This weekend I had the absolute honour and privilege of skating with my team, the Nottingham Hellfire Harlots, in our first official WFTDA tournament in Ghent, Belgium – A Skate Odyssey (SKOD).
We are going to Belgium!
I’m ridiculously excited. The Nottingham Hellfire Harlots are going to Belgium to take part in the WFTDA tournament – A Skate Odyssey. I am excited not just for myself, but for my league. The Harlots have been working towards a big WFTDA event such as this so to be invited to play means all the hard work has finally paid off.
Roller derby is a very physical game, but it is also a game where strategy and mental strength as both a team and individual is critical. When your body is taking a battering, your mind needs to be a beacon of strength and focus.
Saturday 28th February 2015 was another big day for me. It was boutday and both our B team and A team would be playing as part of a double header. I was lucky enough to play on both teams on the day. But the part that made it even bigger for me? Both games were against Birmingham Blitz Dames. The league I first learnt to play roller derby with.
Tonight I had a bit of a moment. Tonight I experienced a little bit of the Fear again. The Fear for me? Jumping.
I realise that this may seem absurd coming from an ex-figure skater. Surely I must be mad? Well yes and no. I loved jumping, I loved mid air spins, the contortions you could make your body do and the ways in which you can take off and land. But when it comes to jumping in derby? It’s a different kettle of fish. It’s a different style of skating, you hold yourself in a different manner and in derby you aim to use your body to help or hinder.
I had the Fear and shutdown tonight, watching some of our springier skaters practicing apex jumps and the likes. I would love to be able to do apex jumps or jump around people the way they do, but I can’t. I freeze with the Fear. At first I just put it down to jumping near other people, but I competed as both a solo and group skater. I have jumped, span and tricked my way through routines side by side with other skaters. I trust my team mates so the issue isn’t that, but what is it??
I have felt a little odd doing jumps post break, originally started with caution, now I feel more confident and I do now seem to be able to jump stronger through my wankle (thank you physio! Best do the other ankle too….!!). The Fear is an odd thing to experience, for some it is down to past experience, for some it is when trying the unknown, for me? I really have no idea. I’d love to do it, but I freeze. I just do. I panic and tense up at the idea of even attempting to jump the apex.
I have not figured out yet how to combat this Fear. Do I push myself to just do it? Or will it make it worse? Some part of me puts it down to simply me being me. I have a great lack of self confidence in my ability and often tell myself that I’m not good enough (for anyone new to this blog at this post, anyone reading before will most likely have full grasp of this!!) – and I generally worry about not being able to do something or spend a lot of time figuring out how to do something. I am coming to terms with the Fear or jumping, but I still have a way to go.
It has taken me a while, for example, to be able to put force and aggression into my jamming skills. Since returning to skating, I figured just go for, hit harder and push more. I haven’t been able to show what I have learnt fully just yet, but 2015 I hope I get to show just how hard I have been working and how much I want to skate! This has seemed like an easier mountain to climb. But as for jumping? I am still working on it. I guess it is natural to find something that challenges you, or that you challenge yourself on.
Always having some point to work to, a goal to reach. It is important to always have things set in your mind. If you want to be somewhere? Then get there. Do what you need to do and get there. Then find somewhere higher you want to go!
Or do what you do if that is what makes you happy. Whether you want to progress or set goals, whether you want to enjoy things and not have a goal, a challenge or a fear to conquer, make sure you know what you want.
Til next time little blue monsters xx
So it is really going to happen. I am going to bout this year.
My last public bout was February this year. When I broke, I thought I could throw everything out the window until 2015. When I came back within three months, taking part in drills, squads, scrimmaging – bouting was the last thing on my mind! The idea of bouting again felt light years away, but – of course.. wrong!
Sunday 14th December 2014. I make my return as a bouting skater. For that, I have Team Metal Legs to thank.
I posted about Team Metal Legs previously, these are a group of previously broken or injured skaters who have made a return to roller derby and are skating in support of those who take care of our broken and battered players. These skaters are a beacon of light to all the skaters who experience the darkest days of dealing with an injury, these skaters are living proof that there is life and derby after injury. It may not be easy, but it is more than possible.
