The Riot Act

I’ve been off-line for a while on the writing: even getting a new post out on the blog has taken a bit more time than I’ve spent in the past.  Part of the reason is due to commitments at work, and the few I have within my personal life.  One of those commitments involves my participation in roller derby. and as of last Monday, 27 November, that participation took a new turn.  No, I didn’t do anything spectacular: on the contrary, we made a huge shift in the way things are handled at practice…

Our last main coach, Anita Blade, retired as of the end of the last bout back on 12 November and after that we began looking for a new coach, a search in which I had a bit of a say.  After a week we had the people who were going to lead us into 2018 and they agreed to take up the challenge.

And who are these crazy people who decided to take up the challenge?

The first was someone I knew from my time doing practices in York.  Madhouse Mexi agreed to step in and help Ida with training the fresh meat and getting them certified as quickly as possible.  Mexi’s a good person and I like her, as she’s also ready to step in and show you where you’re doing something wrong before suggesting how to go about fixing the problem.  She let me know that even though I still need to do my 27/5 to certify, there are a few area where I’m “deficient” and I’m likely gonna have to improve those areas before the certification goes in and my derby name goes on.  I have no problem with this: she’s the coach, she’s seen me in practice, and she probably knows me better than me.

But our new head coach is Roxie Riot, who has a long history with HARD: in fact, she helped get our league started way back in the early days.  Yes, she knows a lot of the “old school” stuff, but she’s also interested in bringing us into the current way things are being played, and we’re starting to see that in the way we’re drilling.

About those drills…

There’s a lot more urgency in our drills these days.  We get out on the floor and we work.  We’ll spend a lot of time working on something, then rush over to the wall and get a drink before getting back on the track.  And I do mean rush: these days we have 30 seconds to get over, grab a drink, and get back to work.  No more fooling around and bullshitting.  Even though it’s the off-season, it’s still time to drill.

So in last week’s practices, numbers 65 and 66, a lot of time was spent on skills and learning how to defend in a lane.  (Lanes are a concept that have become important in derby, with one imagining four lanes, 1 through 4 from the inside to the out, going all around the WFDTA track.)  The first Monday it was the skills sessions, with everyone showing what they could do.  This is the area where I need work, particularly in plows and in endurance.  It was tiring, but I made it through, and in a way parts of it were a lot of fun–while other parts were a complete pain in the ass and frustrating as hell.  Wednesday was more about footwork and learning to cover the track–

It was also where I got hurt.

It’s been a while since I’ve been hurt at practice, but last Wednesday, the 29th of November, just one day shy of six months I’ve been in derby, it happened.  I was up trying to guard the track and Mexi was skating as a jammer.  When she came at me I tried my best to get in front of her, or at least to her side, and block her, and at the last moment I sort of lunged at her and lost my balance for my troubles.  I went down on my foot, but as I hit the floor my body went backwards while my leg seemed to move forward–

My right thigh muscle pulled and I felt it do so from my hip to just below my knee.

It hurt.  A lot.  I knew I made a sound but I wasn’t aware that I screamed as I hit the floor, something that was confirmed by several teammates.  Roxie was standing next to one of them and she told me she heard Roxie say something like, “I hope that’s not a broken leg,” which, when I think about it, might very well had happened.

But it wasn’t.  I’d pulled one of my thigh muscles enough that he hurt like hell, but it was still in one piece.  As we walked off the floor Roxie asked if I could still feel the muscle as we walked and I told her I could.  She said that was good, ’cause if I couldn’t feel it that mean I’d ripped something and I needed to go to the hospital.

No hospital for me, however: just a lot of rest.

We made it through last week and this week–Practices 67 and 68, which I’ll write about later–and we’re starting to pick up a lot of things.  I’m also starting to get even more comfortable on my skates, and just the other day I was side surfing for a bit, which surprised the hell out of me.

Before you know it, I may just be out there doing something nutty–

Like playing.

