Thursday, March 31, 2011

Not Lead Jammer.

Wow, March was a long month. Our season opener feels like ages ago, and now we’re gearing up for our next home bout on April 9th. We played a familiar foe, tough competition and a proclaimed rival. We dominated, struggled and overcame. Looking towards this next bout against the Kansas Roller Warriors: Plan B team, I feel weary and uncertain.
Episode 1, 2 and 3.
Before Back in Black, we worked hard and needed the release that a bout brings; playing other skaters and having all eyes on us, but now I’m starting to fear I blew my load as Twinkletoes in that first one. Madison brought a different surface and new opposition, so of course I wasn’t going to perform perfectly, but I felt my contribution was poorer. By the time the Dames rolled around, my body was punishing me with sickness and as I took that line for the first time, my legs shook. The first time is always nerve-wracking but I couldn’t shake it. It wasn’t a lack of confidence or decisiveness, it just felt like I had lost a bit of my GoGoGo. Like the Millennium Falcon revving up for hyperspace and failing. It didn’t help that you could just forget whatever wheels you brought to 7 Flags, because they were all equal to rocks on your feet after a layer of sugar and dirt got wrapped around them.

Exhaustion and sickness kept me from practice Sunday and last night just felt bad. It could be the snot infestation in my nose, being over-worked or just a bad attitude, but I don’t like this feeling. I’m drowning in Derbyland instead of flourishing. I look down at the wheels on my feet and wonder why the fuck I’m skating in circles. I read my blog and wonder who really cares what Small Town USA is doing. I feel like a child with power as a board memeber. I’m broke, my room is a mess and I can't do all the video endeavors I want to do. I’m unable to maintain control of my life at all times and the moment I let go, it all seems to crumble.

I know I am capable and the answers are all there, it’s just hard to see the light most of the time. It’s a bit comforting to get online and see other people living lives immersed in derby and to know I am not completely insane. It’s also inspiring to see our fresh meat doing so well, so I must be doing something right. I think Animal and I have a nice balance with coaching, but we wouldn’t be getting anywhere without their drive and great attitudes.
Fresh meat: doing laps, being amazing.
They’re scrimmaging now. It’s like we’ve dropped them off at college. They’re out on their own and they still have a lot to learn, but they’re growing up so fast. Most of their progression will come from experience and trying new things, but we're still here to give them a little guidance. They’re improving so quickly, which also means that I need to be constantly working harder. There will always be skaters better than me as well as new skaters with the potential to surpass me. 

I have a week to get out of my head and back in my feet. It’s going to be a long season so I need to pace myself instead of sprinting to the end. It’s time to clear my head of this funk and work on my health, my life and my derby. I am in charge of my own destiny and dwelling in my failures isn’t going to get me anywhere. Neither is writing depressing blog posts, so now that this is out of my system, I will see you on the track.  

Highlights from Back in Black, one thing I feel accomplished about. 

March 26th vs Des Moines Derby Dames:
Emily Sherman Photography 1, 2, 3.
Cathy Kovach  Photography
Dave Schrader 
Joy Doehrmann
D3 Hightlights
D3 Recap
D3' Maharry Photography 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

L4D Highlight

Some of my fancy footwork from the March 12th bout against the Quad City Rollers...


Monday, March 21, 2011

This is What Roller Derby Looks Like.

Taking the jam line I looked at the scoreboard; 141 to 123. It’s our lead, with a minute and some change left on the clock. Breathe. Ok, I can do this. All I have to do is jam hard, get lead, waste some time and call it off. We’ve got a comfy lead, and with Bat R, Opehlia, Zom B and Fanny in the pack, this should be a piece of cake.


Tweet. Tweet.

I come around turn 1, turn 2; enter the pack. With a little space between their two front blockers and the line I go for it. Bam. I get hit from the right and my feet fly out from under me kicking the girl in front of me and knocking her down.


Tweet. “Black 333! Major low block!”


I skate hard to the box and sit down. I cover my face. I can’t watch. I can’t watch. I have to watch. What’s happening? Bat R is skating around coming to the box to join me… with Ophelia right behind her. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Fanny and Zom B try their best to keep it together but the red blockers are hitters. Fanny twirls around and falls to the inside, her toe guard flapping because her toe stop has fallen out. NONONONONO.

