Roller derby drills are hard … all of them … always

Oh hey. I’ve had a lot of big changes in my life, but thanks for the encouraging comments and emails asking me to blog more/again. I want to. I plan to. As a way to ease back in, here’s what I recently posted to our own fresh meat’s page. I think it’s always, always true:

Roller derby drills are hard. All of them. Even things like stepping side to side, which could seem rudimentary. Plow stopping is also rudimentary, but our travel team (and top-ranked travel teams across the world) practice them every week. It’s important to find goals, fun and fulfillment from even basic drills because that’s a lot of what roller derby is – getting the “easy” stuff down (muscle memory) so we can do it flawlessly in combination with lots of other cool shit when we play the game.

Here’s some things you should consider before ever thinking, “this is boring” — and not just next week or next month, but four years from now :

  • Am I doing it in perfect form?
  • Can I do it faster in perfect form?
  • Could ANY of the veteran skaters do this drill better than I’m doing it right now? If they could, what would they do differently? (then try it).
  • How would (insert skater hero here) do this drill? (then try their unique style)
  • Can I do this backward?
  • Can I do this on one leg?
  • Can I do this backward on one leg?

If you can do the drill backward on one leg in perfect form better than any other skater, then you can be bored 🙂

p.s. stepping side-to-side on one leg in perfect form is flippin hard.

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Grim D Mise talks about not making the Team USA roster … this time

This is the last installment of the Grim D Mise series. I’ve followed the Maine Roller Derby player through her Team USA tryouts since May. A preliminary roster of candidates was published on the team’s Facebook page and Grim wasn’t on it.

Here’s what she had to say about it:

Team USA tryouts in Seattle had skaters perform plow stops, one-foot plow stops and hockey stops. Photo by Danny Ngan Photography
Team USA tryouts in Seattle had skaters perform plow stops, one-foot plow stops and hockey stops. Photo by Danny Ngan Photography

How are you feeling?
After the Seattle tryouts, I had almost immediately began preparing myself for disappointment. The whole experience of trying out for Team USA twice was something I really needed to help bring me to the next level though. I knew I’d be better athlete having had that experience. It’s really hard to feel disappointed when I can’t stop feeling grateful for the chance to tryout and all the support that came along with it. I’m proud of myself for chasing something that means a lot to me, and it won’t end here. There’s always the next World Cup and another shot at Team USA.

How was the tryout in the West different than the East tryout?
During the East Coast tryouts, there was a wide separation in skill levels between a majority of the skaters. At West Coast tryouts, about 95% of the women that tried out, were very high level derby athletes*. I was pretty blown away. I was looking forward to sharing the track with women I’d idolized from my computer monitor for years, but I did not expect to leave Seattle a fan of so many ladies I’d never heard of.

Did you learn anything about West Coast derby?
West Coast derby is no joke. I got to watch the Rat City vs. Gotham bout while I was in town and had the opportunity to sit with some retired Rat City skaters during the bout, and listening to them talk about what it takes to earn play time on an All Star team out there. It really convinced me that the competition is taken seriously. In addition, learning more about Rose City and exactly what there league does to foster a highly competitive environment was a lot of food for thought.

Who was the funnest to play with/against?
Oh my gosh. I can’t even decide. I will say this, Onda Sligh cracked some funny jokes on the bench.

Do you feel there was anything else you could have done in preparation?
Yes. I wasn’t successful this go around, which means I didn’t do everything I possibly could have. Lesson learned.

Do you feel like there was anything else you should have done at tryouts?
I’m not sure. I followed directions, I tried my hardest and I listened to my teammates. There are definitely things I could have done better, but that’s a given.

What are you proudest of?
I’m really proud of myself for putting a lot of time and energy into something I have an unwavering passion for. I feel like the sport Roller Derby has so much to do with the person I am today. The Team USA tryout experience taught me that although I may have a mild fear of heights, a severe fear spiders and a satirical fear of hicks (like from the movie, “Wrong Turn”**), I have a complete fearlessness on the track and Team USA tryouts brought that out in me. So yeah, I’m pretty proud of that.

