I had the delightful pleasure of hanging out with the legend herself Roxy Rockett at Derby Revolution a few weeks ago.
So I decided to interview her so you can get to know her a bit better too.
When I first started playing roller derby your blog was a massive inspiration to me, and was one of very few roller derby blogs around. What inspired you to start blogging, and to give away your knowledge to the wider community rather than keep it all for your own league?
My then boyfriend (now husband) convinced me to start blogging, as he was a blogger himself in real life. He really wanted me to write a book and thought that if I did small posts they would eventually turn into chapters of the book.
I have always been pretty open about skating and training with other leagues because I sincerely feel that the stronger the competition is the harder I’ll push to stay on top. I used to do a lot of training [of other leagues] but got really exhausted always being away from home and felt the things I was coaching were starting to become so routine that the boredom was obvious to the skaters I was leading.
I don’t tell everything I know to non CRGers, as my loyalty will always reside with them first and foremost, but I do like to share things that have been eye opening to me personally on the track and hope it helps someone out there in some way.
A top US player once told me that you were a massive inspiration to her when she started playing, and that you invented techniques such as utilising illegal target zones when passing opposing blockers, which subsequently became standard practice. Have you always been an innovator, and how do you come up with entirely new ways to play the game?
Hahahahaa.. She craycray! In the beginning of derby, there was only Texas.. literally. They had this DVD of their 2003 (?) season that I borrowed from our league founder, Celia Fate, and I watched it over and over and over and over again. Then along comes Tucson, Minnesota, AZRD, Mad Rollin’ Dolls, Rat City and Gotham and I tried to keep in touch with what was going on by being on the Rollergirls yahoo group started by Ivanna S Pankin. I would ask questions about scores and I would read everything folks had to say.
I went to the first Rollercon and did a lot of networking (♥ LADD ladies!!) and I was able to talk to some of the other trainers and coaches for the first time. Granted, I was this little southern girl from “Where again? South Carolina?.. Ohh, North Carolina” so I wasn’t taken very seriously but that didn’t matter cause I still put myself in conversations and got what I wanted out of them.
Fast forward to today, I watch as much footage as humanly possible, I find something that interests me, and I think on it for a long time and discuss it with CRGs amazing All Star leadership team. As far as coming up with new ways of playing the game, it is all reacting and adapting.
I think I unconsciously store some really important bullet points I observe or read in my mind and when I need to do something differently to get out of or dominate more on the track, my body goes into auto pilot mode and something new comes from it. I really don’t know at the time that I did anything different, it’s only when I watch the footage that I am like, “WHAT?!?! WTF was I doing there?”
There is still this one fall that I did in 2005 that looks really fucking cool but I can’t, for the life of me, recreate it. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent many, many public skating sessions and league practices working on certain skills, so it’s not all on a whim. But as far as discovering new things, I don’t plan them, they just happen.
Roller derby has changed and evolved a lot since you first started playing. What skills were useful in the old days that are not relevant any more, and what new skills are now important which weren’t used before?
Ooohh… skating really fast and hitting really hard seems to be fading out in derby.. just kidding. I would have to say the only real thing that isn’t useful anymore/we don’t train for are shoulder checks. In Belgium I had flashbacks with all the shoulder hits those ladies were doing. I said, “Unless you want to hire movers for the rest of your life, stop using your shoulders!” The humor over there is evolving… The majority of the things our league trains for have evolved somehow but shoulders checks have been eliminated from the training program completely.
Way back when, I was very much against toe stops. I did everything without using toe stops and I think that many skaters are just starting to get more open to the idea. I think adding new ways of doing the same thing makes a skater more easily adaptable to any given situation, since they are more in control of their bodies and speed.
So with that said, I have been learning how to use my toe stops. Hahahahaaa.. I still trip myself up some times and fall when I am trying to do a non toe stop sprint. When that happens I simply go into a tourette-like swearing fit and smack the ground in frustration, and then get up and sprint to the back of the pack.
