Category: Zine/Blog

Remember! Wash your gear!

Ahhh, the derby stank.

What other sport is there that goes around smelling our stinky wrist guards and asking your team mates to smell them too?
For the freshies, you may not now exactly how to wash them or for the seniors; just too busy and don’t care.

Here is how I wash my gear, and the fresh meat loaner gear.
After training, I hang my gear out to air. Training twice a week PLUS all my street skating and skate park adventures I don’t wash my gear all that often but there is nothing worse than pulling on damp elbow guards… So first thing; get your stuff out of your bag/car/where ever you keep it and air it in some sun to kill the growing life forms.
bag
Second. If you are going to wash it. Check what type of gear you have. Do bits come off or remove? I personally have 187 knee pads with removable hard bits, but I don’t take them off for a wash.
I bundle up all my gear and pop it into pillowcase and tie it off. You could try and find yourself a few large wash bags, they would do awesomely. Connect any Velcro straps to stop them floating around too.
The reason I use a pillowcase is to protect my gear and washing machine. There are some Velcro straps that wont stick together, so this way it wont catch on other items.

Put it on for a gentle warm/hot wash, if they are SUPER stinky add some white vinegar as that will help with the funk and it is also anti bacterial.

Then it will need some sun. Do not put them in the dryer!  The sun is great at killing that funk. Any parent who has used cloth nappies can attest to the awesomeness of sun in killing nappy stink.

Some skaters also use a spray after training like Glen 20 or a nice essential oil blend. Speak to Spanksy for her spray but anything with lavender, mint and cloves would be fab.

Now don’t forget about your helmet and actual skates, let them get some sun and spray too.

washing gear

 

~ Tink

 

BRD is the Word 3: Operation Elly’s Words

Back on skates and continued my Level 3 adventures… This turned out to be the year roller derby stressed me the f*** out.

 

OUT AND A BOUT

Come July 2013, I was back on skates… and it felt good! There were extra trainings organised involving four leagues across W.A.: Swan City Derby (SCD), Dread Pirate Rollers (DPR), Margaret River Roller Derby (MRRD) and us. We all came together on some Sundays at Eaton Recreation Centre for several weeks and did black and white potluck scrimmages. Some girls were at level 3 and some level 4. We all had a common goal… to be prepared for the Boom State Clash (BSC) in September. BSC was an event involving all the leagues in W.A.. 2013 was the pilot year and it became an annual event since then. I was proud to be part of it and would be bouting with other level 3 girls from other W.A. leagues. My team was called Red Rollin’ Hoods. I was stoked to be put on the same team with some of my good friends from other leagues including an ex-BRD member, Caity Strofic. We started fresh meat together and were comrades. I also made new friends at BSC. All of whom I’m still friends with. That was one of the beauties of roller derby… You befriend people you never thought you’d meet. Your circle gets bigger and there was nothing you could do to stop that. I’m not saying you get along with everyone. It’s just not possible to please everyone and be pleased with everyone. Roller derby, after all, is made up of humans and it isn’t immune to politics. That’s one of the cons. But that is life in general.

The black and white scrimmage went off without any hiccups from my bung knee. I figured I would be alright to play my first interleague bout against Margaret River in August. Normally, level 3s weren’t allowed to play against other leagues. However, MRRD gave this event an exception. It was an away game… we played on their turf. I was beyond nervous. You’d think it was out of my system after my first bout. No. As I later discovered, it happened every bloody time before every bloody bout. Anyway, this was my first time playing outside of my comfort zone. “This is just like another training. Just another training. It’s just another f***ing training…” On repeat.

“It was all good. I didn’t die.”

The bout was named “It’s a Bout Time.” Tickets were sold out. I drove an hour to Margaret River Recreation Centre with my fiancé, Major Lee Unstable (yes, we got engaged!), who was one of the referees of the bout. If I remember correctly, this was to be his last game. He decided he was done with roller derby as the commitment got too much for him. He was about to be a derby widow. Anyway, the MRRD girls were very welcoming and accommodating. BRD were given a change room with platters of fruit and sweets. All I ate were bananas. Bananas calmed my nerves… Vodka does too but unfortunately I had to stay sober until after the game. Puking on the track isn’t a penalty, is it??

