Last week I had the honour of being invited to coach at the Blood and Thunder Bootcamp in Robstown, Texas. I was pretty nervous as this was my first Blood and Thunder bootcamp as a coach and I was going to be working alongside some of my derby heroes: Smarty Pants, Bonnie D Stroir, SmackyaSideways and Teflon Donna. I had a game in Bremerton the weekend before I was leaving and a million things to tie up with Pivotstar before I left.
So when I arrived in Austin after two flights and a 4am start I was exhausted but excited to explore a new place, hang with some derby ladies and skate, skate, skate. Smarty Pants met me at the airport and was a top class tour guide, ferrying all of us around for the whole week. Not easy when you have six rollergirls to coordinate (herding cats, anyone?) After the cold, rainy-ness of Vancouver, the heat and sunshine of Austin was blissful and I spent a gorgeous warm evening at Smarty’s rowing class by the river as the sun set on that first night.
The next day was exploring Austin with all its funky shops and yummy street food. Then it was off to speed class at the local roller rink where I got some awesome tips from the coaches. Have I mentioned how much I love speed classes? I kind of get off on the geeky technicality of it all; I love how you can adjust tiny parts of your skating technique and get so much more power out of every stride. SO cool!
Wednesday was banked track extravaganza. I have never been on a banked track before so I was bubbling with excitement about setting foot/skate on one. Firstly a little history about the Texas banked track, for those who don’t know. Basically the modern resurgence of roller derby began in Austin in 2001, where a group of local ladies got together and decided to start a league. A reality TV show about their journey was made (“Rollergirls”), aired on A&E and BAM derby leagues start popping up all over North America. The track that they skate on now is the one that they have had from the beginning of the league and actually was used by the Bay City Bombers back in the 60s. It’s so old they call it “grandma.” It is truly a piece of derby history.
And it was SO much fun! As Bonnie D Stroir said “just throw your leg over and start skating” – and I did. It definitely took a bit of getting used to and I was very thankful for all of the great coaching that we had that day. But by the end of it I felt like I was getting my “banked track legs.” The amount of speed you can get is definitely higher than on the flat track – and being a speed junkie I enjoyed this a lot. We did a bunch of fun drills with hitting each other and “sparking” of the rails, deeking around players and using the angles of the track to gain/lose speed. I can’t wait to scrimmage on there 🙂 Next time!
In typical derby fashion, we decided that a full day on the banked track wasn’t quite enough derby, so we attended Texas Rollergirls (the flat track league) practice that night before driving down to Robstown where the camp was being held. The practice was awesome with some painful endurance to start off with and scrimmage drills coached by some of my favourite Texecutioners. We got in late, smelly and tired to the hotel at 3am.
Morning came too soon and I packed away my still damp gear, gathered up my coaching notes and jumped in the car. The venue for the camp was a ten-minute drive away at the Fairgrounds Agridome so I got to take in the local sights: Wal Mart, Whataburger, fields, Chilis, fields, highway. Although the scenery wasn’t much to write home about the venue was awesome: three huge buildings with two tracks in each – enough space for three levels of coaching, ref camp, junior camp and a coaches camp. Plus it had air con, which in the crazy humidity that meant that my gear never really dried out, I was very grateful for. After the first day I didn’t even notice the smell of livestock..
So commenced four days of derby goodness. The host league (Crude City Roller Derby) worked SO hard and made us all feel very welcome. The participants were respectful and eager to learn so the classes were enjoyable and informative (I hope!) Everyone seemed to have a great time and were happy to help each other out during drills and share their knowledge with other leagues. The weekend reached its high point with an All-Stars game between camp participants which was lots of fun and gratifying to see the skaters demonstrate what they had learned over the last few days. It ended with an impromptu dance party on the track. I am not sure what impressed me more; their skating skills or their awesome dance moves. I love derby girls!
But all too soon it was time to go home. It had been an incredible experience: one that I shall treasure forever. I learned so much, met so many amazing skaters from all over the world and most importantly made some new friends. Thank you to Black Dahlia for inviting me to coach, thank you to the wonderful Smarty Pants for being the mother hen for the week, to all the other coaches that inspired me and made me laugh til I cried and to the skaters that listened to me rabbit on about derby.
So long Texas! Thanks y’all 🙂