Monday, 23 January 2012

Catch Knowledge!: Rollergirl's Spread the Word Contest

Everyone loves to win stuff. And everyone has an opinion (rather famously, in this way they are like some body parts I usually don't mention in this blog). In Rollergirl's Spread The Word contest, you can win a $100 gift certificate for their site by posting a review of a product you've used on their site and linking to the review on their Facebook page. Entries are limited to one per person and they're working on the honour system, so please do review something you've actually used. The contest closes on February 1st.

I like this contest particularly because Rollergirl is using the gift certificate incentive to add to the body of knowledge on their website. You don't have to praise the product. You don't have to praise their service. You just have to share your opinion on the interwebs ultimately so skaters have a better idea about their potential purchases. Internet purchases can be a huge hassle and your honest opinion might help steer someone in the right direction.

Rollergirl is obviously benefiting from the increased activity on their Facebook page and their product reviews, but there's a clear benefit to the consumer and a focus on the passing-on of knowledge that I think we need to encourage in the culture of derby gear-selling.

So, go tell them what you think. And if you win that $100, consider donating it to your local league to buy loaner gear. That way, you're not just passing on your knowledge, but your good luck. Just saying.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Pack is Here: Getting Friends Into Roller Derby

Today, I'm going to outline a few possible road-blocks to getting your friends to join you on skates and some advice on how to respond. Keep in mind that I'm not advocating badgering our buddies, but persuading them if they'd love to, but...

1) "Oh, I'm too klutzy. I'll crash into people."

Actually, the second sentence is patently true. Admit that. It's a rare skater that starts off without looking like a newborn deer and one on roller-skates at that. Don't disagree with this one. Just explain that it's not unusual and that derby can help improve one's balance. And that she'll be wearing protective gear and so will everyone else.

2) "I'm not tough enough. Don't you fall?"

There are a couple of directions to go with this one. If you're in a low-contact league, you should stress that the sport features just that - low-contact is less prone to cause injuries that regular full-contact. It's that simple. But tell your friend that falling is a fact of life. And then possibly trip her.

If you're a full-contact player, try giving her a light hip-check (with permission) and ask, "Was that so bad?" Remind her that she'll be in full gear and taught how to handle falls long before she's allowed to play. Leagues want players in good shape and if she's willing to put in the time, she'll be well-prepared. And speaking of time...

3) "Don't you have to skate all the time? I'm way too busy."

This one is a legitimate hurdle. Time is key, especially for full-contact and competitive roller derby. Players who can't put in the time shouldn't play full-contact, competitive derby because they will get injured. However, recreational and low-contact derby can easily accommodate a tougher personal schedule.

Still, ask your friend about rearranging or re-prioritizing her schedule. Playing roller derby can be incredible conditioning for the body and one's social life. We often don't allocate enough time for healthy habits and playing derby can immensely more encouraging than going to the gym.

4) "It's anti-feminist."

I was a bit shocked the first time I heard this one. I'm a pretty strident feminist myself. How could my sport, my women's sport, be anti-feminist? Addressing this concern appropriately can require some complex thinking. A good start is to understand why we hear this concern. Derby is often sold as sexy, featuring babes on skates - just look at a few bout posters and you'll probably see it - and it can be difficult to articulate the difference between sexy and objectifying, to name just one concern.

If you want to have a good dialogue with a friend who has concerns about the sport, ask her to clarify. Then you can disagree.

...Actually, let me correct that. Get personal on this one. Talk about your experiences and what derby has done for you as a woman, working positively with other women. Does your league work with local charities empowering women? Does your team support each other?

Ultimately, derby spreads because we act as ambassadors for the sport. Do us proud.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Gear Maintenance: How to Keep Rolling

Today, we're going through a quick overview of some resources that can help you keep your skates in good condition.

One great resources is Queen of the Rink's series of How-To videos. Though the videos are intended for fresh meat, they can come in handy for any skater who wants to brush up on specific gear-related skill-sets. Videos include How to Change Your Wheels, How to Adjust Your Trucks, and How to Clean Your Bearings.