Like as if being nervous about the game wasn’t enough, my banana brain had to f*** me over by forgetting to bring tights and packed mismatched socks. At least I managed to buy new knee pads from the Lucky Skates booth just before the bout. I did not skimp on the cost… Always buy the best knee pads you can find. One of our NSOs, Hug and Kill, saved me by giving me a pair of stockings she had stuffed in her bag. OK… F*** my a** hanging out of my skirt, head in the game. Pants are optional in roller derby anyway and the mismatched socks kinda worked. We had a lot of new skaters on the line up that night. Some of our veteran players weren’t able to play so BRD’s level 3 and new level 4 skaters made the cut. I felt like the game was chaotic… Team mates shouting, Benchies shouting, Referees shouting and blowing whistles, Audience shouting, cheering and jeering, DRUMS. One of the side entertainments were a team of people playing drums. They were really good and did their job entertaining, however, it was hard hearing your team mates and referees over the sound of the drums. It added to the atmosphere for sure but it was all a bit too overwhelming for this newbie. It was a pretty close game with BRD being in the lead and then losing the lead and gaining it back but in the end, we lost. I got wrongly called for a penalty once but didn’t dare question the referee and went straight to the penalty box. The ref only realised too late and apologised to me after the game…It was his first game too. It was all good. I didn’t die.

 

THE SKATER-REFEREE CONUNDRUM

Referees play an essential role in roller derby. Without refs, there’s no game. They donate their time so we can do the derbies. It’s not easy being a ref… You have to know the rules like the back of your hand plus keep up with the ever-changing rules of Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), skate and keep up with the pack, remember the penalty hand signals and judge what’s a penalty and what isn’t. There’s a lot of room for human error… although I must say that most refs are pretty on the ball, or should I say skates? I personally recommend skaters give a go at refereeing not only to put themselves in their shoes but also to learn the rules quickly.

 

“Sometimes during trainings, I drill refs with questions. That’s just because I could be a bit special.”

Some refs claim they don’t get enough respect. Now I’m saying this as a skater… Please understand how emotional roller derby can be. We are also human. There will be outbursts sometimes but in no way do we mean disrespect. This especially happens during training. Sometimes you get skaters and refs coming to training after a long, tiring, bad day. Therefore, some mutual understanding and forgiveness are needed. Some refs feel under-valued. Again, it’s unintentional. We do recognise the importance of referees. Please do not think we go out of our way to slap you down. I don’t think I’ve ever been known to blatantly disrespect a referee. Yes, I have been guilty of silently saying ‘f***’ on my way to a penalty box, but that was more due to frustration with myself. Sometimes during trainings, I drill refs with questions. That’s just because I could be a bit special. We love referees! In case I wasn’t clear…

 

HUMANS ARE MENTAL CASES

“Roller derby isn’t easy. If it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it.”

As mentioned previously, roller derby girls are the real life Wonder Woman but even super heroes fall. I’ve stepped up my game plan and attended more trainings than I did in the previous year. I still felt I haven’t done enough. Sometimes I didn’t attend trainings because I just lacked the mental capacity. I was going through some personal challenges at the time and while roller derby made me feel better, it also added to the stress. Oh the irony! Sometimes I would force myself to attend trainings and fundraisers. Sometimes I would tell myself to just put it in the f*** it basket. I felt burnt out and I knew if I pushed myself too hard, roller derby would become a chore and stop being fun. I allowed myself to slack off a little bit. “I can’t go, I got derby,” was one of the common s*** roller derby girls say. While attending trainings are important, if you find yourself stressing out to the max, do take a step back and take a breather. Tell your coaches and president or vice president of your club… They’ll understand. Roller derby isn’t easy. If it’s easy, it’s probably not worth it. Some people find it too hard financially and quit. Most leagues have flexible payment options. However, the main culprit is your equipment. If you can’t afford to buy new, buy used or offer a swap. In the Facebook world, there’s a useful page where you can buy, sell and swap roller derby gear in W.A.. Always approach your president before making the hard decision to quit. I couldn’t compare my financial situation to others, but lemme tell you… I was almost always broke! I’m still doing roller derby. Your wallet will go where your heart is.

