DIY Scrimmage Shirts

DIY scrimmage shirts are the go-to option for derby black and whites. If you can’t afford a fancy reversible scrimmage shirt (which are awesome, by the way, don’t get me wrong), using an old t-shirt and some crafting magic is a pretty good substitute. As a former employee of a large craft chain and lifelong crafting experimenter (just ask my Barbies), here’s what I’ve learned trying to make my own scrimmage shirts:

 

Iron-ons are finicky and might make your life miserable, but are also cool and fun.

 

Iron-on numbers are widely available at craft stores. They’re an easy way to get a high-quality number of the size you need on your back. If your scrimmage shirt has sleeves, you can iron on smaller numbers to the upper arm and forego sweaty armbands. Plus, you can print your own custom numbers on iron-on sheets or use pretty iron-on sheets (there are even zebra numbers for zebras!). Fancy, right? It is, but only if it works. Here are some tips for making it work:

 

  • Use a 100% cotton t-shirt. A lot of t-shirts are made of poly-cotton blends. Your best bet for getting the adhesive to stick to your shirt is to set your iron on the highest setting (cotton). You don’t want to use the “cotton” setting on a poly-cotton shirt and certainly not on anything with rayon or nylon in it (I did this once with my American Girl doll’s winter vest. It burned the fabric clean off. I was sad). Lots of iron-on products advise using 100% cotton fabric too.

  • Carefully read the instructions that come with the iron-ons. This may seem like obvious advice, but I did not do this because iron-ons seem pretty straightforward. I found out that many products require you to apply pressure for a certain number of seconds, apply heat from the other side of the fabric, etc.

  • Wash and dry shirts with iron-ons inside out. I like to wash them in lingerie bags to maximize their lifetime and minimize flaking of the iron-on material. See here for a guide to washing garments with iron-on transfers.

 

Also, depending on the quality of the iron-on material and how well it adheres to the shirt, you could end up with something like this after a year (my number is 6):

It’s still readable at scrimmages, but I’m pretty sure some of it came off just taking this picture.

 

My personal preference is for painting numbers on with fabric paint. It’s a little more involved (more set up/clean up than iron-ons) but costs less and I am usually happier with the results. Here’s what my teammates and I have learned:

 

Using stencils makes it look pretty, but it involves sprayable glue and that might be a problem.

 

This is especially helpful if you need to make a shirt that also acts as a jersey. Many WFTDA leagues’ B and C teams are adopting the WFTDA rules for jersey metrics [LINK]. Even if you’re not on a charter and aren’t required to have a matching jersey, you will want a shirt with numbers that are the correct size.

 

Plus, stencils make the finished product look nice, and make it easy for you to use fabric spray paint instead of a brush and tube. Here are some more tips for using stencils:

 

  • Use a non-permanent adhesive (sprayable ones work well but are kind of messy - be sure to use them in a well-ventilated area where you won’t get it on something you care about, like your cat) to attach the stencil to your shirt to prevent shifting and bleeding on the edges. Let the stencil air dry for a few seconds before sticking it the shirt -- this will make it easier to pull off.  

  • Apply multiple coats of fabric paint. This is more time-consuming but the numbers will last longer. Totally worth it.

  • Place cardboard or paper between the layers of the shirt. I use part of an old cereal box. If you don’t do this, the paint could bleed through and stick to the other side. Not fun.

 

Fabric markers work in a pinch, but might make your numbers look like a 4-year-old wrote them.

 

Fabric markers are great to keep on-hand in case you or a teammate finds yourself with a shirt that doesn’t have your number. But writing clearly on t-shirt fabric is more effort because the fabric likes to move with the marker tip, and it takes more effort to make it visible to officials. A few brands make huge markers that would work great for derby (in lots of pretty colors, like pearl! fun!). Here are some tips for using markers:

 

  • Place cardboard between the layers of the t-shirt and pin it in place so that the area you want to write on is taut. This will make the shirt easier to write on.

  • For black shirts, use a bleach pen. Note that this won’t produce clean-cut numbers, since the bleach will bleed a little. Also, it will not bleach the numbers white -- bleach on black shirts usually creates a brown-orange color (I found this out trying to recreate our old jerseys and ended up with a black scrimmage shirt that made it look like I was skating around topless).

 

Puffy paint is surprisingly effective!

