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Yesterday, USARS announced that they’re going to form a US national roller derby team. From what I’ve seen in my social feeds, the news was not especially well-received. Most of the people I know play WFTDA, and a few of those people are/were on Team USA. You know, the national team of the best adult roller derby athletes in the country that’s been established for five years or so.

The biggest reaction to the USARS announcement: THERE’S ALREADY A TEAM USA, YOU JERKS.

Then:

  • Um, who are they going to play?
  • There’s an international governing body for roller derby, and that is WFTDA.
  • USARS doesn’t mean anything to me, because I don’t skate in the US.
  • USARS never helped us before, why should we support this effort now?
  • They tried to make things as hard as possible for roller derby ten years ago.
  • No one wants to watch USARS derby (ouch, people).
  • Hey, sounds cool!

Now, I don’t necessarily think USARS is a paragon of evil, but I do think they’re trying to make money off roller derby. Plenty of people have, with, we can say, varying levels of success.

My first reaction is that if USARS skaters are happy, that’s great. Let ‘em skate and have their fun. No skin off my hide. I don’t think it hurts WFTDA (or any other roller derby organization or rule set, because there are more than two) to have a bit of competition. Personally, I’d prefer not to skate against or with 14-year-olds, but I’m glad they get the opportunity to skate if they’re physically and mentally ready.

In fact, it might be pretty fun to have a Team USA that’s all kickass 17-year-olds. Then we can stop saying crap like “junior roller derby is actually fun to watch” because where have you been, people, of course it is.

Here’s the thing, though. The day before this was announced, I was hearing that USARS was in financial trouble with declining membership, and derby was a major part of that.

So, in short, my two cents: this seems like an effort by an organization to save something that was not well-conceived in the first place. They don’t seem to have a deep understanding of modern roller derby and its culture, and that’s not going to serve them well. But if people want to try out and play for this new national team, I won’t hold anything against them. Unless I already hold something against them. Hey, I’m a sports fan, I hold grudges. It’s only natural.

Can we all get along? Ideally, yes. But you wonder, when USARS does things like schedules their national tournament during WFTDA D2 playoffs.

What do you think? Does this news make you mad? Annoyed? Totally thrilled? Kinda sleepy? Is a roller derby national team any kind of national team at all without Bonnie Thunders?

If you’ve played roller derby, or expressed more than a passing interest in it at any point, it tends to come up in conversation. Something about playing this kind of subversive, contact sport is interesting to people. Go figure. Your co-workers want chat about it, and your friends, and family, and that’s all fine. Then, you have to go out in a roller derby uniform at some point to talk with the public. That has…mixed results.

They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but that’s debatable. Now, to be clear, I love talking about roller derby, answering basic questions, helping newbies, filling in new fans: all of that stuff. But that doesn’t mean I love every person on the planet all the time and all of their stupid questions.

Ask me about derby

Photo by Andy Ciordia via flickr creative commons

“Roller derby, huh? Eh eh?” *elbow jabbing motion*

The most common question, hands down, is always asked with the elbows out. Proper response: If you wanted to knock someone down, would you use your elbow? That’s not very efficient. Try delivering this cooly, looking the target straight in the eye.

“Do they all look like you?”

DEFLECT, DEFLECT. Why, no, there are all kinds of people from different backgrounds, and we all have features that help us on the track, please leave me alone, oh look, a wedding ring, on my left ring finger.

“Aren’t they all lesbians?”

I’m married to a dude, but I’m not speaking to everyone’s sexuality. Strictly, no. Also, please leave me alone.

“Are you sure they’re all women? Some of them looked a little burly!”

Thank you for coming today, have a great one now, bye. (If you would like to chat with this person about gender politics, I wish you luck.)

“But you seem so nice!”

Interesting take, co-worker.

“Why should I pay to watch you if you don’t get paid to play?”

This one took me off guard. Can you imagine someone getting all huffy about paying their $7 to get into a high school football game? (This price is a total guess. You’ll be surprised to learn that I haven’t attended a high school football game since my mom made me go because my brother was in the band.)

“That was cool, but how do they score points?”

Totally fair question, but it’s very strange to be asked this after the game is over. You sat there for an hour and didn’t catch the whole thing with some skaters going around more than others? Not an inkling? Well, glad you had fun! That’s what counts.

.

What are your best/worst questions about roller derby from friends, acquaintances, enemies, and randos? Let’s commiserate in the comments.

(Ed note: Spocker stepped up to write this guest post about braced blocking after I tried doing it at Wreckers practice and felt a million years old. “In my day, skating backwards at all was fancy!” I’ll keep working on it. Thanks  Spocker!)

