Leadership in Roller Derby, Part 3 (Fucking Finally)

This is part three of a super long post that I broke into three pieces.  I suggest you read at least part one, found here.  If you don’t want to, that’s fine. I respect your shitty life choices.  Have fun reading!



6. Gossip is going to happen. Tune into it, don’t contribute to it, and use it to inform how you deal with league issues.

First off, let’s be clear about something: gossip is not inherently bad. It can be a positive thing in an organization in that it reinforces social bonds, relieves tension, communicates and reinforces norms and provides context specific information (Michaelson, Iverson, Waddington, 2010). However gossip is something that many leaders get hung up on as a solely negative thing, and the absolute wrong way to deal with it is to tell people to stop talking about problems. Aside from that completely undoing the benefits of gossip, it never actually works. This is important so I’m going to bold it: Telling people to stop talking about something NEVER actually results in them not talking about it. The gossip just becomes more pervasive, more toxic, and manifests as other problems. It also causes those who are not gossiping to view leadership and conflict averse, or in other words unable to confront and solve problems effectively. (Quast, 2013)

Organizational gossip is actually a great way for leadership to increase their awareness of the mood in an organization or individual. Being aware of a negative mood is important because if left to fester, it gets worse and later becomes a bigger problem. As a leader it is important to not contribute to the gossip, but still be aware of it. A good leader will use this knowledge to inform future decision-making and interactions in the organization. Sometimes the gossip becomes malicious and needs to be stopped (but be careful about making that judgement, because it is often made for defensive, angry reasons), and if this is the case then there are a few ways to do this.

The absolute best solution for dealing with an individual who is gossiping maliciously is to confront the person directly in a problem-solving manner. The emphasis is on problem solving manner, because the goal is to get the person talking and hear them out. This is a first step that establishes trust so that you can work your way to problem solving. Sometimes the problem solving is as simple as a ‘thanks for sharing feelings’, and a request to bring future issues to you directly. Sometimes the issue involves lack of knowledge over league issues, and in that case you just explain the circumstances surrounding it. Sometimes you can’t explain the issues surrounding it because of confidentiality issues, so you just have to ask the skater to trust you. Notice the word trust, because if you have not established trust by taking the time to listen, they’re not going to trust you and this entire conversation will be fruitless.

If you feel the need to solve the issue with a league wide meeting, the basic format needs to be the same in that the majority of the time is spent listening. If a league spends the majority of the time listening to you talk about how the gossip is so unfair, their feelings are going unheard and will come back to haunt you later.


7. Be transparent as much as is ethically possible to do so

Sometimes conflict in the league centers around confidential issues and it makes a full, transparent discussion impossible to have. I understand that. If that’s the case, then you need to make clear that while you understand the feelings surrounding the issue, you’re not able to talk about the details.

This is a difficult line to walk, because divulging too much can come across like bullying, and divulging too little leaves everyone upset at you for being an asshole.

I’m going to immediately get into an example, because this reads like common sense but is in actuality a very difficult situation. My derby fiancé was expelled from my former league because she got black out drunk and did stupid things. No one except for the board had the full story, including my fiancé because she never remembered what she did. She was suspended, but it came as a surprise to everyone but the board, because we were only aware of individual infractions and not the full picture. My fiancé was also messaging a multitude of people in the league complaining about being treated unfairly.

I messaged a board member to voice my disagreement with the actions they were taking. My explanation and the response I got could have been better. The board member listened to me (not actively listened, though) but offered no explanation, and I felt no better about the situation. Had she said ‘I understand, but there’s a lot more to the situation than you seem to know and that I can’t tell you about. You’re going to have to trust me and the process.’, then I would have felt a lot better. Even if you can’t divulge information, you can at least acknowledge people’s feelings and frustrations with the lack of knowledge and be crystal clear about privacy concerns being an issue.


8. Don’t push your ideas so hard that you forget about the process

In the post mortem of my time spent in my former league, I see a clusterfuck of issues that went into the drama and conflict I experienced and witnessed. One of the conclusions that I have drawn about the problems is that for many, what they saw as a beneficial end result was more important to them than the process. If you have a fantastic idea for the league but piss off half of the league in the process, you need to re-evaluate whether or not it is worth the angst. If it is necessary, you need to be very careful about how you go about presenting and pushing your idea through. Having a round table discussion about the reasoning is a good idea, so that positives, negatives and concerns can be shared. If active listening is involved, a consensus is usually reached. Even if some people are unhappy about it, the league can at least decide, after listening, what the right decision is based on league values and priorities.

As an example, I will use the often-contentious issue of attendance requirements. When I pushed for an attendance requirement in Mainz, we made it a round table discussion at the beginning of the year wherein I explained that the lack of an attendance requirement was becoming a safety issue. My motivation was to decrease the incidence of injuries we were experiencing, and a big part of that was people coming to bout without having come to practice or worked out. I was transparent and genuine about my reasoning, gave everyone advanced notice so that they could be prepared, and was open to feedback on it. No one felt excluded or unprepared by last minute notice, and everyone agreed with the reasoning.


9. Leadership takes self-awareness

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen in leadership is the phenomenon of leaders thinking that everything would be fine if ‘this’ problem would go away or ‘this’ person would just fall in line and listen to the brilliant leadership happening. Sometimes this takes the form of leadership assigning a person or group of people as the problem children and pinning, consciously or not, the league’s problems and drama on this one person.   This happens often in families as well; mom wouldn’t have to be an alcoholic if you didn’t act like such an asshole and make her drink, Becky. Obviously the problems are much deeper than that, but in assigning fault to one external person or group, leaders can avoid a genuine examination of their own faults. This is also known as scapegoating or bullying, and for a more in depth examination of it you can go here. For the purpose of this blog post I’m not as interested in the mechanics of bullying as much as the steps leadership can take to stop it.

