Friday, August 28, 2009

Roller Derby Tattoo Contest!

Derby Helper is giving you a chance to show off the ink and flesh evidence of your roller derby dedication to the world! Submit a picture of your derby tattoo and we'll put you in our upcoming Derby Tattoo gallery. One lucky submitter will be chosen to win the very first edition of Derby Helper swag (coming soon).

To enter, send us an email with:
  • A .jpeg of your tattoo (must be derby-related)
  • Your derby name and league(s)
  • An explanation of the tattoo (if needed, this is optional)
Send the email to us at by October 11th, 2009 and prepare to bask in the admiration of the entire Derbyverse!

*edited date*

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Surviving "Derby Drama" - part 1

A group of people, united by a common goal, puts aside all their personal foibles, agendas and differences and successfully works in harmony to accomplish the various tasks required to achieve their goal. Just another example of the kind of peaceful success story that committees, councils and governments around the world see every day, right?

Well, maybe not. But hey, at least only dudes pull this kind of B.S.

Well god dang.

It's sad but true, where two or more people are gathered and decisions must to be made, angry words and/or fists will fly faster than a jammer with rocket skates. As awesome as roller derby is and as much as its devoted practitioners love it, leagues have to deal with the stresses of differing opinions, conflicting personalities and PMS-fueled hissy fits pretty much from day 1. It is called Derby Drama and it threatens to destroy leagues and drive off promising skaters every day. It is a big enough and important enough subject that I am making this a two-part article. Next Monday I'll take on the subject of "On-track Drama" but in order to even get that far, you have to survive the effects of this week's subject which is...

Organizational drama

Derby News Network co-founder and roller derby guru Hurt Reynolds spent one whole year driving and flying around the continental United States visiting rollerderby leagues of varying ages, attending bouts and talking to skaters and support personnel with varying amounts of experience. (See the details of the epic journey here.) The subject matter discussed in all these different locations and situations was so homogeneous that he gave the phenomenon the name, "Same Conversation, Different City." Derby-loving folks of all genders, sizes and orientations were fed up with blah blah and couldn't believe that so-and-so is doing such and such and they were gonna quit if the *&@ing board of directors didn't change yadda yadda, on and on ad infinitum ad nauseum. I convey this not to dwell on the negatives but as a segue to the first of 3 important points:
  • Having Derby Drama is the norm, not the exception.
    As unique as your problems seem, as bad as things get and as much as you think no other league could possibly be as fuxx0red as yours, trust me, you are not alone. Blowups and throwdowns have formed over minimum attendance requirements, uniform selection, venue lease negotiations, MRSA outbreaks, poster artwork, bout eligibility, afterparty venue, t-shirt sizes, sign fonts and innumerable other issues both big and hilariously trifling.
  • Having Derby Drama does not mean your league is doomed.
    The founding leagues in the current rollerderby renaissance started in 2001 and the founding leagues in the flat-track explosion started in 2003. They exist and thrive to this day despite going through the same kind of in-fighting we see today and without the benefit of more experienced leagues to turn to for guidance.
  • If not acknowledged and addressed, Derby Drama can divide and conquer you.
    See the 2 different years in the previous point? Flat-track rollerderby exists because sometimes problems are not rectified before the breaking point is reached, in this case causing members of TXRD to break off and form the Texas Rollergirls. (See the documentary "Hell on Wheels" or read this if you don't know the story.) Now take a peek at this map, zoom in a bit and look for places where there is more than one league marker in a medium-sized or small market. In many places where the population isn't really big enough to support it, you'll find two different leagues are competing for players and fans because when the doodoo started to hit the fan inside the first local league, no one turned off the doodoo machine or moved the fan.
So what is the secret to thriving in the face of organizational derby drama? There isn't any one easy answer to that question but there is a fundamental concept that is definitely the starting place: You have to build your league to succeed. Getting the proper infrastructure in place may be the toughest part of building a new league or rebuilding a broken one but it's the most important thing you can do for yourselves. Think about it this way: If you had just started a 500 mile drive and got a flat tire, what would get you to your destination faster, continuing to drive at 40 mph on the flat tire or stopping to change the flat and driving 80?

Here's a hint.

