September 26, 2013

Official Review: My Year in Roller Derby

“Yes, I officiate roller derby.” I say that phrase a lot; often to the surprise of people I meet on airplanes, at conferences, or even when I am with my friends and family. People usually ask me a ton of questions about the sport, the rules, what I do; and quite often, provide commentary about how surprised they are that roller derby is even around anymore.

As I prepare to celebrate my cough*36th*cough birthday next week, it dawned upon me that I quietly celebrated another milestone last week, the conclusion of my first year in roller derby.

It was with more than a little angst that I agreed to volunteer with our local roller derby league, FoCo Girls Gone Derby in September of 2012. At the time, I had some exposure to roller derby through my then local (now WFTDA Apprentice League) Appalachian Roller Girls (ARG) in Boone, North Carolina. Although I had watched several bouts, witnessed many wicked hits and celebrated the wins and loses with ARG at their after parties, looking back, to say I knew anything about roller derby would be misguided and just plain wrong.

When I headed off to my first “practice” as an official, I didn’t even own a pair of skates. I arrived at the roller rink, picked out my size 10 rental roller skates and then had a quiet epiphany; I hadn’t put on roller skates in over 20 years. *Flashback Alert*: Picture it, the late 80’s/early 90’s; as a young middle schooler taking a trip to the roller rink and skating to the then coolest Madonna or Tiffany song, ya, that was my last go around with roller skating.

I put my gear on, and off I “skated” (editorial commentary here: to say that I was “skating” is probably an overstatement. What I was actually doing was balancing on 8 wheels and gently rolling forward praying to God, or frankly any deity that would listen at that moment, that I wouldn’t fall.). Sure, on a Saturday night at a bout, you see how athletic and quick the skaters and officials are, but quite frankly, you don’t get to that point without falling. You see, there’s LOTS of falling in roller derby. Lots. Did I mention that we fall? A lot.

You might guess that I am terrified of falling, and at that time, I would absolutely, unequivocally agree that falling and getting hurt is what worried me most about roller derby. To call myself an athlete prior to joining derby would make anyone who knows me, laugh out loud. Heck, it would make me laugh out loud.

Regardless of my fear, I told myself that I really wanted to experience this sport and to eventually become the best official I could be. So off I “skated” (reference editorial comment above) in the outside official’s lane while the skaters whizzed by me at an amazing clip. I cringed every time a skater came within ten feet of me or when their body slammed into the ground around me. What I started to notice was that every time they fell they literally bounced back up like popcorn. Falls seemed to mean nothing to these women, in fact, it was an expectation that at some point you were going to fall and fall hard.

It wasn’t until about a month into my derby career that I was beginning to feel more confident on my skates, and was quite happy with my progress. I had practiced my crossovers, my “controlled” falling and my stopping skills. I was skating with the big kids, the A-Team Micro Bruisers, now at practice and then it happened.

I was skating in the outside lane for officials when the scrimmage jam ended. The skaters on the track were rushing off, the next line of skaters were rushing onto the track, I was skating to my position for the next jam when, standing before me was a skater. We made eye contact, I zigged, she zagged and BOOM, we hit each other, hard. The contact was hard enough that we both spun around, fell to the ground, me hitting my head on the track and the skater landing on top of me.

I was dazed and confused as to what had just happened. It took me a minute to get up and rattle the cobwebs out of my skull, but then I realized I had just experienced my first real “fall” in derby. Sure, it hurt, but more importantly, in my mind, had “survived” a brush with derby death! Let’s be honest, those next few jams all of my fears of falling getting hurt came rushing back into my head. While the first fall didn’t kill me, I was sure that something similar would happen again and I would get really hurt.

As we continued the scrimmage, three or four jams later a skater while falling down herself, unintentionally slide tackled me to the ground. Many people, sans me, saw this happening as they described it, in slow motion, but didn’t have time to “warn” me. Unlike the first hit which I saw coming, this one took me totally by surprise and I went down like a sack of Idaho’s best potatoes. What surprised me more than the fall however was, much like the skaters I bounced right back up and resumed skating.