Self examination and reflection are integral to good leadership, because it allows leaders to examine their role in negative culture and improve their leadership on a continual basis. This includes reflecting independently by examining what actions caused the most problems and how different actions could have changed the outcome, and also reflection on feedback from other people. Feedback includes constructive feedback and critical, bitchy feedback. If someone is criticizing you for forming a clique and using the roster to punish people who are not in the clique, that’s feedback about a lack of transparency and a flawed rostering process. A genuine reflection of what factors contributed to that feeling, an open conversation with active listening and steps taken based on those two things are the only way those feelings can be avoided next time.


10. Your job isn’t to be everyone’s best friend

Leaders often have to make tough decisions within an organization. Some decisions are for the health of the organization overall, and not everyone might agree with the decision. Even if you’re transparent, collaborative, attentive, reflective and conscientious of the process, people will sometimes still be upset. That is perfectly fine, and not something to be taken as a reflection of you as a person. As a leader you have to take it in stride and not let it negatively impact the rest of the organization.




To my beloved Mainz Monsters: For the past two years and counting I have been lucky to be a part of our fantastic league. I don’t know whether or not you realize it, but we do all of these things already. Although I’ve been formally trained to teach adults and have been able to do so through work, doing it in the context of a sports league has been, at times, overwhelming to me. It’s an incredible relief, however, to know through your feedback that I’ve been able to contribute to the wonderful experience of this team. Not only am I profoundly lucky to have guided you to level of play you currently are at, but I feel incredibly grateful to have been a part of this wonderful team. At a time when my former league made me lose hope in the derby community, you came in and saved the sport for me.

To everyone else: However you got to this page and whatever you are looking for, I hope this rough guide is of some help to you. Of course we need to take a stand against bullying, racism, intolerance, favoritism, sexual assault, etc., but we need to take a stronger and more conscientious stand against the unique ways that we as leaders can enable or contribute to these behaviors.

I’d like to give special thanks to my friends Kiefer Sufferland and Sand Witch of the Ring City Rollergirls for giving feedback and editing this behemoth blog post for me. Typically I just half ass something, publish something, and then maybe catch mistakes if I reread it later. However this more academic and controversial post was more important to get right, so a heartfelt thank you to you both.


With so much love,




Bullet 6:

Michelson, G., Van Iterson, A., & Waddington, K. (2010). Gossip in organizations: Contexts, consequences, and controversies. Group & Organization Management35(4), 371-390.

Quast, L. (October 14, 2013). New Managers: 5 ways to stop negative gossip. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2013/10/14/new-managers-5-ways-to-stop-negative-office-gossip/#69cb6026431b




Leadership in Roller Derby, Part 2

This is part two of what ended up being a super long post that I broke into three pieces.  I suggest you read the other first, found here.  But if not, that’s cool. I’m just a person on the internet, not the police.  You do you, rebellious boo-boo, you do you.  Anywho, onto the next three bullet points!


3. Problems are going to happen. Don’t take it as a personal attack, don’t over-regulate people’s behavior, and set the right precedent.

This is about five closely related points rolled into one, so bear with me while I unpack it.

It is incredibly important that everyone understands that problems are going to happen in any organization. They are absolutely unavoidable, and in roller derby, where people are competitive and cycle in and out of the league, there will be more problems. There are an infinite number of reasons for conflicts that no amount of discussion will ever capture adequately. Sometimes it can be stupid personal culture things (like me not saying hello or goodbye because I came from an abusive ‘you should be not be seen or heard’ household). Sometimes problems come from a difference in priorities (is your priority as a league recreation or competition?). Or difficult personalities. Or unrealistic expectations (we all know that freshie who thinks she should skate on the A-Team). The point is that human psychology and human conflict are complicated and unavoidable.

Because this is an incredibly important point, I am going to reiterate it. Taking conflict as personal feedback and therefore as personal motivation to do better is great. Taking conflict as a personal attack and becoming defensive, frenetic and assuming negative intentions about the other person is bad. When I say not to take things personally, I am referring to the latter.

In Buddhist philosophy all frustration comes from the issue of false expectations. If your expectation for conflict is that it shouldn’t happen, you’re going to be continually frustrated and be defensive about it. Conflict is an inevitable function of a group of people working together towards a goal, and should be dealt with openly by leadership.

Conflict is something you as a leader should be prepared to turn into a positive, because every conflict is a chance to demonstrate your competence and value as a leader and set a positive precedent. You can be simultaneously frustrated by aspects of the conflict but excited by the prospect of going forward to resolve it, because they’re not mutually exclusive. Again, league culture is a top down process, so if you handle conflict in a way that makes everyone feel heard and respected, people will mimic you and handle future conflicts similarly, ultimately reducing your stress in the long term.

Over-regulating people’s behavior is a quick way to cause hurt feelings and to stress yourself out. It is unavoidable that people will be upset about things and talk amongst themselves. As a league there needs to be appropriate channels for communication. Skater representatives are an example, but they have to be independent of the board and can’t mete out punishment (because at that point they’re board representatives). If a member is using inappropriate channels of communication or complaining excessively, then a leader should figure out the root of the problem, listen to the member, and then define an appropriate way to express that. There have to be venues of expression outside of the official league channels, though. Members should be able to confide in close friends, as long as it stays confidential or they use appropriate channels to communicate a shared concern. Expecting people to not vent to each other is unrealistic, and reacting to it in anger will cause the problems to go deeper and multiply with resentment.

