A very derby Halloween

My league recently bumped up my “level” so now I can practice with home teams. Yey! My practice schedule opened from Thurs, Sat, Sun to Mon, Tues, Weds, Thurs, Sat, Sun. Good thing I love to roller skate.

Tonight is the Halloween scrimmage. I’ll try to remember to bring my camera for you all. I think I’m going to go as a figure skater.

I’m adjusting here. I used to walk into the practice space and go “WOW!!!!!!!!” and now it’s more like, “OK. Time to gear up.” That in itself is weird to me. The other day before practice I pulled my gearbag out of my trunk and looked at my old league’s sticker on my bumper. I thought about why I don’t yet have my new league’s sticker. It feels like my heart is in Maine and my skates are here, a little bit. I know my heart will follow. Eventually. It’s scary to get a new normal. Speaking of scary:

Happy Halloween. Here are some badass derby skaters who wear face paint:

I know some of ya’ll have worn face paint for derby too. Post photos below? I wanna see.

Thing I’m proud of: Making my new skater status, quickly. Three I’m grateful for: This last bit of downtime before starting my new job, my friends in Maine who listen to me when I want to blab on about derby here, my new friends here who bring me to the bar after practice and let me hit them in the face. Whoops.


Today DerbyLife published a feature article/interview I wrote on Philly rollergirl Antidote. She has been working for 7 years to get where she is. Story below:

Champs preview: Antidote from Philly Roller Girls

By Hard Dash

You’ve got to fail to succeed, seems to be Antidote’s mantra these days. And she’s succeeding. The 26-year-old jammer for Philly Roller Girls dashed through scrum-start walls at Eastern Regionals to pick up lead jammer seven out of her nine jams against London.

Antidote, who grew up in Delaware, has been playing derby for Philly since 2007. But the athlete with the star on her eye says life lengthened her journey to her first Liberty Belles game — by about six years. Now, with some hard fought battles — on and off the track — behind her, she’s ready for more derby.

The jammer helped Philly take home second place — to Gotham Girls Roller Derby of New York — at regionals. Now the team is getting ready to skate their way up the ladder at Grits and Glory, WFTDA’s national championship Nov. 2-4 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Philly will battle the Bay Area Derby Girls first. If history is any indication, this bout will be tight enough that fans should bring cough drops, lest they lose their voices screaming. According to the Liberty Belles captain, Teflon Donna, the team is thrilled to battle BAD. Since 2007, the teams have played twice.

“At the WFTDA Championship tournament in 2008, Philly narrowly escaped a last jam comeback attempt from the BAD girls to go on and face the Texecutioners in a battle for 3rd place and [we played them] again in June 2011 in Philadelphia in a hangover bout where BAD came back in the last jam to beat the Liberty Belles,” Teflon Donna said. “Coincidence or not, the Philly Liberty Belles find themselves once again in a championship bracket facing off against BAD where the victor goes on to play the Texecutioners.”

We talked with Antidote about her derby journey and what she’s thinking about before nationals:

HARD DASH: How long have you been skating?
ANTIDOTE: I rollerbladed growing up, playing roller hockey around the neighborhood and going to the weekend open skates. I stopped skating while in middle school and didn’t again until I tried out for my first league [in 2006]. I strapped quads on for the first time ever at the tryout.

A year later in 2007 I moved to Philadelphia and joined the Philly Roller Girls, first as a Hostile City Honey and shortly later as a Liberty Belle. So life happened and I maintained skating as an Independence Doll (our B team) until this year when I returned to the Belles.

HARD DASH: Life stuff?
ANTIDOTE: Derby was my reason to sober up from both drugs and drinking in 2007. During this journey, my life became intertwined with my youngest sister’s battle with depression and an attempted suicide. That next year my father passed of lung cancer — that had been the week of the 2008 regionals, which was going to be my first regionals, but I bailed since his health got progressively worse. That was the last time I was rostered as a Liberty Belle before returning this year. Derby and life had been made very difficult by an emotionally abusive marriage, which led to a divorce almost a year after my father’s passing.

