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.
HARD DASH: Oh OK.
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: HA!
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.