- Rules on
by LeBron Shames
Jonathan Rockey has been knee-deep in roller derby since before most men knew what a pace line was. As a member of the New York Shock Exchange, the man known as Jonathan R. has been a huge advocate not only for the men’s game, but for roller derby in general. Just ahead of WFTDA Champs and Halloween, we caught up with the men’s World Cup MVP.
In the documentary “This is How We Roll” you talked about being skeptical of roller derby long ago when you first saw it. What was it that reeled you in back in the early days? A for-profit traveling sports entertainment roller skating circus is a fine spectacle to enjoy. That was my perception of roller derby until I was asked to join Gotham Girls Roller Derby and told about the modern phenomenon as a grassroots movement of local leagues to develop a competitive sport. Thrilled to roll with this club, I figuratively said: “it would be my pleasure to share my roller skating love with y’all.”
As a team manager and bench coach within Gotham you’ve coached top players like Suzy Hotrod and Ana Bollocks. Talk about the inspiration these players gave you in building men’s roller derby from ground zero. The one and only Suzy Hotrod is a magical combination of style, class, and athleticism. She busted her butt behind the scenes D.I.Y.-style to help build this sport so you better go buy her t-shirt if you like roller derby.
The modest majesty, Ana Bollocks, constructs the blocking backbone of a team with sincerity and smarts. She selflessly gives it her all on and off the track. I am very thankful for their support and volunteer efforts in helping to bring the New York Shock Exchange Roller Derby league to life.
Rockey with NYSE coach Celtic Thunder (courtesy of Sean Hale)
Besides Gotham, who do you think will make a splash this weekend at Champs? Got any favorites? Any darkhorses for us to watch? On this spooky Halloween weekend of world class roller skating, I’ve got my eye on the flying purple people eaters of Rose City, the Zodiac Killers of Bay Area , the spring-heeled monsters of London, the viscous devils of Victoria, and, of course, all of my lovely inmates from the Gotham asylum.
by LeBron Shames
Talk about setting derby on fire in one season! Our friend Josie Simonis, also known as Doc Josie, heads to Nashville this week with her team the Windy City All-Stars, to play in the annual WFTDA Championship tournament. We caught up with her before she hits the road to hear more about her very, very busy roller derby year.
This year you won a League Championship, played at USARS nationals, made Team Illinois, and now you’re off to Champs with the Windy City Rollers. Enlighten us on your fantastic season. This has definitely been a whirlwind season for me. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t really know what 2014 was going to have in store, and in many ways I still feel like I’m dreaming. Don’t pinch me!!
I don’t know if I can necessarily attribute my growth to anything personal other than an inability to say “no” (hence being on four teams…) and a stubborn persistence to get good at things I pick up (I don’t really half-ass stuff). Rather, my ability to grow as a skater this year is the result of having fantastic opportunities and ridiculously good coaches and teammates around me. Whether it’s WCR, the Red Hots, or Team Illinois, I’ve been really lucky to be a part of some amazing teams that have helped me grow immensely as a skater and a teammate this season, and I hope to continue building on that in the future (wherever it takes me).
You’re from Chicagoland but got your start in roller derby up in Ithaca, NY. What was it like to start with a smaller league that dive head first into so much derby here? I really cherish the time I spent with ILWR (the Ithaca League of Women Rollers…which I still contest is the best league name in derby). I found derby at a time in my life when I really needed to get back into competitive sports (but thought it was impossible), and they took me on, despite my complete inability to roller skate. I spent a little over 6 months working my way through ILWR’s fantastic training program, just in time for me to finish grad school and move away. I am still really bummed that I never got to bout with ILWR, but I am eternally grateful for everything they taught me and the home that they gave me. I hope I’m doing them proud and paying it forward (as I was instructed to do by Ovarian Cyster, one of the A-team skaters for ILWR).
When I was looking for jobs after grad school, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with derby yet, but I thought it might be an important thing for me personally, so I wanted to have skating opportunities when I moved. I was well aware of WCR’s presence in WFTDA and level of gameplay, but I really didn’t understand the amount of derby (and skating in general, really) that would be available to me when I moved to Chicago. It was definitely a bit of a culture shock to be one of over 100 skaters in WCR (and to start over again at the bottom rung), but everyone has been really welcoming and I definitely felt at home from the start. It’s been pretty amazing to immerse myself in the Chicago derbyverse and every day I think of how great the decision to move to Chicago really was for me.
Doc Josie, dressed for success.