Then it was the “what now” feeling. I had at this point been battling with depression myself, which caused me to gain a lot of weight. I had shut down. I lost my drive for derby and life. The Team USA tryout was my turning point. I hadn’t worked toward anything in a while. Being cut sucked, but it opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to figure out what I wanted in life.

The first practice after that cut I had that feeling of the first time I strapped on skates and everything felt new again. I knew I wanted to be the best skater I possibly could be. I wanted to feel like I was the best me. It sounds so cliche to say derby saved my soul, but I guess it sounds that way because for many of us it has. It gets to a point where there is no separation between derby and life, we do one to do the other — the other means nothing without the first. … Or something deep like that.

HARD DASH: I’m sorry to hear that, lady. You sure you want the derby world to know all this?
ANTIDOTE: I think it is important and perhaps it will help someone in the end. So yeah, I think I am ready to share it.

HARD DASH: So how did you get so awesome at roller derby?
ANTIDOTE: Failure. No joke. I tried out for Team USA and made it to the final tryout, but got cut before the final scrimmage. I spent the next week mapping a plan on how to re-do my whole thought process on training and what I wanted from derby.

HARD DASH: What do you want from derby?
ANTIDOTE: I want to be skating and coaching it until I can’t anymore.

ANTIDOTE: By that point I had been skating for 5 years and it hit me that it was beyond time to go big or go home. Since the tryout I have been training five times harder than I ever have, eating better than I ever thought possible, and making sure every day I remind myself why I play this game. I play it because I feel most alive when I am on that track.

HARD DASH: Do you have short- and long-term goals?
ANTIDOTE: I try to make daily goals. Not just for derby, it’s a mind, body, soul kind of thing. I believe it is just as important to make your mental game just as strong if not stronger than your physical — otherwise this sport can take a toll. So, one of my goals this past year has been to tell myself every day that today I will be stronger than yesterday. I hope by achieving my small goals that in the long run I will get another shot at Team USA and see Philadelphia take home the Hydra.

HARD DASH: What’s your daily goal today?
ANTIDOTE: Today we had practice and my goal was to only take the middle of a wall when I was jamming. Yesterday it was to tell every one of my teammates on my home team something they were doing really well.

HARD DASH: Got a signature move?
ANTIDOTE: I guess if I had to name a signature move it would be what I call “drop shoulder.” It’s breaking walls moving or scrum with a low dropped shoulder into a can opener to force yourself in and out of a wall.

HARD DASH: What’s it like to skate in a dress?
ANTIDOTE: I LOVE IT. I prefer it. There is always material in arm’s reach to grab when I need an assist. And it’s airy.

HARD DASH: Weird. You ever block?
ANTIDOTE: I like blocking, but I love jamming. I love the adrenaline. I love knowing that there are five people on that track who want to see me fail and four who will do whatever is in their will to make sure that does not happen. I love the speed. I love the feeling when I take someone’s point. I love the pressure knowing my team is relying on me and I refuse to let them down.

HARD DASH: Do you have a skating buddy?
ANTIDOTE: Shenita Stretcher and I have been skating together for 6 years. Not just as a Belle, but also for our home team, the Broad Street Butchers. We know each other well. You won’t ever see it, but V-Diva and I play really really well together as blockers — we just both jam more than block.

HARD DASH: On that note, it seems like Philly is D D D and their jammers never get help. Sometimes it seems brutal. As a jammer, do you like that strategy?
ANTIDOTE: Personally I really like it. It is harder, but it has forced me to become a stronger jammer.

HARD DASH: Any tips for jammers?
ANTIDOTE: Never stop moving your feet forward and eventually to the left.

HARD DASH: What about for people just starting derby?
ANTIDOTE: Patience. And a lot of it. Life doesn’t always give us the time to put as much as we would like into this “hobby.” Don’t get frustrated if you aren’t moving up as fast as you want. After 6 years of work to be rostered in a sanctioned WFTDA game I can still say it was all worth the wait.

HARD DASH: Wait wait wait. This year’s regionals was your first ever WFTDA-sanctioned bout?
ANTIDOTE: No. But it was my first regionals, and the first time I ever started a Belles game. Earlier this year was the first time I had seen action in a WFTDA-sanctioned bout.
HARD DASH: Gotchya. That’s still pretty badass.