How will this experience change you and how you skate?
I need to learn teamwork. I have been competing on my home league for so long primarily as a jammer that I lack the “pack mentality” most veteran blockers seem to have. I’m confident that with more opportunities to scrimmage and bout as a blocker, I’ll get there.

What’s next?
Competing with The Port Authorities and growing Maine Roller Derby. The more our All-Star team improves, the better chances we’ll have competing against higher ranking teams and that will grow us all as athletes. I mean seriously, look at New Hampshire Roller Derby! They are a perfect example of hard work, dedication, focus and improvement. MRD is lucky to have them in our backyard.

That’s the end of this series. I hope you enjoyed it. I plan to … someday … write up my account of how the Team USA tryout went. Plan to see that in the coming weeks when the team posts the final roster.

*Of the 46 people on the Team USA roster (which will be cut) right now, 19 of them were at the Seattle tryout. That’s 41% — a very high figure when there were three tryout locations, plus video submissions.
**So with you there.

Team USA tryout approaches, skater Grim D Mise turns to … a beauty pageant? Well, yeah!

In less than a week some of the best roller derby skaters in the East will try out for Team USA. Which means it’s time to catch up with Maine Roller Derby skater Grim D. Mise (read this first.), who I’m following through the tryout. The plan is to chat with her the day before the tryout, the day after and once she hears the results.

Here’s Grim:

I last talked with you in Mid-May. What’s changed since then?
I have new muscles in strange places.

Which places?

With one week left, what’s the plan for training?
Rest! Well, kind of. I’m still skating, I’m still Crossfitting, but the intensity is a lot lower. I’ve put my body through a lot over the last few months and what it really needs now is a chance to rest before the big day. I’ve also been extremely sick for a week and I’m only just now recovering from whatever virus I had. For the 2-3 days leading up to tryouts, I plan to continue with light cardio but I’ll mostly be stretching and foam rolling religiously.

What Grim calls "rest." Photo by CrossFit Vindicta
What Grim calls “rest.”
Photo by CrossFit Vindicta

How are you preparing mentally?
Visualization is one of my favorite tools of mental training. I think about roller derby pretty much non-stop and I often joke to my leaguemates about how when driving home, I get carried away with visualizing doing awesome and amazing things on the track and I constantly drive past my road. It happens at least once a week.

Most recently at the Northeast Derby Convention in May, I was invited to participate in an all-star scrimmage as part of, “Team Smarty.” Yes, that Smarty. It was a tremendously fun and helpful experience to be able to have before the Team USA tryouts. Skating with/against skaters of that caliber quickly exposed all of my weaknesses, and some that weren’t very apparent to me. One of the biggest being, self-doubt. Until that scrimmage, I honestly thought I was as confident as I could get on skates and I firmly believed I had a fairly solid mental game. NOPE. Turns out I had some work to do.

At North East Derby Convention. Photo by Joe Medolo.
At North East Derby Convention. Photo by Joe Medolo.

So I entered a Pin-Up girl contest at Northeast Chop Shop in Windham, Maine. What? I know. There’s logic to this decision, I promise. Basically, I had to figure out what filled me up with so much anxiety and doubt. I can list all the reasons here, take up a page or two doing so, or I can narrow it way down and simply say that I had to figure out how to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and being a contestant in a pin-up contest was a situation I was highly uncomfortable being in. Entering that contest was an opportunity to learn how to deal with my mental hang ups. My goal for the contest was to make it through without crying or throwing up. If I could do that, I would have felt successful. So what happened?

Photo credit: Mad Stork
Photo credit: Mad Stork

I told myself to have fun. I took home first place, some sweet prizes, and a SATIN SASH! I made some friends too (one of whom plans to try out for Maine Roller Derby in the Fall!). Focusing on having fun took off so much pressure that I was finally able to feel comfortable. Sometimes a situation calls for unconventional methods. This one certainly worked out better than I had imagined it would.

Are you going with anyone else from Maine?
Yes! My super ultra hyper amazing teammate, Spry Icicle (you know, the one who actually scored points against Gotham that one time we scrimmaged them?) is trying out as well. She’s MRD’s head of training and she’s swell.

