Derby Packed

Last weekend was one full of roller derby.

Skateful Scrim

Saturday saw The Skateful Dead host our second open co-ed scrimmage. The first was back in February and was well received; The second seemed just as popular. We had a good mix of players from various teams, a few who used to skate but no longer do and a few ex-fellow skaters :-)

Some of the players were big guys, Slam C Nesbitt and Jason Slaysthem for instance, and I would have been nervous stepping on track. The game was played in good spirit though, there were few penalties and thankfully no injuries.

I made it to the after party briefly and got to chat to Bruise Dog and Turbulinz who had travelled down from Glasgow! They had called in to scrim on the way down to Liverpool!

HARD

Sunday I made the, now familiar, journey over to Hull to photograph the lovely Hulls Angels. They were hosting two games:

B-HARD versus SOFT (Some Other Filthy Team)

If the team names were anything to go by then I felt that the first game would be good natured. B-HARD consisted of a few of the A team players and, I imagine, others who skate for HARD but had rarely/if ever bouted. It was the first time that I’d seen Ju on skates! SOFT was made up of a collection of other filthy skaters. I recognised a few and found out that three of them were from The Imposters! (They had played the Bandita’s the previous week.)

SOFT got off to a flying start and never looked back. The half time score was SOFT 147 to B-HARD 65. I didn’t note the final score; I think B-HARD just got into three figures but SOFT own by quite a margin.

HARD versus Haunted City

Hulls Angels Roller Dames are undefeated this season and so they obviously wanted a win.

From the get go they played incredibly well! Stunningly good jammers sliced through the pack, quickly taking lead in all but a few of the jams. Their blockers were horribly effective too. If the opposing jammer managed to stay on track for any length of time then they were bogged down by text book recycling! (Is there a roller derby text book?)

About half way in to the first period one of Haunted City skaters fell and didn’t get up. Not something that you ever get used to seeing. She just lay motionless on the track. The jam halted, everyone took a knee and the medics were called over. At first I thought she’d been knocked unconscious but she hadn’t. She was carefully tended to and once her skates were removed she was helped off track. A collective sign of relief was breathed and the game continued.

By half time the score stood at HARD 300 against Haunted City 9 – their unbeaten streak looked safe, but they didn’t ease off in the second half and pushed the score to 593 versus 38 by the final whistle.

Of note though was the spirit with which Haunted City continued to play. At no point did they seem down-heartened or stop trying. Ginge, their key jammer, was smiley all of the time – I’m sure she won many new fans today, myself included. Derby spirit at it’s best!

(Photo stats. I took 1,550 photos across the two games. Following review I once again find that this results in around one photo per minute. I posted 57 and 68 photos respectively.)

Hulls Angels next games are 31 May/1 June up in Scotland. I’m trying to figure out how I can get up there to capture those games.

Harder Better Faster Stronger

I feel that this weekend is the start of my getting my derby shit together.

Last Wednesday I had an “MOT” with Chris Baird at Motive8. A few of friends at work have him as a personal training. When I was training for the Abbey Dash 10k in 2012 I went to the weekly boot camp sessions that he ran. I really rate him.

He’d asked me to keep a food diary. At the MOT he took fat measurements at various points and from that he’ll be recommending dietary changes. My disc injury limits what exercise I can (should) do and he’ll be taking that into account. Already though he has confirmed that swimming a good aerobic exercise.

The Men’s Roller Derby World Championship also took place in Birmingham over the weekend. I couldn’t afford to travel down for it, but I spent much of Friday evening, Saturday and some of Sunday cursing the Livestream feed for failing just at interesting points. As expected Team USA won by an easy margin, but this was not the main take away from the weekend. The Japanese and Argentinian teams won the hearts of the derby community, travelling great distances with small teams and little resources. When it transpired that the Argentine team had run out of money a hat was passed around the stadium and a collection of over £1,000 raised for them. On a personal level I was pleased to be able to say to my kids “I’ve skated with…” or “I know him/her”. Two people I want to mention are Captain Malice, who did a damn fine job commentating. I’ve bouted with him! Also Beat Monkey. He was blogging the event but did so anonymously.

Early Saturday I’d been swimming but my arms were tired and I felt that I’d made a poor effort. I came away rather disappointed; the MRDWC gave me the perfect excuse to mope around the house. My son came down later in the day, so we watched a film while I tried to fix his very dead laptop.

Sunday was a slow start and it seemed that I wouldn’t make it to Skateful practice. The trains weren’t running (again) due to engineering works and my usual lift was down in Birmingham. But it all ended well. I managed to get lifts to and from practice and was so pleased that I made it.