HARD DASH: What’s your proudest accomplishment?
ANTIDOTE: Truthfully, this whole past year. I have gone through a lot of bad things the last couple years and it feels amazing to know that I didn’t let myself use it as an excuse for why I can’t, but instead the reason why I had to keep moving forward.

HARD DASH: You seem really happy when you play. All the time.
ANTIDOTE: Derby has gotten me through a lot in my life. I am thankful every time I hit that track and know that at least I get to play one more time.

HARD DASH: What’s with the face paint?
ANTIDOTE: Years ago I painted the star on [my eye] to add some pizzazz. At the end of that game a little girl walked up to me and told me that I was her favorite superhero. It made me feel like a superhero. I still do it because it reminds me of that feeling.

HARD DASH: Is there any significance to your name and number?
ANTIDOTE: Most people don’t know I had a different name when I first started skating derby — one I will never tell. When I decided to change it I knew I wanted a name that was one word and easy to say. Antidote sounded tough. As for my number [100cc], its the medium speed setting for Mario Cart 64 — 150 the high setting was too much of a mouth full.

HARD DASH: So are you pumped for Championships?
ANTIDOTE: I have been waiting almost 6 1/2 years to see a championship game, so I am gonna say yes.

HARD DASH: What are you most pumped about?
ANTIDOTE: Seeing all my team’s efforts from this year come together.

HARD DASH: What are you doing to prepare?
ANTIDOTE: Taking my vitamins A to Z, drinking lots of juice boxes and taking naps.

HARD DASH: What do you and your teammates talk about on the bench?
ANTIDOTE: We consistently motivate each other and remind ourselves that each jam is a new jam.

HARD DASH: Is there something people should look out for in the Philly Roller Girls? Got any surprises?
ANTIDOTE: We always have a trick up our sleeves.

HARD DASH: Your first game is against the Bay Area Derby Girls. Are you worried about BAD at all?
ANTIDOTE: You always have to worry about your opponents. When you stop worrying you set yourself up for failure.

HARD DASH: Thanks for talking with us. I think people are curious about you because you’re talented and seemed to have come out of nowhere.
ANTIDOTE: The funny part about this is I have been playing derby for almost 7 years. I have been here, I was just waiting for life to tell me it was my turn.

Hard Dash is a journalist living in Portland, Oregon. She skates for Rose City Rollers.

10 traits of a good girlfriend … to roller derby

At my old league one person asked, “What is a good level of emotional involvement in derby?” Some of us gave our answers. As a league, our favorite answer was “7.” (Thanks Brawler D Lite) My answer was, “be a good girlfriend to derby — have an outside life so that not every little thing on-skates ruins/makes you.”

Which led me to the thought, “what makes a good girlfriend?” This question came up last night when my real-life gf and my new derby friend and I went out. My new friend said she tells all prospective partners that they have to understand, “derby is my primary partner.”

SOOOOO …. What does [sexist, awful, I know] AskMen.com say makes a good girlfriend?  (I could have picked any woman-hating magazine on the Internet, this was done by Google search) Well, I’m taking their top 10s and derby-fying them. I present: 10 traits that make a great girlfriend [to roller derby]!

10. She’s independent. So this goes to the heart of what I wrote above. Derby needs you to have other things going on in your life. If every committee vote and play on the track makes or breaks your day/week/year, Derby is going to feel a little … strangled to death. It hurts the relationship.

9. She’s intelligent. Duh. How is this number 9 on this list? Derby needs you to be a smart lady, making great choices on the track, in your committee and off the track (nutrition, cross training, etc). Derby smart people watch footage (develop common interests with Derby!), implement what they learn in practices, etc.

8. She’s sexual. Hahahahahahahahaahahahahahahaha!   So, for your relationship with derby we’re going to have to adjust “be sexual” to “be a loving partner.” Being loving is important, firstly to yourself. You have to be kind to yourself. If you’re not loving to your skater-self, skating will be less fun. Derby needs you to be loving to your teammates too, because people who are loving are, according to sex columnist Dan Savage: Giving, Game, Good. You have to have the basic skills to be good at derby (not be great, but be willing to practice what will make you a good player), Game to try anything — new skills, new drills, new plays, and giving (of your time, your advice, yourself).