Sometimes it is unavoidable that feelings will be hurt. I get that. Before any conflict gets to that point, there should be multiple attempts at communicating standards on an individual basis by defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior. This gives you a chance to figure out what’s actually a problem and what’s just misunderstanding before an individual feels attacked. Furthermore, problems should never be taken personally. Even if someone is shit talking you in extreme ways, don’t take it in anger. Take it as a symptom of unmet expectations by the skater and un-communicated expectations by leadership. Communicate that the negative commentary is not acceptable behavior, that it doesn’t actually solve the problem, and that you want to figure out together how to solve the problem. When you take things as an attack and respond in anger, your judgment is clouded, you stop listening, things get heated, and the problems multiply. No matter how personal and upsetting it feels to you, how you handle it is about the league and a reflection of the league. To make my point I’m going to detail two different problems and two very different approaches with two very different results. They’re going to be long, so skip ahead to the TL;DR if you’re not up for it.

While coaching the Maniac Monsters Mainz we at one point had someone email our league asking if our coaching position was still open. It wasn’t, because I was the coach, but I wanted her as a trainer because more help is always appreciated. We had problems almost immediately with this person. Despite coming in on a trial basis, and having this explained to her, she introduced herself to the FM as the coach during her second practice with us. She made skaters feel awkward by staring without participating during warm ups, not coming prepared to lead practices as I had asked and gave incorrect, unsolicited advice to skaters. I reiterated my expectations in person and one-on-one multiple times, and sent clarification emails that were approved by the board each time she didn’t respond to my talks. Eventually I let her know that being a trainer was not a role we wanted for her at that time, but were open to another try the next year under the same trial terms and that she was welcome to stay in the league in the meantime. She didn’t take it well, and fired off an angry email to the board resigning from the league entirely.

The second example comes from my experience in the other league concerning me and my choice not to bout. Unfortunately the problem was myriad and complicated, because the league chose to bring up years of unaddressed frustrations that often were miscommunications. The main issue was my choice not to bout and my reasoning was anxiety. I chose not to detail my reasons because I consider it a personal issue. It took me a while to build up the skills and confidence to volunteer for a bout, but I eventually did for two bouts. League leadership took this as me refusing to play with certain people and had a meeting with me where they sought out and charged me with individual complaints from the previous three years. Things like me refusing to skate under certain trainers (which was a single instance of me forgetting my mouth-guard and going home without saying anything), refusing to skate with the A-team (never mind that I volunteered for an A-team bout first), saying negative things about league members (exclusively to a board member, because I had legitimate grievances but didn’t phrase them well), and so on. This is a simplification, because there was a lot of stupid shit and some legitimate shit I take accountability for.

TL;DR: The point of these two comparisons is this: One was taken as an unavoidable problem and was dealt with as it happened, thus setting positive precedents, the other was taken as a series of personal attacks and went unaddressed for a stupid long time, thus setting terrible precedents. The problem skater I dealt with in Mainz was an unavoidable situation, but we gave her every chance to change by talking to her and emailing her multiple times about our expectations and consequences of failing to meet those expectations. The consequences were never punitive, only whether or not she would be a trainer. At every step of the process I communicated with the board, and also with other trainers and the whole league as appropriate. Nothing I said was sudden or unexpected, because it was always building on what was previously established in crystal clear terms. As a result, the entire board and training committee and league was in agreement. There were no conflicts about things being handled poorly. If anything, we grew closer as a league and bolstered an inclusive atmosphere, because despite this person clashing with the training committee and skaters, we gave her a lot of chances and communicated clearly about those chances. Furthermore, being a part of the league was never taken away or threatened; it was only what that person’s role was within the league.

The other league did the opposite, where nothing was addressed until it built into a conflated personal attack against people, and the matter became punitive. It’s similar to a year-end review: if this is the first the employee is hearing of a negative review, you as a manger or leader are doing your job really fucking wrong (Collins, 2014). If expectations are continually unmet then that needs to be addressed as it happens, and often it will be revealed as miscommunications and not personal attacks. If it’s not addressed as it happens, then that’s your fault as a leader and the first course of action, however delayed, should not be punitive unless someone was in danger. If a punitive first step is what happens, as in the case of the other league, it sets an authoritarian culture and problems will never really go away. I decided to leave the league because I was so unhappy with the culture, and it’s highly unlikely that the league’s problems were solved with me leaving.

This difference in process is, I think, the largest reason why our skaters are happy with our league. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from skaters about the league, and it includes comments like this league being the first that feels like home, or how the high level of supportive comments encouraged skating development, or how we are able to talk about tough, contentious problems without it being a huge conflict. I pride myself on that feedback because being a leader is sometimes tough, but it means I and the other leaders are handling it well enough to create a positive culture and environment for our members.