Some of us got there early and did 30 minutes off-skate warm up. Perhaps over-did would be a better description. I’ve been advised not to run (repeated jarring) but managed five laps of the tennis courts (yes, it’s a tiny distance, but after nine months off I was quite pleased with myself). Then we did various activities to really work our thighs.
The session was all minimum skills. I loved it! Hardly any hitting but skating non-stop in derby stance. That pretty much finished off my legs. Today I’ve found going down stairs progressively more painful as the day has worn on – a good pain though – one that I haven’t experienced in ages.

When I got home I had a sensible dinner, joined a gym and prepared a healthy lunch for today! Then I went to bed at 10.30 so I’d get a good nights sleep.

The first steps on my journey to building a stronger me :-)

Wheels on my feet

All this week it’s been sunny in the afternoon. From my rather nice window seat at the new offices in Leeds I have wished that I was out skating. So on Saturday I did just that.

It’s been quite a while since I put my in-line skates on and got out into the park. It wasn’t too long before they felt familiar. The first thing that I noticed is how grippy tarmac is compared to the sports halls that I’ve become used to skating in. At derby practice I’ve been working asymmetric plough stops – doing those on tarmac took a little bit of testing to get the balance right, but I managed it with my right leg braking. (Didn’t try left leg – favouritism.)

I skated for about 90 minutes and then went and had tea my mum’s – an unexpected bonus – cottage pie! Then I headed over to Whitcliffe Mount sports centre. A handful of the Dead we’re going to the roller disco! This was a 7pm start and we paid a little extra to stay for both sessions, finished at 9.45. There wasn’t much dancing and as there was a track marked out we may have engaged in some blocking. There was also a line of cones, which is always a draw :-)

Today was practice. We had a new bod start and also a guest from Deathrow Hull! I stepped out of some drills – looking after myself! So, another two hours on wheels, bringing the total this weekend to a little over six hours.

Very pleased!

Derby FTW

This weekend has been packed full of roller derby goodness!

Friday

Carly and Buckingham invited Skateful Dead round to theirs for a bit of a social. It wasn’t a big turnout but it was good fun. We watched the video of the open co-ed scrimmage that we’d hosted mid February. This was accompanied by chilli, nachos, pancakes and cake. Then we watched Whip It! and then a mix of clips on YouTube. Lots of reverend banter and quite a late night.

Saturday

I headed over to The Edge sports centre in Leeds to photograph the Hot Wheel double header.

Spa Town Roller GirlsThe first was their B team playing Spa Town. The teams were evenly matched, the lead changing throughout the bout. At half time Hot Wheel B lead 104 to Spa Town 100. The second period was neck and neck right through to the end. The bout finished 210 Spa Town against 190 Hot Wheel B.

The second bout was Hot Wheel A team versus Rainy City Roller Girls. I feel that the warm up drills that a team performs give a good indication of the bout to follow. Rainy City split the team with vests and practised some very sharp walls. Hot Wheel too did some great blocking. This was going to be close. Talking to others there was a feeling that perhaps Rainy City were going to win comfortably. I’d never seen them play, so I had Hot Wheel for the win.

Mia jamming for Hot WheelIn the first period Hot Wheel took an early lead. Mia, skating for Hot Wheel was proving to be a really effective jammer. Towards the end of the period Ducky took a blow to the face. A nose bleed caused the jam to be called off, though after attention from the medical team she was back on track. At half time Hot Wheel led 102 to 56. I had opportunity to chat with Mia briefly. She said that she had been nervous about jamming before the bout. In the second period she did more of the same, despite also taking a blow to the face.

Missy Rascal jamming for Rainy CityRainy City pulled back and the bout ended in their favour, 191 to 152. Oddly there were only best [player type] certificates given out for one of the teams in the first bout. Hot Wheel though did have goodie bags for all of the players.

Sunday

It was with some trepadation that I went to practice. I’ve been staying off skates for fear of worstening my injury. Readers may recall that in December I declared that I would retire from bouting. Since then many seemingly insignificant conversations have happened. I’ve seen a musculo-skeletal specialist and now better understand the injury (herniated disc) and it’s likely recovery time (18 months). I’ve spoken to other skaters who have suffered the same injury and are now back on track. I found out that a skater that I consider to be pretty damn awesome only recently changed up from the same (very ordinary) skates that I use. More than any of these I’ve continued to be involved in the sport/community and find that I love it.

So I need to find a balance between injury and enjoyment. I plan to take it really easy at practice, so that my skate skills can improve. I also want to investigate refereeing, thus improving my knowledge of the game. Finally I’ll be working on physical fitness – strengthening my back and upper body to hopefully help prevent such an injury in future. Then, in perhaps twelve months time, I’ll be in a place where I can bout again. But the important thing for me is that there is no pressure to bout until I’m comfortable with it.

