Them’s the rules – or why you should totally NSO
It is a truth universally acknowledged that roller derby can’t exist without officials. Although there are only up to 10 skaters on track at any time in a game, a fully staffed WFTDA bout needs at least 18 volunteer officials to be run properly. And even if we ignore the 7 on-skates officials and the track repair crew, that leaves still 11 NSO (non-skating official) positions to be filled for each and every game. I won’t go into detail of what these roles entail, since plenty of other blogs have made a much better job of that than I could. This is just me trying to make the case, not only why you totally should, but also totally want to NSO. And no, that’s not just because of the copious amounts of snacks you’ll be provided with on game day.
As it is, York Minxters Roller Derby have made it a mandatory requirement to NSO at least 3 times before any skater would pass their minimum skills. This is certainly one of the easier tests to pass, but it’s really no less important than those 27 laps in 5 minutes.
NSOing and volunteering in other roles hasn’t only given me the opportunity to see some really fantastic high-class roller derby for no more than the cost of fuel to get there, it's also taught me how to actually watch a game to get the most out of it.
Each NSO role concentrates on a different aspect, so if you’re busy tracking or timing penalties, either in the box or at the inside white board, you’ve got less time to actually pay attention to the point scoring. But when you get the opportunity to just watch, having taken on these specialised roles will give you a much better ability to read the game and understand what’s going on.
A better understanding of rules and how they’re applied doesn’t only help you getting much more out of a game as a spectator, but obviously will in the long run also make you a better skater. It helps you to avoid committing penalties inadvertently, but also to spot opportunities for surprising yet legal tactics.
Not to mention that learning in a practical setting is much more fun and effective than studying for the WFTDA rules test by just reading the rules.
I've long passed the minimum requirement of NSOing at three games, but I don’t intend to stop. Continuing to volunteer as an NSO or other off-skates positions allows me to be involved, even when I’ve still got quite a way ahead of me until I pass my mins—or if I should be unlucky enough to sustain an injury that would keep me off skates for a while. It helps my league, which has to nominate NSOs as part of the requirements to participate in tournaments, it helps me to grow on a personal level (there’s no better way to learn to stay calm in stressful situations), and it really is just a lot of fun. You just need to learn to keep your cheering inward (easier said than done), as absolute neutrality is a must on game day.
I feel lucky that here at York Minxters Roller Derby there’s such a dedicated and helpful crew of officials (on and off skates), and I can only recommend getting involved to anyone interested in roller derby.
- Scornflake Grrrl
Freshie’s Diary: These Girls Can
We’re getting to a point now where the momentum of our 10-week new skater programme can only carry us so far – we need to get our eyes on the prize, and that means goals. Although it’s stressful to start with, going through a freshie intake as someone with little or no skate experience is amazing because every week you’re doing something you never dreamed you could – the amount of new skills you learn and develop is overwhelming but also pretty exhilarating. But then you get to a point where that initial burst starts to level off and you really have to – I’m realising – be committed and intentional with how you use your skate time if you want to properly crack those skills.
This is where goals come in. I’m generally not super into this cultural moment the idea of ‘goals’ is having, mostly because I’m pretty uncompetitive (still not sure how this is going to work out for me derby-wise!) and also because I find it too prescriptive and easy to beat yourself up if you don’t meet them. I prefer setting intentions over resolutions… but with that said, having concrete aims is helping a lot with the transition from fresh to ever so slightly less fresh skater.
So for example, I really want to work on my lateral movements and one-foot glides, because I find them tough and beyond not getting those precious ticks off the min skills list, I know not mastering them will hold me back in loads of other situations. With the help of our infinitely wise captain and other teammates, I’ve started breaking a big, scary goal (‘master laterals’) into smaller aims:
The first skate session after I started formulating this plan, I instantly felt more determined: I made myself save the jolly pootling around for later and cracked on with 15 minutes of lateral Ts. I looked at how everyone else does it. I asked for tips. I started to notice which movements are throwing me off balance. I can feel how I will get there eventually.
If this much thinking – and time – has to go into learning these small skills-within-skills, clearly we were barking up decidedly the wrong tree when we were telling ourselves, “tick off ALL THE THINGS”. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
And actually, sitting down to think about my roller derby goals has made me (in a nice way!) think about what I want from my day to day life and what I need to do to make the progress in derby I hope I can.
It’s amazing how much this sport (and the people who play it) can help you focus on what’s important to you and what you want. When you realise the amount of joy you can feel on track, you really notice if it’s missing in other areas of your life. But I feel like derby is giving me the mental skills to keep on top of things, ask for help when I need it and take joy and pride in the small, ‘pointless’ things. After all, there’s little more pointless than racing round on eight wheels bashing into other people, but somehow it’s by far the most meaningful thing in my life at the moment.
