Interview with a Roller Girl

This inaugural post of 2011 is dedicated to everyone who loves Flat Track Roller Derby.  As a woman who longs to don skates, hot pants and an alter ego, I wanted to do an interview with someone who knows the ins & outs of the sport.  Longtime friend, Kim – aka Supersonik! – a REAL LIFE ROLLER GIRL (!!) has graciously agreed to spill her derby beans via this blog.  If you’re curious about roller derby, have wondered what it’s like to be a roller girl, or think you have what it takes to kick ass and be kicked in return, then Friend, this one’s for YOU.

Kim – I mean, Supersonik!  Thanks so much for being a part of The Daily Dish.  Before we get started, first things first.  What team do you play for?  What’s your name & number and do they have any significance?

Photo Credit: Lucas Saugen Photography 2008

I am Supersonik! and I play on the Atomic Bombshells, one of the 4 home teams of the Minnesota RollerGirls. My number is 7 of 9, which comes from the Star Trek Voyager character.  My name Supersonik! was part of an inside joke around the song Elektronik Supersonik by Zlad, a fake rock star from a fake former Eastern Bloc country. Some people get excited thinking that I got my name from the JJ Fad song “Supersonic” and start singing it to me.  In reality, I’m just a big sci-fi dork.  Growing up during the 80s, with my formative years during the Cold War, the Zlad song was extra funny.

What’s your position? Can you briefly describe what that entails?

At home, I play the blocker position. Basically my job is to keep the other team’s
jammer (the person who scores the points for the team) from getting through the pack while clearing a path for our own jammer.  This is where you see a lot of the big hits. When I’ve played on other pick-up type games (i.e. RollerCon) where derby players come from all over the world and theme teams galore spring up, I play all positions.  For instance, I’ve played the pivot (who often sets the pace of the pack and acts as the last line of defense) or the jammer.  These pick-up games have themes, like Star Trek vs Star Wars, Vegetarians vs Meat Eaters (I think we were officially called Lentilly Deranged vs. Meat Curtains), cats vs dogs, diapers vs depends (under 30/ over 30), things like that.  These are just-for-fun games that don’t count for anything.  Last summer, I even played in a clockwise bout!  That was a lot of fun because we always play counterclockwise.

How long have you been involved with roller derby?  How did you get started?  Did you know the rules when you started or did you learn by doing?

I started the second season of our league. That was in 2005.  I’d won tickets to
the first MNRG bout and had remembered watching roller derby on TV when I was a kid, but the event I was at had these girls on roller skates with these
awesome names on their shirts, and I was like, Wow, this seems really cool.  It was NOTHING like what I saw on TV growing up.  For one thing, they were skating on a flat track and not a banked track like in the old days.  And the uniforms were all unique, there was awesome music; it was just a bit mind blowing!  I’d always hated the idea of team sports, partly because the uniforms were so awful.  In roller derby there were women of all shapes and sizes and skating level.  I knew I would be back.  I ran into a friend [at that first bout] and we decided to go roller skating (cuz heck, we both grew up on roller skates) and then came to future bouts.  When we heard they were having tryouts, we both went and made it; it was the hardest 4 hours I have ever been through.

Photo Credit: Peter Worth Dec 2010

I really had no idea what was going on on the track when I first started watching, I just knew that I wanted to be involved. When I started there were only about 5
pages of rules. Leagues around the country (there were only about 10 at the
time) were making it up as they went along. The rules have since been
standardized, as the sport has grown exponentially and playing inter-league games with different rule sets did not really work out too well.  There are over 40
pages of rules now!  And yes, we are tested on them.  If you are interested in learning more about the rules, this is the place to go.  The rules definitely needed to change to ensure the game was safe for all players, with the sorts of scenarios coming up and increased skill level of the skaters.

How much time do you spend practicing? Have you always been a great skater?

We have practice generally 3 times a week, 2 hours at a time.  All-stars have extra
time.  I grew up on ice skates and roller skates so I was okay with making the
transition.

What’s the worst injury you’ve sustained during play?

A few weeks into derby, we learned to do shoulder hits and then were sent out
to play Queen of the Rink [basically a derby version of Last Man Standing, with one remaining player skating in bounds.]  I got hit by a vet skater and landed on my shoulder. The result was a shoulder impingement. I didn’t get it treated right away and it still flares up a bit to this day. In subsequent years we have figured out ways to make it safer for new skaters.  Like I said earlier, in the beginning we were just making things up as we went along, because the re-emergence of the sport was so new.  Today our rookies go through a summer of boot camp to build up skills before they get to be put on a home team. This has been a wonderful way for them to bond and build up the confidence and skills before they get drafted.