Something that has helped me lately is mental training and I think a lot of leagues/skaters are beginning to accept and realize that being a jock can only get you so far in derby. And on the other side of the coin, you can’t win games on intelligence alone.. oh wait, loopholes.. not skating.. well, maybe you can. But a lot of skaters are doing so much off skates training and that really helps them on the track. So I guess having the ability to try anything and everything is the new wave of derby!
How has your role within Carolina Rollergirls changed over the years?
Man.. let’s see.. I started in 2004 as the Events coordinator, which was a BOD [Board of Directors] position. So I was 1 of 5/6 (?) ladies that served on the very first BOD of our league. Man-o-chevitz… HOURS and HOURS and HOURS and HOURS of time spent doing nothing but derby ( I was single back then). So I helped mould our league in that perspective, behind the scenes doing the shit work that wasn’t as fun as skating but still just as, if not at times more, important to our sustainability.. not just for our league but for our sport in general.
I went on to be training director, and implemented skills assessments and policies that (ideally) made skaters feel/understand that this is a sport, not a fashion show (back then, it was a hard concept to sell!) by forcing them to practice and learn basic skating skills. We had a Ref/Coach back then, Tom, who really helped form our basic skating techniques and expectations, and a speed skating coach, Sam, who ran our speed practices and really helped fine tune our form and push us out of our comfort zone. But as far as my role at that time, I was the enforcer and I got a lot of shit for expecting more from the girls on the league. Still do at times.
After about a year and a half, I pulled myself out of that position and started working on my skating, instead of training the other skaters. I was the All Star captain for a long time and got shit for not putting certain skaters on rosters because of attitude or lack of practice. They had the skills definitely, but not the right outlook and I thought by “rewarding” skaters that didn’t do what was asked of them, it would lead to having a league that didn’t do shit and all rosters would end up being created out of entitlement rather than hard work. So yeah, that didn’t go over well with some skaters.
After that I moved to Philly for 8 long months and played with them at the first ever regionals. It was a great experience but I missed North Carolina and my family something awful. So I came back here and skated with CRG in 2008 and we made it to Nationals in Portland! That was awesome.
Then I “was great with child” (tm JMF) and just observed, help coach the B team, did NSO jobs and helped out with 2009 regional planning/execution, since we were hosting. When I came back from leave I chose to ref for awhile, which was really fun. I actually started ref’n in Philly after suffering a knee injury (bruised bone and PCL sprain) in 2007 and picked it back up in 2010. I felt I was a good ref because I knew what impacts felt like on the track. I know something may not look impactful to a ref but as a skater, it is highly impactful. I also started ref’n with Judge Knots so I may have been trained to be a little more anal than most refs.
So at the end of 2010 I decided to start skating again and I coached and captained the B team. Back then, the B team were kinda on their own as far as training went. They were told the drills but were left on their own to train. I had been to a few really awesome bootcamps (Boston and Texas) and had a some visions on training that I wanted to try out, and who better to do that to but the B team! I think it went well.. I had a great co-captain that was highly supportive, which makes life a lot easier!
In 2011 I was voted in as the training director again and I had a new vision and plan of action of where I felt our league needed the most work, the mental department. So we started doing some mental training talks and exercises that really helped our physical game. Dust Devil 2011 was, by far, the most amazing team experience of my life. We played the first ever Dust Devil in 2006 and going back to that tournament with this new found strength, it was really amazing to take 1st place, not only winning all the games but truly turning over a new leaf in our league.
Presently, I am considered the training director but most/all of the training comes from the AS [All Star] skater coaches (Jesse King and Thrashley) and I delegate the majority of my TD [training director] duties to a handful of amazing people that are reliable and trustworthy. I still skate too.
What are your greatest achievements within roller derby in the past, and what are your goals for the future?
