Gender. Who cares?

Earlier this week there was discussion on social media about a vitriolic blog post regarding men, sport and roller derby. I responded, off line, to Treble Maker’s request for respectful comments and was pleased to get a reply from her. There was also discussion in our private Facebook group.

One benefit of the post was to make the reader stop and consider their experiences and views of the sport. Writing those down for Treble Maker helped of course.

Perhaps the most important thing that I noted is that I have never considered gender to be an issue in roller derby. Never on track nor off. Players, referees and NSOs – gender doesn’t matter.

Skateful Dead is a small team (we’re working on it!) and so for most of us our co-ed scrims are our only game time. The emphasis of these has always been fun – above all else. I’ve never stopped to consider the split of male/female players on the teams. It’s not an issue.

We have a number of women train with us almost every session. That’s never been an issue either, not for the team nor, that I’m aware, for them. We just have all the fun!

Today was a lovely session. There were eight playing, Gillie coaching and Carly reffing, so after some skills work we had enough to scrim with short teams.

Thank you folks for making my Sunday morning so much fun xx


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Triple Header

Yesterday was my first scrim of the year, a co-ed that was the middle scrim of a set of three.

The first was a women’s cherry popper. I was down to referee for this one, and it’s been a while. My worry when wearing stripes is that I’ll miss calling a penalty when I should. I was an outside pack referee. (There are three covering a game, skating around the outside of the track, in front, beside and trailing the pack. They are looking for cutting the track to the outside, directional and multi-player/back blocks in the main.) It went well I think. I spotted a few penalties but before I could get the whistle to my lips others had called the penalty. We swapped around for the second half and the other ref seemed very few penalties too, so hopefully I wasn’t too far wrong. Time flew and before I knew it the game was done and it was time for a quick change ready for the co-ed.

I was pleased that HYLANDER was there. During the warm-up we agreed that there were lots of big blokes playing and that we were both a little nervous. (I hadn’t given it a thought until one of the other refs asked if I was playing in the co-ed and then if I’d brought ibuprofen with me.)

The teams for the co-ed were decided just before the game, on a very simple basis – two blokes and four women had to change from black to white. No bench or line-up, we just sorted ourselves out – Beat Monkey took on the role of captain and did the initial organising. After that we cycled players with a hitch. On track were a mix of players who I knew and a good number that I didn’t. About seven from The Inhuman League, some from Lincolnshire Rolling Thunder, Hull’s Angels and York Minxsters. (Apologies to those that I’ve missed.) There was lots of talk about the walls we should use and did our jammer want from or back wall and then it was half-time. I never bother checking the score but by then we (white) were losing somewhat, 10 points to black team’s 130 something.

During the second half I jammed (just the once) and got one penalty (a low block, falling as I tried to stop Claud Apart). We also managed to score a few more points, ending up with around 50 I think, to over 200? (possibly, I’m never much bothered.) More to the point, the game was played in good spirits. There was moment towards the end of the second period where the jammers collided, helped each other up and carried on around together, the lead calling it as they reached the back of the pack.

That was to have been my day. The final scrim was a mixed women’s game, which I expected to be watching. However, one of the other refs asked if I could take his place. Ha! Bonus! I did another quick change and kept going for another hour.

It was a brilliant day. The Angel’s were all as lovely as ever, Harmony, Dane-ish, Flowers and Iron Giant to name a few. The co-ed was ace, Minxsters, Claud, Jenna (who took some big hits and is just so cheeky). I didn’t mess up whilst reffing, thank you Ref Metal (?) and Owen for your help. Quite a few compliments on my leggings too!

Big love! See you all soon :-)

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Death by…

I have posted previously that Skateful Dead occasionally suffer low turn-out at practice. Recently this has been particularly bad. Indeed, I had the distinct feeling that people had made new year’s resolutions to skate less.

On 10 January we there were two of us. We were, thankfully, joined by Sue Perman as a guest coach. She always delivers a non-stop session – focussing on footwork this time. She was also happy to get on track with us, so making three. (Plus Carly our ref and Gillie our regular coach.)

The (short, one hour) Tuesday session was well attended. Then the 17th we were back down to two, plus Carly and Gillie. Rather depressing. Discussion turned to the future of the team as we can’t continue to play out more for use of the hall than we take in dues/fees. As a dues payer I’d never really stopped to think about this, though it makes sense. The team can’t continue to run at a loss.

We all have lives outside of derby (so I’m told) and it’s not always possible to make it to every session. (I missed training yesterday to travel over to Hull and ref/play there.) The problem, we felt, was people saying they’d be at a session and then not turning up. If we know we are going to have low numbers then we can (reluctantly) cancel the session. Numbers also impact on Gillie’s lesson plan. Carly sent a message to the group pointing out the situation.

