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Roller derby gear bags can seem like a bit of an afterthought, especially after you’ve put so much time and money into getting your skates and pads together. A lot of people just find whatever will fit all of their stuff. When their first bag gives out, they have more time and experience to find something that works more efficiently.

I’ve gone through three or four duffel bags in my roller derby career. It’s just not something that I’ve wanted to spend money on, though I’ve cursed this decision as I’ve trudged my way through too many airports with my skates hitting me in the rump with each step. Maybe if I’d spent $100 on a bag in the first place, I wouldn’t have had to spend $20-30 three or four times. Learn from me, people.

Cat in a duffel bag hee hee

Open up that bag and let it air out! Photo by cornfusion via flickr creative commons

If you’re just going to carry your bag from car to practice space and back again, feel free to go cheap. If you’re planning to travel for derby, consider a rolling bag.

What do you use to carry your gear? What do you love about it? What do you dislike? What do you wish you had thought of before you bought a gear bag?

So you’re new! That’s cool! Let’s talk about what you can do to get ready for your first roller derby practice or tryout or serious skating session, whatever form that may take. Whether you have a day or a month to get ready, there are a few things you need to do, and a few things it’s nice to be able to do.

This is a very very short and sweet list, because people and leagues and situations differ. Feel free to follow up with me and ask questions as needed.

Procure skates and stuff

You’ll need gear. Probably the whole shebang: Helmet, knee pads, elbow pads, mouth guard, wrist guard, and skates. But, maybe not! Maybe your league can provide skates because you practice at a rink, or maybe there are hand-me-down pads available to try out. Make sure, and then prepare as needed.

Pick out your first day of school outfit

Think of function over fashion, people. Wear something non-restricting, and not so loose that it might become a hazard to yourself or others if you fall down. Palazzo pants might be comfortable, but if your pant leg gets stuck in your wheel, that’s bad. Most people wear workout clothes. Running shorts or pants and a top will work fine for your purposes, as long as the pants aren’t too slippery. If you’re coming from work, do not, I repeat: DO NOT forget to pack socks.

Maybe leave the tutu at home this time. Photo by Jamie via flickr creative commons

Maybe leave the tutu at home this time. Photo by Jamie via flickr creative commons

Figure out when and where you’re supposed to go

Skating rinks are fairly easy to find, since they want people to go there and give them money. Warehouses that are converted to practice spaces, on the other hand, might be in a part of town you don’t usually frequent, might be unmarked, and who knows what the parking situation is. Budget plenty of time for traffic, parking, finding the place, maybe finding the right door or room once you get there… and then time to go to the bathroom, fill your water bottle, and put your gear on.

Formulate your practice day plan

Make sure you eat enough throughout the day of practice, but not too much right before. Drink plenty of water, and have a big water bottle that you can bring (full, if at all possible) to practice with you. Bring snacks for after, and a change of clothes if needed. Do you need to bring dues or paperwork to your first session? Get that ready to go ahead of time so you’re not stressing out about it.

Relax

It’s okay, it’s probably the first time for a lot of other people, too! And if not, they all were new once, too. Most leagues are more than excited to get new recruits. They do not expect you to pick things up right away, they don’t expect you to be cool or have an awesome playlist on your phone or to know which way your wrist guards are supposed to go on. They just expect you to do your best. They also probably hope that you’ll be willing to volunteer to clean the lost and found every month because everyone hates that job.

That’s what you should do in order to get ready for your first practice. Simple, right? Of course, if you have more time, you can get ready in other ways as well...

Roller skate

Go to the local rink and mix it up. Get comfortable on skates. You can’t exactly practice derby at open skate time, so practice side-stepping fallen children. Start and stop. Skate backwards. Couple skate. It’s fun!

Watch roller derby and learn how it works

There are plenty of people who go to their first practice before they ever watch a game. If that’s you, more power to you! Study up later. However, if you can go into your derby career with a solid base of knowledge, you’ll be ahead of the game. (Don’t literally get ahead of the game, though, because then you’re out of the engagement zone. See? There’s a lot to learn.)