With The Big O now behind us, a lot of top-tier teams have shown us their stuff, and I’m more than a little excited to see how this season unfolds. And, whether you were glued to the live feed or watching in-person, you probably saw quite a few backwards-skating blockers in those bouts, as teams like VRDL and Rose City used tripod walls or “diamond defense” to shut down even the most wily of jammers.

When backwards blocking first started to show up in higher-level play, it was interesting, but mostly felt like more of a confusion or intimidation tactic than an actually-effective technique. Now, the braced wall is becoming a go-to tactic and giving us proof that, as with so many things in derby, blocking backwards is better when you do it together!

So, why should my team use a braced wall for blocking?

Getting (and staying) slow. Containing a jammer is easier when the jammer is slow. Keeping a wall together is worlds easier when you’re slow than when you’re racing. Slow derby is smart derby. Keeping your wall slow, however? That’s hard, y’all, and keeping that wall slow when a jammer is pushing on you is even harder. Then, next thing you know, you’re 20 feet from the pack and you’re out of play and everything is terrible.

When you have a blocker buddy facing backwards and bracing your wall, they can dig into their toe stops and edges, and help your wall keep control and stay slow. Your wall stays tighter, the opposing jammer stays slower, and your life gets much easier.

Seeing what’s happening. Most every blocker knows that in roller derby, the action’s usually happening behind you, and that means looking behind you to keep track of things. Thing is, we’re not owls, and we can’t turn our heads far enough to see every single thing that’s behind us. When your wall has a backwards-facing blocker to brace you, that backwards-facing blocker also has a great view of what’s coming from behind, and can help your wall adjust for it.

Adding depth to your wall and protecting points. Your flat wall feels ready to catch a jammer, but they might bust through a seam, or spin their hips around you on the line, and now they’ve snagged all of your points and are gaily skating away scot-free. That’s no fun for you. With a braced wall, however, if that jammer breaks through your forward-facing line, your bracing blockers still have a chance to catch and contain them. Granted, it’s not ideal (we’ll get into that in a bit), but it’s a chance. And, your brace blocker also has their hips ahead of the rest of your wall, so their point is protected.

Okay, I’m convinced. How do I make braced walls work for me?

There are a few key points to remember, if you want to be a good brace for your wall:

  • Communicate constantly! When you’re the brace, you have that super-sweet view of the action, so you should be telling your forward-facing blockers what’s happening. Keep talking!
  • Keep your arms firm and strong. Your teammates will be leaning on you for support and slowing, and wet-noodle arms are not supportive! I don’t personally recommend locking your elbows, but you do want to keep your arms mostly-straight and strong.
  • Keep space between you and your forward-facing blockers. Make sure they have plenty of room to plow stop, move laterally, and do whatever they need to do to contain the jammer.
  • Give support where the action is. If the jammer is pushing on an outside gap, you won’t help anything by bracing your inside blockers. Pay attention to where the action is, and be ready to move your brace from one gap to another.
  • Control your speed. I don’t just mean slowing the wall down, either–you don’t want your blocker friends to get stop-block or clockwise-blocking penalties, so you’ll need to adjust your slowing power to keep that wall from completely stopping.

What if I’m the forward blocker being braced?

You’ll have more support to adjust your position in your wall. You’ll find that you’re able to do things with your hips and torso that you couldn’t do as easily without a brace. I’ve had success with dipping my shoulder in front of a jammer to regain position in front of them, but different tactics work for different people. Try a few things, and see what works best for your body type!

Talk with your teammates about how you like to be braced. Some people are fine with being braced on their shoulders, other folks prefer bracing by the forearms or hands. Others like to grab their brace, rather than having the brace grab them. Again, it’s going to be different for each skater, so try different methods, see what works best for you, and let your teammates know it.

How do we get into a braced wall position?

The answer to that can vary, depending on the lineup. If your blockers are good at lateral movement and covering the lines, starting a jam with your brace already in place can work well for never letting the opposing jammer get speed. This can work really well if the opposing jammer is more of a pusher than a juker.

If you have a particularly juke-y jammer on your hands, or if you have blockers in the box, you might prefer to start as a flat wall, so you can cover more of the track. If you’re starting flat, your best bet is to let the opposing jammer make solid contact and commit to a gap, and then let one of the blockers who isn’t directly engaging the jammer become the brace.

Crap, I’m blocking in a braced wall and the jammer is breaking through! What do I do?

This usually happens in one of two ways:

The jammer sneaks around the wall on the inside or outside. The good news is, if you’re the brace, you can see this happening, and put a stop to it!

