Roller Derby Chemistry 101: Building a team

Olivia Nuk’em Bomb #28, is a member of our newly reformed Derby Debutantes (I know you’ve heard the name before, but this years roster is full of fresh faces). In her first game at the Alliston arena last March, she was nominated game MVP for the Debutantes, by the Misfit Militia. When you see her focus and determination while on the track, you will understand why she was honoured this way. This is her story about playing on her first team…

As a rookie in roller derby, and a first-timer when it comes to team sports, my happiest moment so far was when my team, the Derby Debutantes, played our first game and lost by over 300 points. Just look at our post-game pictures in Alliston, where we played against the Misfit Militia. You see a group of aggressively fit, booty-short clad women in sleek camouflage: the Misfits. Then you spot the Debs, in our wrinkled pink t-shirts, faces shiny with sweat, breathing raggedly – and totally lighting up the arena with our grins. We GLOWED. We GIGGLED. We HUGGED IT OUT. And when we found out the score, some of us could barely stand up on our skates.

Hugging it out (photo: Sean Murphy)

Something happens, I think, when a derby team goes through its first public game. The Debs were on one hand more focused and committed to the sport after our Alliston bout, excited to be back at practice and improving our individual skills. On the other hand, we felt a sense of unity that can only come from surviving a punishing match against a more experienced opponent. We really cared about our teammates; we knew how important it was to stick together; and we had felt that wave of protectiveness when we saw our jammers being pummeled or a fellow blocker being goated.

This was evident in our performance at the recent Beast of the East tournament in Montreal. Yes, we lost both our games (though I’d like to add that it was NOT by a margin of 300 points). Yes, we were the underdogs once again. But who doesn’t like a cheeky underdog? Our walls were stronger, our plays were better, and we fought hard – whether it was Aie Catraz jumping up from a hit and squeezing gracefully through a gap, or our determined captain Dixie Wrecked leading the charge and sweeping opponents aside like bowling balls.

As Coach Hissy told us in the changeroom during the Beast, “What endeared you to the audience in Alliston was the way you kept fighting. You never gave up.” I think it’s because we fight for each other. From the time we started – wide-eyed and bruiseless – in our fresh-meat training program together, the Debs have been family.

You can see it in the way Tiny Tank and Cat the Conqueror chat about their families while we’re doing stretches after laps. Or the way Mome Wrath and RoseThud adjust each other’s clothes and gear before one of them asks the other to do it. It’s the way we’ve bombarded each other’s Facebook feeds and take time to ask about someone’s injury, or give our whole-hearted sympathy on the bench when a teammate picks a wooden splinter out of her butt.

I have shared so many things with the Debs: nervous gags with Lyoness before a game, a rare quiet moment taping each other up with Wanton Roller, hysterical laughter with Ginger Fight’Us when we try out constantly-changing team cheers (“Vajazzle!” “F**k you, thunder!”), girl chat and late-night shawarmas with Hades Hound, knitting a quilt with Fanny Slamtastic, and little random gifts that Spaz Hurlin’ and I have gotten into the habit of giving each other.

And this continues on the track. I mean, we do and will have our moments of frustration with each other when we’re skating – it’s not like we’re going around holding hands and singing and farting rainbows at each other. But, just as I can count on Spaz to clear the way for me when I’m jamming, I know Ginger will sprint ahead to start a bridge for us with that grin on her face, a calm Free-Range Clam to perceive the pack speed and rein us in, Nurse Joy to crunch shoulders with (hopefully with a miserable jammer stuck between us), and Wretched Gretchen who always gives me that feeling that things will be okay, we just have to hold that jammer back (and what a relief that Gretch is jamming).

Therefore, I’m not surprised to hear from other teams say that the Debs have such a positive attitude. We obviously care about each other out on the track and it doesn’t change no matter what the score is. As we head into our first season – starting with an electrifying double-header in which we play Brantford’s, Belles of the Brawl – I hope you get to see the Debs in action together!

Catch Olivia Nuk’em Bomb in action this Saturday May 5th, 2012 in La Revolucion de Derby. Her team, the Derby Debutantes, plays the Belles of the Brawl (BCRG) and the GsTARs play the Vixens (RVRG).

Get your $12 advance paper tickets at My Roll Life (1714 Queen St W. at Roncesvalles), Task Skate (1624 Queen St. E at Coxwell) or Red Tent Sisters (810 Danforth Ave. at Pape). Online tickets at Brown Paper Tickets. $15 at the door.