Derby Adventures with Kids

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Driving along the New York Throughway coming home from a weekend of intense derby in Boston, kids in the back seat, I'm taken with the scenery. Mountains with rocks jutting out at lovely angles and covered green with trees, the Mohawk River flowing beside us as we drove, banks lined with marsh plants. Vistas for miles. I keep exclaiming "look-it" and "ooh mountains," and it makes me happy that they look and ooh and ahh right along with me. 

But...

Traveling with kids is hard. There are extra people to pack for. So many things to remember, like both wrist guards AND a bathing suit for each child, and toys and outfits and books and socks and chargers for everything. Car bags, snack bags, day bags, toy bags, derby bags, so many bags. And then the kids fight all the time. All the time. Over everything you can think of, from who has better gummy worms to where to put Bear Bear. It makes the adults cranky, then the kids get cranky, or cry or take it out on each other, or all of the above. Scheduling meals around derby call times and activities to keep them happy while waiting all those pre-game hours can be daunting, though thankfully this is the work of their Daddy on derby days.

But...

Sometimes exciting things happen on derby trips.

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For example, during the B Cup tournament, our car quit working on the way to score some post-game sushi. We had to have it towed and repaired and got to experience UBER for the first time, waiting there on the side of the road in a busy little town in the dark. Without sushi. None at all. And for the rest of the tournament, we had to catch a ride with Murder, squeezing too many people in her SUV, clown-car style.

And when we went to Traverse City for a game and we tried to hike over the Sleeping Bear Dunes all the way to the lake with only two cans of ginger ale and some pretzels. I told them to keep walking, and that it would get easier once we warmed up. Though we walked for a couple hours, we did not make it. On the way back, some of us vowed we'd never attempt it again, but others said someday, and with better supplies.

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Even on our most recent trip to Boston interesting things happened. I hurt my ankle during a pre-game scrimmage, then played in the game anyway. I played again the next day and hurt myself even more. But, the kids wanted to take the MBTA into town, so we did and proceeded to walk the harbor walk for approximately three hours, despite my injury, to show the kids a good time. On the walk, we saw planes taking off and landing over the water and everything else the harbor had to offer: boats, garbage, sea birds. We came across some people having a lively game of bocce ball right there in a roadside bocce court, and as we were getting into the game, a marching band came down the street in full marching band attire playing an unfamiliar but upbeat tune. There were fireworks, balloons, a floating duck house, and on the way back to the train we accidently walked through an Italian heritage festival, right there on the street, complete with carnival games, food vendors and live entertainment. We got Bruschetta with a side of French fries.

These kids have had so many exciting adventures thanks to this wonderful little hobby of mine. All these trips that we'd never take if it weren't for derby. They've seen much more of the country and the state than I did at their ages; by age eleven, I'd been up north and to Fulton County Ohio, and that's it. But my kids have been all over. Having them there with me, to experience derby with me, to travel with me on my journey, both figuratively and literally has been a pleasant side effect of playing this game. They're learning about patience, waiting hours for games to start because of early call times. And managing disappointment, because sometimes there are no snacks at the venue, and sometimes Mommy's team doesn't win. They're learning to be brave even when up against a tough opponent, like in Boston when our team was predicted to lose. And that sometimes you come out on top despite the what the numbers say, and sometimes you don't, and either outcome is ok.

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Thank you, Ann Arbor Roller Derby, for providing us with these opportunities. Thanks for letting me share my love of this game with my kiddos. They won't forget that they got to travel all over the place to watch their mom play this amazing sport with this amazing league. These memories will last a lifetime. 

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SheRock has been with Ann Arbor since Wave 1+2, and she currently plays for the Arbor Bruising Company. She is a full-time mom, and  her kids are her biggest fans. 

Posted on September 20, 2017 .

How to Food Prep Like a Boss: Lazy Jar o Salad

A few weeks ago I posted a photo of what a Sunday looks like for me. ALL OF THE FOOD PREP. A lot of friends said they didn't have time to food prep... but here's the thing: I'm lazy. I am a terrible cook. I'm also a vegan, so my food sources are probably different than many folks. 