  1. Drop your brace. If you don’t drop that link with your blocker friend, you could get sent to the penalty box for a multiplayer block.
  2. Transition to face forward and fill the gap in your wall. It’s important to transition all the way forward–the jammer can hit your side as much as they want, but if you give them your back, they can’t push on you as easily.
  3. Let another blocker become the brace. Now that you’re in direct contact with the jammer, a blocker in your wall who isn’t engaging said jammer can take your spot as the brace. Voila! You’re braced and super-slow again!

The jammer breaks through the middle of your forward-facing blockers. As I mentioned above, going chest-to-chest with a powerful jammer is, um, not the most ideal situation. Most skaters aren’t as agile facing backwards as they are facing forwards, and things get especially gnarly when you realize that blocking backwards exposes a gigantic legal blocking zone, which the opposition can use to blow you to kingdom come.

Fortunately, if an opposing jammer is just breaking through part of your braced wall, they probably don’t have much speed to use against you. So, if you’re that backwards-facing brace, stay calm. It’s going to be okay. You’re still there to try and stop the jammer, right?

  1. Make contact with the jammer. This will likely be chest-to-chest contact, but that’s okay. You want to make contact first so she can’t surprise you with a huge hit to your chest, but more importantly, so you can track of where that jammer is.
  2. Keep contact with the jammer and let your blockers recycle up in front of you. You don’t have to hold the jammer forever–just long enough for your blockers to get in position and help you re-form that wall.
  3. A recycling blocker transitions to face backwards. That blocker who just recycled is now ready to brace you. Ideally, they’ll put a hand on you and let you know that it’s okay to flip.
  4. When you have support, transition to face forwards. You’re now part of the new forward-facing line, and your blocker friend is facing backwards, bracing you and keeping you slow!

Wow. That’s a lot to take in.

I know. This stuff isn’t easy, and it’s going to require a lot of practice time with your team before you’ll all feel comfortable with it. Your team can start by breaking it down into parts–backwards skating drills, stepping and agility drills while facing backwards, backwards-blocking one-on-ones, working in pairs to get used to bracing and transitioning together, and so forth. If your teammates aren’t around, you can practice your transitions, so you can easily flip backwards and forwards without thinking about it.

No matter what your situation, you can make this work for you! All it takes is time, hard work, and a little extra patience–you know, just like everything else in roller derby. ;)

Shaolin Spocker skates with Rose City Rollers, and is wrapping up her third season with her incredibly smart-and-pretty home team, the High Rollers. She likes Star Trek and pie (both baking and eating it), and actually knows kung fu, but has received decidedly more high-fives for hitting people in derby than she has anywhere else. You can read her sporadically-updated derby blog, or you can check out her web design and photography work–both of which she does better and far more often than blogging–at her creative design studio, Upswept Creative.

Photo by Regularman

Photo by Regularman

Help wanted

I’m a professional writer, in case it isn’t obvious from my stunning all-caps prose on the monthly power rankings. But Pack is Here Jesus knows I don’t know everything about everything, so I need a little help.

Right now I’m revising Roller Derby for Beginners, so the second edition (out in October, I hope), is even more awesome and helpful than the first. I’m looking for a trans* or gender nonconforming writer and skater to contribute to the second edition. We can talk more about it if you’re interested, but in short, I’d love to include your advice for new skaters. You can be named or anonymous, but I’ll pay you either way.

Any interested writers should contact me at frisky.sour at gmail. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE. I’m not going to approach any skaters directly, so I need ya’ll to send out the skate signal.

Don’t forget that I also accept pitches for guests posts here.

Hooray!

photo: Richard A Patterson via flickr

 

Something weird happened this weekend.

I was watching a game – probably Rose vs. Texas, because I had a lot to to say about that particular bout – and I wished for a second that I could type my little comment, like we used to with DNN textcasting in olden times.

Now, I don’t want to go back to a world pre-streaming. And I don’t want to jump in to any un-moderated live chat situations thank you very much. But sometimes Twitter just isn’t quite sufficient.

Wanna chat?

How about that VRDL, huh?

Scald Eagle looked pretty good, huh?

Wish we had us some stats we could pull up?

Think those Texies are just warming up, as they tend to do this early in the season?

Do I look like a total chump now or what?

Just havin’ a chat. Photo by TracerBulllet999 via flickr

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

*Liz Lemon voice* THINGS ARE HAPPENING. 2015 looks like it’s going to be a very fun year, with so many new faces and changes and transfers and crazy things happening. And The Big O is about to happen. It makes things very hard to predict, especially this early in the season, but I’m not afraid to look like a jerk. I do this all for you.

