Zombie Hunt-Her tells us what Roller Derby means to her!
Video by: Kathryn Roberts Collaborator: Dixon Vixon
After 4 seasons, Hunt-Her has become an amazing asset to her team, the Cherry Bombs, as well as the league. She continues to push herself and learn from every experience. Hunt-Her spent her first 3 seasons on the Seabrook Meltdowns and this year was her first season playing on a travel team.
Not only will she not let you pass by blocking you all day and all night, she will also wear that jammer helmet cover like it’s no ones business. Being a jammer isn’t her primary position, but she sure wears it well. Without a doubt, when you see her coming your way you better watch out — she will knock you down.
We were recently featured in an article about The Roller Derby: A New Wave in Female Empowerment. If you’re interested in New Hampshire Real Estate, check out some of what they have to offer for Manchester, NH Real Estate.
New Hampshire Roller Derby (NHRD) is kicking off 2015 with a new look and a cohesive new training program. The league recently implemented several changes, including adopting a new logo, stronger team branding and opening membership to women aged 18 and above.
Both of NHRD’s current A and B travel teams, the Skate Free or Die All-Stars and the Queen City Cherry Bombs, will undergo changes to their look. Skate Free or Die will skate as the New Hampshire Roller Derby All-Stars and the Queen City Cherry Bombs will be known as the New Hampshire Roller Derby Cherry Bombs.
For further cohesion, both teams will wear the standout bright pink NHRD is known for and all travel team uniforms will feature an updated league logo.
The new logo more fully represents the athleticism of NHRD skaters, as well as the league’s pride in its home state. As New Hampshire’s first roller derby league, NHRD represents the state throughout the United States and the world and the new logo reflects the strength of New Hampshire and NHRD.
New Hampshire Roller Derby closed out the 2014 season ranked #41 in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which ranks over 200 roller derby teams internationally.
Behind the scenes, the league voted to put its home teams on a break for the season — including the Seabrook Meltdowns, Granite Skate Troopers and 2014 Home Team Champions, the Nightmares on Elm Street. This break will allow skaters to focus on training and recruitment. Though those teams are not actively competing, they will remain active behind the scenes and will be back to public competition shortly.
In order to encourage competition and open membership up to a broader base, the league recently voted to accept members aged 18 and up. Previously members were required to be 21. Women 18 and over can join the league as part of its Millyard Misfits, a recreational team open to beginning derby skaters regardless of experience or skill level.
Training of the A and B teams will be more focused and collaborative, in order to ensure that each team is able to put forward its most competitive roster on game day. Each travel team member will wear the same uniform, which will facilitate growth from one team to the other and clearly identify NHRD athletes no matter which team they are skating with.
The whole league will skate under the motto: Skate Free or Die!, continuing to honor the league’s home state.
NHRD’s 2015 home season begins April 11 at the JFK Arena in Manchester, NH, and will run through the summer. Tickets and additional information are available at the newly redesigned nhrollerderby.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/newhampshirederby.
BY DARRELL MAKI, HUBBY OF NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET RENNA GADE
United we slam….
Are you tired of all these prima donna athletes, complaining about their million-dollar contracts and media scrutiny?
Have you spent years living and dying on every play your team has made (or blown), only to watch your favorite player turn around and leave in the offseason?
And aren’t you disgusted how these guys never think twice to even play for an arch-rival (of all things!) when the opportunity and cash arises?
Well, do you know what the problem is?
It’s very simple, really.
You got into this for the purity of the competition.
You got into this to see athletes performing at the peak of their abilities.
You got into this to watch the best face off against the best, to see who would come out victorious.
And then you got turned off by all their contracts, needs, and drama.
Well have WE got a solution for you….
Ditch the glitz, ditch the glamour.
It’s time to kick some ass.
Say hello to the New Hampshire Roller Derby.
And leave your inhibitions at the door.
These ladies are here to show you exactly what pure competition is all about.
They practice late nights and weekends, in semi-abandoned concrete-and-steel buildings, places with names like ‘House of Hustle.’
Some of their team names are Misfits, Cherry Bombs, and Nightmares.
They workout at places such as the ‘Freak Factory.’
And they are Not. Afraid. Of. Pain.
Their jammers are faster than yours.
And for the uninitiated, the jammer is the one that gets to skate at top speed directly into the entirety of the opponents’ team.
And that opposition, in turn, is there to specifically stop her from getting through at all.
It’s a battle of will, not numbers, and it’s amazing how frequently the ‘one’ outperforms the ‘many.’
They are tough, they are quick, and when they are knocked down, they _always_ get back up.
But don’t trust me….come see for yourselves.
The original Fight Club may have taken place in basements, but these girls can be found at the JFK coliseum.
Grab a beer, grab a seat, and enjoy the show.
Come see a sport that is played by people who invest their own time and money into it, solely for the love of the game.
No soap operas, no side stories, no drama.
Just action. And lots of it.
This is a collective, functioning as a mission statement:
A non-profit league that believes bruises and scars are to be worn as badges of honor.
So think about *that* the next time Johnny Baseball goes on the IR for 4-6 weeks with a sore hamstring.
And welcome to the club.
