Photograph by Dave McAleavy
The Scottish Roller Derby blog presents an interview with one of Team Scotland's Co-Captains,Lily Lethal of Glasgow Roller Derby
How does it feel to have been chosen as Co Captain of your national squad at the first Roller Derby World Cup?
Being selected to play for my National team was really enough of a personal achievement to be honest. If I hadn't been selected as co Captain then that would have been fine,but I didn't take the role on half heartedly. When Crazylegs from Auld Reekie was up for the other Co Captain position, it kind of put me at ease. Despite being in different leagues, we know each other well and my previous experiences with her have always been positive ones.
What are your World Cup highlights,both personally and for the team?
I suppose on of the highlights for the team was beating Argentina and Brazil in the same day! Knuckles our bench manager said, "now that wouldn't ever happen in football". The team relished the chance to play against most of our Derby heroes in Team America and skating past and seeing Scotch Corner and all our fans that had travelled was fantastic support. The free lasagna and tampons were great too! as was the general atmosphere.
Do you think that the team's performance reflects the 11th place position?
I think, that in true Scottish style, we got a difficult first group. The teams were seeded on point differential so unfortunately that put us with Australia in our first seeded bout. They ended up being fourth overall, it was a difficult game and it was our third of the day. If we had been selected in a different group, things may have been different but we were happy with 11th Place. I think New Zealand came 8th and they only beat us by 13 points.
How difficult was it for you and your Co-Captain,Crazylegs,to select teams for the opponents you faced during the World Cup?
Team selection was hard. it's hard enough having to do it once or twice a month but 6 times in 36 hours! In between that we had to deliver both disappointing and good news to our skaters with regards to whether they were skating or not. It's human nature to be disappointed with non-selection for whatever reason but in this instance, you didn't really have time to dwell or get over it! Then, we had line ups to write and strategy to discuss...it was a relentless week of hard work, but we both came away from this experience knowing that we did pick the right teams for the bouts we played. In future events like this, i would probably consider only taking 16 skaters instead of the 20.
Was being Co-Captain what you expected?..and will you put yourself up for re-election when the time comes?
I don't think that being Captain was exactly what i expected. It was hard work and i don't think that i would put myself up for reselection. I think it's a role that needs to be taken up by someone with a lot of Captaining and Derby life experience.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing,is there anything more Team Scotland could have done to prepare for the World Cup?
This job would have been easier if the team had the time for more practices and bouts together. This is why i feel the team should reselect skaters and Captains as soon as our term is over in march and regularly practice. To be a good Captain, i think you need a lot of respect and trust from your team it's hard to get that when you skate for a different league and are usually seen as the opposition. This needs to be worked on regularly and practice is the only way to do it.
What did you take from your own experience of the World Cup to improve as a skater and what lessons can be learned for the team as a whole?
We all came back with our own individual goals on how we can improve ourselves and this no doubt will be passed on to our individual leagues. Roller Derby is progressing at such a fast rate that things are changing constantly and you have to be in the loop .You have to constantly evolve or you get left behind.
With the European Cup cancelled, are there any other international bouting plans?
Team Scotland had hoped to play Team Ireland in March but it doesn't look like this is happening now. I don't know if any other national teams are free on the 17th March? but with the Euro cup cancelled, there are no plans at yet.
Glasgow Roller Girls have a busy season with upcoming bouts against Berlin,Stockholm and Paris.What else are the Glasgow Roller Girls up to this year?
And as for Glasgow Roller Derby as we are now known......well....watch this space! We have a BIG year ahead of us! changes all round. We as a league are heavily focused on being a constantly evolving sport! The correct image that allows us to be taken seriously as athletes is so important! We have gone through a rough patch and lost and gained some fantastic skaters. It takes time to gel as a team and this is now happening at an alarming rate! Glasgow Roller Derby are going to be a force to be reckoned with this year! We hope that our European Games will help to spread the word and with our own tournament taking place in August, it would be the icing on the cake for us to come out top and with our full WFTDA membership around the corner?... Onwards and upwards....
A new Roller Derby magazine launches this month in the UK,we talk to one of the founders of Lead Jammer magazine,Vic 'Moxie McMurder'
The founders of Lead Jammer Magazine,Andy and Vic,photograph by Vic 'Moxie McMurder'
What is your background in Roller Derby?
