February 27, 2014

Right-Sizing your Derby Involvement

This week The Original Skankster and I sharing this little blog-o-sphere with a side-by-side piece about how we make derby fit our lives. I firmly believe that derby can be the right fit for everyone, and there are degrees to which you can be involved. From the intensity and glory of the Micro Bruisers to the recreational type fun on the Punchy Brewsters, you have to find what works for you. Deciding what your derby goals are, and being flexible with them is a really important step in figuring out your role in the league. Skank is speaking from the role of a Micro Bruiser. She has been on the traveling A team for as long as I have been in the league, so she knows a thing or two about about a thing or two, knowwhaddimsayin? I will be speaking from my own experience as a Punchy Brewster, member of the traveling B team. Our goal here is to help people who are coming up or  currently evaluating their own role to find the right fit for them and being satisfied with your decision.

Here is the lovely and indomitable, Original Skankster’s take on rollin' with the A Team:

More opportunity – playing on the travel team means that you naturally get more opportunities to play derby.  By being on the WFTDA sanctioned team, tournaments, scrimmages, and bouts are more likely to open up to you.  Other teams are also more willing to travel to you in order to bout.  By having more opportunities with ladies that you don’t skate with day in and day out, you have the chance to become a much more experienced, more adaptive player which improves your game in the long run.  You get more playing time, more experience with other leagues, and the chance to meet new people.  Networking is huge in derby, not only for making friends but for solving league problems as well.  Have you ever run into another skater and asked their advice about an issue you were having?  I have!  And I've gotten some great guidance when struggling with a derby, or life issue.  When you're able to sew new seeds of friendship, you or your league is more likely to be invited to a tournament or bout opportunity.  And it goes without saying, other leagues throw some great parties!

If it isn't hurting, it's ain't helping.  The truth is, if you're not being challenged at derby, you won't get better, and playing against the tough skaters who are all vying for that same spot on the team won't leave you coasting.  It's harder to plateau if you're learning from and being exposed to the players who know what they're doing.  Also by traveling, you're exposed to different skating styles and different strategy.  By observing and playing against these teams you're able to come up with great ideas in order to counteract these strategies.  Being on the travel team is a constant challenge and I love being able to see myself improve.  It's hard work, but it's why I love it!

And what about hanging with my derby ladies?!  Road trips and traveling to bouts has always been a major highlight about derby.  Our B team definitely gets to travel, but there is more weight for travel with our A team because of WFTDA requirements and opportunities for WFTDA play.  With a weekend away from life, we get to pump some tunes, drop our guards, and have some fun!  I've made some of my most precious memories on derby trips- singing along to The Little Mermaid with Miz, rapping with Sug and Poppin', petting puppies with Ktal and Spice, and dancing in the street with my entire team.  When I went to RollerCon, I was by myself, and I was pretty much adopted by derby friends I had made while skating with my travel team.  It really was like a big derby family, and being a part of something where people are warm and accepting was incredible.  Skating on the travel team definitely opens more doors for you, not only to network with other leagues but to strengthen the friendships you have with yours!

I love being on the travel team, but it's a lot of time, and more importantly, it's a lot of work.  When you’re a member of the top team, coasting isn't something we can afford.  As a member of the travel team I need to be an example of dedication, good work ethic, positivity, and camaraderie.  At times it can be very stressful.  It's also hard work to watch what I eat, lift weights and go running outside of practice, implement new strategy, and go 100% at practice at every practice.  Am I a perfect league member?  No.  Sometimes I take a day off, but nothing that came easy has ever really been worth it to me.  I want the challenge.  I want to see myself improve.  I want to look in the mirror and know that with every move I make I'm becoming more like Wonder Woman.  So, if that's what you want from roller derby, the travel team is for you!!

I, Mollytov Maguire, prefer a different role in the league with the traveling B team. Here are my thoughts on that:

The traveling B team may not take us as far and wide as the A team, but I still get to travel. Going to neighboring states to play in bouts with other skaters does give me the opportunity to meet new people, but there isn't the same amount of pressure on my to worry about our ranking. Being on an unranked team gives me more flexibility to be experimental, to really play. What I mean is that Punchies are purely for fun and that is the experience I am interested in. I am in the very serious derby business of having fun on the flat track.Yes, I work hard to be OK at derby, but I am there to hang out with my girlfriends, get some exercise, and not have to be at work. I firmly believe both teams are fun, both are creative, adaptable, and exciting, but I don't want to lay awake at night thinking about how I *might have* single-handedly lost the bout for everyone on the track (because if you don't know me by now, that's TOTALLY what I'd do). No pressure, less time, so fun.