I found practice so much fun. My existing skate skills hadn’t upped and left me, we had a new bod skating and the team looked after me and didn’t hit me (too hard)!

Still buzzing from an excellent weekend :-)

Friends

Last Saturday I had a lovely afternoon/evening with roller derby friends.

Manchester Roller Derby had arranged a scrimmage with a mixture of players from various local teams, including MRD, Skateful Dead, Old Knights and another team I think, though quite who escapes me. I said that I would NSO.

On the Friday evening my sciatic injury was killing me and I really didn’t fancy doing anything over the weekend. I messaged Carly and asking if I could get out of doing it. Then later, in a different conversation Tony O said that he was unable to make it. He was also going to NSO, but is always generous enough to give me a lift. I scrapped my request to skip out of going and set about trying to find a lift. The best I could find was with Lawrence and Carly. Lawrence was playing in the scrimmage and so they were going out for drinks afterwards. I wasn’t sure about that – again because my leg gets painful after a while and lying down is the only way to relieve that pain.

They picked me up a bit after three and we drove over to Manchester. We talked about roller derby all the way there and it was great. Lawrence plays for The Skateful Dead and Carly referees for us. It was so good to talk through my injury worries and how I could remain part of the team without playing.

The scrimmage was good. Lots of big blockers, some skinny jammers (how Jim Jams didn’t get snapped into little pieces I don’t know) and plenty of big hits. I was the token bloke in the team of seven NSOs and six(?) referees. I did penalty box timing again.

After the scrim it was a short drive to The Courtyard in Manchester. Near Oxford Road, it’s a student place with cheap food and drink – £2.50 for a pint of Black Sheep! It was crowded so we decided to eat elsewhere and ended up in Revolution. Lawrence treat me to the meal – thank you very much. After the drive home I think it was around half eleven.

A massive thank you to Carly and Lawrence, not only for the lift and food but for helping me get my head straight about roller derby. My focus now is to get into refereeing (an idea suggested by Pulp Bitchin who plays for Wakey Wheeled Cats).

(An addendum. I couldn’t make it to training and the team meeting on Sunday, but had a lovely message from Gillie saying that the team was keen for me to carry on with them and that I could perhaps do bench during scrimmages. Also that just doing non-contact stuff during practice is fine.)

Fin

On Sunday I went to a fun skate. I took my beloved in-line skates as I’ve not used them for ages. For the whole of the session I was in pain. I could hardly do anything that I used to be able to do. After two hours I headed back home. As I hobbled over the bridge from the station there was an old man coming the other way with a walking stick. He was grey, in hair and complexion, in his sixties I suppose, and yet he looked more sprightly than me. I was so depressed.

This lead to days (and nights) of mental turmoil.

The Skateful Dead

An effective derby team is at least 14 players that are committed to the team. If I thought that I could give this then I would just be taking a break. I have come to realise that contact sports and the injuries that they bring are beyond what I consider acceptable. If I ever make a full recovery then I will fear injury in future. Practice is fun, but it’s with friends and there is an understanding that we shouldn’t injure one another (it doesn’t always work!). But when bouting it’s all out hitting. Some of the players are big, I’m not.

Rock Stars

Roller derby players have something of a rock-star status. However, the rock-star status only works when you’re a player. If you’re a hobbling cripple you lose that status.

Community

The derby community is the most inclusive community that I have come across. I enjoy being part of it. Hopefully this will continue, perhaps through photography and NSO duties.

Wheels on my feet!

I fell in love with skating almost ten years ago. Roller derby has taught me new skills and made me realise that I still have a great deal to learn. But in under a year of playing I’ve been transformed from being able to skate in the park for six hours every weekend and run 5km a few times a week to being unable to do either of these, being in pain nearly all of the time and relying on painkillers every day to control that pain. I don’t want this.

So it is with some sadness that I have decided that I am going to quit playing roller derby.

I wish The Skateful Dead every success. I’m proud that I’ve represented the team in some small way. If I can help in future then I will of course – as noted above, I’m quite handy with a camera.

Thank you for fun times!

All Change

A report from The Skateful Dead practice of 22 December, which I thought I’d published, but it’s been sat in draft since then. Oops!

