1) Portland is home to the Rose City Rollers who are kind of like big sisters to my league the Terminal City Rollergirls. When we were still skating circles in parking lots trying not to fall on each other, they came up to Vancouver and showed us what real derby looked like. “Wow, that’s what you call a wall hey?”
2) One of our goals for the All Stars this year was to make it to Western Regionals. In hindsight this may have been a tad ambitious seeing as we had only just become WFTDA in February and we are competing in the toughest region in North America. There is a reason they call it “Besterns.” We didn’t make the cut this year (for reasons I am going to talk about later on) but we still managed to represent our league with nearly 40 members making the trip down to watch some of the best derby in the world.
3) It’s Portland People! One of my favourite American cities. I have been on numerous derby road trips to Portland and always had a blast. The Jupiter hotel is the BEST – I always try and request the room with the Grand Canyon mural and you can’t beat blackboard doors covered in drunken derby art. Oh and you haven’t lived til you have attempted to eat a whole Voodoo Doughnut: “The Magic is in the Hole!” enough said: www.voodoodoughnut.com
4) I love Wicked Skatewear and there were rumours that they were bringing along a certain celebrity employee….
So yeah, this was destined to be a pretty amazing event even BEFORE the derby started.
And when it did start – woah! Amazing, athletic, super strategic, intense teamwork, aggressive, controlled – these ladies showed us all what it means to be regional champions. The highlight for me was seeing Rocky Mountain skate, I have seen them on the intrawebs but never in person. The thing I love about Rocky is that they are obviously athletes that have worked very hard to get where they are right now, but they still all have big characters and most of all they look like they are having FUN out there! It shows that you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.
Anyway, I could write a blow by blow account of all the games; the big hits, the jams that never happened, the skating prowess of Rose City’s Scald Eagle. But it wouldn’t do it justice. If you want to see some of the best skating you will EVER see – watch the games themselves at www.wftda.com (my two faves were Rat vs Rose and Rocky vs Oly)
What I want to talk about is: “What does it mean for my league?”
The Terminal City Rollergirls started skating five years ago when derby in Canada was a non entity. We had no one around us to skate against, and trips across the border to play the powerhouse of Seattle’s Rat City were scary to say the least. Our first bouting season, we split into two teams and played Red vs. Black in front of a couple of hundred people. At the end of the year we decided to follow the prevailing trend and form house teams so that we could have some constant in-house competition. Thus the Riot Girls, Bad Reputations, Faster Pussycats and Girls from Bad Homes were born. In the “off season” (ie. when the ice goes into all our venues for the winter) we cobbled together a “travel team” of skaters that wanted to play outside of the league.
In our first couple of years of travelling we beat everyone we played. “TCRG is undefeated” we crowed. And then we headed to the pub for another beer and pound of wings. But things started to change; during the 2009/10 travel team season we lost a few more US games and then came the kicker – we travelled all the way to Toronto for Quad City Chaos to take on Montreal, Toronto and Hamilton and we lost every single game. Our bragging rights in Canada had been firmly squashed.
After three years of fierce in house competition our house teams were strong, but our travel team was not. We routinely heard people say “you have great skaters, but you don’t play as a team.” While we had been happily enjoying our greatness, the rest of the leagues had been skating against teams that pushed them and challenged them to be the best. This sport doesn’t sit still for too long and we were in danger of getting left behind.
But it was more than that, and this is where we get to the heart of the issue. It is now my belief that in order for us to be a successful travel team (with aspirations of becoming our leagues WFTDA charter team) we couldn’t just be something for those skaters that didn’t want to take time off in the winter. And more importantly, we couldn’t be composed of skaters that also played for house teams. In order for us to be the BEST team that we could be, we had to commit 100% to this team, all year round, for every single game.
My reasons for this are:
1) Teamwork: derby is no longer about individual skill, its about teamwork. If you don’t play together all the time, how can you develop that teamwork to a level where it is unspoken, fluid, instinctive?
2) Trust: when you spend half of your year conspiring against each other in house teams, how can you really trust that skater you are now paired up with?
3) Time: to be a competitive team we have to skate together for twelve months a year, not just when the house teams aren’t playing. That means having twice as many practices plus committee work.
4) Commitment: what do you as a skater want? do you want to stay in your comfort zone of playing people you know? or do you want to play this sport at another level, where you skate against teams that are going to beat you, that are going to hurt you, but will make you stronger than you ever imagined?
5) Growth of the league: having a separate All-Star team takes our best players off our house teams and allows those middle of the road skaters to shine and grow. This way we are training our future leaders and our replacements.
Our league has spent the last two years debating this.
But how does this relate to Regionals you ask?
Firstly, I was blown away by how many of our league attended the games or watched at home. In previous years it has been maybe 2 or 3 skaters that were interested enough to watch online. It shows me that my league mates are interested in derby outside of Vancouver, outside of the house teams. To me this says that we take our new place in WFTDA seriously, and we want our charter team to play against the big boys, I mean girls.
And secondly I hope that by having so many of our league members see what we are up against, they understand how hard it is going to be to get to Regionals in 2012. And in my mind the only way we are going to get there is to have a committed team of skaters, unencumbered by house team rivalries and extra practices, focused on achieving a goal that will involve hard work, discipline, determination and trust.
This week we voted in our new All Star team and tonight is our first team meeting. Things have changed a lot. This time last year the majority of skaters refused to contemplate only playing for the All-Stars (there were five of us that took the plunge). This time around 90% of those who tried out for the team said that they would only play for the one team if picked. Wow.
So with twelve months of blood, sweat and tears ahead of me, I will see you at Westerns next year – on the jammer line.