Being more exposed to the roller derby world had also opened my eyes to the politics that ran it. I’ve done my best to not let myself get sucked in. Drama is another con in roller derby. Sometimes I get confronted with it and had to deal with it. My advice is… just skate. When in doubt, skate it out. No one likes to admit there are politics and drama in roller derby. No one likes talking about it either… but they are present and real. As mentioned before, we are only human. If we all can remember this, admit mistakes and apologise so we could move on without grudges, the unicorns will probably finally make themselves known to us.

 

THE BOOM STATE  CLASH

The day we’ve all been working so hard towards was finally here! Every league in W.A. was there. It was held at the Herb Graham Centre in Perth. BRD rented a ridiculously tacky awesome looking mansion as accommodation for us for the 2 days. The first day of the event I spent doing workshops… One of them was a blocking skills workshop with Wheels McCoy, Polly Cystic and Mary Fagdelene from Perth Roller Derby (PRD) as the coaches. I learnt from some of the best in Australia. PRD was among the high-ranking Australian leagues. When not at workshops, I watched the games. BRD Brawlstars played against PRD B-team and won! I think the Brawlstars surprised themselves with that one… I think so did PRD because they were used to winning against BRD. They were a strong team. I think sometimes the Brawlstars underestimate themselves. They were my unsung heroines. I secretly admire each and every one of them all for different reasons but with one common trait… general awesomeness.

 

“For almost all of these girls, roller derby was their life. They eat, sleep, live and breathe roller derby. I wish I could say the same for myself but my reality was that roller derby was merely part of my life… not all of it.”

The Brawlstars played a second game after PRD. They played against Western Australia Roller Derby (WARD) A-Team… They were another strong team based in Perth. A-teams were highly skilled, they train more and they train harder. For almost all of these girls, roller derby was their life. They eat, sleep, live and breathe roller derby. I wish I could say the same for myself but my reality was that roller derby was merely part of my life… not all of it. I had other commitments like fiance, kids, 3 jobs, band and non-derby friends were the main ones. Anyways, BRD lost against WARD A-Team. The day BRD wins against an A-Team is the day I’ll buy the winning lotto ticket.

 

Day 2 of BSC… BRD played against MRRD. The Brawlstars made a comeback from the last game we played against them and won. Soon came the time for me to play the Level 3s game with my fellow Red Rollin’ Hoods. I had my usual pre-bout nerves and bananas and I was ready to roll with my team. We’ve been conversing via a Facebook so I felt like I already knew most of them. Our benchies were Princess Pinebox and PT Bruza from PRD. Playing in a team where you didn’t know your team mates was a challenge. You had to quickly learn their styles, strengths and weaknesses and quickly form some sort of bond. In this case, this didn’t happen until after a few jams. We were losing. Morale was low. Me, being the reluctant jammer, decided to take the plunge and jam in the next round. To my surprise and delight, I got the lead jammer status and did a power jams and closed the gap in the scores a bit more. Power jams happen when the opposing jammer was in the penalty box and there was only one jammer on the track scoring. This was a great way to squeeze in extra points for your team. After my power jam, our morale was lifted and we  fought on. However, due to the other team getting a huge lead from the start, we lost the game/came second.

 

“Quitting now would mean I wouldn’t be surrounded by the sounds of skates on the track, getting stinky from derby sweat, getting hugged by people drenched in stinky derby sweat, derby kisses, after-partying with crazy derby girls. Those were some of the things I wasn’t willing to give up just yet. “

 

The Brawlstars played against WARD  B-team late afternoon that day. We lost that game but BRD was ranked 4th and our Bon Die Riot took one of the awards for Most Valuable Player (MVP) of BSC 2013. The Boom State Clash pretty much wrapped up BRD’s year. It was an eventful one… I spent practically the whole year cruising along as a level 3 player and I got a taste test of the real roller derby world and I wanted more. I wasn’t ready to quit even though there were times when I was at my lowest, it crossed my mind. I still had my eyes on the prize… Level 4/Brawlstar. Quitting now would mean I wouldn’t be surrounded by the sounds of skates on the track, getting stinky from derby sweat, getting hugged by people drenched in stinky derby sweat, derby kisses, after-partying with crazy derby girls. Those were some of the things I wasn’t willing to give up just yet.

