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.)

Blowouts in roller derby — how bad is it?

Rose's home team championship last weekend were NOT blowout games. Photo by Alan Cook.
Rose’s home team championship last weekend were NOT blowout games. Photo by Alan Cook.

Too many blowouts. That’s what I heard this morning on a derby Facebook group. They were discussing a game from this weekend with a score of 611-115. People then started debating the new rule set, power jams, etc etc.

So I wondered: Is it that bad? Is this happening regularly? Enough to be a concern?

I took all the scores DNN has up from this past weekend and I calculated the score difference, by percentage. And now I’m making up a totally subjective ranking system.

A game with a score of 100-101 is THE FUNNEST game (101% score differential)
100-120 is a great game (120%)
100-140 is a good game (140%)
100-200 is sort of lame (200%)
100-400 is boring* (400%)
Anything worse than 100-401 is a super boring blowout and sort of makes you question if the winners are douchebags**.

By my rankings, how did this weekend go in roller derby? Pretty good. Of the 43 games played, 26 (60%) would have been fun to see. Only 8 (18%) were total blowouts (400%+).

Here they are (Format is: % differential, team and score, team and score):

101% Hammer City Hamilton Harlots 191-Glass City Killer Bs 192

103% Ventura County 186-Junction City 192
105% Team United Blue Ribbon Bruisers 123-No Coast Road Warriors 117
106% DoomsDames 113-Ho-Bots 120
114% Chautauqua County 191-Central NY Wonder Brawlers 218
120% Ventura County 159-Wasatch Bonneville Bone Crushers 132

Good game:
122% Holy Rollers 27-Hellcats 33
124% Chicago Outfit 185 – Blue Ridge 149
126% Green Mountain 129-Assault City 102
127% Your Mom 200-NYSE 157
130% Jacksonville River City Rat Pack 125-Gainesville 163
130% Oakland Outlaws 213-Richmond Wrecking Belles 164
132% Monterey Bay 163-Santa Cruz Harbor Hellcats 215
133% Detroit 147-Ohio 196
137% San Francisco ShEvil Dead 263-Berkeley Resistance 192
144% Black Widows 174-Switchblade Sisters 121
144% Team United 123-No Coast 177
152% Nutcrackers 270-Wicked Pissahs 178
156% Cape Fear Black Harrts 124 -Carolina Bootleggers 194
166% Nashville 246-Tallahassee 148
172% Burning River 149-Queen City 256
174% PPDD All Stars 138-Capital Punishers 240
178% OK Victory Dolls 221-Duke City 124
185% Ithaca 194-Central NY 105
187% Chicago Outfit Shade Brigade 193-McClean County 103
187% Finger Lakes 232-Broome County 124

Sort of lame:
201% Arkham Horrors 118-Cosmonaughties 237
231% Pikes Peak 136-Santa Cruz 314
247% West Texas 96-Oklahoma City 237
252% Cape Fear 265-Mason-Dixon 105
260% Detroit 285-Cincinnati 109
289% Manhattan Mayhem 91-Queens of Pain 262
289% Detroit Motor City 76-Ohio Gang Green 220
306% Hammer City 245-Glass City 80
310% Oly 304-Jet City 98

You’re boring me:
(No one)

419% Inland Empire 104-Angel City Rocket Queens 436
436% Twin City 397-Circle City 91
451% Sin City 80-Angel City 361
488% Tallahassee Jailbreak Betties 93-Nashville Music City Brawl Stars 454
659% Ft Myers 46-Tampa 303
873% Twin City Plan B 428 -Circle City Party Crashers 49
1350% Dixie 351-Tragic City All Stars 26
1423% Victoria 370-South island 26

All scores are from Derby News Network. I didn’t pick and choose — there are men’s games here, home teams, etc.

Also, I don’t have time (right now) to do this for this weekend last year, but upon initial glance, it looks exactly the same at this year. There are some really close games and a few wide spreads (Actually, there may have been more blow outs this weekend last year. I’ll try to find some time and update this with last year’s stats if I find an hour or two.). Which leads me to believe it’s not so much a rule’s change …

*Disclaimer: Boring roller derby is still roller derby and derby ain’t boring.
**Sad, true.

Roller derby finances: Comparing the top-ranked nonprofit leagues in the nation

We know how Gotham sizes up to Windy City on the flat track, but what about at the bank?

