I often worry about what really important things I’m what I’m going to forget when I’m old because of all the new– and most of it useless– information that I have to store in my head every day. (because we really DO learn something new every day, right?)

On March 8 I learned about beards.

A few months ago Worcester Roller Derby was asked to be a judge at Whiskered Wonderland II, a beard competition. For some reason, my league mates thought that I should be the one to do it and since it seemed– well, it seemed like maybe there’d be some single bearded men there– I accepted. Even better than meeting single bearded men was the idea that the proceeds were going to benefit Child Life Center at Umass Memorial. So lots of us WoRDettes (as we sometimes call ourselves) headed down to Ralph’s Rock Diner to be either a judge, a contestant, or just drink and have a good time.

T-Flex, Slam Grier, and Megzatron. Best. Teammates. Ever.

T-Flex, Slam Grier, and Megzatron. Best. Teammates. Ever.

The night was long and filled with LOTS of judging duties, too many, really, to try to describe all the stuff that happened there. (Also, some people bought me drinks so there may be a few gaps anyway.) But here’s what I learned:

  1. These guys take serious pride in their beards. Like, they use conditioner on them and stuff.
  2. I don’t really need to feel a man’s beard to know if I like it or not.
  3. The second floor of Ralph’s gets really hot with a lot of people in it
  4. If I want to get hit on more often, I really need to go to bars more.  You know how many guys were trying to get with me that night?? A LOT, that’s how many!

This is Gigi.

The queen is NOT amused.

Gigi is 12 years old.  She’s extremely mouthy and fastidiously clean.  Gigi’s litter box must be spotless or she won’t use it… but she will use a pile of clothes or a shoe or random towel to remind me of my neglected duties. Otherwise, though, she’s a sweet, affectionate girl. Gigi spends most of her day just like this.

“Somebody turn off the sun!”

And at night she cuddles up to me and purrs and bites me if I stop petting her. Imagine my dismay, then, when Gigi stopped sleeping with me. She changed her favorite spot from in bed next to me to the living room couch. I was a little perplexed but I chalked it up to cats being idiosyncratic and tried not to take it personally.

Then, on a rare Saturday with no bouts, no fundraisers, and no extra work I decided I’d do some laundry and tidy up my place. As soon as I put fresh sheets on my bed Gigi slept with me again. Now, in my defense, I’d only gone one extra week without changing them, but apparently I was too dirty for my cat.

That got me thinking about little weird random things that have changed since I started roller derby. I think most of us go through big changes like getting stronger, becoming more self-confident, etc., but there are the little things, too, that you don’t really notice until your cat stops sleeping with you. Here’s a few I’ve come up with.

GERMAPHOBIA? WHAT GERMAPHOBIA?

Probably about that first time you drop your mouth guard on the rink floor, dodge other skaters whizzing by, retrieve it and pop it back into your mouth you’re on your first step to losing any semblance of germaphobia. Or maybe it’s when you forgot your mouth guard and (ewwww) borrow another skater’s. Or possibly eating a sandwich while wearing your wrist guards. What? You’re hungry!

DIRTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

You’ve just come home from a three hour-practice and it’s late and you’re tired. You promised yourself you’d take a shower, but now it’s almost midnight and you have to be up at 6:00 anyway and the sweat’s all dry now, so…

YOU’VE STOPPED WONDERING “WHAT ON EARTH IS SHE WEARING?” WHEN LOOKING AT STRANGERS

Something about walking through the supermarket dressed in ripped tights and Skinz makes you way less judgey about other people’s clothing choices.

CARPOOLING ISN’T SO BAD, ACTUALLY

Sure you’re crammed in the back of a Toyota Yaris with three other people, but at least you’re saving money and mileage on your car.

COMPROMISE, COMPROMISE

I still don’t shower when I get home but I’ll use baby wipes on my hot spots and a little powder to dry off. Gigi finds that acceptable.

I’m sure you’ve got your own, and I’d love to hear them.

We did it. Worcester Roller Derby bouted their very first home bout and– if I do say so myself– we rocked it. After months of planning and worrying and being crazy hot messes we put on a bout without any serious incidents or injuries, something worthy of the “Well Done” column.

All hands were on deck three hours before the doors were open setting up tables, laying out the track, ensuring the projector worked, providing the benches and locker rooms with supplies, training NSOs, and running countless errands to ensure we would pull it all off. Every single member of WoRD was instrumental in the success of this bout. The staff at the Horgan stopped at nothing to provide us with everything we needed, and I can’t sing their praises loud enough. The ref crew we pulled from all over New England officiated like the professionals they are. Friends from our brother and sister leagues came to show their support. Central Vermont was wonderful to play against and party with and, as always, Pair O’Dice City was excellent both on and off the track. We can’t thank any of these people enough.