4. People just want to be heard

I once heard a saying about how a smart person never misses a good opportunity to shut up.  I say once, but really I mean every other episode of Dr. Phil I watch.  Whatever, it’s some bomb ass sage wisdom, so I’m focusing on it here and you can suck my dick if you don’t like it.  The television doctor’s advice is something that many leaders, including those with a lot of experience, don’t realize the importance of. A commonality among most poor leaders is an inability to listen and a proclivity to deflect and defend every criticism that comes up. When a leader is busy deflecting and defending, he or she is missing an opportunity to shut up and listen. In an academic or conflict resolution context this is called active listening. Instead of preparing a response while the other person is talking, you follow up their statements with questions in order to fully understand the points being made and to gather more details. You can restate their points to ensure you understand them (Chastain, 2013). It doesn’t matter how right or wrong someone is, because unresolved hurt feelings will only come back in the form of other, potentially worse conflict. In conflict resolution emotional engagement with someone is actually more important than rational reasoning. It predicts whether someone walks away with positive or negative feelings about their experience, and a negative experience is often a contributor to later conflict (Eilereman, 2008). The negative experience will often justify their anger about problems in the league, as well as other peoples’. That negative feeling spreads and causes a lot more problems later on.

Sometimes problems solve themselves with just a little active listening, and it’s leadership’s job to provide that and a cultural context that allows for it.


5. Be clear about expectations

It is really important for leagues to have an established code of conduct on which to fall back when issues come up. It is also important that leadership addresses conduct issues as they come up. Leaders should never hold anyone accountable to expectations that were never communicated, eg, ‘you should have known this because it was common sense.’ The only exception for punishing without precedent should be in cases where a member broke the law, such as assault, theft, drinking and driving, ect., because those expectations are communicated by social law and don’t need to be reiterated by the league.

For issues that are not clear violations of a code of conduct but are problematic, a meeting needs to be had in which the skater is asked about the reason for the behavior and informed of future behavior expectations, with a commitment from leadership to address the reasons for the issue as necessary. If the problematic behavior persists despite leadership upholding their commitments, then a formal warning can take place, with signed documentation. If the problematic behavior persists then, a suspension can be issued. If the problematic behavior still persists, the player can be expelled. Each time, however, the same active listening, expectation communication and commitment needs to happen.



Bullet 4:

Chastain, A. (Dec 2, 2013). Use active listening skills to effectively deal with conflict. Michigan State University. Retrieved from http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/use_active_listening_skills_to_effectively_deal_with_conflict

Eilerman, D. (January, 2008). The significance of emotional engagement in conflict management. Everything Mediation. Retrieved from https://www.mediate.com/articles/eilermanD10.cfm

Nutrition and Derby

This is a blog post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but have put off because it is such a dauntingly huge subject.  Recently in my coaching and training endeavors, however, the need to discuss nutrition has come up.  First one of my players threw up after a bout because she had not eaten carbs before the bout.  Then, after people saying their muscles were still sore from last week’s off skates workout, I found out that almost no one was eating protein after our workouts.

As a disclaimer, I am not a nutritionist.  Thankfully though there a lot of nutritionists in the world willing to lecture us via the internet and books and shit, so the information is not hard to come by.  Thank you, you pedantic health food bastards, for sharing your knowledge.

I really hope most of you know this, but what you eat is incredibly important to how you perform as an athlete.  Binge drinking coca cola will not prepare your body for endurance exercises.  Starbucks, even though I binge drink that shit like a crack addict, is a terrible choice for pre-workout food.  Your body is an amazingly complex biological machine, and if you feed it junk, your performance will be junk.  It’s best to consistently not eat like shit, but you at least need to plan some nutrition around your practices and workouts if you want to get the most out of them.  Bonnie Thunders’ thighs did not get that way because of Coca Cola.

To keep it simple I’ll go over what you should eat in chronological order, relative to your workout, and then include a few recipes as examples.  For my Germans, I can get you the peanut butter if you can’t find it in the foreign food section.

Before you workout:

Before you workout you need to eat carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates act as the fuel for your body.  When you’re doing exercise that’s more explosive and endurance orientated and it makes you breathe heavily, your body isn’t getting enough oxygen to fuel itself.  This is when it starts breaking down carbohydrates to use as energy.  If you have not eaten any carbohydrates within an hour of working out your body cannot produce enough energy for you, and makes you feel tired and shitty and awful.  It’s important to have both simple and complex carbohydrates so that they are broken down at a steady pace and you have sustained energy.  If you eat sparsely or skip meals before working out, try planning a few days that include a sandwich about 30 minute before your workout so you can feel the different it makes.  Your body needs fuel to perform, and making sure you have that fuel makes a huge difference in your performance.  If you don’t have a lot of time between derby and work, make a sandwich in the morning and bring it with you to eat quickly while you gear up.

It’s also important to eat a banana or something high in potassium.  When your body sweats a lot you lose a lot of potassium, and low potassium could cause general weakness.

If you want to eat protein before because it makes more sense for your schedule, that’s an option too.  What’s most important about nutrition isn’t the exact timing but that you at least get adequate nutrition around the time you workout.  A lot of recipes you’ll see, one of which I’ll include, packs in both the carbohydrates and the protein pre-workout.







During your workout:

Unless you’re workout for a really long time, you shouldn’t have to worry about eating or drinking anything but water.  It’s a good idea to eat a banana or something light during half time of a bout, especially double headers, but as long as you’ve eaten carbohydrates before beginning your workout you should be fine.  If you have a late practice like my Monsters on Monday and don’t have time to eat afterwards, you can always have a protein shake during practice alongside your water, like the one included above.  More on protein in a bit, but creatine is something to think about adding to protein shakes you’ll drink during workouts.  Creatine is a powder supplement that helps to deliver energy to your muscles, so you’ll end up getting more out of your workout with it.

