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By LeBron Shames
“Between Jams” is a series in which the Chicago Bruise Brothers feature and interview notable roller derby players from around the world. Today we caught up with a local favorite, Suzie Crotchrot.
So, you went to Austin and played roller derby there. Tell us about that. Austin is to roller derby as Las Vegas is to gambling. The city is abundant with any and all skating opportunities for every type of derby enthusiast. It’s all there; flat track, banked track, competitive women/men/junior leagues, rec leagues and pick-up scrimmages.
I knew nothing about Austin when deciding to move there, so I reached out to a league friend, Kat Von Speed, and met Bloody Mary on my second day in Austin at a banked track boot camp and she invited me to come to a TXRG practice that week. I was drafted to the Hell Marys and by the end of my first week in Texas I had some new friends and a new job.
I often comment on how tight the roller derby community is, but I never realized HOW tight it was until I moved. I received a lot of positive feedback and support from some talented and seasoned skaters. From training to fundraising, TXRG is on top of their game.
You’re a skilled jammer but hit hard as a blocker, especially for your size. Do you prefer one side of the game to the other? Haha! So you noticed. I have predominantly been a blocker for my entire derby career and only within the past 2 seasons have been trying on the jammer cap. I really enjoy and love every moment of brutally blocking the guts out of jammers, but there’s something really humbling and beautiful about jamming.
After living in Austin and losing so much weight from bike riding (20+ miles per day just to get to and from work), my pushes weren’t packing much punch, and my opposition was often twice my size, so I began retraining myself. I started to pay attention to the physics and angles of roller derby. I also started to watch hockey more to study the skater’s fluidity and how they hit each other. It’s really just about timing and hitting them in a weak spot.
Crotch blazing in the jammer cap (photo by Steve Jurkovic Photography)
Name one player from another team you’d wish you could play derby with. Naming just one player is ridiculous but I’ll go ahead and pick my yellow gypsy brethren Bane-Ana On Skates of the St. Louis GateKeepers. I’ve known Bane since I started skating and he has repped The Outfit just as hard as we do, if not harder! Now that he lives closer, I’m SURE he could make it happen sometime.
If Suzie Crotchrot was to join a band, what group would you join? Would you sing, bang the drums, play bass, or what? Nah. I would just be the roadie for Aphex Twin. For reasons that are way too obvious.
By LeBron Shames
In “Between Jams” the Chicago Bruise Brothers interview top players in roller derby from around the United States and the World.
Bloody Elle just moved to the nation’s capital after spending most of the last decade in Chicago, in which she skated both with The Chicago Outfit and the Windy City Rollers. Now that Elle is settled in with the DC Rollergirls, we caught up with her to get the scoop.
What’s it like to start (again) with a new league and what do you hope to gain from skating with new friends? Starting with a new league is always challenging because you are integrating into an already established environment where people have specific ways of playing derby. This is my fourth league now that I have skated with, so you think I would be a seasoned pro at this, but despite being outgoing, I am unfortunately socially awkward so it makes things interesting! Thankfully, my new league mates have been really welcoming and are helping me to get up to speed on what they’re doing this season. It helps that I keep an open mind and open ears and am willing to try new things. An old dog can ALWAYS learn new tricks if you let yourself.
You jam and block but spent most of the last two seasons at Windy City jamming. Which do you prefer? Both have their pros and cons. As a jammer, I have to think less and just go. However, everyone is after you as a jammer, so you have to be mentally prepared. As a blocker, the challenge is having to think five steps ahead of your opponent and anticipate their movements while being keenly aware of what your teammates are doing. It is constant evaluation and reevaluation of the situation inside and outside of the pack. I love both roles, as they both pose their own unique challenges.
We hear you’re also a huge hockey fan. Does following other sports provide inspiration, or is it more of a fun escape? The mental toughness of hockey players inspires me, especially that ability to get hit in the ways they do and come back so quickly. Also, the ability of a goalie to recover mentally from a goal against them is fantastic. I also admire the crazy footwork of the players. I watch the ways in which they move and think about how the physics of their movements could translate to wheels.