This is me being a sexual … I mean loving … partner to Roll Doll 🙂 Make signs to support your teammates!

7. She’s beautiful. When I think what makes people beautiful, I often think of smiles and eyes. And I think part of what makes smiles and eyes so beautiful is that is where we can see happiness in a person’s heart. So, to me, being beautiful to Derby means to find and express your joy. My favorite players are the ones who look like they are having the time of their lives while in skates.

6. She respects you. This is a lot like #10. Derby needs its space from you. That, in part, is respect. But respect also means devoting quality time to derby, respecting your body, respecting the rules and the refs and showing respect for your teammates.

5. She lets you be a man. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I like this list, as a derby list. She let’s you be a man … well Derby, let’s see …. [making something up…. ummmmmm]. Yeah, I’ve got nothing. So here is AskMen’s super sexist “how to be a good woman, bitch make me a sandwich” description of how you should let your partner [Derby] be a good man…
“Do not — I repeat — do not get involved with a woman who tries to get you to eat cottage cheese and fruit for breakfast and insists that you give up poker night with the guys. You will end up resenting her more than you can imagine. A good girlfriend lets you be a guy in all your glory, poker night and all. If she’s a great girlfriend, she’ll even bring you and your buddies a couple of beers and make you some of her famous sandwiches.”

What the fuck.

4. She doesn’t nag. I’d rather phrase this rule as “picks battles wisely.” And that’s important. To be a good girlfriend to derby you can’t nitpick every little thing. That means sometimes in your committee meetings you let things go that you think could be done differently. You don’t nag your teammates who don’t understand something, you explain it to them kindly. And you don’t nag (beat yourself up) yourself for things you could of/should have done, you just resolve to be a better athlete. And then you do that.

3. She gets along with family and friends. Derby’s friends and family include: refs, NSOs, fans, coaches. Being a good girlfriend to Derby means being nice to those people who help make derby happen where you are.

This is me helping another local league grow by helping them put on a bout. Helping smaller leagues escalates our sport. (And that is DZ giving me sass 🙂 )

2. She loves you. Awwww! Love the sport!

1. She makes you want to be a better man. What would make Derby want to be a better sport? Trying the new ruleset and supporting it. Giving great feedback to your league about changes in the sport. Watching the game and financially supporting leagues by buying merch, bout tickets. And by being the best player you can be elevates the sport that little bit.


My last team used to talk a lot about energy. Especially the night before bouts. “How will you use your energy,” my last captain used to ask us all.

In that season, we went from “that” team to zen. By “that” team I mean the team with the bench of screaming crazy-looking ladies. You’ve seen it before. In the penalty box, we would instantly look angry and mean. Some of us might have built up so much bad energy in the box that we re-entered the track with a vengeance … which 90% of the time sends you back to the box.

“If you go to the box and react negatively, using words or gestures you are draining your energy. You do not need to punish yourself for the actions that put you in the box the reff has already punished you,” my last captain, Hurricane Bethany said.

I like that a lot. It’s true. Thoughts like, “I DID NOT [insert penalty here] HER!” or ref hating or self loathing or self pitying don’t make you a stronger player. And it shows when you get out of the box. If you’re leaving your team one woman short, they need you to be your strongest. Anger only weakens us.

I like to think of penalties as unfortunate little respites. Because who in their 45th minute of a bout doesn’t want a little chill time? It’s hard to keep this mindset as you watch your team play short, but (for me anyway) it’s essential. Being calm and zen makes me strong.

I chatted with this woman about their mascot. It calmed me down to talk about humans living inside stuffed animals. Photo by Richard LaFortuna

And, as it turns out, yelling on the bench doesn’t give the refs much incentive to say, “Oh. Yeah. You’re right. I didn’t quite understand your argument until you screamed at me while calling me a ‘big jerk’ from the penalty box. Please, come back and play.” If you’re in the box unjustly, first know that it happens all the time. Second, actually assess if what you did was illegal so you never [ideally] do it again. Third, if it was truly truly an egregious call, your team can use their official review.

My friend, who subbed for captain that day, sprung me from the box using an official review. This is how we celebrated.

