“Writers are fortunate people.”
Susan Cooper

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

The Logo of the Beast
Belated Notes From the Roller Derby Track
Tue 2012-06-26 19:54:06 (in context)

It is no secret that I've fallen somewhat shy of the Daily Blogging goal. I probably only ever seem to meet that goal during National Novel Writing Month, when my writing-dailiness is under scrutiny (real or imagined) and so I need blogging-dailiness to stand witness to writing-dailiness. The past few months have not been November; thus, very little dailiness.

And the thing about roller derby is, it moves fast. So if I'm not blogging at least a couple times a week, there's stuff you're not hearing about. Sorry about that. To make amends, here's a big old long State Of The Derby post.

This will probably go more smoothly if I define a few terms.

"WFTDA" - Women's Flat Track Derby Association. The organization behind the modern-day roller derby revival, making derby into an honest-to-goodness sport. They define the rules, the minimum skills needed for a skater to bout, the national tournament rankings, and more. Also they've just spawned WFTDA.tv, where they live-stream and archive bouts in hi-def. If you want to see what modern roller derby looks like, I can't recommend a better URL.

"BCB" - Boulder County Bombers, the league I skate with. They practice in Longmont. They are always taking recruits. No experience necessary! Will train from zero! Recruiting referees, too -- perfect if you want to be on wheels but not get knocked down all the time! (At least, not on purpose!) Also recruiting Non-Skating Officials -- if you can't skate, you can still track penalties, time penalties, keep score, and perform other vital tasks! Get involved! (Here ends the recruitment spiel.)

"Phase 1," "Phase 2" - Specific to BCB. Denotes levels of practice and training. Barring any special circumstances such as league transfers and the like, skaters join BCB at the Phase 1 level. This is where you learn basic skating skills: skate maintenance, speed-skater stance (get low! bend those knees!), cross-overs, three kinds of stops, and five kinds of falls. You build up strength, stability, speed, and agility. At the end of each month, Phase 1 skaters who have met all their dues and attendance requirements have the opportunity to test up to Phase 2. That's where you learn important derby skills like positional blocking, skating "in the pack," hitting, and taking hits. At the end of each month, Phase 2 skaters who have met all their dues and attendance requirements may undergo WFTDA minimum skills assessments. Once you pass that test, you get to scrimmage on Thursday nights and eventually get drafted onto a home team and participate in bouts (games). This is also when you earn your skate name and submit it for registration with twoevils.org.

Here ends the glossary. On with the show:

Way, way back in April, I made my second attempt at passing the WFTDA minimum skills assessment. Did I blog about my first attempt? That first attempt was at the end of March, and it was complicated by a recent hamstring sprain. Still not sure how that happened. I fell down during a rare Phase 2 scrimmage in early March and couldn't seem to get back up without pain. The next morning, the knee was so swollen I could barely hobble around the house. I was on skates again in a week, but it seemed like every time I took a good fall I risked exacerbating the injury -- not to the original severity, but certainly bad enough to end my practice for the night. This wasn't the primary reason I didn't pass assessments in March. No, that had more to do with failing to get 25 laps in 5 minutes (but so close! 5:03! If I just hadn't've fallen...) and displaying insufficient stability overall. Still, the sprain didn't help.

End of April, I passed WFTDA assessments. It felt like a near thing, especially considering I took a few falls that made my injured knee really angry. Thankfully the majority of those were during the final drill, the one I like to call "derby hazing" -- the one where each testee takes a turn at being the trainers' target, and must weave forward and backward through the pack while taking (and not avoiding) hip-checks and full-body hits from the trainers. I managed somehow to keep getting up after every fall, rejoining the pack just in time to get hit again, until the trainers signaled that they were done with me. Then I pretty much crawled into the infield and sat there working on my knee for the rest of the drill. Despite that, and despite some wobbly times during the agility tests, and despite all the many little things that made me sure I'd failed again, they passed me. (My 25 laps, this time, took 4:45.)

Then, the following week, I finally took my knee to a sports orthopedist, who referred me to a month of physical therapy. (The physical therapist hadn't treated a derby skater before. He asked a lot of questions about the sport.) Between that and a second-hand good-quality knee brace purchased from a league mate, my knee's well on its way to healing without my having to take time off skates.

As noted above, passing WFTDA assessments meant I'd earned my skate name and number: Fleur de Beast, #504. "It's like a fleur-de-lis," I tell people, "only with more teeth." (You won't see it at TwoEvils.org yet. Newly submitted names generally don't show up for a year or so. There's only so quickly two gals can keep up with all those incoming submissions.) The number, of course, is the area code for my home town of New Orleans, where the fleur-de-lis holds a lot of meaning. The logo, displayed above, was me being A) surprisingly clever with image editing and B) very naughty. I admit it: I got exactly zero permission from the Saints (fleur-de-lis), Southeastern Louisiana University (teeth and tail), nor from... you know what? I can't even find anymore the logo I swiped the claws from. In any case, other than use the resulting creation as an avatar on Facebook and BCB's message board, pretty much all I've done with it is slap it on my helmet. And on this blog post. Should I ever become awesome and super famous like Suzy Hot Rod or Scald Eagle or PsychoBabble, I promise to make a new logo.

So next came May and weekly scrimmaging and team practices. BCB currently has two home teams. The one I got drafted onto is the Daisy Nukes; the other is the Shrap Nellies. Those two teams faced off on May 18 in BCB's very first home bout, which SOLD OUT and sold out QUICK. Seriously, they turned about 100 or more people away that night. Clearly, Boulder County loves having a league of its own. So. No pressure on us first-timers or anything, right?

I was only in a handful of jams, and as a blocker every time, and that was fine. My second jam, I took a fall and couldn't seem to get up from it -- it took me a moment to realize that this wasn't Revenge of the Right Knee but rather my toe-stop detaching from my skate. So I hauled myself off the track to reinstall it. Whereupon the outside ref -- the referee who skates around the outside of the track and keeps an eye out for major or minor penalties -- jumped over me. Seriously: I looked up and there was a skate above my head. Twice. Later, that same ref leaped over a skater on her way to the penalty box. Refs are scary awesome.

My last jam was also the last jam of the bout. Incidentally, I'm slowly accreting verses for a filk called "Save the Last Jam For Me," about promising to come in fresh after the other jammers are all winded and tired so as to pull off that 20-point jam the league needs regain the lead and win the bout. I am not, however, that jammer. Still, as a newbie blocker, I managed to pry myself out of my reaction-only rut and actually initiate some hits against some of my nemeses on the other team.

I've been chalking up slow but steady improvement since. I'm still pathetically easy to knock down, but slightly less so than a month ago. I'm still not as effective as I'd like to be at getting through the pack, but I've gotten quicker at spotting a chance and going for it. One of my team captains told me I've got potential as a jammer, since I'm small and sturdy. She's tasked me with working on my speed as I approach the pack. I shall do my best. I've started attending Sunday morning scrimmages with Detour Derby in addition to my own league's practices in order to get that much more experience. I hope to make more of an impact as a player in our next home bout...

...which will be on Saturday, July 21st. Don't wait that long, though -- we anticipate another sell-out bout. Visit Brown Paper Tickets to buy your tickets in advance.

And that's pretty much the news, other than my upcoming trip to New Orleans to visit family and participate in the Big Easy Rollergirls' annual hosting of the Running of the (Roller) Bulls. About that, more later -- other than travel, I've still got to piece my plans together.

(Next blog post will be actually about writing, I swear.)

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