This month, I’d like to re-iterate that POWER includes momentum and expectations. For rankings that are purely based on past performance, we have WFTDA and Flat Track Stats and any number of other math-based rankings. Frisky Power Rankings are based on my gut, feelings, and as above, whims.

 

1. Rose City Rollers. The team has lots of power, but their coach could use some extra if you have any to spare.
2. Cute Baby Animals. It is spring, after all.

itty bitty baby sloth

“Good day, friend. ” Photo by pantheroux via flickr creative commons ya’ll

3. Gotham. They’ll play Rocky Mountain this month. Sweeeeet. First “look” at the new lineup. 
4. Texas. HAVE YOU SEEN ALL THE TEAMS GOING TO THE BIG O
5. Bay Area Derby.  I AM GETTING THE VAPORS
6. Denver. IT IS GOING TO BE INCREDIBLE
7. Victoria. WHY DOES MY HUSBAND WORK THIS WEEKEND
8. Philly. OH YEAH BECAUSE HE’S A SUCCESSFUL MUSICIAN
9. Angel City. I GUESS THAT’S FINE BUT SOMETIMES IT’S LIKE UGH
10. Atlanta. 
CAN’T A LADY JUST DRIVE TWO HOURS FOR SOME TOP-NOTCH ROLLER DERBY
11. Boston.
WITHOUT A TODDLER BECAUSE COME ON
12. Coffee. Nothing, I’m just having a really good coffee right now.
13. London. Dropped down because everyone above is going to The Big O and gaining so much power from it.
14. Minnesota. Holy crap, they beat Windy not just by a jam or two, but 283-78.
15. Arch Rival. Strong results from Skate to Thrill. Will we see something similar when they play Team United this weekend?
16. Jacksonville. They beat Atlanta in March, but ugh, this is hard, leave me alone (never leave me).
17. Sun State. I know you’re far away, but ya gotta play games to keep up the power. When’s your next game, anyway?
18. Windy City. It’s early in the season yet, but a big loss to Minny means a big loss in the rankings.
19. Rocky Mountain. May is going to be telling. VERY TELLING.
20. Team United. Okay, okay, okay, okay. Are we using “TURD” or what? It must be what they wanted.
21. Montreal. Who is this “new addition” to the PBR lineup? This is one problem with being a nearsighted derby fan – I have no idea what skaters actually look like.
22. Detroit. Putting up big numbers, but haven’t put away any big players yet.
23. Dallas. Sames.

This was NOT boring this month. I can only imagine what next month will look like, with most WFTDA teams starting their seasons in earnest.

What do you think? Who has power?

 

We talked a while ago about roller skating while pregnant. I’ve haven’t done it, but I did talk to a bunch of roller derby people who made the same decision, so you don’t feel so alone.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to share their stories! These decisions aren’t easy.

(Note: these are just the experiences of these individuals, and as far as I know, they are not medical or legal experts in any way, nor am I.)

***

I wanted to share my experience skating while pregnant. I found out after I passed assessments and made my first roster that were were having a baby. I was quite surprised at age 38, but I felt great.

My doctor suggested that I could continue to skate through my first trimester and I did. I had a lot of previous skating experience and fall very little now and back then. I was completing 25/5 at 12 weeks along. I did skate some drills, weaving and chasing lap suicides, and skated laps and laps and more laps. I also bench coached two bouts and jam timed scrimmages.

I assume my league didn’t discriminate and I’m very glad they chose to allow this with medical permission.

***

I was pretty scared to skate while pregnant. I knew pretty much right away that I was preggo since we were trying (no “oh wow I’m 4 months!). I kept coaching for a little while-maybe a month or two? But I didn’t do any contact drills, and if I felt like taking it easy I had an easy excuse, since I was coaching. After 1 or 2 months, though, I quit cold turkey-I had fears of falling on my face or stomach. Even though I “knew” babies are very protected in there, I wasn’t ready to take any chances.

***

I had my delicious baby in March, having only discovered the pregnancy in late September of 2013. This would mean that I played in five bouts, countless football games, including provincial and national championships, in addition to a rather intense work out regime while pregnant. Oy vey.

My husband had cancer 10 years ago. We were told his sperm count would never recover from the many rounds of chemo, the situation made worse by a bone marrow transplant. So we ignored all contraceptives and in September, I was nosing around my linen closet and noticed the full box of tampons. Strange, I bought those in July? A frantic count led to some rather dangerous driving to the drug store for a pregnancy test. Well. Look at that.