Zom B is on the track, by herself, against 3 reds, doing the best she can. Twisted Halo is making the rounds, the crowd getting louder every lap. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

“Black 333, stand!”

Oh wait. There’s still time. My penalty is over.

“Black 333, done!”


I’m not sure how many points she’s scored or how close it’s gotten, but I just skate as hard as I can. I catch the blockers in a "no pack" on my initial pass and head back around, hot on Halo’s heels. I’m waiting for her to call it but she keeps skating. I skate harder, faster. Get through the pack. Just get through the pack. I finish my second lap and the time expires. I come around turn two to face the scoreboard and as it stands, it says 141 to 143, their lead. I fill with panic and tears. It can’t be true. Our score ticks up to 145, theirs remains 143. Really? REALLY? The refs huddle and forever goes by.

“Yes, the score is official! Old Capitol City takes the win!”

NO FUCKING WAY! We won? We really won? This can’t be true. WE WON! WE FUCKING DID IT! 

Going into this bout against the Unholy Rollers of the Mad Rollin’ Dolls, the most we were hoping for was to lose graciously and learn from the experience. We were baffled after holding them scoreless for five or six jams and suddenly our plan changed. We had a chance and we were going to fight for it. The first half of the period we were solid. As jammers, we hit it and quit it, gathering our points and shutting down the opposing jammer. With some heavy hitters, they started breaking our walls and making us lose focus. They got a few good jams in and suddenly we were scrambling and picking up penalties. The score became tied and then flipped between us and them for lead until the half. We had 63 to their 62.

A Few Screws Lucy, a transfer from EIO has been a great
addition to OCCRG.
We were ecstatic. We were in this and we were going to leave it all out on the track. Going into the second period, not much had changed from the first, and penalties started pouring into the box. Ophelia and Glad were pushing it hard and racking up some points. Trip kept her elbows to herself like a good girl and pushed us further. I did well at the beginning but felt myself struggling later. The floor was stickier than I was used to, and their 2/2 defense was working well. I kept going around the outside and getting stuck at the front, tripping over my feet.. Blocking was tough, but they advertised most of their hits so I just worked around them.

I was so nervous while waiting on our bench before the last jam with the star in my hand. I almost couldn’t watch. I wanted to puke or cry, but then Glad’s power jam pushed us to a nearly 20 point lead.  Everything seemed to fall perfectly into place and all I had to do was put them out of their misery. A flashback of MIR went through my head and I pushed it aside; there was no way that could happen again.

And then it did.

Almost exactly. I get called out on my initial pass with Bat R right behind me and everything we built crumbled. This time I didn’t give up, and I was given a second chance to get back in there. We VERY nearly lost it, and against all odds, with one blocker on the track, we won.

Bring on the rest of the season, I’m ready. 

Here's a video I later made about the weekend.

Check out pictures from this bout:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Left 4 Deadwards as Twinkletoes.

Jr High track - "chicken legs," not CRZY LEGS.

So they say hard work pays off. Practice makes perfect. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. You can do anything you put your mind to… They all kind of sound like bullshit phrases that hang on a wall in a high school gym teacher’s office. At that age, I hated school but did love to play sports. I was the girl who sweated in gym class and wanted to play football with the boys. I played softball and basketball and even tried track for awhile and was pretty decent all around. I had the competitive edge that pushed me just enough to try, but not enough passion to try, try again.

At a certain point I was no longer the tall third grader who could rebound or the long legged first baseman who could reach for the ball. My peers started to surpass me and get better and I didn’t care enough to work any harder. By the time I graduated, I had quit the sports I played almost all my life.

Last Saturday I felt what it was like to really excel at what I do. I’ve been playing roller derby for over two years now and I’m feeling myself improve; the things I had been practicing over and over were starting to come natural. And it’s not just me. On the track I saw cohesion and smart derby from our team. Nothing has really changed about the way we train; we’ve just gotten better at the things we’ve been practicing, together. The best thing any team can do, is practice with each other often, and our emphasis on attendance is definitely paying off.