You’re fairly new to derby, but people see you as a leader. Any plans for Doc Josie to add coaching to the rap sheet? Oh whoa, people think of me as a leader? That’s pretty awesome. I don’t take that lightly. I would definitely love to get into coaching sometime in the future. Being an athlete for most of my younger life, I had always wanted to give back and coach sports when I got older. However, I stepped away from competitive sports at the end of high school because I wasn’t sure that I could reconcile being openly queer with being an athlete, and the same goes for being a coach. Especially when I was identifying as a guy, the thought of trying to navigate being an openly queer coach was incredibly frightening, to say the least.
And in the same way that derby has been great for me being able to be openly queer while being an athlete (for the first time ever), it has now re-opened the idea of coaching for me. I did temporarily step into a coaching role with the Red Hots last year when I was hurt, and it was incredibly rewarding and engaging, but also very challenging. I enjoy competing much more than coaching and it sucked to be on the sidelines when I wanted to be skating. So yes, I would love to get into coaching. Right now, though, I am primarily focusing on improving myself and my understanding of derby and skating.
Who is one player, teammate or coach that you’ve learned from in improving your own game? To be honest, I try to learn from everyone around me. As a scientist by trade, I’m kind of a professional learner and I enjoy picking up new things from folks and trying them out. Especially with being new to skating and derby, I’m all ears and am constantly trying to figure out what will work best for me.
Chicago, IL — The Chicago Bruise Brothers have spent much of 2014 on the road, battling rival MRDA teams from Ohio, North Dakota, Wisconsin and downstate Illinois, while also making the club’s first-ever tournament appearance at Midwest Brew Haha, in Milwaukee.
Next Saturday, September 13, The Bros continue their home season with a bout against Kalamazoo Men’s Roller Derby, from Kalamazoo, Michigan. The double header kicks off at Lombard Roller Rink in Lombard, Ill. with The Chicago Outfit’s Shakedown taking on the Illiana Derby Dames at 6pm, before the men
Line up at 7:30 PM.
Kalamazoo Men’s Roller Derby was founded in February 2013, and play their first road game of Fall 2014 before facing the Cincinnati Battering Rams on September 27.
The Chicago Bruise Brothers kicked off the 2014 home season by hosting Illinois rivals, the Capital City Hooligans. During a hotly contested tussle on April 23, the Bruise Brothers fought off the Hooligans to win 117-108. With the home victory against Capital City, the Chicago Bruise Brothers won the Illinois Cup, and still hold the honor currently. The Bruise Brothers joined Men’s Roller Derby Association as a full-status member at the very end of 2013.
In addition to sanctioned MRDA bouts, The Bros held their first ever coed Summer Scrimmage Series. Men and women from all over the Midwest were invited to play a full afternoon of derby, according to WFTDA/MRDA rules. The Bruise Brothers typically maintain an active scrimmage schedule with other local leagues such as The Outfit and The Bros’ practice partner, the Chicago Red Hots.
This spring, The Bros also got a visit from the Pennsylvania All-Stars, a travel team made up of top WFTDA players such as V-Diva (Philly Roller Girls and Team USA) and Hurricane Heather (Steel City).
To start 2014, the Chicago Bruise Brothers elected two new captains, longtime members Princess A. Pauling and Steampunk Willie. Members of the coaching staff include Val Capone and Abita! Down, who play for both the Windy City Rollers and the Chicago Red Hots; and Lethal Dose, a starting member of The Chicago Outfit’s Syndicate travel team.
While the Chicago’s men’s league has grown and added new members in 2014, there have been some growing pains and player injuries that have challenged staff to make adjustments. But as captain Princess points out, The Bros remain focused on smart moves.
“We’ve been working harder on mental progress than physical progress lately. Games are won and lost due to good decision making and good teamwork out on the track,” he said. Princess also added that advancing the team’s game together remains the Chicago Bruise Brothers’ biggest aim.
“We’re training to be fluid, of one mind, solid together. No one acts alone, our opponent never gets (just) one Brother.”
The Chicago Bruise Brothers practice every Wednesday and Sunday at the Lombard Roller Rink at 201 W 22nd Street in Lombard. If you would like to drop in for a skate or participate in one of our open practices, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By LeBron Shames
“Between Jams” is a series in which the Chicago Bruise Brothers feature and interview notable roller derby players from around the world. Today we caught up with a local favorite, Suzie Crotchrot.