Take the time to set up an architecture that can handle known problems and can adjust to handle new ones. It can be the difference between spending your time putting on roller derby bouts and spending it medicating your depression bouts. Elements of such an architecture tend to include but are not limited to the following.
  • Distributed Governance
    That's a fancy way of saying "Democracy, not monarchy." When one person tries to oversee every aspect of running a league, they either get overwhelmed and have a nuclear meltdown or else they become "the league tyrant" who everyone starts to resent for being a domineering beeeeyotch. Appointing one person to manage and have final say over each required element of operation (marketing, finance, sponsorship, etc.) allows each of those elements to get the full attention of someone with the juice to make on the fly decisions to meet deadlines and rectify last-minute problems rather than waiting for "Queen Bitchface" to get around to it.
  • Conflict management
    Sometimes a well-meaning group is doing something unintentionally stupid that is hurting the league and ignoring those who oppose it. Sometimes one nutbag is being a douche at practice and taking a dump on the floor at every afterparty. Whatever the situation, sometimes an issue is too heated to be handled rationally by those immersed in it. When this happens, a third party is required to help the two sides achieve perestroika or at least detente. Some leagues have a grievance officer, some have a conflict committee but whatever the name or makeup of it, the existence of a designated arbitrator can defuse volatile situations before they blow up and wind up costing you a team member or a friend.
  • A written statement of goals/values
    Known in the corporate world as a mission statement or core values, this can be one of the most helpful things you can have to help make decisions that are consistent and in the agreed-upon best interest of the league. Take nominations from league members as to what the most important aspects of rollerderby are, discuss them a bit, then hold an open vote on those aspects and assemble a statement or list that includes the top 5 or so vote-getters. Once you have that, you suddenly have a powerful guidance system for making decisions that no one can get pissy about because they voted on and agreed to the system. Let's pretend that a fake league named the Awesomeville Derbysquaws has voted on and approved the following list of league values: Competitive Excellence, Fun, Fitness, Safety and Friendship. The Derbysquaws now have a stated point of reference to use when ideas are presented. If someone makes a formal proposal that says, "Let all kick a beehive and eat lard sandwiches," a quick look at the league values shows that this would violate the values of Fun, Fitness and Safety (and probably blow the crap out of Competitive Excellence and Friendship for that matter) and would therefore be rejected. If someone else proposes, "Let's practice twice a week instead of once a year and actually start wearing helmets from now on," this would be accepted because it satisfies the values of Competitive Excellence, Fitness and Safety. This is a highly simplified and exaggerated example of course but the concept is accurate. Decision making becomes uncontroversial and impersonal (in a good way) because it is based on the agreed-upon league values and not the fact that SOMEONE ate too much fiber and blew non-stop fart rings around the practice track last night.
I feel I could go on for another eight paragraphs of further detail on just part 1 but that would be a mistake. Every city has unique people with unique needs and wants that need to be considered. Individual solutions many vary but the concepts here are a good starting point for building your league to succeed. See you here next week for part 2!

(edit: Here's a link to Surviving Derby Drama part 2)

Okay derby veterans, time for you to share your wealth of experience in the comments and save a teetering league from a premature grave!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Derby Pukes

Derby Helper is proud to present to you: our first advice column! If you or someone you know has a derby-related problem and you'd like our advice, please email us at and if we can figure out what the hell you're asking us, we'll post it in an upcoming blog! Please let us know if you'd like us to use your real name, otherwise there will be a lot of XXXXXXXXXXXXs out there. Just sayin'. And without further ado...

Hey Derby Helper,

Last night I ate a week old piece of anchovy and olive pizza a few hours before practice. Boy was it terrible. I was really hungry. I took a couple big hits during practice and it came right up. Thankfully I made it to the bathroom before unleashing the half digested stinking mess onto the track. I would love to blame the worst slice of pizza ever for this but I can't rightfully do that. It's happened before without eating anything. I recently cut the back ends of my mouthguards out which is what usually gives me the derby voms initially. Is this a pretty common thing among skaters? It's pretty distracting to have to throw up in the middle of a scrimmage. What advice might you have for skaters prone to throwing up?




What a fabulous question to answer after having just eaten appromixately 2 pounds of cheese and olive oil. I do love me some feta-covered pizza.

Well I would like to start off asking: what's so bad about puking? If you're not still choking on your own mouthguard and/or spit, then that's probably your body's way of telling you that you ate something it doesn't like, and it'd like to return it for a full refund. I hope you're either a momma bird or you have a bathroom nearby when it happens though, because mopping in the middle of practice isn't so fun.

If you refuse to puke and can digest the food baby that is kicking you in the nuts, you will have yourself some serious concentrated evil coming out the back of you that will probably melt your teammates but will also do a number on your opponents. And by number, I mean a Number 2. Anything to win, right?

But I guess the real question here is: why do you feel so bad? Why can't you skate without feeling sick? Are you just a big, hopeless weenie whose name is "Whomp Whomp," or can you do something about it?