Swiss MisFit's debut bout.
Photo by Patrick Bloom
We began our second full bouting season with a strong victory against the Quad City Rollers, 191 to 83. It was kind of nice to be playing a familiar face in our season opener since we’re playing a lot of new teams this year.  We started the bout strong by controlling the pack with solid walls and lead jammer status, to hold QCR scoreless until about the sixth jam. As a team, our goal going into this bout was better communication and focus, and to work together. In roller derby, offense and defense is played at the same time, so you have to be ready to switch tactics quickly and fluidly depending on which jammer is in the pack. These tactics change immensely when one of the jammers is not even on the track. With our jammer in the box, we sped it up, and with theirs off the track we trapped a skater to slow it to a near standstill.

Emily Sherman Photography
One of my own personal jammer goals was to work harder at taking the inside, instead of defaulting to the outside. The inside line is often the most heavily guarded so a jammer may be tempted to just take the outside, but that is most tantalizing for heavy hitters. To counteract that, I like to employ the move taught by Suzy Hotrod as “DON’T FUCKING TOUCH ME!”

In normal skating posture, I am low and my hitting zones are forward. The blocker will lock onto this and make a cut out to hit. This is when I suddenly straighten up and go the other direction. Their committed momentum takes them flying off the track as I am slipping through the inside. I managed to use DFTM *3* times in a row against an admittedly beautiful waterfall by the QCR pack, thus Your Mom renaming me “Twinkletoes”

I also focused on my GOGOGO skills. As a jammer, I have two minutes or less to get around as many times as I can to score points. When DFTM fails and I do get knocked out or down, those few seconds of recovery time really count. I can’t waste time waiting for the pack or a blocker to move forward so I can re-enter behind them. If I can get back in play as quick as possible, they are often still recovering from the block they just gave, giving me time to speed around them before they can re-adjust their stance.
Sneaking through the inside to try and snag some points on the fourth whistle.
Cathy Kovach Photography

Looking back now, the bout was such a blur. I remember some of these small accomplishments but as a whole I couldn’t tell you how well I did. Now that we’re an apprentice league we have to keep in-depth stats like the WFTDA teams do. It is insane. I can tell you that I jammed 11 times and only blocked in 3. I scored 55 points and got lead jammer 7 times. I sat in the box for one major backblock (which I remember doing specifically, oops) and 3 minors: cutting the track, out of bounds blocking, and out of bounds skating.  Then there are fifty other columns that I don’t understand, but my love for lists finds this all very helpful. All these numbers are made possible by the WONDERFUL volunteers who help run the bout. All the people you see holding timers or clipboards are non-skating officials (NSOs) and are invaluable to each of our bouts.
We also had an army of fresh meat to
help at the bout.
Emily Sherman Photography

Coming out of that bout I feel very confident and excited looking into the next two weekends. Saturday we play one of the Mad Rollin’ Dolls' home teams, the Unholy Rollers. They are current league champions and have some skaters who play actual WFTDA bouts; it’s daunting to the say the least. I’ve made myself OK with the fact that we might lose, but it will be worth it for the great experience of playing a team that has been around much longer than we have. Despite all that, I feel we are going to surprise them and possibly squeak out a victory?

The following weekend, we head to Des Moines to play the Dames to further our so called "rivalry". I watched their season opener last month, and they are looking pretty strong. MOAB is laying out some killer hits and Cosmo is really pushing it as a jammer. There is of course the always popular Stella Italiana, but we will also be bringing the infamous Kraken. I’m hoping the bout will be more than all the hype, because I’m ready for some hardcore, intense, bad ass roller derby this season, so everybody better BRING IT! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back in Black: An Audience Perspective

Deadwards vs Gotcha
The Back in Black bout saw the return of the Old Capitol City Roller Girls to the Marriott to begin their third season with their first bout against some familiar opponents in the Quad City Rollers. The track and bench arrangement had changed from last year with the first straightaway and benches along the outside wall. Scoreboard projection was one the wall behind turn 1 and the sound board off turn 4. The audience showed up reasonably early and additional chairs were obtained to accommodate the growing crowd. Announcers E-rock and Your Dad covered the action while KRNA's Shark provided music.

