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?


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.



“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!



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.


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.



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:

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.

DerbyHeadshots2016-AP-166 (1).jpg

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!

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!


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 or

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

Posted on August 3, 2017 .