I stayed on skates. Like…Thursday, April 29, I was at practice and Tuesday, March 4, I was a mommy. I stayed out of contact drills. At seven months, I stopped skating on the track so after individual warm up, I’d grab pylons and practice footwork while my teammates did group warm ups. I skated the infield when we practiced new plays. I tagged along with my line mates on the outside so I could train my brain to recognize the circumstances that called for the plays we were working on. I reffed scrimmages. I coached practices. I missed our April exhibition game. I was back in full force the first Saturday of May. I had a great season until we played Montreal in July. I broke my knee that game. It was agonizing and the conclusion was that I came back too hard and my bones were still too soft. Apparently, that happens when you’re pregnant because that magical baby steals your calcium. It was a fair assessment, as I was practicing four weeks after a C-section and playing six weeks later. Most people get around to tying their shoes in that time.

I wish I’d waited a bit longer. Patience was never a strong suit of mine. A few weeks more and I’d have been clear. But. You can’t be on the side of right all the time. I’ve recovered. Fully. I have a healthy, wonderful baby. And a healthy knee. Staying in the thick of things helped me keep my head in the game. It helped me maintain my bond with my teammates, and I didn’t have too great a skills gap to recover from.

My balance got weird for a bit. My hips were pretty loose after all was said and done. But that returned to normal at a slow enough rate that things didn’t get too weird.

My advice: a person needs to do what makes her happy. I fought my coach when he tried to impose limits I found premature. But I was the first pregnant competitive skater and we had to figure out what that meant. We found a balance when we learned to talk rather than argue. I don’t feel like pregnancy is an injury. And people tend to treat it is like one. But. There’s that point where one’s teammates might get a little uncomfortable and nervous with a pregnant skater, so it’s important to maintain an open dialogue with teammates about all of the everything.

***

I have been playing derby since 2010, playing a house team and travel team, practicing four times a week and bouting on weekends. I’ve practically lived on my skates for the last four years. The transition from skater to pregnant lady on skates is still on going for me as I am currently six months preggers. (Ed: not now, since I asked a while ago, but you know.)

It was really important to me to be transparent in my desires to continue skating at practices. As such I consulted everyone, and I mean everyone. I am a first-time mother and wanted to make sure I was not putting myself or my little one at unnecessary risk. My choice to continue skating came with the blessing of my doctor, partner (who also coaches us), family, friends and teammates. My doctor encouraged me to continue with what I am doing. I have been fortunate to have a healthy pregnancy and at six months can say that I am feeling pretty darn good.

I have just started showing but still feel confident in my balance and skills to skate in non-contact skating. I recently re-passed my 27 laps in 5 mins as an impromptu test of where I am at physically. Which is down from my personal best. The rest of the skills on the non contact portion of WFTDA skills test were a breeze.

During a team meeting we discussed how my involvement would look so that the whole team was on board. We discussed what was acceptable involvement what was not. We researched what insurance said about pregnancy and skating and I accepted advice from the mothers who have come before me. We have decided together that I will continue to skate in a non-contact environment until I am no longer comfortable doing so. I am no longer pushing myself to my breaking limits at practice, and rather then working on developing new skills I am working on correcting faults in skills I already have. I am assisting my league in offering fresh meat training, coaching a rival house team during their transition from no coach to coach, and participating at my own house teams practices, as an assistant to the coach, a fresh meat trainer and ref. I still warm up with the team, doing burpees and sprint laps, and all the fun exercises we do for injury prevention.

I don’t know how long I will be able to continue my participation on skates, or how my abilities will change. What I do know is that skating for me is exercise, therapeutic, a sense of community and just plain old fun. I will continue to skate within my comfort zone, decreasing involvement as my body tells me to.

***

My doctor said no contact but cleared me to skate. After tryouts, where I was maybe five or six weeks pregnant, I told my coach I’d be out for a bit and I took up reffing and coached our C team.

When I came back to play competitively, I was emotionally unprepared for how long it would take to feel like I was back to where I had been relative to my teammates.

***

When I first found out I was pregnant I was ecstatic – and bummed that it would change derby for me for a long time. In fact, my team had a weekend long competition to skate in just days after I found out. I skated in it – it was glorious, and I would do it again. My coach and captain knew and were worried, but left the choice to me. I was maybe almost a month along. I did contact up until I was about 8 weeks, and I took it light.

My teammates were told after my first ultrasound. After that I participated normally in all practices in every non-contact way that I could – endurance, skills, training our fresh meat – until about 4 months. At which point I started to have trouble with transitions at regular speed – those muscles were sore and didn’t want to respond!

