Power of Scotland's Assistant Coach: Rosie Peacock

As Caley Kapowski reported for the blog, Scottish Men's National Team, Power of Scotland, are going all out to raise money for the trip to Calgary for the second ever Men's Roller Derby World Cup.

One member of the Power of Scotland Team who has recently started her own fundraising endeavour is new Assistant Coach, Rosie Peacock. As she's offering roller derby coaching, we caught up with her to talk a bit about her coaching experience, and what she's offering for those who may be interested. Rosie is also currently on Auld Reekie Roller Girls All-Stars roster.

  • Before we start talking about Power of Scotland specifically, we should start by spending a bit of time just to introduce you yourself...
Rosie: I'm not sure there's a lot of time I could spend on it. I've been playing roller derby for 5 years; started off with Nottingham Hellfire Harlots. Just before Team England tryouts first time around, I had a knee operation, so I was out for that, which was gutting. Then coaching for probably the last 4 years; been all around the UK coaching on different levels - from professional through to National teams. There's not a lot interesting about me. I like the fact that, in roller derby, you do not have to look like what society determines is an "athletic body" to be really good at this sport. And I like the fact that the fact that I've got really short stature and a really big arse and yet seem to be able to perform at a really high level, seems to give a lot of people quite a lot of hope.

Also, I've been part of Team Metal Legs, which is for people who've been injured playing roller derby and forced to be off-skates for 3 months or more. We've done a lot of work, and that's just trying to build people's physical and mental confidence back up, after pretty traumatic breaks. And that's been a lot of fun to do as well.

  • And a lot of people seem to like you, too: you won the Talk Derby To Me [Podcast] "Personality" award for 2015.
Rosie: Oh, yeah. [embarrassed chuckle] That's, that's, right… So, I used to come up to Edinburgh a lot to visit, because I went to Uni here and it's where I met my husband, but then moved down to Nottingham, and then discovered roller derby. But I used to come back up, and when I did, I'd go and skate with my brother [Deathworm Jim], who used to skate for Capital City [Roller Derby]. (I'm still trying to persuade him to come back!)

But I remember coming up for a scrim, and it was my first scrim back after my knee operation, and there was this massive guy, that looked like a Viking, looking quite nervous. [laughs] It was his first ever scrim. And that was, now Power of Scotland skater, Optimus Grime. I could just see so much potential in him, and rightly so, he's an incredible skater, puts in incredible hard work as well.

But yeah, he seems to be quite fond of me, which is really nice because it's nice to have someone who's that cool who's on your side. He and Marryk [Talk Derby To Me co-host King Crazy] have been [inaudible] for quite a long time, we've announced together a few times, yeah, and I think because those guys… I think Grime nominated me and then Marryk's obviously quite fond of me too. (I don't know why! Maybe it's because I baked cookies for him one time!). But [winning the award] was really amazing, actually, I had a little cry about that. Don't tell anyone, but yeah.

  • But, coming back to Power of Scotland, you fairly recently became Assistant Coach. How has that experience been?
Rosie: Yeah, due to life pressures happening for a couple of the other Power of Scotland guys, I'm now Assistant Coach, which is [long pause] amazing.

So, I get to see these guys progress, from tryouts to gelling as a team, and really starting to hone in on some of the tactics and bring it together as a unit. Because they're all, as individuals, enormously talented guys, but I think the key for these National teams is to get the team working together as a unit. These guys will all be the best skaters in their home leagues, and used to fulfilling certain roles within their home leagues, but within the Power of Scotland unit, you know, they very much need to learn to trust one another as a unit. Which is a challenge when you're used to being the guy who's maybe the last one, the last line of defence, or the jammer who doesn't need to take offence. When you're going to be playing Team USA, then you're going to be needing some offence!

  • It's hard to emphasise how important this is for a National team in particular - "top dogs playing together", some of whom aren't domiciled in Scotland, who need to adjust to the different context.
Rosie: Definitely. It's definitely a challenge. I think it's a big transition mentally, as well, for a lot of the guys, because, I mean, the guys who are based within Scottish leagues all know each other quite well. Scottish Roller Derby is quite a small community, although it's growing all the time, it's still concentrated relatively around Falkirk/Glasgow /Edinburgh/Dundee; Aberdeen being probably the furthest away of the Big Leagues that I'm aware of.

But yeah, there's guys obviously eligible for tryouts from down in London, all kinds of leagues, and actually, those guys have gelled in really really well. It's really good - but I think it is a bit of a mindset change, because going from being possibly the best one or two guys in the league and being in a probably one-off-one-on kind of rotation to perhaps being in a one-in-three or whatever, that's a bit of an adjustment too.