 

-2013

– Photos by Ishtar Photographics

BRD is the Word 2: Operation Elly’s Words

My roller derby adventure continues… S*** just got real. I passed level 3! SCRIMMAGE CLEARED!!! Which meant I got to play actual bouts. Only one more level to go and I get to play against other leagues! 

BLACK AND WHITE

So… I passed my orange star/Level 3 assessment and had my first black and white pot luck bout. Black and white as in girls wearing black vs. girls wearing white. Potluck as in black and white teams members were drawn out of a hat on the day so no one knew their team mates until just before the game. Almost all the girls going for orange star/level 3 passed that night and that bout/game was our first one ever playing alongside the Brawlstars and other level 4 players. I was a ball full of nerves for days leading up to the bout. It was a normal pre-bout sensation apparently.I wasn’t sure if I was  worrying myself sick or if there was a flu outbreak within BRD because almost everyone  were under the weather that day. We all soldiered on and played. I was on the white team and  wewere leading by a fraction on the first half but then came second half and we lost… I mean we came second. Haha.

The black and white potluck bout came only days after the assessment. I kept saying I wasn’t ready. We needed at least a mock bout before the actual one to prepare us. We should just cancel the event as there was no time for a mock bout. Of course, I was wrong. If you kept saying you weren’t ready, you probably never will be. You passed your level for a reason… You’re ready. Trust your coaches’/assessors’ judgement… They wouldn’t put you out there if they didn’t think you’re ready. Setting your mindset to “I can do this, stop being a wuss” took a lot of practice. Roller derby, as  with any other sport, was psychological as well as physical. You have to have self-motivation. No one else can do that for you. You had to keep telling yourself that you can do it, you are capable, you are brave and confident. By doing so, you’re changing your thought processes from negative to positive… Cognitive restructuring. Repetition is key… Physically and psychologically. Practice, practice, practice. It gets mundane but if you’re motivated enough, you will do it.

“Every bout you play was a learning curve. Every penalty, every score, every hit, every miss, every fall, everything you experience, you take with you and make them part of your journey.”

I learnt a lot from my first bout. I discovered the strengths and weaknesses of my skills as well as other players. I learnt a lot more strategies of the game. I learnt a lot from my benchies. D’Lish Destruction was my benchie that night. Benchies/Bench Wenches were the eyes, brains and hearts of a team. They’re on the side lines strategising, plotting, scheming, motivating, managing. If you don’t listen to them, you’re f***ed. All I did that night was what D’Lish told me to and I survived. My weakness was speed, or the lack of. Hence, I was always a reluctant jammer. On the first half, D’lish asked me to jam. Reluctantly, I agreed. I wasted a power jam as I just could not get through the opposing blockers, even with the help of my team mates. I just was not fast and agile enough. I felt demoralised. Then, D’Lish offered me to jam again. I declined, scared I would let my team down again.After a few minutes, I changed my mind. ” I can do this, stop being a wuss.” After a hilarious fall that resembled someone slipping on a banana peel, I got my a** back up and got lead jammer status. Phew!

After the game, I left the building feeling proud of myself and I also understood the game so much more. Moreover, and most importantly, it was FUN. Every bout you play was a learning curve. Every penalty, every score, every hit, every miss, every fall, everything you experience, you take with you and make them part of your journey. At times you may feel like you’re useless, worry that the others think that you’re useless and you should just give up. Whenever you feel that way, exercise cognitive thinking… You’re probably your own worst enemy. Wine also helps. Wine, not whine. Whining helps no one. Just get over yourself and skate. Oops… too harsh. I shouldn’t say that. Roller derby does get emotional. Cry if you must, but do not give up. Yes, I was guilty of whining at times… mostly to my ever patient derby wife and mostly whilst drinking wine.