Photo Credit: Peter Worth Nov 2010

What’s the best thing about playing roller derby?

I don’t know if I can say just one thing. It’s been awesome for me to learn to
play a team sport, get regular exercise, and meet really fabulous women.  We have a ton of awesome volunteers who keep us running smoothly and fans who support us.  I love the kids who are so excited to be at the bouts.  We now have co-ed junior derby in the twin cities for youngsters interested in becoming future players. It melts my heart when they want my autograph.  It’s strange to have these kids look up to us; I mean I get it, but I never thought I would be in that position.  Playing has also given me the opportunity to develop leadership skills, as our organization is owned and run by the skaters, for the skaters.

What’s the worst thing (if any) about playing roller derby?

I wish we had more public bouts. 🙂

How does your team travel? Are you sponsored? Do you get paid for playing or is it strictly volunteer?

We have a travel team called the All-Stars. They are comprised of skaters from
all 4 home teams. They are the ones that do the inter-league travel and
tournaments that count towards our rankings. This year though, our home teams have had opportunities to travel in the region to play other teams. It’s always a lot of fun to play new and unfamiliar people.  We are very fortunate to have a lot of support with awesome sponsors like PBR.  But we are unpaid athletes. We donate proceeds to charity.

How would you describe yourself? Age? Occupation? What else do you enjoy outside the arena?

I’m 38 and have historically earned my income in the non-profit/government/health care/education sectors. Currently I’m back in school through a great program made to retrain folks in “green” careers.  I’m now involved with starting a Transition Town in my neighborhood, something that’s been really exciting for me.  I tend to have a lot of interests that are all over the board. Off the bat, I can say I’m crazy about cats, organic gardening, low-impact living, science fiction, antiques and traveling. I also like to play tennis and ride my bike, and I want to learn how to sew.

So there you have it, folks.  Roller derby – one of the most empowering sports for women EVER, is growing exponentially and is only getting better.  A sport played by women, with teams owned by the players themselves, who – rather than capitalize on the proceeds, donate it all to charity.  Could it get any better??  My sincere thanks to Supersonik! for allowing me to do this interview, and to both Lucas Saugen & Peter Worth for kindly allowing me to reprint their photographs.

Think you’ve got what it takes?
Watch Supersonik! in MNRG’s 2009 Season Trailer: Bad Mother Rollers.

Lord of the Flies

When we returned home from the Midwest, the first thing I did was drag my sorry self upstairs to crash out in bed. After nearly 15 hours in the car, it was all I could do. But the first thing my husband did, being the amazing soul he is, was go through the entire house to make sure everything was just as we’d left it. And everything was fine. Save for the flies.

When we left John says he noticed one lone fly bzzzzing round an upstairs room. No big deal. He figured it’d be dead by the time the weekend was over.

HAHAHAHHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH!!!!

Remember Cutie? My daughter’s runaway hamster?? Yes, I know I haven’t written about him in weeks. But that’s b/c we thought he was still on vacation. Well… he is, except it’s that reeeeeeeaaaalllly long vacation that never ends. Ugh. we can now state w/ fair certainty that Cutie has become banquet to 50,000 flies. So we’ve spent the better part of two days shooing, swatting and otherwise casting out these winged creatures from our happy home. And in tackling this new and vexing challenge, I have noticed something truly profound.

When a fly gets trapped inside, they follow a particular pattern. First, They zoom from room to room looking for an exit. Second, they find a window. They fly back and forth past the window, assessing the possibility of escape. In a last-ditch effort, they begin to fly into the window, over and over, as though their feeble crashes will at last force the glass and they will be free. Eventually, the exhausted fly succumbs to the inevitable, either crawling up into a ball and breathing its last, OR conversely, overcoming its initial aversion and fear and FINALLY allowing me to gently scoop it up and release it out into the world.

Having watched this scenario play out OH SO MANY times over the past couple days, I have been struck by the similarity between humans and flies. These flies leave you wondering. WHAT THE HELL??!! ARE YOU REALLY SO DAMN STUPID?? I AM HERE – ARE YOU BLIND?! MY HAND! It is GUIDING YOU OUT – SEE THERE!! THE OPEN WINDOW!!!! IT’S RIGHT THEEERRRRRREEE!! I AM TRYING TO SAVE YOU, YOU MORON!!!