I slowly backed off from that point – I was the first in the history of our league to ever become pregnant. Our head coach is young and male and wasn’t aware of what moves might be risky, and as I learned new things I taught him. He was really great about it. The bigger I got, the more nervous he became about someone accidentally hitting me. Falling, my doctor said, was fine, just so long as it was under control, and not on my belly. You can only control yourself so much when someone else hits you because they are out of control. At about 6 months or so I relegated myself to the outside of the track, and just skated laps. I never lost my balance, so I continued to at least leisurely skate for the rest of my pregnancy.

Physically, those muscles that left me first (transition muscles) were also the last to recover. It is now 8 months later and I would finally say they are back to normal. Although I have gathered that that was an experience that was particular to my pregnancy. And my endurance was completely shot and gone.

The biggest thing that helped was/is forgiveness and compassion from myself for myself. Derby is hard. Pregnancy, sure, it’s natural, if by natural you mean a major force of nature that is incredibly demanding on your body. Pregnancy is harder than derby. It’ll take you time to recover. But taking that time, getting back to it slowly – I think that’s how it needs to go.

I myself consulted with my doctor, and found out what I could about derby and pregnancy. I found that many leagues can and do just cut you out once you are pregnant. So grateful for my league.

***

I asked a doctor about skating while pregnant and she said I couldn’t, which seemed like an outdated stance, so I looked online to see what other doctors were in my area and found one whose bio included a lot of athletic endeavors and whose interests included fitness and holistic wellness. I called to set up an appointment, and asked what they thought of me going to tryouts. They suggested I sit it out, but I was convinced that after a visit, they’d tell me I could continue to compete for a few months, so I said thanks and told my husband I was going to go anyway so I could get secure my spot on the charter and play in our first bout for the year, then come back strong and play right after delivery too. At the time of tryouts I was probably 6 weeks pregnant, so not showing but getting the nausea I had never had with my first child.

Anyway, after tryouts the teams were announced immediately and I pulled my coach aside, and told him with tears in my eyes I couldn’t be captain because I was pregnant but was hoping to continue skating through the first bout and come back immediately after delivering to compete. He looked confused and pissed; pregnancy was the one occupational hazard that seemed to really terrify him for losing skaters. I was happy to be pregnant, if only to get it out of the way since I wanted two kids and couldn’t think of a better time to have the second, but was sad to have to exclude myself for such a long time from the sport that was such a passion for me. A couple weeks later my coach sent me a link to this Derby Deeds podcast with Tannibal Lector where she described how she stayed on the charter so she could skate right away when she was ready to come back. It cheered me up and I was happy that he was supportive of my desire to return as soon as I could.

The ref crew was very welcoming. I guess there’s some sort of misunderstanding that skating with a pregnant skater will void WFTDA coverage, but that’s not accurate. Each skater is responsible for her risks, and WFTDA won’t assume liability for any mishaps to the fetus, but pregnant skaters/refs do not void anyone else’s coverage. I asked about falling and my doctor said if I fell going fast then I should come see her. At this point I had been skating for about two years and was pretty comfortable on my skates. If I hadn’t been confident, I think I wouldn’t have continued to skate. I reffed my first (and only) bout on July 6, 2013, which was about 1.5 months before my due date. I stopped skating about two weeks after that.

Reffin' preggers

Photo: Chris Chase of Chase Creative Photography

I heard from my doctor who knows a member of our Board of Directors that they’d had a heated two hour debate about pregnant people skating. I hadn’t heard a thing about it other than seeing a line item in the minutes that it was decided that pregnant skaters could skate at their own risk. I think that was a solid policy.

As for near misses, a couple times skaters almost ran into me, and that definitely scared them more than me, which I felt a little bad for but not too much. I never fell in a way that concerned me, other than once when I fell on my butt and that made me pee. I was concerned about my pants but not the baby.

Throughout my pregnancy I was seeing a chiropractor to get my left SI joint (on the back of my pelvis.) adjusted, the skating and falling that I was doing to demo falls during training was really knocking everything out of whack because of all the ligaments loosening up in preparation for the baby coming.

I thought I would pick up where I left off, and maybe I did, but my teammates had gained so many new skills while I was out that I had a lot of catching up to do. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for that and was really bitter about it for a long time.

I went to two tournaments with my team, the first about six months after delivery, the second was D2 playoffs in August. My teammates were incredibly supportive of me having to pump in the hotel room with them. The hardest part of nursing while playing for me was that I was hungry ALL THE TIME. I made sure to stay hydrated as well. (Ed: Seriously, I don’t know how you can nurse full-time and be an athlete as well, I LOVE TO EAT and I’m not sure I could eat that much.”