DERBY HURTS

We  continued training as usual after the black and white potluck bout. A few trainings in, I injured my left knee. We were practising scrimmaging on a  newly polished floor. Most of us were sliding and falling everywhere. I fell into an awkward position and took out a couple of girls as i fell and they dog-piled on top of me. It was hilarious until I tired to get up and found that I couldn’t bend my left knee. Sharp pain was felt on the back of my knee that radiated through my calf and hamstring. I inched myself off the track and one of the referees who was a masseuse by trade advised me to get it looked at by a physiotherapist. It seemed I damaged tendons or a ligament. I booked in to see a trusted acupuncturist a week later. During that week, I had to move around like an old lady… calculating, slowly and carefully. My first acupuncture session took the radiating pain away but the sharp pain behind my knee was still present. Skating was out of the question for at least two weeks. I also squeezed in physio sessions during my time off skates. My private health card was getting a work out.

“Roller derby people were every health insurer’s worst nightmare.”

Towards the end of the second week, I felt antsy to get back on skates. I knew I shouldn’t push myself and risk making my knee worse. After a few more sessions with my acupuncturist and physio double team, the sharp pain turned into a dull ache and was  still tender. In retrospect, I may have damaged a ligament. I never got diagnosed. My time off skates gave me a chance to build on my fitness more. Third week came and I decided to get back to training.

I did everything but scrimmaging as I couldn’t do knee falls. I felt useless but I shook that feeling off and focussed on the positives. My knee could’ve been worse. BRD, at that time, was going through a season of injured players… broken leg, broken ankle, spinal issues, rib issues and a concussion made a team of crip squad and I made the cut. None of these were enough to keep us away from roller derby. In fact, we kept coming back for more. Roller derby people were every health insurer’s worst nightmare. We all knew the risks when we first started. We all exercise strict safety precautions but sometimes, s*** happens.

Another positive… I could finally afford an upgrade on my wheels! One of the things that baffled me about roller derby were the different wheel combinations some used. Apparently, there were many different types of wheels… indoor, outdoor, hybrid, hard, soft, thick, narrow. Some would combine these on their skates. The hardness of the wheels had numbers, the harder the wheel, the higher the number. Same goes with the thickness. Harder wheels give you more speed whereas softer wheels give you more grip so you don’t slide out everywhere. Your weight and build also comes into play when when choosing wheels. Ideally, you want both speed and grip on the track. Therefore, the wheel combinations. Go figure! It was like a math problem trying to figure out the right wheels for yourself. Next on my list, new knee pads and gaskets for extra padding. Especially after the injury, they’re now a priority. New bearings were also needed. Ugh. Need. Money. NOW.

“You know you’re a roller derby girl if someone told you they wanted to hit you and you took it as a compliment.”

My knee wasn’t a hundred percent but I was eager to try out my new wheels so I attended training and did several drills involving hitting and jammer-assisting. I became jammer during the jammer-assisting drill and fell on my bad knee and injured it again. Tears streamed down my face  from the pain and realisation that it would be awhile before I could play again. I had been in denial of my injury. I almost did not want to know the severity of it. If it was my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), I’d be out of action for a long time. I had to miss my first bout with my home team, the Rockabullies. I really wanted to play but I knew if I did, I’d just be a dead weight. Only time (and trips to my acupuncturist, physio and masseuse) will heal. I wanted to be a hundred percent there for my team.