And although this zen philosophy was developing for me in my penalty box time and I noticed I played better after concentrating, watching the game and using that penalty box time to analyze my competition (instead of fume and scream), it didn’t click that I needed to use this elsewhere. See, on the line-up bench, I felt like I had to yell. “SLOW DOWN! SPEED UP! OJ OJ OJ OJ OJ!!!!” etc. There are lots of reasonings I gave for this, but looking back, maybe it was just a lack of trust (an upcoming blog post). Lack of trust in my teammates, new coaches, etc.

It’s still not easy for me to be zen and focus on the bench. Here’s what helped: Hurricane Bethany was sitting next to me one game while I was shouting my uvula out, “getting ready” to play the next jam, and she said “I need you to be calm. I can’t be zen when you’re yelling.” And for some reason her saying that it was what she needed helped me. “Oh. I can’t ruin Bethany’s zen, that’s important,” I thought. Which is true, but also silly that I was willing to let my own zen get crushed by my … enthusiasm. Was I a less tired, less winded and more focused player by using my energy to yell on the bench? Absoltuely not.

So now I’m quiet on the bench. Focused. Thinking about what my teammates and I need to do in the next jam. Because when it comes down to it, derby is played jam by jam. Each jam is a new chance to reset, calm down and focus.

So that’s how I feel about energy. It starts before the game. The night before the game I can be found ….

Right. Cooking food and watching derby archives. (Right now I’m making quinoa with curry powder and soy milk topped with an egg, tomatoes, onion, beet greens and some mozzarella. Getting ready for practice. Watching Angel City versus Sacred City on WFTDA.tv)

Quinoa is my new favorite thing.

The cost of roller derby

I like numbers a lot. Today, I’m in the unfortunate situation of having to shop for health insurance. I do not expect to be [immediately] covered by an employer, and I worry about my health — and roller derby is 100% to blame. I’m a healthier person for derby, but I’m also more susceptible to injuries. So here I am, shopping online for health insurance, which looks like it will cost me about $180 a month (A MONTH) if I want a low deductible.

Thankfully, my practices, scrimmages and bouts are covered by my league’s derby insurance, but I worry about needing something extra. I can’t go into details, but even my derby insurance would cost me a penny if (God forbid) I broke something.

This got me thinking about the money I’ve invested into derby. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a good job for the last two years of derby. So, below is a breakdown of what I bought in the past two years, then I write a 5-point list of mistakes to avoid, then, finally a suggested shopping list for anyone out there looking for one (fresh meat).

This is me at one of my first practices ever on the left. In bad skates (vixens) with bad toe covers (ruined those on day 2) with awful knee pads and a terrible helmet (which later got gold glitter-ed. The gold shorts are great. On the right is me at a bout, with gear upgrades to my 495 skates and rector plates, 187 killer knee pads and elbow pads and wrist guards with a protec helmet (not shown … well). Less awesome pants.

Dash’s costs for two years of derby:
$25/mo dues (x24 months = $600)
$60/year mandatory insurance ($120)
$20/year mandatory liability insurance ($40)
$1/practice in gas (4 practices a week $312)
$60/away bout in gas and food and lodging (12 bouts $720)
$300 in additional, optional training (Northeast Derby Convention. Totes worth it.)
$50 My first pair of skates, pre-derby, getting ready for tryouts. Included wheels, bearings.
$200 First shitty skates I had to throw out after a year because they were so painful


$600 My skates. Riedell 495 with Reactor plates. I told myself “they have to be good enough so I never have to buy skates again!” — Had I bought the standard Riedell R3s and not the super-awful Riedell Vixens with their lead plates, I could have saved myself the $850 and just spent the $150.
$50/set of bearings: $150
$60/wheel set, $240

Outdoor wheels and bearing set: $70
$20/set toe stops x5 (Gumball should sponsor me. I chew those babies up.) $100
$3/set of laces x20 sets (I used to burn through those too, hence the toe protectors) $60
Pads ($80 knee, $25 elbow x2, $20 wrist x2, $40 in 3 mouthguards, $45 in 2 helmets) $255
Rubber toe protectors: $25 (Totally necessary for how I used to skate. Two sets.)
Gear bag: $10
Scrimmage shirts: $5/shirt x10 shirts = $50
Uniform bottoms for bouts: $35
Waterbottle: I stole mine. Free.
Rink fees for extra skate time, 1/week at $5 a session = $480

Total: $4,417
It costs me $2,209 a year to play roller derby.