I saw Team Metal Legs début bout in Leicester. Two weeks after I had gotten my cast off, after two weeks of learning to walk all over again, I saw hope for the future of my skating career.
In a weeks time, I will skate as part of Team Metal Legs. I get the honour of lining up on track with some amazing ladies who have endured physical and mental/emotional hardship to skate their hearts out. Of course I am nervous. This is a huge deal for me! I love jamming and blocking. I love getting stuck in and working with & learning from other talented skaters. After 20 years of skating, nearly 5 years of roller derby, enduring my first broken bone, and returning to skate another day….
I AM EXCITED!
Til next time little blue monsters xxx
3 months of healing, 3 months of fighting against your own body and mind, 3 months of emotional turmoil…. my break experience lasted 3 months. I broke on the 13 July 2014, and was back on skates on the 14 October 2014. Throughout those 3 months, I knew I wanted to return to derby and skate again, train, scrimmage, bout. Yes, there were wobbles on the darkest days of those 3 months, but as soon as I was physically able to and allowed to, I skated. I worked hard to get my body back in a position to return to skating, 3 months of lost fitness and stamina, 3 months that I had to really make up for.
I have since returned to skating as though my break never happened, yes… I am healed. But I’m still figuring things out mentally and emotionally.
Physically I feel strong and comfortable, my fitness and stamina is creeping back up and I keep pushing myself to keep going, breaking through the walls. I now know my body again and I have really learnt to trust it all over again in the last month. I have set goals and targets, small and big, in a bid to get to where I want to be. And when I get there I intend to keep pushing further and further.
Mentally and emotionally? I am not really finding any middle ground just yet, more or less highs and lows. When I came back, I had so much determination and motivation and passion, and it showed as another skater friend commented on my determination. It made me feel happy and strong knowing that my want to be better and work harder showed in a positive light. At first when I returned, I was a little cautious. I think that was a completely natural way to feel post break, but it wasn’t really caution in the sense that what if I get injured again, it was caution in the way that I did not know how my mind would react to situations. What would happen when I got back in a pack, when I fell, when I took a hit? Things I would come to learn to deal with as and when they happened. The main positive about my break was that I had no muscle damage, bones heal stronger and quickly, whilst muscles can be a waiting game – so I knew physically, I was fine. Physio Jen would not have let me return if she had not thought it safe too, and with her track record working on other skaters in my league I fully trust her judgement. And I’m glad I did!
I knew coming back would be difficult, I didn’t lie to myself about it and I was not naive about the process, in fact I surprised even myself at how quickly I was able to pick it all back up and jump into scrimmages and drills again. Of course there have been moments where my wankle (bad broken ankle side, most commonly known in the UK-Derby-Crips world as a wankle!) has been moved in certain angles, that before I would not have thought about, that I have suddenly thought more about and over-concerned myself with the new feel to it. I find myself thinking that this feels weird, but then I wonder how it actually felt before I broke? I never paid attention to it before? I think it is similar to the way I process and tend to over think things, for instance in training I am always thinking how to improve what I’m doing, what I need to do to get a move right, how to correct something I did wrong, being over critical even when I do something good…. then in scrimmage? I just play, I am relaxed and at home and I just do everything that our TC have been working on with us in training sessions just so naturally.
I find when I play that during a bout or scrim, I am focused and fairly centered. But post bout or scrim? I fall really hard. I immediately start to put myself down and look at everything I did wrong or could have done better. I generally tend to brush off anything positive people have to say about me and act like it’s just people being nice and trying to cheer you up. I know at the end of the day that this isn’t true. The women I skate with are very honest and genuine people who won’t turn around and sugar coat things, but they also won’t turn around and just straight up tell you that you did bad. Mentally, I have never felt as though I am good enough, I am thankful every day I get to train at the level I do with the people I do.
