Roxy Rockett

Out but Not Down- The Story of my ACL

It all started when I made a last ditch effort to hit the jammer at 19 feet. She was on the outside lane and I was a half of step behind her sprinting as fast as I could to catch up after making an off target hit .03 seconds prior to her passing me.
Between turns 1 and 2 I gave it my all and used the toes on my left foot to give me the last power push I had left to give. That’s when I heard it “pop.”
Like a taught reflex, I pulled my knee to my body and did a one foot glide off the floor. I continued to skate pass the team bench, dropping off the pivot panty to the bench coach and found my stopping point near the EMTs. It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t swollen. But my body told me something wasn’t right.
I have been trained through other skaters experiences with knee injuries to know that hearing/feeling a “pop” sensation was not good.
After the EMTs checked me out they suggested I not play in the second game of the day and have it checked out by a doctor. They thought it could have been my IT band or a meniscus injury cause my ACL/PCL/MCL were all strong and intact. In fact they said, “Whew! at least it isn’t your ACL!”.

So I sat out the second game of the day and watched my amazingly strong and cohesive team come from behind and beat Tampa by 10 points, which made me feel relief in my decision to sit out and let my knee heal.
The earliest I could get to my PT guy I went in for a visit. He examined me and said, “mmm.. well, it’s not your ACL..”. Pretty much those were the only words I was looking for at that time. We had a HUGE game against DC in a couple of weeks and I was trying out for team USA (which I had already bought my plane ticket and was stupid stoked about) in a month after that so I had to make sure my body was in the best condition it could be so I  could perform up to my standards.
My PT guy checked me out and said it was a hamstring strain. So I took it easy in scrimmage and tried to keep my body active by going to speed practices and just skating around, doing small little strengthening exercises to build up muscle since I didn’t feel comfortable with lateral steps or sprints.
I was able to participate in the much anticipated DC game in June. I taped my knee up soo tight that I couldn’t even straighten it when I walked. I got through that game ok and we did a great job at playing as a team, which is always makes for a victory, no matter what the score says.
Next up was a home game against Tallahassee. Again, I taped my knee up and played pretty much 4 of 6 line ups for the whole game and came out feeling a little sore but nothing that was too much to handle.. or anything I felt needed to be researched any further.

We had a summer break and during that time I attended speed practices to work on my endurance and form and to overall strengthen my knee.
On our first practice back in July we tried a new drill out. I decided not to tape up my knee since I felt the conditioning during the break had for sure made it stronger than ever… aka- completely healed it up.
As it turns out, on the first drill back from break, I went to do something fancy and did a turn around toestop stop and twisted the shit outta my knee.
That time not only did the POP sensation freak me out, the pain was absolutely UNBEARABLE! NEVER.. even in child birth, have I felt such a burning, excruciating pain as I did that Thursday night. Once I felt that pain and pop, my reaction was to grab the skater in front of me by the waist and hold on to her as tight as I could until I was able to mutter words to let the team know something was definitely wrong. Jojo, whom I was holding tightly, realized something was wrong and said, “you ok girl?” after shaking my head no, she said, “ok girl, you just hold onto to me… just hold onto to me girl..” For some reason, her tenderness allowed me to relax and breathe enough to let go and get off the track.
Once on the mushroom, Jojo’s boyfriend, who was also a firefighter that hangs out during practices, did an evaluation on my knee. He thought it could have been some type of dislocation but said I should definitely have it checked out. So the next day I called my PT guy and he again did an evaluation on me. Without knowing what the firefighter said, he too thought I had dislocated my knee cap. And again he said, “At least it’s not your ACL!”.

So I went through the recommended PT and was cleared the night before I was set to fly to Tampa for Team USA try outs. Knowing I wasn’t 100% going into the try outs, I had to look at it as something that was a once in a life time opportunity and absorb as much joy and training as I could from the experience.

And I did.
At the try outs I again tweaked my knee to the point where the pain didn’t go away for 30 minutes. I opted out of the scrimmage and knew by the end of try outs that I didn’t make it. Who in there right mind would put an injured skater on a roster when there are literally hundreds of skaters healthy and ready to give 120% at any time?!? Not to mention, it wasn’t my best showing, performance wise.

Regionals was right around the corner and that was where I wanted to be my healthiest. The day after I got home from Tampa I called my PT guy and this time I told him that I feel something is going on and I need to have an MRI. Without hesitation, he hooked me up with one of the best knee surgeons in Raleigh to have an MRI.

At the first meeting, Dr Barker did an evaluation on me and told me he was 90% certain that it was a meniscus injury that may be treatable enough for me to play at regionals but he still needed to do an MRI in order for him to know exactly how damaged it was and what treatment I needed.
I bugged and bugged his office so much that within a week and a half after our first visit I was able to schedule an MRI and have my results read to me. Normally, he is soo booked up that it would have been a month after the MRI before he could meet and talk about the results. His office soon found out that I wasn’t going to wait a month.

When going into appointment, I had expected to be told that I will need a couple of shots in my knee and after regionals I will have to do a small procedure to clip the meniscus but all in all, I should be at east 85% at regionals… my only priority of the season.