But really what any bout is about is the fans– and we certainly had a full house of them. It was amazing to see such a large audience to support a new local league, and all be genuinely excited about the success of it and its members. It warms my dark little cobwebby heart. And I guess it helps that the Warriors came out with a win (Senora was our heavy hitter and Messy was our MVP).  And our B team,  The Warheads, had themselves a spectacular debut as well.

Messy MurderHer jamming is quite the sight to see.
(Photo: Rainbow Crash)

What’s next?  We’ve got a car wash coming up.

Car Wash! June 23rd!
(Flyer: Stella Redshift)

And although we have no more home bouts, our next match up is July 14th against the sensational Pair O’Dice City Rollers at Amelia Park in Westfield, MA, so we’re still keeping it in the Bay State.

Oh, and I guess we’re hosting a little New England B-team tournament known as All 8 on the Floor. No big deal, just eleven of New England’s favorite B teams bouting it out over two action-packed days. Yup, hosted by the still baby league that is Worcester Roller Derby. We wanted it so we’re making it happen.

Stone Fox’s derby face is finally immortalized in poster form.

And while I’m bragging, we also have ourselves a new batch of freshmeat, including two awesome dudes we’re turning into zebras.

I think this league is pretty awesome.

 

It’s hard running a roller derby league. It’s hard training freshmeat how to skate (think baby giraffes with the legs everywhere). It’s hard organizing a large group of women into some semblance of a working operation. But really, in spite of all our knowledge going into it, and the months upon months of preparation, it’s hard to plan a bout.

Just to look at all the pieces, here’s the regular to do list for each bout (and no, this doesn’t include everything): get the venue, get insurance, sanction the venue,  get another team to play you, get their insurance, make a bout poster, print the bout poster, make a Facebook event, get refs, get NSOs, book an after party, make a program, get merch ordered, get sponsors, print the program, get vendors, get a security crew, get a production crew, get a DJ (but only if you get a music license), hire EMTs, get someone to perform the national anthem, get an announcer, make team baskets… And be well prepared to be running around like a chicken with your head cut off come bout day, because there’s no way it’s ever going to run smoothly.

When you have a new league, it’s a guarantee that not everyone knows what they’re doing. Honestly, not everyone knows what they’re doing in any league, and that’s an important thing to remember. WoRD is lucky, because a lot of us are going into our third season of bout preparation. But that’s a lot of responsibility to fall on just a few shoulders, so we all have to work our hardest to both support and delegate.

In short, it’s a lot of work.  Especially when you add two new logs to the mix:

WoRD’s new logo

Warheads logo

In the (less than a) week leading up to our bout, things are getting stressful. If everything goes accordingly, we’ll have all of our NSO equipment. We have officials coming in from several neighboring leagues to lend a helping hand/whistle. Last night I had a dream that we’d somehow been evicted from our warehouse and the lingering thought I had when I awoke was, “how are going to get our helmet panties now?”

If, as a visitor to another league’s bout or a spectator with no inside knowledge of derby, these struggles never crossed your mind- then that league is doing it right. If you ever wondered why a league needs so many people outside the ones with the skates strapped to their feet, this is why. If you’re excited to see if WoRD can pull it all off (spoiler alert, we can and we will) come check us out on Saturday. We can’t wait to show you how good we are– oh and our teams can play well too.

 

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WoRD’s new fresh meat class starts on June 6 and we’ve been getting a lot of questions about what to expect so we’ve decided to freshen up one of our old posts for your perusal.

1. Do a lot of people get hurt? Roller derby is a contact sport. People do get hurt, yes. We get bumps, bruises, sprains, and sometimes we get broken.

2. Do I need to know how to skate already? No! We’ll teach you what you need to know. BUT, the more you practice the better you get. So even if you can barely stand, you’re going to have to get out to some roller rinks to practice.

3. Can I help out without having to skate? Please do! You help out at bouts and events and make sure things run smoothly. You can be what’s called an NSO (non-skating official) where you keep score or track player penalties. There really is a place for everyone.

