A bunch of the league was out last night after practice for "Team Beer", and one of the members mentioned that her husband says we have a name for everything, like when we go out for drinks it's "Team Beer", or if we have a meeting and are going over the rules it's our "Ref Round Table". And it's true; we do have a name for everything. It simplifies things. After all, even though only about 30% of the ladies drink beer at Team Beer, it certainly is easier than "Team Beer, one with tomato juice on the side, a few vodka and soda, a large cold water, red wine with ice, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice and a house red." Because really, there are so many details in derby, that's what it would be like if we didn't give everything a name.
Derby is a complex sport, and we're being all too clearly reminded of that as we all prepare for our first bout of the season on May 14th at the Red Ball Internet Centre. For starters, each team has 14 members, but only a maximum of 5 of them are on the track during each Jam. So, with two teams, there are a maximum of 10 ladies, tearing up the track to mad cheers from the audience. Pay attention to the 2 with the stars on their helmets. They are the Jammers, and they are the only ones on the team who can score points. Then there's the Pivot (but that's a complexity whose explanation I'll save for another day). She's a blocker, and it's up to her and 3 other Blockers to get their teams Jammer through the pack and to block the other team's Jammer from getting through the pack. Each Jam lasts for two minutes. Unless there is a Lead Jammer, and then she can call it off. To start the Jam, the whistle blows and the pack starts and once they have all crossed the start line, a second whistle blows and the Jammers start. See, "Team Beer" is starting to make a lot of sense right about now.
But, if you think the game itself is complex then there's still a huge part of it which I actually see as the unsung heros of the sport. Those are the officials. The are actually 8 refs at a bout that are on skates. Then there are another 13 that are called Non-Skating Officials (NSO's). The thing is, when there are 10 helmets and 80 wheels spinning around a track, all of them trying to serge one another out, it really takes a lot of eyes to follow the action. There are 29 hand signals for penalties alone, and both players, refs and NSO's need to know them all. Minor penalties need to be tracked, because if a player gets 4 of them then she's in the penalty box. The rules of derby are extensive and the refs need to know them even better than the players themselves, and they have to call them the second they see them. There is no second guessing, and no instant replay. So, you can imagine that the players aren't thanking them for sending them off the track!
The fun part as an audience though is that you don't need to understand all for the little details to enjoy watching a bout. It is fun, and exciting and the crowd always gets into it. I can't wait! Hope to see you there!
I was asked by a few to blog about my derby experience and as of yet, I haven't. But, I will write a bit as a note, just for fun. I came to roller derby (Women's Flat Track Derby Association, or WFTDA for short) in a very round-about way. For starters, the year I turned 4o marked a wonderful decision that every year I wanted to try something new. There was only one condition: it had to scare the $h!t out of me. So, at 41, I put on a pair of roller skates, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, a helmet and a mouth guard. I wish I could pretend that within moments I knew I had found "my sport". But, I didn't. It was hard, and I was bad at it, and I fall like a building detonated for implosion. Only, when I do there are calls of "are you okay?" and when I am anything but positive there is someone steering me back in the direction of support! So, for all the times I've landed on my tailbone, and all the hits I've taken that fly me right off the flat track, I can say that the most amazing thing about WFTDA is the women themselves.
I really had no concept of what I was getting into when I finally accepted the invitation by the ladies who run the Moncton league to come and try derby. My ignorance was only dimmed slightly by a viewing years back of "Whip It". My first practice left me breathless, and the ladies who do this sport are tough. Super tough. They laugh during painful drills. They joke during endless squats. They smile while doing burpees. I wish I was making this up! Because all of that is so very hard for me. And as hard as it is, it's the amazing personalities that make it fun.
Women in derby are not at all what you imagine. There are mothers, and business women, midwives and artists. Usually when I join a group of women I am among a small percentage of creative women. I am pleasantly surprised to be surrounded by talent and creativity. It's really exciting to see the energy that is exuded by this group of women. Unfortunately, I am not able to express myself in words the way I am when I write, so I feel as though I don't let these women know how amazingly powerful I believe them to be. They teach me so much...about derby and about life!
I am forever changed by this group of dynamic ladies. Muddy River Rollers is an incredible league of women. Daughters of Anarchy make me wish I was on their team. Reines of Terror makes me feel at home! Honestly, I've never had this much fun with my clothes on!
Some of the MRR having a little too much fun during a photo op!