Frankly, I thought it would be worse than that. And it is. I’m underestimating. This week I went to my rink about eight times, back and forth. It didn’t cost $8 like I said, but I felt conservative today. And this is a depressing post for me.

But here is why I’m writing this: I made major, fiscally painful mistakes. Maybe you’re new to derby and can take this as a warning of what not to do.

If I was brand new to derby, but somehow knew I’d be very dedicated to the sport for the long haul, here is what I would do:

1. INVEST IN YOUR KNEES. Very important. If you have to decide where to spend you money, spend it on your knee pads. It’s cheaper than surgery. I recommend 187 Killer Pro pads. I love them. They have saved me and they have not slipped in the 1.5 years I’ve worn them. My friends like Rector Fatboys. (Both $67)

2. Get great skates that fit. To do this, you must go to a knowledgeable source in person. You need to bring your feet shopping. Literally. Skates don’t fit like your converse. They are (I hope) leather and need to be tight because they will stretch to your foot. A good skate shop will tell you, “No, honey, it’s OK” when you say, “but it hurts! They’re too small!” For fresh meat, I’d say if you have a low low budget, go with the R3s. If you can spend more, it will save you more in the long run because you won’t have to turn in your old skates. The 265s are a pretty good bargain, especially if you mount them on cheap (nice, flexible) nylon plates to start. You can always upgrade to great plates later. I bought my 495s because they came with all the extras included, leather inners, sheepy tongues, straps around my ankles, etc. The boot was $300 and it was as cheap for me to add on the Reactor plates as it would have been to buy the (less awesome) “Torch” package because I already had wheels and bearings. Skate packages are not always the best deal.

3. Try not to buy cheap shit unless you have to. Things I regret buying:

  • My old ($20) toe caps from Etsy. They have holes you put the laces through … which defeats the purpose. I got clip-on plastic caps, which have saved my laces and my leather toes.
  • Shirts that aren’t black or white. Unless I can wear them to all practices, I don’t buy derby shirts anymore. I buy $3 wifebeaters (only black or white) at Walmart and have a bottle of black fabric ink and a bleach pen ready to put my name and number on with. Could have saved me $50.
  • Shitty gear. I spent $50 in my first gear set, which was all cheap stuff. The elbow and wrist guards lasted me about a year before they broke and started slipping (pretty good). I also got a shitty helmet at first. I could have saved about $70 had I bought the things I have now (pretty much entirely 187 Pro brand pads and a ProTec helmet).
  • Shoe laces that aren’t wax hockey laces. Hockey laces are $3 and last me about 3 months. The boot laces I was using cost me $1 and lasted me two practices (16 practices a month means $8 a month).

4. If something doesn’t work, report it. My 495 straps broke six times. The first time, I bought a replacement set for $20. The second time I told Reidell and they sent me new ones. And then they kept sending me new ones as they kept breaking and as their brand began re-making them to be stronger. Sometimes it takes a minute for a brand to get a new thing right. Reidell has been super accommodating and I’m really glad I bought their skates because I feel supported and I know they will be there if anything goes wrong.
The same thing happened with my 187 Pro wrist guards. About three months after buying them, they both ripped and I had to sew them together. I got a little upset and emailed them, telling them what happened and they were very accommodating too and sent me a new set (when I showed a receipt). I knew my knee pads were amazing, so I figured their wrist guards were too. I’ve had my replacement set for a few months and they’re doing great.
You pay a lot for your gear. If something goes wrong, speak up. The derby world is nice and usually accommodating to reasonable requests.

5. Cheap wheels are not bad. Just saying. I went to the rink the other day in my Radar Bullets ($80) and someone asked me about wheels. I told them I like mine and also the Super G blue 88s. They directed me to the local store where they were on sale for $60 for all eight. I also like ($45) Radar Flat Outrageous (wide, good for beginners) and the Reckless Evaders, which I found on sale for $75 for all eight. My last set of wheels, my Super Gs (which I just bought another pair of, knowing I’ll need another set in a few months), lasted about one year.