When a human becomes trapped – and here I am speaking rather metaphorically – so by this I could mean a myriad of things. But when a human becomes similarly “trapped” w/ no hope of escape, their response is very much like the fly. We are stubborn. We are STUPID. We do not want Help. We don’t NEED HELP. Instead we rush round looking for a means of escape. OH! And there it is. But it’s not, not really. No, it’s an impenetrable hurdle. So we bang out heads against the proverbial glass, frustrating ourselves and every conceivable attempt at freedom. And when that *Great Hand from the Sky* reaches down to help, what do we do?? We fail to see it. Or if we do, we RUN THE HELL AWAY.

Sometimes life presents you w/ a metaphor that you just can’t help but notice. I do not profess to be any more in tune w/ the great Cosmos than the next guy, but I can tell you this whole FLY THING has gotten my attention. The past several days have been pretty hard for me. I do not like vertigo. Yes, it is BAD. Having to steady myself constantly against the rotational force of the planet, whilst everyone else goes about their daily business blissfully unencumbered SUCKS. Feeling shitty always puts me in a slightly philosophical frame of mind. SO. Feeling this way, I would just like to say HEY. HEY BIG GUY. If you are up there, pitying me or watching me with amusement, FEEL FREE TO HELP. I am here, just smacking my head against the glass, so You just FEEL FREE to stick that big ol’ mitt out for me already. As long as you’re not going to smash me dead, I_am_YOURS.

What’s the first thing you notice about someone?

A friend once sent me one of those email quizzes where you have to answer a long list of personal questions. Perhaps you’ve gotten one of these yourself? I see quite a few of them posted on other people’s blogs, and I think they’re sort of interesting. Anyway, these quizzes tend to ask many of the same questions (mostly about favorites, what you’re wearing, listening to, etc.), but the one my friend sent also had the question: What is the first thing you notice about someone?

Vertigo is a little something like my friend’s quiz – a semi-illuminating answer that only hints at what’s below. I can describe to you what it feels like, but until you experience it firsthand, you’ll never really understand. Up until a week ago, I had a really good hold on my Meniere’s symptoms and had the feeling that I was in control of the disease. I don’t know what being on that boat did to me – whether it was the food, the motion, or some combination thereof, but this past week has shown me that control is an illusion. We simply can’t control much of what happens to and around us.

Yesterday evening, 2 teenagers with a sawed-off shotgun assaulted a man right around the corner from my home. They tried to rob him, but he didn’t have any money or valuables, and that really pissed them off – so they blew an enormous hole in his leg. His blood is still pooled on the front steps of the house behind mine. It made me think of my husband’s response to the same quiz question I listed above: What is the first thing you notice about someone? Whether they’re packing [heat].

I guess that’s life as we know it in Philadelphia, November 11, 2007.

Not funny at all.

We can’t control much of what happens in our lives, but we can all make choices. Today I am well enough to be out of bed – and I’m making the choice to share with others something I learned this week.

If you’re waiting until everything is *just so* in your life before allowing yourself to really live and be happy, you’re destined to be one sad sack. Things will likely never be perfect. So do the best you can with what you’ve got – because I can guarantee there are people who have it way worse than you. And surprisingly, many of those people have a better attitude. When terrible things happen, don’t look to the heavens, shaking your fist at God and wondering why you’ve been cursed. Look inside, believe in yourself, and understand there are things beyond your control. We may never understand why horrible things happen, but I do believe there is a greater plan. Be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t wait around for someone else to do it, don’t sit around complaining that things suck. Fight against injustice, DON’T be a part of the problem. And always, always, embrace the positive. Love and respect yourself and those around you. And for the love of God, get over yourself already (No, it’s NOT really “all about you”), take time to share and be a servant to the world, rather than expect everyone to bow down before your sorry ass. Despite what your tee-shirt says, you are NOT royalty.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the title of my post. Well, I guess in my own roundabout way I’m trying to make a point. What is the first thing you notice about someone? Is it their eyes? Their crutches? The gun pointed at your face? What do we see when we look at others? What do we see when we look inside ourselves?

I was about as low as I’ve been this week, but illness is not necessarily a bad thing if it renders you a wiser, humbler, and more appreciative person. If you can laugh at pain and hold strong in times of fear, then you’re no longer captive to either. And that is a worthy goal.