Zen Derby

How you keep your cool during derby will help your game. If you can stay positive, even when it feels like the refs are out to get you, and if you can stay calm, even when it feels like no one is listening to you, this will make you a better derby player.


When I first started derby we used to talk about communication and how important it is, however, we never really talked about the tone and volume we should be using to express such communication. So of course we all just hollered and yelled and echoed the pivot, and did whatever we could to be heard. Six years later, I now know why the yelling and the extreme communication never worked for me. I tune it out. Just like my kids tune me out when I get all yelly, I unintentionally tune out yelly people. This concept was made very obvious by Smarty Pants during some workshop at RollerCon one year (they all have blurred together), she said very very calmly, “I am going to just talk like this, so all of you will listen.” Of course!! Because when you talk calmly, people try to listen, they pay attention, and it trains a part of your brain to listen intently even when on the track, and focusing on several things at once.


So the tone I use on the track is very motherly and very calm. It’s a lower, serious, and firm tone. I say things like, “1, 1-2, 3, 3-4” indicating where the jammer is, and, “strong arms, hips in front, brakes, she’s tired, yep, just like that, you got ‘er” reminding the blockers that I’m bracing, what we need to be doing, and that I am there to support them. Using zen voice keeps everyone calm and zen on the track. And when you’re calm and zen on the track, you can really fuck shit up…. calmly and collectively. And I can only speak for the jammers I have blocked, but they HATE it when you calmly (and successfully) block them.


So get on the track and communicate, using all the zen you can muster.



Roll out!

During my first season of roller derby in 2010, I sustained a fairly serious knee injury. No, I didn’t actually realize it was serious at the time at all. And yes, it has effected me up until this day. I was skating at the local roller rink, and fell when another skater locked wheels with me. I did not have gear on, and I landed on my knee. Once you join roller derby and are taught to fall on your padded knees, it becomes instinct. So even though just a year before I would have likely fallen entirely different, after starting derby, I went straight to the knee. Ouch!

It hurt at the time, but I had no idea how long lasting the injury would actually be. It began crunching immediately with movement (particularly squats and stairs), and would become achy and painful throughout the day. I continued playing derby, and just assumed that it would heal up on it’s own. Was I ever wrong.


So about 2 months ago (yes, I went over 5 years before dealing with it) I went to go see a Chiropractor who came highly recommended. Dr. Angela works is a co-founder and practices out of Cadence Chiropractic and Sports Therapy, and she had done wonders for me. She put me on a strict rolling regime of two times a day, working on three separate parts of the body: my sub-occipitals, gluteus minimus, and piriformis. I won’t lie, I was skeptical. Roughly a year before, I had purchased the Travel Roller 4.3, and left it pretty neglected until Dr. Angela.


So off I went, roll happy. I rolled twice a day, experienced some pain, got used to it, and admittedly missed a day here or there. Whatever the case, the next time I went to see Dr. Angela, the strength in my body had increased, and my knee was beginning to feel better! She also does Active Release Therapy on me during our appointments, which I think helps significantly as well.
IT band TR
**that’s not me ^^

So here’s the thing about rolling. Rolling your muscles will keep them activated, which allows them to support your joints properly. So even though my issue was in my knee, we started at my neck. What I didn’t mention is that I have also had a bad shoulder for the past year, and that pain went away very shortly after I started rolling my neck. It’s all connected, imagine that.


There are actually far more benefits to rolling than I had imagined. It helps with blood circulation which in turn keeps your immune system functioning the way it should. Rolling helps to release the daily stress we put on our muscles, which is cumulative. It aides in athletic performance, injury treatment and prevention, mobility and stability, myofascial release, pain management, and even core strengthening.


So here I am, almost two months after my initial visit (and three visits in total) with Dr. Angela and the beginning of my rolling regime, and I cannot sing the praises of rolling loud enough. My knee is significantly better, although I know it is a long road ahead of me for it to be completely healed. It doesn’t hurt to go up stairs. I can do step-ups and any kind of squat without pain, and the achy feeling doesn’t happen nearly as often. As a skeptic, I am blown away. As a recovering athlete, I am motivated and inspired to turn on the beast… pain free.


Listen to Fred


Stop, Jammer time!


I played in two games this past weekend, and jammed for the majority of the time. As someone who has been a blocker for nearly 6 years with no breaks, jamming feels like a whole new ball game. 😉 I am accustomed to the joys of stopping a jammer, of busting up walls, and essentially being a brick wall. I can see how some of those things will make jamming challenging, yet also maybe give me a slight advantage in some scenarios. What I am not accustomed to however, is getting the snot beat out of me non-stop… so that’ll take some getting used to.