 

Puffy paint is that crafty fabric paint that comes in 5 zillion colors but has a tiny little nozzle. It teaches you patience and manual dexterity AND it’s sparkly, so it’s really a win-win. Since the paint draws a thin line, you may want to scribble your number/name on several times so it is more easily visible to officials. You can also use “dimensional’ paint, which is puffy paint but with a larger applicator, so you can make larger designs. These are a bit pricier than the normal little puffy paint bottles but less effort.

 

Here are some scrimmage shirts the Dimes have made over the years:
 

Skorpion and the Big Booty Judies from Ann Arbor's 5-on-5 Tournament

Skorpion and the Big Booty Judies from Ann Arbor's 5-on-5 Tournament

Bombya and Jax, Big Booty and Lil Booty respectively, in their matching scrimmage shirts

Bombya and Jax, Big Booty and Lil Booty respectively, in their matching scrimmage shirts

Snarky Malarky's very first scrimmage shirts - stencils and bleach

Snarky Malarky's very first scrimmage shirts - stencils and bleach

The Dinos from Ann Arbor's 5-on-5 Tournament - cereal box stencil and fabric spray paint!

The Dinos from Ann Arbor's 5-on-5 Tournament - cereal box stencil and fabric spray paint!

chaser.jpg
Sharpie can work in a pinch!

Sharpie can work in a pinch!

 

Comment with your own tips and experiences. I hope you found this helpful!

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Hellinor Bruisevelt is a Vigilante and Bruiser Alt. Nobody calls Hellinor by her full three-syllable name except her grandmother.

Posted on August 15, 2017 .

Writing A Practice Agenda That Flows

One of the things that is most exciting about Roller Derby (that also makes all of our lives very complicated) is that most teams/leagues are self-coached. We don’t have professional coaches that we call in (at least not often). We have ourselves – skaters who take on the role of coach. Sometimes, coaches have extensive backgrounds in coaching other sports, personal training or physical therapy. And sometimes coaches are like me, with no background and endless enthusiasm for this sport. This blog is for those coaches.

Photo © Andrew Potter Photo

Photo © Andrew Potter Photo

I ran my first practice for the Ypsilanti Vigilantes August 4th, 2015. I had no prior knowledge to coaching or training and I was terrified. I shadowed their previous trainer for one practice before the hand off was made. At the time, I wished I had shadowed more. Now I know that no matter how many practices you attend, and how many you watch, running one feels like a whole new world.

There is so much to think about when writing and running a practice! Since that day in August I have written and run a practice nearly every Tuesday. I have also led several clinics on roller derby for other leagues in Michigan. It’s safe to say I have found my personal groove when it comes to writing practices.

I pride myself on running a well-thought-out practice that flows to meet the team’s needs. Here is how I do it:

Warm ups – I personally do not enjoy lengthy or slow warm ups. I feel like not a lot of people take them seriously so their bodies aren’t truly warm. It’s also a big time suck. Warming up your body is important! It prevents injury! So Coaches and Skaters, please, do take it seriously. I recommend setting aside no more than 15 minutes for warm up, and spend it on a dynamic warm up, not static stretching. Tell your skaters to use that time to truly activate their muscles while working on simpler skills to wake up that roller derby brain.

Individual Skills – After warm ups, we focus on individual skills. This could be footwork, lateral movements, backwards skating, absorbing impact with a partner, etc. Basically: a skill the team already KNOWS or has tried in the past that you need to sharpen.

New Skills – After individual skills is a good time to introduce a new skill. When you put a new skill at the beginning of practice, this gives the skaters the opportunity to continue working at this skill throughout the rest of practice in other drills. Try not to do more than one, maybe two brand new skills a practice. They can take up a lot of time and there is so much to learn always! Make sure to revisit these skills in future practices so they aren’t lost forever.

Endurance (Optional) – This is a good time to put in some individual endurance. There are SO many options here. Three of my favorites are: ✪ 6 Stride Hell: Skating briskly, sprinting for 6 strides on the whistle to build those explosive muscles. ✪ Get The Fuck Up: Skating laps as quickly as possible, on the whistle skaters lie on their back or their front, whistle blows again and they pop up as fast as possible and return to sprinting. Sometimes you get annihilated on the track, and you should be able to bounce back and return to game play as quickly as possible and this is good simulation. ✪ Jammer Wall Push Ups: Jammers must push a braced wall of 4 blockers a half lap. They are not allowed to escape, only push to build strength. They cannot push in the same seam, they must try different options every few seconds. Blockers should be focused on sitting as low as possible, actively practicing edgework, tight seams, and communication.

