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Gameplay Diagram update – 2014



Roller Derby Gameplay Diagram: Update Summer 2013

Inspired, obviously, by this fantastic diagram from Atlanta’s Aimz 2 Kill.  When I was with a prior league, we were looking for a diagram for our programs, but were unable to get in touch with her to secure permission to use it.  So I spent some hours with Fireworks and drew one of our own.  We really needed something that would work in black and white, as we don’t print programs in color.

The copyright holder for this diagram is me, Snarker Posey. The Creative Commons BY-SA license that is attached to it means that you are free to reuse it (please!), in any way you choose, so long as you: 1) provide attribution to me, and; 2) if you alter or build upon it and choose to distribute the resulting image, that you do so under this same license (or something very similar).  In other words, you may not add color to it and then sell it to a magazine with all your rights reserved.  Make sense?

It’s nothing fancy, but it works for our league’s programs, and I’m happy to have others use it if it saves you some time. If there’s anything you’d like to see added, I welcome comments. Editable .fw.png file available here.


Quick update: Derby Gameplay Diagram

(Click to open full-size version).


Editable Fireworks png file available upon request.




Blood, Sweat and Tears

image by sonofabike

image by sonofabike

Roller derby is NOT for the faint of heart. I spent the better part of the last two weeks offskates, and since life got a little in the way, I didn’t manage to get regular workouts in during that time, either. Re-entry today was a little rough. But once again, I find myself thinking about the lessons in the derby valleys.

Though a wiser person might have taken it easy, I jumped into my first practice back with both feet, and scheduled my annual minimum skills test as well. Sanguine, that’s my go-to spot, my healthy-for-me center. No worries, no anticipation, just present. My body had other ideas, though, and sent me stumbling more than once. Not that long ago, a practice like today’s would have been enough to send me packing my gear, angry and frustrated and scared that I wasn’t ever going to get better. Now, I try to remember that the struggle is where growth happens, and blink back tears with a quick water break.

This sport, it’s amazing. The women who play it, they’re amazing. I don’t know of any other place in this world where women can put their strengths and weaknesses and passion and fear and confidence all on the line, try and risk both failure and success, battle each other and themselves, and still support each other throughout. Today, I did battle with myself. But I had a team supporting me and inspiring me, and I had my center, and tomorrow I’ll try again.

The blood (random cut on my arm – wtf? – and an already-forming giant bruise on my shin), sweat (always, always lots of sweat!) and tears (barely even) may be more visible, but I think the real work is happening on the inside.

What is Success, Anyway?

Stuck in the oh-so-familiar low part of the derby loop again, I’ve been thinking about trying to escape it by resetting some expectations for myself in this sport. I’ve been thinking about people whom I admire, and about how they manage the feelings that seem to cripple me. I see them channel anxiety into focused, powerful action, and they soar. I’d always thought they just didn’t have the same fears, but in talking to them, I find instead that they use fear as fuel.

Much of the time, I feel like a giant fail in derby: I’m not fast enough (not as fast as anyone else on my team), not agile enough (ditto), I’m still not in the shape I should be in despite the training, and I’m still slow on the recovery. Sure, I’m a brick wall, and if I can trap a jammer she’s effectively stuck behind the width of two blockers — for a couple seconds, at least. And if my timing is right, I can take an offensive blocker out along with her jammer. But those moments don’t happen with nearly enough frequency for me; not as much as I expect, nor my teammates, probably. And when those moments aren’t happening, I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down. It sucks to feel like a failure at something you love and work so hard for, over and over. It’s hard to sit in that feeling and wait until it passes, to keep coming around to it after the high of each bout subsides.

But when I’m feeling good about derby and can let go of the worries, I really enjoy it. I approach bouts differently now than I used to: I’ve built new bout day rituals around boosting my confidence and focus instead of studying Xs and Os. I don’t review strategies or scenarios, or think about things I have trouble with, or worry about anything in particular. I pump myself up, prepare mind and body throughout the day or so beforehand, and try to revel in the energy of the bout from the start until the last long whistle. But my confidence always bottoms out the next day or so.