I did some research on the causes of nausea, and the results are astounding. Well, not really, but maybe one of these categories rings a bell for you?

The Causes of Nausea
- infections
- reactions to medication (for this reason I stay far, far away from Vicodin)
- overeating/ food poisoning or intolerance/ intoxication
- anxiety or stress
- fatigue
- brain injury
- vertigo/ motion sickness
- carbon monoxide poisoning
- pregnancy
- mechanical obstruction of the bowel (perhaps that elbow you took to the gut is still there?)
- ulcers
- dehydration

The treatment for many of these should hopefully be fairly obvious. Don't drink copious amounts of alcohol before you hit the track. Get more rest. Hurry up and have that baby already. Remove that elbow pad from your small intestine.

The others are a bit more tricky. I got the following information from

How Can I Prevent Nausea?

There are several ways to try and prevent nausea from developing:

* Eat small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals.
* Eat slowly.
* Avoid hard-to-digest foods.
* Consume foods that are cold or room temperature to avoid nausea from the smell of hot or warm foods.
* Rest after eating with your head elevated about 12 inches above your feet.
* Drink liquids between meals instead of during meals and drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to prevent dehydration (unless fluid restricted for another medical condition).
* Try to eat when you feel less nauseated.

How Do I Prevent Vomiting Once I Feel Nauseated?

When you begin to feel nauseated, you may be able to prevent vomiting by:

* Drink small amounts of clear, sweetened liquids such as soda or fruit juices (except orange and grapefruit juices because these are too acidic).
* Rest either in a sitting position or in a propped lying position. Activity may worsen nausea and may lead to vomiting.

You may also have an electrolyte imbalance from dehydration. From

* Initially, adults should eat ice chips and clear, noncaffeinated, nondairy liquids such as Gatorade, ginger ale, fruit juices, and Kool-Aid or other commercial drink mixes.

* After 24 hours of fluid diet without vomiting, begin a soft-bland solid diet such as the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce without sugar, toast, pasta, and potatoes.

If you have frequent nausea, this could be a sign of something serious, and you should definitely consult your doctor. But if you think it just happened because you were eating moldy anchovies or you went the opposite way and hadn't eaten a thing all day, then maybe all you need to do is get your diet under control, get some more rest, and take your stress out on the track. Where it belongs. Also, you may want to tell your teammates to stop with the kidney shots. That shit ain't cool.

Good luck to you!

Love from Derby Helper,

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Derby Names Nobody Should Use

Rollerderby names are one of the most fun things about the sport. But choosing the right name requires a delicate mix of creativity and judgement. Just because you thought of something that amused you at the time doesn't mean that you should take it on as a new identity for the world and your sainted grandmother to see. So for you new members of the roller derby family, here are some names to avoid using

Ped Ophelia
DiaRhea Perlman
Candida Brawlbicans (Don't get it? Click here and hope you don't.)
Slut Tard
Chubby Chicker
Barbara's Bush
PMS 24/7 - 365
Mammoth Cave
Typhoid Tranny
Lice Lice Rabies
Betty Poop
Aqua Vulva
Raging Cock (Oops, that one is real.)

Mongol Lloyd
Silent Flaccidity
Buster Cherry
Harry Armpits
Premature Eject-Elation
Hal Itosis
E. Wreck Tyldisfunction
Weird Al Spankabitch (Oops, some dumbass is using that one.)

The Boston Bordelo
The Hanover Hangover
The Silapy Seconds
The Daisies of Love
The Fairbanks Furries (although the team uniform would be awesome...)
The Southside Crabs
The Hudson Valley Horrors (Oops, that one is real.)

There's plenty more names out there waiting to destroy budding derby lives. Help your derby family prosper by posting your nominations in the comments.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Roller Derby... of the Future!!

In my spare time (read: at work) I like to think of ways to improve the game of roller derby. Sure, it's already exciting with its thrills and spills, but what would make it so MIND BLOWINGLY AWESOME that it would become the most watched sport in the world?

I am prepared to present to you, my loving audience: Roller Derby... of the Future!!

It's simple really. Take the current rules... and add in some additionals.

1. Net guns.
Referees could use them to make sure that skaters KNOW they got a major penalty or their 4th minor. No more excuses about not hearing the whistle! They could also be used by bench coaches when a skater is on the track who shouldn't be and they don't want to get a illegal procedure penalty for "too many skaters on the track." The skaters themselves would not be allowed to have them on the track. That would be dangerous.

