Monday, February 27, 2012

first scrimmage

Tomorrow our newly benchmarked players will be playing in the Minty Fresh rookie scrimmage.  First time playing. 

I remember my first scrimmage.  It was a little bit epic.  For me anyway.  At least these rookies won't have the national media there filming them (and scratching the piss out their backs while they flail and fall).  At least I hope not.  I can't promise anything.

Photo by Anthony Canada

I can, however, promise the presence of camera.  Nobody goes out in fishnets anymore without getting their picture taken. 

(It seems a little funny to me that I'm still fixated on fishnets being the mandatory derby girl uniform when I hardly ever wear fishnets.  Usually I wear athletic shorts or opaque tights.  Seems this stereotype is pretty deeply ingrained.  Perhaps it's time to start thinking about changing it, at least in my own mind.)

I was going to call one last practice before the scrimmage to make sure our rookies understand some of the finer details of play that may trip them up on game day.  Like skating counter clockwise to go to the penalty box.  I realize that they may know this stuff intellectually but I know, from sad and sometimes embarrassing experience, that your intellect doesn't get much of a say when you are playing. 

It's your body that is in control.  Your body will do what it's been trained to do.  But when it encounters a situation where it has no training or previous experience - like the first trip to the penalty box - it turns to a confused and adrenaline fueled mind who can't think properly and only says, 'Just Go!  What the fuck?!  Skate!'

This mind is capable of making some devastating yet surprisingly funny errors during a game.

But.  No last practice.  Time to play.  So, rookies, what should you know for your first really real scrimmage?

Dear rookies, in general:

Stay with your colour.  Pair up, work together, talk.

Photo by Richard Lowes

Watch that line.

If the jammer gets past you, go get her.  If she's too far gone, look back because, hey whaddyaknow, here she comes again!  Get her.

Each jam is just one of many.  As Gunpowder Gertie says, think of what you did good and what you did bad, then erase the bad and take that good stuff out again.

Get a goal for the game and remind yourself of it.  Is your goal to protect that line as if it was your baby?  To tag the jammer at least once every time she comes through?

Keep your head on a swivel and maintain your derby stance.  Bitches will hit you.  Be prepared.

If the ref calls you off, don't stand there and make the wtf?? sign and say, 'Me?!'.  Just go.  You may right, maybe not, but in the game the ref is always right.  Plus also when you're standing there arguing, somebody will hit you.  Just go.

Jammers, notice if you have lead jam or not.  If you do, consider calling it when strategically advantageous.  Like when your whole bench is screaming at you, 'Call it!  Damnit, call it!'

Remember, this is fun. Focus on your job but don't become overwhelmed.  Mistakes are inevitable and the best lessons come from the times you fuck up.  Just think of how privileged you to be beginning and have all sorts of beautiful mistakes ahead of you.  So many brilliant learning opportunities.  Don't waste them by beating yourself up.


Bring water and another type of beverage.  When you get nervous you may also get dry mouth, no matter how much you hydrated.  A bit of juice will help that out.

You'll have to pee even though you just went.  Sometimes it's best to ignore that.  It's nerves and it'll go away soon enough.

Wear what you are comfortable in even if it's not the shiniest, fishnettiest clothes you own.  Try out your boutfit before the day.  Nothing worse than a wedgie when you're jamming.

 Eat.  But not too much.  In some ways, games are not as physically demanding as practices, since you aren't skating continous, but those bursts of mad action alternating with sitting down is still exhausting.  Have fuel.  But not so much that you can't move.

Go and thank every single referee and NSO you can find after the bout.  Do this every single game, scrimmage and invitational you play your entire derby career.  They were all there for you.  Demonstrate your appreciation.

Photo by Richard Lowes

However, if you are really pissed off at a ref, give them a big ol' hug afterwards.  Whiffy and sweaty derby girls are pretty gross to anyone who is only slightly sweaty.  Revenge is best served stinky and smeary.

And thank the photographers and buy them a beer if you see them at the afterparty.  They are so invaluable to keeping our spirits up and documenting the growth and individuals involved in this phenomenal sport.  Don't hug them until after you've showered.

Say something nice to your teammates when they come in from a jam, even if it was a total bomb.  Bring your bench up, stay positive, and you'll all end up winning, no matter what the scoreboard says.

Photo by Anthony Canada

After the game, before you go to sleep, make a list of all the things you did good.  You will most likely forget almost everything that happened during the scrimmage.  Most of my games are a few sketchy blurs of action, sort of like a dream half remembered.  Before the memory fades, write down the high points and keep the list safe.  You'll want to come back to this before you play again and after not so great practices when you are feeling down. 

Remember, most of all, you are already doing something completely amazing, even if you spend the whole game falling on your ass.  For every derby skater breaking new ground in their scrimmage there is a million of women who wish they were brave as you.  Own that.

And kick some ass.

I'm proud of you all.


  1. Awesome post! I really like the part about how if the jammer gets too far out, look back cause she'll come around again. Bonnie D. Stroir says to count to ten, cause that's right when she'll be coming up on the pack again ^_^

  2. Hey this is awesome. I'm posting a link to this on our derby's secret team member's page. (Thought I would tell you, since I can't show it as a share.)