By digging through (publicly available) tax documents, I tried to stack some of the top leagues against each other to see how they match up. (Make your bets now)
Here are some overall observations I had after spending hours weeding through the numbers (which are from 2011 — the last available data. Things may have changed since then.):

-Few leagues are 501c3s
What frustrated me most was how little data is publicly available on this. Only about 50 leagues in the nation have ever filed 990s (nonprofit tax forms). Of those, 28* sound like WFTDA leagues. The others are juniors, renegade and rec leagues. Many of the 28 are leagues you’ve never heard of (Oh hey, Cowboy Capital Rollergirls.) Only about seven division one WFDTA leagues filed these forms in 2011.

-Most of the top leagues are profitable
Start with some good news: Six of the eight leagues I looked at were profitable — some were very profitable, earning 116 percent of what they spent in a year.

-We don’t get grants
Of the leagues I looked at, one of them got a grant and it was for about $4,000. That’s not enough. Together, these same eight leagues brought in about $2.4 million in one year. That means that 0.16% of these nonprofits’ revenues were from grants. That’s embarrassing, frankly. It’s likely because of these leagues, only one had a paid employee (the same league that got the grant). Grant writing is a lot of work for a volunteer, which might be the reason the community got so few in 2011.

-We don’t invest
There were some really cute budget lines of “investments.” One said that a league invested $12 and earned $2 on that investment in 2011 — I have just got to assume that they bought a few extra rolls of tape and that tape prices then went up. But seriously: With assets into the $325,000 range — why is the derby community not investing this money? Most finance-types would tell you that savings account interest doesn’t even keep up with inflation nowadays. We’re losing money by stashing it.

-There is no standard
The goal of this post is to show the derby community how some leagues do it. I chose the top-ranked leagues because, by the nature of it, they are typically older leagues and likely more profitable. What I found is some leagues spend a lot of their funds to support their travel team. Others use it to put on huge bouts for their home teams. Some fundraise a ton, others don’t list any money under “fundraising.” We know this sport is young and growing and I think few leagues would tell you they know the “right” way to support the sport. But I would wager the diversity here is massive. I would suspect if you took eight non-derby nonprofits that were in the same trade, their 990s would look similar to each other. Not so much here. Everyone is doing their own thing.

-Workshops can be fruitful
The best example of this, by far, is Rocky Mountain Rollergirls. Here are their impressive** stats:
-Junior derby programs cost them $4,743 but brought in $12,250 (+$7,507).
-Their bootcamps cost them $4,678 to run and brought in $39,305 (+$34,627!).
Grand total is more than $42,000 of bank. Other leagues also found workshops, rec leagues and other training opportunities lucrative, to lesser extents.

-Gotham doesn’t have the highest rent/mortgage
This surprised me, anyway. Windy and Bay Area pay more, it seems.

-WFTDA is (seemingly***) doing great.
With earnings of more than $400,000 in a year, the WFTDA seems to be healthy. I’m glad it’s now offering me free TV.

A note before we get started: The data I have is limited. For one thing, I can only compare 501c3 nonprofits, so although I hoped to compare the top 12 ranked leagues, some of them are not nonprofits (Oly, Rat, Angel and Minnesota). Also, different leagues fill out the forms in different ways, so some leagues separate every item down to how many t-shirts they sold (Gotham), and some leagues just lump all revenues together (Bay Area). Leagues like Rose keep their junior and rec programs under their one league, but leagues like Texas created separate nonprofits for those programs. Because of all of these huge discrepancies, we can only draw wide inferences from what these numbers mean. But it’s fun. So here it is:

So, who earned the most?
I’d say WFTDA, with $411,032. But, as for leagues:
Rose City Rollers                     $77,490
Windy City Rollers                  $73,857
Texas Rollergirls                     $28,121
Gotham Girls Roller Derby    $2,896
Denver Roller Dolls                 $657
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls           -$3,024****
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls   -$17,060

Who spent the most?
Rose City Rollers                     $490,271
Denver Roller Dolls                 $367,769
Windy City Rollers                  $361,262
Gotham Girls Roller Derby    $341,859
WFTDA                                    $285,653
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls     $246,502
Texas Rollergirls                       $115,871
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls            $29,740

Fattest piggy bank:
WFTDA                                      $415,824
Windy City Rollers                   $326,903
Rose City Rollers                      $205,112
Texas Rollergirls                      $144,771
Gotham Girls Roller Derby     $135,774
Denver Roller Dolls                  $74,794
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls           $53,215
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls    $17,916

Windy City Rollers                  $161,898
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls          $137,102
Gotham Girls Roller Derby    $121,640
Rose City Rollers                     $62,690
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls   $61,056
Denver Roller Dolls                 $33,000
Texas Rollergirls                     $18,090