So if you’re a new skater struggling to push on after your first big progression, it’s worth taking some time to work out what your goals are. Take stock of all the amazing stuff you can do, and build on it one small step at a time. Start where you are, do what you can – you’ll get there.
- Roller Luxemburg
As I write this, it's been 6 months since I joined the Minxters last Fresh Meat intake and in a few weeks the next intake will join us. I'm excited to see them begin the journey which has become an integral part of my life more quickly than I expected.
Six months ago I had only the haziest idea of what Roller Derby was about--my husband had bought me a pair of skates for Christmas, "because this sport looks like it's exactly up your street". Not that I was ever much into sports, especially team sports. I was way too worried about not being good enough to even try. What if I'm too old? What if I'm too slow? What if nobody likes me? But now that I had a pair of skates, I thought I might as well try, and so I did. I was really quite nervous, especially because I didn't know anyone else there, but quickly realized that my fears were unwarranted. Everyone was so welcoming and helpful.
One of the first things we were told was not to compare ourselves to anyone but ourselves. People have different backgrounds with more or less skating experience, and it's pointless to compete with someone who might have started from a completely different baseline.
So, while Coots and Stagger B:
- who joined at the same time as me just played their very first bout as mins-passed skaters, and others are close to passing their mins, I’ll probably still need quite a while to get close--but I’m not worried. Six months ago I could barely skate in a straight line, let alone stop in a controlled manner. After the first (and second, and third...) session, muscles ached that I didn't even know existed. What kind of sadist came up with sticky skating? Or worse, going backwards? 27 laps in 5 minutes? You have to be kidding me!
Despite this, I realised l enjoy working towards something and measuring my own progress, cheering on others for theirs, and being part of a team of wonderful people. Until I'm good enough to skate for them, there's still plenty of other ways to be involved.
When I started, I wasn't even sure if I was going to make it to the end of Fresh Meat. The commitment just seemed so much. But very quickly I realised that this was something I wanted to do as often as possible. I found myself putting wheels on my feet at any opportunity (including doing housework, because, why the hell not?) and I wasn't the only one.
I'm excited for the next intake and hope they'll fall for this awesome sport as hard as I have. 27 in 5 still seems like a ridiculous idea to me, though, but that won't stop me trying.
- Scornflake Grrrl x
“You’re going to ache for DAYS,” they said. “Their warm-up is absolutely brutal,” they said. “That floor is super sticky and wobbly and weird,” they said.
‘They’ would be the older and wiser mins-passed Minxters who definitely know what they’re talking about – but somehow these grim warnings didn’t put nine of us naïve little freshies off from making the trip across the Pennines last Sunday for a pre-mininmum skills bootcamp at Rainy City Roller Derby.
They were right on all counts, but what a fantastic day we all had. According to our resident bootcamp aficionado The MorrigAna, Rainy are well-known for their inclusive training “high on helpful, nice, knowledgeable coaches” and after several hours of rigorous post-mortem of all the skills we learned and insights we got into our weak spots, I second that emotion.
So what did we actually do? After a gruelling ‘pyramid’ warm-up involving way too many planks for my liking and leg raises with the added weight of skates (which I’m still trying to forget about), it was into the skills training proper. We worked on one-foot glides, T stops, plough stops, laterals, transitions, backwards skating, crossovers, derby stops, form for laps and 27/5, positional blocking and probably other things that I’ve forgotten in the adrenaline-fuelled haze. So you know, just the basics!
This may sound like a lot to take in (and it was), but the coaches – Rainy’s Fairy Quakes, Rusty, Hel Razor and Weeble, were ace at breaking down each skill into manageable chunks, building up our confidence with several different drills before trying out the real thing. They really looked at what we were doing and suggested different approaches until one clicked (I definitely had several ‘aha’ moments thanks to that).
(And with that new motivation, here’s my desperate attempt to internalise my most important lesson learned!)
On that note, here are some of our best bits from the day...
Scornflake Grrrl #48
How long have you been skating? I joined the last Minxters Freshmeat Intake in September 2017, previously I only ever did some really bad tentative skating with my kids at family skate.
Favourite drill at bootcamp: I really enjoyed the aggressive snake drill. (This involves weaving through a paceline but hip-checking each skater you pass)
Best thing I learned: Don't know where to start, I just found it really useful to have things broken down differently, so suddenly it clicked and I'm not scared of T-stops anymore.
What tip would you give new freshies? Never compare yourself to anyone but yourself from the week before.
How long have you been skating? About 18 months? Only regularly since joining fresh meat in Autumn 2017, before that roller disco and had some lessons with roller girl gang.
Favourite drill at bootcamp: The pyramid drill was best
Best thing I learned: That you haven't transferred your weight properly if you are stamping when trying a one-foot glide.