After that session I was mentally preparing for the team to fold. Well, I’d have more free time, but I really enjoy playing with Skateful Dead. I don’t think I’d want to play for another team. Would I have to join Aire Force One or Manchester? Bugger!

Fortunately the message was well received. Tuesday was well attended and last Sunday we had a great turn out. It made all the difference between two and a half hours of scratting around for something to do and a packed, non-stop session that left me absolutely knackered!

So I want to thank everyone for making the effort to get to training. A special note to those who travel silly distances to get there, Simon, Jim and those from York, Stephen, Georgie, Tanya and Beth. Thank you! :-)

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A while ago I had an interesting conversation with another derby player.

He was saying that he wished that blokes that he known in the past could come and see him now. Come and see him play roller derby. Come and give it a go. Not just give it a go, but understand the players.

By people from his past he meant those that he’d played other team sports with; team members. He mentioned football and rugby specifically. He explained that, when he was part of those teams, that the members, himself included, had a strong opinion of what was “normal”. If you weren’t “normal” then you didn’t fit in. You weren’t part of the team. He actually said that looking back he realises that he was a dick. And so too where the other players. He wanted them here now so that they could see that in themselves and change.

On appearance alone I would judge him as fitting in to a “traditional” sports team as a “proper bloke” in a way that I never have done. At school I avoided rugby, electing to play fives, badminton or go cross-country running instead.

I started at roller derby when a friend invited me to give it a go. I’d long enjoyed skating and it seemed an ideal opportunity to spend more time with wheels on my feet. I never stopped to consider if I’d be any good at it or if I was too old, it just seemed like a fun thing to do.

As I settled in it soon became apparent that this is a diverse and welcoming community – one where “normal” is just to be yourself. Well done derby community, keep up the good work :-)

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I’ve recently played in two sur5al tournaments, both co-ed, utterly different from the other, but both immense fun.

Sons of Icarus

Lilley Savage, jammingThis tournament used a few sur5al rounds to grade players for three full length games. Having lost both of our games we played in the bronze game. This worked out well for us; the black team of which we were a part took a strong win over the white team. As a bonus the full length games were captured on video and are available on YouTube. The day was really well organised by Mushiewookie, who I thank for the photos and videos.

The Rolling Dead

This was a “proper” sur5al competition. 75 skaters forming 15 teams. Each team plays every other team once. Whilst points scored by the jammer are recorded, they are not the primary grading system. “Sur5al points” are the main criteria, jammer points coming in to play in event of a tie.

Skateful Dead fielded two teams, coming fifth and fourteenth. We also had Thickin Ted playing for the Hades team. Considering our numbers we were well represented! Our top team consisted Buckingham Malice, Rollerphobia, Hylander, Hellfire Hoskins and Harassing Ford. Our second team was Durbinator, Block Teaser, Pixel Vixen, Dis-Droid and myself.

Lilley Savage, blockingAll members of our team had a go at jamming. I’m always happy to have a go, but quickly felt that I was not the best person for the job. In our first jam, against our first team, I got called on a cut track. In the following jams I got a direction of play penalty and an illegal procedure (bad star pass). I jammed one more time, almost at the insistence of the team – I don’t think that anyone else wanted to do it.

I wasn’t keeping track of how we were doing during the event, though some on our team were. Block Teaser was very competitive. I fear she probably found my ineptitude on track frustrating. Pixel Vixen also had strong opinions on how we should play. They both play at A team level, so they’re doubtless used to having players that can execute a plan. Sorry ladies.

I’ve noted previously that one of the great things about roller derby is that you occasionally get the opportunity to skate with amazing, high level skaters. This event had them in spades. The Rainy City team won every game they played and won the event. Not surprising; they were untouchable on track. Hull’s Angels team also did well, coming fourth.

My takeaways from the day:

  • I have *so* much to learn about the game
  • I seriously need to improve by skate skills
  • We have some damn fine skaters on the team
  • Most roller derby folk are nice people

Footnote: My derby number is 73, not 79 as pictured above. It got lost in translation and I didn’t notice the error until the day before the event.

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I feel I should be writing a long piece about all the things I’ve not found time to write about over the past six seven weeks. I’m not going to.

Skateful Dead is a small team, very small. Our players are few and busy, so training sessions are often low numbers. I’m absolutely fine with this, that’s not what this post is about.

We train twice a week, Sunday morning for two and a half hours, Tuesday evening for 90 minutes. In between I train off skates, though not as often as I should. But that’s not what this post is about.

Just recently I’ve had a few sessions where I just felt like stomping out and quitting. This is when I’m jamming and getting completely stuck behind walls and yet others, who are only occasionally there and do nothing between practice, get through. “Why am I so f***ing useless?!”

