magic happened. My plow made a tiny squeak. And then it squeaked a little more. And then my plow on my right foot started getting decent bite and holy crap I was stopping. My plow’s not quite back yet, but I have newfound confidence that determination and ruthlessly practising WILL get me there; I have to stop being scared of failing, scared of people judging me, scared of my SKATES, and just keep skating.

So that’s my lesson for today: even if it takes over 50 hours of training time to get just one skill back, a little bit, stay positive, keep trying, and goddammit, keep skating!

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Roller Grrrls comic: Star Wars, you just got one-upped

Roller derby is EVERYWHERE. There I was, casually trying not to lose all self-control over Batman pants and Boba Fett prints at the Bath Comic & Sci-Fi Weekender, when OMGROLLERDERBY happened again.

Not only did Dave, Barry and I have a lovely chat with a fellow named Dan from the Portsmouth league, it turns out that Gary Erskine of Marvel and DC fame is also responsible for the about-to-be-released Roller Grrrls comic.

Steg and Gary Erskine

When the best thing about a photo is neither Ewoks nor Tiny Jabba…

After talking us through his thoughts around the comic (which sounds excellent by the way), he showed us the Roller Grrrls Sketchbook. The concept sketches and initial drawings for the comic are fantastic; this is no brief insight into the sport of roller derby, this is a project that manages to capture the spirit, personalities and issues that surround roller derby as a lifestyle. For a sport that is all too easy to stereotype, Erskine seems to have dug that critical bit deeper and put together something that is meaningful on and off track – and not just to roller derby fans. Plus it looks awesome; the style is so well-suited to the content – these girls are real superheroes.

Promo from the sketchbook...

Promo from the sketchbook

roller-grrrls-magazine

Sketchbook achieved!

I can’t wait for the release of the full comic later this year – in the mean time, check out the Facebook page here. The Roller Grrrls sketchbook is available to buy here for the very reasonable sum of £5, but given the (gorgeous) heavy stock and consequent postage, your team may benefit from a bulk purchase…

Finally, big salute to Gary and his wife Mhairi for self-funding this exciting project in a thirsty UK market. This is exactly the kind of thing British roller derby needs!

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Neighbourhood Watch fail

I’m pretty sure the best thing about moving to a street full of OAPs is that everyone expects you to walk down the road in your pyjamas. Regardless, this is just one way my long-suffering derby widow has shown his epic support for roller derby this month. I hereby dedicate this post to Mr Steg, who has been the most tolerant supporter, driver, photographer, carer, errand boy, costumier and fiancé EVER. And to our brand new neighbours, who didn’t call the Police when the man in Transformers trousers sat half-naked in a car for 3 hours in the middle of the night, before attempting to break in to his own house by squeezing through a tiny top window after his girlfriend went to roller derby, forgot her house key and went to the pub without a phone…

Dave, I love you more than Star Wars and dinosaurs combined.

  • So to business! First major news is that Bath Roller Derby Girls is one year old today! (/lastFriday). So many amazing things have happened for Bath Roller Derby in this one year; I implore you all to read HellCat’s ace post detailing the conception and majestic birthing of The Sunshine League, (or as we call it, BRDG).
  • Second, huge congratulations to our Fresh Meat (inc new refs Barry and Nan) for pushing, hopping, slipping and speeding their way through the beginners course! (Also for sporting darling dresses for the BRDG Debutantes Pub Crawl. (inc new refs Barry and Nan…)) It’s so exciting to have the new skaters integrating into league training now. And awesome to see them improving so much week-on-week – it keeps reminding me how steep the initial learning curve is, and OHMYGOD HOW MUCH YOUR BACK ACHES AT FIRST. (Keep working through those thigh-hangovers, I promise it gets better.) You are doing amazingly well.
  • Dinosaurs vs unicorns… I still haven’t written you a proper post for this, largely because I can’t find actual words dramatic enough to convey the sheer delight and rainbow wonder of the day. So instead here’s a picture of me with Dinosaurs’ mascot, lovingly made by Hazel Havoc’s friend:
The awesome severed unicorn head that Hazel's friend made...

I think my favourite bit is the eye-blood.

And here are some pictures of the dinosaurs and the unicorns, that I borrowed from a nice man called Pete.

  • BRDG have been bouting! A big thank you to Plymouth for a delightful day of derby two weeks ago, and to SRT for having us in Gloucestershire today, with BIRTHDAY CAKE no less! (I know, right?! :D)  We had so much fun and learnt loads; we owe you ladies some serious bruises! 😉  #battlescarpride
  • Two weeks ago something amazing also happened. I got my first ever derby award ever!!! 😀 After nearly coughing up a lung bouting with a chest infection (d’oh!) Plymouth must’ve taken pity, because they bestowed THIS upon me!
*Hyperventilates*

*Hyperventilates* Pretty sure I’d’ve traded a whole BOX of dragon eggs for this honour. I still don’t really know how this happened… but…just…yay!!!

Congratulations to Duchess Nukem for totally getting MVP on her first ever bout... :D

Congratulations to Duchess Nukem for totally getting MVP on her first ever bout… 😀

and Scarlett O'Harma, for getting both the Best blocker award, and my personal award for Sexiest Game-Face Ever.

and Scarlett O’Harma, for getting both the Best blocker award, and my personal award for Sexiest Game-Face Ever.

  • And finally! Last weekend TinkerHell, Foxy, Duchess Nukem and me went to the Re-AnimateHer bootcamp in Llanelli, (with special guests Jack Attack and Betty Swollox). A bittersweet affair, as our lovely Duchess was injured just a few minutes in – A huge huge thank you to all the First Aiders, and Tink for leaving the bootcamp to go with Duchess to the hospital.  And Foxy for channelling ALL THE DRIVING POWERS. And kudos to Duchess for being the most hilarious and positive injured skater ever; (I’ve never actually seen someone try to fight a paramedic for a bottle of gas and air 😉 ) –  get well soon Miss Nukem!
  • The bootcamp itself was a tour-de-force of awesome (argh, sorry Duchess and Tink!) – it’s pretty cool to think that these are some of the best roller derby players in the world, and yet they still come to wee Llanelli to share their knowledge and sprinkle wondrous derby glitter on newer skaters coming into the sport. It’s okay, we took about a million notes. These ladies are awesome:

Bath Roller Derby Girls vs SRT Bs

Thanks to Dave for the pics. And happy first bout to SRT Bs! We had so much fun today 😀

(If you want the nice, sharp version of any pics, it would appear you have to click ‘view full size’ on the individual images in the lightbox…grr…)

Plymouth Bs Vs BRDG

A testament to how you can kick so much ass even with a short roster! Thanks Plymouth for coming to play us, you guys rock 🙂

(As always, pics by Dave.)

If I could reblog this a million times I would

A funny and inspirational account of Fresh Meat from one of our newest league members, Hen. This is ace:

http://bathrollerderbygirls.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/fresh-meat-summer-2013.html

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