I chose to feature Shell as the April Skater of the Month because Shell is an inspiration to me! She’s got guts for days, tons of heart and never gives up. She showed up to boot camp in jeans and looked like Bambi on ice and had enough drive and determination to learn all she could. I still tell the story in fresh meat training of how she came up to me in our first month and said, “Bash, hit me as hard as you can. I want to know what it feels like.” I was taken back by this little spitfire and while I didn’t hit her then, I did hit her in her first bout ever. Shell was jamming and I lifted her up off her skates over and over again. Her mom hated me for a little while! The thing I love most about Shell was that she got right back up. Every. Single. Time. She hugged me after the bout and told me how much fun she had. Shell is always asking me (and everyone) for feedback and really tries to apply it. She is the true definition of what a derby player is and the best part is that I know she will be totally surprised that I wrote this. Look out for her this season and in years to come!
A truly deserving skater, an awesome person, and April’s Skater of the Month! shellATTACKacardia!!!
How did you get into playing roller derby?
I saw an ad somewhere (I can’t remember where) and I noticed the outfit the derby girl had on was wild and crazy … and I liked it! I hadn’t worn roller skates since elementary school, but I was looking for something in my life to distract me from the day-to-day. I looked up the website for NHRD and saw that the first boot camp was coming up. I showed up (in jeans) to the first boot camp. I can remember being greeted at the check-in table by you and immediately felt welcomed and excited! I regretted my attire almost instantly and felt like an unsteady giraffe on wheels at first. I remember the veteran skaters rolling around while they explained things to us and being so impressed by the way they looked like they were on their own two feet … but they were on wheels! At that moment … I wanted to be able to do that. I quickly learned that roller derby wasn’t about the wild and crazy outfits … this was a sport … and I wanted to be a part of it. From that day on, I just kept showing up … and I fell in love with derby and the people.
What has been the hardest thing to overcome in your derby career?
The hardest thing to overcome in derby has been myself. Derby is not only physically challenging, but it is extremely mentally challenging. I have had days that I beat myself up for not skating harder, skating better or repeating my mistakes. Although this has been a challenge to just “push on” it has also been a blessing. It’s so funny how someone in my derby family will give me that word of praise or advise that I needed exactly at that point in time. Derby is such a metaphor for life in my opinion. Life will knock you on your ass … (hard and painfully) but you have to GET UP. Derby has shown me just how determined I can be.
How did it feel going from fresh meat to winning NHRD’s Rookie of the Year?
Call me a sap, but it was probably one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had. I looked over at my mom during the awards ceremony when they called my name and I just started to cry. She said, “That’s YOU … go get your award!” It felt so good to be recognized by such an amazing group of people that I have learned so much from.
Any derby role models? Any favorite teams?
My role models for derby are right here in New Hampshire. I could pick out a trait of each skater on my league that I admire. As far as a role model for derby, it’s hard to pick just one. I have received so much encouragement and guidance from a lot of people on the league. Bash and Pammy always believe in me, which helps me to believe in myself. They have taught me so much! Ovie, Priss, Crue, Deck, Pixie and Spots have given me some great tips and encouragement as well. SFOD has a jammer pool of awesomeness. I would definitely say each one of them are my jammer role models.
Do you have a bout day routine? What’s your favorite pre-bout food?
I have only had one season so far to experience bout days. So far my bout days have consisted of hanging out in the morning, drinking coffee with my derby wife, Lani, my hubby Mike, and or my mom just relaxing. Then the nerves kick in and I try to force down breakfast consisting of whatever I feel like. I usually top that off with a prayer and a Red Bull, then i’ts go time. I know, not that healthy of a bout routine. I’ll have to tweak that somewhat this season.
What has been the most positive thing that you’ve gotten out of derby?
So much positive! Where do I start? I have so much fun skating and I just truly enjoy the game itself. I’ve met some amazing women who are true athletes. I feel so privileged to be a part of a league that allows me to be trained by such amazing skaters. I’ve enjoyed so many great times that were initiated by derby. All the bouts, parties, parades and charity events that I wouldn’t have been a part of if it weren’t for derby. My family has been transformed into derby fans and it brings me so much joy to have them at my bouts cheering us on, and they never seem to stop amazing me with their love and support. Derby has also snowballed into giving me a whole new motivation for my physical fitness, too. I have been working out on my off days of derby at the gym or with Freak Factory New England. I can feel my body changing for the better and it feels great!
What are you looking forward to most this season being on the Queen City Cherry Bombs?
I’m looking forward to becoming a better skater overall. I feel like with each season there is so much opportunity for growth. I want to get myself in shape so that I can jam faster, harder and score some points! I’m super excited to travel with my team and to experience bouts against opponents who I don’t know. I also look forward to some great times with my teammates on and off the track.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to join NHRD?
My advice would be to DO IT! There is really nothing but positive gains you will get from derby. It’s awesome too that we have the recreational team now that allows you to join and learn derby without the commitment right off the bat. Then when you fall in love (not if, when) with derby you can get yourself drafted to a team. It’s the perfect venue to meet great people, get an awesome work out, and to have so much fun!
You can see Shell skate this month at the NHRD Season Opener bout on Saturday April 12th at the JFK Coliseum in Manchester. At 5 p.m., the Granite Skate Troopers will take on the defending champs, the Nightmares on Elm Street. At 7 p.m. Shell’s team, the Queen City Cherry Bombs, will take on Maine Roller Derby’s Calamity Janes. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. and first whistle will be at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Kids 10 and younger are always FREE!