So, derby world, if I were to buy my fresh meat set up today, knowing I’d be dedicated here would be my shopping list (consequently, it’s what I own now, more or less):
$600 Reidell 495s and Reactor plates
$60 sale wheels — Atom Super Gs (blue)
$50 Bones Super Redz bearings (clean them monthly and you’ll have to replace them once a year. Get “3 in 1” cleaner for $3 and a $1 bottle of rubbing alcohol)
$3 pair of waxed hockey laces
$14 pair of rubber clip-on toe protectors
$165 in gear — 187 Killer Pro knee pads ($70), 187 Killer elbow pads ($20) and wrist guards ($20) and a ProTec helmet ($30) and a ProTechDent mouth guard ($25).

$40 in two sets of Gumball toe stops.

And that would total me at about $932 for gear. About $466 a year. Opposed to my $1,680 — or $840 a year. About half.

So there you have it folks. I watch Tumblr and follow the “roller derby” tag and the most frequent post I see is — “WHAT GEAR SHOULD I GET???!?!?!?!!?! (freak out)” — and that’s my answer. My very very long answer.

Now my question is: Is health insurance worth it. That might be a question for another day.

One thing I’m proud of: I took initiative today and asked to play in a home team scrimmage tomorrow.

5 on 1

The other day at scrimmage I was the only blocker on the track for my team. Actually, I was the only member of my team not in the penalty box. It was 5 versus me. And I pulled out the tactic I sometimes pull out when I’m scared … because it turns me from a scared person to a scary person. I made a video about this a while back when my old team’s rookies were about to play their first bout. I share this with you today:

And yeah, that jammer didn’t know what the heck to do.

Junior derby — should everyone wear roller skates?

Men’s derby? Yes. Banked track? Oh yeah. Children’s derby? Yes. Dinosaur derby? Please!? Japanese game show horse racing roller derby? YES. 

I believe everyone should wear roller skates. As frequently as possible. Derby Lite, men’s league, rec league, whatever. Just get in roller skates, baby.

Tonight I went to my first junior derby bout(s). I’ve seen these girls around my league’s practice area, so I knew they could skate. But this was the championships for the four home teams. The first bout was close at first, but eventually turned into a 100-point separation.

This is the undead-theme team getting ready for their bout b y pouring blood all over themselves. Sorry, it’s a cellphone pic.

But the second bout was tight tight tight. Maybe a billion lead changes, especially toward the end. It was a 8-point game, I think. Won by a power jam. Just like big-girl derby.

I root for everybody.

These girls were 12-17 years old. And, as I said, I 100% support junior derby, but I’m also sort of torn about it.

The pros: We — derby nation — are helping raise strong, fierce, independent-but-team-minded women who can work together and have learned to get up after every fall. They know what it is to win and lose and that no one is a star — they all need each other. And that’s super important and something to be wicked proud of.

The maybe-not-so-pro(????): We are raising the next generation of derby players. Literally. Since derby made a comeback in the mid-2000s, there haven’t been “professional” players. It’s an amateur sport. And that’s why a lot of us love it. A 40-year-old English teacher who has never roller skated (“who the fuck roller skates?”) or done anything athletic in her life can easily join many fresh meat squads around the nation. If she works hard, she can probably be on a B team in a year. The girls who join derby and are instantly good are usually the oddities who play hockey or were rink rats growing up.
How does junior derby change this? Maybe it doesn’t. But maybe it trains a load of women how to play derby and they go into real teams. And then these 40-year-old teachers are now not only competing for a spot on a team with an 18-year-old, but a teenager who is trained to play and has played for literally years. Maybe it takes a little of the “anyone can do it” out of the sport.

OK. Enough of that not-so-nice stuff. What it really comes down to is this: Derby is changing. Has been since day one. We’re getting new rules, new loopholes, new players all the time. That’s another beautiful part of this sport. So if we get all these rambunctious, talented young ladies, the sport will shift — again. And again. And again. Elevating the sport. Arguably mainstreaming it, sure. But is that so bad? There will be B teams and rec leagues and maybe that’s where the “everyone can play” aspect of derby is going. Raising strong young women is more important anyway. We need more of those.