Familiarize yourself with your league

Meet up with new leaguemates, and get together to skate or just hang out. If there’s a league forum or group (good luck with that), log in and wade through the issues of the day. Or just find the important stuff like policies and calendars. Or juicy stuff, I dunno, it happens sometimes. This will give you a better idea of what you’re in for in general: volunteer requirements, email load, etc.

GET PSYCHED

YEAH WHOO OH YEAAAAH YOU GOT THIS!

 

What questions did you have before your first practice? What would have been helpful to know?

 

 

*Hey, the updated version of Roller Derby for Beginners just came back from the proofreader today. Now all I have to do is re-format the whole thing for printing. Again. *sob*

You made it through tryouts. You made it through fresh meat. You finally made a roster. Now, time for glory, right?

It doesn’t always work that way.

I asked a few captains and coaches just how in the heck you’re supposed to get actual track time in a game.

Effy aka Reffy has coached children and grownups at Rose City. Hellslinger was a bench manager for some team called the Wheels of Justice? Never heard of them. Mona Mour managed the Boston Massacre for 3 seasons and now coaches and manages the Middle Georgia Derby Demons, a newer aspiring WFTDA league. (She’s also a YA author if you like buying books.)

They all gave me this sage advice, and then I edited their responses with the deft hand of someone who has warmed many a bench.

Be a team player.

Effy: Sometimes people end up being benchwarmers. It sucks but it happens. If you’re not being put out for a few jams, don’t take it personally, and definitely don’t become a black hole for the bench. Take that time to give your teammates high fives and tell them what they’re doing well on the track. If you’re one of the skaters being put out in every other jam, make sure you’re taking those high fives and being supportive of your teammates who are sitting. Coaches will definitely notice if you’re being positive and helping keep others out of a funk.

Mona: On the bench, cheer for your teammates. Shake off your foibles. Be agreeable. Smiling helps. And do not do not DO NOT question your manager about your playing time. Asking when you can go in, whining loudly to your benchmate about how long you’ve been sitting, or simply giving puppy dog eyes to your manager is the fastest way to wind up warming the bench for even longer. You are one of 14 skaters on a bench. Your needs are being balanced with everyone else’s, and you may not be able to see the big picture, but trust your manager knows it. That’s her job. If you have a question about playing time, ask about it later … and I don’t mean immediately after the game. Do it at a neutral time without being confrontational about it. Open it up as “what are some things I can do to get more playing time?” instead of “Why aren’t I getting to play?!”

Hells: Don’t take it personally [if you’re not getting time]. Especially at high level gameplay, remember it’s not about you. It’s about your TEAM. Trust in your coaches and your teammates. You are there for the team and to be the best teammate you can be and to win. Sometimes winning means you aren’t on the track at that time, but your team couldn’t have gotten there without you. Be calm and supportive on the bench. Bench presence goes a long way!

Communicate on the track. Talk to your buddies, your jammer, yourself, never stop! Calm communication keeps your teammates calm.

cat on a bench

Well, at least LOOK excited if you want to play. Photo by Tambako the Jaguar via flickr creative commons.

Play Clean.

Mona: Skaters racking up penalties get benched. Period. Work on learning the rules and learning how to play within them. If you’re starting to rotate into the box, it’s better to dial back the aggression and play clean than to do things that might (probably) get you sent to the box.

Hells: Box trips will get you benched. Don’t blame penalties on the refs or teammates. Instead, learn from the each game and scrimmage and figure out how to limit your penalties.

Play more than one position & be flexible

Mona: Be a utility player. Skaters who are up for anything get more playing time. Don’t be the “I can’t jam if XYZ is out there” or “I only want to block with that skater and refuse to block with that skater.” If you’re willing to jam, block, pivot, go it alone in an extreme penalty situation, or play with anyone on the team, you’re likely to get more playing time.