The OCCRG were wearing their home black uniforms and the QCR were in red. The usual suspects were wearing zebra stripes (except for Lukan D'Otha Way, who was still mending a broken ankle) with Body Bag from EIO serving as head referee. The OCCRG had were playing their veteran jammer crew, splitting the duty between GLADi8HER, Ophelia Fracture, and Left 4 Deadwards, although half their bench wore the star including Animal Mother and Gigahurtz. The Quad City Rollers leaned heavily on Lady Gotcha and Pink Taco as jammers, with Sugar N' Slice wearing the star about one jam in six and a few other skaters taking a turn. I should point out that my writeups are deeply flawed in that I only mention jammers; the blockers are doing most of the work but I'm overwhelmed between taking notes and photos (I averaged 1 photo every 5 seconds of play), so I can only keep track of jammers. Blockers, you're awesome, and I acknowledge that I'm not giving you your due.

The first jam began the bout with Ophelia Fracture facing off against Sugar N' Slice. Ophelia Fracture gained lead jammer status as the OCCRG blockers made life hard for Sugar N' Slice, allowing OFX to score a grand slam and shut down QCR to post a score of 9-0. Jam 2 saw the renewal of the rivalry between Left 4 Deadwards and Lady Gotcha with some jammer-on-jammer action before reaching the pack, and Deadwards hit her 4 points and quit it. GLADi8HER got the L over Pink Taco in the third jam but called it before any points were scored. Play continued with the ladies in black claiming lead jammer (including a grand slam by Left 4 Deadwards) so the OCCRG blockers were earning their pay (err, beer?) through the sixth jam when I think I saw Jane Bang take the Lap of Shame for missing the penalty box and Lady Gotcha finally got the QCR on the board to make the score 30-2. Jam seven saw Pink Taco take the (non-Soviet) red star to the penalty box and Fracture racked up another 9 to expand the OCCRG lead to 39-8. Things got grim for the QCR in jam 9 when Mexican Monster took their star to the sin bin again and GLADi8HER scored 24 to do the Rasputin treatment on last year's post-injury retirement rumors, cranking the score up to 72-8. Jam 11 saw Pink Taco finally gain lead jammer status for the Quad City Rollers although GLADi8HER was able to snatch 3 more points to make it 85-8. The Quad City defense started to gel and three jams later it was 94-15 even though (according to my notes) they skated jam 14 short one blocker. Jam 15 had Triple D Zaster coming out with a positive point differential against Lady Gotcha although Ophelia Fracture took the long extra lap after entering the penalty box incorrectly (and sliding the seats about two feet).
Gigahurtz takes lead.

Jam 16 saw Zom B Blokr serving as jammer for the OCCRG against the aptly named Banzai Bombshell, but the undead representative slipped before reaching the pack and earned a low block major so she headed off to the box. A minute later she came out, earned lead jammer, and another trip to the box at the end of the jam. Lady Gotcha came out and scored her 5 in the next jam to make it 103-28. The towering Gigahurtz nabbed lead jammer in jam 18 over Pink Taco, but had to call it off before any points were scored. Triple D Zaster and Lady Gotcha showed us some jammer-on-jammer action in jam 19 but the score remained unchanged even though Gotcha was lead jammer. Triple D came back to face Pink Taco but ended up in the box and Taco scored 5 to take us into the half 103-33 for OCCRG.

Half time gave us the charity presentation to The Arc of Southeast Iowa, refills at the concession stand, and a pleasant encounter with the ever-glamorous Glitter Mafia and the loquacious Yale Cohn of PATV's Talking With. The photographers relocated, the fans stretched their legs, the skaters had their pep talks and we were ready for skating to resume.