**sorry for the fuzz, but I HAD to share this pic. See that smile?

One of the teams we played had a lot of heavy hitters, and they play with an old skool mindset of big hits, waterfall hits, and the occasional “Fuck off!”, haha! It’s fun to play like that, but after playing for a WFTDA charter team for years and having the opportunity to play high level teams like Terminal City and Rat City, I’m definitely not used to the crazy ass hits at all, but particularly as a jammer. I spent a lot of time on the floor, but I did get up every single time… and often with a smile. I got through every time, I got lead enough to keep me happy, I scored points, and I never gave up. I keep telling myself, it’s not about how many times you get knocked down, it’s about how many times you get back up. And on a personal level, every single time I get up, I win.


So after some self evaluation, here are the top three things I think I need to work on, and if you’re switching from blocking to jamming, you may need to as well:

1.  Roll off those hits

  • One of my team mates on the weekend gave me a few good pointers for jamming. She said that she goes limp and just sort of bounces and rolls off hits, instead of bracing herself. This makes so much sense. As a blocker, I focus on standing my ground, strong and fierce, not letting anyone move me… but as a jammer, if I treat hits in that same fashion, I will lose all my energy. Plus, it’s different… trying to get out of a pack fast and also hit bitches (I mean that in the most endearing way possible) to the floor is not going to work in my favour. So, first thing I need to work on is rolling off or with hits and also breathing through them.

2. Endurance and Stamina

  • I’m sure this comes with no surprise, but jamming is extremely tiring. I need to find a way to up my stamina and endurance, along with my speed. I’m already cross training like a boss, so I’m thinking maybe adding running could be the answer. My partner runs 5K pretty often and times herself, and I should probably join her more often. I figure that’s a decent way to track progress.


3. Agility

  • One of the things I tried to work on during the games I jammed in, was baiting to the outside, hockey stopping, and running in. It worked if I could execute it properly, but the problem was that I was often feeling so tired, that a hard hockey stop just didn’t appeal to me at all, haha. Note to self: find agility drills and work on them.


Of course all jammers need to work on those 3 things, for sure, but having the blocking mindset so solid in my brain, I almost need to rewire what my brain does without even thinking. It’s going to take a lot of conscious effort to not just go full steam in to a hit, but I figure with enough practice, I should be able to sort that out…hopefully.

Overall, I’m happy with my first official games playing as a jammer. I have a long ways to go, but I’m okay with where I’m starting. I blocked some too, so I got to experience the satisfaction of stopping someone else and knocking them around a little. 😉 And that is always a good feeling.

How roller derby can make you a better driver


I am convinced that playing roller derby can make you a better driver. Actually, I should be more specific. If you pay attention to track awareness in roller derby, that will help you with driving, and potentially vice versa.

The other day I was driving with someone, and they went to change lanes without noticing that there was a merge lane on the other side of that lane. There was another vehicle that would soon be forced to move in to the same lane we were about to change in to. I had to say something, even though I hate being a back seat driver, as I didn’t want to be in an accident that day. It was after that incident though that I started really noticing the similarities between driving and roller derby though.

Since I started playing derby in 2010, I always left practice and would drive as if I was still playing derby all the way home. This is pretty common with derby players, and is basically an overflowing of the practice mojo on to the streets. We are all jammers on the road. BUT… what if there is more to it than that? Well, there is.

Whenever I drive, I know where all the vehicles are, and I am running scenarios in my mind of what they may do, whether it be changing lanes, merging, turning, speeding up, slowing down, whatever. I check for cars, then I double check and triple check. I know where everyone is at all times… or at least this is what I think I’m doing. I gauge distance and speed and determine how fast I need to go in order to pass someone and not get blocked in. This is just what I do.


And then after my most recent incident, it dawned on me. My track awareness skills and continued work on track awareness crosses over to road awareness. For real reals.

So there you have it. If you want to become a better driver, join roller derby!


Roll Bounce Gang

About a month or so ago, I watched the movie “Roll Bounce.” So first off, if you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend watching it. Be warned though… it may make you want to start a Roll Bounce Gang. Or maybe not. But just be warned.

I grew up skating at Lloyds Roller rink in Calgary, AB, and I am lucky enough that it is still around. It is still the place to be if you wanna get your roll on. And it still has the same decor and disco balls from when I used to frequent the rink in the 80s. I take the kids there once a week, and now I go by myself one night a week as well. Why you ask? To start a roll bounce gang of course.