That’s what this post is about. My poor attitude and how I’ve managed to escape it. On reflection it’s been a few simple things:

  1. Reading Treble Maker’s blog. I like her writing style and I can relate to many of the points that she makes. She also has some great exercises to work on.
  2. The Icarus Sur5al day. I expected to be nervous, but it felt like an opportunity to meet lots of new people. I jammed a few times and I didn’t feel out of place. I even scored a few points and managed to chase down the opposing lead jammer so quickly that she called the jam before scoring points.
  3. I’ve been watching loads of derby on YouTube, specifically the Division One playoffs. In just about every jam the jammer gets stuck, or cuts track/back blocks/gets recycled. If it happens to jammers at that level then I’m definitely going to get stuck.

I still have so much to improve upon, but I’m feeling fine with that now. I just need to train harder :-)

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For the past few months the sticky note on the kitchen cupboard has been nagging me to blog, but the demand of work have robbed me of much of my free time. This post is a quick wrap up of events over the past (nearly) three months.

Inspire Centre

Skateful Dead’s new training venue, at the Inspire Centre of Calderdale College is going well, though the Tuesday sessions are rather quiet. On a number of occasions there have been just three of us on track. These are still really useful though. Two blockers against a jammer is a good drill. On Sunday’s we do better for numbers, though not a full team. Last week was our last for a few weeks; an enforced break as the hall is being used for enrolment. There were five on track. I’m welcoming the break. I’ve injured my ankle and need to rest it.


Ta-da!In mid June I was over in Hull celebrating the marriage of Jenna and Matthew. A very enjoyable and relaxed event with lots of lovely people; Jenna’s parents treated me like family from the moment I met them. The party was at Thieving Harry’s out in what I consider the old part of Hull. Really good food, dancing until the early hours. Jenna had talked me into doing photos, which actually went well I think, though I didn’t do enough film. Thank you for inviting me! :-)


At the end of June I was in Nottingham as HARD’s photographer. A double header pitched the Angels against Newcastle and the Harlots against Manchester. The outcomes were no surprise, Newcastle beating HARD 505 to 60.


Hull again in mid July to referee a mixed scrim hosted by HARD. Not well attended, the teams where a little short, as was the ref crew. The consequence was that I got to jam ref. The prospect scared me but I managed. Thanks to Beat Monkey for explaining how to do it. Having two whistles now makes sense. Another notch in my reffing portfolio!


At the end of July my sister and her family were visiting from Berlin. I took a week off to spend time with them. Lovely to see them. (A stupid twinge in my back gave pain for a few days.)


August 1st was our first co-ed scrim at the new venue. Reasonably well attended by a lovely mix of skaters. The game was close, white team losing by one point. My mum, son and nephew came to watch and all enjoyed it – I feel it gave them an insight into my addiction to the sport. (An aside. Yesterday evening I “made” my mum watch Whip It! Chatting afterwards she asked if there were any teams like the Holy Rollers in the UK – agressive/win above all else. She then added that she didn’t see any such bad attitude at the co-ed. That we all seemed like really nice people. Good to hear this from an “outsider”.)

Triple Header!

40 707A short hop to Leeds to see Hot Wheel take on Leeds, HARD play Manchester and then Harlots against Newcastle. Three good games, Newcastle’s win making them champions on their tier. I believe they now travel down south to play against the winners of the equivalent tier.
The past week has been a bit crazy as I’d still not found time to post all of the photos from Harlots/Manchester game back in June! However, they are done. Some lovely, and much needed, feedback – thank you Dave. There are some very talented photographers covering roller derby now. This is great for the sport but I was starting to feel that photos needed to be better. I’m spending more time outside of the track now, moving around more to get different views.


PepperToday I’ve been over in Hull covering the HARD A and B games. (The journey gave me opportunity to blog!)

HARD A played Sheffield All Stars and won comfortably, 211 to 84. Sheffield are a great team, they have fun on track, never give up and never seem to be down. A few cuts, bumps and bruises but everyone came out smiling. Well played!

Some fresh skaters on track today with HARD B against Leicester’s B team. Another game played in good spirit. Hull took an bit of a lead to start with but Leicester pulled it back. With 15 minutes to go in the second period they were level. Leicester though pressed on and took a win by 33 points, 187 to 154. Oddly, not only have I never seen Leicester play they have never really been on my radar. I put that right today and bought a T-shirt to prove it :-)

RenegadeI assumed that there would be food at the venue but there wasn’t. I had water with me, but nothing to eat. Abi sorted out a pain au chocolate. Then I had the neat idea of asking Iron Giant to grab me something for a shop if she had time. She arrived having made me a very yummy ham salad roll, with an apple, crisps and chocolate biscuits. What an absolute super star! :-) (I’d baked her marmite and cheese biscuits, and they were well received.)

Also got chance to chat to Giant, Jenna and Fenno (who did his first ‘proper’ reffing today), Sarah (pictured here, who I didn’t realise played derby, had her first game today, jammed, scored loads of points and got an award!), Scissors, Havoc (as a zebra), Abi, Dave (a little bit)(first Head Reffing today) and Holly.

