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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

 

Stop, Jammer time!

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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. ūüėČ 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.

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**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.

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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.

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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.

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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. ūüėČ And that is always a good feeling.

How roller derby can make you a better driver

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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.

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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!

 

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.

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