Since returning, the biggest mental block I have dealt with has been an odd one. The feeling of not being good enough and being unwanted. Part of me feels like now I have been damaged, I’m not the same and I’m not good enough or wanted now, even though I’m actually ok and any damage has actually made me better after the experience. I feel like I have a lot to prove. Before my break, I was working hard and aiming to skate alongside some of the top members of our league, I had just had a taste of what it might be like and that the opportunity may have arose to do so! I was also at a point where I was not happy with my skating, not happy with my ability as a blocker and as a jammer. Coming back I had a fire in my belly. But I still had a large sense of self doubt and self confidence. I know I have rebuilding to do, and I am working hard to do that. I guess I’m more or less saying it is ok to not be ok. I keep beating myself up about the way I feel, making myself feel more babied than I probably am being. I know people are looking out for me and have best intentions at heart, I think I sometimes take it to hear too much and feel like maybe something is wrong with me.
I am going to continue to work hard physically, but I think I need to begin to balance that out more. I need to pick out something good I did, something that helped the other blockers on track or helped my jammer get through. Even things like saving my point or keeping my communication strong on track. I don’t want to ignore any negatives, but I don’t want to focus on them either. And more often than not, you wake up the next day and think, why? Why did I beat myself up so much over that, because it was no-where near as bad as you thought at the time. I’m lucky to be part of a league where I am surrounded by genuinely fantastic ladies and fantastic skaters who I get to learn from and skate with every week. These women push me to be a better skater, motivated to skate & play harder and stronger. And I intend to continue to do so. I am also lucky that I can call these women my friends. Friends who tell me to keep my chin up, give me that hug, grab my padded pants, laugh over tiny pots of jelly, give you positivity and confidence, and just generally help remind you that you are not alone. These women are there on track with me, they are there off track for me, they are women I will fight tooth and nail to be there for in return. These are my bad asses.
I don’t this particular blog post has too much of a direction in what I am trying to say, this is more of a mental blurt? I think if I had to say that this came with a message, that the message is this….
It is ok not to be ok, you are only human, filled with emotions and thoughts that some days we cannot even begin to understand. There are days you feel amazing, and there are days that you have the horrific urge just to cry with no warning or reason. You are not alone. No matter what happens, you must always try to love yourself, the world is a mean enough place without you being mean to yourself.
Til next time little blue monsters xx
I was gutted and absolutely devastated at the idea of not scrimmaging or bouting until 2015 (December for scrimmaging!). I was unable to skate at the Harlots bout on the 18th October which really sucked. It was the rematch of the rained off game I broke my ankle just before. I realize that the idea of roller derby, an indoor sport, being rained off is odd, but thanks to a rather ridiculous leak in the roof back in July it became an anomaly.
So I offered to help out my league in any way I could on the day of the bout. I got there early to help set chairs, tables, matts etc out, in all these years of playing derby I have rarely bruised my arms… 15-20 minutes of carrying matts? Carpeted matt rash on my shoulders. Doh!!
Anyway, before the bout myself and fellow returning to derby post injury skater Kay Blammity were asked if we’d like to announce. And that was a huge privilege and honor! I still stand by my NSO team, (GO TEAM GREY GO!) for the next few months as I have in the last month until I am fit and able enough to return to scrimmage. However on this particular day I had to leave them to stand by Kay Blammity’s side, as TeamCrip, announcing the two bouts of the day… and it was awesome!!!
So I had a fantastic time, it went so quickly and it was such great fun to announce with Blam. Neither of us had ever announced before and I think we actually did good on the day, even getting a shouting competition going between the team merch stalls! We handled injury well, skate outs, foul outs, penalties, communications with the refs. It was an awesome experience and I think everyone should have a chance to do something like that for their league.
At the end of the day, would I have rather been skating? I don’t think that is a question I could answer, mainly because it is an unfair question. Obviously it gutted me watching my team take to the track and not be able to be by their sides lining up, it did hurt later on post bout the more I thought about it, but I had a seriously awesome experience at the end of the day. Yes. I missed skating, I would have loved to have been skating, but to say I would rather have been skating would well and truly do an injustice to the day itself and the fun me and Blam had.
If you do want to try your hand at announcing?
There are tons of helpful guides out there and official handbooks from Official Announcer Membership folk, but some short and handy helpful tips from my experience!