So, you went to Austin and played roller derby there. Tell us about that. Austin is to roller derby as Las Vegas is to gambling. The city is abundant with any and all skating opportunities for every type of derby enthusiast. It’s all there; flat track, banked track, competitive women/men/junior leagues, rec leagues and pick-up scrimmages.
I knew nothing about Austin when deciding to move there, so I reached out to a league friend, Kat Von Speed, and met Bloody Mary on my second day in Austin at a banked track boot camp and she invited me to come to a TXRG practice that week. I was drafted to the Hell Marys and by the end of my first week in Texas I had some new friends and a new job.
I often comment on how tight the roller derby community is, but I never realized HOW tight it was until I moved. I received a lot of positive feedback and support from some talented and seasoned skaters. From training to fundraising, TXRG is on top of their game.
You’re a skilled jammer but hit hard as a blocker, especially for your size. Do you prefer one side of the game to the other? Haha! So you noticed. I have predominantly been a blocker for my entire derby career and only within the past 2 seasons have been trying on the jammer cap. I really enjoy and love every moment of brutally blocking the guts out of jammers, but there’s something really humbling and beautiful about jamming.
After living in Austin and losing so much weight from bike riding (20+ miles per day just to get to and from work), my pushes weren’t packing much punch, and my opposition was often twice my size, so I began retraining myself. I started to pay attention to the physics and angles of roller derby. I also started to watch hockey more to study the skater’s fluidity and how they hit each other. It’s really just about timing and hitting them in a weak spot.
Crotch blazing in the jammer cap (photo by Steve Jurkovic Photography)
Name one player from another team you’d wish you could play derby with. Naming just one player is ridiculous but I’ll go ahead and pick my yellow gypsy brethren Bane-Ana On Skates of the St. Louis GateKeepers. I’ve known Bane since I started skating and he has repped The Outfit just as hard as we do, if not harder! Now that he lives closer, I’m SURE he could make it happen sometime.
If Suzie Crotchrot was to join a band, what group would you join? Would you sing, bang the drums, play bass, or what? Nah. I would just be the roadie for Aphex Twin. For reasons that are way too obvious.
By LeBron Shames
In “Between Jams” the Chicago Bruise Brothers interview top players in roller derby from around the United States and the World.
Bloody Elle just moved to the nation’s capital after spending most of the last decade in Chicago, in which she skated both with The Chicago Outfit and the Windy City Rollers. Now that Elle is settled in with the DC Rollergirls, we caught up with her to get the scoop.
What’s it like to start (again) with a new league and what do you hope to gain from skating with new friends? Starting with a new league is always challenging because you are integrating into an already established environment where people have specific ways of playing derby. This is my fourth league now that I have skated with, so you think I would be a seasoned pro at this, but despite being outgoing, I am unfortunately socially awkward so it makes things interesting! Thankfully, my new league mates have been really welcoming and are helping me to get up to speed on what they’re doing this season. It helps that I keep an open mind and open ears and am willing to try new things. An old dog can ALWAYS learn new tricks if you let yourself.
You jam and block but spent most of the last two seasons at Windy City jamming. Which do you prefer? Both have their pros and cons. As a jammer, I have to think less and just go. However, everyone is after you as a jammer, so you have to be mentally prepared. As a blocker, the challenge is having to think five steps ahead of your opponent and anticipate their movements while being keenly aware of what your teammates are doing. It is constant evaluation and reevaluation of the situation inside and outside of the pack. I love both roles, as they both pose their own unique challenges.
We hear you’re also a huge hockey fan. Does following other sports provide inspiration, or is it more of a fun escape? The mental toughness of hockey players inspires me, especially that ability to get hit in the ways they do and come back so quickly. Also, the ability of a goalie to recover mentally from a goal against them is fantastic. I also admire the crazy footwork of the players. I watch the ways in which they move and think about how the physics of their movements could translate to wheels.
You’re also a music aficionado. If you could be in any band in music history who would it be and why? I am not much of a musician myself, unless you want a terrible clarinet player in your band or the world’s worst bassist. However, I would have loved to have the experience of being in the Velvet Underground. They kind of define coolness to me. Plus hanging out with Warhol? Count me in, please.
What band or song makes you play air guitar when no one else is watching? Hah. I really don’t play air guitar, but I sing all the words along to songs if i am really into it and sometimes dance. I could probably sing all the words along to pretty much every Replacements or Exploding Hearts song in existence.
By LeBron Shames
In “Between Jams” the Chicago Bruise Brothers interview top players in roller derby from around the United States and the World.This week we caught up with #12 DeBella DeBall, a blocker with the Texas Rollergirls.