4. Do I need skates to start? We have a limited amount of skates that we can loan you. If you’re unsure whether you’re going to like skating at all but want to try, you should definitely contact us to see if we have your size. You can get cheapo skates at your local sporting goods store, and those can take you through at least the fresh meat program. If you really love it, you’re going to want to head up to Bruised Boutique and get yourself a pair of derby skates.

5. Where do I get equipment? We highly recommend Bruised Boutique. The women who work there are very knowledgeable and can really walk you through what the best gear is for your level of skating. Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • skates

  • elbow pads

  • knee pads

  • wrist guards

  • a helmet

  • a mouth guard.

6. What is the schedule? Fresh meat will have practice on Wednesday 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. and on Sunday 5:00 to 8:00.

7. What is the time commitment? In addition the the practice schedule, we require you to volunteer 5 hours a month. WoRD is a non-profit, volunteer-run league and we can only survive if we all help out! You are also going to want to practice at other times at local rinks, too.

8. What if i don’t like it? That’s simply not possible.

9. What are the rules? Because I learn things a lot better by watching them, I also suck at explaining. This is my favorite video describing the very basics of roller derby. From that video you can get pulled into a YouTube vortex of all things roller derby. That’s actually kind of fun and hopefully will get you even more excited about joining us.

10. Where do we practice? WoRD has its own practice space at 34 Suffolk Street in Worcester.

11. Are there men practicing too? WoRD is a women’s only league. We probably will have some guest coaches that will be men, though!

12. What are the ages required? You must be 21 to actually play roller derby, but you can ref at 18.

13. What are the roller derby girls like? Awesome, funny, quirky, intense, artistic… well, I could keep going about how wonderful we are, but read on!

14. Do we have a chance to meet you first and come watch a practice? Yes! Mark your calendars.  We are having a meet and greet on May 17 and May 20th. We want you to come and get to know us!

15. How long do people skate before they understand the game? One of the best ways to understand the game is to watch the game. As fresh meat you will be helping with WoRD scrimmages. This will familiarize you with the rules. You can also catch games on line at Derby News Network. And you should definitely go to other games in the area.  WoRD will be having field trips to those games because we have friends that play for other leagues and we want to watch them!

16. What is the fresh meat program like? You will learn the various skills needed to be able to play the game. We will teach you to skate, fall safely, take and give hits, whips, assists… okay, see? I’m getting ahead of myself. We start slow and build upon your skills as we go. The program will be 14 weeks and will bring you up to a scrimmaging level.

17. Is this staged or a real sport? It’s very real.  Some of the videos that you have seen from the 1960s and 1970s were most likely staged, so take them all with a grain of salt.  We are not like the WWF. We don’t punch people or trip them or grab their hair.

So that’s what I got!  And if you have more questions you can either save them up for the meet-and-greet or follow us on Facebook or check out our website.

Oh, and regarding question 8. If you don’t like it we’re certainly not going to force you to play! But if you love being around us you are welcome to stay as either an NSO or a ref.

Can’t wait to meet you!

I’ve thought for years that there’s a creepy theme that runs through some of America’s best-loved novels:  If you love something not only is it going to die, YOU are going to have to kill it.

(Warning, literary spoilers abound in the next paragraph)

I was pretty much scarred for life in 7th grade after reading the horrible passage where Jody shoots Flag in The Yearling. Just when I felt like I was getting over it, my 10th grade English teacher subjected me to George killing Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Then there’s The Chief– he smothers McMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Don’t get me started on Old Yeller. You can see where I’m going here.

Such is the case, apparently, with derby. We all know that we’ll lose a few fresh meat along the way. Maybe it’s not for them. Maybe they realize that derby’s more than just wearing fishnets and they quit. Some make it to contact, decide they just can’t stand getting knocked around and then they quit. We expect this. What’s harder to accept  (at least for me) is when you have someone who clearly loves skating, loves learning, loves playing roller derby but then Life happens and something has to be sacrificed and it’s roller derby that’s staring down the barrel of a shotgun.

For the most part, this isn’t something I have to deal with. In the novel of life I’m the single, wacky best friend. I’ve never been married and my daughter’s an adult now. Other than the reproachful glances from my pug when I head out to practice, I can pretty much do what I want. But I definitely do understand that sometimes it feels like we can’t fit it all in. Or maybe we’ve been given an ultimatum by our significant other, “Your roller skates or me.”  I understand it. I just don’t like it. I feel a little bit like an eight-year-old stomping around yelling, “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”

It’s not fair.

