Flat Track Fever hits Calgary Friday May 10th until Sunday May 12th. Flat Track Fever is Alberta’s largest flat track roller derby tournament. Oil City Roller Derby (OCRD) is sending a mixed gender team down south to compete in the tournament. It is a mix of their two mixed gender teams, the Space Oddities and the Near Death Stars, so they are calling the team the OCRD Near Death Oddities. Jillian Gordon, aka “London Brawling”, was kind enough to also bring Roxann, aka “Roxy BelleBoa”, into our ongoing conversation teaching us about Roller Derby.
The conversation started with a couple tag team questions in regards to the Flat Track Fever OCRD schedule:
- The FMRD Crude assassins, are they the same team that you folks played earlier this season? If so, who won that match. Do you either of you recall any of the highlights that you would like to share?
Roxy: We did play the FMRD Crude assassins on March 9, 2018 with the OCRD Near Death Stars winning 214 to 157. In that game we actually had a lot of new skaters playing their first game, so we went into this game with a lot of nervous and scared skaters. It was really exciting for them and us. We always say that we play as a team and if we win or lose we do it as a team and we always have fun.
Jillian: We won that game but I can’t remember any specific highlights as everything is a bit of a whirlwind when you’re playing! I will say that Fort McMurray isone of our favourite teams to play as a league. We get along really well. They’re a great group of skaters and we tend to be fairly evenly matched.
- What is known about the CCRD Natural Born Thrillers and SRDL Killa Bees?
Roxy: The CCRD Natural Born Thrillers and the SRDL Killa Bees have always been a good teams. Our ladies house teams as well as our ladies travel team have played them in the past. Unfortunately it has been a long time since we have played them so it’s going to be a good few games especially since we have not played their co-gender teams yet.
Jillian: I expect our game against the Natural Born Thrillers to be a tough one. A number of the players on this team skate with the Glenmore Reservoir Dogs (Calgary’s men’s team) and there could be some Team Canada skaters on the roster as well (I can’t confirm for sure, as I haven’t seen any rosters released). Regardless, they’re a strong group of skaters and we’ll have our work cut out for us. The Killa Bees also have a strong team. Malkyrie and Terror-dactyl are on the roster. Both skated with Team Saskatchewan at the Battle of the All Stars tournament earlier this year. Our travel team played the Killa Bees last summer. It was a really close game, but we lost in the final
- In other sports you always hear coaches saying they watch game film on the other team, how does a Roller Derbier prepare for their next game?
Roxy: We have whats called “Watch Nights” where we all get together for a “team bonding” night at someone’s place and watch opponent games as well as our own so we get a feel of what the other team is capable of doing, but you never know until you are all lined up against them and ready to play. In this sport, player development can happen so fast. One day a skater is scared of hitting an opponent and the next they are clearing an entire line of apposing blockers.
Jillian: In terms of preparation, the biggest thing is working together as a team. While we practice as a league all the time, leading up to big events like this we put aside specific practices for the team to work together and run through plays. As skaters, we’re always encouraged to watch as much derby as we can. We can’t always watch the other team’s games, because not every team is recording games, but there is enough derby on YouTube for skaters to watch and take in some strategy. Derby is a sport that evolves really quickly (a lot has changed strategy-wise
since I started playing 4 years ago), so seeing what some of the really high level teams are doing gives us an idea of what type of strategies are working.
NOW LET’S LEARN MORE ABOUT ROXY
- How long have you been playing the Derbs?
I have been playing roller derby now 7 years. Six of them are with Oil City Roller Derby League and my fist year was with the Lakeland Lady Killer’s of Cold Lake.
- Are you primarily a blocker or a jammer or a healthy mix of both?
My position in this sport is all. I am a jammer when my teams needs a “bull in the China shop”. I play pivot so my jammer’s have someone to rely on when they get tired and need to pass the star and I am a blocker. I have the ability to work with my blockers when we need to be strong but I can also play solo and become what we call “shinny” when we have a blocker on the opposing team who is strong and making it hard for our jammer to get threw. I get “all in their business” so they pay attention to me and not their blocker’s or our jammer.
- What does being a captain/co-captain of a roller derby team mean?
Being a captain/co-captain in a lot of work. I have been the captain of our travel team OCDG and the Dirty Harriets and now the co-gender team The Near Death Stars as well as the co-captain for the same team. Your main job is to make sure all of your skaters are ready to play. When a game is announced you have to with with your co-captain and check everyone’s availability for that date. If you have enough on your team that’s perfect, if not, then you have to check with the other co-gender team to see who is available for that date. Once that is all solidified making sure everything is good to go, like the jersey’s colors, helmet covers are ready, make sure everyone knows when to be at the venue (especially if it is an away game) and just checking in on skaters up until the game.
- In your time as a derbier, how have you seen the grow and/or change?
In my seven years this game has changed so much. From the one whistle blow to let the blockers go, then the two whistle blow to let the jammer’s go, to how skaters would form up in a line across the track instead of the “diamond” formation. I love how this sport continues to grow and change and be inclusive so that everyone can play.
- Lastly, the million dollar question, what do you think needs to happen for the sport to continue to grow?
Well we need more coverage. Roller Derby as a whole needs to be out more and in people’s faces. I find that when I tell people I play roller derby they look at me funny and say ” they still do that?”. I am lucky to be apart of the first Roller Derby league to start in Canada and sadly only a handful of people know this. We do get little shots of acknowledgement here and there, but we, as a sport, needs more overage so that everyone can enjoy the sport that we love, that I love so much.
Thank you Jillian and Roxy, best of luck in Calgary! I look forward to OCRD’s June 15 home doubleheader.