My most treasured achievement was in 2010 when my league awarded me with the Leader of the Pack award. Basically a leadership award, which means the world to me. I enjoy being a leader and did a lot of research and reading to better understand how to be the most effective and motivating leader possible.
The key achievement in being a good leader, for me at least, was realizing that you can not force change onto people but rather change how you think and feel and deal with any given situation and lead by example. I do not expect from others what I can’t do myself. That is still one of the hardest things for me, I have to constantly remind myself of that when I begin to feel frustration and anger.
Another achievement that is pretty cool is that I went through team USA try outs with only 1 ACL! That’s pretty amazing IMO.
Another thing that is cool is in 2006 CRG played Texas and beat them.. the first team ever. Granted, it was their home team but so the fuck what. We won, haters. Another thing I like a lot is this little side fun pick up team (with whom I have never been able to skate with) the FSOPs, the Flying Sparkling Object Posse. They are just a bunch of beautiful, talented, nice women.
What are my goals for in the future? Man… I think having another baby is highly possible; I foresee some new skate boots making an appearance some time in the near future if/after winning the lottery; my goal is to make a chocolate chipotle porter by Christmas time; but my most serious goals are to play my best at regionals and be involved with derby in some form for a really long time.
What things have you done in life that you wouldn’t have done if you had never played roller derby?
Traveled. Seriously, the places that I have been while being involved in derby have been amazing! I mean, just recently Belgium, where I met you! Before that Minnesota, Vegas, Boston, Chicago, Portland (Maine and OR), Philly, New York, Madison, Austin, Baltimore, Savannah, Atlanta, New Orleans, Tuscon… etc.
I have met some of the most amazing humans known to mankind. I have met some of the most shitty fuckin’ assholes known to mankind. Derby, especially in the beginning, empowered me to be and do anything I set my mind to.
Derby has also made me more at peace with my body. I have always had big legs and a big ass from skating and so in middle school, when girls were skinny and big legs and asses were frowned upon, I had a hard time with self confidence. Derby has made me LOVE my big ass and thighs because they are not fat, they are strong and amazing!
Stefanie Mainey and I have had a friendly but intensely competitive relationship on the track, and training week in week out against another really strong player has pushed me to develop my skills and become a better player. Is there anyone that has been a catalyst for you to push to become a better player? Was it a competitive thing, or an exploring and motivating together thing?
Most definitely! I have had many skaters like that in my life.. even when I was a child speed skating against grown men. I think my very first one was Celia Fate back in 2004. Then it was Teflon for many years after that and currently it is DVS. D is such a humble and amazing skater that beating her or losing to her feels the same. If I am skating against her during speed relay races, I push harder than I would have if just sprinting 2 laps. If I am blocking against her, I always try to best her in whatever form I can, because to me, she is the smartest out there.
Granted, Mordant is pretty fuckin’ miserable to be against, but D is an accomplishment for me because she knows how I skate and I think she challenges me on my weaknesses all the time, which make me a better skater. Our relationship on the track is competitive, explorative and motivating! I don’t think she knows it though.
Injury prevented you from competing at 2011 regionals, since returning how have you overcome mental and physical barriers to returning to top form?
Blerg! Yeah, that was fuckin’ lame. Well, I never once dwelled on the fact that I got injured. I knew I would heal and return, it just took time and a lot of hard work. When I first was able to put on skates and I couldn’t physically do a crossover.. but I never allowed myself to feel defeated. I literally created a small training program for myself and I, for the most part, didn’t push myself before I was ready.
Physically returning was the easiest part. It is still a constant mental battle for me. I am a very mental person (in all aspects of the word) so I can either chose to be mental or not, it’s really that easy but some days it is really hard to climb that mental wall and relax.
I am not at top form yet and I hopefully will never reach my full potential because then I’ll stop trying and never get better. There is always something new to learn, no matter what skill level you are at so in a sense, I treat my training like I am always coming back from an injury…. this shit is never easy.