I wanted to interview one of these ladies for the March “Skater of the Month” article, but then I thought, “I can’t really feature one without the other!” In case you were unaware, my Skate Free or Die teammates Killa & Bam are basically inseparable, sometimes match their outfits unintentionally, and sometimes fight like they’re dating…but they’re not. They’re derby wives. Both are long-standing league members and 2014 charter skaters of the Skate Free or Die All-Stars.
So, I decided to get some perspective from them on “who is your derby wife and what does she do” (in my best Arnold voice) because it’s only fitting that these two be featured together! Please let me introduce your Derby Wives of the Month: Chicka Chicka “Bam” Bam & McKilla Queen!
How did you get into playing roller derby?
Killa: I have been roller skating since before I can remember. I was a competitive artistic roller skater from age two to 18. It was my life. I first heard about NHRD from a newspaper article back in 2008, and derby seemed like just the thing I was looking for. I really missed roller skating! With a push from my best friend, I finally had the courage and the means to go to fresh meat tryouts in 2010. I walked into tryouts with just my skates…no gear…nothing! I even had to borrow a mouth guard (ew ew ewww!!) I had no idea what I was getting myself into…I just knew that I knew how to skate, and doing something so unlike artistic skating was refreshing. The challenge, the team work, the friendships, the physical and mental limits I’ve had to push are what really got me hooked.
Bam: When I graduated college I moved outside of Boston and was looking for a new gym to join. I stumbled across a website about extreme sports that listed roller derby. Right around that time I saw the trailer for the movie “Whip It” and knew I had to check out a game. While visiting my parents in New York I went to an Albany All-Stars bout. The next morning I was at my childhood rink renting skates to see if I could still stand up. Thirty minutes later I was doing crossovers and signed up for tryouts!
We hear all the time about how you two are derby wives. What does the definition of a derby wife mean to you?
Bam: A derby wife is more than a best friend. They’re the person that you’re closest with in derby and outside of derby. A wife is the one that you can count on for anything and know they will have your back no matter what. They’re the person that you go over every single thing with and can have no filter. When you’ve been wives as long as we have you basically become one brain. We can have an entire conversation with one look.
Killa: A derby wife is its own kind of beast. A derby wife is not just your best friend in derby, she is not just another teammate, and she is the person that helps guide you to reach your goals. A derby wife is there for you for a reality check when you need it, and she has your back, even if you’re just being a little crazy. She’s there for you for your “real life” issues, and is the one to steer you in the right direction. Simply because knows your derby/real-life balance… And just helps get to where you want to be.
How long have you been derby wives? How did you meet?
Killa: Bam and I have been derby wives since my first season, back in 2011. It wasn’t your typical, “love at first sight” type of story either. I don’t think we really even have a story… we actually didn’t even speak to each other in the first 4 months that I joined NHRD! We had a few memorable moments together, before we actually declared ourselves wives… Like that one time Bam and Gil T destroyed my MVP trophy from my first bout ever. They say it was an accident… I call it hazing. haha
There is one particular moment that I knew she’d be the perfect derby wife… It was at my first after party at one of our home games.. I wasn’t planning on staying long and Bam called my boyfriend at the time and convinced him to drive all the way to Manchester to pick me up, just so I could stay and drink (safety first!!). Next thing I knew, both of our boyfriends were holding our purses, and we were off dancing and doing god knows what else, I don’t remember.
Bam: Almost 3 years! McKilla joined NHRD a year after I had. She came in as an experienced skater so I noticed who she was, but a couple of months went by before our paths really crossed. She talked trash to me on the track, which is directly the way to my heart! I immediately knew she was cool and that I had to be friends with this girl. At her first after party I pulled her onto the dance floor and we’ve been experiencing shenanigans together ever since.
What type of support does your derby wife give you as a teammate? How is it different from the support from your other teammates?
Bam: McKilla is my biggest fan and the first person I call on for help. There’s really nothing better than hearing “That’s my wife!” yelled when I’m on the track. I think the best way that McKilla supports me is simply just being there. We spend a LOT of time together. It’s really nice to have someone that you can always talk to and makes you feel comfortable no matter the situation you’re in.
Support from my derby wife is different than that of my other teammates because it means the most to me. McKilla gets just as excited for my accomplishments as she does her own. There are a lot of things in derby and outside of derby that I can’t imagine having gotten through without her. #singlemomproblems with my dog, Toby, just to mention one.
Killa: I can honestly say I wouldn’t still be playing roller derby if it weren’t for Bam. She knows exactly what I need to hear and when I need it…Whether it’s the tough love approach of, “get your ass out of bed you’re coming to practice.” Or she’s the one to tell me I had a good practice, and that my outside hits were getting better. She is able to keep me on the right path with the ups and downs of derby life.
What makes her different than just a teammate is that she knows what I’m capable of. She knows what makes me tick, and knows my journey. Her support means most to me, and I know that when she says something…she means it…there’s no bull with her.
What is your favorite thing that you’ve accomplished together in derby or otherwise?
Killa: Winning our 2nd game at ECDX 2012. It was our first tournament, and the first time that we realized that all our hard work actually brought us somewhere! SFOD focused on becoming a competitive team that year, and this was the first moment that we realized all the work we put in was paying off. It was just such a cool feeling to share that with someone who was there from the very beginning of it all…every scrimmage, every Sunday morning practice, every time I wanted to die after jamming…we shared all those moments together, and to see it all come together at ECDX is something I can never forget.