DERBY WIDOWS

Bruises were seen as trophies in the roller derby world and were glorified. Hardly ever you’ll find a derby girls complaining about their bruises. I say hardly ever because  you do get the odd ones who do complain. To them, I ask, “What did you think was gonna happen when you play roller derby?” For most, it almost becomes  a  competition on who’s got the most impressive looking bruise. We call them derby kisses. It was almost as if bruises were a measure of hard we played. You know you’re a roller derby girl if someone told you they wanted to hit you and you took it as a compliment. It was most unfortunate for our partners who sometimes got sideways glances from strangers… under suspicion for physical abuse. Why are partners/spouses referred to as derby widows? Most girls and guys in roller derby are practically married to the sport that there would hardly be any time left to spend with their partners/spouses. This was one of the cons of roller derby. Having said that, you do get partners/spouses who are highly supportive and would even get involved. Injuries weren’t enough to keep people away from roller derby but family commitments were. Despite the term, most roller derby people put their families first. Due to the level of commitment it took to be in roller derby, it takes a special sort of person to do the sport. Trainings, fundraisers, meetings, bouts (playing and watching), after parties, off skates fitness, recreational skating… These pretty much makes up the life of a derby girl. Now squeeze in family, home and work and/or study in between those. This is why roller derby girls are the real life Wonder Woman.

– 2013

– Photos by Ishtar Photographics

BRD is the Word 1: Operation Elly’s Words

This is my roller derby journey blog… An honest account of my roller derby experiences being part of Bunbury Roller Derby and the roller derby community in general. Enjoy! 🙂

ROLLER DERBY?

Facebook… where everything happens these days… Message from Princess Pinebox: You’re joining roller derby. Your derby name is ‘Elle on Wheels’. I gave in. What the hell… fine. I’ll try out. I could always drop out if I didn’t like it.

My boyfriend was the head referee of Bunbury Roller Derby (BRD) league. He was known as Major Lee Unstable. I’ve always had reservations on becoming a roller derby girl partly based on that. I wanted to keep certain aspects of our lives separate since he and  I did almost everything together. We practically had all the same interests and circle of friends. Roller derby was the last shred  of difference in interests. Then, I started to get to know the roller derby girls through him and  some of them became good friends. One of them was the bass player in our band.

In the past, I had misconceptions and thought of roller derby as cliquey. Cliques were one of the things I despised in general. That was my other reservation in joining the sport… or any team sports really. I was never into any team sports. The last team sport I played was netball in secondary school. Even that, I didn’t really like. It was just an excuse to be with my friends whom happened to love netball. Peer pressure and s***.

After being in Bunbury, W.A., for like a year, I bent to Princess Pinebox’s demand to play roller derby. F*** it. My boyfriend and I had that many common interests, what’s one more? Couldn’t be a bad thing. Not that I was really interested to begin with, to be honest. I was still pretty half-hearted about the whole thing. I needed to get fit… That was my motivation.

Then came the time for me to try out… I was ‘fresh meat’. I haven’t been on skates since I was 15… and that was on blades. I haven’t been on quads since I was like 9. I was 31 when I tried out. Needless to say, I was beyond nervous.

freshie of 2012!

 

ROLLER DERPY.

Some of the roller derby girls who  stopped playing were  kind enough to lend me  their skates. I ended up borrowing Eternal Damnation’s skates as they fitted me best. Princess Pinebox kindly gave me her old knee pads. I used my boyfriend’s old skate helmet, elbow pads and wrist guards. Everything was borrowed except my mouth guard. There were plenty of girls trying out that night. We all skated around the track and I found my feet after a couple of rounds. It was weird and exhilarating being back on skates. Not to mention, exhausting. Exercise wasn’t my forte.

“Roller derby was f***ing expensive but I couldn’t quit. I had fallen in love with it…”

I found out I made the league in a few days and the week after, I started my first real training. We first learnt how to fall… as I later found out, was  what happened almost all the time. I was still on borrowed stuff and we were briefed on equipment costs. I almost did not want to continue due to the high start-up costs. A very basic “fresh meat pack” would set me back like $300 – $400… which was a lot to me. I decided to get the equipment in dribs and drabs, as and when I could afford stuff, and persevere. I continued on with borrowed stuff for awhile. My ex-housemate who tried out for a referee position but quit early, generously gave me a pack of basic moderately cheap safety gear which served me for a good couple of months. I used the elbow pads and wrist guards but I used the knee pads given by Princess Pinebox as they were more superior. Always invest in good knee pads. I returned Eternal Damnation’s skates and borrowed another pair from a skater from Western Australia Roller derby (WARD). She very kindly let me keep them for as long as I needed until I could afford my own under one condition… Never use them outside. I dutifully only used  them indoors mainly because of the look in her eyes when she told me, “If you use them outside, I will kill you.” You do not mess with a derby girl’s skates. I could see why… they were f***ing expensive. That made it kinda hard because I couldn’t get in any extra training outdoors, which I needed. I needed my OWN skates!

