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WFTDA International Playoffs: My D2 Wichita Picks

If you’re not watching footage, you should be and if you’re already watching footage, then you should be watching more.

There’s never enough footage and until quite recently I could brag I’d watched 95% of the games stored on the WFTDA archive. In fact, one glance at my YouTube history and you’d quickly realise I use YouTube for nothing more than searching for obscure roller derby and the most talked about games.

Division Two is a relatively new level of roller derby for me, as like most Brits I’d previously only watched to see the European teams smashing it up.

But this year I’m committed to watching as much of the WFTDA feed as possible, especially because I paid approx £70 for the privilege. BUT also because I signed myself in for the UltraCompetitive league on Fantasy Derby, with some of the world’s favourite London-based skaters… I look practically unambitious compared to the crowd below.

fantasy roller derby game

Unlike me you might have had more raucous weekend plans (sub in “a life”), and as a result may have missed some of the Division Two play. So below I’ve listed out two games I think are a must watch, and a couple of reasons why. A warning, the final scores are included, as are the winners. So there are spoilers, but if you like watching great roller derby again and again then maybe you’ll enjoy knowing the ending…

 

— Nashville Rollergirls vs Tucson Roller Derby —

Okay I admit it that this was the first game of the tournament I got to watch, so I may doing an injustice to the two games that came before this. BUUUUTTTT I did hear the announcers say they were largely blow-outs, and I don’t want to recommend any one-sided games.

Nashville vs Tucson took place on the first day of D2 Wichita, and was the third game of the day and the tournament. Nashville came into the tournament as third seed and Tucson was sixth, so I don’t think you’d have been critiqued on making a judgement call on who was going to win.

However, the game unfolded quite differently to how everybody (maybe just me) imagined and the gameplay and strategy on display was for the most part closely matched.

Early on it looked like the game was Nashville’s but after a lead change, Tucson led with varying margins for most of the game. In fact, it seemed for a while that only Nasville’s Lady Fury was capable of breaking through the Tucson defence to score points, which looked like a great source of frustration for Nashville and Lady Fury. Understandable really with the rumours that Nashville would be losing nine of its charter to retirement at the end of this year and the announcer confirmed departure of Lady Fury at the end of the weekend.

By the last quarter of the bout (yeah bout, what of it?!) was Tucson’s to lose. Which, unfortunately, they did.

With Lady Fury out for Nashville from a big and high hit on the jam line, it genuinely looked like Tucson had this in the bag, but a series of jammer and blocker penalties, poor clock management and some excellent defence from the Nashville blockers saw Music City take the lead in the closing jams.

Far from a bracket upset with the third seed clinching the win this game was still a differential killer and definitely worth a watch (if only the second half).

Final Score: 152 – 149 to Nashville

Seeds entering the tournament:

Nashville Rollergirls – 3

Tucson Roller Derby – 6

Finishing position in the tournament:

Nashville Rollergirls – 4th

Tucson Roller Derby – 7th

 

— Houston Roller Derby vs Boulder County Bombers —

If this game was one thing, it was close. If I could give it another adjective, it’d be hitty.

The game started out quite formation heavy with many iterations of braced three walls and a dedicated offence. Expectantly, this created some long periods of play without a lead jammer. But as the game progressed each team became more desperate and hungry for the win and as a result the game became more individual, contact-heavy and demonstrative of solo skill.

Yet none of the above is the reason why I’m recommending that you watch this game. Nope.

I recommend watching this game (spoiler incoming), which was the 5th/6th position playoff because you’ll see the Boulder County Bombers, the 8th seed in Division Two Wichita, come from behind at halftime to beat the second seed, Houston Roller Derby.

THAT’S RIGHT – Boulder County Bombers usurped Houston for fifth place, and what’s more they did it all in the last fifteen minutes of the second half. If ever I thought there was a game to drink to, game 15 of the Divison Two Wichita International Playoffs was it.  The amount of lead changes would have made even the most seasoned derby drinker drunk as a skunk.

Final Score: 184 – 181 to Boulder County

Seeds entering the tournament:

Houston Roller Derby – 2

Boulder County Bombers – 8

Finishing position in the tournament:

Houston Roller Derby – 6th

Boulder County Bombers – 5th

 

All-in-all I think the Division Two Wichita International Playoffs were a tournament categorised by surprises and upsets. Of course there were blow-outs, but surely we can all expect that at any level of play now in roller derby? The game of jostling for position is always going to have its ebbs and flows of epic growth and mammoth come-downs.

But what was really surprising in this tournament was just how different the final tournament positions were from the start; out of all 10 teams, only two remained in the same seed.