Bam: Making it to Division 1 Tournament together has to be my favorite. As a whole team it was a great accomplishment but I definitely couldn’t imagine experiencing the whole weekend without my wife. We have traveled together a lot and have special memories from each trip but nothing comes close to Tournament. It was great to have so many “firsts” together that weekend and to have her there for the most fun and intense derby competition that we’ve ever been in.
What are you looking forward to in 2014?
Killa: Not being the underdog anymore! SFOD has worked SO hard these last few seasons to become a Division 1 team. Now we’re there! Now is our time to prove that our success wasn’t just a fluke. I’m excited to raise the bar, push ourselves to new limits, and see the results of what we’re really capable of. Who is NH? WE ARE!
Bam: Building on the success of Skate Free or Die’s 2013 season! It was amazing to grow as a team and see our hard work pay off last year. Nothing is more motivating than exceeding the goals that we set in the beginning of the 2013 season. We are ready to put in the time and do it again!
SFOD is traveling to Ohio at the end of March for the team’s first bout of the season but you can see these two in action at NHRD’s home bouts for the 2014 season. Check out the schedule for updates of when SFOD will be bouting at the JFK in Manchester. You can also meet them in person at NHRD’s Season Opener Party on Saturday March 22 at the Derryfield in Manchester, NH. - Interview by Bash
Tart is pretty awesome. She’s been the bench manager for my home team, the Nightmares on Elm Street, for the past few years and I’ve really grown to love her quiet and calm presence. I was stoked when she jumped at the opportunity to join the recreational team, the Millyard Misfits, this summer when we started up. Tart had been an amazing asset to NES over the years but we knew that we needed to let her go to start on her own journey. She went from a Misifit to Fresh Meat in November and entered into her first ever home team draft this January. I wanted to know all about how she got there and how she felt so I present to you the February’s Skater of the Month: The Tartlet Dodger!
Tart was drafted onto the Nightmares on Elm Street just a few days ago, so I followed up with more questions about that process at the end — congrats, Tart!
1. Include name, number, position and teams and years:
I’m The Tartlet Dodger (Tart for short), and my number is 1837. I’ve been the NES Bench Manager for two seasons, and I am currently a Misfit/Fresh Meat skater. I started skating in fall of 2010 in Bemidji, MN.
2. How did you first become involved in roller derby?
In 2010 I moved to Bemidji, MN, a tiny town of 14,000 that is four hours north of the Twin Cities. One of my new acquaintances was a star jammer on the local derby team, The Babe City Rollers, so I went to a bout to watch her skate. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen! I went to a practice and soon started skating. That year was very challenging for a lot of life reasons — I had moved 2,000 miles to a small town in a part of the country I had never lived. I uprooted my life and my husband’s life for a faculty position at a university (we have a national job market in my field), and one month into the job I learned my position was at risk because the university was facing a major financial crisis. I was so frustrated and stressed out, and derby — the sport and the friends I made on that team — REALLY helped get me through that year. I transferred to NHRD when I took a job in Manchester in the fall of 2011, but I had a non-derby-related eye situation and needed surgery — so I switched over to bench managing in January of 2012.
3. You recently joined the Millyard Misfits over the summer after bench managing the Nightmares for two seasons. What has been the hardest part of transitioning from manager to skater?
Hmm…good question. I think the hardest thing has probably been the fact that I’ve been scrutinizing skaters for two seasons now, so I have a pretty good sense of how far I have to go with my own skating skills — and that’s a frustrating realization! But one of the best parts of the experience has been getting to know skaters from other teams better, and getting to know all the skaters as a skater. It’s a different kind of conversation, the one you can have with a fellow skater. At least that’s what I’ve found.
4. I personally know that you’re looking to be drafted to a home team this season. Do you think that being involved with NES taught you anything to help you get teamed?
Well, to be completely honest with you, I’m trying not to think too much about the teaming process because it kind of freaks me out! :) Last year NES made teaming decisions as a team, and that experience showed me that the process is kind of like a job application process, in that a lot of it comes down to “fit.” And “fit” might mean something different depending on the other individuals and their strengths. So this takes some of the pressure off, I think — it’s not always about individuals in the draft being objectively “good” in a simplistic sense, but about those individuals being good for a particular team because of how they will fit into that team. This means a significant part of teaming is out of any one individual’s control. All I can do is keep practicing and work on the things I can control!
5. What motivated you to stick around and volunteer if you couldn’t strap skates on?
I love derby. I’m not going to lie–it was hard for me to stay involved off skates, particularly because I could remember skating in bouts and being involved in this very different way. But one thing I really loved about my experience on NES is that the team ALWAYS made me feel like I was a part of the team–not ancillary in any way.
6. Are you nervous for your first ever tryout?
Of course! I was freaked out about my Level 1 Assessment! In derby I am completely out of my comfort zone. I’ve never been an athlete — I run half marathons now, but aside from some very embarrassing softball and basketball experiences and an awkward partial season in track, I was never really involved in organized sports growing up. So I’m out of my comfort zone in that sense. I’m also out of my comfort zone in the sense that I figured out my academic strengths early on in school, decided I would make that my career, and never looked back. I’ve had large and small setbacks professionally (cf. Bemidji example above), but I have also developed a certain self-confidence in my work. I absolutely do not have the same self-confidence in derby. I’m not used to this and it terrifies me. But for me, that makes the small triumphs–finally figuring out how to do a transition or finally making it through a wall of blockers without falling on my face, for instance — all the more valuable.