I started playing Roller Derby in November 2010 when my local team The Hells Belles – Hertfordshire Roller Derby was founded. Being part of that team changed my life, I became a Director and Head Coach which led me to taking a course in Personal Training. I’ve since stepped down due to ill health however I am still involved with the team and help out in any way I can.
How did the magazine get started and who are the founders?
I had the idea for the magazine in December of last year. I had been unemployed for a couple of months after being made redundant and to be honest was feeling pretty miserable. The idea for the magazine just popped into my head out of nowhere and when I mentioned it to my husband he thought it was a great idea so I decided to make a go of it. As I’d never done anything like this before it’s been a learn as I go experience, but it’s been great. I feel very fortunate to be doing a job I love and I get to talk about Roller Derby all day!
I’m the editor of the magazine so I source the articles and photography, advertising etc and my husband Andy works on the design side of things, he brings it all together and makes it look good. It’s a real DIY labour of love and we’ve both really enjoyed working on the magazine together. We just hope that people who buy the magazine will enjoy it too.
Magazines are a notoriously difficult business to get up and running, has it been difficult to get up to the launch point?
I think we’ve been incredibly lucky so far, there have been no problems and we have a strong network of friends and family who we can reply on for help if we need it. The Roller Derby community have been so supportive and excited about our magazine that that in itself tells us that what we’re doing is important and worth giving our all to.
Who is the magazine aimed at,skaters,fans or a mixture of both?
We’re aiming the magazine at both skaters and fans but I’d hope that someone who doesn’t know what roller derby is would get something out of it too. We have some really fantastic writers on our team and they’re constantly coming up with ideas for articles and have just as much passion for the magazine as we do. We couldn’t do this without them.
What can we expect to see covered in the mag?
All kinds of good stuff! We’ll have bout reviews, giveaways, team profiles, kit reviews ,fitness both on and off track, alternative fashion, and music reviews. (We’ve been on the lookout for bands that have derby players/refs etc in them) We’ve put a lot of effort into making the magazine as diverse as the Roller Derby community itself. We hope there will be something for everyone. We’re open to suggestions too, we’re always on the look out for new ideas.
Theres lots of exciting stuff happening in European Derby,will the focus of Lead Jammer be Europe or the Uk?
Lead Jammer will focus on the UK however we know that Roller Derby is getting bigger and bigger in Europe and we’d like to help give some exposure to those teams so we now have some European contributors to give us the low down on the Roller Derby scene in their cities/countries for future issues.
Inside Line launched not so long ago,do you see them as a competitor ,or is there room for two Derby magazines in the UK?
We’ve spoken to Jess at Inside Line and she’s been really helpful, we see them as friends not competitors. I think our styles are quite different and we can co-exist peacefully.
How do you see the future of Lead Jammer?..where do you want the magazine to be in a years time?
World domination!! Haha We have big plans for the magazine including some pretty cool ideas for our online content. So long as Roller Derby is played we’ll be around to promote it. We’ve had so many emails from people around the world who are interested in the magazine and want to support us, the Roller Derby community rocks!
Image Courtesy of Auld Reekie Roller Girls
ARRG's Home Season games continue with a bout between the Leithal Weapons and the Skatefast Club.The bout is at Meadowbank Sports Centre,Saturday the 25th of February.Doors open 2pm,entry is £7 on the door or £6 with an advance ticket. Just in case you missed it,you can read the first Home Season bout report here.
Since then, the most difficult thing for me has actually been keeping my nerves at bay and a smile on my face in the lead up to our first public bout against DRG. I'm cramming in as much practice and rules knowledge as possible, and even managed to sneak in an extra game in GCRG's intra-league bout 'Slaughtership Down' yesterday! I just have to keep reminding myself to have fun out there and to do my best.
'Bruise Brothers' will kick off slightly earlier than usual at 12 noon in The DISC, Dundee. Rest assured, there will be more raffle prizes and cakes than you can shake you tail feather at!
Advanced tickets are available online for £5, or £7 on the door.
In many ways, it’s easier to face these challenges now than it was back in 2006 when London Rollergirls were just getting started. There’s a vast array of established UK leagues, all keen to help those starting out. Every league has nothing but praise for the support they received from the existing roller derby community. “I definitely could not have done it without them,” says Aby of the Leeds and Manchester leagues. “They came to our first session, and they’ve set us out a training plan to get all of us who haven’t skated before to a good level.”