Dues taken in:
Rose City Rollers                          $71,002
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls               $61,233
Denver Roller Dolls                      $53,164
Windy City Rollers                       $43,668
WFTDA                                         $38,750
Gotham Girls Roller Derby        $35,920
Texas Rollergirls                          $11,782

Travel costs:
WFTDA                                            $50,177
Windy City Rollers                         $46,097
Texas Rollergirls                            $38,109
B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls                 $35,000 (approximate)
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls          $31,733
Gotham Girls Roller Derby           $23,051
Rose City Rollers                            $20,627

Most volunteers:
WFTDA                                       1,300
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls      150
Rose City Rollers                        150
Gotham Girls Roller Derby       100
Texas Rollergirls                        100
Windy City Rollers                     100

A snip of my spreadsheet.
A snip of my spreadsheet.

**Although Rocky Mountain KILLED IT with those workshops, they were in the hole more than anyone that year. I’ve requested an interview with the league and so far they have been busy and need more time to get me the information on why their fundraisers were so successful and how they still ended up in the hole. If/when they reply, I’ll add the info.
***That’s not an ominous “seemingly” I just don’t have last year’s data or this year’s data to confirm.
****Bay Area was in the red because of expensive venue rental for their bouts, according to the league’s finance director.  Also, they were robbed at gun point that year. Bay Area’s accountant filed the league’s 990 a bit differently than other leagues; for instance, their rent is more than $100,000 but they only list their total overall expenses in the $20,000 range.
General note: Sometimes I say I examined seven leagues, sometimes eight because Philly’s data from 2009 was useful, but they haven’t filed 990s since then. I asked them if they are still a 501c3 and they are.

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.

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.

Real names in roller derby: A case study

Enough of you have searched “women’s pro roller derby real names” to get to my blog, that — the thinker that I am — I figure you want to know about derby skater using their real names. Interestingly enough, my best friend, Mistress of the Knife — or, these days, Shevawn Innes* — recently joined Rose City Rollers’ Wheels of Justice and the home team the Heartless Heathers and plans to skate — get this — under both names.

She was kind enough to put up with me interviewing her:

This is Mistress of the Kni-- uh, Shevawn Innes.
This is Mistress of the Kni– uh, Shevawn Innes.

You’ve been skating under Mistress of the Knife for, what, 8 years now?

I’ve been skating on and off for that long but I didn’t pick a derby name till I was with my second league. I avoided picking one in the early days of Detroit.

Why did you make a derby name?

I showed up in Nashville and they wanted me to register a derby name so they could put it on the roster. I distinctly remember saying “can I just be myself?” Man they thought I was weird. I was told I had to have a derby name. I picked Mistress of the Knife because that’s what my beloved former (ship) captain had jokingly introduced me to passengers the prior winter sailing. Then there was the awkward time of people trying to shorten it, “Mistress” felt regal and dirty at the same time — not for me. Knife… now that I can relate to.

Me: "Want to stop the jammer Shev -- Knif -- wait, what do I call you?" Shevawn: "Baby, call me whatever you want" (hits jammer into infinity.)
Me: “Want to stop the jammer Shev — Knif — wait, what do I call you?”
Shevawn: “Baby, call me whatever you want” (hits jammer into infinity.)

But, to me at least, it’s always seemed that you haven’t cared what people call you. As your teammate I didn’t start calling you Knife until you moved here and then only because it’s confusing when people have two names.

I don’t care what people call me there is no difference between Knife and Shevawn. Turns out I’m the same person.

So why will you be skating under your birth name for the Wheels of Justice (travel team)?

Personally, I feel like the sport on a national — let’s also call this international —  level has gotten so amazing that I’m taking huge pride in my years of hard work paying off, so much so I would like to put my family’s name on that. Am I trying to ligitamize the sport? Yeah. I want to do this for a living — for a paycheck.  I wanna see derby in the Olympics. I want the “good people” and the huge sponsors to take this sport seriously and put a bunch of money into my friends’ pockets. Too legit?  Too legit to quit.

So then why skate under “Mistress of the Knife” for your  home team, the Heathers?

When I’m playing national derby I see myself as an ambassador for my city, my family and the sport of roller derby. I want to represent by being me. Shevawn Innes. When I’m home I’m home — I’m not an ambassador for my city if I’m in it. But I’m always an ambassador for the sport. When it comes down to it, I guess it just feels right.

What are your teammates saying about your choice?

No one has said anything. Well, except, “what should I call you?”

Do you think other people should skate under their real names?
If they want to. Everybody else can represent themselves however they want — that’s the beauty of this ever-evolving sport.