7. Is there anyone on NHRD or in derby who you admire or has helped motivate you?
Um, EVERYONE. Seriously, one of the best things about derby is the number of people involved who go out of their ways to mentor, motivate, and inspire. My first team captain, Olive Mayhem of BCR, started this tiny derby team in a tiny town in northern Minnesota. She kept it going through charisma, endless work, and sheer force of will. She showed me that determination can take you a long way. On our league, I would have to say that Slam-I-Am, DKB, Bette Thistlehurt, and Mack Truck Mel were all extremely encouraging to me when I first started skating in New Hampshire. I remember DKB messaging me once after practice, just to let me know she thought I was doing a good job. That meant a lot. More recently, I was really frustrated at a Fresh Meat practice — I just couldn’t make it through a line of blockers no matter what I did. Bash pulled me out of the line and really helped me refocus on the adjustments I needed to make to get out of my own head and skate smarter. Once I get started with a list like this, it’s hard to stop. At this point I would have to say it would be harder for me to find people who *haven’t* motivated me on NHRD!
I would also say that beyond the trainers and other NHRD skaters (who have all been so very positive and supportive), my fellow Fresh Meat skaters have been such a source of motivation. Everyone has been extremely positive. One of the most comforting things about the Fresh Meat process has been the fact that we are all experiencing a pretty rigorous process together. We’ve been there to encourage one another and help celebrate personal triumphs.
8. I heard you’re a reptile lady?! Tell me about your little guys
We have two dragons: Spike is a Bearded Dragon and Eduardo is an Asian Water Dragon. We adopted Spike seven years ago when he was a year old, and we adopted Eduardo a year and a half ago when he was maybe three. We originally got Spike because my husband is allergic to dogs and cats, and at first I was a little concerned about owning reptiles. But both of them have a lot of personality and Spike in particular is really friendly. Sometimes he will just come sit on my lap for hours as I work. I would like to believe this is because he loves me, but it might just be because I generate heat and he does not.
9. What kind of advice would you give someone looking to join the MIllyard Misfits?
The Misfits are a fantastic option for anyone who wants to learn derby on their own timeline and/or wants to keep their involvement casual. I know it can feel intimidating, joining a new group of people who play a sport you might not play (or even just joining a new group of people who play a sport you already play!), but the Misfits are truly open to all levels of ability and commitment — it’s really fun! My advice would be to stick with it for at least a couple of months — it can take time to get to know people when we’re all skating around the track, and it can take time to develop skating skills. But it is definitely worth it! It’s a fantastic way to get involved with a great league.
*I had Tart answer these two questions because she HAS been through the draft and has been chosen*
10. What was the drafting process like?
The drafting process was both more relaxed and more stressful than I thought it would be. The draft really lasted all month, so on the one hand I had the sense that no one single jam during scrimmage was going to necessarily make or break me — but the cumulative effect of being watched for a month worked on me a bit, I have to admit! I didn’t feel a lot of pressure the night of the actual draft, because I knew we had been observed all month. I *did* feel a lot of free-floating anxiety and just excitement to find out whether or where I would be drafted. I started feeling a lot of stress in those last few days because I couldn’t get a good read on how things were going and what the teams were thinking. The Nightmares (rightly) had to take me off their forum and I was too nervous to really feel like I could even talk to any of the NES skaters much leading up to the draft. I didn’t want to appear presumptuous or actually be presumptuous. I tried to keep a low profile. Psychologically, it was very exhausting — I feel really invested in NES after two seasons bench managing and I wanted to be able to talk about all of that — but I didn’t really feel like I had an outlet.
11. How do you feel now that you’re a Nightmare?!
Oh, I am so happy to have been drafted and to have been drafted by NES! I feel like I have been a Nightmare these past two seasons, and NES has always insisted I’ve been part of the team, but I do feel there is something different about being a skater. I’m excited to see where this season will lead!
You can see Tart skate with her new (old) team, the Nightmares on Elm Street, at the JFK! NHRD’s home season begins on April 12th 2014.
At 13 years old I started my first real job refereeing soccer games. In the beginning I had a really hard time processing the emotions that went along with being screamed at by 40 year-old housewives during kindergarten soccer games. I had an older mentor who, after being brought to tears one day by a Dad who screamed obscenities at me the ENTIRE GAME, he sat me down to explain some things that changed my entire outlook on being the “face” of the game.
1. You will make good calls and you will make bad calls. The only thing that matters is how you react and learn
2. Just like with most things where someone is mad, they’re going to yell at the first person they see
3. Some people think they are never wrong
4. Some people think others are always wrong
5. You are a professional and need to conduct yourself in a professional manner
6. Some people can not take responsibility for themselves. Any game that is lost will be because of “bad reffing” no matter if you make every call perfectly or not
7. Some people are just jerks
My mentor taught me that all you can do is make calls for what you believe is right. Know the rules. Take the time to explain so people have the opportunity to grow and learn from their mistakes and your own. You can’t force people to listen to you but can offer information. When people get mad just remember it’s not YOU that they get mad at, you are a faceless shirt of stripes to them so try to see them as faceless players and fans. For players it’s the loss, the mistake, the fact that someone is better than them, and sometimes you just make bad calls. It’s a game. It’s okay. So when you get that gut-wrenching feeling of wanting to punch a player or coach in the face, try to see it from their “faceless” perspective.