Do you have any pre-derby rituals you know you’ll do?
This is a ritual both Spry and I share, but yes, we listen to music and paint our nails. For myself, there are two constants to this ritual: Metal and sparkles. Otherwise, I eat what I feel like eating and I might watch my favorite motivational video once or twice. I might also hula hoop.

Are you going to do anything else while you’re down there? Anything derby?
We are going down to Pennsylvania early to watch all the outstanding derby at the East Coast Derby Extravaganza. I’m going to be working the Turn Two Skate Shop table for most of the weekend while at the event, but I’ll be sure to catch as much of the action as possible.

Are there any skaters you’re hoping to see at the tryout?
Yes! Aside from obviously being excited to share the track with current Team USA skaters, some of my Rogue-mates (my banked track team, “Team Rogue”) will be there and a few of the Boston ladies are trying out as well. Also, and I hope her plan wasn’t to fly under the radar and then blow everyone’s mind away the day of tryouts, but Buster Skulls will be there and she’s got a killer shot to make the team.

You’re the jammer on the line for Team USA and you get to pick your four blockers. Who are they?
I’m pretty sure I may have suffered a slight brain aneurysm thinking about how to answer this but I’d love to see this blocking line up: Slaydie, Smarty Pants, Sassy, Bonnie Thunders.

Anything else you want people to know?
I mostly just want people to know how grateful and endlessly appreciative I am for all the support they’ve given me. I’m so lucky to  have friends and family like I do. It feels really good to have a whole state behind me and that feeling is something I plan to tap into during tryouts. Rock Coast Rollers, Central Maine Roller Derby, Bangor Derby, Maine Roller Derby, Derby Lite: Portland, Maine and New Hampshire Roller Derby (I know you’re not a Maine league NH, but you gals continue to inspire us Mainiacs and you’re always genuinely supportive) — THANK YOU!

Lastly, (here’s where it gets a little mushy) my fiance has been one of my biggest supporters since we met almost three years ago. I decided to stop drinking in preparation for Team USA tryouts and AJ joined me. He’s a huge source of strength when I need it most and without his loving encouragement and support, I’d be lost.

Barf! Grim and soon-to-be Mr. Grim (or TUGBOAT). Photo by Kissy Kicks.
Barf! Grim and soon-to-be Mr. Grim (or TUGBOAT). Photo by Kissy Kicks. (JK on the barfing. Sorta.)

Team USA, meet your Grim D Mise

A new occasional series

Photo by Walter Romeo
Photo by Walter Romeo

You haven’t seen Grim D Mise at nationals. You might not have seen her ever — but the people who have seen her skate remember her. Grim is a jammer for Maine Roller Derby. She’s speedy and jukes and jumps unlike anyone else in derby. Jammer got style.

And she’s a really, really nice human being. When her friend recently made a “get Grim to Team USA tryouts” kickstarter (girl be broke), she raised her goal within hours, then an extra few hundred bucks the same day. Because once you see Grim play derby, you’re a fan. She’s just unicorn magic sparkle dust.

Grim could jam for any league in WFTDA — and I happen to know she’s been wooed by a few — but, the skater, although from Florida, is a Mainer. When I asked her a while ago why she didn’t just move to Boston, New York … Portland, Oregon … she said: “I’m definitely not knocking the skaters who do decide to move to a certain city to pursue higher roller derby challenges. That’s just not my plan. My plan is to help facilitate the growth of the league that I owe so much, to the point where we ARE competing at Regionals regularly and at Champs, and ultimately earning the Hydra.”

Finally, she’s trying out for Team USA. We’re going to follow her through the tryout with periodic updates. We’ll talk to her right before her July 1 tryout, right after, and when she hears she makes the team*.

Here’s Grim:

Skating background?
I tried out for Maine Roller Derby in October of 2008. When I tried out, the league was experimenting with a “process of elimination” style type of tryout so there were actually four separate tryout dates that I had to attend and pass before making it onto MRD. Twenty-five girls tried out, five made it. I passed tryouts have been skating with MRD ever since!

Previous to roller derby, my background in skating was strictly aggressive in-line skating. I lived in South Florida where I could skate outside yearround. I would do laps around the neighborhood, skate to and from school, get my friends together for street hockey and visit the skatepark on weekends. Let’s put it this way: Growing up, if I was outside, I was on skates. Having that background was a major factor for finding myself comfortable on quadskates and it made the transition that much easier.

