Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Guest skater, trainer, and all-around cool girl: VARLA GUNZ!!

Hey, look! Another awesome skater came to our humble skate-abode to show us a thing or two!!  Varla Gunz of Providence Roller Derby stopped by with her friend, Bootiful Banshee back in December (you can also read about Banshee here, if you missed it).  I asked to bend her ear about her experience (so far) with roller derby, and she was happy to oblige.
So, here she is folks...in her own words (in response to my silly questions)...


VARLA GUNZ!! 


Varla Gunz, Providence Roller Derby
1. When not playing roller derby, you are ____? (day job, hobbies)
            For my day job I work as a Veterinary Technician at a local animal hospital.  When I am not at my full time job I am working on my part-time job/hobby which is Roller Derby J  During the season I practice 8 hours a week and play for both the Travel Team and a Home Team.  I also handle all of my Leagues social networking year round.  Outside of work and derby I like to be crafty, cook, get together with friends, go on adventures and be as active as possible.
2. How long have you been involved in roller derby?
I have been active with my league since I was officially welcomed in January 2011.

3. From the first day you put on skates (for derby specifically) to the day of your first bout...how long was that?
            I put on my first pair of derby skates in May of 2010.  I spent the summer skating outside and trained for the assessments happening that fall.  My first bout was on April 17, 2011.  I fell down a lot.
Jammin'!
4. What was your families reaction when they found out you were playing roller derby? How has it changed, if at all?
            I think the first word anyone said was “Really?!!?”  But then it was always followed by how they remember watching it on T.V. and how they could totally picture me doing it!  My family was a little worried at first, but after seeing me play they were totally hooked and come to all of my bouts.
5. Were you one of those girls who constantly had roller skates on in your youth? Or, was derby your first time on skates? (or were you somewhere in between?)
            I guess I was somewhere in between.  I took lessons as a kid.  I remember my first pair of skates were tiny and white.  My second had E-woks on them.  Both were quads.  Then later I got inline skates, used to go to the rinks and even played roller hockey with all the neighborhood boys.  After high school I only skated occasionally.

6. So, you were here with the Cape Cod Roller Derby as a guest trainer. (which we are soooo thankful for!) Do you coach or lead training within your own league? Have you helped out other leagues as a guest coach, as well?
            After 3 years on my league I am finally joining the coaching team this year.  I will start by working with the recruits and newbies then after they graduate I will become a full time coach with the rest.  So having the opportunity to help train/coach CCRD was very beneficial for me. My first experience training was when MARD started in 2011.  I used to go help out on Monday nights when my league didn’t have practice. J
7. How were you introduced to CCRD? Had you frequented Cape Cod before?
            I remember hearing about the new league being formed through members of my own and seeing your facebook page.  I was introduced to you fine ladies when I came out to guest coach with Banshee of MARD.  When my league went on break I started going to MARD practices in order to keep skating and see my friends.  As soon as she told me she was going out to work with CCRD I was all about it!
8. I'm always curious, because of how intense this sport is, if veteran skaters still get butterflies before a bout?
The day of the bout I get nervous trying to make sure I leave the house on time with everything I need!  LOL.  Once I get to the bout… yea I get a few butterflies.  But mostly of excitement!  Then once I have all of my gear on I try to just breath, skate and get hungry!
Blocking! She does it all, folks!!

9. Lastly, because I'm an animal lover....do you have any pets?
I have a 5 year old mutt named Dexter, a 14 year old black cat named Knox and an almost 2 year old kitty named Shelly.  All were rescues J  I also have about 6 little fish in a 30 gallon tank.  
DEXTER!
KNOX!
SHELLEY! (Oh, My!! lol)














































And there you have it! A quick glimpse into the life of a derby girl.  The dedication and determination to fit roller derby into your life is no joke!!  Thank you, Gunz, for taking the time to let us know how derby fits into your life and how you've progressed in the sport.  We loved having you show us your moves...you will be great on your leagues coaching team!! Best of luck to you and PRD, this season!!ro

Why not check out Providence Roller Derby's facebook page?  Maybe take in a bout or two this season??!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

This time it's Personal

This post, I mean.  It's personal.  Not in the sense that I don't want anyone to see it; but, in the sense that it's about me...what I'm going through as a skater, right now.