If it isn’t hurting, uh.. well, that’s good for me. I don’t like being sore everyday but it’s OK some days. I hate it when I am so sore from practice the night before that I regret getting a car with a manual transmission. I like working out knowing that I am building a healthier me. I do not work out so that I don’t let down my team, however. Sorry ladies, I can’t take on that kind of responsibility. My satisfaction lies in knowing that I gave 100% of what I had to give, and that’s enough for me. Maybe my 100% looks a little different than someone else’s, and that is what derby is about; being able to “right-size” that stuff.

I guess the main thing I love about being a Punchy is that I do get to coast. I feel like it’s the right derby/life balance to suit my goals. Sometimes I am more intense than others. Sometimes I am stoked to be there and sometimes I come just because of the attendance policy. I don’t want to be the next Bonnie Thunders. I mean, it would be TOTALLY FREAKING AWESOME, but that is not something I want to work that hard for. Seriously. I love derby, and I love the community, but I also love the life that I spent 30 years building before derby came into it and stole my heart. Like with any relationship I’ve ever been in, I’ve always told my significant other that I want to want them, but I will never be the girl that needs them. When I need derby or I feel like derby needs more of me than I want to give, it’s time to re-evaluate things.

Really, I think Skank and I are getting at the same thing; we both love derby and we both love our roles. We’ve each sat down and thought about what derby brings to our lives, how much time we’re able to put into our derby goals, and came up with the solution that fits our lifestyles the best. Also, I love that there is room in my league for someone like me and my slacker ass "17 pieces of flair" attitude, and someone like Skank who asks us all to be more and leads by fearless example with a spirit that is nothing short of admirable.

Derby Love,

The Original Skankster and Mollytov Maguire

February 20, 2014

Offical Review: Being Gay in Sports

The views expressed in this blog entry are the opinion and do not necessarily reflect or endorse the views of Foco Girls Gone Derby, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association or any other sports entity.

If you've If you've picked up a copy of the sports section lately, you might have accidentally confused it for the lifestyles or opinions section based on the large number of articles about "gays in sports."  Just a few articles I have read in the last week include: Being Gay at the Sochi Olympics, Michael Sam Comes Out As Gay: Missouri Football Star Could be 1st Openly Gay Player, America is Ready For Openly Gay Athletes, Poll Shows and my personal favorite: How to Behave Around Your Gay Teammate in the Locker Room.

Before I delve into this topic (see disclaimer above), I should be transparent about why I am writing this piece. I am a gay man who officiates in the sport of women's roller derby.  Does my role as an official make me an expert on LGBTQIA individuals involved in sports? Certainly not.  But as a gay man who is also a sports aficionado it feels completely appropriate to write about the recent buzz in both the LBGTQIA and sports communities.

As a young kid, I grew up with team sports.  I can remember at an early age being involved with the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO).  My mom would cart my brother and me, once a week to practice and to games on the weekends.  This was my first real exposure to team sports and although I can't tell you our win/loss record for each season I participated in with AYSO, I do acknowledge that the experience allowed me to feel like a member of a team and also afforded me the opportunity to eat a lot of delicious orange slices after each game!

My second foray into organized sports was recreational volleyball, which, at the time, was largely considered "feminine" and I was one of the two boys on the team.   While I loved being on the team and played for three seasons, it was the first time I wondered if my teammates, coach, or spectators speculated about my sexuality.  You see, I knew I was gay very early in life and although I didn't come out until I was fourteen, this was my first intersection with sports and my sexuality.  It was the first time I wondered if being gay meant I couldn't play sports or be on a team.

It wasn't until I went to high school, where all students were mandated to play team sports in lieu of physical education classes, when I actually panicked about being gay and on a sports team.  By that time in my life, I had come out to myself and my family, but wasn't out to my friends or classmates.  Having attended a boarding school where you live, eat, and sleep with your classmates, it's not an easy secret to keep and my "sparkling" personality didn't really help either.