  • Managing personalities, the "superstars"?
Rosie: Yeah, I love roller derby because, you can be a superstar but you will never be as good as four or five guys who are working together. And I tend to find that, overall, the superstar, or the, I guess not "superstars"  [because] for me, those are the guys who tend to be incredibly incredibly talented and skilled, but are also capable of being part of that unit. I guess the guys who are flashy, and do this stuff as an individual...
  • Ah, the glory hounds?
Rosie: uhuh, uhuh. They get to a certain level of competition, and then they peter out. Because they find it difficult to put their desire to outperform their teammates, if they can't put that to one side, and use their skills to support their team and be part of that unit. Sometimes that means that you don't "look" very good, because you're the guy who's just standing in a wall, and everybody's like "what are you doing", but actually you're doing a really important job here! Those guys tend not to make it to this level of competition, I think purely because you know it's that, you can be the Stef Mainey of Roller Derby, but if you're not working as part of a team, the other four guys are gonna render you redundant.

wp-1456494336545.jpg Rosie captaining the Hellfire Harlots against Newcastle Roller Girls in the British Champs Tier 2 Playoffs Final. (Credit: Jason "Roller Derby on Film" Ruffell)

  • And of course, "The Stef Mainey" of Roller Derby is a very strong team player herself!
Rosie: Exactly, exactly! I think sometimes [teams say] "if someone's not good at doing this, we'll put them as a jammer, because jammers don't work together". But Jammers don't work on their own - you can't have effective team offence if the jammers aren't working with the rest of the team to make it happen. So, the days of "oh, it's okay that they have a massive ego, we'll just stick them onto jam", those are long gone!
  • So, you will be travelling to Calgary, the rest of the Team will be travelling to Calgary…
Rosie: Yes! I haven't actually been able to pay for a ticket yet - I think because I stepped in relatively late on; I was part of the selection committee, but then took a step back, and it's only recently that I've stepped up into the Assistant Coach role. So I haven't actually had a chance to save any money, or plan, or prepare, at all. [laughs] So I am in a bit of a frantic frenzy of fundraising - not for myself, but for the Power of Scotland travel pot.

The way that PoS are running it, is that there's an expectation that everyone will be doing something to fundraise, and if you've managed to raise £50 or £500 is irrelevant, it's about the effort that we're putting in as a team, to try and help one another with the cost of just getting over there and back again.

So, a bit late to the party, so I've got a bit of time to make up for that now!

  • Power of Scotland are, themselves, offering Power of Scotland guest coaching as a fundraising approach (Ayrshire Roller Derby and Doonhame Derby Dolls both recently benefitted from this, for example). I guess that your coaching initiative is in addition to this?
Rosie: Yeah, I dunno, I'm like that jumper that you kind of only put on when you need something to put on, but it's still kinda comfy. [chuckles]
  • I know you don't like bigging yourself up too much, but we should say that you are a rather experienced coach!
Rosie: Oh, my goodness. Okay, so , I guess, I can't even remember all of the leagues I've coached - and that sounds like I'm being an absolute dick but I honestly, I can't. But I've coached quite a lot around the Midlands; I've done a couple of bootcamps for some of the Northern English teams.

Generally the newer teams starting out tend to be looking for guest coaches a lot more. Erm, because you can get to a certain level, with watching footage and coming up with stuff yourself, but then eventually you do want someone that's perhaps got a bit more experience to come and inject a few new ideas and kindof...

I mean, recently we had [WFTDA #2 Ranked Victorian Roller Derby League's] Lorrae Adams come over to ARRG. My mind was blown, it was like: "wow, I can use my shoulders!" I guess I've never used my shoulders in Roller Derby because my hips are so much wider; every time I try and come in with a shoulder, it's a bit pointless - my bum's already there! But she really opened my eyes to a whole different array of ways to use my body to make people fall over, which was great!

And I think, sometimes, passing that information on to other leagues, but in a way that works for them, is really crucial. I don't come in and just coach what I like to do! I ask the league what they're looking for, ask them if they've got any footage to get an idea of where they're at, and what the next steps for progress would be, and to make sure it's stuff that's going to work for them, drills they can take away and make their own, and develop. Rather than coming in and being all like "this is how I play roller derby, so everyone should play roller derby this way".

[For example], a lot of leagues will be doing different kinds of defensive wall now. In Scotland, people are predominantly, I think, using the braced three-wall with a sort of spare-guy. But perhaps elsewhere, you'll see a lot more of the cube-walls, and rotational walls, happening. So it's really important as a coach to understand and be able to coach all these things, whether your home league uses them or not.

  • So far you've talked about experiences with Women's derby, but we should say thay you've skated Coed with guys on track a lot too...
Rosie: Yeah, I love Coed. I absolutely ... I would love if Coed had the same sort of competitive structure that WFTDA has. I actually think it's (don't tell anyone), I think it's a lot more fun because you can really take advantage of the different body shapes and physicality of it all. I'm more of a thinky kind of skater, so rather than being particularly strong or particularly fast, I'll think about how to use somebody else's style as a way to knock them off balance, or control them, or frustrate them. I love Coed, because it's just something underestimated as an approach.

But yeah, so I've done load of these kind of fun [events], like Last Action Hero, SciFight, just generally, if there's an opportunity to play any kind of high level Coed, I'll want to be there. We're defending our championship titles for SciFight this year as well, so that's Game On!