What tip would you give new freshies? Squats! Lots of them.
How long have you been skating? Since last September, bar a bit of roller discoing as a kid.
Favourite drill at bootcamp: Skating and doing one-foot glides in anti-derby direction helped me feel how to use my edges for balance.
Best thing I learned: Sticky floor/soft wheels is no excuse for not mastering quick, aggressive plough stops!
What tip would you give new freshies? Learn to love falling. If you never fall, you’re not pushing yourself.
How long have you been skating? Since August 2016 with a fair amount of injury time...
Best drill at bootcamp: Pyramid drill was the best! My fitness is not my strong point so anything to help keep that up is a bonus for me ☺
Best thing I learned: The new (to me) way of looking at one-footed ploughs, and in general the way everything is broken down. This is the third time I have been to a Rainy City bootcamp and every time has been different and the trainers have taught me new things!
What tip would you give new freshies? Never compare yourself to others and remember 'stupid sexy Flanders'! [The perfect example of how to move your hips for lateral movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaeRM7X_yS4]
Best drill at bootcamp: Loved the pyramid drill. Also loved the aggressive snake and getting used to contact while moving.
Best thing I learned: Like Anke I liked how they broke things down, especially the contact stuff like where to hit, getting down low and stepping in front of your opponent.
What tip would you give new freshies? Try, try and try again, you will get there!
How long have you been skating? Since September 2017
Favourite drill at bootcamp: I thought the pyramid drill was great
Best thing learned: To drop low just before turning into a lateral. Hearing that made it click for me in a way it hadn't before. It was also really interesting skating on such a sticky floor with my poison 84s and having to adjust my technique to compensate. Right at the start Fairy Quake said I was going to have to do everything as lightly as possible with stops and although it took a bit of getting used to it was definitely doable.
What tip would you give new freshies? Learn not to fear falling. Fall early, fall often and fall forwards. You're much better off chucking yourself forwards into a nice "fall small" position than flailing around to get your balance then falling backwards. Also, get low.
How long have you been skating? Since Sept 2017, having never stood on a skate before then in my life.
Favourite drill at bootcamp: The aggressive snake was great. Positional blocking when static and when moving are very different beasts, and the snake brings together so many of the skills we'd been practising - though it often ended up with me on the floor.
Best thing learned: When you're blocking you're not trying to wildly bash people out of the way, you're just trying to take their space. As Weeble said, 'Don't be a dick.'
What tip would you give new freshies? Like Dan said, falling is good. Falling is just a sign you're trying to do something you can't do - yet. Fall small (or at least fall with style), get up, and try again - you'll get there eventually.
How long have you been skating? Approx 18 months.
Favourite drill at bootcamp: Ermmm... I liked the crossovers while pulling someone around. It was hard but useful! Don't know what it's called though :)
What tip would you give new freshies? Give everything a go. Stop telling yourself you can't do it. Everyone starts at different points and progresses at different rates. Just think how far you've come, not how far you have left to go.
By the end (to be honest, by lunchtime) we were all knackered, sweaty messes with aches in places we didn’t know existed – but with a fire lit underneath us and ready to come back to York and work hard to nail those skills!
- Roller Luxemburg
It's that time! Our new skater intake is just around the corner. To join us - sign up via the facebook event here. If facebook isn't an option for you, drop us a message via the contact tab and we'll make sure you can get involved!
RDWC 2018 (aka the best weekend of our lives).
This weekend Derby players from all over the World were transported to another dimension – a strange, seemingly underground land filled with the best people. I am of course referring to the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup held in Manchester. I am filled with so many words about this event and yet none seem to summarise quite how spectacular it was. But I’ll give it a go.
A small group of our skaters and officials made their way to the World Cup early Thursday morning. A little grumpy and tired, but with no idea just how inspiring and surreal the next few days would turn out to be.
We bumped into people from all over the country whom we have played with and against, officials from bouts and tournaments we have skated at, and of course many of our Derby idols. We saw people from so many countries come together in one building to share their love of this incredible, inclusive, entirely bonkers sport. We made new friends and lived alongside our heroes for 4 whole days.
Photo – (Freakachu and Chariz’ard in the crowd). Credit: Shirlaine Forrest.
Each of us came away with a list of skaters we admire and want to learn more from. I personally fell madly in Derby-love with Sarah Chambers of Team Australia, and now I’m determined to be just like her. The photo below is one I will cherish forever, and clearly shows me peeping through the refs in awe of Sarah in the final game - Team USA vs. Team Australia.
Photo – (Team USA vs Team Australia). Credit: Anja Wettergren Photography.
The Hosts of the World Cup – Rainy City Roller Derby, put together something truly incredible. They worked relentlessly in planning and hosting this event, and we are truly grateful for their hard work and that of all the volunteers who gave up their time to make everything run so smoothly. Well done to them on an immensely successful event.