Building Blocks – This is the most important part of practice! It should be the bulk of your team’s time at practice. This is group work. It can start as 1 vs. 1 and build to an end at 4 vs. 1. You can mix it up with 4 vs. 1 with 1 friend playing offense. It can be just plain roller derby, it can be practicing new offensive plays, it can be blocker walls spread out across the track with jammers coming in with speed and attacking a seam. It can be anything you want it to be! The most important thing is that skaters are working together to learn and achieve a set goal.

Group Endurance – I love to end on group endurance. It is important to know how your body will perform when you are tired because you are going to get tired during a game. Also, underlying bad habits come out when your body goes into auto-derby mode. This makes it easier to spot skills that need to be fine-tuned at future practice. What do I mean by group endurance? I mean playing roller derby NON-STOP! One option is 2 minute jams (call offs don’t exist!) and anyone who is not participating must be skating endurance laps around the outside. Another option is endless roller derby, where 5 on 5 are playing playing roller derby for an undetermined amount of time. The trainer will switch out skaters at their leisure, but none of the skaters on the track can stop or call off the jam.

Stretch – Now is the time for static stretching, circled up as a team to end practice.

I am sure my practice flow isn’t perfect for every team. Take some time to talk about what is working and what isn’t working for your skaters when teaching new drills. Ask how effective they feel a drill is and if they would like to see it on a regular basis. It’s important to know your team’s goals when you write an agenda and to check in every now and again to see if you are helping them meet their needs and potential.

Or if you really just don’t want to, you can hire me to write one for you.

This blog can be found cross posted on Slamuel L. Jackson's fitness blog here.

Slamuel L. Jackson is a skater, coach, and trainer. She loves fitness, animals, and vegan food. Changing the game one practice and work out at a time with Star Pass Fitness.

Posted on August 9, 2017 .

Interview with a MILF

Ann Arbor Roller Derby's Wave 13 boot camp will kick off in just a few short weeks. Unsure what to expect? Here’s a quick interview with Fresh Meat trainer extraordinaire Skim MILF about what you can look forward to at Ann Arbor Roller Derby’s boot camp:

What can I expect from a typical day at boot camp?

A typical boot camp practice will follow this format

  • Arrive 15 minutes or more before practice to sign in, get geared up and ask the trainers questions (or just be social with other skaters)
  • Practice begins promptly at 6:30PM on Wednesdays, 10AM on Sundays
  • 10-15 minutes of warm-up and stretches
  • Skill instruction and drills
  • Endurance (at least once per week)
  • On and/or off-skates core exercises
  • Ample opportunity for asking questions and rest/water breaks
  • Group stretching at the close of practice

I can promise that you will have fun, laugh, work hard, sweat more than you thought possible, develop camaraderie with those in your boot camp, experience both failure and success and feel pride in your accomplishments.

Many new skaters find that boot camp turns into more than just learning how to skate and play roller derby. For some, it is an unexpected journey of self-discovery and an opportunity to meet and become friends with people both similar to you and those with completely different life experiences than your own. Many league members describe finding roller derby as “finding their people.” Regardless of how you describe it, a JOURNEY is an appropriate part of that description.

 

What will I learn at boot camp?

Boot camp is specifically geared towards the WFTDA minimum skills assessment. In order to become a scrimmage eligible skater (meaning that playing full contact roller derby is both safe for you AND for the people who will be skating with and around you), you must pass a minimum skills assessment. The skills included and the level of success required are determined by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and interpreted, executed and upheld by the A2D2 Training Committee. Sounds important and a little bit scary, doesn’t it? It’s really not :)

In boot camp, you will learn the following (and MORE):

  • proper skating form
  • how to fall and get up from a fall safely and swiftly
  • how to stop safely and swiftly
  • how to transition from forwards to backwards skating (and vice versa) safely and smoothly
  • skating agility
  • how to safely skate in close proximity to others (ie in a pack)
  • how to safely give and receive contact to/from another skater (both incidental and deliberate)
  • how to give and receive assists to/from other skaters
  • how to legally contact and hit other skaters
  • the rules of roller derby (as determined by WFTDA)
  • how to respect teammates and opponents and “leave it all on the track”