I'm not a 'share my feelings' kind of person, so this isn't going to be all wishy-washy 'tears on my pillow', but we are at a turning point with the league and it's major!  Not just for me, but I can only give my story, so that's the one you get!

Here's a little background for you:
I'm always nervous.  I'm often angry.  I always wear my poker face.  When I need consoling or advice, I often turn to myself for answers, because I am the only one who really knows me.  I dislike people who lack common sense or a sense of humor.  I can usually pick up skills enough to get by, but rarely master anything.
I think that's about all you need to know to understand the rest of this post.

Roller derby is not just a bunch of girls skating around punching each other.  
If you don't know that by now, then you really need to watch some recent videos or live bouts, and get the picture of Raquel Welch out of your head.

A person doesn't just say, 'hey! I used to roller skate...I'm gonna go play roller derby!'  I mean, sure...there are people out there that just seem to have a knack for the sport...probably loads of them!!  But, even those people don't just join and immediately get placed on a team and go for it.
There are rules!  Not just rules of the game; but, rules to follow to lead up to playing.
All leagues follow a set of minimum skills each skater must pass in order to start scrimmaging (there are 6 pages -5 levels- of skills, plus a written test of the rules through the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, WFTDA!).  Once a skater is scrimmaging, she (I use 'she' because we are an all-female league...there are men's leagues out there) usually has to play in a certain number of scrimmages before even being eligible to be picked for a team.
Sure, this process can be quicker for some...if you're in an established league, if you are a kick ass skater, if you have been blessed by the derby gods and were just born with talent...but, our league is fresh-of-face, just a newborn.  We are working through kinks, but we are finally to the 'sorting out' phase.
And this is where the ulcers start to appear.
This is where we see if our hard work has paid off, or if we must wait and try next time.

I'm extra freaked-out nervous because I'm on the training committee.  That makes it sound like I have this one in the bag, but it's misleading.  It was a majority vote...during our first few months...before any of us really knew anything about anyone.  Thrilled and surprised that I am in this position, and doing my best to get everyone else ready for these skills assessments, I am anxious to see what I have been able to pick up along the way.
I'm not saying I regret being at the head of the training committee...I love it.  It's a geeky, study-nut sort of position, which I love.  But, again, I am often able to be moderately good at most things, but never able to master anything, so there is always the 'what am I doing?!' moment when leading the group.
Luckily, there are 6 other members of the group, and we all have each others' back!

So, the skills assessment.  It's here!  Well, nearly.  We've picked dates and basically set them in stone so that we can finally get closer to actual game play.
GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT!!

Here's where my stomach starts to turn...because someone has to assess the other skaters, the training committee has agreed to 'test' earlier than the rest.  Freeing us up for more coaching leading to the assessments; and, we are on the panel to assess them when their time comes.
What does that mean?  It means that, after nearly a year of trying to figure out how to skate and turn and balance and hit and be hit and push and whip...Sunday I must 'nut up or shut up' (I loved Zombieland!).

A skater need only pass with an 85% or higher.  In my head, I got this.  I can see me doing the moves.  There are a few skills that I am iffy on.  A few that I can do, but really have to push myself to perform at higher speeds.  And there are a few that just make me want to puke, thinking about them.  I have yet to skate my 27 laps in 5 minutes.  My first try I got 26...now I'm stuck at 24!!  But now you throw in having to do these things, one after the other, for an audience and I feel like I may break out in hives!