***

Thanks again, everyone!

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

Some top-adjacent roller derby action has occurred. For the top 20 or so, this month has been more about getting WFTDA charters finalized for the upcoming action and warm-up bouts as spring and summer get hopping. There have been surprises and transfers for those of us not in the know.

THIS IS NOT A JOKE. I wouldn’t do that to you.

1. Rose City Rollers. Game with Rocky Mountain coming up on Saturday and the website has been down for days. Come through, host.
2. Gotham. Eight (8) skaters remain from their 2014 champs roster. EIGHT. But Swede Hurt is back. This roster is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s!
3. Texas. Did we talk about how they got Jackie Daniels and Sandrine Rangeon because COME ON.
4. Bay Area Derby. New roster released, too. Damn.
5. London. They’ve never played Texas. Did you know that?
6. Cute baby animals. Look, it’s me and Baby Sour!

Panda

Photo by Ricky Brigante via Flickr

7. Denver. No action until May, and then LOTS OF ACTION.
8. Victoria. They’re going to The Big O too, and they announced their new roster. 
9. Philly. Everyone who’s cool is going to the Big O, seriously. Coming back with a solid group.
10. Angel City. Games coming up in April, yay! We’ll see what Arizona’s deal is, too.
11. Windy City. Matchups with Team United and Minnesota will keep things interesting this month. Check out their new roster.
12. The Big O. Oh I want to go I want to go.
13. Minnesota. Well, hello, I will be glad to make your internet acquaintance soon, new faces.
14. Rocky Mountain. See you this weekend. Please enjoy our many food carts. 
15. Team United.
WFTDA team now! Attention must be paid.
16. Sun State. Keeping a keen eye on you down there! What’s it like in the future?
17. Jacksonville. Wait, they beat Atlanta like a week ago? 
18. Atlanta. … but only by three points.
19. Arch Rival. How did I miss that Bricktator moved there? Bricktator moved there. Then they beat Nashville by a lot of points.
20. Detroit.
Moving back in to the top with a big win over Ohio.
21. Dallas. Hi, Dallas! Nice wins in March!

 

If I missed any rosters, let us know? Let’s chat! Give me all your juicy tidbits (please)!

 

A while ago, someone wrote me to ask about skating while pregnant, but I wasn’t able to give any personal experience. My last bout was in August 2012, and Baby Sour was born a year later. I gave this particular skater some general advice, but wondered: What do people do?

I asked a lot of people about their experiences, and this series is the result.

Throughout your pregnancy, there will be complex decisions to make, and doctors who shrug and say, “I can’t make this decision for you.”

Should you skate? I can’t make this decision for you.

If you decide you might want to skate in some capacity while you’re pregnant, you’ll have rules, regulations, insurance, feelings, hormones, opinions, and concern trolling to wade through. Yep. Just like in pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting.

pregnant frisky

Your uniform might not fit.

 

Can you skate or participate in roller derby while pregnant? It depends.

Family doctor, roller derby player, and all-around smart and reasonable human Rogue One says, “Exercise in pregnancy is pretty common sense. No contact sports or super high speed sports. Other higher risk sports or activities with caution and only if you are good at them before your pregnancy.”

In short, yes, skating while pregnant is possible, and many people have done it. Most would not participate in any contact drills, and would ramp down activity as their spawn grows and sucks more of their lifeforce—I mean, takes more of your energy and more room in your abdomen.

We make calculated risks for ourselves and our children all the time. I place my child in the hands of strangers every time I put him in his approved rear-facing child safety seat and drive down the street. If someone tells you that you absolutely cannot do one thing that could endanger your child, please invite them to suck on a lemon, because that’s simply not possible. Roller skating during pregnancy can be a very bad idea, or it can be fine. Besides, plenty of people skate (and do lots of non-embryo-friendly things) in the weeks before they find out they’re pregnant.

It depends.

What does your doctor think?
Your medical situation isn’t the same as anyone else’s. You’ve already filled your doctor in on roller derby and everything that goes along with it, right? So they don’t think it’s some kind of old-fashioned elbowing brawlfest? It helps if they know the difference between plain old roller skating, contact, and skating in close proximity to others.

What’s your risk tolerance?
Due to some mild complications early on in my pregnancy, I felt very vulnerable regarding my little blueberry-sized buddy, and was very risk averse. I’d already retired from skating, but I stopped riding my bike to work, too. Some people prefer to keep doing pretty much everything they were doing before, within reason and with medical clearance.

