Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Within two minutes or less, I have to decide with four other girls how to get one of them around the track as many times as possible with the fewest obstructions, while also fending off four opposing girls and impeding a fifth. The only means to achieving all these things are our bodies and a pair of roller skates. There is no stick, no ball, no tangible goal to aim for. There is only anticipation, strategy, teamwork, quick feet, endurance, strength… and then repeating it over and over.
Often, your own jammer must fend for herself so her blockers can focus solely on the opposing jammer.
Picture by Tracy Pierce 

Our last bout on August 21st, Cirque Du Slam, revealed a little about our progress as a team. Zdork made up a spectacular bout poster (photo by Emily Sherman), boutfits were at their shiniest, and we had a whole month to prepare. Yet… why was attendance at its lowest?

It has been a long season so far with nine bouts down and three more to go, but it has also been a giant step up from our three-bout season last summer. A leap even. We have improved greatly as a league but everything is still about trial and error, and perhaps we will try fewer bouts next year to avoid more error... Either way, the bout and some recent practices have provided a lot of feedback for me and how I could improve.

We had employed a new perspective on jammer performance at the last bout: point differentials. It is a method of instant feedback Tynamite and Zom B brought back from “This one time… at RollerCon...” Since derby is a game simultaneous offensive and defensive action, I not only need to worry about my own skating, but the skating of the other jammer as well. I could come off the track smug with my 14 point jam, but if the other jammer scores 16 points, I am technically -2 points. Sugar kept a running tally of these differentials at Cirque Du Slam, and at the half I was only +1. I had been trying hard the whole period to jam hard and play smart, but I obviously needed to step it up even more.
Photo by Emily Sherman

I have improved my footwork and agility immensely since March, but my endurance is still not at its finest. Summer’s lack of routine has helped me lose my shape, for what should have been more time to train, was instead more time to be lazy. Tynamite brought the Firefighter’s Workout to practice the other night, and my body is obviously still very ripe to be molded into an all-star skating machine, I just need to push it to that level.

Then, at an all hitting practice last week, I was reminded that I have a whole body to use in my hits,  not just my shoulders. When we had a very pleasant visit from Glitter HitHer over the summer, an Iowa City native skating for Santa Cruz, she presented a very good point. Boys have more upper body strength so hitting with their shoulders is more effective, while women have more strength in their hips and asses, so using those to our advantage would be most effective. I suppose I have assumed since my curves are in my upper body, that my lower body would have nothing to offer. On the contrary, with the right timing, I can even knock Sugar out with my hips. (which I did at the Scars and Stripes mixer…) Those are the kind of hits I need to work on more often, especially in games such as BLOOD AND THUNDER. (Knock everyone down until there are no more.)

Cathy Kovach took these awesome photos at practice the other night..
Through all the glitter and beneath the hot pants and face paint, roller derby is purely and simply, a sport. I think the idea of derby is easy to sell with all these shiny additives, making it a sparkly, sexy lure to draw people in. My only hope is that they see past the glitzy exterior and stay for the action. I’ve gotten caught up in the image of derby lately, and need to direct myself back to all the sweat and hard work that makes everything a smooth running machine.

My sore muscles today are telling me that I need to work harder to hit better, skate faster, and be stronger.
But don’t worry, derby is still a fucking riot. 

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