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That Championship Practice

Last night was the practice that I was dreading for a couple of weeks while, at the same time, looking forward to it with tremendous exhilaration.  That’s ’cause I was about to get coached by a world champion–

Over this past weekend–3, 4, and 5 November–the WFTDA Division 1 Championships were held in Philadelphia and the best roller derby leagues from around the world when there to compete for the title and trophy, which is known as the Hydra, named after the first WFTDA President and excellent derby skater in her own right.  (Just so you know the name of our current president is Master Blaster.  Yeah, we’re cool–)  One of the past champions, Gotham Girls Roller Derby of, where else, New York City, came in third and got the bronze.  That left former champions Rose City Rollers of Portland, OR, to square off against Victorian Roller Derby League of Melbourne, Australia, for the big title.  And while Rose City put up a gallant effort and manged to be the only team to score over 100 points against VRDL, they lost 101 to 180.

That means for the first time a roller derby league from outside the US became the champions and prepared to take the Hydra back to their home country–

All save for one person.

Lorrae Evans, a blocker with VRDL, was asked by one of my teammates, Pixie Panzer, if she’d be interesting in staying over a couple of days and coming to Harrisburg to do a special coaching session.  She wouldn’t only coach us, but we’d invite players from other leagues to join us.  Surprisingly, Lorrae said yes, and the day after their championship win she’d take the train from Philadelphia to Harrisburg and join us for a night at the rink.

Besides my team, HARD, and members of our sister team the York City Derby Dames, showing up, we had players from the Dutchland Rollers of Lancaster and the Black Rose Rollers of Hanover in attendance as well.  All together there were 28 of us on the floor, with me and one of my teammates being the only uncertified players in attendance.  Also, with the exception of one other person–one of my teammates–I had the least amount of time skating, only four months, whereas so many more players had 1 to 8 years of experience.

Like I said, I was dreading this for a couple of weeks.  However, yesterday I decided that I was going to show up and do my best, so rather than get into a negative head space over this, I’d see what I was capable of doing.

What I learned right away is that I have a lot to work on.

We started out simple:  stake forward and backward, then weave back and forth, the skate and plow then skate backward and plow, then do airplanes–go from one track side to the other, moving your arms like the wings of a plane and trying to touch the line–also skating forwards and back.  We finished off with trying to skate around on one foot also going forward and backwards.

Easy, yeah?  That was a line we’d heard from Lorrae off and on during the night.  As a coach she was easy going, but she was also in charge:  she let us know when she did a double whistle it mean we were to come to the center of the track right away and form up so she could speak with us.  No dallying: get in and listen up.  It was also like that with drills: we’d do one, then come in and find out what we were doing next, usually get shown an example of what we’d do, then it was out to do it.  Not a lot of rest in between, not a lot of banter and chatting between players.  Just listen and do it.

And it went on and on.

Like I said went with the attitude to do my best, but I knew I wasn’t going to be as good as the others there.  I knew instantly that we were working at a far higher skill level than I’d seen before and I felt it through all the sweat pouring from me.  But I felt something else as well: every so often a chill would pass through me and that was an indication that I was starting to get overheated and my body wasn’t responding well.  After 45 minutes I went through 40 ounces of water and at one point I hurried off to the bathroom ’cause I thought I was about to vomit, but after a couple of minutes there I felt better.  I refilled one of my water bottles and headed back out.

It wasn’t going to get any better for me, however.

During the middle of a three-person drill where we were pushing each other laterally from one side of the track to another I was pushed to the inside and thought for a moment I had a slight groin pull.  I didn’t and one of the women with me laughed and said to shake it off.  What happened after that was me going “Wait a minute–”

And then things got fuzzy.

I know I was told I should go sit down.  I was told that more than once, in fact.  I made my way off the floor to a bench and, I was told, a coach from Dutchland asked if I wanted to lay down, where then I would ask, “You want to lay down?”  That went on for a bit before my coach and one of the refs who is also a registered nurse came over and sorta helped me lay down before getting some ice for my neck to cool me down–I was told that my head was pretty hot at this time–and remove my gear, which is a sign that you’re done for the night.

I lasted 90 minutes, which is pretty good considering that’s pretty close the amount of time we actually spend doing drills in a two hour practice.  But this was nothing like our practices; this was way beyond anything I’d done up to that point.  Some of the York women who made it through the whole three hour practice and who are in fantastic shape said they were exhausted at the end of the night, so you know it was ass busting.