Dundee Roller Girls’ Cilla Block has been one of those helpful skaters for the Scottish leagues. “I think it can be quite daunting starting up, so ff there’s anything I can do to help, Scotland’s not all that big, you you’re only an hour or two away on the train. For Inverness, with [Irn-Bruzer, NNRG chair] at the moment, we’re looking at helping them with their mins.” She’s quick to note that even established leagues are always looking to improve, “Even now Dundee Roller Girls is always looking for people to come and help us, and I think it’s important for us to share that with other people as well.”
Even without being able to visit, the online roller derby community is a vital resource for information and advice. The Nasty Nessies are over 100 miles from their nearest league, but, according to Team Rep Cherry Bow “…the internet has been our life line! We have had support via Facebook, Twitter and emails from other leagues as well as individual skaters from as far afield as the USA...”
If you’re going to be a league, you have to have somewhere to skate. Practice space (and, later, a bouting venue) is often the first difficult problem that a new league faces. Many sports halls are reluctant to host skate-based sports, as they can mark the floors. One solution to this can be to find a hall that already hosts roller hockey; both the York Minxters and Dundee Roller Girls found their practice space by this method. The first site is can often be the hardest, as Fierce Valley’s Grizabelta discovered: “As far as finding practice space goes, whilst we hit every obstacle we could to start with, once we'd been at Bo'ness a few months I wrote to all the other halls with a massive spiel about how great derby is (boosts self esteem, gets non-sporty types active, great camaraderie etc) and thankfully it worked!”
Paying for the space, and the equipment, can be a challenge, even for established leagues. Most set up a subscription fee for skaters, or practice sessions, and the community can be helpful in lending equipment at the outset. Without access to funds from stalls at bouts themselves, however, sometimes you need to be more innovative. Fierce Valley recently held a concert as a fundraiser, and, as founder Kirk Jammett promises, they have plans for further action: “The novelty of the fundraisers tends to come from our own skaters' hobbies – we just try and sell what we're good at! Our next event is going to be a cabaret night!“
The other advantage of big fundraisers is in spreading the word, although most leagues find that the enthusiasm of their members makes for the best medium. Tiger Bay Brawlers’ Lola Coaster enthuses that “the majority of our advertising comes from word of mouth promotions through skaters and our friends and families and I think that’s where the roller derby community really shines. Those who do love it are so passionate about it and that passion is infectious, whether you’re directly involved or not.”
It’s also worth talking to your local skate shops and seeing if they’re prepared to offer you deals on the basic kit. Both the Minxters and the Nasty Nessies managed to arrange discounts for their skaters; the Nessies even managed to gain a coach in one of the owners. Although as new to roller derby as the rest of the team, he is learning on the job, and applying his experience in teaching skateboarding to the role.
If you can find someone with more coaching experience, however, it can work wonders: Fierce Valley have gained tremendously from initial coaching by Auld Reekie skater Ella-Bella Bang-Bang. As Grizabelta explains, “we were put in touch with the amazing Ella-Bella Bang-Bang by a mutual friend. Ella-Bella lives in our neck of the woods so helped us with our training right up until we passed our mins.”
Tiger Bay Brawlers have also benefited from having an experienced skater to help kickstart their coaching, BB Bombshell bringing experience from her time in Victorian Roller Derby League in Australia. “BB definitely pushed us as athletes which has contributed to how successful we’ve been so far” say coaches Billie Pistol and Judge Redd.
If you don’t have access to an experienced skater, it’s not the end of the world; the majority of TBB’s coaching team, including head coach Judge Redd, have built up their experience from scratch; “We get new drills from bootcamps, guest coaches and online and keep up to date with strategy by watching games both in the UK and online, quite often we'll see something we'd like to try and create an exercise around it.”
Of course, the point of those coaches is to bring you up to speed on the first challenge of all new skaters: minimum skills. Lola Coaster is keen to emphasize that they should be treated positively: “I think a lot of people are terrified by the ‘pressure’ of minimum skills, but I think they’re a really good way of measuring how far skaters have come since they first strapped on a pair of quads. They’re a really good way of identifying skater strengths and weaknesses so you know what you have to work on and have a defined focus and goal.”