I remember waiting in the next room as I overheard him tell another patient that since she wasn’t very active, he wouldn’t suggest she go through the surgery that an athlete would in order to remain at a high level of activity.
Being weary of doctors, I was quite impressed he suggested the least expensive route to go for this lady beside me.
I remember waiting for 20 minutes for him. OMG.. I was pacing around. Getting on and off the paper lined ‘bed’.
Finally in the room with the results in hand (via a computer) he jumped onto the bed beside me and we sat there together looking at the results.
So here is your meniscus… and see.. it is connected all the way around.
Hmmm… wait…… Look at this. … This is your ACL.. you see how it is here but when I change the angle, it disappears?”
Me- ” uh, ok.” (having no clue on how to read MRI results).
Well, it appears you have a torn ACL. It’s completely detached. You see how it isn’t attached anymore? You see that? Yup, not attached at all.”

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I sat there for a few seconds in complete silence dealing with total shock.
My first thought was, “OMFG, I let down my team.” Then I went onto thinking, “why didn’t I have it checked out in May when it first happened? Why did a handful of people not consider it as serious as it was? How could 3 professionals miss the fact that it was my ACL? Nay, convince me it wasn’t my ACL.”
After a bit of conversing with him about those concerns he examined me again and made the observation that I was heavily guarding my knee. Let it be known I am a rather uptight person, especially when strangers touch me on my hurt knee, and I have really strong thighs, so of course I am going to be guarded.
He asked me to try and relax. 5 minutes passed of me saying, “ok.. am I relaxed now?”, “nope”. Finally, visioning waterfalls and beer I was able to find my happy place and relax enough for him to physcially show me the difference in both knees. Once He showed and explained to me the difference, it was very obivous.
I asked about my options and there was no way around it, I had to have surgery.
I said ok, let’s get it done.

When he left the room, I just sat there and cried. I thought of my family and wondered, how am I going to be able to take care of my kids? I am a stay at home mom, my job is to raise a happy, healthy, respectable 2 year old boy as well as, be able to have my 14 year old daughter on time for school, get food for her lunches, take her to her friend house for some paratelic time and just do mother daughter date nights
I thought about my derby family and what burden I am placing on them to have to redo line ups and have to mentally get over a missing family member in their time of need. I thought about the freshmeat skaters who just passed try outs and depended a lot on me make sure they were getting trained effectively, if not by me by another qualified skater. I thought about the long period time I would have off skates. How, in my most stressful times, skating was always my outlet and has been for many years now. I thought about the uphill battle when I do return. Getting my endurance and strength back to 120%. I thought about all the money my husband and I were going to dish out for this surgery, since we elected to have a high deductible vs a low monthly payment. I thought about my husband, who owns his own business and works from home, doing the job of 2, in addition to his normal burden of client work.
All of these things flooded my heart. If I was able to take my heart out and put it on a scale, I swear it would have weighed a thousand and seventy pounds at that moment.
As I put my head in my hands and I took a deep breathe and said, “It will all work out.”

The next 30 minutes the Dr and I hashed out all the details to the surgery, which would be in 13 days. We talked about the different options and I chose the cadaver option for quicker healing time and  overall better success rate at returning to, or above, the strength I had before it tore. The Dr assured me that he was highly qualified for this type of surgery and went on to explain that he lectures about ACL surgeries all across the world and that was his favorite surgery to perform. He gave me his website and told me to go on it an watch the video of the actual surgery. As I left, his assistant came in and reassured me that Dr Barker was the best person for this surgery and that if I needed anything she would help me however she could.

Once at home, I had to begin informing folks. I sat down and wrote the hardest email I have written in a long time to my team. I sat there, trying to focus through the massive tears welling up in my eyes and the small burst of breakdowns I had after every sentence I wrote. That email was written with pure emotion, not concerning myself with grammar or sentence structure.
I knew I would have some skaters say, “why don’t you just skate through it and get a brace.” So I addressed that thought head on and respectfully asked that people accept my decision and respect it.
I got a lot of warm responses. I also got a lot of responses from skater who have been through this surgery backing up my original thought, “it will all work out”.

Two days before surgery (aka- the last day I could drink beer) I asked some of the skaters who have had this surgery to have a dinner with me so I can ask questions and hear about their experiences and get little tips that will make my life a little easier post surgery. I can’t begin to thank those ladies enough for taking time out to talk with me that night. The Surgery Sisters Club.

The day arrives. I had to be at the hospital by 5:30 am. I wasn’t nervous. I never regretted my decision, any part of it. I was completely confident in my doctor and the hospital that I was at and knew that I was in good hands. I was as calm and collected as I am making Rockett Science speeches at practice. I knew this was the right thing to do and there was nothing in my soul that doubted it.
It’s kinda like me being at the front of the pack with Jesse King and looking back and seeing all the folks that had our backs. Like Mordant, Jojo, DVS, Pinky, Elka, Eris, Thrashley, Daisy, Fyte, Legs, Holly, Clobbers, Sue, Fate, Heavy D, Smacky and the rest of the CRG family.
Though they were not even awake at the time, they were definitely in the room with me.

Waking up from surgery was crazy. I was in a room with other drugged out, post surgery patients which made it feel like a morgue.I suppose that was quite fitting since I am now 1/634 Zombie.
It was cold, and white, and smelled like sulfur. I had some real bad awful pain. There was a lot of pressure on my knee and one part of my leg just wouldn’t stop hurting. It felt like something was stabbing me in the wrong place. So of course, in my drug out state, I tried to figure out what it was by asking the nurse a million and a half questions. Luckily, I wasn’t the first of my kind and she knew the exact statements to say to me to get me distracted from my original quest by asking me if I wanted more pain killers. She was a tricky one, that nurse.