After starting five years ago in TXRG’s well-known rec league, DeBella was drafted before working her way up the ranks to become a member of the Texecutioners, TXRG’s top ranked A-team. In November 2013 DeBella played in the WFTDA championship final against Gotham.
Tell us how you got involved playing roller derby in the first place and how the ride has been.
My derby career started because my father insisted; he was coaching a home team for the Queen City Roller Girls, out of Rainbow Rink. My dad thought it would be a perfect fit for me based on my background in speed and artistic skating. He felt the progression to roller derby would be a natural one.
Derby has been an amazing ride for me. My husband is active duty military and over the last few years has spent some time away from home. Derby naturally filled my time and allowed me to meet some strong, confident and smart women. During this current season, I have been blessed to skate with Team Texas and I will be coaching Team South Africa in the Roller Derby World Cup. They are a very talented group of skaters that are hungry to learn more derby; I can’t wait to see how much they soak in during their time state side.
As a Texecutioner you were part of only of two teams that came within 50 points of Gotham in recent years. How has derby gotten more competitive and how has that helped your own game?
The Texecutioners are the hardest working women I know; they are my friends, my teammates and challenge me every day to be the best skater I can be. Our drive and ability to adapt to the game allows us to adjust and revamp our focus. We have some incredibly smart women who are creating the curve in modern-day derby: Sarah Hipel, Barbara Ambush, Polly Gone, Smarty Pants, and Fifi Nomenon . Last year was one of the most exciting for me in derby: our league leased a practice space that allowed for us to practice more as a team.
As far as helping my game, my teammates challenge me to work on basic skills and executing them quickly and effectively. I want to be agile so I can be devastating with my footwork AND size. My free time is spent watching WFTDA.tv and YouTube, breaking down my own skills and those of my opponents. My goal is to find a new skater each time I watch and breakdown the skill(s) they have that I’d like to add to my tool box.
You also just made Team Texas. What do you plan to get out of playing derby for your home state?
Making Team Texas for State Wars is really exciting. I get to learn from TJ Brinkley and many other skaters. For the first time I get to have Death By Chocolate (DBC) and Freight Train (All-Starts from Houston Roller Derby) on my team and not having to play against them. The State of Texas is a HUGE state full of talented skaters; I can’t wait to see how we come together to form a team. Assassination City, Dallas Derby Devils, North Texas, West Texas, San Antonio, Houston, Cowboy Capital, South Texas and Texas Rollergirls were some of the Leagues represented during our tryouts. It was a joy to see how we all came together during the scrimmage.
The Texecutioners have a reputation as a well-rounded team of players who both jam and block. What does Texas do differently to train great players?
During each practice, we practice both positions so those of us who typically jam will block, and vice versa. Each skater brings a different skill to the practice; and we use that to challenge each other. Many of us skate on more then one team, playing different positions on each. Some of us also compete in speed skating: Sonny Felter of Texas Speed is an amazing inspiration for myself and many members of our team.
We cross-train together and on our own. The Texecutioners are a family, our league supports us which makes each step for growth that much more important.
You can find out more about the Texas Rollergirls here.
Kitty Shark (center) hits Jersey boy Rollomite (pic: David A Carter Photography)
By LeBron Shames
In “Between Jams” the Chicago Bruise Brothers have taken a few moments to sit down and interview top players in roller derby from around the United States and the World. To kick things off, we talked with Kitty Shark of the Pennsylvania All-Stars (who also plays as Evol Kitty for the Philly Roller Girls’ team called the Block Party) about her time in derby and experience with different squads.
How did you get involved in roller derby in the first place? And how did you get mixed up with those Philly Roller Girls?
I have been playing since March of 2006. I went to a benefit skate for Saint Jude’s at a local skating rink and saw a bunch of girls there with fishnets and knee socks. I was curious so I asked what they were doing there and they said “roller derby”. That was all it took for me. I joined the next practice they had and I haven’t looked back since.
I transferred to Philly in October of 2013 from the Lehigh Valley Roller Girls. Beforehand, logistics for transferring to PRG never seemed to work out. However, an opportunity presented itself at the end of last season that naturally made the cards fall into place. It is a 2-hour plus commute for me but I am able to share it with my derby wife who also plays for PRG.
The Bruise Brothers won the bout 117 to 108 and earned the right to hold the Illnois Cup, but the Hooligans will be back for more, they guarantee it.
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