After I cooled down my coach wanted to make certain I was okay and I told her that I was and I wasn’t upset that I didn’t make it all the way through: I did my best and there was no shame in not being able to keep up with women with far more experience and in better shape.  She said she’d kept an eye on me and saw I was pushing myself, which made her proud.  The ref who helped me check to make sure I was okay and was glad I wasn’t upset with myself over not being able to make it all the way through:  like she said, “You didn’t have to do it, but you’d have been kicking yourself in the ass if you hadn’t gotten out there.”  And there’s a lot of truth there.

I not only learned a lot on the floor while I was there–and one of the things I learned was I have to improve my footwork–but I watched the rest of the practice from the sideline and saw things I so want to do when I get the chance.  I told my coach that I know now that I need to work on being a blocker and pivot, as that’s likely where I’ll help the team the best, as I’m not as crazy fast and quick as a real jammer, but I can do great defense as a blocker and run offence in the pack for the jammer as a pivot.  Hey, Lorrae is a blocker and she helped her team win a championship.  Not too shabby.

After practice we gathered around for a team photo that I also joined as I was out on the floor when this started so why not?

 

We also got to pass her gold medal around–which she just happened to bring–and take a few selfies with her.  Like this one, which was taken for me by another person:

 

After practice was over I spoke with Lorrae for a few minutes.  I told her I got heat exhausted about half way in and she was sorry to hear that and said that she saw me and said I’d done well.  I did ask her if she meant that and she said yes, she did.  I told her I’d only been practicing for four months and that did elicit a moment of surprise from her, as I suspect she didn’t think someone with that little experience would be on the floor.  She also let me know that the practice we did last night was pretty much the regular practice her team does–

Which means I was actually doing a practice meant for world champions.

It was a good night.  I learned from the experience and while a bit humbled by what happened, I also know I can push myself when necessary.  I’m not as good as the other out there, but then, I’m not supposed to be–at least not yet.  I have months of experience as compared to women with years behind them.

What does that mean?

I means that by working hard, I’ll one day I can be as good as most of the women with whom I shared the floor last night.

Which is the most important thing you can take away from any practice.

Leveling Up the Minimums

Let’s talk about my test:

Last night it was time to get down to business and find out if I knew my rules as well as I thought I might.  I found out about two hours before I was supposed to leave for the rink that there wasn’t any point in arriving early as the person who was going to give the test couldn’t make it, so we were told to show up at the normal time.  As it was I still showed up early, at the same time as my coach, and since she had copies of the test I put on my knee pads and went off to a quiet room–one of the rink’s party rooms–and sat down to start answering.

Since I have found a copy of the test online, I can show you some of the questions I had to answer.  These three I gave right answers to:

7. If a Jam is called off for a Skater’s injury
(other than a suspected concussion) for the
first time in a game, how long before that
Skater may return to play?

A. As soon as the Skater feels well enough
B. A minimum of three Jams
C. The beginning of the next period
D. After the medics have cleared the Skater to play

The answer is B.

 

22. Red Jammer legally passes four opposing
White Blockers in a scoring pass, but is
then absorbed back into the pack. Red
Jammer fights their way back past two
White Blockers and a third White Blocker
has gone to the Penalty Box. How many
points will Red Jammer receive for this
scoring pass?

A. 5
B. 4
C. 7
D. 6

The answer is again B.

 

40. What must a Pivot do to legally become the
Jammer after picking up the Star from the
track?

A. Return it to the Jammer, who in turn passes it back to the Pivot.
B. Put it on their hemet
C. Hold the Star in their hand
D. Throw it to the Jammer

The answer is A.

 

Now you know as much as me.  Aren’t you happy?

By indicating I got three right, that means I must have gotten some wrong, and you’re right to believe that.  Here was one that I got wrong:

 

11. When both Jammers sit in the Penalty Box
simultaneously, how much penalty time
must be served before they return to the
track?

A. 10 seconds
B. 20 seconds
C. 30 seconds
D. 0 seconds

I answered A, but the correct answer is D, zero seconds pass: the jammers are ordered to return to the track immediately because the rules for how to penalize jammers are strange as hell.