My first season of high school sports, I was invited to play on the varsity soccer team.  Apparently my youth soccer experiences paid off in the skill department.  Our first several games of the season were home games, which meant I didn't have to travel to other schools, but more importantly, it meant I could go back to my dorm room after the game and shower in the privacy of my own room.  However, it was my first away game that I dreaded, for fear of having to shower with my other teammates before we boarded the bus back home.

Let me shed a little light here for a second; when I was in high school, I was more terrified of showering with my straight teammates than they likely ever were of showering with the presumed gay guy on the team (see sparkling personality reference above).  I had a lot of the same body image issues that lots of young people face when you're going through puberty.  The only times that I ever looked at someone in the locker room was more for comparisons' sake of  "Oh wow, my body doesn't look like that, " or "Am I supposed to have hair there?!?"  My cursory glances, and those glances of my teammates alike, at other's bodies were more about the growing body image issue that we have in America, which is a different topic for a different day.  I survived through two years of high school varsity sports (soccer, swimming and tennis) with my head down and always being the first in and out of the rampant heterosexual environment known as "the locker room."  I provide this backdrop as context of what it was like in the early 90's to be a young gay athlete.

When I joined Foco Girls Gone Derby in 2012, I was never required, nor did I feel compelled to disclose my sexual orientation.  I joined with the hope of becoming part of a team again and to engage in a sport that I felt passionate about.  What I appreciate most about the sport of derby is that it has a relatively open door policy and that you have the right to be who you are without judgement or retaliation.  While I cannot speak for all leagues involved in either WFTDA or its male counterpart, Men's Roller Derby Association (MRDA), thus far I have always been treated with respect and welcomed with open arms by players, coaches and fellow officials.

It is encouraging that the revelation of gay athletes is as celebrated as it is, but also disconcerting that in 2014 an athlete's coming out story is still national news.  While I'm excited that Michael Sam is now "out" and has prospects to be the first openly gay NFL player, and the international response to Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws, especially in light of the International Olympic Committees objections, at the end of the day, fans and athletes alike still care about one thing: sports.

For my fellow athletes: treat your LGBTQIA teammates the way you would treat any of your straight teammates.  Joke with them, interact with them both on and off the track, court, field, etc., help fight the heterocentric nature of the locker room, and while you're at it, challenge body image issues raised in the locker room, and most of all, don't make judgments of an athlete's ability simply because of their sexual orientation.

For fans who love sports, neither I, nor most athletes, need a standing ovation for being gay athletes.  Simply acknowledge gay team members as an athlete who's out there doing what they love while providing you entertainment and enjoyment.  Support athletes when they make great plays and prevent yourself from using hateful words like gay, queer, or fag for players who make bad plays or are on teams you cheer against.

Michael Sam's coming out may open the door to a new audience for the NFL, but it likely won't have any huge ramifications on existing fan bases.  I, like many others, will not cheer any less for the Denver Broncos, despite their blundering performance in Super Bowl XLVIII, in place of a team that drafts the first openly gay player.  I also don't expect a mass defection of fans from a team that chooses to draft Sam.  There have always been and will always be LGBTQIA athletes but it is first and foremost the responsibility as athletes, officials, and fans alike to display the highest levels of dignity, respect and sportsmanship to all, both on and off the field.

Whistle Blower

February 13, 2014

Handing Over the Reigns

I've been in management positions for most of my adult life; I've managed multiple restaurants and even have a degree in management.  After a few months of playing roller derby, I knew that I wouldn't be content not having some say in the organization of the league.  So, as a doe-eyed newbie I ran for captainship of one of the home teams, The Deathrow Dolls.  I captained the Dolls for almost a whole season before I decided to run for the Co-Captin of the competitive travel team, The MicroBruisers.  I captained the Bruisers for almost two seasons before finally deciding to step down at the end of last season and oh boy!  Has it been a ride!

When I thought that managing a team of roller derby ladies would be no different than my previous management experience, I couldn't have been more wrong.  This is no restaurant, we don't get paid and managing those ladies will be a challenge I will never forget.  Being a competitive team captain means a lot of things; choosing rosters (possibly leaving out skaters you consider good friends), writing lines, leading practices, championing the team in athletics committee meetings, keeping morale high and even disciplining unsavory actions (dun, dun, dunnnnnnn).  My co-captain, Slim Skatey (and later Miz. Eerie Bizness) and I have a special obstacle to overcome as well- it was just us.  No coaches, nothing.  The coaching staff was just two ladies that had to figure out how to be "The Boss" while still skating as a teammate.