Hells: Be able to pivot. If you can relief jam and block you may get more play time. But: a good pivot needs to also be someone who can stay on the track. Passing the star is a strategic move and the pivot doesn’t need to save the day. They do need to be smart and aware of their own jammers.

All blockers should be flexible on the track. Be able to play anywhere in your walls. The more flexibility you have on the track and in your walls the better you’ll be with anyone on the track. This will make you a better and more well-rounded player. Be able to work with any one of your teammates on the track. The more people on your team you can work with on the track the better. If you can be put in any line, the better odds you have of being put on a roster and being put on the track.

Make eye contact.

Effy: Make eye contact. Don’t be a creep and stare at me the whole time, but when I’m looking at my options of people to put in the next line up, looking at your coach, letting them know that you’re aware of what’s going on and that you’re ready is incredibly important.

 

***

THANK YOU Effy, Mona, and Hells. You are a credit to your sport.

Whaddaya think? How have you gotten more playing time for your team? What questions and frustrations do you have about being benched?

 

Something weird happened to me at practice that got me thinking about self-talk and the ways we sabotage ourselves.

It was a simple line drill, toward the end of practice. One line’s the jammer, one line’s the blocker, etc. But my first thought was, “I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this.”

Really, brain? You have jammed in front of 5000 people. You did so poorly, but you survived it, at least.

“No, you’re going to biff it and look stupid.”

anxious pupster

Aw, little friend, don’t be that way! You’re fantastic! Photo by bullcitydogs via flickr creative commons

This is exactly the type of conversation my brain’s been enjoying with itself since… childhood, probably, but definitely for my entire roller derby career.

Other things I like to tell myself: If I jam, I could mess it up for the whole team; If I make a mistake I’ll look like a fraud and everyone will say I had no business writing a book about roller derby; I don’t know if you have the endurance anymore; If this jam goes past one minute there’s no way I’m going to survive; If I get put out in a jam against so-and-so I’m definitely toast. Etc., etc., into infinity.

And endurance? I used to dread going every week. HATED it. “This is going to be terrible, ugh, I hate endurance, this is going to suck.”

This is what we call negative self-talk. And it doesn’t help.

I was really good at being a positive skater on the bench, except when it came to myself. You know what? You’re part of your team, too. You need to pump yourself up as much as you pump up the rest of your teammates.

 

I’d like to tell my past self that endurance made a stronger skater. Hey, past self! You were even good at it! Remember that time the coach made you start ten feet behind everyone else? Or when someone yelled at you to “use those long legs, gurl!” and you did and you passed everyone? There were so many moments of victory that you buried under memories of a few minutes of discomfort or stress.

Sound familiar?

Being human means being a work in progress. Don’t be too hard on yourself, for your skating or for your mental processes that influence it.

*

Additional reading and food for thought:

Scarlene gave us great advice for mental toughness that I need to remember all the time.

This isn’t much wishy-washy feelsy stuff: “If athletes are engaging in negative self-talk, their affective experience may be one of frustration, anger, or extreme anxiety. These emotional states challenge breathing, increase muscle tension, and create a loss of concentration and focus, resulting in lower performance.

A million times yes: “Focus on the task at hand rather than the outcome.

Yes, that means at practice or on the way there, if need be: “Self talk should be practiced ahead of time (outside of competition”

*

What do you do to defeat negative self-talk? Or, better, to promote positive self-talk? 

Welcome once again to the Frisky Power Rankings, where I rank women’s flat track roller derby according to my whims/in-depth knowledge.

Seems like there wasn’t a ton of top-level action in July. You had your last-moment games for playoff rankings in June, and then you’ll have your tune-up games in the next month or so. Because…

PLAYOFF SEEDINGS CAME OUT. Who has plane tickets? GUESS WHAT. I’M GONNA GET PLANE TICKETS. Yep, to champs, I think. Stay tuned.