After that scrimmage, I realized that I had this incredible energy and drive when it comes to derby. I never expected roller derby, of all things, to become such a positive influence in my life. My derby experience has not only taught me about skating, but also about the importance of getting up after you fall, whether it’s on or off the track.

I’ve grown to love this sport and I couldn’t be happier knowing that derby will be an integral part of my life for a long time to come. I look forward to celebrating more derby anniversaries in the years to come.

Thanks for a great year!

Whistle Blower

First Year Stats for Whistle Blower
  • # of Bouts Officiated as a Skating Official: 23
  • # of Bouts Officiated as a Non-Skating Official: 26
  • # of Tournaments Officiated: 4
  • Furthest Distance Traveled to Officiate:
    • 1224 miles for Rolling Along the River Tournament. Sioux City, IA (Driving Roundtrip);
    • 2040 miles for Wild West Show Down, Bremerton, WA (Roundtrip Flight)
  •  # of Derby Crushes: 4
  •  # of Derby Wives: Still Zero. Nada. Zilch.
  •  # of Derby Weddings Attended: Just 1 real one (Love you HardKore Ken & Warchick Barbie!)
  •  # of derby friends: Too many to name, but I am so fortunate to have each of them in my life!

September 20, 2013

Your Butt is Your Canvas

I'm feeling saucy today.  More than saucy.  I'm feeling a little unhinged - in a good way.  So instead of a wonderful, well thought-out blog full of good content, I'm filling it with BUTTS.  That's right, good ol' fashioned eye candy.  We've all seen it before; roller derby ladies have astounding ways of expressing themselves, but none better than the booty shorts wreathed in messages, art, and the usual sass.  Join me, oh brave ones, for your viewing pleasure...The Butt Canvas.

First, the attitude.  These ladies are daring you to mess with them.

Who doesn't want to pack an extra punch while playing derby?  These ladies see themselves as their OWN superheroes, and we love them for it!

A little, Patriotism, perhaps?

And last but not least, the skaters that just LOVE roller derby and aren't afraid to shout it from their bums!

And last but certainly not least...

Instead of looking at the ladies as simply, "well-dressed butts," think of them as badass Monet's, Rembrandt's, or Picasso's.  We all love our butts, and you should too!


The Original Skankster

September 12, 2013

The Doctor is In

What time is it folks? That's right, it's time for another P.S.A. courtesy of the fine ladies of FoCo Girls Gone Derby, and me, Mollytov Maguire. There are a lot of phrases that get thrown around in derby; vulgar, funny, and punny alike roll right off our tongues (see what I did there? Get it? ROLL??). Something like "shut up and skate" is fairly innocuous, but today I'd like to draw attention to "derby is my therapy."

While I love that so many skaters of the world have felt healed, helped, and included by roller derby and derby culture, I am a little worried about denizens of the derby-verse who need more than just skills, drills, and scrimmage to feel balanced. This week is suicide awareness week and I would like to reach out to those who can't just smile and hip-check their friends and loved ones into feeling better. This is an issue that is near and dear to me as I have lost many friends to suicide.

For many of my teenage years, it was a common thing. I went to more funerals than I rightfully should have. Friends and schoolmates dropped at around 1 per year for almost all of my teens and into my 20's. There were some who I was particularly close to and there are regrets that I will always have about "not seeing the signs" and whatnot. I loved those people and still do which is why I want to talk about when derby isn't the best therapy because THERAPY is. There ain't no shame in struggling folks.

I wonder if this idea that derby is on par with therapy undermines the people who do actually need help. These are our friends and lovers. They're our bothers and sisters in arms. They're people we'd take into our foxholes. I can speak from experience that when I've said "derby is my therapy" in the past, what I meant was "Gee, playing this sport with my friends sure is swell. I am very happy to be here right now!" and not "Derby has fixed something that was broken inside me. If you don't feel the same way, you obviously haven't accepted roller derby into your heart as your personal savior." It's the latter interpretation that concerns me. This is like telling an already depressed person that it's their fault because they're not doing it right, that they're not derby-ing right. When I have struggled with life's little "treasures" off the track, I have looked at the glee on the faces of my teammates with covetous hostility, wishing that I could rip the happy right off their faces and keep it for my own. "Why do they get to be happy about derby? Don't they know about all the shitty shit in my world right now? Bitches."