Turn up. Obviously. Turn up. But turn up early. This gives you time to check the sound levels, get used to the sound system, prepare and plan ahead with any changes on the day, even help out the rest of your league and bout set up crew – even if you are just holding doors!
Use the mic. An obvious one but one that is ignored by so many. As a singer I deal with this on a general basis, but how you hold the mic can really affect sound levels and clarity. Don’t eat the mic. Don’t hold it above your lips. Talk into the mic but leave say three fingers space between your lips and the mic? And don’t be mean to the sound guy/girl! They only want to help you, and if you are nice, they will be nice in return.
Do your research! Research the teams before hand, try to get some facts or (very) short anecdotes about the team/skaters for when you may need to fill some time. Did they win something awesome? Do something awesome? Share it! Heck – we had one skater who informed us that she once hit a jammer so hard that she made her pee! We even got a laugh from the crowd about it.
Check for changes. On the day, check for any changes to the stalls, to the program, any skaters missing/added, lineup changes etc. The last thing you want is to make yourself look daft talking about a skater who isn’t playing or advertise a stall that hasn’t turned up/miss a stall that was a late addition.
Skate outs. Make friends with the DJ, check the skate out songs are sorted, set up in the right order etc. Check names/numbers of skaters and if you are unsure on the pronunciation of a name or number – check! Derby girls sometimes choose names that are a little too smart and require pronouncing in a certain way for it to work, you got to make it work!
Silence is golden. You do not need to talk all the time. Yes – keep the crowd informed! But the bout is about the skaters, not you. And the last thing the crowd wants is to hear you go on and on and on and on.
Explain, gently. The majority of the crowd are seasoned derby goers. But there are always groups of people who are new to the sport, derby virgins. Talk about the skaters and the rules as they happen, you won’t be able to catch all the penalties as that would be both impossible and just downright ridiculous to listen to. But jammer penalties are prime time to explain a penalty. You don’t have to discuss in depth how WFTDA words that rule and the implications, keep it short, sweet and simple. But not too simple, you don’t want to be a douche and alienate your audience! Also – try not to be excited ALL THE TIME. You need to show varying emotions for the crowd to react to, not just loud and shouty and excited all the time! A note on top of that is to avoid in jokes, it is good to note in mixed bouts that two skaters going head to head may be from the same league but if you make a joke that is a inner circle kind of thing, you will lose everyone.
Knowledge is key! You need to know the game. You need to know it inside and out. Watch other announcers. You are going to announce to a live crowd with a live game in which you have to be quick and correct as you get one chance to talk about each moment. Your knowledge of the game needs to be top! You cannot catch everything and you do not need to. Make sure that the bits that are picked up on are important to the game and use your knowledge and experience to do so! Penalties, star passes and official reviews are just three of the reasons why you need to know your stuff and be able to explain it!
Foresight. Don’t use it! Foresight is usually a good thing, however when it comes to announcing derby, you need to keep it all in. Don’t warn in advance that the jammer is approaching or where they are on track. Don’t talk about blocker offense/defense before it takes place. And above all – do not call penalties before the referees! Foul outs? Wait until you have the word from your head referee and pass this information on to the crowd. Reviews? As I just noted!
Referee relationship. A positive relationship and understanding between yourself and the head referee is crucial. Check with them if they have a certain way of doing things, it is important when it comes to moments such as official reviews – this way you will know what the referee expects and you get the best communication possible between the officiating crew, you and the crowd.
Announcer attitude. As an announcer there are two key things to remember. First and most importantly, you are there to do a job. So by all means, have fun and entertain and support all the teams and skaters, but remain a sense of professionalism. If you are linked to a league and people know you are, it is also an impression that you give of your league. You are a representative! On that note, the second key thing. DO NOT be biased. You are there to announce the entire bout, for both teams involved, if you are linked to a league or not – make sure you hold an unbiased view of the event. Get the audience on your side, get the audience on each teams side and support everyone there! Linking to this, do not belittle, insult or say negative things about a skater regardless of their actions on the track (and most importantly any animosity or friendship off track).