  1. Gotham. They’re having some friends over on Coney Island this weekend. Sounds pleasant.
  2. Rose City Rollers. Playing in London on the 8th. Eeeeep!
  3. London. Eeeep!
  4. Victoria. Getting coached by Mick Swagger right now. That usually works out for them.
  5. Ice cream. Ice cream cones. Ice cream bars. Ice cream sandwiches. Gimme.

    a dog dressed as a banana split!

    Ice cream pup! Photo by Katherine McAdoo via flickr creative commons

  6. Denver. Games against Philly and Gotham will give us a good idea of where they stand at the moment.
  7. Texas. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were a bit higher in the next month or two. I’m just saying.
  8. Angel City. Nice win over Minnesota. 
  9. Philly. Games against Montreal, Charm, and Denver will give them plenty to think about/work on.
  10. Arch Rival. No jokes because they’ve had a tough month. <3
  11. Montreal. Always a bit of an enigma, non? But they beat Charm City by 200 points? Right time to get neon hot.
  12. Jacksonville. They get to go to their own playoff! That’s fun/stressful!
  13. Popsicles. Sometimes you just need to cool down a bit, but you  just had ice cream. Just kidding. OR AM I.
  14. Bay Area Derby. They should be fine with their #2 seed going into Playoffs. Can they get whatever hasn’t been clicking to… start clicking in the next month or so? PLAYOFFS: THE ENCLICKENING
  15. Minnesota. Yep, they lost to Angel, but that’s not such a bad thing.
  16. Sun State. *Twiddling my thumbs* Is it September yet? I want to seeeeee.
  17. Stockholm. See above re: Sun State. Yeah, I could watch archives, but who has that kind of time? What do you want me to do, NOT watch Chopped every night after the kid goes to bed?
  18. Air conditioning. Sweet, sweet air conditioning.
  19. Team United. The TURD/Arch Rival game is probably my priority first round matchup. What’s yours?
  20. Atlanta and/or Tampa. You two are pretty close tbh.
  21. Rocky Mountain. Losing to good teams is not a bad strategy for them at this point.
  22. Rat City. Fared a bit better at home against Rose than I expected. Excuse me while I gaze out my window and ponder this quietly.
  23. Terminal City. They better hope The Enclickening doesn’t take place.
  24. Dallas. Okay, my twitter friend always asks about Dallas. This month, they’re in! Once again, RollerCon results are shaky data points, but they do have a #6 seed in their hometown playoff. They could do some stuff if Philly’s not careful.
  25. Windy City. They get a decent seed for playoffs, so who knows? Would you want to play against them?

Not listed:

  • When playoff seedings came out, my husband asked me about Oly, and all I could say was ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • The “we’re having so much fun on our trip” social media posts from Rose people. I mean, I don’t daydream about trips to Vegas in July, but London? *digs toe in ground, closes Facebook*
  • “Everyone else.” In rankings past, I’ve listed “everyone else” to differentiate between the top tier and the rest of the pack. The top four this year seem fairly clear, but Denver and Texas aren’t that far behind. Following closely is the expanding middle, with plenty of competitive teams that could make it to champs. THIS RULES.
  • The weather in Portland. Um, it’s hot.

What do you think? Who has power?  Let us know in the comments. Dish freely, or send me anonymous tips at @littleanecdote so I feel cool. (It doesn’t hurt to ask.)

Did ya’ll have fun last weekend? I know a bunch of you went to RollerCon. This year didn’t seem like the barrage of “OMG WE’RE HAVING THE TIME OF OUR LIVES” social media onslaught that I’ve seen in the past. And maybe Facebook realized that I don’t need to see every single tagged photo of Scald Eagle this year. (I love you, dear bird, but I know what you look like.) What I got from this year was that there was a lot of walking involved, which seems like a lousy thing to have to deal with in July.

RollerCon is fun. Skating is fun. But it’s not the only fun.