I know I'm probably making captaining seem like the WORST.  IDEA.  EVER.  But, alongside the issues and stress, I had a lot of great times that far outweigh the hard parts.  I got to wear my captain "C" ) "A" in the beginning) with pride, because I knew that this was a team that I helped create.  I got the pleasure of being told, "Great practice, Sug!" after practices I have developed and put together (a very daunting task, btw).  I got to introduce new strategies and watch them succeed (or fail, but let's not talk about that).  When morale was high, I could turn up my chin and know that I had had a part in it.  I got to take my team to two tournaments!  And, finally, when we won...WE WON!

Now that I'm no longer a captain of any team, I find myself trying not to become the dreaded "backseat captain."  But, it's hard not to have a say in the team that, for two years, I worked so hard to build up.  Luckily, I couldn't have asked for a better coaching staff to hand the reigns over to; Coach Paul, Assistant Coach Hayl, and our two wonderful captain The Original Skankster and Princess of Wails are AMAZEBALLS and I am so excited to see what they will do with this team.  Their motto for this season is "Athleticism, Discipline, and Teamwork," wowza!

So, to my successors: Have fun wrangling us through the bountiful derby merch at Wild West to get to our bouts (FYI, it will be like herding cats in a room full of catnip).  Don't wallow in your defeats.  Enjoy your victories.  And, finally, soak in as much as possible, because one day you'll be like good ol' Suga Smaxx having to pass off the torch. 
Now, let me get back to my stress-free derby life...NOT!
Much love, 

Suga Smaxxx

February 7, 2014

Roller Derby is (also) for Introverts!

I love people. I love watching them. I love listening to them (when they know I am listening and when they don't). I don't really love interacting with them though. As much I love being a part of social situations, I don't really want to be social in them. I am like a cat in that way. I want to be in the same room as something social, but it's sometimes really hard for me to be social, even with my close friends. I kinda just want to be in the same room and not have to talk. Sometimes. Not all the time. Sometimes, when I get enough booze and fried food in me, and I won't shut up.

Roller derby is perfect for me because we have a thing that we're doing. I don't have to ask people gently probing questions about their lives, their personal history, their families, their health, their happiness because we're doing something. We're derby-ing. I can tell them "Jammer standing!" and "watch the inside!" without hesitation but when you ask me about my day, I am flummoxed. I like to go to a place where I get to be with my friends, but I don't have to talk about my feelings in front of everyone. I make left turns, I skate it out, and I feel like I have done something. I saw some people today and it mattered that their faces were in front of mine. Roller derby is a fun, safe, place full of people I like and trust, who don't need to make me be things I am not. They only ask that I push myself harder, whatever that looks like for me.

I think introverts make awesome teammates because we are:
  • Very self-aware
  • Thoughtful
  • Enjoys understanding details
  • Interested in self-knowledge and self-understanding
  • Tends to keep emotions private
  • Quiet and reserved in large groups or around unfamiliar people
  • More sociable and gregarious around people they know well
  • Learns well through observation*
Don't get me wrong, I love my extroverted friends, colleagues, and teammates, but an introvert will wait and watch before they give feedback. We're thinking about what we're going to say before we say it. We do this on the track, in committee and board meetings, and in our relationships. We try and really understand a situation. 

I think the hardest thing for me is all the social opportunities surrounding derby. The after parties, the pre-game talks, the time when you're gearing up and down. Those things are like the first day of school for me STILL and I have been with my league for more than 2 years! There are new people, there are cliques, there are the "popular girls" and despite my best efforts, I know that I am not every one's cup of tea. And that's OK, it's just stressful sometimes. I get in my car and panic a little about who I am going to do endurance practice next to. Are they going to judge my squat-jumps and burpees? When I gear up, can they smell my wristgaurd stank like I can? OH GOD. Hopefully I am with someone in my inner circle, then I give no f**ks about those things.

Moral of the story, everyone has their hurdles, but being an introvert shouldn't stop you from PLAYING ALL THE DERBIES! because there are a lot of benefits of being an introverted type of person, on and off the track!

Derby Love,

Mollytov Maguire
*What is Introversion? By Kendra Cherry