An Interview with Wild Oates

Wild Oates in action - photo by Dave MacLeavy

The first-ever Roller Derby World Cup may be over, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped talking about it!

Team Scotland secured a very respectable 11th seed, and made a great impression on the other teams and commentators alike. One of the most-talked about Scottish skaters was Wild Oates, from Glasgow Roller Girls, who gained quite a reputation for scoring Team Scotland’s only point against the favourites, Team USA. She was even rewarded with a custom designed t-shirt from their star jammer, Juke Boxx! We catch up with Wild Oates on her return from Toronto to ask, “How was it for you?”

First of all, huge congratulations on your performance in the World Cup! It was great to see the support for Team Scotland from fans back home, but what was the support like over in Toronto?

We had a little group of fans that came and showed support during each bout we played and that was seriously awesome. We also ran out of merchandise to sell on one of the days. Those Team Scotland T-shirts proved to be quite popular so we may have gained a couple of new fans during the weekend!

How did you and the team react when you found out that you’d be up against Team USA in your second bout?

I was watching the live draw on DNN when it was picked and I actually screamed when I realised we would be getting the chance to play either Canada or USA in the first bouts. I may have done a little dance around the sofa when it finished and I knew we were up against New Zealand and USA. Then of course anxiety set in as there are 20 skaters on the team but only 14 can picked for each roster. I think the Captains had a really hard time deciding who would play in each game. I know they wanted to go in all guns blazing against New Zealand to ensure we got a good position in the initial seeding. The USA game was more of an opportunity to play against derby royalty. I don’t think anyone had any misconceptions that we were going to come out on top against their line up. However, it was all very exciting to get to be a part of it.

Once the group line-ups were revealed, how did you prepare for the challenge ahead? It must have been tough knowing that you’d be playing your first two bouts within a couple of hours of each other!

Well, a few of us only landed in Toronto an hour before Team Scotland’s scheduled training time the day before our first bouts. It was a case of getting up at 5am in Glasgow, jumping on a seven hour flight, landing in Toronto and getting in a hire car to the venue before strapping my skates on for a two hour practice. Panic did start to creep in as the tiredness didn’t make for particularly good balance and agility! I had planned to stay at The Bunker to watch the Team USA vs Team USA but had to make the decision to go back to the apartment to try and get some rest before the next day, which in the end was the best idea as by about 8pm I was close to tears I was so tired.

The first two bouts we played the following day were only 20 min periods so shouldn’t have been as physically taxing as we would normally be used to. Getting knocked about by the amazing blockers of Team NZ and Team USA was quite gruelling though. When we then found out we’d be playing Australia later on and it was their first bout of the day, we were a little concerned we may not have as much reserve energy as they might do coming into the bout fresh. I think we all just tried to stay hydrated and make sure we ate something sensible in between bouts. Some of us even managed to have a nap in the skater’s area but I was too nervous for that.

What was it like skating with the tournament favourites, Team USA, and then getting presented with a custom-made t-shirt from them?

Well, before the bout I was speaking to one of the skaters from New Zealand and they had likened blocking against Team USA to “trying to hit very fast moving refrigerators”. I think that’s a pretty good description. Those skaters have cores of steel and it’s impossible to move them! Even holding one of their jammers back for a second felt like a huge achievement, as they ran round us scoring at least 30 points each jam – ha ha! At one point Deranged turned to block me backwards and I tried to run at her chest to no avail, she may even have smiled at my attempts to budge her. But hey, once you’ve played against skaters like that, you are never going to worry about being hit by anyone again as you’ve been hit by the best!

The lovely Juke Boxx made my t-shirt as she had seen my rambling DNN interview. Our bench manager Knuckles found me, said he had a surprise for me and I had to follow him. I was convinced it was a hilarious cunning plan to get me back working on the Team Scotland merch stall but instead he led me to Juke Boxx and Disco who presented me with the shirt and took my photo. Disco customized it, Juke wrote my name and Fisticuffs mum wrote the script underneath. I kind of want to wear it everyday then get buried in it but I’m worried if I put it anywhere near a washing machine I’ll ruin it, so currently it’s hanging up in my bedroom as an amazing souvenir of an awesome weekend.

What was your most memorable experience of the tournament?

Possibly when my girlfriend Jen came out with a birthday cake at the end of our final game against Brazil and the team sang Happy Birthday to me, I ended up bursting out into tears. There were loads of memorable moments on track. Lawless getting that 30 point power jam in our first game was a pretty big one. Marla being awarded MVP was another. Thank goodness Dave McAleavy was with us to capture them all on film for us!

You skated alongside some extremely talented skaters - did you pick up any top tips from them, or strategy plans that you’re keen to try out back in Glasgow?

I think everyone probably took something different away from their experience. I was already aware of my need to improve my posture and stride and getting put on to jam a few times during the weekend really hammered home the importance of me improving these as I just wasn’t anywhere near as quick as the other jammers once I was out of the pack. Also Team USA hit you really effectively, just in the right spot to buckle your knees from under you – learning to do that would be pretty useful!

There have already been rumours of a European Cup - if this materialises, would you try out for Team Scotland again?

Definitely! Any chance to play more derby will see me trying out for the team. It would be great to play against more of the European Teams as Germany was the only one we had the chance to at the World Cup.

Are there any plans to catch-up with skaters from the international teams sometime soon? I bet you met lots of people that you’ll want to stay in touch with!

Well, they all have an open invitation to come and stay in Glasgow whenever they like! I’m a bit socially awkward at the best of times so wasn’t particularly great at walking up to amazing skaters and striking up conversation, but luckily for the socially inept like myself there is Facebook so I can stay updated if there are any meet-ups arranged. My league, Glasgow Roller Girls, are playing some European teams (Berlin,Paris,Malmo) this year so hopefully I’ll be seeing a few familiar faces.

What about your Team Scotland teammates? Can we expect a reunion and a challenge for ‘the best of the rest’ of Scotland’s roller derby players?

I think there are hopefully going to be more bouts on home ground for Team Scotland, the team stays fixed until March and then there is another selection so I’m sure the current Captains are keen to organise some bouts before then. There was talk of organising regular training sessions which I am excited about.

What advice would you give to skaters who want to try out for the next international roller derby tournament, whenever that may be?

Even if you don’t think you’ll get on the team, try-out anyway and play your heart out, you might surprise yourself. I had pretty much decided there was no way I would be selected for the team but saw the try-outs as an extra opportunity to skate with girls I hadn’t trained with before and perhaps learn something new. I was totally over the moon when I got the call to say I’d made it on the roster.