Oct 20

If you are involved in derby in any aspect, from player to fan, you will not of failed to notice a huge shift in roller derby in the last year or so.  No, I’m not talking about change in game play or strategy, I’m talking about fashion.  It was not too long ago that the name Roller Derby immediately conjured images of fishnet clad “alternative” women in tiny skirts and tutus.  Nowadays, take a look at any bout and you will notice most teams are moving towards a more athletic look, team uniforms are more professional looking and the there has been an unspoken emergence of the sports leggings.

My personal opinion of sports leggings is not printable on a family website such as this, however, this is not because I want to be retro or “Old Skool” (she what I did there? Yeah, I’m down with the youth, using text spellings!) The first main reason I don’t wear them is that I have had two children, my body encased in just tight lycra is not something anyone wants to see.  This isn’t something that I only apply to sports leggings, in the real world, I don’t believe that leggings are a item of clothing that should be worn without a skirt or shorts being worn over the top.  It’s just not nice. But I am also against the sports leggings for more practical reasons, I have a longer than average truck, even so called high-waisted leggings do not come up to my belly button and therefore there is an increased risk of builder bum. Also, how could I concentrate on taking down the jammer when I would constantly concerned about camel toe!  It would really not help my game so why bother. My last reason is that I really like my skort, its functional and most importantly, I feel comfortable. The fishnets are totally just because I love fishnets, even before I started playing derby so why the hell not!

My choice to not wear sports leggings is totally my own, and I’m not harassed about it so it’s all cool. As such, players decision to wear them is also their own so I’m not calling for the banning of them but  the fact is over a relatively short period of time everyone has started to wear them so I think it signifies much more that the changing collective fashion sense of the community. So I ask, why do you wear sports leggings? I imagine a large response for the “they are comfortable” gang, which, if you find them comfortable, great, you need to be comfortable. This is the response that I get most in my own league but sports leggings were comfortable two, three, four  years ago but they weren’t worn then.

This leads me to surmise that the possible reason for the change. My Theory : The big push for Roller Derby to be seen and viewed by the outside world as a legitimate sport has pushed the players to reconsider their attire, maybe completely subconsciously, maybe not, and decide that the  sports leggings makes them look more professional. Maybe, this has a point, yes, a team of players clad in lycra does look more like a conventional sports team and eventually the wider public will stop immediately thinking of fishnets. But is that really what we need to do? Cannot we be a professional sport and keep some of the aspects that were unique to us?

Roller Derby used to loves its unconventional image and its alternative tag but it now seems this is an image a lot of people want to shrug off. A few years ago, my own league were sponsored by Motorhead, their press release and our own included the description “fishnet clad hellraisers”, this year we requested that one of our local news outlets didn’t use that description as it was no longer true (Me and one or two others have not succumbed to the evil sports apparel but the rest of the league love them). It is true, we are a more professional sports team than we used to be so it was right to ask to not be misrepresented but I wonder if Roller Derby as a whole is making a bit of a mistake.  This extends to various other discussions and recent changes to game, such as names, strategy, et cetera. The game is shifting in all different types of ways as the sport is growing, the old values seem to be less important nowadays than being recognised as sports teams which may just be a natural progression but ultimately, we, the players, are in the position to decide whether we follow it or whether we carve out our own place within the varied field of sports.  I guess what I am trying to say is that there are hundreds of sports out there that already subscribe to this one set of values, Roller Derby has always been different, why should we be trying to change to fit in.  Why can we work a bit harder and make them accept us and our sport for what it is. Maybe we will never get to the Olympics, but that’s ok, whatever roller derby becomes, even if it never becomes more that what it is currently, is ok as long as it becomes that on our own terms.

We loved being the weirdos on skates, girls that would knock you down as soon as look at you, hard as nails, feisty, independent women. We played up to this and we were proud to be different. Yes, we were seen as a novelty but that got people to bouts, people talking to us. Is there any leagues out there that can say they don’t have a percentage of members from that time who joined simply because it was “different” from conventional sports? I joined exactly for that reason. How many fans of the sport are here today because they went along to see a spectacle but were surprised at what they actually got? Roller Derby used to have a unique selling point and in the race to be taken seriously this is slowly being eroded. Yes, I want roller derby to be seen as a proper sport and our athleticism to be acknowledged but surely that can still happen regardless of what we wear on track?  Although, tutus should not be worn! Ever!