I finally got my own pair of skates online for close to $300 (which is actually pretty cheap for a new pair) like 5 months into my roller derby journey. It was a mission trying to find a pair that suited me as I didn’t have a clue what to look for. I found myself constantly seeking advice from my bassist. Her advices were valuable as she was one of the founding members of BRD and she was an experienced skater. The day they arrived in the mail was, to my surprise, one of the happiest days of my life then. Couldn’t believe how excited I was. It was the most expensive thing I bought in a long time. I modified it with another pair of toe-stops as I didn’t suit the pair that came with the skates. There were still several modifications I’d like to make to my skates. Slowly does it. Money, or the lack of, was still a huge obstacle. One of the fresh meat girls I started with kindly gave me a pair of good elbow pads which served me for a good couple of years. With much financial difficulty, I managed to buy my own helmet and wrist guards. My knee pads were wearing down and I needed a new pair. Plus, a new mouth guard was in order. A year into roller derby, I was almost to a competitive level and my skating insurance needed an upgrade. Roller derby was f***ing expensive but I couldn’t quit. I had fallen in love with it despite my initial criticisms and rejections.

 

ROLLER DERBY!

By this time, I was ‘marinated meat’. As it turned out, the name ‘ Elle on Wheels’ was taken. It became another mission to find a suitable name for me. My boyfriend undertook this tedious task. I decided I wanted my name to be related to punk rock somehow as I loved punk rock. After numerous possibilities, He came up with a name I immediately synced to…’Operation Elly’. It was in relation to my favourite punk ska band, Operation Ivy. My roller derby number was initially 924, in relation to 924 Gilman St pub in Berkeley, California, where Operation Ivy started. I later changed it to 5446, after one of my favourite ska songs, ‘ 54-46 was my Number’ by Toots and Maytals.

I recall my very first training with the Brawlstars (the Level 4 skaters). It was  early Sunday morning at Eaton Recreation Centre, that had a slippery wooden floor. I was scared s***less I could’ve puked. I knew it was gonna be intense. We started with a gruelling 20 minute endurance exercise around the track. I almost died and the real training hadn’t even started yet. That was how unfit I was. After that, we did scrimmages. It was  my first time and the bench wench /coach threw me into the deep end and i did scrimmage after scrimmage practically without any breaks. I was right to be scared, but by the end of it, I felt empowered.

“I could see why the Brawlstars were attendance Nazis.”

I continued training twice a week (as much as I could manage) since then. Skating with the Brawlstars gave me a chance to learn the game and  strategies. Skating with my fellow ‘marinated meat’ gave me a chance to practise on my skills. I had to admit, in the past, as I was climbing my way up the levels, my attendance  wasn’t up to scratch. It was possibly why I  took longer than I should to reach the stars. Each time I failed to attend training, I failed to practise and learn. I could see why the Brawlstars were attendance Nazis. Roller derby was  practically a full time commitment. It was what I needed to improve on. There had been times where I wondered if I’d ever make the Brawlstars team. But then I thought this was supposed to be a fun challenge and not to stress out. It was better not to put too much pressure on myself and just enjoy the journey and experience. Roller derby was a challenge but I didn’t want to take the fun out of it. This may sound very ‘after school special’ but your roller derby team is like family… In and outside of derby. Initially, I cringed a bit every time my boyfriend called BRD his family. Like I said, I had misconceptions. Then, I learnt of roller derby wives. What the f***? Lame.