You’re also a music aficionado. If you could be in any band in music history who would it be and why? I am not much of a musician myself, unless you want a terrible clarinet player in your band or the world’s worst bassist. However, I would have loved to have the experience of being in the Velvet Underground. They kind of define coolness to me. Plus hanging out with Warhol? Count me in, please.
What band or song makes you play air guitar when no one else is watching? Hah. I really don’t play air guitar, but I sing all the words along to songs if i am really into it and sometimes dance. I could probably sing all the words along to pretty much every Replacements or Exploding Hearts song in existence.
By LeBron Shames
In “Between Jams” the Chicago Bruise Brothers interview top players in roller derby from around the United States and the World.This week we caught up with #12 DeBella DeBall, a blocker with the Texas Rollergirls.
After starting five years ago in TXRG’s well-known rec league, DeBella was drafted before working her way up the ranks to become a member of the Texecutioners, TXRG’s top ranked A-team. In November 2013 DeBella played in the WFTDA championship final against Gotham.
Tell us how you got involved playing roller derby in the first place and how the ride has been.
My derby career started because my father insisted; he was coaching a home team for the Queen City Roller Girls, out of Rainbow Rink. My dad thought it would be a perfect fit for me based on my background in speed and artistic skating. He felt the progression to roller derby would be a natural one.
Derby has been an amazing ride for me. My husband is active duty military and over the last few years has spent some time away from home. Derby naturally filled my time and allowed me to meet some strong, confident and smart women. During this current season, I have been blessed to skate with Team Texas and I will be coaching Team South Africa in the Roller Derby World Cup. They are a very talented group of skaters that are hungry to learn more derby; I can’t wait to see how much they soak in during their time state side.
As a Texecutioner you were part of only of two teams that came within 50 points of Gotham in recent years. How has derby gotten more competitive and how has that helped your own game?
The Texecutioners are the hardest working women I know; they are my friends, my teammates and challenge me every day to be the best skater I can be. Our drive and ability to adapt to the game allows us to adjust and revamp our focus. We have some incredibly smart women who are creating the curve in modern-day derby: Sarah Hipel, Barbara Ambush, Polly Gone, Smarty Pants, and Fifi Nomenon . Last year was one of the most exciting for me in derby: our league leased a practice space that allowed for us to practice more as a team.
As far as helping my game, my teammates challenge me to work on basic skills and executing them quickly and effectively. I want to be agile so I can be devastating with my footwork AND size. My free time is spent watching WFTDA.tv and YouTube, breaking down my own skills and those of my opponents. My goal is to find a new skater each time I watch and breakdown the skill(s) they have that I’d like to add to my tool box.
You also just made Team Texas. What do you plan to get out of playing derby for your home state?
Making Team Texas for State Wars is really exciting. I get to learn from TJ Brinkley and many other skaters. For the first time I get to have Death By Chocolate (DBC) and Freight Train (All-Starts from Houston Roller Derby) on my team and not having to play against them. The State of Texas is a HUGE state full of talented skaters; I can’t wait to see how we come together to form a team. Assassination City, Dallas Derby Devils, North Texas, West Texas, San Antonio, Houston, Cowboy Capital, South Texas and Texas Rollergirls were some of the Leagues represented during our tryouts. It was a joy to see how we all came together during the scrimmage.
The Texecutioners have a reputation as a well-rounded team of players who both jam and block. What does Texas do differently to train great players?
During each practice, we practice both positions so those of us who typically jam will block, and vice versa. Each skater brings a different skill to the practice; and we use that to challenge each other. Many of us skate on more then one team, playing different positions on each. Some of us also compete in speed skating: Sonny Felter of Texas Speed is an amazing inspiration for myself and many members of our team.
We cross-train together and on our own. The Texecutioners are a family, our league supports us which makes each step for growth that much more important.