This is pretty deep for a rant about sports leggings I know. I felt like a bit of a rant. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments, especially if you would like to change my mind, I’m open to constructive debate.

Until next time and don’t forget to hug your veterans every day.

Syn

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Sep 22

Welcome to my first blog. I completely don’t know what I want to write about.  I very much doubt there will be any sort of constant theme within my blogs, I may just post whatever is on my mind on the particular day I pick to write, so I apologise in advance for my inane ramblings.

I have probably written this post about twenty times trying to decide what to write about. Everything so far has come across as too moany and too “Who the hell do you think you are”.  I am not qualified to give advice, I do not think that I have knowledge that others need, or anything else that other bloggers have that make their posts interesting to the derby community.  I am just a player. So, for this first one I’ll start with a little introduction to myself and some little facts.

All about Me.

I am *cough*30*cough*, I am a mother of two and in my spare time I like to play roller derby. I have been doing this for four years. I am generally a blocker because I like to hit people but I am made to jam occasionally too. The last time I did, my teammates i the crowd started singing a Justin Beiber song at me. I hate Justin Bieber so I flipped them the one fingered salute.  Its captured on video and everything.

I started playing roller derby as I wanted to get fit and I hated pretty much all other forms of exercise.  I still hate all other forms of exercise but as roller derby has moved on I have increasing found the need to do them so I do them, I moan the whole way, but I do them.

I hate Stopped Roller Derby, or The Sausage, as it’s known. Why do I hate it? Well, the clue is in the name of the sport, Roller Derby, Roller, as in, to roll. I totally get wanting to score a shed load of points when the other jammer is in the box but that has always been the aim when you have a power jam. In 2009 I watched a jammer at Regional’s (I want to say Joy Collision, but I watched a lot of derby that year) score a 30 point jam, her pack didn’t stop and many of these stopped power jams fail to score that amount of points now, so really what is the point! It’s also a lot easier to stop a jammer when the pack is rolling, especially if you have strong blockers that work well together, but that’s my opinion.

I try my best to be a good teammate and a good person. Sometimes I fall short.

Roller Derby has given me a lot of good friends, some that I doubt I would ever have been friends with if it wasn’t for roller derby, mainly because they would be too cool to talk to me.

I can’t scream in public.  That sounds weird, I know, but do you know that thing where you just want to scream ad some people actively encourage you to, to make you feel better?  Well, I can’t do that. But a few years ago I never thought I would be able to stand up, on roller skates, in front of a crowd. But I did that so maybe I’ll conquer this next.

I cannot lie. If I try to lie, I get all red in the face and stutter. It has plagued me since a child, my teachers always knew why I hadn’t done my homework, now my husband always knows if I brought new clothes.

I am a huge sci-fi geek and I was before it was cool to be one.

I love a good argument and a good moan.

I am really near sighted and without my glasses I struggle but I don’t wear contacts (yet, it’s getting to the stage where I will have too) yet I am always able to find the oppositions jammer. Weird.

I think that’s about it. I promise to go away and have a good think about what to write about next.  If you have any ideas, please feel free to submit them.

Oh, and don’t forget to listen to the show.

Syn x

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Sep 15

Certainly, the comparison between American derby, the UK, and even Canada or Australia comes up much more often on the show than I expected. Sometimes when I'm engaged with one of the other Crew on the show, the comment will surface, "what happens here is probably very different than in America," to which I politely downplay the remark.

Of course, this isn't rebuking my show colleagues, Syn would kick my ass, but, instead, a an assumption that derby has gained massive separation in ability in the United States compared to other countries. The truth is, nearly every topic we discuss, no matter how basic, has nearly as much validity in the U.S. as it does anywhere! Basic bout production, nutrition...for 80% or more of women's leagues these are as relevant in the U.S. as they are anywhere.

"Bob, you must be sniffing glue again!" Glue never entered the picture. Actually, I have to fight my urge for mass intake of caffeine, which I was infamous for within U.S. announcing circles. And though I had two weeks which I felt I was reliving the detox scene from Trainspotting - I'm serious - I have a very strict caffeine limit now. Apparently 3 large energy drinks a day was considered "abnormal." If not, it was unhealthy for sure. So, no, I'm not wrong on my observation as I am now...uh...semi-clean. Give a guy his coffee, OK?