You are an announcing team! Most of the time you will be an announcing team of two. Make sure you have a positive relationship and work together! Two announcers allows one to focus in on the play-by-play whilst the other can add “colour” to it. Don’t speak over each other! Looking at each other helps and watching body language to see if you are about to talk or are finishing what you are saying. Use each others names to bring the other announcer into what you are saying to help break it up. If you have a disagreement or don’t get on, leave it at the door. As with skating, it doesn’t come on the track and it shouldn’t come on the mic – thankfully me and Blam get on, but not everyone is as lucky as us two! We even met the night before to go through stuff and have a cuppa! (Thanks Blam!)
Injury. Injury is a difficult one as you don’t necessarily know the full extent. First off remind the crowd not to take photographs, retaining the dignity of the skater is crucial, and photos of injured people is just an awful idea. I had a photo taken of me, sat on a chair with a broken ankle with my league around me 2 hours after I had broken it. It didn’t so much bother me as it was a scrimmage, I thought it was a sprain so on and so forth, however those incidents can haunt a skater and the last thing they want is to see a photo of those moments or others to be reminded of it also. This is another moment where you can talk to reduce the panic and worry for the skater, however do not over do it, you do not want to be talking and just filling the space because you feel like you have to. Wait for communication from the referees or medics for sharing information. When the skater gets up or is removed from track, make sure the crowd gives her/him a clap and cheer of support. It is soothing and if it is a serious injury will help the skater take their mind off the injury a little.
Blowouts. These suck and can mean you can fall into the pit of talking too much about one team. Luckily we did not deal with this on the day, but it was something that we prepared for on the off chance! Try not to focus so much on the score, but instead the game played, more often than not a score can sometimes not reflect the level of game play on that day. Make sure the crowd is behind both teams, especially towards the end, remind them that these girls/guys have skated their butts off today and that now is the last chance to really cheer them on and support them.
5 skaters on a team, not 1! Do not always talk about the jammer. Generally they are the more prominent when announcing as most of the crowd is focused on them, but remind everyone that jammers cannot score points or stop the other team from scoring without their blockers. Talk about the teamwork, great offensive or defensive plays and share the love for the skaters on track on the day.
Crowd communication and interaction. Crowd communication is good, great even! But you don’t want to over do it and you don’t want to bore them either. Make sure your communication is clear, project and don’t talk too quickly (something I have been guilty of on stage! Spoke at a sufficient speed this time thankfully!). Share information from the track but don’t bombard them, they do want to watch the game too remember! Use the moments between jams to remind them about the stalls, the merchandise, raffles and competitions, remember as a league you need the support of vendors and sponsors as well as the support from cake and merch sales. You can get the crowd shouting in support of the team they support! If it is a mixed bout you are pretty much guaranteed to have support from various leagues so if you can, find out what leagues they are from and give them a shout out! Share the derby love! Have a shout of between the league supporters if it is team X versus team Y.
Above all, make it fun. We play derby out of passion and love for the sport and because we enjoy it. People come to watch and support us because they enjoy it. The best thing you can do is share that love, excitement and enjoyment.
So with work and the house and the band and derby and general life going on I’ve been very quiet as of recent.
One of the subjects I touched on recently was fear. Fear is a powerful emotion which can be used to accomplish many positive and many negative outcomes.
I do experience a certain level of fear in my personal life, due to personal experiences and changes in life along with my over thinking personality. I have been scared about band stuff, going to derby practice, seeing certain people – even just walking into a shop! Whilst I don’t experience nerves when I go on stage, I do experience an odd fear. The fear that people won’t like what we do, the fear that people won’t like me or that we are being judged at a ridiculous standard. Though the problem with getting shows and venues/promotors to have us on is a big part of this fear. If they don’t have confidence in us because we have a female vocalist then how can they expect you to be fully confident?
I have a general issue as I discussed in a previous post of consistently never feeling quite good enough. I feel as though I can always improve. Which in a way is not necessarily a bad thing, I will continue to strive to improve and never just settle for being ok. But in other ways, it is not a good thing.
Fear in derby.