Things you are not likely to experience (or may only get a taste of) in boot camp:

  • scrimmage (there are controlled scenario-based scrimmage activities in the final weeks of boot camp)
  • play a game (bout)

The objective of boot camp is to get skaters to pass the skills assessment - plain and simple. Progression of skills in boot camp is typically dictated by the speed at which the majority of skaters have achieved understanding and appropriate mastery of new skills. Instruction almost always builds upon skills taught in previous practice(s), so attendance is important. Boot camp cannot slow its progress for a minority of its skaters, but the head trainer is always willing to provide extra one-on-one or small group help before or after practice on Sundays (as available).

 

"Boot camp" sounds intimidating/scary.

Boot camp is defined as “a short, intensive, and rigorous course of training.” What comes to mind for most people, however, is military training or behavioral reform.

Is boot camp intimidating? Just like anything else new or challenging, there will be some associated nerves and/or fear. You might feel intimidated by others who, in your mind, already have good/great/amazing skating skills, appear very physically strong, are extremely vocal, have strong and unique personalities, etc. I promise there is also somebody in boot camp who is intimidated by YOU. One thing I can guarantee, without a doubt.....every single skater in boot camp is more concerned about what they are doing and how they are performing than with how you “measure up.” Comparison is the thief of joy (Teddy Roosevelt). If you spend your time in boot camp comparing yourself to other skaters (whether freshies or vets), you will be missing the point – to make progress from where you began, where you were last practice or where you were 10 minutes ago. Your skills, your goals, your progress is YOURS and you must OWN YOUR PROGRESS. Don’t diminish that progress by concerning yourself with the performance of others.

 

For more information about A2D2's Wave 13 boot camp, starting September 2017, visit http://a2derbydimes.org/recruitment/ or https://www.facebook.com/A2DerbyDimes/

Skim MILF is co-captain of the Ypsilanti Vigilantes and way more awesome than your mom.

Posted on August 3, 2017 .

NextGen Aero Guard: Keeping Your Pearly Whites Safe

Since I started roller derby, one thing has always been extremely important to me: my gear. My gear protects me so I am capable of playing with a high level of intensity without fear of injury. However, no matter how protective a piece of equipment is, I do not want to wear it if it is not comfortable. If my gear is not comfortable, it definitely affects my gameplay because I am more concerned about my body than what is happening on the track. While most skaters think of these things when it comes to knee pads and helmets, I tend to think of a different piece of equipment: my mouth guard.

A mouth guard is arguably the most important piece of equipment a skater can wear, aside from maybe a helmet. It is there to prevent many types of injuries from teeth being chipped or broken to preventing fractured jaws and concussions. As a skater who has received multiple concussions, doing everything I can to prevent another is high on my priority list. However, a mouth guard that prevents me from quickly refueling and rehydrating on the bench or communicating with my team on the track is useless. After experimenting with many mouth guards, there was only one that met all of my criteria: Sisu’s NextGen Aero Guard.

When molding my Sisu NextGen Aero Guard, I noticed there was a different perforation pattern and a wider bite pad than earlier versions. The wider bite pad helped me feel more secure and I was less likely to stretch the perforation pattern out across my teeth making it easier to mold. I felt like I was better able to maintain a higher level of protection because of this design.

The increased level of protection I felt during molding proved true during practices and scrimmage. I have not had a single issue with feeling my mouth guard shift on the track. My mouth guard feels secure and stays in place, even during impact to my jaw. My teammates agree! Jenn Price, skater with the Ann Arbor Brawlstars, “I've been wearing Sisu most of the seven years that I've been playing derby.  I'm digging the changes though.  The wider bite pad and rounded edges makes the mouthguard feel even more comfortable and keeps my mouth guard in place.”

For as much as I look for protection during gameplay, I also require a high level of comfort in my mouth guard. The NextGen Aero Guard does not disappoint! The better fit certainly allows more natural eating and drinking on the bench. I am now able to spend more time discussing the strengths and weaknesses of our line rather than popping out my mouth guard to have a snack and drink between jams. The extra time to discuss gameplay has positively affected my mental game, allowing me to connect with my line. It’s amazing what a small change like a mouthguard can do!