Here's where I think the disconnect comes between our listeners and reality about derby in America. People across the world form their impression of derby in the U.S. primarily from Webcasts. And which teams are featured in most Webcasts? The WFTDA leagues! And generally not just any WFTDA leagues, but leagues who are generally ranked. THAT IS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT WORLD than the typical U.S. derby experience. Even very different from many WFTDA leagues! Understand that there are  about 500 women's flat-track leagues in the U.S. The WFTDA sanctions less than one-third of them. Of the sanctioned leagues, of course, 40 will make the playoffs. Of those 40, there are only three or four teams good enough to win the Championship Tournament. Oly Rollers, Rocky Mountain Roller Girls, Gotham Girls and maybe a few more out of the West. But, there are your last four Champs! Gotham in 2011, RMRG in 2010, Oly in 2009, Gotham in 2008. Truthfully, I'm not sure anyone can beat Gotham at the moment. The odds of a Champ coming out of the North Central (it's never happened) or South Central (not their year) are less than it suddenly raining kippers. What is a kipper anyway?

I think the World Cup, as tremendous as it was, put the U.S. on a pedestal that seems insurmountable. First, keep in mind, that the core of the talent came from the three top leagues I mentioned previously. Not hard to figure your best skaters are generally from your better teams. Then add other amazing skaters from handfuls of very good leagues and it's like the U.S. Dream Team (basketball) in the Olympics 20 years ago. They crushed people. Realize that the top five leagues in the U.S. have a training and practice commitment which far exceeds what other leagues can get their skaters to commit to. They LIVE derby.

You might think you live derby...but you probably don't. When you spend 5 or 6 of your evenings either working out or practicing, that's LIVING derby. The London Rollergirls, in essence, are the Gotham of the UK. They have more years behind them than other leagues and large cities attract more talent and BETTER talent. I don't know the history of the London Rollergirls like I do Gotham (except the story of the first bout that split the league), but Gotham has had many of the same girls an unusually long time. Suzy Hotrod and Donna Matrix have skated with them since day one. Bonnie is only a season or so behind them. That's 8 seasons AND they've had the same head coach since the beginning! If you haven't heard the 35 minute Buster Cheatin' interview, go back to Episode 24 and listen. Listen to The Rev, who has coached Montreal to two consecutive WFTDA playoffs in Episode 29. These guys spell it out. They talk about what it took to get the team to "want it" bad enough and how they've sustained it. Buster, in particular, who has only lost a few bouts in 4 years. And, consider the conditioning. How many hundreds or thousands of miles has Suzy jammed? I've no idea. I can only tell you I know of ONE other skater who has jammed as long as Suzy - Mouse from my original home league, the Mad Rollin' Dolls. Jammers don't last 8 years. Somehow, a few girls have. It wasn't just luck.

I NEVER really believed, in my heart, that if you wanted it badly enough, you could do it. Whatever "it" may be. But I've seen too many derby "miracles" to be a skeptic. The skater who couldn't stand, but started on her WFTDA ranked team a few years later. To use a classic American cliche', "people realize it's time to shit or get off the pot!" Either do what it is you have to do to succeed, or give it up. Hey, if you think that doesn't happen to an average skater four years into their skating career, you're wrong. I've talked to many a skater at the end of a season who wasn't sure if she'd come back again or not. BUT, the conversation was often along the line of "I'm either giving it my all, or not coming back." NEVER give up on a teammate. She just may surprise you!

So what does all my rambling mean exactly? First, "most" American leagues, even the WFTDA sanctioned ones, are not anything like you may be watching on the Web. All the wild strategies, scrum starts...most of it is sheer speculation. Flip a coin. Honestly, about half the time it works, half the time it doesn't. Play YOUR game, don't worry about mimicking what's Webcast. Know how to deal with it, just don't think you have to do it that way because everyone in the states is! The difference between the countries is closing already. Look at Team USA vs. Team England recently. Sure, a definitive win, but not the kind of win that we'd have seen at the World Cup. Canada has, at the moment, at least three teams that are better than many teams playing in the WFTDA Big 5. They peaked too late, or were in regions, such as the West, which were too deep. The UK is right there. Other countries aren't far behind.

I get a wry smile when I think about the next World Cup! Why? THINK about practices and who will benefit. The USA, Canada, and even Australia are very large and hard to navigate for "practice." The UK? A car ride. Same with many other countries. Closure between the levels of talent will happen sooner than you think.

Bob
Hey, hit me with your thoughts! Just use the "comments" button at the bottom of the page. Even if it says, "no comments," click it. It will open a window for you. I'm interested in your opinion.

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