It’s not just your skaters you need to concentrate on, however; a new league can’t afford to ignore the need for training referees and NSOs. Fierce Valley and York Minxters might have lucked out by being co-founded by Referees-in-training, but not all leagues can be so lucky. NSOs, are a little easier to acquire, as the traditional role of injured or otherwise indisposed skaters. NNRG’s Cherry Bow is a case in point, “I am planning on starting a family soon and I know I can't skate when I'm pregnant so I want to train as a NSO and a ref so I will still be actively involved.”
When you do start to grow, there’s always the potential for drama; everyone knows at least one league that’s experienced some kind of major or minor conflict. The Norfolk Brawds’ Jessica Whackit advises: “Don't take it personally when people realise it's not for them. We had a huge number leave us before Christmas and you just have to remember that whenever you get a large group of people together, personality clashes will happen. With this in mind, setting up a coherent committee structure will see you through absolutely ANYTHING.”
When all your skaters have passed their mins, the next challenge for the league is the big one: the first bout. It’s understandable to be a bit nervous; despite it being a closed-bout, Fierce Valley’s Grizabelta admits: “we're still quite terrified! And yet really, really excited... I still struggle to get my head round what we've achieved – the bout will be 2 weeks short of our first birthday so it'll be the best celebration!” Kirk Jammett agrees “As one of the refs I'm terrified of messing up badly and also scared of some angry girls screaming at me! … And as Ella-Bella is being our Head Ref – we really don't want to let her down as she's been such a fundamental element to our success.”
Still, if the nerves, and the inevitable disadvantage of facing much more experienced opponents gets to you, you shouldn’t be discouraged. The Norfolk Brawds’ first bout ended in a 23:188 loss, but Jessica Whackit took the best side to the experience: ”We were lucky enough to have a big loss, but still come out feeling on top. If you can lose well, you can win nicely. Towards the end of the game, a lot of the crowd were shouting for us, and we sold so many t-shirts! We came away with a lot of new fans, as well as our faith in our team intact. We played and lost as a team, so we won really.”
By contrast, Tiger Bay Brawlers have had an enviably successful first year. Based on their experience, Lola Coaster offered this parting advice: “It’s really hard to give a single piece of advice; I could write a whole article on do’s or do not’s. If I am only allowed one then I think I would have to say “be positive”. Yes you’ll have bad sessions, yes you’ll have weeks/months where you feel roller derby is taking over your life, yes you’ll get hurt at some point, yes you’ll miss sessions, you’ll be left out of the game roster and a whole host of other things that can make you think negatively and wonder why you bother. But be positive and stick at it.”
Cherry's pick for February is Belle Block-H, so be sure to come back in 30 days to hear about her month!
What was your biggest initial difficulty?
Lots of roller girls find it hard not to spread the word about their new sport. How have you been spreading the word? I spread the word from my first night on skates! I went home and bought my skates that night. From that night onwards I have not stopped talking about Roller Derby. I think if you ask most people I know they'd probably say I should just stop talking. I have a passion from the sport and I think more people should know about it. It's really taking off in Scotland now and it's a great thing!
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt/done this month?
I started skating with the lovely Dundee Roller Girls when they were still the Dundee Destroyers. The girls taught me everything and helped me really improve and become a better and confident skater and I have a lot of great friends there. It was hard to leave as your league becomes like your family. I knew, however, that financially I couldn't keep going to Dundee 3 nights a week.
This is when I decided to move to Fierce Valley Roller Girls. I was extremely apprehensive as I was going into something as a new skater to them but not new in the sense that I had passed minimum skills. They are an amazing group of people and I felt welcome right from the beginning. My FVRG family are some of the most amazing people I have ever met and some of the most inspirational. They never stop surprising me and never stop improving. It's also one of the best things I've done! Another of the best was getting to Captain FVRG in their first (closed) bout against the lovely FCR. It was manic but great fun and I'm happy to now be Vice Captain to the lovely Fun Ghoul as Captain in February.
We have our first public bout on February 18th against the lovely Dundee Roller Girls at the DISC in Dundee. We are gearing up for this and so excited!!!! As I mentioned before we have some AWESOME bouts coming up this year and a lot of nice trips (including Sweden). 2012 is going to be a great year for FVRG. Oh we also have another Fresh Meat Intake on February 19th at Bo'ness Rec Centre from 11am, the day after out bout. No rest for the wicked!!