After your workout:

Either during or within an hour of your workout you need to eat protein, because protein helps you to rebuild your muscle.  When you get a good workout and you feel that soreness afterwards, that’s the feeling of micro-tears in your muscle.  The school of thought used to be that it was a lactic acid buildup, but that’s stupid and was found to be wrong.  It’s micro-tears in your muscle, which your body repairs with more muscle using protein.  I’d like to point out that, despite marketing by the dairy industry, my opinion is that there’s no real evidence to support that it needs to be whey protein.  I think it can be any protein.  If you do not eat protein immediately before, during or immediately after your workout then your body starts breaking down lean body mass to repair those micro-tears.  Lean muscle is basically everything but fat.  Muscle, organs, in some cases bone.  Those are not thing you want to be broken down.  If you are not getting enough protein then you are essentially robbing your body of muscle mass because it doesn’t have the materials to repair and build muscle.  I suggest making a fruit smoothie with protein powder, because you can make it ahead of time.  I sometimes drink something called muscle milk, which is just like a pre-made protein drink.  I usually grab one alongside my water on the way to a workout and finish what I haven’t drank already while taking off my gear.  Some nutritionists suggest eating protein no more than fifteen minutes after your workout if you want to build muscle, since blood is circulating more during that time.  My opinion is that eating protein soon after your workout is better, but if you have to wait until you get home then that’s better than nothing.

For the first link in recipes, I suggest including a scoop of protein powder in each shake.  To me those recipes look like enough protein for jogging on the treadmill, not for doing roller derby.




Don’t Sass the Refs

Recently I decided to make a switch from being a roller derby player to a coach.  And by decided I mean I was kind of forced to because I broke my foot a little bit.  Since my former league, the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse, was not in need of a coach I switched to the Maniac Monsters Mainz.  Long story short, it’s working out well and I fucking love it.  Also I’m getting paid for it, so that’s pretty cool.  I am, by definition, a professional trainer now, and the bragging rights are pretty awesome.

One of the issues that I’ve encountered as a coach is dealing with a little saltiness with the players in regards to the referees.  We had a bout wherein we disagreed with the calls the refs were making, some of us more than others.  Some of those players decided to get salty with the refs.

In case the title didn’t give it away, that is not ok.  Most of us, as derby players, don’t try out reffing, so most of us don’t know how hard it is.  In the first month of me having broken my foot, and a little before then, I was reffing scrimmages (I was on crutches while trying to whistle at people and it was like if Mr. Bean tried reffing a derby game).

You guys, I need you to pay attention to this.  Like really, guys.  Being a referee is hard as fuck.   As a roller derby player it doesn’t seem that hard.  I mean Jesus Christ there’s like eight referees watching the pack, amirite?  No, you’re not right, it’s still hard as fuck.  Referees have to watch our entire bodies for penalties in addition to whatever their referee assignment is.  If they’re watching our hips to try and see who was in front of who when going out they might miss a low block.  If they’re watching our hands for elbow or forearm penalties they might miss a cut.  If they’re watching our feet for cuts they might miss a low-block.  When I was the front pack ref I called so many out of plays wrong, because in the time I looked to see how far they were from the pack and then watched their feet, someone made a bridge and fucked up how much distance I thought they had.  As players we get frustrated by wrong or missed calls and focus on that, instead of being conscientious of how hard it is for refs to accurately call all penalties.  I strongly encourage everyone to referee as least a few scrimmages so you can understand more fully just how hard it is.

You guys, we cannot sass our officials.  They are doing the best they can.  Even if you have a ref or NSO who is a legitimate asshole and is actually calling penalties wrong there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.  Think about that.  As a team we can call official reviews and maybe talk to the head ref at halftime, but if they don’t agree then we have no recourse.  All we can do is our damndest to not get penalties.  I realize that’s frustrating, and I realize that refs sometimes do shit that makes you want to choke them out.  I’ve been there.  But don’t take it out on the refs.  Complain amongst yourselves, and talk to your captain or bench coach if you feel the need to.  They will handle it if they see fit.  It is their job, not yours, to address the refs.

If we get salty with refs and volunteers then what ends up happening is that we alienate the officials we have.  I don’t know what the referee situation is like in Stateside, but here in Europe we have a shortage of officials.  When leagues host bouts they sometimes have to skate with fewer referees than usual because there’s just not enough referees to go around.  If we get attitude with our referees then exacerbate that problem because referees will avoid our leagues.  My official friends tend to be my news outlets for the roller derby world, because they talk a lot amongst themselves, so you better believe that if you’re an asshole then word will get around in the officials world.

So, with all that being said, the takeaway for players is to not address the referees of officials unless it’s to say thank you.  Do not argue with them about anything.  Take your penalty and then talk to your captain, and trust your captain to do what is best for the team.

Captains and coaches, I have some advice for you as well.  I realize that for some players, you can tell them all of this until you’re blue in the face and they still lose their temper and sass the referees.  To help remedy this I’ve come up with a drill that acts as both a learning opportunity and a punishment for those sassy players.  Here it is:


Drill:  Your bitch ass is not the Dead Sea so stop being salty

What it is:  Before the drill starts, bring some of the players to the side and tell them to get sloppy with their penalties.  Encourage them to safely throw some elbows, forearms, ect, with some of them being no impact/no penalty and some of them being hella impact/penalty.  Also encourage them to do some of those to the outside of the pack.  Have all of the players except the salty one form a pack.  While the pack skates around call out players within the pack to be the jammer and fight through that giant pack, not taking the edges.  The salty player, who is on the inside of the track, calls penalties.  You shadow the salty player and watch over her shoulder.  For every penalty she calls wrong she has to go into the middle and banana for 15 seconds.  For every penalty she misses she has to go into the middle and banana for 15 seconds.