  • I guess it's inevitable that Coed experience involves lots of exhibition teams; there's not a lot of permanent teams (although that's changing, especially in Scotland!). 
Rosie: Yeah, so its understanding that, yes, there are differences in body dynamics that need to be accounted for [between men and women], but not overly focussed on. There used to be this thing of "well, girls block with their hips and boys block with their shoulders", and, although generally speaking men tend to have broader shoulders and their centre of gravity tends to be higher up, whereas women tend to have wider-set hips, and their weight tends to be lower down towards their hips level, that's absolutely not the absolute rule.

There's loads of guys - there's a couple, [for example] Alan [Watt] in Power of Scotland who is an incredible blocker with his hips. And it really annoys me actually when people say "Oh, he blocks like a girl!", because, no, he blocks like an incredible skater, gender has nothing to do with it!

And there's teammates that I've skated with that their shoulders are much broader than their hips, and they've got incredible power in their shoulders. So, I would love it if it got to the stage where gender just didn't matter in roller derby. If it was "so, this is the team from [say] Manchester", and it's the team of the best skaters in Manchester, and how they identify in terms of their gender, or what their organs are, has no relevance. That's what I'd really like to see.

  • Gender policies and feelings about this are changing, though. For example, the UKRDA gender policy was an early leader in this kind of thing (before WFTDA themselves updated a bit).
Rosie: I really like the way MRDA is heading, in terms of "actually, you don't have to specify a gender, you just can't be a female skating on a female league, and also an MRDA member league".
  •  They just need to drop the 'M' from MRDA…
Rosie: Yeah. I know that Mean City in Glasgow have taken quite a lot of positive steps in terms of starting off as a Men's League, I guess in answer to the fact that there was only a female league set up at the time [Glasgow Roller Derby]. And now they've got to the stage where they're "actually, we don't care how you identify, we want you to come and skate with us, we want you to be the best you can be". And I really like that.
  • and a lot of the newer leagues in Scotland are defaulting to Coed.
Rosie: Yeah, and I guess in terms of the higher ranked teams, there's going to be that decision in terms of well, in terms of Rankings, a lot of it is done in terms of the WFTDA, which does have a more stringent gender policy, whether you agree with it or not, so it's "Women's Flat Track Roller Derby", and that is currently the primary Ranking System for the top level teams.

So, it's like "wouldn't it be nice if we could see WFTDA and MRDA merge to 'RDA', and [have] that ranking system take off, and make that conscious decision to stop caring about gender, in terms of athletic ability".

I'm not saying gender's not important to people on an individual basis - of course it is - but in terms of having an impact on someone's ability to perform in a sport, I think it's absolutely irrelevant.

  • Sure, I think there's probably still sports where there's a genuine gender gap (powerlifting, for example), although they do tend to be narrowing over time.
Rosie: Yeah, and I think [in roller derby], the wheels are the great equaliser. You can be as big and strong as you like, but someone half your weight and a slip of a thing can out-manoeuvre you, and you're done.
  • And you get lighter guys too, it's not just "Big Men versus Small Women". Jim Whyte, on PoS, is a pretty lightly built guy, but he does great things on track.
Rosie: Yeah, and he's a fantastic blocker. I know he does a lot of jamming, because he is so incredibly skilled on his feet, but you know, I've made the mistake in games of thinking, "ahh, weight ratios, I'll take him on his chest, it'll be fine!" And it's not fine! He's really good at assessing the angle that someone's coming in at, and counter-leaning really well.
  • This seems like a good place to start wrapping up; is there anything you'd like to particularly emphasise to the readers?
Rosie: So, yes, I'm just really keen to get out and.. I've taken a little bit of a break from coaching, because of the move from Nottingham up to Edinburgh, and that's taken a bit of a transition, and I've been kind of focussing on getting used to the way that things are done at ARRG, because on joining any new league there's a transition experience in terms of tactics and things. But, yeah, I just really miss coaching, I would really like to get out, try and spread the Derby Love to some other teams.

There's quite a lot of weekends between now, and July 20th, which is when we fly out, some of them are already pretty fully booked, but there's lots of weekends free. And I'm doing quite a lot of travelling anyway, so hopefully, I can book things in when I'm already in the local area.

  • You could even try to get in some coaching when you're over at the Big O with Auld Reekie!
Rosie: Yeah, ARRG are in as one of the lowest (WFTDA) ranked teams in the tournament, so that's going to be an amazing challenge. I can't see Rose City saying, "Hey, come over any coach us!". [laughs] That would be amazing, but no.
  •  Sure, but there's tons of smaller leagues in the USA too. Just like US skaters have basically just heard of London Rollergirls; skaters in the UK only hear about the big leagues in the USA. You don't see the smaller, just as interesting, leagues from the distance...
Rosie: Yeah, yeah, I hadn't thought of it that way!

Rosie is happy to discuss coaching anywhere in the UK, subject to travel costs for longer trips. Her signup thread on the Facebook UK Derby Dialogue Group is here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10150630253249969&id=500404968, but you can also contact her directly to arrange coaching.