We tried a new drill for the first time. Skating at a fair speed around the track the lead two would derby stop to inside and outside and then recycle as fast as possible to the back of the line. Then we did 27 in 5 which was good; I kept low and went fast :-)

Then we moved on to hitting practice, so I stopped – yeah, sciatic still not right. It looked like fun though. We borrowed some pads from Whitcliffe so people didn’t get completely battered. After some variation of left/right hitting we all lined up and everyone had a go had hitting Tony. It was his last practice session today as he’s moving on to play for Manchester Roller Derby. Thank you Tony for all the effort that you’ve put into Skateful Dead :-)

Then it was scrim time. As I wasn’t playing I got to “bench” for team black. It was five-a-side, so no rest between jams. It’s occasionally good to watch from the bench as you get a different perspective. The focus moves on what you’re doing/meant to be doing to seeing how the teams perform as a group. There was some really good play from both teams. Our walls can be really effective when they work; there was one jam where our wall held Ash for quite some time. I noticed Matt jamming and nicely slicing through our wall on one occasion. Tony O also did a monster hit on Ash and knocked him over.

We also had Carly and Rollverine from the Banditas skating with us today. It’s great when we have Banditas join us as they are so good.

NSO

I couldn’t make it to practice this weekend. However, Sunday afternoon found me at North Bridge Leisure Centre “NSOing”.

An Non Skating Official is one of the team involved with the administration of a roller derby bout. They perform a range of tasks, score keeping, penalty tracking and timing. I’ve never done it before, but when the Banditas but out a call on Facebook I jumped at the chance. Some have said that it can be boring, though I didn’t find it so. In any case I feel that it’s important to step up and do this kind of thing, I believe it’s part of belonging to the derby community.

This was a scrimmage was between Halifax Banditas and Rainy City Rollergirls. The Head NSO was Kim who plays for Wakey Wheeled Cats. She organised us all, provided sweets and gave clear guidance on what we needed to do. I was one of the three penalty box timers; timing a blocker pair.

A roller derby bout is 60 minutes, consisting of two 30 minute periods. Each of these is a series of “jams” that are no longer than 2 minutes each. If a player get penalised they spend a minute in the box. So that is what I was timing. It’s not quite so straight forward though. Jams can be shorter than 2 minutes and when they end then the penalty timers stop until the next jam starts. In addition the skater remains seated until they have 10 seconds remaining, at which point they stand. There is only space for two blockers from each team in the box, so if a third commits a foul it gets more complicated. Anyway, it went pretty well and I came away with a list of improvements for my penalty timer app.

How quickly did I learn the importance of calling colour and number when giving instructions? Two players with #147 in the box at the same time. Oops! No harm done.

After the first two periods the teams drew black/white discs and two new teams evolved each made up of a mixture of Banditas and Rainy City girls. (I was glad to be living by my “always carry a camera” rule as at this point I got asked to take photos of the mixed teams.) They then played a third period. This was followed by some hectic removing of the track and tidying the hall before a bit of a buffet in the bar.

A very enjoyable afternoon thank you!

Hull and Home

Hull Angels Roller Dames vs Sheffield Steel Rollergirls Crucibelles

This weekend started with a train ride over to Hull to take photos at this (closed) bout. Danni Mac, who plays for HARD, put out a call for photographers on Facebook a bit ago. I jumped at the chance, having missed an opportunity in November.

I arrived at Ennerdale Leisure Centre early and grabbed an very reasonably priced chip butty and a cup of tea. Then down to the sports hall. It was Sodium lighting, like we have in the main hall at Whitcliffe Mount. I know that it’s impossible to get the white balance correct under such lighting. Shoot RAW, you’ll be fine! #crossesfingers

There was a photographer there with the Crucibelles. We had a quick chat about the light and where we were allowed to stand inside the track. We got told that too.

Iron GiantThe atmosphere was lovely. Lots of laughter between players from both teams. It quickly became apparent that Iron Giant is one of those people that spreads happiness. In reviewing the photos I see it too, so many times.

When the jam starts she puts on her game face. She both jammed and blocked and succeeded at both. Of note was some excellent blocking against She Rarr.  It seems I may have a bit of a derby crush :-)

During half time the players sang as they skated round. (I don’t recall the song, but it was very good.) I can’t imagine blokes doing that, but it would be cool IMHO.

I’d not had chance to speak to D-Mac before or during the game, but caught up with her afterwards. I also got a lift back to the station (thanks, Danni, perfect timing for the train). She’s lovely too. We chatted about guest skaters (oops, heavy topic), injuries and other derby stuff.

For those interested in the stats I took 876 photos and used just 67. For each of those I fixed white balance in UFRaw before exporting to JPEG. The views on Flickr has exceeded anything I’ve ever seen; 16,865 since I posted them at around 1pm.

View the photo set on Flickr.

Home

Sunday is Skateful Dead training day. Not so much to report from this.