I spent the week at the coast, hanging out with my kid and a little bit less with my husband (who was working). It was our longest and farthest trip yet as a family, and it was GREAT. I didn’t work for a whole week. I didn’t think about skating. I did think a lot about tsunamis. I learned a bit about cattle ranching. Mostly, we threw pine cones in the ocean, fished them out, then threw them again.

You all had fun, too: hiking, hanging out at home, and spending time in nature. My very favorite photo, though, came from Chelsea, who went to ride roller coasters with her cousins. Congrats Chelsea, who started Fresh Meat training last week, too!

excited people!

Keep enjoying your summer, internet friends, and I’ll be back on Friday with the August Power Rankings.

Not all of us are going to RollerCon. Maybe you can’t afford it, or you have other responsibilities, or you just don’t feel like going to Las Vegas in July. Or you don’t prefer not to. All fair and valid life choices.

However, I think the rest of us should have some fun—just like last year and the year before. There are hundreds and thousands of other ways to have fun, so let’s do it! I’m gonna have fun, too! And since it’s more fun if we do this together, share your pictures of all the fun stuff you’re doing, so we can live vicariously through you.

Even more fun? If you share your picture, you can win your choice of a signed copy of Roller Derby for Beginners, a One Hydra Percent WOJ shirt, or a MYSTERY PRIZE.

How to enter:

  • Have fun between July 22nd and July 26th. Take a picture that features you and your fun activity.
  • Send me the picture by 11:59pm Pacific on July 27th (via facebook, tweet @littleanecdote, or email frisky.sour at gmail).
  • I’ll post my favorite pictures. A winner will be announced and notified on July 29th. Maybe runners-up if you all are really compelling.

That’s it! Now go out and have some nice safe fun. Feel free to tell us all about your plans in the comments.

Photo by Calvin Fleming via flickr

Photo by Calvin Fleming via flickr

Stay cool.

WFTDA RANKINGS AND PLAYOFF SEEDINGS ARE OUT

ARE YOU EXCITED

I AM EXCITED

FLIGHTS FROM PORTLAND TO DALLAS ARE CHEAP

I’M JUST SAYING

 

Okay, we don’t have to yell for the ENTIRE post.

I’m happy that flights are cheap to Dallas (Rose has had less-fortunate travel plans the last few years), but that lineup is looking daunting. If anyone’s going to jump in the rankings, my money’s on Sun State. Watch your backs, Texas and Philly.

What playoff looks like a cakewalk for the top three? Who has reason to be scared? Which matchups are you most excited about?

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH

There are two kinds of people. Just kidding: There are way more than two kinds of people. And all of them would get roller derby nerves in some capacity.

But for our purposes, let’s say there are two kinds of people.

Both are planning their first plane trip. One type says, “Yay, a plane ride! That’s exciting.” The other one might be glad to get to go on a trip, but they worry about all the things they don’t know about. How early should I get there? What if there’s a delay? How do I do this? I mean, they’re glad you get to go on a trip, but you might be a bit nervous about the whole thing. Because you tend to get nervous about things. This is who you are.

I used to think of myself of a laidback person, but as the unending march of time plows on, evidence is starting to mount to the contrary. Did I ever go with the flow, or am I getting more stuck as time goes on? Either way, I get nervous, stuck in my own brain, and pick things apart a lot these days.

If you’re a naturally nervous person, I feel you. So you over-analyze everything. I gotcha. You can still do this.

Dog hiding in grass

Don’t worry! Photo by Crazybananas via flickr.

Remember it’s only natural.
You’re not the only person who gets nervous about doing things that seem simple to other people. And besides, pretty much everyone has nerves about playing roller derby. It’s new to everyone. Sure, some people come in with experience in contact sports, or skating experience, but rarely both. You’re all in this together.

Be yourself.
Maybe the best way for you to relax is to pretend that you’re not actually nervous at all, ha ha! If that works for you, do it. But you don’t need to act any certain way to fit in with others. You can be your very own nervous self as much as you need to be. You don’t need to come off as “tough” or impress anyone. Just do what you have to do. That’s tough enough.