After a few hours of dozing in and out of narcotic induced naps, I had to prove I could put weight on my leg by walking, with a walker to the bathroom. After showing her not only could I put weight on it, but I could also do a one foot jump squat with my eyes closed.
Yeah.. I’m just kidding. [my eyes were open]

So home to recover was what I have been waiting for since I knew I had to have this surgery. Celia Fate prepared me: have book bag to carry around items in since you’ll be on crutches and buy a lot of ice. I had the crutches Eris lent to me, though I had to bring them up a notch, from the 5’2″ setting to the 5’4″ setting.

The first day was a daze. I was extremely nauseous from the anaesthesia. I couldn’t eat anything so my stomach was really messing with me. Taking such powerful meds on an already queasy stomach made for a miserable 24 hours. I had great support from my family and I pretty much laid in my bed all day, drifting in and out of sleep.
From day one, literally from birth, my mom has always been my biggest and most supportive fan. This situation would prove even more on how lucky I am to have such an amazing mother and friend in my life. My mom never hesitated to come over for 8 hours days to help take care of me and my son. Never once moaned at having to pick up my daughter from school in the afternoons. In fact I had to ask her to please not wash the dishes, my husband can get them when he gets off work. No matter what, my mom was there, ready and willing, to make my life easier in a time when I was completely unable to do anything. [Thanks Mom!]

On my 3rd day post surgery I said goodbye to the crutches and hello to PT. Enough of just sitting around, it’s time to start doing the dirty work to get back to full strength! I tried to do small things around the house to help out but mostly I just stayed put on the chair, icing my knee all day. Knowing that this is just one f many phases in recovery, I allow myself some lean time to take it easy because the road will get rougher and I need all the strengthen I can get now in order to tackle the bumps successfully.

From the first hour post surgery on, the process just got better and better. Sure, there were a few moments that were very painful, but all in all, I would think, “it could be worse.”

I suppose I see my situation as: “Is the glass half full or half empty” type of philosophy.
Then I realize that it depends on what’s inside the glass.
If it’s beer, it’s half empty. (something I am personally motivated about)
If it’s something else, it was half full. (like water, something I am grounded to for survival)

It’s all based on motivation and how you put your situation in perspective. You wanna feel self pitty and look at the things you’re missing, you’re losing sight of where you’re heading.
For me, I am heading for complete recovery.

In fact, I am looking forward to getting stronger than I was before!

I am 9 days post surgery now and I mainly walk without a cane. I still have my awesome little polar ice machine connected at all times. I have stopped my pain meds and am still taking my 800 mg Ibuprofen for inflammation.

Yesterday I was able to attend the Atlanta game which was hosted at Dorton. I was very lucky to be able to help out/participate by announcing the first game and textcasting the second game. It just felt good to get out of the house and be around my other family for a bit. Even I wasn’t able to speak with them it was just great being around their energy and watching them getting stronger and stronger as a unit and knowing, in about 7 months, I will be that strong alongside them once again.


My Take on Coaching

I didn’t want to write anything about coaching until I had ‘proof’ of success. In hindsight, I realize that notion shows a lack of confidence in my abilities. I realized that the thing with coaching is sometimes you will be successful and win a game and sometimes you won’t. But no matter what, you have to stick with your plan and agenda so the team will always have trust, purpose and security on the track, especially on game day.

The first thing in being successful at anything is to determine your standards. What you expect from others and what you expect from yourself when giving to others.. the quality of your leadership will equal the quality of your players.

As a coach, a captain, a skater coach or even a skater, you have to sit down and list your standards of performance. For me, this is how I looked at it:

1. Attendance. No matter on or off skates, your face on the floor (no pun intended), listening to your leaders and your fellow skaters, watching the strategy, asking the questions, participating with your team, watching the transformation and adaptation unfold is irreplaceable. However, never place a number on how much attendance is expected or the skaters (at least some) will do just the bare minimum, and use that as justification for play time. “Attendance expectations” is how I stated it to my team. I didn’t want girls to be disqualified, or even more so, qualified based on that aspect alone.

1. Attitude. (yes, two 1’s) This will make or break a team. One player can ruin a practice for the whole team just by displaying a sour face. This is an extremely sensitive subject, or at least in my experience it has been the toughest to deal with and tackle. How I look at it, negativity is like a virus, the really bad stomach virus that is spread by simply breathing in the face of another person. That is how poisoning negativity can be to a team. There are no miracle pills to rid your body (or team) of this, so the only thing left to do is quarantine it, tell it to get it‘s skates off and go home. Your focus should not be on what is being quarantined, but rather on the other 15-20 skaters that are healthy and positive who are ready to learn and skate. This, by far, is what turns a practice from being average to being orgasmic!

2. Support and trust. Having a co-coach/captain that is 1,287% supportive is imperative. I was extremely lucky to have this when I was coaching last quarter. I had a partner that was bluntly honest, always on the same page, willing to trust and do any crazy ass idea I came up with, and if she didn’t agree with it, she had the strength and confidence to say so, instead of going along with it. This was also reciprocal. I showed her trust, support and honesty. That is how any relationship withstands and survives any kind of turbulence.