When I started playing derby the norm of what behavior was accepted was very different from what it is now. I remember yelling at refs, making faces, swearing, and overall looking at an official as more of an enemy than an ally. I have had the privilege to play in some bouts with some of the best referees in the world. The more I’ve played the more I realized that how referees react to me, while making calls and seeing things from a different perspective, is an invaluable asset to have and understand. I have learned that knowing what an official is thinking while processing the game is something I just can’t understand from their view. The only way to overcome that wall is to have a healthy interactive relationship, which is something that I am constantly striving to do.
I am a roller derby player and, let’s be straight up, I love refs. I love that they volunteer their time to let me play the game I love. I love that they commit themselves to a league with all of the positive and negative things that come along with being a referee. A league should appreciate everything the referees and NSO’s do. Every minute that they volunteer, to take the time to learn to skate, to learn the rules, and to help skaters understand the game more clearly, is something amazing. Every single skater owes their derby career to them because without them skaters wouldn’t have one! I am also human and while I have recognized the kind of healthy relationship that I wish to have with officials, sometimes I catch myself slip. I am by no means a saint when it comes to this stuff. Sometimes I have to look back and remember what my mentor said to me and I think how to I translate my experiences into the way I play the game. How does the way that I react affect the officials?
The Skater Explanation
As I said, I have seen the game of roller derby progress in huge ways over the years. I have also seen the mentality of athletic growth and focus take a dramatic turn down Positive Avenue. Playing a sport is an adrenaline rush and there are literally 1000 things going on in your head at once. There are emotions that stem from passion, aggressions, frustration and sometimes desperation. There are obviously different ways that people react to these emotions. Some people come from leagues where unfortunately certain types of negative behavior are taught. Sometimes it’s behavior that is never corrected. Sometimes people don’t realize they’re even doing it in which a heat of the moment argument could be pleaded. There are also the rare cases, people are just dick bags. These are the excuses that I used to give myself to justify that my negative behavior towards officials was not directed towards officials.
The excuse: I didn’t do it – Adrenaline is pumping and were doing so much that I just forget to reel in my emotions. When I don’t think I’ve committed the penalty that you call me on I can’t be expected to take it lightly.
The reality: Yes, you are expected to take it lightly – by lightly I mean hear the call, skate to the box. Sit down. That’s it.
A ref is not going to change a call mid jam because you decided to say something. All that time you’re waiting standing there with your hands in the air is time that your butt could be in the box chipping away at your minute. If you have an issue, communicate to your captains to see if a conversation with the refs is necessary. In my experience a ref won’t make a call if they don’t see it. They will make a call if they do see it. Seeing or not seeing something during a jam won’t change in the next 30 seconds. I have learned to not go into the middle of the track with any expectation of something getting over turned. Instead I have learned to hear the reasoning behind a call and do my best to adjust. Say for instance the officials are really being hard on multiplayer blocks. You feel that your hand was not grabbing your teammate’s jersey but you keep getting called for a multiplayer blocks. The only way that you as a skater can control that situation is how you adapt to the issues the next time you’re on the track. Instead of getting mad, focus on using your body to give your teammate support instead of using your hands. Give the officials ways to not question you. Be a proactive skater! The only thing in roller derby you can control is your reactions.
The excuse: I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at myself – When I do get a penalty that I totally deserve I get mad at myself. I get mad I did that, made I have to leave my team a woman down, mad I could be so stupid! Sometimes I get a little mad that I got caught too.
The reality: If you’re mad at yourself it’s because you did something wrong – that is not an excuse to lash out. I feel as though I am being a productive skater when I allow myself to grow by channeling emotions into positive ways to move forward and make corrections or goals in the next jam. That didn’t work, what’s next? That being said, the way that I ref makes a call can hugely impact my feelings towards how I move forward. The tone of voice, the calmness of the action, and the overall interaction between a ref and a skater is much healthier when a ref can react to a skater with respect. I want to give you respect when you give me respect.
The excuse: I just make a lot of faces –I didn’t realize I was doing it. I have resting bitch face so deal with it. Most of the time I am making a face, at the call, at the faceless shirt of stripes, at a million things that go along with getting a penalty, not at you.
The Reality: Don’t make faces – You’re reacting physically to something that you’re processing internally. The eye roll, the hands in the air, just accept the call and and get your butt to the box. You should also consider saying “Thank You” to the NSO’s when they release you from the box.
The excuse: Ref discretion is bullshit - Every call is “ref discretion” so sometimes I have no idea why you made a call. Sometimes I feel like you’re being unfair, holding a grudge, or calling things one sided.
The Reality: It’s not - Maybe you saw something I didn’t realize I did, maybe your angle gave you a different perspective from what I saw you call on my teammate. Whatever the case may be, I need you to explain things to me as to why you made the call, even if I don’t agree with it. Obviously practices, scrimmages, and bouts all hold different levels of what acceptable communication is allowed but each situation should be a working relationship to understand each other. Basically Refs, I would like you to be opening to giving explanations that and would like even more if you offered explanations in the heat of confusion.