The ladies in red came out and earned lead jammer status the first three chances in the second period although the score didn't change much, with the third jam ending at 104-35 and Gigahurtz taking the star to the box for the OCCRG. An official time out ensued, but after play resumed Lady Gotcha got the QCR a fourth lead jammer status in a row. The 4-town blockers knelt to prevent the slow start although they did it after the start whistle so they may have gotten a few tick marks on the wrong board while Gotcha brought 9 points home. Pink Taco jammed against Ophelia Fracture in the fifth go of the period, but confusion reigned when they both ended up in the penalty box after Fracture lost her jammer helmet cover. A long official time out ensued (with the announcers speculating on bicep cramps in the jam timer's arms) and play resumed with the score 108-48 and the pack showing two blockers for each team. GLADi8HER raced against Lady Gotcha to snag lead jammer status in spite of the Iowa City penalty box overflowing and the score ratcheted up to 115-55. We were treated to another of the foreshadowed official timeouts, and then Deadwards eventually grabbed lead jammer status over Pink Taco although Taco racked up two points to leave it 115-57. Fracture came out and traded penalties with Lady Gotcha in jam 8, and ended the jam with another trip to the box after Gotcha earned 8 to make it 116-65.

Ho and Trip with the two wall.
An official timeout gave the fans a chance to snag more snacks and visit the merchandise tables, and then the action resumed. Pink Taco grabbed lead jammer status while Fracture cooled her skates in the box and the QCR pack knelt to prevent the Denver-style stall at the whistle. GLADi8HER squashed any hopes of a QCR rally when she scored 19 in jam 10 after Lady Gotcha's penalty to make the score 136-70. Left 4 Deadwards came out to follow up with lead jammer status and another 6 points against Sugar N' Slice. Fearing some sort of undead revival on the Quad City's part, GLAD came out and tallied up twenty-three points in an awesome display of jammer chutzpah that saw her waving goodbye as she passed the pack while Pink Taco sat in the penalty box, and the score was 165 -70. We endured a long official time out, and then a line formed at the concession stand when Quad City called a time out.

Someone poked me and I woke up to see Lady Gotcha grab lead jammer against Deadwards as play resumed in jam 14, although not much scoring followed. Triple D Zaster came out to grab lead jammer over Pink Taco in jam 14 and black outscored red 8-2 to fix the lead at the century mark 174-74. Left 4 Deadwards racked up another 15 points with a slow pack and Lady Gotcha's trip to the box but got nailed for a back block at the end of jam 15 with the score 191-77. Pink Taco got lead jammer in jam 16 but could only score 3 in spite of blocker Gigahurtz joining L4D in the penalty box. Zom B Blokr bore the star for the OCCRG and gave us some jammer v. jammer action against Lady Gotcha in jam 17 but Lady G got the lead and three points. Zom B stuck it out into jam 18 and scored the lead over Pink Taco but called the jam before any points were scored to end the bout with a victory for the Old Capitol City Roller Girls 191 - 83.

The first half saw the OCCRG dominating, earning lead jammer 12 times to QCR's 5, include a stunning streak of 10 at the start of the period. The second period saw a more even balance of 8 to 9 leads, and a correspondingly better showing on the scoreboard for Quad Cities. Jammer penalties were about even, OCCRG 3 to QCR 2 in the first period and 5 each in the second. If the Quad City Rollers could have prevented four big jams (24, 23, 19, and 15 points) this would have been a close bout. No one got ejected although a few skaters accumulated five or more turns in the box.

Photos & Words by KORfan. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

OCCRG Talks With... Yale Cohn

Bat R Up, Bitchin' Heat, Hot ta-Molly, and Swiss MisFit talk to Yale Cohn.
This week a few girls from the team went on Talking With... Yale Cohn, a show on our local Public Acess TV channel. Bat R Up, a vet since nearly the beginning talks about how important this year is with our WFTDA Apprentice and sits across from Yale as to not scare him too much. Saturday will be Swiss MisFit's first bout, so she sheds a little light on that, and her experience as a fresh meat skater last year. Then he also has a couple of our recent fresh meat, Bitchin' Heat and Hot ta-Molly talk about how they got into roller derby, and what it has been like thus far. It airs tonight at 8:30 pm and Sunday at 10:30 am on PATV channel 18, but you can also check it out online!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Derby Monster Ate My Life

Derby has been consuming so much of my life lately I’m not sure there’s a non-derby bone left in my body. The team is my full time, non-paying job. The fresh meat are my children, the vets are my needy girlfriends; it’s an interesting family. If I’m not busy worrying about my PR committee, I’m going to a board meeting, a roster meeting, or sitting down to create practices with Animal. I’m making contacts for events, printing flyers, hanging flyers, creating, designing, planning, thinking, stressing over everything. I go through brief moments of defeat and want to give it all up, and other moments of complete and utter derby love.