You are now aware that I didn’t get a 100% on my test because I did miss questions.  But out of the 50 on the test, how many did I miss?

Only 5.

Yeah, I had 45 correct, which means I finished with a score of 90%.  In order to pass you need a minimum of 80%, so I passed with room to breathe.  My friend and teammate Mary, who also took the test, got everything right–I’m assuming she did as she said she “aced it”–which means she certified and that she is now the proud owner of a jersey number and derby name.  So, as a team, we were able to spend a few moments welcoming #246, Unchained Merrily, to the HARD team.

With the test out of the way I have but two things remaining before I become a certified player and I hope I get past them quickly.  When I started this at the end of May I stated that, at the earliest, November would likely be the soonest I would certify, and little did I know how true that look into the future would become.

Here’s hoping the next 30 pass with a change of name before it’s all over.

Testing the Pressure

Today has been all kinds of crazy.  Actually, the entire weekend was like that, but today is peak crazy.

And it’s of my own doing.

Saturday and Sunday–when I wasn’t shooting video and editing video and, oh, writing a bit and meeting with friends–I was studying for the test I need to pass in order to become WFTDA certified.  (WFTDA means Woman’s Flat Track Derby Association, in case you were wondering.)  I thought it was going to be easy to get through, seeing as how it’s possible to generate fake tests with sample questions that will show you how you did at the end.  You can even look at a sample test of 50 questions as well as the answer key if you want to see if you’re really going to do well.

About Friday night I was telling my coach and another derby player that I thought I was being pretty chill about the whole test thing and that there was nothing to worry about–

You know, I seem to spend a lot of time lying to myself.

I went to bed last night a bit concerned that I might not be as up on the rules as I thought, as I was always missing the pass line on the fake tests I was taking, and by this morning I was feeling the stress that, yeah, I might struggle tonight during the test.  I told someone at work about how I hadn’t thought I was gonna get stressed out over my test, and she was like, “Given how you stress out on everything in derby, why did you believe this test would be any different?”

And the answer to that is I like lying to myself.

As of right now I’m not a nervous and strung out as I was, but there’s still a little trepidation.  I’ll get through tonight, though, and if I don’t pass the test, I’ll take it again next week.  Or this Wednesday.  Or this Sunday before the bout.  Whatever I’m allowed.

I’m so close.  Really, it’s just now starting to hit me that in another few weeks–maybe even this week–I could end up certified and have a derby name and start working towards playing for real next season.  It wasn’t hitting me much last week even though I was aware.  Now, I’m feeling it.  I’m feeling the bit of pressure that comes with this sort of thing and it’s a bit uncomfortable.

But it’s not unbearable.

I take the test in about four hours.

One way or another, I got this.

Got Some Explain’ to Do

Yeah, there’s a lot to talk about and now’s as good a time as any to start.  Enjoy!

 

Drill and Drill Again… Again

It’s been a long day and the post I hoped to get out earlier is–well, here.  Late.  Crazy late.  And I’m typing like made ’cause I’m on a time table.  So bear with me…

I talk a lot about derby practice.  I even show you video of what I do.  But what does practice really look like?  I mean, how does it come out in the long run?  What exactly do we do when we’re in skates and geared up?

Glad you asked.

Last Wednesday I manged to get some great GoPro footage of our practice.  Not just a few things here and there, but damn near the whole thing.  And I thought that rather than give long explanations of what’s going on, I figured, “Why not show what I go through?”

So this is what you’re getting.  Basically, this is all the practice–save for the cardio warm up, which was 40 laps and about 12 minutes of fast skating–that I experience, as seen through my eyes. You’re also going to hear what I hear and pick up on some of the instruction that’s given to help me improve.  You also get to hear some of the shit we talk back and forth between us, which can be somewhat amusing.

Let’s begin.