Fear has been the biggest thing to overcome in roller derby for me. A lot of my fear is down to me as a person, I over think and worry about everything. And this does show in the differences between training and scrimmage. During training sessions I do feel the fear, I am scared to push hard and I acknowledge that I don’t commit as much as I know I can. I over think the moves I am making and do not make them with confidence. I fear that I’m not good enough and others will notice, that others will not be patient with me as learn all over again. I worry that people will judge me – even though I know they won’t. My league have become a family to me and I trust them, they are not the types to judge and have experienced many of the same derby lessons I have and am still learning. During scrimmage however I feel more confident about making decisions, I have spoken up more in recent scrimmages and have fully commit both as a jammer and a blocker. I am able to bypass the fear and attack those wall’s, get up when I fall and pack up sticking to my teammates like glue. There are still times I stand there in training and feel more on the defeated side, but the ladies in my league offer me advice and help, point out how I can change what I’m doing and become a sstronger player.
I do experience post derby fear from time to time. I over evaluate and focus too much on the negative things. I experience fear over possibly not doing as well as I could have, but this is more fear over the consequences of not skating hard enough or working well enough.
Fear is powerful. But you can use that fear. Fear can be even more powerful when used as a motivator. And I’m not talking about scaring other people to motivate you or them, I’m talking about using your own fear to motivate you. Derby as a sport is empowering. And the women who play the sport alongside you are empowering. Throw in fear, let that emotion be empowering too!
Sometimes fear is like a wall of blockers, it may look impossible to beat and it may be hard to get through, but you have to keep attacking it and once you get that hip in and shift even just a small part of that wall – that wall can be split and isn’t as strong anymore. It give you enough room for a path past it. It is not an easy 123 process. You cannot just send offence in once and hope that it’s enough, you have to keep pushing. And that motivation is what gets you through.
Again it is a lesson I am still learning. I am learning to breathe, pick myself up, block out any notion of fear and just go for it. Fear challenges me and the feeling after I have taken it on and come out the other side? Amazing. In all honesty I do believe that fear doesn’t go away, it just gets easier to deal with. And maybe that is a good thing? Where would we be without a little bit of fear? The trick is just to not let it rule you. In my experience and with this post, I feel that fear and confidence go hand in hand. Don’t let fear break you down, let it build you up.
Another post which is more contemplative than having a to the point answer.
Til next time BlueMonsters
The last three months have been hard. And I have experienced many emotions and situations I never thought I would and hoped would never happen. At the same time the last three months have been a blessing in disguise.
Last night myself, my derby wife Kara and our bestest Jevo said our final goodbyes to Mansfield Misfits. After weeks of turmoil and headaches, days of crying and feeling sick, a decision which was not made lightly – one to take a leap of faith and put our own happiness, health and progress first. It has been difficult leaving the league as skaters, but hopefully we will not leave them as friends.
Today begins a new adventure. Today we take our first steps into training with the rather kick ass league that is the Nottingham Hellfire Harlots.
I am so nervous, I feel sick, I have fears of not being good enough, I am a slight mental wreck. However with Kara and Jevo by my side, I feel confident and supported. We are in this together and that is such a reassuring thing to know.
Training with the NHH as a league is sure to be a new experience filled with tough challenges and positive influences. The rather wonderful McKitten has become a bit of a derbymama in a way, she has been positive and understanding since day 1 of the movements between MM and NHH, she has reassured and put our minds at ease and just made us feel genuinely welcome. And the transfer process we have experienced so far, easy and positive to go through thanks to May, who has answered any questions, been understanding throughout and again just lovely and welcoming. Whilst we know it won’t always be easy, we have been given such a lovely welcome and experience – and we have yet to even step foot into practice!
We look forwards to the challenges they will throw our way, the push to train hard, hurt good and overall just skate and be happy! Tonight we will get our first taste of our new adventure, meet some new faces and catch up with those we were introduced to previously.
I have no idea what the next chapter of our derby experience holds, but with Kara and Jevo, and the support of new additions to our derby family, bring on the highs and bring on the lows – I may or may not be ready for them, but I know I will sure as hell get through them.