2. Jammer rocket skates.
Because those would NOT be dangerous... Sometimes the Jammer needs a little extra boost, you know? But it would have a limited amount of rocket boosting power, so skaters must use it wisely. Probably flame retardant shin guards should be recommended for the rest of the skaters.

3. Figure 8 track layout.
The game is played the same, except the track is no longer just a skewed oval. Makes you think twice about spreading the pack out, doesn't it? Obviously skating clockwise to block is no longer a valid penalty.

4. Steeplechase.
Let's put those jumping skills to good use with the addition of hurdles. Who needs clotheslines when you have solid, fairly unbreakable obstacles to overcome? With your face?

5. Moat.
The moat would be in the outside ref lane. Outside pack refs are optional, but if they choose to be in the moat, I would suggest they get one of these. An assortment of carnivorous reptiles to fill the moat is optional, pending how much attention your venue owners pay attention to your bout setup. Suicide seating will never be so sought after as it will be with the addition of the "splash zone."

6. Segways.
No longer will injured skaters have to skip out on that roller derby action. Just hop on one of these babies and you can continue playing in the jams. We could probably just strap you in if you happen to be unconscious at the time.

7. Souped up uniforms.
Blockers get uniforms with built in tasers. Jammers get conducting uniforms, able to transfer that shock to other skaters with a simple touch. Velcro-covered outfits and magnetic uniforms with magnetic whips would make for some awesome multiplayer blocks and assists.

8. Hulk hands.
In addition to the Star Pass, there can be the Hulk Hands Pass. Anybody wearing the Hulk Hands has the ability to punch other skaters in the face. Beheading a 90s star who ran in slow motion, produced music that was only popular in Europe, and drove a car that was smarter than all of us: optional.

9. Shock collars.
Penalty trackers have a control with all the skaters' numbers. Used like the net gun, but less disruptive to the rest of the pack, unless the girl starts convulsing. Then they should just pretend she's another hurdle.

10. Slip 'n' Slide.
Because of that reptile-infested moat, there will need to be a bridge between the track and the team benches and penalty boxes. What better, faster way to get to the benches than to put a slip 'n' slide on the bridge? It'd significantly cut down on the time between when you get whistled off for a penalty and when you sit down, and it'd give you a quicker getaway for when the crocodiles get on the bridge after they've finished off the outside pack refs.

I am pretty sure I could keep going like this forever, and bring in trebuchets, yard gnomes, Vaseline, Legos, and miniature cows, but I'd rather hear from you: what would YOU like to add to roller derby in the future?

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

The 2009 Rollercon vs DefCon Fashion Showdown

I sat down at my computer to do a writeup on Rollercon 2009 but I realized that in order to be able to accurately convey the experience to you, I needed to get myself in the proper Rollercon spirit. 3 beers, 2 Jack and Cokes and an unknown amount of tequila later, I woke up with a mouthful of shag carpet, wondering whose house I was in and hung over enough to bring you...

The 2009 Rollercon vs. DefCon Fashion Showdown!

That's right, for those of you who didn't know it, Las Vegas simultaneously housed conventions for the worlds toughest girls and the world's nerdiest guys. Rollercon of course is rollerderby players from around the world assembling to learn how to increase their muscle tone and how to kick each others asses more efficiently. DefCon is hackers from all over the world assembling to learn how to install FreeBSD on an iPod and how to get their moms to increase their allowance. So trying to compare the 2 sides on an activity level is like having a 100 meter dash between a cheetah and kitchen sponge.

On your mark, get set... Wow, that's way creepier than it looked inside my head.

So to even the playing field, we will compare the two conventions on attire, pitting spandex versus polyester to see who will take the 2009 Vegas Convention Fashion Crown!

T-Shirt Category

DefCon opens with a basic black number, very slimming and always in style. The ironic humor of the text is lost on non-nerds which costs a small deduction but they earn it back by the accidental truth of the last two words. No cheetos stains so he's obviously been wearing it for less than 15 seconds. Excellent use of movie-starlet sunglasses to distract from the receding hairline.

Rollercon counters with a bold statement in red.
The tank allows maximum tattoo visibility and is nicely complemented by matching red fishnets. The text resounds within the rollerderby community and is easily understood outside it.

Rollercon 1, DefCon 0

Costumed Group Category
Defcon comes back strong with a presentation based on characters from Team Fortress 2.Team Fortress 2, for those of you who don't know, is a video game. Video games, for those of you who don't know, are what nerds play on their computers while they're busy not getting laid. The attention to detail is impressive but the Defcon authenticity is compromised by the fact that an actual girl seems to have wandered into the picture.

