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.

My derby trip to Maui

It’s been a while since we last talked. In that time, I was drafted to my hometeam, the Heartless Heathers. Yey!

I’m a viking ice queen now. Photo by Masonite Burn. (Who is awesome.)

It’s been a big change from trying to show my stuff (usually meant going offense, etc) to trying to mesh with my teammates and work well together. A fun, new adventure.

Speaking of a fun new adventure. Guess who went to Maui? Moi.


Oregon put together a team of skaters from all around the state (and some from Washington state) to fly out for Maui Roller Girls’ 5th birthday. Happy birthday, Maui! The league had a few days of bootcamps with Mel Mangles (Rose) and Killer Kelly (Rat — and founder of Maui Roller Girls) before taking on the Oregon team.

It’s been seven months since I skated for my small league in Maine. Seven months is enough time to get nostalgic, but also to forget a little about how hard it is to be in a small, new league.

Maui isn’t all that new, but it is a touristy island. As I understand it, people come and people go. Skaters come and go. So, although MRG is five, a lot of their skaters aren’t. Lots of turnover.

It was sort of a plane flight back into time (Maui, Maine, totally similar, right?) watching these ladies hold their walls together, learn the intricacies of bridging, etc. And it was a lot of fun. MRG found a bout space in a hangar (more on that in a sec), so we were out of the rain. The game was close and ultimately Oregon won. But with an after-party in a thatched-roof Hawaiian canoe club open to the sandy beach along the bay, let’s be real, we all won.

After the bout was over, I stayed for another Maui practice. Maybe you’ve read elsewhere about Maui’s space. High rents mean no real home, so these ladies skate outside. This is nice when it’s sunny, but Maui is a bipolar island with a chunk of (beautiful) mountains — on one side of the island it’s usually sunny and gorgeous. On the other side, torrential rains fall sporadically. Guess which side the league is on.


Thankfully, the weather held on the night I skated outside with them. (And thankfully, they found a place to bout inside) All it took was them setting up a bunch of lights (in a very creative way — attached outdoor lights to poles, put poles through wood horses. See pic above. Easy. Cheap. One extension chord did the trick, I think) And man was it fun. It was fun to play with varying skill levels and intensities. I remembered my roots a little clearer and how fun and frustrating learning to play this sport is at that stage. And how much enthusiasm and love it takes.

So, thanks Maui! Thanks for playing with me, putting me up and letting me practice with you.

❤ Dash

Journalists miss the real ($50M) roller derby story. Every time.

News reporters miss the roller derby story every time. Every. Time. Distracted by the glitter, wheels, hitting and names that are bleach-penned onto our shirts, journalists slip and don’t cover roller derby like they would any other trend news story.

Regional and local papers always write the same story: YOURTOWN — By day Lacy Clems, 33, of Yourtown, is a nurse at Yourlocal Hospital. But by night the nurse pulls on her fishnets, laces up a pair of black roller skates and takes her place with the Local Rollergirls. (And then 600 more words about how people roller skate in an oval and somehow there are points scored, it’s maybe about community service and women and athletics, and also some quote about how one of the ladies uses this as stress relief from her babies and job.)

And that’s the local story.

The New York Times wrote about derby today. They wrote about Gotham’s intro to derby classes.

(Takes big breath)

And before I say what I need to say, I need to be fair: the Times let a derby girl write about derby back in 2010. They did a great job in 2009 covering nationals. And, with derby fitness classes gaining popularity, they covered this story at the exact right moment. But those are all the derby articles I can find without searching too hard.

Where were they at the first-ever world cup? Where were they at championships in 2011 and 2012 when Gotham slaughtered everyone? For the Times, it’s not just a local hokey story, it’s a national story, it’s an international trend. It’s sports, entertainment, news, economics, business. It’s a video opportunity. It’s gorgeous photography waiting to hit A1 or the cover of sports.

No matter.

They — and all newspapers — are missing the story. So, let me give it to them. This is for you, fellow newspaper reporters of the world:  Derby is the viral sport of this past decade. It has infected your town. It has infected every town in this country and many cities everywhere else in the world. In Rockland, Maine there is roller derby. In Austin, TX there is derby. Athletes skate in Berlin, London, Sydney, Brasília, Moscow, Toronto. They skate in Lansing, MI and in Moab, UT. And to those towns — those towns that can be dull, cloudy, economically depressed — these leagues are raking in two things: Women, money. To the former point: We are EVERYWHERE.

To the latter: As reporters, we love to “follow the money.” But when it comes to these hundreds of local businesses and nonprofits … nothing. Nothing on the multi-million dollar industry that is derby.

This bout brought in about 2,000 people (capacity) ... in a town of 3,000 people. That brought in ticket sales, got sponsors advertising time, brought in money to the local hockey rink ... and to the police force which surely collected parking ticket money.
This bout brought in about 2,000 people (capacity) … in a town of 3,000 people. That brought in ticket sales, got sponsors advertising time, brought in money to the local hockey rink … and to the police force which surely collected parking ticket money. Photo by Eric Baseler.

The nonprofit Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association looks over about 250 leagues. The roller derby roster — a derby name registry — has 39,239* skaters (mostly women) listed.

I’m sorry, I’ll say that again because maybe you didn’t quite read that right: 39,239 skaters. That’s as many women there are in Portland, Maine (the state’s biggest city).

OK. Now, let’s do math. Blog followers know how I love math. According to a study by WFTDA last year, skaters spent an average of $622 on skating equipment and gear in 2011, along with $656 in travel for roller derby and $223 in other support costs (dues, tickets for events). That’s $1,500 a skater. If there are in fact 39,239 skaters that is $58,858,500  — yeah, about $59 million a year from just the skaters — not the fans, the referees, the support staff, bout venues, rinks. That $59 million goes to local skate shops, local rinks, American skate companies, local hotels.

It’s a big fucking deal. (Do you hear me, New York Times?)

According to that WFTDA study last year, a third of derby fans make more than $75,000 a year. They have disposable income. Income to spend on $5-$30  bout tickets, merchandise and all the companies surrounding and sponsoring the sport.

They also have reach. About 36 percent of fans heard about derby through a friend. We have a crazy-huge network of people buzzing about derby in the world. I don’t have figures for how many derby fans there are in this world or how much they spend to travel to see games, how much they pay to stay in your towns, to eat in your towns, to support the local roller derby sponsors. Etcetera.

That’s where the story is. Somehow journalists have missed the (way more than) $59 million story of derby. A very basic story about the immensity of this sport that has lodged its claws into our nation. Sure it’s also about how thousands upon thousands of women have become better human beings: become athletes, learned to run a nonprofit, found a safe space to grow, and yes, a place to get away from stressful jobs and babies where they can wear fishnets and no one will call them a slut (…. OK, we might call them sluts, but it’s loving, not shaming.)

This sport is changing our world and impacting our local economies in a real, quantifiable way. GET ON IT, PRESS.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A journalist by day, Heather Steeves, 25, of Portland, types angrily at her keyboard. But by night, Steeves -- aka Hard Dash -- straps on her old-style black roller skates and elbows you in the face.
PORTLAND, Ore. — A journalist by day, Heather Steeves, 25, of Portland, types angrily at her keyboard. But by night, Steeves — aka Hard Dash — straps on her old-style black roller skates and elbows you in the face.

*That 39,239 number might be inflated number because of skater drop outs — but there is also a huge back up of names waiting to be registered, so it’s unclear. (To make it harder to estimate: WFTDA does not keep a headcount of skaters, and even if it did, that number wouldn’t account for the non-WFTDA flat track leagues, the banked track leagues, the USARS leagues, the renegades …)