I read a post on reddit a few months back about a skater who was coming back from injury while struggling from depression, and the idea of socially re-assimilating into her league was stressing her out. She couldn't decide if depression had made her feel more isolated than she was, or if she was pushed away by the league because of her injury/depression. Well, that is the million dollar question isn't it? Is my issue real or am I imagining it? I couldn't presume to know which was true (both maybe?) in that skater's case but I do know the things that help me. Her post has haunted me sometimes and I wonder what happened with that skater. I hope that she found her place in the league again and has dug herself out of the darkness. I hope that she isn't looking at the women in her wall is suspicion. I hope that she is back on skates and chipping away at all the hard things day by day.

Depression is a real, serious thing and it happens. Even to derby folk. Sometimes derby is the best therapy, and sometimes it isn't. You, as an individual, have to be able to identify the difference. There are many ways to start getting better; you can talk to someone, you can take some anti-depressants, you can (preferably) do both, you can hug a friend, snuggle your cat, play... uh bad-mitten, or scores of other things that make you feel like you're not a shell of a person. For me, I'd rather get some extra sun on my skin, have a wild night with my girlfriends, or a cozy/restorative night in with Mr. Maguire but when my usual bag of tricks started failing in huge, epic disasters, it was time to find another way. And I did. And now I am OK. And you can be too. And use your community and resources to find out what is right for you. And then let's all get together and play some derby, K?

Derby Love,
Mollytov Maguire

September 5, 2013

When Life Gives You Jamming, Make PB & J's

Oh, jamming.  Sometimes even the word gives me anxiety.  I spent most of last season being a blocker because that's where my team needed me, and let me tell ya it was awesome.  I felt so much less pressure because I didn't have to score points, I got to know my other teammates a little better, and I learned a lot about derby (and we can all admit that killing the jammer is a ton of fun).  Recently, we've had a few skaters leave due to life changing events like post-doctorate work and grad-school (excuse me but don't they know derby is more important???) and I've been moved back into jamming.  This has caused, if anything, a small amount of constant anxiety that is present with me at all times.

Jamming is intense and demands a lot.  It pushes you physically to your edge, strains you mentally, while the whole time all eyes are on you.  It's an incredible amount of pressure to be responsible for the points scored for your team. Yes, yes, I know, the jammer is not completely responsible.  Derby is a team sport and it's just as much about your pack as it is about you, but it's a lot of pressure to perform individually.

We've all stood in the circle getting ready for our next jam.  Someone holds up the jammer pantie.  We all stand in silence while we look around, waiting for someone to volunteer so we're off the hook.  Finally someone sighs loudly and says, "Ugh. I'll do it," and we all take a deep breath of relief.  Thank God, I think. I can breathe for 2 minutes.  Now let me tell you something: It's ok to breathe for 2 minutes, but then you have to get in there.  Derby is a contact sport and is about overcoming your fears.  So overcome them. Resting on your laurels doesn't do anyone any good; not your team and not yourself.  Push.  And then give yourself a high-five for it.

Jamming is also hard because it's easy to get tired (cardio is hard, ok?)  You're basically sprinting for 2 minutes.  It may sound like a short amount of time; it's not.  Sometimes I need someone to step in and relieve me for a bit.  When my legs are jelly, I don't jam.  This is a good thing. I don't want to get injured, get a penalty, or even worse injure someone else.  Just look at your coach and say:

But let's not forget the icing!  Jamming has its incredibly sweet moments too.  Remember that time you got a power jam and scored 20 points?  Remember when you jumped past that girl and got through the pack? Remember when you just didn't go to the box?  Admit it, it felt good.  It felt more than good; it felt...delicious.  Jamming is difficult, but that's what makes it so worth it.  I get to push myself and challenge what I'm able to accomplish.  So every once in a while, I have this incredible moment where I feel on top of the world.  Then I go out on the next jam and fall on my ass.  Oh well, this is derby!

So even though you left practice feeling like this:

I think of what it felt like to completely shut out the other jammer...

And remember my friends, 


The Original Skankster