Some strong young ladies. Sorry, it’s a cellphone picture.

One thing I’m proud of: I left it all on the track today at endurance practice. Three things I’m grateful for: A new teammate who gives me great feedback, my new endurance coach who is firm but supportive and helpful and kind, the chance to do this.

Getting your ass handed to you

I watched a bout tonight with a final score of about 320 to 60.

“Yikes,” I said to my new teammate, who sat next to me.
“Yeah. But they’ll be twice as good tomorrow,” she said.
“Been there,” I told her.
“We all have.”

The ass handing. It happens. In derby-land, all the time.

In fact, this happened to be almost exactly one year ago, at my first bout. It was my entire team’s first game ever. We lost 266-62. The next day, we were twice as good.

That night was tough. Every jam a struggle. I think I jammed five times and scored nothing. Just got beaten and beaten and beaten to the floor. And I had a blast.

“I HAVE NEVER BEEN HIT THAT HARD,” I remember saying. “I didn’t even know girls COULD hit that hard,” I told my teammates, who shook their heads in agreement.

And that’s when WE started practicing hitting that hard. It was the first time we thought about “walls” or, dare I say it, strategy at all.

My old team recently beat that old team in a tournament. And although we won that tournament, and therefore beat 10 other teams, it was that game — not even the championship game — that we were proudest of. Not because we beat that team, we loved that team, but because we beat our old selves. We learned what we already knew somewhere: We weren’t those same girls anymore. And a lot of it was due to that first asswhipping.

Call it a loss, but we’ll see in a year 🙂

Thing I’m proud of: I was the only blocker for my team today at one point, against 5 opposing skaters, and I held their jammer until my jammer came back. Really proud of that. Three things I’m grateful for: I’m grateful there is so much derby in this city to watch and learn from (four bouts this weekend!), and for my newfound hemp/cactus protein powder my loving girlfriend bought me, and for my new teammates who saved me a seat at the bout tonight.

Sick days

When freshmeat (new skaters) come to derby, it’s often about fun, friends, fishnets. And at some point through fall drills and endurance laps and enough scrimmages and bouts, those who stick come to love derby not as a game or a hobby, but as the sport. And that’s a tough adjustment (but that’s for another post).

With that adjustment comes the “me” part of it. If you’re playing a sport, you’re an athlete.  Athletes don’t eat like you ate before. They crosstrain. They watch lots of derby footage to scope out other teams. They do lots of things that the girl you were at tryouts wouldn’t have dreamed of doing. Or eating.

Yesterday I was sick. Labyrinthitis. It means I was too dizzy to stand up yesterday, nevermind drive to the rink or skate. I missed practice. If I’m not better by tomorrow, I’ll miss another.

Other skaters will sympathize, because somewhere along the line not roller skating and not doing planks and pushups and endurance laps became a punishment. Weird, right? Because for me, eating this much spinach and eggs and doing that many minutes of squats used to be the grueling part … not lying in bed watching WFTDA.tv …

Time to rest and heal.

How to play “watching roller derby”

As blog followers know, I was on a 30+ day road trip. No Internet … during regionals … all the regionals. I’m still catching up. Some people have drinking games, I have a derby game.

Here’s how you play my game. I call it “watching roller derby”:
First half: plank first 30 seconds of every jam
Second half: do five pushups at the start of every jam
Official time outs: bicycles.

Because what’s more motivating than watching the thing you’re working for (being a better athlete) to get you to crosstrain? I like planks and pushups because I don’t get a lot of arm work in my regular skating practices. I also like it because if I set the laptop on the floor at the right height, I don’t miss a thing while I’m doing these exercises.

You can usually get in 50 push ups and 10 minutes of planking in this way … per game.

Some recent games I’d HIGHLY recommend:
Texas v Atlanta (HOLY!)
Nashville v No Coast (hooooo!)
London v Philly

They’re all free on WFTDA.tv. Get strong, get smart, get up-to-date on our ever-changing sport.

You have got to see V Diva play in the London/Philly game. Here she is hugging Teflon Donna on WFTDA.tv