Derby Girls Blog has a great Skate and Gear Maintenance Schedule by Veronica Hites. Intended for those skating 3-5 times a week, the schedule can be scaled down for skaters who spend less time on their quads. Divided into sections by the recommended frequency of each activity, the schedule is a great, detailed guide to when you need to take care of what.

Rollergirl has a great guide to skate maintenance including a detailed diagram. A great name in the derby world, Rollergirl operates both an online store and a brick and mortar location in Vancouver, B.C.

Finally, though you need to skate safe, you may also want to skate without getting too smelly. There are two chief ways of keeping your gear clean. The fast way, which is quicker but a hard on your gear, is detailed in this Promise of Derby post on Derby Laundry. The slow way is detailed in the post described above by Rollergirl.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Stitches in Time: The Roller Derby Quilt

Behold, the Roller Derby Quilt!
This week seems to have inadvertently become Awesome Blog Week, because today we're talking about the Roller Derby Quilt. The brains (and needle and thread) of the operation is Jessica Young, also known as Dreadnought of the Boston Derby Dames' team, the Nutcrackers

Dreadnought's project is simple but brilliant: send her  a quilt square between 5" and 10" with enough seam room that she can sew your square to the roller derby quilt without sewing over your design. Any material goes! Dreadnought suggests showing your name and number if it's a personal square or your logo if the square commemorates your team or league. It's that simple. Just email her at rollerderbyquilt (at) gmail (dot) com to get the address to mail your square to. In the mean time, check out the project on Twitter.

Though Dreadnought doesn't address this on her blog and it may not be part of her intention at all, the quilt recalls a number of amazing community textile pieces, including the simply astounding NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which memorializes lives lost to AIDS in what is apparently the biggest piece of folk art in the world. Whether Dreadnought was inspired by that quilt or not, the Roller Derby Quilt is a great idea for a number of reasons. 

Female artists have used textiles to amazing effect, such as Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party. Quilting, as a stereotypically feminine practice gets reclaimed as a collaborative art medium in projects like the Roller Derby Quilt. And happily for those who want to contribute to the ongoing history of derby culture, being a part of this project isn't necessarily expensive or time consuming. You (or a talented team-mate) just need to get out your sewing needle and get creative.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Another Day, Another Dame: Roller Derby Girl of the Day

Recently, the blog Roller Derby Girl of the Day was drawn to my attention. Still fairly new, the blog features individual roller derby girls, nominated either by themselves or friends, from around the world. Written by Hijinx of the Rollergettes in Toronto, Canada, the blog draws attention to the faces of derby and not just the ones that grace WFTDA's top teams, lovely though those faces are. The blog, wonderfully, aims to feature women who inspire you, for any derby reason. Whether they got you into the sport or they are your secret derby crush, the women featured on this blog are there because they make a difference in the world of derby.

There are a few key reasons that a blog like this is important. We can all benefit from role models. And it's crucial to remember that role models don't just skate the hardest or block with the most elegance and force. Though the blog already features immensely talented players, it's about more than athletic ability. Hijinx's request for nominees called out derby shop owners, bloggers, and any woman who inspires her fellow players to work toward being their best and to get all they can out of this amazing sport. This blog works much the same way that derby does, but on a bigger scale, using the internet rather than sweaty osmosis (inspiration is soluble, you see). There is so much power in the inspiration players give each other and because of blogging efforts like this one, that inspiration can go so far beyond the bench, beyond the rink and all over the world.

Frankly, I wish I'd thought of it myself.

So, my challenge to you is this - nominate someone. Flood this awesome blogger's inbox with a bevy of amazing women, because they are the lifeblood of our sport. When we remind ourselves exactly how someone inspires us, they buoy us up all over again. Do yourself a favour and take the time to be inspired. You are surrounded by sources of strength. Share them.