So back to #derbyfail. In the midst of my latest post-bout derbysuckfest, I’ve been thinking that I maybe should just accept that my perseverance with derby — in spite of the failures — is my success, in and of itself. I’m getting better, not worse. I’m not injured. I’m still having fun, on balance. I’m learning more every day about how to work with my team to accomplish things on the track, together. It’s a great motivator for my training, and it pushes me to constantly venture outside my comfort zone. I get dozens of positive things out of derby, and the negative things don’t outweigh them.

It’s not the head of the pack that I’m looking for; I just want to play, to be a part of things, contribute, stay in the mix, and have my share of moments. Moments other than skating as fast as I can just to stay in a paceline drill.

The last time I remember being in this position, it was Sophomore year of college and I was killing myself to try to raise a B- in Organic Chemistry. After a couple of semesters of banging my head against a heavy stack of Bio/Chem textbooks and lab paperwork, I dropped the double major and switched to art & theatre instead. Seriously. For the most part, lack of success has prompted a U-turn in my life. And that’s ok sometimes. I’m good at plenty of other things — but not derby, not science, not playing stringed instruments, and definitely not running or cycling or skating fast, ha.

But derby is just hard, for me at least. And I’m sure it is for everyone, in their own way. Even for those who don’t find it hard to stay in the middle of the pack have their own challenges, I know that. One of my teammates wrote recently about athletes recalibrating their idea of success, in a great post on sports psychology and academia. I guess I’m just still figuring out the recalibration part. But I haven’t taken that U-turn yet, and I need to take some comfort in that.

Yes is only the beginning

There were quite a few words, but the only ones I really heard and remember now are “charter”, ” you”, and finally when I picked my jaw up off the floor and asked if this was for real, something approximating “yes.” Despite the elation I felt at that moment, any satisfaction I might have felt at having grabbed that brass ring almost immediately disappeared. There are new rings to reach for.

I tried out for my league’s travel team in February when I first transferred in. My skills were rusty, my training was inadequate, I was out of shape and I felt over my head in league practices, but doing all the tryout drills with the team was a great experience. I didn’t make it, but was encouraged to come back next time. I kept working and training, got lucky that I didn’t get injured, and tried again. This time, miraculously, I made it – and the charter, to boot.

Being put on my league’s charter for this quarter feels like I’ve been given a gift, albeit a “free as in puppies” sort of gift. All squirmy and leaky and in need of much care and feeding and cleanup. And now that I’ve brought it home, of course the weight of it all sets in. It’s a huge responsibility as well as an opportunity, and I am a bit terrified, but determined not to let it go to waste. What if I can’t hang? What if I’m always this slow, this–no, stop.

I’m making a series of promises to myself, focused around training my brain and body for this new chapter in my derby life:

1) Do at least one thing that scares me, every practice. Right now, I think transitions are the thing I need the most work on, and at a normal derby pace. Makes me want to get out on the ice to remind myself how to do mohawks and step outs. hmm…

2) Never, ever let myself get away with saying “I can’t”. Shut that crap off, every time. And don’t let others get away with it, either. It doesn’t do any of us any good.

3) Compare myself only to my own expectations and past performance, no one else. I am the only one I need to beat. Every day, every lap, every practice.

4) Make plan, work the plan, and plan for both rest and relaxation as well as training.

I guess I don’t have anything more profound to say at this point, other than BRING IT ON. I’m so ready for this.


Roller Derby as Radical Professional Development: Part 1

When I decided to write this series (originally for another roller derby group blog that’s since disappeared), it was partially in hopes that the act of writing about a career funk might help me discern whether I’d really crawled out of it.

I started derby in the fall of 2010, normally my busiest time of the year, and this was fall of the dreaded 5Y year: the year my tenure file was due.  The bulk of the work had been done in summer, or at least I thought so. I submitted my file in July, and then my department got to work editing the materials… meaning more work would come back to me in the fall.

Even in summer before that first submission deadline, though, I was just bursting for something to shake me up. I couldn’t muster the motivation to deal with the dreadmill, but Derby hit the jackpot. It was physical, rough, kinda risky, social, and it immediately got me off the couch and out of the house a few days a week, in a city that was still a bit new to me.  I joined just as the league was starting to think about their first bout. We were up to about 25 active, non-injured, skills-tested skaters, so when the invitation came in late November to bout only an hour away, we jumped.  And so it goes with roller derby, the time sink expanded very quickly.

