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.)

So you’re going to a derby convention — 8 tips on how to get the most of it

I wrote a while ago abut the Northeast Derby Convention.  Now a bunch of my old leaguemates and fellow New Englanders are going. Here are some tips on how to get the most from it:

1. Make goals
Write them down before the conference. Write down the goals of the people in  your carpool so you can talk about them on the way home later.

2. Plan it out
Know where to be, when and what you need (notebook, pen, gear, sneakers…).

3. Give it your whole brain
Pretty obvious, but hard in practice. Being totally present for a three-day weekend is hard. It’s difficult to dedicate as much to the first drill of the first session as it is to the last of the last day. Know you paid a lot of money to improve your skill set and be entirely in it.

The other side of this is that your body won’t master every skill you will learn in a weekend. It just won’t. But if your brain understands the intricacies of each drill (and you write them down), you can save it for later when you have a couple hours at practice back at home. That’s your time to perfect what you learn in a whirlwind weekend.

4. Write shit down
You will forget all the awesome drills you learned unless you write them down. Even if you’re not the league secretary, write it down. Here is what you should write:

-The drill itself, including pictures that help you remember how it is set up (I like to draw them like messy comics, so I can see how a drill progresses from start to finish). Also include the goals of the drill … ie: “This is for the jammer to learn to take offense.”

-Any notes on form, especially for hitting.

-Notes about what things you found challenging, what you did well (I found notes from last year that said “you found it especially helpful to jump out of this” etc. and it helped me remember the drill.) Personalizing it makes it memorable.

-Anything you find inspiring that the coaches say. If you lead practices for your league, take notes on the coaching styles you find especially helpful.

-People’s emails. Especially people you admire and want to learn more from.

5. Play well with others
This is your chance to play with people who are not on your team. They will challenge you in new ways. Be nice and do your best.

6. Save the drinking* for Tuesday
If you are at a conference for social reasons, go for it. Drink the weekend away. If you paid all that money to get better at roller derby, you’re going to be better prepared to give each drill your all if you got good food, good sleep and maybe only one G&T.

Talk with others. People from other leagues have a lot of knowledge that you don’t have. Chat up coaches. It’s awesome to have derby friends all over the country/world. And go out! Just don’t go out until 3 a.m. if you have an 8 a.m. session.

8. Decompress
As much as you want to give your all to everything, you will need time to reflect, relax and rejuvenate. Make the time when you’re not in drills/sessions to keep yourself balanced and peaceful.

Have all the fun.

*Drink all the water.

People in the North East: Go to this

Last year I heard about a new derby convention, the Northeast Derby Convention. My friends and I decided to go because it was near us and pretty cheap, but had some amazing skaters as instructors.

It was game-changing. For our entire league. (NE Derby Con doesn’t pay me. I get no swag or anything for writing this.) Ten players on my league in Maine decided to go. It cost about $150 a pop for a three-day pass. The training we got there was undoubtedly the reason that same little, newly-founded league won our New England B-team tournament a few months later.

Photo by Northeast Derby Convention. (I was paying attention to something awesome.)
Photo by Northeast Derby Convention.
(I was paying attention to something awesome.)

You need to go. It’s again $150 and it’s three days. Not many more details are available on the website yet, but let me tell you what I got last year: 21 hours on skates training. Yeah. 21. I took one off skates session too, so I think it was 22 hours total. For $150. A little math says that’s about $7 to learn jam tips from Suzy, $7 to learn to be a badass from Demanda, $7 to learn new pack strategy from Quadzilla, $7 for Teflon Donna to show you how to mohawk around people, $7 for Bonnie D Stoir to give you the puppy talk (look it up), $7 for Smarty Pants to hit you backward. I mean. Come on. You paid more for the leggings in your closet when you made fresh meat.

That doesn’t include the parties, the hang out time between sessions, the scrimmages, etc etc etc. It’s the best money I’ve spent in a while and elevated my play and my leaguemates play.

Last year the convention was set up as one-hour blocks of sessions with 30 minute breaks in between. That’s 30 minutes to digest, take notes and practice the skills you learned. Oh and rest, right. Those one-hour sessions aren’t going to be the time you need to perfect skills, but I found that my notes from last year still come in handy — because 21 hours is a lot to digest.

The other awesome thing about the sessions on-skates was that they were divided into levels: basic, home team, intermediate, elite. That meant the stars of the Boston Massacre weren’t intimidating the fresh meat from the new Vermont league and let everyone play comfortably and get what they needed from their skate time.

For the nonskaters (and skaters) they also had classes on league structure, how to evaluate skaters, etc. Super helpful for the little leagues trying to figure out the basics of derby business.

So that’s my ringing endorsement. If I were still on the East Coast, I’d be there in a heartbeat. It’s the most one-on-one time you’re going to get and it’s with the best skaters in the world today.