This same concept goes with the skaters. In order for me to have them comply with our goals and our strategy, we had to show them we could be trusted with teaching them effectively. Trusting the potential in every skater under your leadership yields an environment that is comfortable and trusting. Showing that the intentions behind our actions and words were to better the skater and the team, not to blow hot air and inflate our egos, made the practices sooo much more effective. Some leaders lose sight of this and become extremely greedy, burned out and bitter with this kind of power. That, too, shows in the skaters they train.

3. Feedback. This is where honesty comes in. You HAVE to be able to be honest with the skaters, no matter if it hurts their feelings or not. When giving skaters feedback, you need to find the seed and root of the problem. In most cases, this will eliminate a lot of other issues that skater may be having. Try to bring it back to basics and work from there. You have to also keep in mind that all walks of life play derby. Every type of childhood imaginable is present in derby. As a leader, you only cater to that for so long. You’ll quickly find out how you can approach some skaters and how not to approach others, or better yet, when not to approach others. I feel, personally, listening to when to approach a skater is important. I’m not going to stroke your hair and read you a bedtime book while I give you constructive feedback, but I will wait for the heat to be released from the moment and then approach you.

4. Education. Reading any and everything you find relevant to coaching is extremely valuable. Reading basketball blogs, soccer blogs, hockey blogs, other derby blogs.. anything you find relevant is education. Anything that grabs your attention and you can relate to and use in your coaching is education.

My personal favorite book is The Score Will Take Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh. That is my coaching bible.

I will leave you with an excerpt of his greatness.

“When you stand and overcome a significant setback, you’ll find an increasing inner confidence and self assurance that has been created by conquering defeat. Absorbing and overcoming this kind of punishment engenders a sober, steely toughness that results in a hardened sense of independence and a personal belief that you can take on anything, survive and win.

The competitor who won’t go away, who won’t stay down, has one of the most formidable competitive advantages of all. When the worse happens, as it did me, I was helped by knowing what it took to be that kind of competitor- to not go away, to get up and fight back.”


Bringing crazy back!

After a million years offline, I decided to start doing some small post on anything that I want that has to do with derby and getting through it.

Last year, I announced my retirement from competitive skating. Meaning, I wasn’t going to play sanctioned games again. At that time, I had just gave birth to a baby boy and during the pushing phase of labor, his big ass head got stuck and in turn, completely destroyed my pelvis (twisted and separated it). I literally couldn’t walk without a cane for a couple of weeks after his birth. I went back skating and couldn’t do a cross over because of how screwed up my hips were. sigh.

So, like any normal crazy person, I tried to get back into play too soon. I tried to get back into leadership positions to soon. I have been out of the loop for a whole year… well, I haven’t been in the loop I should say. I bench coached the B team and still volunteered at every game and whenever needed. So I wasn’t gone, I just wasn’t important enough to get feedback and advice from during my pregnancy.  However, during that time, I was able to observe derby just like I had been able to before getting pregnant and I feel, to this day, observation is an extremely powerful training tool that needs to be treated as such. (bout viewings are AWESOME!!!)

Anyway, long story short, I stopped playing sanctioned games during the 2010 year. I ref’d (YAY!), played 2 home games, played a Bootlegger game and now I am captaining and coaching the Bootleggeres for our final game of the year.

During the 2010 year, a lot of things happened for me. I ran for training director of my league and didn’t get majority of the votes (after some successful campaigning against me from a couple of skaters.. gotta love insecurities!); came to the realization that I place too high of expectations on myself in games and I suffer from extreme performance anxiety to the point of hating the game; that I can not treat my league like a family but rather like a business; and lastly, how to deal with burn out with the game and fellow team members.

All of these things have made me into a different person now. I come to practice with nothing but progress on my mind. I want to see where my team is at tonight and make sure we make 1 small improvement for the next practice.  I watch other leagues and skaters in a different way.. not as opponents but as trainers. I observe to see what step is missing and try and figure out a plan to put into play.

So now, I am back to writing small post here and there (hopefully more here than there). Different things will set my moods.. some training focused post and some attitude focused post. It just depends on what things I have learned over the minutes and feel a need to share with all my readers.. all 3 of you.

I will give you guys a heads up… a little secret.. I bought toe stops on Sat morning.

Snyder Toe Stops

Snyder Toe Stops


Leader and Followers

Checklist for Captains and bench coaches.

Captaining and Co-captaining

We all have certain ideals of how we want things to unfold in order to work most effectively. However, when working with a partner (and with bench coaches) you will come to realize everyone has their own agenda for progress for this team. Constant communication with captains and bench coaches is very important. Random emails with bits of strategic ideas are wonderful. If it doesn’t spawn into a drill or if your ideas are not actually used in scrimmage, the fact that you’re confident enough to bring forth ideas will help build strong relations with your partners. The relationship you’re going to build with your co-captain and bench coaches is very important. You have to be willing to compromise ideas; debate and fight for/against skaters for rosters; agreeing to pull skaters from line-ups during a bout (due to injury or just trying strategic plays); agreeing to keep skaters in; suggesting new plays and changing skaters positions will have to be hashed out. Overall, disagreements will happen and should happen in order for this to be a healthy captain/bench coach relationship by allowing all opinions to be expressed.