I got thinking recently when a non-derby friend asked if I ever had time for other things. My mind kind of went blank as I tried to think of what these “other things” might be. So I hypothetically removed derby from my life and tried to imagine what would be left. There wasn’t much, and it made me a little concerned. Everyone I spend time with is in derby or related to derby. I’m constantly making failed promises to hang out with non-derby friends and slowly diverting from anything else I used to do. As for my plan to either take more classes or find a better paying job… well I suppose that’s been on hold for a while. I have two part time jobs and I’m continually floundering. My brain is constantly in the here and now and what needs done this week, and never in the long term life-goals mindset.

I know a lot of this over thinking is just pre-season stress, because all work and no play makes Deadwards a frustrated girl. It is bout week, with our season opener this Saturday, so I have 50 zillion things to do and the bout will be my reward. I look forward to that and then realize that there’s five more home bouts and lots of things I want to see the team accomplish this year, so there really won’t be much more time for me to breathe. Especially since we’re kicking off our season with 3 bouts in a row; 1 home and 2 away. (Quad Cities 3/12, Unholy Rollers of the Mad Rollin Dolls 3/19 and Des Moines Derby Dames 3/26.)

Bout day will come and the whole league will be at the Marriott for a majority of the day, setting up, getting ready, and warming up. Then the doors will open and I will mentally deal with the fact that the Marriott is or is not full of people. It feels like a test for me and the PR committee, to see if we’ve been doing enough and if our efforts will pay off.  Then it’s time to skate. Intros can be kind of horrifying. Everyone’s eyes are only on you for one lap, and after I nearly tripped coming out of the curtain at Full Metal Derby last year, I get overly anxious. Next, the bout begins. If I’m jamming first, my nerves are tingling and my stomach is in knots. This first jam sets the bout, the team’s mood, and my performance. After that, it all just happens… until the last jam.

More times than not, I tend to be the jammer in the final few minutes of a bout. In our first ever bout against the Quad Cities in June of ’09, I huffed and puffed my way through the pack, but couldn’t manage to snag a few more points. Everyone thought we won, but the scoreboard updated and we ended up losing by three. Despite the loss, this was our first bout and I was wearing a fucking tutu (never again); it was pretty impressive.

This past June however, we had quite the lead on the Stateline Derby Divas and managed to jam every single person on the bench. Bang couldn’t stay out of the box as jammer, so with a few nods and a pivot panty on my head, the plan to pass the star was set. I toed the line and after a lap or two, Bang entered with the star and handed it off to me. I threw it on and before anyone knew what happened, I was coming around to score. It was fun to actually pull off a not often used strategy in a bout.

The next bout was in Des Moines, versus MIR; the one that still has a tender spot in my derby heart. I had been jamming a majority of the night and was all out exhausted. It was nearing the end and I told Tynamite that I couldn’t jam anymore, only block. After a few jams, it was down to the wire and I took the jam line anyway. This was it. I believe we had a small lead so all I had to do was get through first and call it off. I was nearly through and instead I got called off. I sat in the box and cried as we lost the bout.

Following that was an intense bout against the LaCrosse Skating Sirens. The score was pretty close the whole bout and we were down by a handful of points when I was on the jam line in the final minutes. There was some confusing between the refs and the benches and suddenly the jam was starting. Half the Sirens weren’t present in the pack and as they tried to take the line they were waved off for not being ready at the start of the jam. After the initial pass their jammer and a blocker visited the box which left one Siren on the track against me and two blockers. I skated until I was certain we had the lead and called it off. We won, but due to confusing and error, it didn’t feel well deserved.

To say the least, I’m a little nervous about Saturday. Not only will I be participating in a sport, I am helping cultivate a business. I want us as a team perform well, and as a league be successful. I also hope with each bout, we are reaching a little further and getting more and more people interested in this dynamic sport that I feel so passionate about. Roller derby doesn’t bring us fame or fortune. We don’t get scholarships or professional drafts or loads of money; the pay off is an intangible thing. I have instead earned a confidence, a family and a hunger for more. I just hope all my friends outside of Derbyland understand if I don’t ever come back.