Here is a truth that I stopped hiding from officials: We ARE questioning your calls. We are second guessing you; we want you to explain things to us. That is part of playing a sport. That is a HUGE part of playing a sport that adapting and morphing as quickly roller derby has. Roller derby is a historically young sport. We are still growing and there should be 100% more questions and disagreements on the perception and execution of calling the rules. If I’m being a confrontational dick about it, tell me in a calm voice that you’ll send me an email, or talk to me at the next practice. Being defensive about questions is not a way for either a skater or an official to grow. As much as it’s our responsibilities as athletes to have good sportsman ship, it’s your job to facilitate that environment. There is nothing wrong with telling someone in a calm voice that you will talk to them when they’ve calmed down. One of our Refs always talks things out with me and if he doesn’t know the answer to something he will find it in the rules and email me. I love that. I’m not asking you to be right all the time but I am expecting you to be willing to work with me to learn!
As a skater, I really do respect you. The fact of the matter is there will always be times when I am convinced that I didn’t do something you call me for. There will always be times when you call me for something I really didn’t do. There will always be times when I want to scream at you. There will always be times when I deserved it. Just remember in that moment you are a faceless shirt of stripes as I am a number to you. The way that we conduct our reaction is something so fundamentally simple that gets lost a lot of the time. The connection between the officials and the skaters is something that needs to be severely fostered if roller derby is continued to grow. Take pride in your decisions and help create that working relationship with your entire league. You’ll be all the more wiser and happier…and so will the skaters.
Matt Biron stands in front of the Skate Free or Die All-Stars bench, arms crossed. He’s quietly studying the newly drafted skaters during league scrimmage – are the walls tight enough, are the jammers controlling their speed, are they all working together?
Last season – 2013 – was a season full of firsts for New Hampshire Roller Derby’s A team, including cracking the Women’s Flat Track Derby Associations’s top 40 rankings, competing in a playoff tournament, and being nominated for Derby News Network’s Women’s Team of the Year. Now ranked at 35, there is no taking it easy. In order to remain a competitive contender in Division 1, Skate Free or Die must crank up the intensity and train like a top team.
“My goal for this season is easy. Help SFOD continue their climb in the WFTDA rankings together,” Biron affirmed, emphasizing the last word. Former coaches Carroll Huss and Johnny Cash Machine, integral to the team’s success last season, both hung up the clip board at the end of 2013 to focus on family and careers. Biron is an apt replacement. In addition to being on the No. 4 ranked men’s team, the Mass Maelstrom, Biron has a life-long history on skates. “I first started roller skating when I was 2 years old. My family, beginning with my grandparents, competed regionally and nationally in artistic figure skating my entire childhood,” he said. “We would travel the country competing almost every weekend.”
His derby career started with the co-ed league Roller Derby Manchester, followed by a brief coaching experience with Seacoast Roller Derby’s Poison Pixies. “In the beginning of September 2012,” Biron explains, “I made the decision to finally try out for Mass Maelstrom and began skating with who would soon become my best friends and teammates.” At the 2013 Mohawk Valley Cup in New York, the Maelstrom became the third team to ever defeat the New York Shock Exchange. They entered the Men Roller Derby Association’s Championships ranked No. 5 and left at No. 4. Biron himself contributed 70 points during their bout against the Magic City Misfits.
“When I first heard NHRD was having a rec league, I reached out for more information, looking to maybe get some more skate time in locally,” he said. “As soon as I heard that SFOD was looking for a new coach for the 2014 season, I jumped on the opportunity to get my name in the hat. Roller derby’s my passion and Manchester’s where I was born and raised. How could I not be interested?” Coach Biron will lead the 2014 SFOD alongside skater Pammy Decker. The two will work closely together to run practices and prepare for the highest level of competition.
“There will always be challenges, and most are unexpected. The real test is how you adapt once you’re faced with them. Whatever challenges come our way, SFOD will tackle head on as a team and work to overcome,” Biron said. “I’d just like to say thank you to all of NHRD’s fans and supporters, and I look forward to seeing you at all the bouts this year. Hustle, Hit, Never Quit, Together!”
For more information about NHRD’s upcoming 2014 season or how to join the league as a skater, ref or nonskating official, visit www.nhrollerderby.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. – By Katrina Swirko
If I could visit myself as the ghost of derby future at the point where I was learning how to skate, I would tell myself all of the things that I have learned over my derby years about being an athlete, being a teammate and being the best version of myself. In creating a list of my goals for this 2014 season, I realized that a lot of these things wouldn’t have been on my list 7 years ago; in fact, I wouldn’t have even made a list. In an effort to share what I have found works for me, I give you: 7 things I would have told myself 7 years ago.
Dear little baby Bash,
Here are 7 things that I would like you to focus on harnessing in your derby career (you’re going to be playing for a while). If you follow these steps you will be a better teammate and a better skater as a result. Take my advice, I’m really smart
You are an athlete – Roller derby is a sport. You are an athlete. There is a whole list of things that goes into becoming the best athlete that you can be. Off skates and cross training are now, more than ever, necessities in roller derby. On top of working on skates and off skates, you have to eat right, you have to hydrate and you have to rest!