It’s not fair that a mom has to give up what she loves to fit everything in. It’s not fair that work changed your hours and now you can’t make it to practice. It’s not fair that you don’t have a supportive spouse who understands how important it is for you to finally, finally do something for yourself. I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I don’t like it. In fact, I REJECT it. I reject it not just for myself, but for anyone else who feels like they have to kill what they love. And in my mind, which is pretty much like this 24/7, you can have a happy ending.

My inner Disney princess strongly believes that you don’t have resort to such drastic measures. I think what you love can stay alive– that you can sing and dance with your woodland creature pals and live happily ever after. And if there’s no such thing as happily ever after (yes, there is), then there’s certainly such a thing as compromise. Don’t give up on doing something for yourself. Maybe you’ll learn more slowly if you only come to practice once every two weeks. Maybe you can’t bout because you’ve missed too many practices. But you’ll be there doing what you enjoy. And all your fairy friends will be there, too. So okay, maybe your woodland buddies aren’t Thumper and Flower but instead the bat that flew through practice last month, or the mouse that’s been nibbling on our gym bags. That’s compromise, though, so we’ll just have to accept that.

Yes, something may have to give, but I don’t think anything has to die. And in the meantime, Bronco has an idea to make a playroom at the warehouse. After all, a dream is a wish your heart makes.

(In which Omega waxes poetic and might even shed a single tear over that whole derby = family thing)

I kind of attract car issues. It’s my only flaw (ladies). Usually though, the saving grace is that these car issues only happen to my cars and therefore everyone else is only mildly inconvenienced by being the passenger in a broken car.

Our recent trip to Long Island to bout Strong Island Derby Revolution did not fare the same way and the end result had me hanging out, alone, in New Jersey for three days waiting for Judy Attitudy’s car to be fixed so I could drive it back to Massachusetts for her (without a GPS, but with a dead phone) [This plan makes sense because I have no job and Judy does, so there]. While I hung out in the Super 8 watching cable and eating convenience store Pringles, Derby people texted once every other hour making sure I was okay.

As you can see, I cut my hair while in the hotel


And that, my friends, brings us to the crux of this post: derby people are just nice

When I first joined roller derby I was terrified. Everyone was more fit than me, they had more friends than me, they had more tattoos than me, and they all had their friends and groups and jokes that I just didn’t have. Never mind all that– they could skate. So when I fell on my butt six trillion times just during warm ups I was certain I would never return just because there was no way I could fit in with these people and their hardcore roller skating ways. But then I fell again, and someone helped me up. They gave me pointers and got me on my feet. Of course, I fell again– but then someone else helped me up. And it kept happening all through practice. I would fall; someone would help me. The more I skated the more I fell. And after months and months of training I had someone help me up every time. Maybe not physically, but they certainly gave me pointers and encouragement and moral support. (This is totally starting to sound like one of those cheesy life metaphors. Whatever.) Suddenly I had new friends, and jokes with people, and I could skate better (and I got more tattoos).

Sure, I don’t skate anymore, but I keep falling. And now whenever I fall I know there is going to be someone (or a league full of someones) to help me get back up. They will provide pointers and encouragement and moral support, and we’ll talk about tattoos, and I will get better.

Leagues do that for other leagues, too. Recently, WoRD made plans to do some expo stuff for a local event, and we invited Pair O’Dice City Rollers to come and help out. Things got chaotic and we found ourselves the scrimmage demos– and the other league was already en route. When everyone arrived prepared to get their scrimmage on, we had to deliver the bad news. But instead of being upset or disappointed, the Pair O’Dice girls shrugged their shoulders and said,  “Well what do you want to do now?” So we had our first ever inter-league scrimmage in the warehouse– with its support beam in the ref lane and mattress-lined walls– and it was fine. It was more than that. It was awesome.

And that’s the thing about this sport. In the end everything will be awesome. In spite of the plans of the committees it will be last minute and thrown together and chaotic, but the derby world will still go on. People get injured, they get burned out, they get angry. But every single last one of us gives thanks to derby for existing. Most of my best friends spend three nights a week or more with skates on their feet. If I need a hug for whatever reason I’ll have a line of women with open arms (and probably baked goods too). No matter what league you are on, what level of competition you’re at, how expensive your skates are, there is an entire world of people out there that are there to help you.

That’s kind of, like, really special.

Happy Warriors (amazing pic by the equally amazing Rainbow Crash)

If you are interested in becoming a part of WoRD’s derby family, come join us on June 6th for our next FreshMeat class. Email us at skate@worcesterrollerderby.com for more details.  Can’t wait to meet you!