But it has to be done.  Joining roller derby took me out of my comfort zone on day one.  Being placed on the training committee pulled me out even further.  Speaking in front of the entire league still makes my heart race with anxiety, but I do it.  So what's one more hurdle!?
 This is what roller derby is about...pushing your limits, physically, mentally, emotionally.  
I may puke on the track Sunday night, but who cares!!  I'm the one who will have to clean it up, anyway!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Guest skater and trainer: Bootiful Banshee of MARD

If you're following along, you remember that we finished off the year with a slew of guests! We are always grateful, and full of awe, when veteran skaters come and give us a hand. And, encouragement!
Lynn Kingsley, a.k.a. Bootiful Banshee, came out in late December, with her friend and fellow skater, Varla Gunz. Don't worry, I'm planning on profiling Gunz, too!
As if coming out to help our league wasn't enough, they also agreed to answer my basic 'how roller derby fits into your life' questions.
So...without further ado, or more of my ramblings...here is what Banshee had to say:
Bootiful Banshee!!
(photo credit: Barry Scott Photography)
1. When not playing roller derby, you are ____? (day job, hobbies)
My days are spent geeking out over property & casualty insurance (homes, autos, boats). Derby's my biggest hobby, honestly. In addition to skating for Mass Attack Roller Derby's All Star team, I announce for our friends, Bay State Brawlers RD. Outside of derby, I enjoy cooking, reading, & old school hip hop.
2. How long have you been involved in roller derby?
Since August 2011.
3. From the first day you put on skates (for derby specifically) to the day of your first bout...how long was that? About a month & a half (the league was in its first year and our training has evolved a great deal since).
4. What was your families reaction when they found out you were playing roller derby? How has it changed, if at all? Mom & Dad were worried I'd get hurt, one of my brothers thinks its "scary", and my Aunt Betty said "Well, THAT makes sense." (Her reaction was the best!)
5. Were you one of those girls who constantly had roller skates on in your youth? Or, was derby your first time on skates? (or were you somewhere in between?) YES; I am a rink rat for life. Taunton's Silver City Sports Complex (MARD's home rink) is where I grew up, skating 2-3 times a week. I also work there part time. To me, it's home.
(photo credit: Walter Romero/Hispanic Attack)

It's pretty clear, she's comfortable on skates!!
(photo: Walter Romero/Hispanic Attack)

6. So, you were here with the Cape Cod Roller Derby as a guest trainer. (which we are soooo thankful for!) Do you coach or lead training within your own league? Have you helped out other leagues as a guest coach, as well? As the 2013 President of MARD, one of my major functions was working with our coaching committee to improve our league's training. My coaching experience began with my former home team, Bleeding Hearts, while off skates with a broken ankle in 2012. Since then, I've filled in as a bench manager and/or jam coach for Bleeding Hearts, Mass Attack All Stars, & Bloody Bordens. At the end of our 2013 season, I began coaching our Fresh Meat while a few of our regular coaches took some time off. It's been a blast!
Here she is with her MARD All Stars, winning 3rd place at 'All 8 on the Floor'!
(photo credit: Worcester Roller Derby)

7. How were you introduced to CCRD? Had you frequented Cape Cod before? 
I first heard of CCRD through the Northeast Roller Derby Facebook group. My first face to face interaction was at the MDA Firemen's Chili & Chowder Cookoff in early 2013. You're a fun bunch of ladies!
8. I'm always curious, because of how intense this sport is, if veteran skaters still get butterflies before a bout? BOUT DAAAAAY!!!! Butterflies? Not really, but I get EXTREMELY hyper.
You gotta have energy to run around on skates like that!!
(photo: Scott Thatcher Photography)

9. Lastly, because i'm an animal lover....do you have any pets? My fur baby is a dwarf bunny named Bangarang. He's adorable & awesome.
Aaawww!! He's so cute!!
There you have it! Insurance by day; derby by night!
Thank you, Banshee, for your time, encouragement, and expertise on the track!
You Rock!!