At some point in early November, I became aware of three shifts in my life: 1) Roller derby was taking up an increasingly larger amount of my time, and threatening to bleed into work something fierce; 2) The time of worrying that my tenure dossier would come back to me for more work had probably passed, and; 3) With all that writing and compiling and painstaking wordsmithing out of the way, I was sort of paralyzed at the office.  It wasn’t  a big concern, though; heading into the holidays meant things were relatively slow, and I was overdue for some down time.

I shrugged it off, tried to appreciate the breather, and concentrated on responding to things that came my way (thankfully my job is largely reactive). And poured my energy into derby. That first bout in mid-December had brought some stress into the league, and a second on very short notice in January only picked at the scabs. Normally cheered by January’s return to routine at the office, I found myself wanting to just skate and watch derby and sleep, even from 9-5. Looking back on the early part of that winter, I know that I was depressed. Not just the normal dark-quiet-hibernatey winter mood, but really a little bit depressed. And talking to others who have been through the tenure process, I know that it’s not an uncommon response. At the time, I told myself I was getting out of the house and getting exercise with derby practice, and yet the part of me that got up every morning and stumbled down the stairs with sore, stiff, puffy feet and ankles, always running late, still not feeling any room in my clothes after all those practices?  That part knew better.

There’s a part of me that gets too comfortable sitting in that paralysis, walled-off and a little bit numb. It seduces me, and I oblige. But the thing with derby is that you can’t help but engage;  you can’t just wilt and watch what’s happening around you, or you’ll be on the floor. And so I had to engage in derby practice, at least, even if I returned to life inside a padded (and hand-knitted) shell afterwards.

February came, then March, and everything mostly stayed the same. We scheduled a home bout – with plenty of lead time, yay!  We selected three sets of Captains/co-Captains, who drafted teams, and the league voted on a traveling team.  I hit an unexpected jackpot:  Captain, travel team, and then Captain of travel team.  My first reaction to the latter was not so pretty: What the hell did they see in me? What did they think they were getting, exactly? Had they actually seen me play roller derby?  The clash of my many visions of self made my head spin.  The ones where I’m a damn good skater, and the ones where I’m really out of shape; the ones where I’m calm and rational in the face of league cray-cray, and the ones where I’m snarky and moody and impatient and really not all that social.  But the bottom-line was, all these new responsibilities and the sheer force of all those expectations, finally (though gradually) prompted a desire to kick off some changes. I started seeing parallels between derby and work everywhere: in organizing people and events, leading projects, setting and achieving goals, being present, maintaining a thick skin, moving forward always. The idea that Snarker, who could take a fucking wrecking ball of a hit and stay upright, would let work insecurities hold her back? In. Sane. Did not compute. The ideas for writing this as a series were raw, but I was intrigued by all the parallels between the track and life in academia. And best of all, I was driven to dig in — to derby, to myself, to work, to everything.

To kick up my workouts, I added in an offskates practice with our new trainer, in addition to a new weekly team practice my co-Captain had set up.  We also added offskates work to our team practice, to accommodate those who couldn’t make the separate day.  And then I added running back in, and started signing up for races.  Before I really knew it, I was in the middle of this amazing and intense storm, calmly setting 4am alarms and feeling as proud of my sore muscles as I was of my derby bruises.

And somewhere in this time, the funk lifted. I’m not sure if the workouts prompted it, or if something in my head just shifted at the same time, but I was grateful for it. Grateful for what I’m doing — not for a person, though there are several people around who inspire me. And not only for derby, though training to be a better derby player is certainly a high-priority goal. But for me and me alone. because when I’m out on that track, I’m both terrified and thrilled to be completely present out there, exposed and threatened and playing like a fucking champion. I’m not limited by any of those visions in my head anymore; I’m Snarker Posey and you’d better watch out. I’m still working on having Snarker teach Stephanie about strategy and resilience.

It’s not derby as such that’s saving my career, or saving me; it’s that derby is one of the few things in my life that’s really prompted me to fight rather than take flight, and that feeling is pretty memorable.  Looking back over my winter roller coaster, I have to wonder whether the next time the funk strikes, I might be able to find the fight inside, through derby. And the same goes for work; whether, the next time some problem boils up that threatens to paralyze me, I’ll remember my derby stance and the force it takes to knock me down.