What was your skill level before this embryo made itself known?
If you were a skilled skater who rarely fell, you should feel more comfortable on skates, and be more able to shift your balance as time goes on. New skaters might not be able to react as quickly to different situations.

Is it legal?
Depending on where you live, there could be laws on the books that 1) ban you from skating pregnant or 2) ban your league from stopping you. Oh, what a complex world we live in. In some parts of the United States, for example, “reckless endangerment” could lead to a fetal homicide charge if anything happened. In other parts of the world, you can’t be discriminated against just for being knocked up.

Does your insurance allow it?
Check with your league’s insurance administrator ASAP, please.

What does your partner/family/support system think?
If this is going to freak your partner out, is it really worth it? Not that they really understand what the range of emotions you’re going through on a daily basis, though, come on. (Partners: Do you  really want to take away the emotional outlet of a pregnant person?) (There were two incidents during my pregnancy where I threw things *near* my husband, and I am a mild-mannered person.)

Does your league have any policies about this?
If not, should they? Wouldn’t it be nice for pregnant skaters to have a support system within their league? Check on your leave policies too. (I’ve heard that Derby Lite does not allow any skating after finding out you’re pregnant.)

Is your team cool with it?
What about the people you’d actually be skating with? Would they still allow you to skate with them if you step off the roster? Is there anyone who’d be totally freaked out about skating laps with you (drammmzz)? When do you plan to tell your team?

Do you even want to skate? How much?
You know, you don’t have to skate if you don’t want to. This is a beautiful excuse for skipping endurance for a year or so. If this is your first child, it’s great to have a little extra time to spend with friends and family, do other projects, or just go to a damn movie without worrying about timing naps, or putting the diapers in for the hot cycle or, you know, caring for a child 24 hours a day.

If you want to skate, how should you go about it?

  • Don’t do contact. I mean, who am I to tell you what to do, but that’s a bad idea.
  • Consider officiating, bench coaching, or other roles to stay involved.
  • Quit any time. It’s okay, really.
  • Take it easy. Making a person is very challenging as it is.
  • Don’t worry about “losing ground” or skill or conditioning. Stay active in whatever way works for you, and you’ll be fine if and when you decide to return to roller derby.
  • Have fun. Roller skating rules.

Next time, I’ll share lots of stories from all kinds of skaters who had to navigate this for themselves. Keep your eyes out for part two!

 

*Pregnancy typically lasts nine and a half months. My kid was a week late. Come on.

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

Oh, wait, no games have happened in forever, and I’m tired of making the same jokes.

So, this month we are ranking….Girl Scout cookies. Because this is my website and I was a Girl Scout, and they’re awesome, and I like cookies. COME AT ME. Or just look at last month’s power rankings, geez. We’ll get back to our regularly-scheduled roller derby rankings in April.

Cookies = ziplining, aaaaw yeaaah. Photo by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar.

  1. Samoas. Is this even a question?
  2. Thin Mints. Pop a box in the freezer, enjoy them all weekend long. (That’s a joke about how a box of cookies only lasts two days in my house. Because of me.)
  3. Trefoils. Ah, the simplicity of a shortbread cookie, and the mild unease of eating a shortbread cookie that’s not actually made from butter!
  4. Tagalongs. Peanut butter and chocolate.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  5. Thanks-A-Lot. Sandwich cookie. Classic. Actually, I really want some of these now. FIRE UP THE COOKIE FINDER.
  6. Lemonades. Tasty if you’re in the mood for that kind of thing. Lemon cookies make me think of being in a meeting I’d prefer not to attend, with cookies I wouldn’t have picked out myself.
  7. Do-Si-Dos. Obviously the lesser of the peanut butter flavors.
  8. Toffee-Tastic. Thanks, Grandma, these are pretty good! No, I think I’ll just have these two.
  9. Savannah Smiles. You eat these lemony puffy cookies with powdered sugar at a meeting, and they’re not even that good, AND you have powdered sugar all over your shirt all day.

File under: They Didn’t Have These While I Was a Kid?

  1. Cranberry Citrus Crisps. I get it. I do. Okay.
  2. Rah-Rah Raisins. Greek yogurt-flavored chunks? No one cheers for raisins. *eyes darting*
  3. Trios. Gluten-free, huh?

What do you think? You think you know better than me? Did you ever sell cookies outside the Fred Meyer and have dozens of women tell you they were on a diet? Do you ever wonder what that kind of messaging does to a 10-year-old girl? Discuss!

 

 

 

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