You can find out more about the Texas Rollergirls here.
Kitty Shark (center) hits Jersey boy Rollomite (pic: David A Carter Photography)
By LeBron Shames
In “Between Jams” the Chicago Bruise Brothers have taken a few moments to sit down and interview top players in roller derby from around the United States and the World. To kick things off, we talked with Kitty Shark of the Pennsylvania All-Stars (who also plays as Evol Kitty for the Philly Roller Girls’ team called the Block Party) about her time in derby and experience with different squads.
How did you get involved in roller derby in the first place? And how did you get mixed up with those Philly Roller Girls?
I have been playing since March of 2006. I went to a benefit skate for Saint Jude’s at a local skating rink and saw a bunch of girls there with fishnets and knee socks. I was curious so I asked what they were doing there and they said “roller derby”. That was all it took for me. I joined the next practice they had and I haven’t looked back since.
I transferred to Philly in October of 2013 from the Lehigh Valley Roller Girls. Beforehand, logistics for transferring to PRG never seemed to work out. However, an opportunity presented itself at the end of last season that naturally made the cards fall into place. It is a 2-hour plus commute for me but I am able to share it with my derby wife who also plays for PRG.
The Bruise Brothers won the bout 117 to 108 and earned the right to hold the Illnois Cup, but the Hooligans will be back for more, they guarantee it.
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By LeBron Shames
Austin, Tex. – Starting Tuesday, organizations that govern the sport of roller derby are set to meet behind closed doors in Austin to discuss a proposal by a group of the sport’s officials. A large group of roller derby referees and officials have laid forth demands for hourly pay and recognition of a labor union.
It is unclear how the referendum ratified last month by the International Roller Officials League, IROL (pronounced “I role”) , will impact the game as overseen by the Women’s Flat-Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) and USA Roller Sports. The impetus for unionization and fair play came about after questionable treatment of some derby officials demonstrated the need for a set of standards on how skating referees and non-skating officials, (called NSOs) are staffed, protected and compensated for their time.
“Some of our refs were getting pulled in all different directions,” said Shawne Rockey, a head referee for the Texas Valley Roller Revolution who goes by the name Rocky Balbone-Ya.
Rockey states that she and other referees and NSOs at Texas Valley were not only responsible for officiating the game, but in some instances were expected to sell t-shirts, and clean up after bouts, as well as staff a makeshift indoor beer garden and hot dog cart to serve patrons.
“I love roller derby, but I had to quit,” said Leonardo DeCapitate, another former official who didn’t want to give his real name. “Sometimes dealing with players can be tough enough. But it was the fans that really got to me,” he said.
Rockey also said that as Texas Valley’s popularity grew in the center of the state, crowds got bigger and often rowdier. Sometimes brawls between players –not to mention scuffles between players and fans—ensued. About a year ago, Rockey said she found herself tackling an intoxicated and nude fan, while trying to apprehend him from interfering in the league championship bout as other rowdy fans cheered him on.
After that streaker incident made the local and then national news, roller derby officials from various parts of the US reached out to Rockey by phone and email. A month later talk of better treatment and organizing came about.
The new union proposal comes on the heels of the mandate a new set of rules for most of roller derby. The set of new rules, formulated by WFTDA, ratified earlier in 2014, go into effect April 1. The new rules set forth act as standard procedure for all game play for any WFTDA league or organization that conforms to WFTDA play. MRDA men’s teams also follow WFTDA rules, while USARS roller derby teams play according to their own rule set and guidelines.
Maureen Sanders, an Austin-based attorney for the group of referees, said on Monday that the upcoming meetings with the sport’s governing bodies were important. She hints that the main purpose of IROL and unionization is to protect refs from grueling game schedules and arduous afterparties.
“We want to make sure that organization leaders are clear on how IROL and skaters can improve the game and push it forward.”
Association presidents of MRDA, WFTDA and USARS were not available for comment on the matter. According to one inside press contact, all three organizations’ offices were closed for April Fools’ Day.