Mental toughness – or as I like to say “Toughen up cupcake.” This is something that has to constantly be refined and applied. I’ve read every single motivational/teamwork/mental toughness sports article that Google can provide and for the most part, all things about being an athlete lead back to these basic principles:
Mind over body – No limits. There is a point in every drill, every off skates, every really hard practice that you’ll want to quit. When you find those points, that’s the trigger to keep pushing. When you push past the point that you want to stop, you’ll go even further next time. Set goals for yourself in endurance drills. Count how many laps you did and then next time try to do one more. Try to hold that jammer in your wall for 5 more seconds. Try to do one more grapevine. I really hate running but I make myself do it because it’s good for me. When I’m running, I tell myself, “I can run forever.” How do I run forever? Well, I don’t, but I focus on my breathing and my stride. I break down the mental wall that I’ve built and push through. As Babe Ruth said “It’s hard to beat someone who never quits” So, NEVER QUIT!
Mind over circumstance – You can only control your actions and reactions.
Mind over fear – Mental blocks keep a lot of people from doing the things they wish they could do. My teammates tell each other, “Just do it,” when someone starts whining or complaining – we interrupt with a “just do it.” That pulls our focus to “You’re right, I just need to do it.” And before you know it, it’s done. Before each bout, I go into my own space. I gear up, I put in my head phones and I get in my zone. I take the time to talk to myself (in my head, of course) and envision the bout. I watch the other team skating and imagine shutting each one of them down. I mentally build up my “f@%& you” mind set. I say, “This is my spot, this is my point and you’re going to have to work hard to try and get it.” When a jammer is pushing me, I say in my head, “You’re not moving me.” I tell myself things like “I am smarter, stronger and more powerful.” Even if it’s not true, it’s the mindset of no fear that gives me the confidence to take risks and play with hustle. No matter who my opponent. Trust yourself and trust your teammates. Take each opportunity to learn and grow.
Be honest with yourself – First and for most, you need to remember that you are disposable. No matter how good you are, you can, and will be, replaced if needed. There will always be someone behind you willing to rise to the occasion and take your spot. No team NEEDS you. A team is only as good as its collective effort and one single player won’t win a game, teamwork will. That means that you need to get in the mentality of EARNING everything. Point blank, you don’t know everything. Every single jam in every single bout should feel like it was earned with hard work, dedication and gainful effort to improve. The first step to being able to fully feel like you’ve earned everything is to start being HONEST with yourself. Sometimes it’s really hard to say this is what I am not good at and then ASK for help. You need to be willing to tell your teammates what you need!
Motivation – At the end of the day, no one can force you to be a better skater; you have to want to be one. You have to be willing to want more of everything. You have to compete with yourself. You have to compete with your teammates –One of my teammates Killa recently told me that she wants my starting spot as a blocker and that her goal this year is to take it from me. As first, I got all amped up (in a good way) because I am a little bit competitive. I started to think of what I could improve to keep that from happening. Then I started thinking about if I were her, what I would work on to take my spot. The answer was hitting. I told her my thought process and told her that because that was the one thing that I could think of that would help her meet my specific set of skills that I would work on it with her. I also asked her that because she is better at backwards skating than I am, if she would help me with that. I want my teammates to be better. My team evolving to be better skaters makes me a better skater. Her motivation to be better at something than I was motivated me to work harder to make sure that didn’t happen. At the end of the day, both of us working harder makes us better skaters and we play on the same team, so when we’re both out there kicking ass, we’re on the track together. Don’t forget that.
Positivity – There are times you’ll want to quit, cry, punch people, and scream. Sometimes all at once. You have to take that energy from your emotions and channel it into something positive to help your game. “OK, that didn’t work, what I can do now?” I always try to ask myself, “What’s next? What’s next?” which helps me move on from whatever happened 2 seconds ago. If I made a good move or a bad move, the only thing that I can change is the next move and THAT’S the one that counts. Being positive not only keeps you in good spirits but has a magical way of helping your teammates as well!
Hustle – Each drill is as hard as you make it. You get in what you put out. Practice the things that you can not do as well as you’d like to. Practice the things that scare you. I connect with people on my team and say, “Hey lets push each other tonight, you remind me and I’ll remind you.” We have mini competitions with each other. There is no “I can’t do that,” there is only “I can’t do that … yet.” And most importantly, hustle isn’t hustle if you don’t do it when no one is looking. ALWAYS push yourself to 110% and if you feel like you can’t get there, find someone who you think can and have them push you!
Connect with your teammates and your league mates – Be the teammate that you’d like to have. I always take the time to share with my team the things that I do to amp myself up. I post motivational pictures on our Facebook (Yes, Facebook is still around!), I buy us goofy little presents, I go out of my way to check in on teammates and let them know when they were doing something awesome. Especially when it’s something that doesn’t always get recognized, like taking feedback and applying it. You also have to remember that you should make an effort to skate with all types of skaters. You will learn something from every person that you play with … if you can find the positive. Your partner might be having a hard time staying with you OR do you need to find a new way to stay with your partner?
I know it’s a little bit of tough love but your mindset and focus will skate you too good places. Always remember hustle, hit, never quite…TOGETHER!!!! P.S. don’t wait so long to buy new skates, those plastic plates are worthless.
7 year older Bash