Perhaps my favorite feature of the NextGen Aero Guard is that I can talk! When speaking with my old mouth guard, I slurred my words and I sounded like I had a slight lisp. The NextGen Aero Guard allows me to speak much more clearly, so I can communicate efficiently with my teammates on the track. I no longer need to worry about a teammate mishearing what I say due to my mouth guard impacting my speech. My teammates will tell you, I love to talk! And Price does too! “It's easier to communicate with my teammates and I never feel the need to take it out to get a point across.”

NextGen Aero Guard is definitely a mouth guard upgrade. It will enable you to have a mouth guard molded just for you, to keep you protected on the track and comfortable whenever you are wearing it. The next time you are in the market for a mouth guard, check out the NextGen Aero Guard.

 

Cora Slain is an enthusiastic and strategy-oriented Brawlstar, who loves skating and hates cross-training, but does it anyway because she really loves roller derby.

Posted on June 28, 2017 .

Toestops: Why Can't I Quit You?

I am very skilled with my toestops. If there was a toestop marathon, I would be a contender.

Image via Jammercandy

Image via Jammercandy

I am comfortable on my toestops. I love blocking on my toestops; I love jamming on my toestops. I love my toestops. My edges, not so much.

My strength, speed and aggression made me a good roller derby player, not my skating ability.  I had to work really hard to become a good skater.  I joke that I made it to Division One WFTDA playoffs last year without knowing how to skate, but a small part of me really thinks that’s true. Being on my toestops is comfortable, and being on my wheels is scary.

I am a coach as well as a skater. It really hit home for me the other day when I was explaining how something I really value in my skaters is coachability- the ability to take feedback and make a positive change with it. I'm not looking for an instantaneous transformation, just forward progress.

But my coaches and trainers have been telling me to use my edges for the past four years. It’s been FOUR YEARS. I have been receiving the SAME EXACT FEEDBACK for FOUR YEARS without doing anything about it.

Oh, I’ve made half-hearted attempts to get better. I've chanted mantras and made specific drills for myself. I've taken my toe stops off at practices (and knocked the wind out of myself more times than I care to count). I've made lofty goals and made declarations of how “This is the year I’m going to change, I can feel it!” And then it gets too hard, and I give up.

One of my trainers pointed out to me that I use my edges just fine in drills. It’s gameplay where the proverbial shit hits the fan. And it’s true. Whenever we do drills where the focus is on edges and not toestops, I panic. But then I do the drill and it’s fine and I realize, “Oh, I actually do know how to use my edges. This isn’t that bad.” Come scrimmage time, though, you won’t find me anywhere but my toestops.

So why is this a problem? Why do I need to quit my toestops? For a long time, I thought whatever works is fine. I’ve been doing a good enough job on my toestops. If that works for me, why not keep doing it?

The truth is, being on my toestops makes me stand taller than I need to be. It makes me unstable and an easier target for offense. I am less able to create solid seams with my teammates because I’m standing a foot taller than they are. I am pushed forward more easily, and I simply don’t have the speed and agility I could have if I used my edges more effectively.

If I had really focused on changing my skating style three years ago, it would have saved me a lot of heartache and mental anguish. But you have to get worse to get better sometimes, and I never wanted to do that.

Although I’ve come to accept that this change has to occur, I really appreciated last year when one of the coaches told me, “You either need to start using your edges or get lower when you’re using your toe stops.” It was nice to be given an option. Time after time I had heard, “Use your edges, use your edges, use your edges,” with no other option offered. Getting a choice made me think of my toestop dependency as a disability and my coaches were trying to help me work around it. However, it’s not a disability. It is a habit that can most certainly be changed.

This is the biggest thing standing in my way of play time, of being a great roller derby player, a great skater. At any time if I had focused my energy on this, I’m sure I could have made the change. It’s almost like it has been a security blanket I am reluctant to let go of.

After having these realizations, I know now what I have to do. I have to let go of my toe stops. I have to get a little worse to get a lot better.

I am ready to be a beast. I am ready to play at my potential. This is going to be the year I change. I can feel it.

Just Wingett is a Brawlstars triple threat and captain of Ann Arbor Bruising Company.

Posted on April 19, 2017 .