The takeaway: It is really hard to catch all penalties correctly, especially when there are other players blocking your field of vision.  Have sympathy for the referees and stop being an asshole.

Sidenote:  The banana, for those of you who don’t know, is a core exercise wherein skaters sit on the floor and raise their arms and legs off of the floor for as long as they can.  Only their butt can touch  the floor, and their body ends up making roughly the shape of a banana, hence the name.  I make my players do it when they’re late to practice, and they hate it.  No one is late to practice anymore.

The After Math of A Broken Ankle

Let me just start this post off with saying that if you haven’t read it already go back and read my post ‘Save the Ankles’ about preventing ankle sprains and breaks.  This post is specifically for what happens after, not how to prevent.  For some information on how to avoid ankle catastrophes that post is your best bet, not this one.

With that out of the way, I decided to dedicate a post to what we as roller derby players can do in the event on an ankle sprain or break. Unsurprisingly, this is because I broke my ankle recently.  Or my foot, or something down there. Not sure on the details, but I know it’s a minor break so I don’t get a cast. Which is stupid, but whatever.  I wasted five minutes of my life on pinterest looking at sweet ass ways I could decorate the cast I was anticipating I would get, all for naught.

In talking about ankle sprains and breaks, please understand that everyone is different.  Some breaks are horrible.  If you’ve read my post on preventing ankle breaks then you’ll know about Cole Izzion, the unfortunate skater who tore her shit up so bad that the x-ray looked like Bob the builder had sex with her ankle.  If that analogy is unclear, I mean that there were screws and hardware galore.  Her foot took forever to heal, and then another eternity to be able to get on skates.  I don’t have hardware in my foot.  There is a huge range of possibilities when it comes to fucking your feet up, so don’t feel frustrated because you have to be out longer than someone else.

The obvious thing to do is follow your doctor’s advice.  This sounds like common sense, but we’re roller derby players whose passion for violent roller skating shenanigans is a lot more influential than common sense. Sadly.  It took me a few ankle sprains to figure out that in the long run I was fucking myself over by coming back too soon or not stepping out when I should have. I was constantly defying doctor’s orders and figuring it’d be ok if I didn’t skate too hard or did no contact.  Skating in circles is a surprisingly taxing activity for our feet, so that was terrible thinking on my part, but you’ll see it over and over again in this sport. If your doctor says to stay off skates for a month, fucking stay off skates for a month.  Don’t cross your fingers and strap on skates after two or three weeks, because then you’ll add three more weeks onto your recovery.  Don’t fuck yourself over, don’t fuck your team over. Take care of yourself.

Another thing to do is to listen to your body.  If you strained your foot then go home and ice it.  A strain that could be fixed by a night’s rest and a few skipped practices is better than a sprain that makes you miss two weeks of practice.  If your foot is feeling tingly and weird because you took a hard fall on your foot, just step out for the rest of the practice.

That all being said there are two things I want to address. I want to talk about how to stay involved in the sport despite an injury and how to help rebuild muscle.  With the disclaimer that I’m not a doctor, so this is not medical advice or instruction.  I’m just a chick with skates and a computer googling shit.

I want to premise the discussion of team involvement by saying that it’s still going to be hard to watch your team skate without you.  Bouting is ultimately our goal. It’s what we practice for, so being forced to sit out of that is going to suck no matter what you do.  I’m sorry for how hard it will be to watch people skate without you.

When I broke my foot my husband was gone for work.  For at least another month.  My beloved derby friend, Knox YaOva, was kind enough to take me to the hospital and the babysit me for the month until my husband got back.  She changed out my ice pack, made me food, took me to my doctor’s appointments, the works.  Because of how awesome she is she also took me to roller derby scrimmages and practices.  For practices I video taped or wrote down drills from visiting trainers.  For scrimmages I was an inside pack ref on crutches (which was every bit as hilariously awkward as it sounds).  What I’m trying to say is that there are ways for you to stay involved in your league.  You can NSO or referee scrimmages.  You can write shit down.  You can record new drills.  You can make bout awards.  You can bench coach.  You can be a timer for drills.  You can ask about the possibility of studying bout footage and reporting to your trainer with insights and trends you’ve noticed.  Contact a board person, a trainer or a coach and ask what you can help with.  Communicate that you want to stay involved in the league and ask for something to do.  They should be able to find something.

Since my doctor did not give me a cast despite my persuasive pinterest argument, I had a removable boot that I was able to take off.  Hence, this bit is applicable to people who have removable casts, like me.  And of course, whatever I say absolutely does not supersede your doctor’s orders.  Don’t start any workout regime without consulting with a doctor first.

When you start working your foot out after a break never ever do impact.  Running and skating are the two last things you’re working up to.  Both are incredibly high impact and will crush whatever progress your foot has made in healing.  Good no-impact workouts include:

-Swimming.  But take it slow, kicking gently with your feet in a controlled manner.  Flopping it around like a teenage boy discovering his penis will not help you.  Swimming is an exercise that easily keeps weight off of your feet and is recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

-At home reps:  There are a couple of types of reps you can do at home that are no impact.  The best one to start with, because it’s completely non-weight bearing, is just sitting on couch and spelling out the alphabet with your toes.  You can repeat the alphabet as many times as you feel comfortable doing.  When you’re able to do that with no discomfort (and you’re doctor gives you the go ahead) then you can start doing exercises that put some weight on your foot.  Just balancing on your foot for as long as you can is one.  Another is standing on your one foot and then lifting your body on the ball of your feet slowly, doing as many reps as you feel comfortable with.