Don’t dwell on the nerves.
It’s okay to feel nervous, and part of anxiety* is that it’s a self-feeding loop. Disrupt it when you can by focusing on the task at hand. Roller derby needs all of your attention when you’re practicing or playing, so give yourself a new mental loop to play if you feel yourself start to unravel. When you start to hear, “OMG, I can’t do this,” take a breath. You CAN do it. Consider enlisting a buddy to check in with you to make sure you’re mentally on task.

Plan as much as you can.
Hmm, maybe you should buy a book about roller derby for beginners, I don’t know? (That’s my book! I wrote that! I get like $6.41 every time someone buys one, yaaay!) When you’re new, find someone you can talk to in your league, or at least someone who answers their emails, so you know you can get answers when you need them. Later, make sure that your coaches or captains know the best ways to communicate with you, and what information you need in order to prepare and feel comfortable.

Practice relaxation.
Visualization always worked for me. Professional athletes use focusing and breathing techniques before games, too. If you work well with routines, create some for getting ready on practice days. That’ll keep you feeling a bit more in control, and a bit more relaxed.

What do you do to calm your nerves before practice or a bout? Please share in the comments!

*Anxiety and anxiety disorders are a whole other ball of wax that I’m not qualified to speak to. If you would like to talk more about that, let me know and I’ll try to gather up some expert opinions for ya’ll.

Welcome once again to the Frisky Power Rankings, where I rank women’s flat track roller derby according to my whims/in-depth knowledge.

  1. Gotham. They might be even better than last year? This does not seem fair.
  2. Rose City Rollers. Invited BAD, Denver, and Terminal to town, made them bout in 90-100 degree heat, and beat them all by a lot of points. That’s borderline rude, Rose. (j/k ilu)
  3. Victoria. Slip from first due to impressive months by Gotham and Rose. Also, they beat Denver and BAD by slimmer margins than Portland did. So there.
  4. London. Hahahahahaaha London, you are clearly a WFTDA Playoff #1 seed. Sorry about last month. We won’t talk about it again.
  5. Ice cream. Now more than ever.
  6. Texas. Losing to Rose by 26 points is not looking so bad these days.
  7. Denver. How about that Bucsek, huh?
  8. Bay Area Derby. Not able to get much offense going against Rose. This could be a problem.
  9. Angel City. Furrowing my brow and copying and pasting above and below Philly. Remembering that I’ve underestimated them in the past. Control-v right here.
  10. Philly. Comported themselves well at ECDX, with a big loss to Gotham (hey, you know?) and a big win over Detroit.
  11. Arch Rival. Not a bad showing in June. Not bad at all.
  12. Jacksonville. A joke about “blowing out Windy City.”
  13. Minnesota. Flat Track Stats dropped them this month, but those results look just fine to me.
  14. Montreal. Geez, the Mick Swagger effect is pretty strong. Just ask Victoria and Montreal what happens when she coaches.
  15. Sun State. It’s so hard to tell with you Australians. They beat the VRDL B-team, though, and that is something.

    fluffy kitty pile

    Sun State (of cats). Photo by lovecatz via flickr

  16. Stockholm. Hi, I’m a little Swedish. Let’s be friends.
  17. Terminal City. Terminal City, you’ve been working on some things up there, haven’t you? We noticed!
  18. Team United. Still on the radar.
  19. Atlanta and/or Tampa. I can’t figure either of you out, so, tie!
  20. Rocky Mountain. They keep taking on really good teams and losing, but sometimes that pays off at playoff time… if you don’t get a nasty matchup due to seeding.

Not listed: Windy City. They dropped out of the top 40 on FTS (!), and lost Dr. Josie. It’s looking like a rebuilding year.

What do you think? Who has power?  Let us know in the comments. Please feel free to dish freely, or send me anonymous tips at @littleanecdote so I feel cool. (It doesn’t hurt to ask.)

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