Leading by example

You’re being watched by your skaters and are being held responsible for your actions. How you deal with a situation before, during and after a game (or scrimmage practice) is what the skaters will unknowingly follow and ‘grade’ you on. In this category, leading by example also means coming to practice [attendance], doing the job you expect from others, participation in drills and scrimmage, the ability to give feedback when skaters ask for it and respectful mannerisms when responding to the refs and other skaters. Don’t expect your skaters to give that extra 10% during endurance if you’re sitting on the bench taking your skates off. Skaters want to be able to rely on their captains as being tougher and stronger than they are.. they need someone as their goal to beat in endurance drills as well as during scrimmage.

Team Communication

Once you’ve been elected captain, hold a meeting to let skaters give input. Let them know they have a voice and it’s important for them to share their opinions.
Some suggestions would be:
- have the skaters talk about their preferred pack positions
- ask the skaters how they like to receive feedback
- ask them what things they feel they need to work on
- ask them what strengths they feel they can bring to the team
- ask them how frequently they would like to meet
- ask them what are the best nights for meetings
- get a feel from your skaters to see if their goal of the team is to win the games, or for training purposes or to have equal playing time
- ask them how what their goals are for their individual advancements

Understanding your opponent

Research the league you’re about to play by means of YouTube, personal emails to skaters on that league or skaters that have played that league, find out what their strengths and weaknesses are, read write-ups of their past games on their websites or join public forums for their leagues, read Derby News Network bout recaps, visit their websites and familiarize yourself with their faces, look through flikr and analyze photos of them skating (are they standing up right, do they tend to bend at the waist, do they look winded, are their hips exposed for easy take downs).

Choosing the roster

Availability will of course reign supreme. But if you have choices, how should you narrow down the selection?
Some of the things I look for: attendance, participation during practice (ahem.. especially during endurance and scrimmage practices!!!), make note of skaters level of determination, response to feedback and suggestions, choose skater positions and make sure you have enough of certain positions (example: how many B3′s do I have on my roster? How many Pivots? How many jammers? Do all my jammers play the same blocking position? If so, what other skaters can I choose to mainly play their blocking position if they need to be subbed?..).

Line-ups

After you chose your roster, start playing with line-ups. Create pairs/trios; get a feel of what skaters work well with each other; make note of skaters’ natural playing style (ex: Debbi DownHer naturally plays offense. Killa Whatt? naturally plays defense. Hmmm.. what would happen if I tried both of them together?). Work with your bench coaches and ask them to run the line-ups for you while you scrimmage. Encourage feedback from your coaches and skaters after practices. What worked? What didn’t? Who do you feel you work well with? If there is footage of the scrimmage, review and readjust line-ups if need be.

Goals

Set small attainable goals for yourself and the skaters. Every skater has an idea of what they need to work on but some skaters need that extra voice from the outside to keep them on track. If a skater doesn’t know what they need to work on, suggest something you feel they need to work on. Give praise for the small actions they’re changing… or attempting to change even if not accomplished.

Encourage peer to peer training

Delegating training to other skaters will benefit all. Don’t be a control freak!

_______________________________________________________________________

Below are excerpts from skaters about what they want from their captains:

- “captain: feedback. training. what can i do better? what am i good at? what do i need to work on? and ATTENDANCE and participation at practice. set an example. oh, and communication and availability.”

- “I expect my captains to be organized, honest, and regard the game as fun. Sometimes I have seen captains get too focused on winning and lose track of fostering the team they have.”

- “Captain is:
Someone who….

understands the game, and can share their experience and insight
is a mentor to newbies
has a passionate desire to win, but still focused on team growth.
is a good listener, and communicator
can give feedback in a clear manner, and tailor the delivery to individual team mates.
can assist the bench coach in creating line-ups, making draft decisions, and any other issues that impact the team.
can help each skater reach their personal derby goals”

- “What do you want from your captain?

-Firm and fair leadership
-Drills
-Exercises for off practice days”

- “Leading by example; expecting from herself what she expects of her teammates. Being prepared for practice, with lineups and/or drills. Providing opportunities for the skaters to provide feedback and implementing the feedback, when possible. Respect for all players, regardless of skill level. Can offer compliments as easily as criticisms.”


Home team meanings

Hi Roxy,

I am wondering if you could give us some advice.
We are going to be drafting in January for our league teams. We just finished our first intraleague season in September.
This is the situation..We have four teams, and one was undefeated all season (in fact when they played bouts they usually beat the other teams by 50 points…if not more sometimes).
We want the teams to be as balanced as possible…and feel that the undefeated team probably have the majority of really good players. We were thinking about reranking each player so each team would be assigned a ranking number, and then we could decide who could go first by the way the teams come out in ranking numbers combined with how they did overall in their season. Some people feel that we don’t have enough time to do a ranking and we should just have teams pick according to how they performed in the season.
So any advice on how the order of the draft should go or how to handle this?

- Thanks,
Cold and Chilly in a Cold and Chilly place

Response:
Hey Cold and Chilly in a Cold and Chilly place,
Well, first off, it is in my opinion that home season is basically a long training session. When you have an undefeated team (and the lowest point spread is 50 points), it’s obivous that the players on that team are not being as challenged as those that play them.
Yeah it’s great to be on a home team that’s undefeated but in the long run, those really good players are going to start slacking off and their skills will go downhill (it’s called being comfortable). Not to mention, the others skaters NOT on that team will become very bitter and unmotivated, thus losing interest in the league and their training… and quitting is naturally their next step.