-Cycling: Cycling is an exercise that puts some weight on your foot but is not impact intensive, so while it shouldn’t be the first exercise you do it’s something you should do before running.

Make sure that you include plenty of rest time between workouts so you don’t push yourself too hard too fast.  Make sure you wear supportive, appropriate footwear.

If you’re looking for a cardio workout, you have a ton of options despite your disappointment of a foot.  Here’s a good example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=LtrciwU4Fbo

Hope that helps.  I’m bored of writing, so I’m going to go now.

Passing the Panty

I know it’s taken me a while to write a new blog post, but in my defense I lost the draft of this that was super awesome and included youtube links and everything. I had to do ten whole minutes of research in finding those links to copy and paste.  I could have jerked off to a video of Dominic Cooper in the time it took me to write that.  But since I think passing panties outside of the context of Japanese vending machines is important, I’ll suck it up and do this again for you all.

Passing the panty refers to the act of a jammer taking off her star panty and giving it to the pivot, thus making the pivot the jammer.  To those of you familiar with this, it’s old news. To those of you who are not, it probably sounds really weird. But get ready because it’s becoming more and more popular.  As an example, I found a youtube video that includes a panty pass. For some reason when I wrote the first, long lost draft of this, I found a panty pass from the Rose City Rollers after about ten minutes of watching a bout.  I cannot find it to save my life, so here’s a link to a bout between the Amsterdam Derby Dames and the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse.  The panty pass is initiated by the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse, which is the green/grey team, at about 50 minutes in.  Milf Shakes, the girl being held back by the black team, takes off her panty while the camera is focused on the Amsterdam chick in the obnoxious skirt.  When the camera comes back around you can see her get close enough to the pivot to pass it, thus completing the star pass.

I hope you actually watched that because GOD DAMN that took forever to find.  I might make a slower youtube tutorial on panty passes and include live action examples of ‘do this not that because that shit’s totes illegal’, but that would require use of the warehouse where we practice in between hockey guys, so we’ll see.  For now a discussion with a few youtube examples will have to suffice.

Some of you may be reading this and wondering what the point of a panty pass is.  Basically it just means people are tired.  If a wall is doing a fantastic job holding back a jammer who maaaaybe skipped too many morning jogs, she gets winded and is basically useless.  It’s kind of like how your legs stop wanting to cooperate during your 27 in 5. Being a jammer is an incredibly intense physical experience and requires and lot of off skates work to be good at due to the physicality of it.  So if you can’t handle the physicality of it and it’s affecting your ability to get through a wall, pass that shit.

Now that you know what a star pass is, or already knew and are irritated with me on how much time I spent explaining it, here are things to know about the panty pass:

-The panty must be passed by hand from the jammer to the pivot upright and in bounds in the engagement zone.  This means you can’t throw it, or use other blockers to help pass it, or skate to the other side of the track to do it.

-Once the pivot becomes a jammer the jammer cannot take the panty back.  By completing the pass the jammer becomes another blocker, and non-pivot blockers cannot engage in a star pass.

-You can block the shit out of people while they’re trying to complete a star pass.  In that same bout I linked above you can see Amsterdam throwing a ‘fuck no’ at a star pass by Roller Girls of the Apocalypse at 53:20.  Take a look at how tired Knox YaOva looks.  That’s why you do a star pass.  She tried and got blocked out of bounds. At that point she put the star back on (which she can because she never completed the pass).

-When a jammer does not have her star panty on she is considered an inactive jammer and cannot score points or get lead jammer status.  When a jammer takes her star panty off she can no longer obtain lead jammer for the rest of the jam. However, when the panty is back on she can score points.

-The star panty can only be passed to the pivot.

-If the panty falls during the pass either the jammer or pivot can pick it up. No one else. However, if the pivot picks it up she must give it back to the jammer by handing it or throwing it, and the jammer must HAND it back to her in order to complete the pass.

-The panty doesn’t have to be visible during a pass.  You can stuff that shit in your bra and hide it if you want. If you’re going to be shenanigous in this way, though, do it carefully since you forfeit point scoring if the panty is in your bra and not on your brain saver.

-Don’t go out of bounds during the pass, even accidentally. That’s not a legal pass and you will get a penalty.

-Don’t try to complete the pass while one of the partied is being whistled for a penalty. If a jammer isn’t paying attention and is handing the panty off while getting whistled for a penalty, more penalties will be had.

-If the jammer takes her panty off and the pivot has not acquired the panty through a legal star pass, the jammer is the inactive jammer.  If it drops during the pass the and pivot picks it up, if it’s hanging out in the jammer’s bra, the jammer is the inactive jammer. The moment the pass is completed legally the pivot becomes the inactive jammer and the former jammer becomes a regular ole blocker.  A good example of this is, again, in that same bout I already linked at about 35:25.  The Roller Girls of the Apocalypse Jammer decides she’s had enough, makes a legal star pass and before the pivot is able to put it on she gets called for a penalty.  Then the other jammer gets a penalty pretty quickly after that and goes to the box.  The Roller Girls of the Apocalypse pivot, now inactive jammer, didn’t realize she was officially the jammer now, and argues with the penalty box folks about not being a jammer when they ask her to move to the jammer spot and then leave.  She was wrong and cost her team a few seconds out of the penalty box.  Get a good grasp on it now, because I promise you there will be a day where you use it and you don’t want to make such a simple mistake.