If you have a favourite game of D2 Wichita please let me know.

WFTDA D2 Wichita Roller Derby

Bracket from WFTDA

How skating just isn’t enough

Spoiler alert: this post is going to talk about the side effects of my transfer into London Rollergirls… So if you have an anti-London bias (a topic for another day) zone out now.

So, like a sequel to a movie, here’s a mini introduction again – nearly a year ago I transferred into London Rollergirls because my job and my partner, Giggity, moved there. It wasn’t an unwanted move or transfer – I mean who would complain about skating at the highest level possible in the UK, or living in a city that has something happening everyday?

But the move was a giant change to my life. Coming from lil’ ol’ Lincolnshire – the big green flat marshland, with a small roller derby team, to the mammoth concrete beast that is London with its  highly competitive and huge roller derby team.

What I didn’t realise was just how giant the physical demands would be – leading me to the conclusion that skating just isn’t enough to keep you the top of your game.

roller derby pivot

Photo taken by John Hesse

So yah, yah, yah this is another post about how you and I should probably be doing off skates workouts, but it’s also more than that – it’s actually how you and I should be doing more off skates workouts, more non-training skating, more mental prep, more resting, more eating – because honestly I thought I was doing enough, but I AM SERIOUSLY STILL NOT.

Before I transferred into London Rollergirls I was hitting the gym twice a week – doing some loose strength training and trying to get some plyo movement back into my recovering legs. I was thinking about the mental side of the game (note thinking) and I was stoically sticking to the idea of Monday as my rest day. I knew that my transfer scrim was going to be hard – but I also thought I was working hard enough to be prepared.

It turns out I was doing just enough to transfer in. I passed my transfer scrim, and my probation and in November last year I bouted as Brawl Saint (HIGH FIVE). But quite simply it isn’t enough.

London Rollergirls Brawl Saints

Photo taken by John Hesse

Skating with the London Rollergirls has opened my eyes to how competitiveness is so fluid, and well…  Competitive. Like my good friend and housemate, Trisha Smackanawa, said in her blog post for Fitness Gone Rogue,

When you make the step up to the next level you are starting from behind and sprinting to catch up with everyone, only to find that when you get there you still have to run really damn fast.

Up a mountain.

And the mountain is on fire.

My motivation is to be the best skater I can be. To achieve that just skating really isn’t enough.

So what changes have I made?

Exercise

Well – it’s hard to remember a time when I slept in past 6:30. Since moving to London I’ve seriously upped my time spent in the gym. Where before my gym attendance topped out at twice a week and often done in the evenings, twice is definitely the minimum – with me often hitting the gym everyday (but Monday!) before work. Working out in the morning is something that I NEVER thought I would do – but with roller derby practice two evenings a week, and often mid-week meetings, it was a necessary change. It helps that my gym is round the corner from my work.

Mental prep

I’ve become obsessed with Ted Talks. I blame work for this more than roller derby – but Ted Talks are a great way to find out more information about your mental chemistry and personality ticks. I’ve previously spoken about trying to read to mentally prepare myself for the psychological ups and downs of injury and bouting, but I’ve found Ted Talks to be the most effective way of getting myself to believe I am strong, capable, free from injury, and well-practiced.

In particular I recommend this amazing Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. It speaks about how our body language shapes who we are, and about faking it until you become it. In particular the power poses referenced in this talk have helped me up my game considerably.

roller derby pivot taking the star

Photo taken by Andy Sainter

Eating

My eating habits have also changed. I really didn’t realise how necessary this was. But after spending an hour and a half at Brawl Saints team training getting my ass kicked, and then scrimmaging against both the amazing Batter C and the dominating Brawling, it’s easy to nearly faint if you’ve not eaten correctly -believe me I’ve nearly done it… Twice!

So now I’m more conscious than ever about what fuel I’m putting in. Because food is exactly that, fuel – so only a croissant for breakfast before training is like putting £2’s worth of supermarket petrol in your car. Cliche alert: you get out what you put in.

This change also coincided with me making a conscious decision to eat less meat, which I think has made changing my eating habits easier. But the search for protein is a constant puzzle (because I don’t like protein shakes).

Relaxing, resting and stretching

Prior to skating with London Rollergirls I can honestly say (aside from my first ever roller derby session) I have never had two-day DOMS caused by roller derby practice alone. Now I’m not surprised if I get this because I’m constantly pushing my body past its comfort zone to try and be more effective, stop quicker, hit harder, be more dominant or faster (and probably because I need more post-training protein).