I would suggest this:
If you keep all 4 teams, take the top four skaters and place them on each of the teams. Start there.. but also remember that your fans have gotten use to seeing some girls on certain teams. Keep that in mind! Your fans pay your bills and keeping their interest needs to be A top priority (not THE top priority). However, in the same vain, no one likes to come to a bout when they know the outcome (hence an undefeated team). Derby fans LOVE to see a fight (not literally) for victory.

When placing the others (whom will more and likely fall really close in skill level to one another), keep these things in mind:
a. place them with other skaters that they work well with, or that you feel can become a dynamic pair for your interleague team
b. try and place the ‘better’ skaters in a more difficult situation. For example, take your best jammer(s) and place them on a team that needs a lot of help with blocking awareness on the track. Those jammers will, eventually, help train these blockers by having to use them during game play. They’ll push and pull them in the direction they need them to be in order to get through the pack.
Another example is to place those really good blockers on a team with jammers who show the talent but need a little help getting through.
c. try and keep them on their original teams… but not priority. A great thing for interleague play is having pairs that know each other, that have played with each other a lot.
d. Lastly, I’m a big fan of team unity. If you know of girls who love and work well together.. whom motivate and encourage challenge, keep them together for another season. Eventually, they will need to be split up in order to get out of this ‘comfortable’ relationship.

So, this is what I think: Interleague play is your main focus. In order to have great players for your interleague team, you need to train them during home season by creating difficult situations that mimic real interleague challenges. Therefore, when you go up against some butch fuckin’ teams, your skaters will be prepared for tough challenges because their home season trained them for such.

Hope this helps!


Revenge Hitting = Losing

One main thing in blocking to avoid is being sucked into revenge hitting. Blocking has to come from a productive, positive vision, not from your desire and ‘need’ to get back at a skater that just got one over on you. Recognizing you have a problem is the first step. The second, third and forth is learning how to fight that urge and teach yourself how to turn negatives into positives.

Losing Focus
Are you the type of blocker that, when hit very hard, returns the favor by hitting back that same skater?
If so, you probably realized that when doing so, you loose focus of the game and all energy goes into targeting that skater and putting her on the ground, no matter the repercussions (which usually entail: penalties; injury; angry/desperate/out of control blocking).
What are some ways in fixing this problem?
1. Take that negative energy and target it towards something positive.
For instance: You just got knocked out of the way when trying to block the opposing jammer, from one of her blockers. Instead of knocking the shit out of that blocker, turn that energy (she just created in you) from anger into a positive move for your team. One way of doing so is, if your jammer is still in the pack, use that energy to get beside her and effectively accompany her through the pack. This in turn will create a feeling of accomplishment rather than a feeling of anger and self loathe.
2. Get use to the idea of being hit every second your in a jam. Practice getting hit when looking the other way and without warning. This will help with stability and balance, as well as, strengthening your ability to regain pack awareness when taken off guard.
3. Take sometime to read about anger and self-control and begin to practice it in all aspects of your life. Use some scrimmage time to get use to the idea of being knocked off guard, not always making the shots you intend and being knocked down. This would be the time to practice restraint on revenge blocking. Get use to that feeling and learn how to successfully deal with it during game play. Have one of the opposing skaters knock stick to you like lice on the head of a hippie. Even if that skater doesn’t knock you down, fall anyway. Fall when you’re needed to the most from your team. Not only will this help you gain attitude adjustments, it will also create a situation for your team to learn to adjust to a fallen skater.

Losing Energy
Are you the type of skater that will go after a skater and try and perform the ‘hit of the night’ on her, trying desperately to knock her 4 rows back, just because she got one on you?
If so, then you are doing a number of wasteful actions.
1. Thinking, first of all, you’re in the right by going after her takes energy off of how and why she blocked you in the beginning. Learning why YOU were in the wrong would better your performance and prevent off guard hits.
2. When you target just one skater, the rest of your team unknowingly plays down a blocker. Though all bodies are on the rink, your body is on a mission (a stone cold mission) only focusing on one of (at most) 10 skaters on the rink. Selfishly sprinting after that skater, exhausting yourself to feed thy ego, rather than being a part of a unified team.

3. You perform over committed blocks. Nine times out of ten your ass is too out of control to make an effective hit once your reach this skater. Either you go flying into the crowd, or fall onto the ground, or trip the skater (gaining a penalty), or fly into a Ref, or… the list goes on. Ways to fix this issue (in all cases) is to learn to use your ass and hips. Not all blocks have to be with the shoulder. Learning to maneuver your body to get in front of a skater is a hellva lot more effective than bull rushing a bitch into wonderland.

Losing Respect
If you’re a skater who tends to do a lot of revenge blocking, it won’t be long until your bench coach/captain pulls you from line-ups. Ways you can help is by telling a skater that they need to take a deep and regain control of themselves.

Telling them, “So what you got knocked down… So what it was illegal… So what the refs didn’t call it. The only thing that matters from this point forward is that you are in control and focused on the positive things you can supply to our team. If you’re unable to switch from anger mode to productive mode, you’re useless to the team.”