That about covers the star pass.  I’m sure there’s shit I’m missing but I have shit to do like a responsible adult, so I should get to that.  If there’s a point I’m missing and you think it needs to be included, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll add it in and throw out props.

Until next time,


35 minutes

TLC is Wrong, You Need To Go Chasin’ Waterfalls

This is one of those terms in the derby world that has different meaning in different leagues. Some call it recycling.  Some call it waterfalling.  I call it waterfalling because it makes me want to sing like Lisa Left Eye Lopez, but if you want to be a dippy hippie and call it recycling, that’s call too.

The Silicon Valley Roller Girls define waterfalling as: when a set of two or more blockers rotate in a circular motion, sending one blocker after another to issue continuous hits to an opponent.

I think that’s kind of a weird definition (no offense ladies) and I’ll explain why. But before that, I’ll give my definition.

Stein defines waterfalling as: slipping some people and getting back into the action of the pack.

I will outline some situation that would be considered waterfalling, and then I’ll tie them together to form a more coherent definition for those of you who aren’t quite sure what my super awesome definition means.

Situation one:  You’re holding back a jammer, but this quick bitch gets past you. She also gets past a few other people. However in front of you she gets slowed down by your last lonely blocker.  Being a quick thinker, you and your team mates do a quick five step ass hauling and get back in front of this starry bitch (while not destroying the pack definition). That would be waterfalling.

Situation two: You’re getting ready to block an upcoming jammer and an opposing blocker hits you out of bounds.  You get back in bounds and in position in time to be a nuisance to the upcoming jammer.  Same thing happens to another blocker of yours.  But she gets back in and blocks.  This would be waterfalling.

Situation three: You’re in a four wall. The inside person gets knocked out by the jammer. The person next to the inside quickly steps in front of the jammer on the inside and slows her down. This gives the fourth blocker enough time to catch up and rejoin the wall.

The underlying point in those situations that ultimately defines waterfalling is that, yes, you are useless because the jammer is past you or you get knocked out or whatever.  But instead of letting that be the end of the story, you get back into the action as quick as you can and make yourself useful again.  This is why some people call it recycling.  You got used once, but you’re going to put yourself in the position where you’re useful again as many times as you possibly can.

Because some of you are visual learners, here’s a link to a video that has some sweet slow motion action during a moment of recycling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElpzuErRuf0

The end of the video is a really good illustration of a person recycling.  She was already behind the jammer as a point scored, but she came up on the inside and blocked her.  She did so by hitting the shit out her, which is also an option, but the main point is that she got back in front of the jammer after being passed by the jammer.  I’ve jammed in scrimmages enough times to know how fucking annoying that shit it when you’re getting your jam on.  Sometimes it’s a lot of work to get past a person, and it is holy fuckballs annoying when you have to do it more than once.  You pass her once, get a point, she waterfalls, you have to pass again. And again. And fucking again. And JESUS CHRIST ARE YOU KIDDING ME again.

There’s a few things that need to be emphasized when explaining the importance and effectiveness of waterfalling.  First off, just because the jammer got past you and made you a point does not mean you give up and aggressively watch.  Watching does nothing.  Instead of giving up like your thighs do during the 27 in 5, you need to get with your team mates and act as an obstacle.  Even if you’re already a point you can act as an obstacle for the opposing jammer to get past and tire her the fuck out.  Have you ever seen an opposing jammer skating around the track, legs barely lifting off the ground, trying to catch her breath?  Spoiler alert: It’s awesome.  It’d be like hunting for opportunititties at Mardi Gras and happening upon a DD.  It’s what happens when your hard work and their lack of morals/endurance coincide to give you what you wanted.

Something else to note is that waterfalling does not mean chasing the jammer all the way around the track.  It’s less chasing, and more a moment of quick judgement, trying to stay together and position.  If you’re behind the opposing jammer and she has a clear way out of the pack she’s hauling ass for, you’re too late.  If you’ve got some quickstepping blockers who can get in front of her and slow her down, catch up to her as soon as you can.

Since part of the point of this blog is to explain shit and then give drills or ways to work on the specific skills discussed, here are some drills to help with getting comfortable waterfalling.

Drill 1

Have one four wall with one opposing blocker acting as offense.  No jammer.  Have the offensive blocker hit and try to break you up.  If you get goated or fall out of bounds, waterfall back in.  If this is or gets too easy, up the number of offensive blockers to 2, then 3, then 4.  Do this for two laps, switch up the players, repeat.

Drill 2

Line up in a four wall.  Skate around the track. On the whistle, everyone rotates one position to the left, with the inside person skating past the front to the outside.  Don’t just mosey when you do it.  Sidestep quickly, make sure the inside line stays covered.

Drill 3

I’m going to say first off that I don’t like this drill, because it makes a bad habit out of your focus.  Kiki Urhaz said she liked the drill, and since I’m not an authority on roller derby like she is, I’ll include it.

Team of four positions in a square formation.  Two offensive blockers try to break them up.  You go one lap and if the four can get across the line without an opposing blocker between any of them, they win.

My issue with the focus of it is that it gets you in the habit of focusing on your little group of people.  In a bout you’re focus needs to be on the entire track, not just the little group of your team mates.

Those are a few drills off the top of my head.  I’m going through this a bit quick because it’s been a bit since I’ve posted, and I owe you all a post.  Also, to the person who asked about filming this shit: we ordered a camera. It’s on the way.