I google for recipes and I make them as simple as humanly possible. I find things that I can make a big ol' batch of and save for the entire week. My lifestyle is very on the go. Wake up, work, work out, skate, sleep. I don't want to spend time cooking when I could spend it lying on the couch watching Netflix and petting my cats. 
 

I recently blew up my Instagram story with the process of making my Jar o Salad. But, here's an ~*exclusive*~ typed up recipe on how to make lazy jar food.

 

What You Will Need:

  • Knife
  • Spiralizer
  • Mason Jars x 5
  • Zucchini x 4
  • Yellow Squash x 1
  • Sweet Potato x 1 
  • Sliced Beets
  • Baby Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Grape Tomatoes 

Feel free to add or subtract vegetables you enjoy. I've added cucumbers and tomatoes in the past, and there are so many vegetable options one can explore.

Rinse or wash all of the things. Toss the food you don't intend to spiralize in the jars. There is no right or wrong way to layer unless you are going for something delicious and beautiful. I just want it to be delicious and full of vegetables. This week I divided up the entire container of mushrooms, then added 6 carrots, a pinch of bean sprouts, 4 grape tomatoes, and split up half a jar of sliced beets for the 5 jars. 

 

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Now it's time to spiralize! Cut the ends of your veggies and get to work.

 

Sweet potato is the worst to spiralize by hand, but you get to work on your guns and make food sooooo...

I ended up with left over zucchini noodles this go around, because I found bigger zucchinis this week. I get 4 every week to ensure I can jam pack the jars. Sometimes it's too much, other weeks it's just enough. Good thing they are delicious in lots of other dishes, too!

Lastly I stuff all these spiralized vegetables in the left over space in the jars. I store them in the fridge for my work week and they're easy to grab and go. Feel free to add any type of dressing to season. My personal favorite is Annie's Naturals, Shiitake Sesame Vinaigrette. 

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Happy Lazy Food Prepping!

Posted on September 6, 2017 .

Donuts are for Winners!

When you think of winning, what comes to mind? Shiny medals hanging beneath smiling faces? Giant trophies hoisted overhead? Gatorade showers? Victory laps?

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For the Ann Arbor Brawlstars, winning means chocolate frosting, raspberry jelly, creamy custard, and lots and lots of sprinkles. That’s right: DONUTS. Winning means DONUTS.

 

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“What the heck is with all the donuts?” We get this question a lot, and reasonably so. We sport donuts on everything from our denim vests to our athletic shorts. Donut stickers decorate our helmets and water bottles. Our headshots and program pages are full of the tasty treats. And we can often be found eating them after a hard-fought game. The reason is simple: DONUTS ARE FOR WINNERS. And we are winners.

Brawlstars at 2016 Playoffs in Columbia, SC with their new donut patches

Brawlstars at 2016 Playoffs in Columbia, SC with their new donut patches

But in order to really understand this package deal of donuts and winning, you may have to redefine what it means to win (we certainly did). And to do that, we’re going to have to trace this back to the beginning.

 

It was May of 2015, and the Brawlstars were playing at the Big O in Eugene, Oregon. It was only our second season as a full-WFTDA team and our very first major tournament as one. Some of our skaters hit up an amazing local donut shop called Voodoo Doughnut and surprised the team with a big box of treats before our first game. We joked that the donuts were for winners ONLY and that we could only indulge when the game was finished and ONLY if we won. Well, guess what? We won! And those donuts tasted almost as good as the win.

 

Where it all began...

Where it all began...

Our last game of that weekend was against Sacred City, easily the toughest team we’d ever faced. There was another trip to Voodoo and another big box of donuts set up in our locker room like a shrine. Again, we said they were for winners ONLY. We knew we were heading into a tough game and that the odds were against us. We let the drive to do our best and the desire to taste sweet, sweet victory (yeah, I went there) carry us into the game. With two wins already under our belt that weekend, we were feeling confident. But that feeling didn’t last long.