This was my first game ever in 2010, and it was the first time I ever jammed. Holy shitsnacks was I ever nervous. I did not love it.

I have decided that this year is the year that I am going to jam. I will jam and block, but I will be intentionally working on my jamming skills and never turn down an opportunity to jam and learn. So in my quest to build my jam skills, I approached a good derby friend and asked him for some mentorship. He is an old school jam skater who naturally fell in to the jammer role once he found derby. And he can roll bounce like nobody’s business.

I met with him last Monday night, and he skated around with me and chatted about the art of jamming, along with the art of roll bouncing. A fast song comes on and he says, “just follow me as close as possible, and do what I do.” All my trust was put in him to lead the way as we whipped around that rink rolling, bouncing, dodging roller rink patrons and narrowly squeezing through people who leave an inch for us to get by. It was terrifying, and yet invigorating. We were flying… and I wasn’t scared.

I feel like it’s important to say that this kind of skating is not done full of derby gear. As someone who has skated my entire life at Lloyds, I have never worn gear there. In fact, the only time I wear gear is when I’m playing derby, practicing derby, or skating outside. I don’t skate derby at roller rinks…. I skate differently. I have caution, control, and maybe even a little bounce. I dance and sing, and that is just how I roll. So the terrifying part comes from this. I was not ready for a fall, and I made damn sure a fall didn’t happen. But that meant taking risks and working on one foot balance and agility, and stops. Oh the stops. You must be able to stop (or change direction) on a dime if you don’t want to fall at a roller rink.

And this is the beginning of our roll bounce gang journey. We skate in a line, all rolling and bouncing in sync, grinning from ear to ear, and all relying on the person in front of us to guide us safely around the rink and between the other skaters. I love it. And this is part of my journey to becoming a jammer. And how I fit derby in my life, even if it’s not technically derby.


Derby can fit your life

For the past 5+ years of playing derby, one thing has been abundantly clear in my mind. Derby is life. There is no need to fit derby in to my life, because frankly, derby is my life, and everything else will have to work around this. As a mom (single for the majority of that time), it’s not an easy task to build a life around derby. I would schedule all of my kids’ activities based on my derby schedule, and book family vacations around tournaments, and generally just make it work the best I could.

No, my kids didn’t suffer. They all got to do their sports and hang out with me, and did have a present mom. That said, they were also rink rats, and I brought them to most of my derby activities too. Basically, derby was just part of our life as a family, and they got to witness their mom being a strong, powerful, “I take no shit” woman. I think there is a valuable lesson in that.

My “derby is life” method of involvement worked really well for me for just over 5 years. It worked until real life happened and fucked all my shit up. My teenagers began getting in to a lot of trouble (like, A LOT), and my littles went to stay with their dad for 1 year. They have a new baby sister at his house, and felt the need to go live with her for a little bit. It’s complicated. But basically, our schedule completely changed, and it no longer could fit with my derby. I have my littles almost every weekend now, so practices, games and tournaments are challenging for me, particularly because my league at the time practiced every weekend. My teenagers needed to go in more activities, and I had to commit to taking them. This also interfered with my 2 weeknight practices. I thought I had to quit derby, but then I realized that was never going to be an option. So instead, I found a way to make derby fit in to my new version of life.

So now I skate with a new league every Tuesday night, and that is my one night that I get to have just for my derby. I go to Muay Thai with my oldest teen on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which is amazing, and I think it’s going to help my derby game immensely. I coach my step-daughter and her roller derby team on Thursday nights. And I also started skating at Lloyds Roller rink every (or maybe every second) Monday to get some private coaching to be a jammer. I’m calling it our Roll Bounce Gang, and basically we jam skate super fast and work on agility and confidence… all while roll bouncing of course. I am a lucky person to have someone mentor me in my quest to jam. And lastly, I am coaching my old team, the Cut-Throat Car Hops! This means that I will have another opportunity (even if it’s just once a month) to work on strategies, and put some rad drills to use.

Alright, here’s the point. Basically, I have found a way to make derby work for me, instead of the other way around. By pulling resources from 3 different leagues and working on physical strength etc., with my kids, derby can fit in my life. In fact, it is fitting in my life! I can still be just as intense, focused, and confident, even with all the added kid time and stress. And you know what? It feels good. I like this new version of derby. It’s going to be a good season.