Each team and every game brought their own heart-warming and inspirational moments. We saw Team Aotearoa perform a Haka fuelled with a passion that literally gave us goose bumps. The crowd grew still as it commenced and you could feel an unreal energy emanating from the Team as it built towards the ending.
Team Indigenous delivered a moving speech in lieu of a National anthem, bringing attention to the horror and mistreatment Indigenous women face daily. The speech moved many members of the audience to tears. Team Australia asked them to deliver the speech again before the Final game, foregoing their National Anthem to give the spotlight over to their cause. This was followed by a moment of silence, where for the first time in the entire 4 days the entire crowd fell silent to reflect on the message these amazing women brought forward.
One final mention should go to the Fearleaders – the Official Fearleading Squad of the Vienna Roller Derby Team. What can I say? They put on an outstanding half-time performance during the Final game. If you haven’t seen it yet, go and find a video as you won’t be disappointed.
One of the things which inspired me the most during the World Cup was the incredible spirit of the high-level players. I saw Jammers go on jam after jam and not break through the walls of the opposing team. I saw blockers get knocked down and lose the jammer repeatedly. I realised that everything I struggle with in Roller Derby is a struggle for the skaters I admire too. What stood out though, is that every single one of those skaters got back up and tried again every time, no matter how tough the opponent. Many of them even did it with a smile on their face.
I am under no illusions that I am anywhere near the level of the players I saw at the weekend, but nonetheless I am reassured that we are all playing the same game with the same challenges. If they can get back up again and face the strongest players in the World, then we have no excuse not to keep trying and improving ourselves.
Photo – All of the Minxters who were lucky enough to go to the World Cup.
Miracle Whips training session.
It is safe to say we were feeling blue after the World Cup ended and we had to return to our real lives. The sadness didn’t get much of a chance to take hold however, as our Team Captain Gem O’Cide had planned for the one and only Miracle Whips of Team Canada to coach a training session for us on the Tuesday night.
The lead up to that evening had us all nervous-excited, unsure about what to expect from this skater we have all admired for so long. Miracle Whips was everything we expected and more. She led an introduction to the session and used this to assess the skills we would find most beneficial to work on, and away we went.
What followed was an intense 2 hours in which we had things explained to us in ways they never have been before. As a coach, she has a poetic way of putting her ideas across, using simile and metaphor to drive home her point on how a skill is best performed and how to get the most out of our bodies. I found myself able to do things I had been struggling with for months and trying things I had been afraid to really throw myself into.
One huge focus of the session was not to give up, or to be afraid of falling. As Derby players, we know that this is the essence of the sport, but all too often we let this fear hold us back and we don’t push our bodies to the limits to see just what they will do for us. Miracle Whips brought such passion and drive to the session that it was impossible not to throw ourselves into every drill and push ourselves harder than ever before.
We all left the session inspired, star-struck, and laden with selfies and ideas. I cannot recommend a session with Miracle Whips highly enough – if you get the chance to be coached by her, take it!
Photo – Us with Miracle Whips after she put us through our paces!
Looking forward to Champs.
As I write this I am preparing for our first Champs game of the year (and my first Champs game ever), which takes place tomorrow in Ipswich. The biggest lesson from this week I take with me is not to give up when things get tough (you might be sensing a theme here). I already try to live by this motto, but during games it can be all too easy to let that fear of failure hold us back.
I now realise that the worst and most humiliating thing I could do during a game is give up. I’ve been rostered as a Jammer, so I was terrified about never getting lead, or never even getting out of the pack, or messing up a star pass. I’m not scared of those things anymore, although obviously it will be amazing if they don’t happen. I’m going to try my best, and no matter what happens I will learn from it. The most important thing is to keep trying. How else am I ever going to get to play for Team England at the next World Cup? 😉
Most of all I am just really looking forward to playing alongside my amazing Team mates and seeing them do the wonderful things I know they are capable of.
Who are we?!?
All my love,
Sick of the tacky, lovey doveyness that comes with this time of year? Then join us for some Speed Hating and make some like-minded new friends! Full details can be seem on the facebook event here.
The 2018 British Championships have officially started, and we will be playing our first game on Feburary 10th against Suffolk Roller Derby.
You can see all the details on the facebook event here.
Stay tuned to our facebook and twitter pages on the day for the results!
Breaking the tradition of just one Fresh Meat Intake a year, we've happy to annouce that in 2018 these will become more regular. Our next Intake will be sometime in March - keep your eyes on this page and our social media for the specifics when we have them!
It's finally that time again! Our once-a-year new skater intake will be happening on Sunday the 3rd of September - don't miss it! For the full details check out our Facebook event here.