So don’t be surprised when your ass is warming the bench on a cold day for the mindful skaters on your team that can relax in the heat of the moment.

Trudy Struction holding a sign to tell me what NOT to do. Thanks Trudy... always looking out!


Basic skating for the basic skater

Starting out on skates after being off of them for some years is a confusing and humbling process. You have this mindset that you were a kick-ass skater back in middle school and it’s going to be really easy for you to strap your skates on and start playing derby in a matter of days. WRONG!

Unless you come from a speed skating background (and even that is outdated), a figure skating background (which has different balance priorities), or even a hockey background (flailing arms galore!), you were never really taught how to skate. You have self-taught tendencies that will have to be erased in order to learn the derby style of skating.

Coming from a speed skating background, I had the basic skating form. I know how to get low and my legs are thicker than Russian bread during the cold war era. However, when on the speed team, my coach never focused too much on my basic skating form (crossovers, power glides, arm control, timing), all he was concerned with was that I could skate fast. Coming back to skating, I had to relearn these basic skating skills:

Getting low

Getting low is key for leg strengthening, which in turn, becomes the main source of power for sprints, power glides, blocking and dodging.

When getting low, be sure to bend at the knees (not the waist) and keep your weight balanced on both skates. Be sure not to lean too far forward and keep your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your arms in. Don’t get used to holding your arms out for balance, as it could cause problems in the future with penalties and general imbalance. I would suggest your league do some type of ongoing squatting exercises, on or off skates.

Sprints

Sprints come from the balls of your feet, your inner thigh muscles and your stomach muscles. Think of running up a wet, grassy hill. You use the ball of your feet and dig down into the earth and push down and out using your thighs. Your arms are positioned in a runner’s stance, close to your sides.

The first six or so steps are very short and powerful. Your glides shouldn’t be long and drawn out but rather quick, run-like pushes. There shouldn’t be a lot of noise coming from your skates. If it sounds like you’re busting holes in the rink, then you’re more than likely going in an up and down motion rather than pushing down and out.

Once your sprint speed has surpassed the short quick steps you will progress into power glides. Again, keep your arms in and stay low while doing sprints.

Power gliding/pushes

When getting speed from power glides (mainly used on straight-aways) be sure you’re pushing from the balls of your feet. You want to push down and out while bending at the knees for power. Your arms are going to be close to your body and in a runner’s stance. You do not want to have your arms going side to side, rather you need to have them going back and forth. This will help pull in power from your arms rather than having your arms work against you. Not to mention, swinging your arms may cause penalties in the future and exhaustion due to the fact that you’re literally working against yourself. To incorporate derby into all this, be sure you’re looking behind you while gliding.

Crossovers

Crossovers are essential in derby. Well-balanced crossovers are even more essential. The power in crossovers comes from the top, inside wheel of your right skate and the top, outside wheel of your left skate. Those are the wheels you push from. It should be an equal push from both feet, meaning the strides should be evenly timed and powered from stroke to stroke.

Some ladies have a weaker left leg, resulting in a “plopping” motion when doing crossovers. You can fix this by doing one foot glides on the corners. Simply push off at the beginning of the turn and hold that position for the whole corner. Make sure your arms are in and you are in a squat position, keeping your torso turned into the corner.

When pushing off with the right skate (top inside wheel), be aware of how you’re pushing. Feel through the skate and understand where that power needs to come from in order for you to get the most out of your strides. When pushing off with the left skate (top outside wheel), make sure your left leg is placed behind your right knee and you hold it there for the whole corner. Again, be aware of how you’re pushing and recognize the power points on the skates, as well as the muscles in your legs. Understand what doing a full crossover looks and feels like.


A letter for help

Yeah yea.. I’ve been absent.

It’s called burned the F’ out!

Here’s a letter I got a few weeks ago. I have actually received a lot of letters concerning this same damn thing.

“Hey Girl,

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to take a moment and ask you a derby question.

We are headed into a double header this weekend with significant injuries in the past couple of weeks. One team is down to 7 skaters. They want to have subs from another league, but that really rubs me the wrong way. ”

- From, ‘Rubbed raw’.
Roxy says:

“All is good, thanks.

Well, is this double header between home teams?
Is there anyway you guys can sub within the league? Take some of the girls with good endurance and use them? I personally see it as a way to help skaters build up their endurance as well as learn to play outside of their team/comfort zones. When interleague season starts for your league, you’ll appreciate having done that.

As far as subbing outside of the league, that would have to go to a league vote. I couldn’t imagine having girls from other leagues being as useful as my own league mates. is there anyway to combine one team and try and get another down for an interleague game? Building league strength above team pride.

If this an interleague game, there should be no questions about subbing within your league.”
If you have a question, feel free to write me: roxy.rockett@gmail.com

Help me help others.


Busy as Hell

Wanted to drop a note letting you know that I’m still here but am very busy trying to get CRG to Philly.

Will post soon.

Keep re-reading the shit you already know.


Rollergirl AWOL-knowing when to say when

“If such and such doesn’t happen, then I’m going to quit!”