So I started doing yoga on the regs. After every gym session I do 15 to 20 minutes of yoga, and on my rest days (which are Mondays AND Saturdays usually) I try to fit in a longer yoga session. My flexibilty has increased, which I’m advised by Fitness Gone Rogue, can only mean good things!

Feedback and maaaawwww skating

Feedback, free skate, feedback, free skate, feedback, free skate.

LRG has a great system of ownership on skaters to seek feedback, and a buddy system that supports this. Every couple of months since starting I’ve sought feedback on where I can improve to be what my team needs. The feedback is always different and always attainable – and often, actually not that far from my own self-assessment.

Having this feedback in my mind at practice and focusing on it where possible at free skate times really makes a difference to how you feel about your own skating and progress, as well as actually improving your performance. Some feedback is easier to work on than others, such as improving backwards skating versus not being a do-it-all player. BUT it’s a giant change to go from feeling offended and a little upset when somebody points out your flaws or “areas of growth” to thinking “great, I’m going to nail that – thanks for your time”

So yeah – the biggest learning curve I’ve had from my transfer to London Rollergirls, is how enough is never enough! But I think that’s what makes roller derby fun!

Learning and growing and growing and learning – Lil Cherry Kick’er

Pre-Game, Post-Injury Nerves

This month it is two years since I injured my knee and had an operation to repair my meniscus ligament.

It’s odd because part of me processes it as if it was yesterday. I remember exactly how I felt, sometimes so strongly that I can cry, and I remember exactly what I was thinking at the time.

But there’s also a part of my that recognises it was two years ago, and that during the last two years so much has changed. Then it feels like a lifetime ago.

London Roller Girls

Photograph Courtesy of Zero G

Oxford Roller Derby Game

Photo courtesy of Peter Worth

Pre-game, post-injury nerves

Photo courtesy of Peter Worth

One of the instances, when my injury feels like it was just a blink of an eye ago, is right before a game of roller derby. I had hoped that transferring to a new league would solve the anxiety, due to the change of routine and surroundings. Unfortunately, this last weekend proved that this was not true – well not entirely anyways.

There are two things I think that contribute to my pre-game, post-injury anxiety. The first is this weird thought that I cannot trust my left knee. When I injured my knee, I was told that sports would be particularly hard to return to and I would likely need a second operation. I had to relearn how to walk, run and go upstairs. At 22 I found this particularly traumatic and had counselling to try and process the effects my injury was having on my independence.

Since then I’ve returned to completely normal activity. My left knee very very rarely feels any differently to my right knee, and when it does it’s because I’ve rolled over the scar tissue in my knee (which feels like a grain of sand in the joint). But in the back of my mind I have a niggle that it was once injured and it once let me down.

This is a result of the second contributor to my pre-game, post-injury anxiety, which is that I returned from a knee niggle to normality before I seriously injured my knee.

I originally injured my knee in the April against Bristol Roller Derby, missed a couple of games including SKOD (sob) and then returned to normality (still some pain, but relatively pain-free) for a couple of months, before finally injuring my knee properly against the Seaside Siren Roller Girls in November.

The injury in November was the result of rolling over track tape while transitioning.

This has left me with a doubt on my knee and a weird lack of trust in my own left leg.

The thing is that as soon as the first whistle goes for a game I forget about all this and focus on the game ahead. I also don’t think it has a great effect on my game. But in the lead up to a game… WOW I am nervous.

Knowing this, I am working hard to try and eradicate this element of my pre-game. I don’t want to feel like I can’t trust my left knee. I also don’t want my mind to play tricks on me before a roller derby game, making me question my strength.

Pre-game, post-injury nerves

I have previously read Mind Gym but I struggled to take exercises from it. A friend recommended The Mental Edge, so I’ve started reading that. I’m personally finding this book much better than the Mind Gym. But having only started a week before my weekend away with the Brawl Saints I really wasn’t practiced enough to implement what I’d been learning.

As a result, I went into the Newcastle game nervous and twinged my knee in the second to last jam of the game. Thankfully, it feels absolutely fine now, and I skated the next day against Middlesborough without any twinges.

For me, it just reaffirmed how important strengthening my mental game is, as I am 100% sure any future knee niggles will be purely the result of my own overthinking rather than any physical limitations.

So I’m going to focus on this during my off season. I’m going to strengthen my body but also apply a new focus to strengthening my mind, in an aim to get rid of my pre-game, post-injury nerves.

It begins with The Mental Edge and these self-confidence tips delivered straight to your inbox by Mark Tyrell, and after some other resources it results in a more mentally resilient Flo feeling more excited than nervous before a game!

If you have any tips on the mental side of roller derby please let me know! I’d be really interested to hear them. You can comment below or email me at tonimay@averageadventures.org.