Why didn’t you try out for Team USA last time? I know you’d talked about it.
I registered to tryout but I failed to get myself to Pennsylvania on time. I was late by a whole day. D’OH! I’m never late for anything, but I completely dropped the ball on that one. It goes without saying, but I also clearly lacked the focus, drive and desire to try out which tells me I wouldn’t have stood a chance to pass tryouts two years ago.

She got lead. Photo by Tyler Shaw.
She got lead.

So what is different this time?
At first, I didn’t regret missing tryouts. “What are the chances that I actually would have made it anyway?” I told myself. “You’re a big fish in a small pond.” Was something I also told myself a lot too. Then I watched Team USA skate. I had a patriotic fever I could not shake. The best of the best representing USA in the first ever Roller Derby World Cup. That athletic talent, drive, teamwork and show of sportswomanship made me feel all crazy inside. Comparable to the time you went to your first bout except you’re really jacked up on pixie sticks and Red Bull.

I grew to regret missing the opportunity to even skate on the same track as some of “the greats” during tryouts, and even if I had tried out and not made it, I would have walked away with the experience and feedback to help get me to the next level. Two years is a long time to regret something, but it’s been fueling a fire ever since.

Why try out now?
Last year, I made a promise not pass up on a single derby opportunity that came my way in 2013, whether it be traveling to Regionals just to watch, or full-on competing in a banked track tournament, or trying out for Team USA.

Up until this year, I was really limiting myself in my derby pursuits due to the financial aspects of this sport and it has been the biggest mistake of my derby career. I’m super ultra hyper broke now, and it’s been a serious struggle this year, but I wouldn’t change anything about the decisions I’ve made regarding roller derby.

I’m fully committed to devoting the great majority of my time, energy and resources to this sport, my league, my team and my own derby path.

Grim at Crossfit

What are you doing to train for the tryout?
I’m reaching out to several different skaters who were previous Team USA skaters (or who tried out last time). I’ve received a lot of informative feedback on what I should be working on and I’ve been working on it in my own time.

I am training one-on-one with a speed coach one to two times a week to help build my speed and endurance.

I have been a sponsored athlete at CrossFit Vindicta in South Portland, Maine since the beginning of February 2013. The amazing coaches at CFV have intensified my programming specifically to prep me for Team USA tryouts. Without going into too much detail, we are working to improve my balance, agility, endurance, stamina, (explosive) power, and overall physical strength.

Last but not least, I’m doing a lot of research and a lot of mental training. In 2011, the first round of tryouts lasted for four hours with very little water breaks. I’m mentally preparing for one of the toughest physical challenges I’ve probably ever had to face and complete better than anyone else there. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be harder if I’m not prepared both physically and mentally.

From ECDX. Photo by Dave Wood Photography.
From ECDX. Photo by Dave Wood Photography.

Any fears?
Not making it. I honestly can’t think of a time that I’ve wanted something so badly. I don’t want to think about the possibility of not making it though because that’s not going to help me succeed.

Anything else about how you feel about trying out?
Earning a spot on Team USA would mean the world to me and would be a privilege and an honor, no doubt, but my ultimate goal is to be a primary skater on the final roster for the team so reminding myself of what I plan to accomplish has been helping me push through the toughest of workouts on and off-skates.

Although I’m not originally from Maine, I’ve lived here long enough to learn that Maine is a place with a strong, supportive community full of people who genuinely care about each other. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I skate for a Maine team and I’d like to represent our state and its wonderful derby community on an international roller derby platform.

Last but not least, I want to be an asset to this team. I recognize that I encompass many skills that still need to be honed and fine-tuned in one way or another but I have been working toward that since day one. I still feel like I have a lot to offer and could prove more than useful if chosen for Team USA … but that’s what tryouts are for so let’s let actions speak louder than words, shall we?

Photo by Scott Lovejoy
Photo by Scott Lovejoy

I’ll be talking to Grim again in June. If you have a question for her, post it in the comments and I’ll add it in next time.

*don’t even.