First off, never pose the threat of quitting. Saying that one word shows the level of commitment you’re willing to give unless you receive the demands you feel are owed. When I hear ladies say such things I merely respond (in my own head of course), “go!”. No one is making you stay and do something you hate.. something that makes you miserable. If you get to the point where at every practice you leave on your pity raft floating down the river of your own tears, then my friend, you might want to rethink your decision to remain in derby. If you’re coming to practice only to bitch and complain about things that should be happening rather than getting on the rink and making them happen for you, then you might want to call a travel agent and take yourself on an extended vacation to some place that doesn’t house a derby league.

The first time you threaten to quit, the response may be a nice loving beer fest after practice where everyone tells you everything you do right and how important you are to the league. The second time you might get those 2 people that actually care about you and want you to stay because they believe in certain aspects of your personality. Aspects that fueled devotion in times past. The third time, do everyone a favor and just quit.

Crying derby wolf doesn’t make the league care. Communication about your concerns and demonstrating your efforts to change your mood and take charge of those concerns, that will show that your intentions are true. In return, you’ll gain support from skaters on the BOD to those that just made try-outs, all wanting and willing to help you overcome these feelings of helplessness.

“Damn, I hate coming to practice… I can’t stand going to all these meetings… I can’t make money cause I’m traveling so much for derby… My body hurts from all these unhealed injuries.. my family misses me/I miss my family. I think I need a break”

Now, if you have gotten to a point in a conversation where one of the above has been inserted, then the steps to recovery definitely lead down a different path. If you have been in conversations with ladies who have muttered those lines, then take it upon yourself to suggest a break from derby. Giving all you have over a long period of time leads to ladies getting burned out. This is the time where I say, tell the training committee, tell your captains, heck, even tell your close friends and folks you see walking down the street; “I’m going away for a few weeks. I will not be at practice. I will not attend any meetings. Do not ask me to do last minute shit you always burden me with.. I’m taking a break from derby!”. Ahhhhhhhhhhh…. That simple.

You owe no one a detailed, hand written letter explaining why you need this break. If you’re league is so damn stern and doesn’t allow this type of ‘behavior’, then you might want to organize a derby union and start advocating skaters rights!

Damn if this isn’t a volunteer sport. Decide not to volunteer for those 3-4 weeks. Or if you volunteer, decide your limits. Say, “I will go to endurance practice but I will not scrimmage.” Have limits for yourself and stick to them.

Having said all that, I do, however, suggest you communicate with your training committee, coach(es), and/or captains about your decision to take a break. Knowing when the right time to take a break is an important subsection that needs to be added into the equation(ie. not during the interleague season. But if you need too, by all means, do it). Also, make sure you know about any/all policies your league has in place about leave of absences and what you may be required to do upon returning (ie-attend so many practices before you’re able to scrimmage again). Just leaving with no communication whatsoever is not an effective way to take a break. First off, your league will be wondering if they need to rearrange teams and secondly, you’ll be stressing cause you don’t know what the response will be on your return. Communication is key ladies.

Also, training committee, take it upon yourselves to mandate a break during an month that allows it. It’s your job to train these ladies to skate well and be healthy. Taking time off would fall under the “staying healthy” category.

“You bitch, you’re always trying to tell me how to skate when you don’t know yourself”, or “If you hit me again with your elbow, I’m going kick your fat ass!”

Ugh, I’m sure we all have overheard tidbits like these during/after practices. This is what we call anger management. Knowing when and where to let yourself go. In my experiences, some ladies just don’t see eye to eye. Or better yet, they are way too much alike and both refuse to give an inch and end the madness. I’m to the teaching, “let it out!”. You’ve got something to say, say it. I hate yelling and being yelled out. But, what I hate worse is, someone repressing their emotions for so long that it comes barreling out in its unoriginal form and aimed for the unintended skater. As of late, I can hear ladies talking during scrimmages. Folks getting pissed and belching out ‘thank you’ letters while in the pack. “Nice forearms”, “nice back blocking”, “wanna try to hit me instead of trip me?”. Believe it or not, this is a form of derby therapy. Communicating to that skater what issues are present at the time of administration, allows you to release the anger and move on. If you happen to be the one receiving these poetic one liners, take it and keep skating. Watch those forearms. Be careful about the back blocking. Try keeping your legs in when you give a hit/fall. If it pisses you off cause this one skater is constantly bitching about something, give it back to her. 9 times out of 10, most people don’t eat the shit they spurt. Go ahead and politely give them a spoonful of their own medicine and be satisfied.

I’m not encouraging a full out league brawl, but rather, opening the door to ‘bitching and be done’ philosophy.

Coming back from the break

After a few weeks of movie watching, beer drinking, book reading days, it’s time, once again, to dive head first into the derby pool. Saying hey to all those bitches you miss and asking them about the kids and family is a nice heart warming experience. It showed me the depths of my connection with this group of women.

When you return skating, the first thing you need to realize is, you are out of shape. Knowing that returning to the level of intensity you left at isn’t a wise decision (especially if you didn’t do anything active on your break). I would suggest to come back and do basic endurance and fall drills for the first few hours on the rink (just to get the body back into that mode of a high impact workout). Then, my readers, it’s derby boot camp 101. Put yourself in every jam possible. Exhaust yourself during skills practice and go to open skates and dodge falling kids. Also, work yourself back into meetings with a renewed fuse. Bring new ideas and energy back to the folks that didn’t leave. Make them love it again.