Part of this you’re already seen.  This is a long drill where we weaved up through a pack, then weaved back, then shot up the outside to return to the front.  Like I said, it’s long, but then so are all these videos.  This, like a lot of the things we do, is a timing drill:

 

You’ve also seen a little of this:  the blocker/jammer pace line where one person blocks the way through the pack so the jammer (your partner) can get through.  This is where I fell and someone tripped over me, but that was as shortened version of this drill.  Here is the full one, and it’s–you guessed it–long:

 

Here we get into our blocker/jammer drills, going two-on-one and three-on-one against a jammer.  This is where I’m told on several occasions about things I’m doing wrong and how to correct them.  The guy giving the instruction is a ref, Ted Nuisance, and he’s really, really good at what he does.  A lot of stuff happens fast–you’ll see:

 

This is an extension of the three-on-one drills, with us adding a pivot, who is on the same side as the jammer.  The idea here is for the pivot to move blockers out of the way and help the jammer get through the pack.  That’s why you’ll sometimes see a person with a stripped pantie on their helmet moving people aside.

 

 

This was something that Bi and I got into with Mary–she’s in the white helmet–explaining how bridging works and how to use it to run a jammer way back away from the pack.  She wasn’t present the day we practiced bridging, so this was her chance to learn.

 

There you have it: quick, dirty, to the point.  Don’t have to read much, just put on the video and watch me go crazy.

Or maybe you’ll feel like joining me…

Freshie 9: Number Nine, Number Nine

Yeah, had to get that Beatles reference in that for the title, doncha know?

Last Tuesday was my freshie practice and something of a special day.  Why is it a special day?  I tell you in the intro:

 

Now, you’ve seen push drills before, but this one I liked because I was really moving along well the whole time.  I started getting a little back soreness at the end but it’s not that bad that I can’t finish what I do.  While I’m not quite able to keep up with the OG, I like getting the speed on here.

 

The 27/5 keeps coming up from me a lot and there’s reasons for that: it’s like the Golden Fleece of the Derby World: once you do it you never have to worry about it again.  Ida wanted Sam and me to skate our and while I was feeling a bit tired from the previous night’s practice, when the coach tells you to do something, you make it happen.

It was not, however, my finest hour.  I start out okay and even managed to do half-ass crossovers around the track as I skate the diamond–and I was hitting it almost perfectly.  It’s just that on Lap 3, as I go into Turn 3, I lose it big time.  From what the video shows it looks like my leg buckled because I wasn’t maintaining a good form, and I just did a baseball slide into Turn 4.  From the time I started to fall to the time I’m back on my skates is ten seconds and I figure the fall screwed by time by thirty to forty seconds.  However, my time of 6:18 was good enough for almost 22 laps, which is what I’ve skated before, so I figure without the fall I’d have made 24 laps.  Closer and closer every time.

Sam was up after me and as you can see, she has great form.  She also skated a 5:25, so when she builds up her speed a bit and gets her form right, she’s gonna beat a 27/5 like it was committing a crime.  It’s all each of us want to do.

 

After that skating to a back seat to rules.  Registered Curse, a ref who lives nearby and comes over to help now and then, stopped by to go over some of the rules of derby.  We first start out leaning about the pack: what makes one, what doesn’t, and how you can find your zone of engagement.  This is important because it lets you know when and where you can score and hit people.  It also lets you know why, when you go to a bout, refs are yelling, “No Pack” and “Pack is Here”.  This is why.

You’ll need to listen closely: I didn’t mic Curse and we have to deal with open spaces and background sounds.  But you can hear her.

 

Part Two of Registered Curse’s Rules of Derby involved going over where you can hit another place and what parts of your body you can use to hit.  She also goes over what constitutes a cut track and how to get a misconduct call made again you, which I help out with from off-camera.  We had to deal with a lot of background sounds here as the men’s roller hockey was on the track and they were being supper loud with their slap shots.

 

Lastly we go off-skates and Curse shows us the ins and outs of block, starting off with something I’m bad at doing–as she points out–the clockwise block.  She also shows a stop block and tells out the quickest ways of getting kicked the hell off the track, which does happen from time to time.

 

There you go: nine freshie practices, nine different things going on each time.  The next one, next Tuesday, is my tenth, which means I’ll have twenty weeks of freshie practice under my belt.

It won’t be long before six months done is here–