Before I knew it, I was sucked in and called BRD my family AND I had a roller derby wife… my bassist, Seneca Falls. We even exchanged rings! I had to laugh at the irony of it all. I had a new found respect for the girls of roller derby. Some of them you’d never expect to kick so much a** if you’re to meet them on the street. The social dynamics of roller derby was interesting, to say the least.

“…roller derby was synonymous to punk…”

You get a range from the most seemingly ordinary men and women to the more audacious ones. You get single parents, nuclear families, divorcees, married, singles, straight, gay, tattooed, clean-skinned, vegetarians, vegans, carnivores, omnivores, omnomnomnomnivores, etc. It’s a myth that roller derby mainly consisted of man-hating lesbians. Yes, being gay is highly accepted in roller derby, as it should be everywhere, but we love our men. The referees a.k.a. Zebras, were mostly men. Even though roller derby was largely a women’s sport, there were several men and co-ed leagues. The roller derby community, at its best, was one of the most accepting ones I’ve come across besides punk. I guess that was  one of the attractions for me… roller derby was synonymous to punk. I’ve seen roller derby empower women who were otherwise timid and and lacked self-confidence. No, it wasn’t cliquey as I initially thought. Yes, it was a high impact and full contact sport, with players getting bruises and injuries. There’s a saying, “If you can’t play nice, play roller derby.” Some people may find it ironic that a “violent” women’s sport was also an advocate for violence against women. For me (and some others), it was the perfect anger management therapy. You could channel your frustrations and aggression in roller derby, which was a controlled environment.

 

ROLLER F***ING DERBY!

As I stated earlier, my fitness was shocking to start with. I wasn’t  fat and I wasn’t skinny, but I was unfit. My lifestyle consisted of driving around A LOT, a desk job, binge-drinking almost every fortnight (sometimes once or twice a week).

” I discovered that roller derby doesn’t keep you fit… you have to be fit for roller derby.”

As a lead vocalist in a band, i loved performing whilst s***faced. My food diet was reasonable, I thought. But my input was more than my output. Probably the only exercise I got back then was moshing in pits. The only time I would run was if someone was chasing me. F*** sit-ups, push-ups and planks.

Since the first day of roller derby, my fitness slowly crept up, even with minimal effort. I discovered that roller derby doesn’t keep you fit, you have to keep fit for roller derby. I haven’t lost weight, neither have I gained. It wasn’t about losing weight, it was about being fit. BIG difference. My physical endurance had noticeably shot up. I still have got plenty to improve on and a long way to go, but overall, I was secretly proud of myself. I refused to go on a diet, so I stepped upon exercise. Output>input. It’s not rocket science. While my fitness was creeping up, so was my skill level. Although a little too slowly for my liking! Some of the girls who started with me had  already reached their stars, but they were the ones who were more dedicated than I was. Finally, I decided to step up my game plan… Simply by showing up to trainings and work out an exercise regime that fitted into my lifestyle. They say that losing weight was not about exercise but a lifestyle change. But I was not looking to lose weight and I loved my lifestyle. I was not unhappy with myself and how I looked, I just wanted to play roller derby!

“We were the small, fierce, yappy, sometimes annoying, sometimes lovable bitches with attitudes way too big to fit the vessel, barking at big bitches and never giving up. But hey, we’re cute bitches.”

Besides my fellow marinated meat girls whom have reached their stars, there were also ones who dropped out or moved on to other leagues. I mentioned before how I was tempted to drop out due to high start up costs. I was glad I didn’t. Girls drop out of roller derby due to various reasons. Funnily enough, injuries were not the main reason. Many girls who got injured came back for more as soon as they were able. BRD’s main challenge as a league was retaining members. We were a small league. Safety/strength in numbers were luxuries we did not have. Therefore, any loss of members was a huge loss. Everyone was highly valued: skaters, refs, non-skating officials. However, because we were small, we were tight-knit. We were the small, fierce, yappy, sometimes annoying, sometimes lovable bitches with attitudes way too big to fit the vessel, barking at big bitches and never giving up. But hey, we’re cute bitches. Small dog syndrome? Perhaps. For now.

– 2012

– Photos by Ishtar Photographics