A lovely day!

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My focus this weekend has been getting my daughter moved out of the Midgley house and in with me.

On Friday I hired a van for half a day to move bulky items then do a mad dash over to IKEA. B&Q in the afternoon for a few other bits and pieces. For the rest of the day and much of Saturday I was fitting a blind, hanging a mirror and painting.

The result though is that her room looks great. She had a neat idea for using marble effect sticky back plastic to cover a plain table. Tricky – air bubbles – but it looks good and works well in the room.

Goodbye Whitcliffe

Sunday was The Skateful Dead’s last training session at Whitcliffe Mount School. It felt quite well attended, though when I list those on track I count only six (Baker, Buckingham, Lloyd, Matt, Mikey and me. Sue Perman was guest coaching, though she stepped on track a little. Carly and Gillie were also there in their normal roles.)

We’ve been at Whitcliffe for about two years, and they’ve been great! Friendly staff and always willing to work with us. We’ve had probably six co-ed scrims there, which have all run smoothly. We would have liked to stay there but Kirklees are closing the centre next May, so obviously we’ve been looking for a new venue. We found a new space about a month ago and have had a couple of sessions there already. It’s much easier to get to, modern, and has a beautiful floor – very smooth, glad of my Reckless Envys :-)

Training Hell

We’ve started with a second weekly training session, just an hour on Tuesday evening. At first I didn’t think that this would work particularly well. An hour doesn’t sound like much, and I wondered if people would travel, potentially for almost an hour, to spend an hour on track. Then there’s warm up/cool down times. It just wouldn’t work. Well, I’m pleased to admit that I was wrong.

The sessions are at our new venue and we can usually get in to the hall early. We tend to turn up early and warm up so we’re ready to start proper on the dot. Last weeks session was good, last nights was awesome! Gillie and Carly pushed us really hard. It was non-stop effort for the full hour. We revised, and then put into practice, some of the stuff that we’d covered on Sunday. Thrown into the mix were “instant jams” in which Carly calls five seconds and we all dash to form on track before a jam starts.

I thought I might throw up at one point! I also found myself checking the clock to see how long we had to suffergo. I also got a bit shouty at towards the end of the session – we were all tired and our walls were slow to form, fell apart and were then slow to reform. A mark of exhaustion!

Looking forward to next week already!

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More Like It!

After a few weeks with barely enough skaters to train (three plus Carly last week) today’s attendance was much improved! Seven of us on track, plus Carly AND Gillie.

The focus this week was on switching between offence and defence. There was some endurance thrown in for good measure and a bit of a scrim at the end.

Skaters today were Si, Baker, Buckingham, Jim, Niven, Mikey and myself. Good to have Niven back on track – it’s been too long. Jim is making excellent progress. He’s solid and hits just bounce off him. Mikey is improving fast too, never afraid to get stuck in.

I got some good feedback about a few of my hits. When my hits are effective I just need to be bold enough to follow through, pass the blocker and skate away.

Great to have Gillie back with us too. It releases Carly to do her reffing duties but also gives us a second pair of eyes looking out for penalties.

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The Few

I have posted previously about low attendance at training sessions. I do so again today, not because the topic is fascinating, but because that is what we have at the moment.

Last week, 3 May, we had four skaters on track, though Chris is still recovering from his back injury, so he was light contact and frequently stepping out. Yesterday was a similar tale, Baker, Bucking, Bilb and myself, with Bilb returning from injury. Once again Carly was a superstar, stepping in to deliver the session.

The session was really good, exhausting for all, as they should be. In amongst the endurance drills we worked on blocker pairs and three walls. Despite his injury Bilb worked hard and was on track for most of the session. There were some awesome hits too. Buckingham hurt his shoulder with a mistimed hit on Baker. Baker got very impressive hit to my chest that sounded much worse that it felt – it made every stop and check that I was okay.

It was also my first outing on my new plates. These are Roll Line Blasters mounted on my crappy old (2 years) Suregrip GT50s. I wasn’t sure what difference they would make, but they feel utterly different. I’ve not adjusted the trucks on them, and I guess they are as stiff as they’ll ever be. They felt much more directional, which gave me more confidence when doing cross-overs.
I also noted the lack of creaking and the accompanying flex when on my toe stops. I was also released from the nagging fear that landing hard might result in a plate breaking. Jamming was much more enjoyable!

The new plates are heavier (523g vs 429g per skate), but the difference is not discernable. I didn’t expect that it would be. In researching which plates I should get I weighed my wheels (457g per skate). The weight added by a decent plate is small in comparison.

In summary then, I’d recommend upgrading your plates if you can afford. The process of replacing them was easy – see my notes on the process.

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