 

Our game against Sacred City was unlike any other match we’d experienced. They were aggressive. They were everywhere at once. Their jammers seemed to fly right over us (and those apexes—DAMN). We were holding our own, but we were so far behind. By halftime, the team atmosphere had changed. We were disappointed. We were panicked. We were defeated. But it was only halftime, right?

 

We held on to that. It was only halftime. The game wasn’t over. And what about those winners’ donuts?! We couldn’t give up on them so easily! There was a collective urgency to regain our footing. We found a quiet spot in the venue and took a moment to breathe together, to visualize together, to refocus together. We rolled into the final thirty minutes ready to work.

 

That second half was revitalizing. We fought hard. We made adjustments. And we finished the game as a stronger opponent than when we had started. We only scored 25 points in the first half of that game (ouch). In the second half we scored almost five times that!

 

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Despite our best efforts, the scoreboard still dealt us a loss for that game with a final score of 140-200. We had turned that game around, but it wasn’t enough to take home the win in the end. We made our way back to the locker room, only to be met by the sight of those glorious donuts. You have to understand: these weren’t even regular donuts. These were FANCY donuts. Fresh and delicious. Flavors like maple bacon or peanut butter. Topped with Oreos or Cap’n Crunch. The kind of donut you don’t DARE pass up. And they were calling our names.

 

But we had lost. And donuts were for winners.

 

How could we eat them? We hadn’t earned them.

 

But hadn’t we? We had been totally in control during that second half. We showed amazing mental toughness being able to successfully reset at halftime, and we made smart adjustments in our gameplay to take advantage of our opponent’s weaknesses and to prevent them from taking advantage of ours. We actually out-scored our opponent in the second half—a team that, at the time, was ranked fifteen spots ahead of us in the WFTDA. That felt incredible. We decided we had won the second half. Which made us winners. Which meant DONUTS.

 

And thus began the tradition, which quickly became a way of derby life.

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There were lots of games after that. Lots of wins, lots of losses, and lots and lots of donuts. We learned to find the good in each game, no matter the outcome. Even when we lost, we picked out that one thing we WON at—and then we feasted. We may have lost, but we beat the projected spread. Or we executed that offensive play we’d been practicing. Or we stopped a negative spiral dead in its tracks. We have walked away from each game we’ve played knowing that we’ve had something to show for it, even if that something wasn’t the win.

 

So yes, we are obsessed with donuts. Because we are winners. Winners who lose sometimes but are always willing to look at how far we’ve come and what we’ve done right (even if so many other things went wrong). Failure happens. But no game and no loss is a waste. You’ve always learned or accomplished something. Maybe there was one great jam or a really smart play. Maybe you kept it together and tried your hardest until the very end despite crushing defeat. Maybe you didn’t succeed but were fearless. Maybe you lost but had the time of your life anyway.

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I think the reason why the Donuts Are For Winners mentality has stuck with us so much is that we have grown a lot in the last few years as we have learned more and more about being a competitive roller derby team at one of the highest levels available. We’ve learned that winning and losing aren’t black and white. And we’ve learned that losing can be just as satisfying as winning if viewed in the right light (and especially when there are donuts involved).

 

DONUTS ARE FOR WINNERS encourages us to celebrate the small victories because they ARE worth something.

 

DONUTS ARE FOR WINNERS reminds us that losing is inevitable, but real winning is more than just a score.

 

DONUTS ARE FOR WINNERS teaches us that sometimes the real prize is working hard, having fun, and learning something that helps you improve.

 

Which means that you can always be a winner. If your heart and brain are in the right place.

 

So here’s to the winners. And the losers who are winners anyway.

 

Now go get yourself a donut.

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Slamlet is a co-captain and trainer for the Brawlstars, and when she isn't playing roller derby you can find her reading novels about the end of the world, narrating the internal dialogue of video game characters, and writing feminist rants. Check out her blog here: https://inknotblood.wordpress.com.

Posted on August 30, 2017 .

Tapping Into Your Best Mental Game

I want to first say every athlete has different needs. Some people need to be alone before a game, some people need to be laughing with their friends, and some need a combination of many things. There is no wrong way to tap into your mental game. Remember that along with your needs you should be respectful of your teammate’s needs. Let them do what they need to do to truly get into the zone before and during a game as well.