Some of my heroes - the LOCO VPs, plus our capital P Vansterdamn, who is rather delightfully the very  first Roller Derby Girl of the Day

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Slow Derby Rocks: Blood on the Flat Track Review

Often you'll hear the slogan, "Slow derby sucks." I'm not especially attached to the idea, especially given how exciting strategies and positional blocking sometimes necessitate slower play. And if you do agree with the above, Blood on the Flat Track: The Rise of the Rat City Rollergirls may not be for you.
A 2007 documentary on Rat City, Seattle's premier roller derby league, Blood on the Flat Track is a thoughtful, relatively slow-paced film. It takes the time to depict in-depth stories about intra-league romances, interviews regarding how the teams feel about each other, and how the league came into its own. It's a wonderfully detailed film, but it doesn't have an over-arching narrative that some viewers might need to maintain their interest. When I saw it for the first time at a derby buddy's house, we ended up turning it off and watching Arrested Development instead.

But after returning to the film, I really enjoyed it. The detail and intimacy of the stories presented are incredibly charming if you take the time to let them sink in. You really go home with these players: you learn how they got married, you learn how they got into the sport, you learn about a family derby dynasty. My particular favourite was seeing how the teams interact on and off the track. Also, the Derby Liberation Front is my new favourite team.

If you're looking for a plot-driven derby doc, check out Hell on Wheels (reviewed by me here). But if you want to get cozy with a great league and get to know its players, Blood on the Flat Track is for you. It's also a wonderfully inclusive and super queer film.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film is how it catches Rat City at a pivotal moment, when derby in the city was still more in touch with its theatrical roots - we see out and out brawling and creative penalties that you just don't see in today's derby. It's remarkable seeing how fast the sport has professionalized and Blood on the Flat Track nicely catches the tipping point.

In that sense, it might be a good idea, if you're doing a derby double-feature, to watch Hell on Wheels first and Blood on the Flat-Track second. Together, they chart a great deal of the sport's progress.

The bottom line here is that Blood on the Flat Track is a detailed, emotionally engaging look into a healthy league. Folks looking for derby action will find it and those in need of a plot will find an arc later in the film regarding Rat City playing against the big girls of derby. Watch it with your league and I think you'll find yourselves seeing some familiar stories and I mean that in the best way possible.

Four skates out of five. 

Monday, 2 January 2012

Rolling in the New Year: Derby Resolutions

Now  that everyone's had a chance to sober up from New Year's Eve, let's consider our resolutions for the New Year. Roller derby is a sport that demands improvement and no doubt a number of glasses were raised on Saturday night along with promises to skate harder and better this year.

But let's consider how to make smarter derby resolutions. "This year, I am going to skate like Suzy Hotrod" is certainly ambitious, but it's got a couple of serious problems. Let me break down the elements of a good roller derby resolution.

1) Specificity: Make your terms clear to yourself. Instead of saying, "I will skate more often," choose a specific number. Instead of saying, "I will learn how to do a tomahawk stop," say, "I will learn how to do a tomahawk stop by talking to (insert skater here)." Keep it specific and you'll have clearer steps toward achieving your goal.

2) Attainability: We would all like to jam like LuluDemon. But for some of us, there will be a number of intermediate steps until we get there. With that said, you have a year to make good on a promise to yourself: balance ambition with attainability if you want to stay excited about while keeping it realistic. The more ambitious your goal, the more you should break it down into attainable, specific steps.

3) Community: Derby is a team sport. Tell your team-mates about your resolution. Ask them if they've made any. Share public commitments to your goals and you'll feel more invested in making them happen. Consider trading resolutions with your derby wife - she'll ask you about yours and you'll return the favour. Blog about it. Put it on Facebook as a status update: "I will break my record by (number of laps) in time trials".

4) Body Positivity: Make sure it's a goal that will really benefit your game. Is the resolution about your skills and health or is it about your pride, or, unhealthy body images? Weight loss is not necessarily a healthy or realistic resolution: if you are feeling pressure to lose weight, talk it over with your doctor and discuss it with body-positive friends.

5) Self-Worth: The road to a goal often has bumps - the errant toe-stop in the flat-track of life - and be ready to forgive yourself for any back-sliding and keep going. It's easy to lose heart, especially if we haven't done as well as we hoped we would. But take the hit and get back up on your skates.

Happy New Year, all. Celebrate and go skate. For the record, my resolutions are 1) to skate at least twice a week, even during my crunch time, 2) to learn how to transition more effectively and 3) to not give a damn whether other people think I look good in those shorts I bought at World Cup.