Do you think you have anything to lose by skating under your birth name?
Maybe some street cred. Maybe gain some.

OK, thanks for the interview, bffls.
OK, thanks for the interview, bffls.

*Innes rhymes with Guinness, announcers.

5 reasons you should outdoor skate this summer

The prospect of outdoor skating can be scary, but you should do it anyway. Here’s why:
1. It will make you better at roller derby.
Skating outside is the only reason I have a solid “c cut” (quick cut to the in and out. Often used in drag-out hits or to gain position in a one-on-one scenario). A year ago I couldn’t plow stop with confidence, and when you’re headed down a hill toward a road with busy traffic you have a few options (if you’re not good at stopping):
A. “Cut” down the hill like a skier.
B. Fall
C. Die
I also learned lessons in stability (Hello rocks, sticks, cracks in traffic, sand …) and awareness (And hello to my friends: “dog who hates roller skates,” child, traffic …) and jumping (fuck you, broken pavement, those bumpy sewer tops, dead squirrels …).
Stopping, awareness, stability, agility? Yeah, that’s helpful.

2. It will even you out.
When you outdoor skate — unless you’re that girl who is trying to do derby drills on a fake track she made in the high school’s bumpy parking lot* — you can even out your muscles. Long, straight paths, hilly trails, they challenge your muscles more equally than skating counterclockwise for hours.
3. It can be good for your league.
Wear your league shirt. Bring fliers. Go to a bar or cafe in your skates when you’re done. Be nice. It’s amazing how many people want to chat about the sport when they see you in skates.
4. You’re too pale.
I said it.
5. It’s fun.
Duh. Grab a friend. Go for a skate. Get some sun. Crash, exhausted on someone’s lawn (STAY OFF OF MY LAWN) and remember why you love roller skating.
*Totally not me, guys

It’s your fault the media thinks derby is a sideshow

 Tomorrow I’m giving an interview on media’s effect on roller derby.

It seems the interviewer wants to know about the media’s portrayal of derby and how it affects the sport, etc etc. Ughhhhhhh.

It’s a hard situation, because basically my answer is, “it’s complicated.” And no journalist or researcher likes that answer. It’s not clean and tied up with a bow. To organize my thoughts pre-interview, I wrote it out:

The way the media portrays the sport is a direct reflection of how society views ambitious women: scary(?), laughable and highly sexualized.

Skaters work their assess off to create nonprofit organizations — not as a job, but on the side — and also to become athletes. Yet countless news articles and TV shows condescendingly report on the sport like a quirky little side show.

You probably saw my long list of “by day, by night” leads on news articles. (“By day Heather is a serious reporter, by night she puts on eight wheels and hits bitches!”) Those — from different papers of different sizes from different places by journalists of both genders — show how society thinks it’s ridiculous for a woman to both have a good job and play roller derby. Connotation: playing roller derby is not serious. It’s silly. (And hot?) Don’t you have babies to take care of?

Then there are the reality shows that put women who’ve never skated before (and probably never wanted to) on skates and say, “this is roller derby,” as Em Dash recently wrote about.

Blah blah blah.

It’s equally our fault.

Many leagues market themselves (bouts, fundraisers) as a hard-hitting, fast-skating, sexualized spectacle. Otherwise, they might not sell tickets. It’s how we lure people into the sport. THEN they see athleticism, teamwork and everything it takes to run a bout.

It’s frustrating that a women’s sport has to market itself that way to get an audience and then to hope the audience learns who the sport actually is.

I got a lot of response to that post about the $50 million derby story. The comments that weren’t from skaters/refs included a dissenting minority with the totally valid point of — “but you guys wear fishnets and have your bums hanging out of your metallic panties!”

People don’t walk into their workplaces dressed like that. Or soccer games for that matter. Because they want to be taken seriously. They instead dress like workers. Or soccer players. We are in a sport where people don’t dress like athletes. There is the struggle of how a lot of us see ourselves (serious athletes who eat for their workouts, think for their workouts, plan their practices and goals, committee members building 501c3s …) and how we present ourselves. And until we resolve that, it can’t totally be the media or fans or anyone else’s fault for thinking of derby as side-show-like or super sexualized. It’s hard to see the thousands of hours of nonprofit work, the training, the athleticism behind fishnets and gold glitter shorts*.

So, like I said (“Ughhhhhhh”) — it’s complicated.

*I feel obligated to buffer and say, “your feelings are valid. Wear glitter shorts and be an athlete. Get it girl. Just don’t expect fans and the media to take you seriously at first. And journalists only ever get an ‘at first.'”