This season I have been really working on cleaning up and fine-tuning my mental game. This is an all-too-common struggle in the athlete community. I feel like after some trial and error, I found what works best for me. I want to share with you some tips and tricks I’ve picked up or witnessed along the way:

Before the game, I personally need to get out some of my anxiety through being silly. I recognize my teammates who have their headphones in and are chilling and I do my best to avoid them so not to mess up their zen. I find the people who also thrive in the laughter and share it. This used to be me on the jam line a few years back:


 

I have moved to doing these shenanigans BEFORE the game now.

During the game I become hyperfocused. Hyperfocus is an intense form of mental concentration or visualization that focuses consciousness on a subject, topic, or task. In some individuals, various subjects or topics may also include daydreams, concepts, fiction, the imagination, and other objects of the mind. You can read more about different versions of hyperfocus here.

I don’t watch the game. As a jammer, I used to watch and try and pick apart the blockers weaknesses to try and come up with a plan of attack. It’s not a bad idea. But in the end, I found out that it didn’t matter. The blockers would be different, the situation would be different, and my skating style is different… All these things can be similar to previous jams, but it’s still going to be different in the end!

I don’t need to watch the game. Our team talks about what is working and what isn’t working. We share our knowledge after good jams and after bad jams. My team is also incredibly lucky in that our bench coach watches like a hawk and can give us pointers on how to be more successful.

For some athletes watching the game can become really stressful. Maybe a jam goes poorly before you take the track. This often leads to riskier behavior with lower awareness the following jam. You may be in the mindset that you HAVE to have an absolutely perfect jam to try and “make up” for something that went poorly. No. You need to do the absolute best you can and not morph into a loose cannon.

So what can you do instead of watch the game? Look at your teammates. Some of our blockers will touch everyone in their line before they take the track. They make deliberate eye contact and discuss what they can do.

Photo © T.I. Stills Photography

Photo © T.I. Stills Photography

You can also try what I specifically do. Look at your skates. Maybe close your eyes. Visualize. Tune out absolutely everything and imagine performing in a great jam. As my captain says before every game, “picture yourself being challenged, but overcoming those obstacles.” Focus on deep breathing. Think about what you can do and how you are going to do it.

Okay—so now that you’re doing all the right things for you… everything should be going perfect, right? NOPE. You will have bad jams. You might even have horrible jams! Maybe you went to the box more than once in a span of a jam or two. You just want to scream and yell– but you can’t. Or at least you shouldn’t. Don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy.

First off, don’t yell at your coach. All too often we get riled up when things go wrong and we stand too close to our coach while we word vomit what has upset us. While I am sure they probably care, they have another job to do and it isn’t handling your emotions.

Find a teammate. One teammate. Your safe space on the team. Vent to them (IF it doesn’t mess up their zen bench) once and then let it go. Get it out of your mouth and body and then completely refocus. Don’t go back to that place.

Alternatively, work it out on your own. A lot of times when I am upset about how things are going I need to be alone. I need to breathe and rage for a moment. I will move to the end of the bench, alone, so I’m not letting my bad feelings seep on to my teammates whom I love and care about. Don’t rain on their parade. Drizzle by yourself for a moment and then join your friends in the sunshine.

If you have the mental capacity during the game, be a safe space for others. If I’m in a good brain space, I try to take notice of reactions each of my teammates have. Sometimes they come off the track looking frazzled. I offer myself as an ear or a comforting pat on the leg. Sometimes they are watching the game and getting wound up. I offer myself as a distraction and as a partner in some guided visualization. If you can be there without ruining your zen, it is always appreciated.

Lastly, celebrate your teammates. High five after every jam! If you are watching the game, tell them something good you saw. A lot of the time they might not have even noticed. I can’t tell you how many times I have told a blocker, “that thing you did was AWESOME!” and they look at me confused.

Tap into your best self before, during, and after the game. You and your team will be better for it.

Photo © Derby Pics by Phil

Photo © Derby Pics by Phil

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

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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 23, 2017 .

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!

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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 .