Tony O and I arrived early. It had been suggested by the captain that we might want to feedback on last week’s bout. This didn’t really happen as planned. We had a quick chat after warm up and agreed that the team needs to work on stamina and improve fitness outside of training. Endurance drill followed. Then we practised some of the stuff that had done previously – jammer against two blockers, then full wall. Some bridging.

We scrimmaged, though numbers were low, so it was three blockers and a jammer per team. This is when I got injured. I was jamming and the opposing blocker was facing me, so I went for a hit. Unfortunately we collided shoulder to shoulder and I seem to have come off worst. I’m hoping that it won’t be so bad in the morning. #sigh

Right, off to bed to rest up, late start in the morning :-)

Nottingham

Skateful Dead vs Super Smash Brollers

Yesterday I was with The Skateful Dead as our official photographer. We were down in Nottingham to play the Super Smash Brollers. The Brollers won 226 to 181.

Buckingham Malice jamming for The Skateful DeadThe bout was, as I’m sure TV commentators would say, one of two halves. Buckingham Malice drew first blood with a 9 point jam. The team looked great. The walls were effective (all that practice was paying off) and our jammer was getting lead. I could hear the team shouting opposing jammer lane numbers and it was working! By the fifth jam we had 29 against 9 for SSB.

Super Smash Brollers jammer and blockers filling their penalty boxBrollers were suffering penalties, and this rewarded us with a handful of power jams. There was an official time out 20 minutes in to the first period. I took the opportunity to tweet the score of 87 for Skateful with the Brollers on 27. We extended that over the next ten minutes whilst holding the Brollers. The first period ended with a power jam for the Brollers taking their score to 58 against our 148.

(A note to those that don’t watch roller derby. A 90 point lead might sound good, but we didn’t consider it “comfortable”. A power jam (a jam in which there is only one jammer on track for some of the time) can net a team 20 or 30 points.)

In the second period the Brollers came out fighting. The played Jammy Dodger in probably every other jam. The tables turned. We got penalty after penalty, handing the Brollers power jam after power jam. It seemed, to me, that our jammers were exhausted. We’d scored 148 points in the first period and only managed 33 in the second. Brollers scored 58 in the first and 168 in the second. We have plenty to take away from the bout and it was played in good spirit. Thank you Brollers!

Super Smash Brollers celebrate their victory

Nottingham Roller Girls vs Hereford Rollers Girls

Following on from the men’s bout we had Nottingham Roller Girls versus Hereford Roller Girls. I still had my “official photographer” badge, so I stayed in the middle of the track and carried on shooting. (Childish it may be, but I do like a badge :-))

Thinking about it, my mind must have been in a completely different state watching the women play. I wasn’t attempting to live tweet the bout and I don’t know the final outcome. Nottingham won by about ten points I think. During the bout however I was utterly focused on taking photos. When Skateful were playing I was more engaged in the game, willing the team on to win.

A Hereford blocker getting launched at the Notting jammerPeople often say that the women’s game is different to the men’s. Clichéd, but I agree, though I’m just not quite sure how. There seemed to be much less shouting in the women’s bout, but perhaps I just wasn’t tuned into it? I think that generally the female players are more nimble then the men. I feel that the jammers get to a wall, momentarily get held up and then skip around/through and are one their way. They are cleaner players – from memory I’d say that there was only one power jam in the bout. There were some good hits, and I captured one excellent sacrifice of a blocker in an attempt to take out a jammer.

I also noticed a formation of three wall that we’ve not practised – like a cyclops but in a two/one formation. (It obviously can’t be called a cyclops!)

Nottingham Roller Girls

Some (mildly) interesting notes regarding the photography. I took 825 photos during the day. Many of these are sequences. With these it is usually only a single image that makes it to Flickr. The one where the player doesn’t have his/her eyes closed, the referee/NSO didn’t get in the way and the image is in focus. So I discard many of the images.

When selecting images I try to avoid (too many) duplicates of the same person. Jammers get their photo taken all the time! I also try to make sure that I’ve got at least one photo of all of the players, though it’s not always possible.

I worked through those of the men’s bout on Sunday morning and the women’s late evening. I have ended up, quite by accident, with 54 photos in the first set and 56 in the second. (Two of the men left before the awards, so that would have made it 56.)

Carly, making her debut appearance as a refereeFinally, a special mention for our very own Carly Jane. It was her début appearance as a derby referee this weekend. Not an easy start as she faced a tough call in our bout. During the second period, when we were losing, our jammer cut track. She called the penalty. This is absolutely the right thing to do of course, but it still can’t have felt comfortable. Well done Carly!