Rollercon parries with their interpretation of police officers.
Police officers, for those of you who don't know, are those people who haul misbehaving rollergirls to the drunk tank when the afterparty gets out of hand. Colors match well as do the sunglasses, less overall detail but they gain celebrity points since Dewey Cox seems to have wandered into the picture.

In a close decision,
Rollercon 1, Defcon 1

Competition Category

Defcon kicks up the action a notch with... uh...
I don't know why these vinyl testicles are battling each other but I do know that I don't want to see the trophy they present to the winner. The only good thing happening here is that their headgear colors match their thongs.

Rollercon's entry is tailored for maximum freedom of movement in combat.
Strong dark primary colors with bright contrasting secondary colors plus the complete absence of vinyl scrotum makes this an easy call.

Rollercon 2, Defcon 1

Awesomeness Category
Defcon closes out with... Another girl? Really? Are you sure she was from Defcon?
Oh yeah, look at that. Who knew? Nice use of neon colors to add sizzle, plus all that hacking ingenuity pays off in the construction of a fashionable skirt using only duct tape and an old Cindy Lauper album cover.

The final entry from Rollercon is a little number they like to call, "Daaaaaaaamn!"
This, my friends, is the stuff that epic rink rash is made of. The outfit is the most earth-friendly item in the showdown, requiring practically no resources to make. It is unforgiving to those with embarrassing tattoos but especially friendly to those who play Rollerderby in a sauna or outdoors in the middle of a bunch of casinos in the frigging desert.

I call this one a tie, meaning

Rollercon is your 2009 Vegas Convention Fashion Champion!

Please use the comments section to post links to any pictures that you feel could have tipped the scales toward Defcon or would have made it a blowout for Rollercon.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Skate Surface Battle Royale

Roller derby is all about options. You can choose your skates, your outfit, your name, your number, and even the floor you skate on.

4 common skating surfaces are wood, concrete, skate court, and masonite. All have their advantages and disadvantages.

Wood comes from trees. Isn't that nice? Trees that are cut into boards and put into nice, neat rows and coated in this material that causes children to fall down for no reason and skate the complete wrong direction straight at you at skating rinks. Different colored lights and a disco ball or two light the way. Wood is super grippy and pretty loud and if it's not taken care of makes you feel like you're skating in the bowels of a boat out at sea because of all the waves and weird discoloration that you know came from some kid peeing on it. Or beer. Whatever. I like to pretend I'm a pirate pretty much every chance I get, so this is a fun time for me. Wood is good, but usually can only be found IN skating rinks, and skating there isn't so great. There's not a lot of room for fans to sit or for the smell of your farts and/or swampy pads to dissipate.

Concrete. Yikes, concrete. It can be good when it's clean, but brutal when it's dirty. Some leagues skate on polished, some on outdoor hockey rinks, and every concrete floor is different. Some are so polished that they require traction to be mopped on to keep you from sliding into the oblivion that is the naughty bits of some poor lady in the suicide seating. Some are so bumpy you need outdoor wheels to survive. Polished concrete is fun because you slide forrrrrrrrrrrreverrrrrrrrr and it allows you to play Derby Bowling, which is a game I just made up. One thing concrete is not is forgiving. If you fall, you will feel it, much like the fatty part of my thumb felt it last night as I slapped down with all my weigh on it. Awesome.

Skate court is pretty cool stuff. It's grippy and requires no maintenance that I've heard of, and you don't slide on it when you fall. The bad side is you have to put it together like puzzle pieces during bout setup because you probably won't be able to just leave it down all the time. But no matter, the surface feels so good it makes up for the time it takes to put it together. Also, it comes in pretty colors so you can pretend you're running around your kindergarten classroom. Paste and construction paper optional.

But my absolute favorite skating surface is masonite. Oh man, I have a tiny girl boner just thinking about it. It's grippy AND slick at the same time. Figure that one out. Basically you can skate on it like a dream in whatever wheels you want, but then if you fall you sliiiiide just like on concrete. It's fantastic. The downside is you have to actually tape it together so it won't just slide apart... which it will do anyway, especially during a doubleheader. And it's heavy as... a very heavy thing that I can't think of since I've not actually tried to pick up a piece of masonite. No matter, just know that storage and transport is an issue with this one.

I'm sure there are probably other types of skateable floors out there that I haven't heard about. Do let me and our loyal readers know what these are in the comments section! I'm all for broadening our horizons via brief messages on teh intarweb.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Got Rollercon pix?

Send your best and craziest Rollercon pictures to us at and we will feature them in a writeup next Monday! The more embarassingly awesome, the better and please include skater names so we know who to high-five at Rollercon 2010.