Thursday, September 30, 2010

OC Jammer

One topic I have been meaning to delve into as of late is the role of jammer on a roller derby team. If none of their skaters are in the penalty box, a team will send out five players: Four blockers and one jammer. The jammer, denoted by the large, prominent star on her helmet, is the only point-scorer for her team. And as the sole skater who can score points, all opposing blockers will be doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening. Essentially, putting on starred helmet cover is to paint a glowing bulls-eye or target on your back.

It's why some girls loathe jamming and others, like myself, revel in it. It's a rush to snake your way in and out of the pack, picking up points for each opposing skater you pass. You dodge heavy blows, try to stay up with the ones that connect and race for that lead jammer status (and the ability to call off the jam at a critical junction).

Jammers are sometimes vaunted as the rock stars of their teams, though this is a bit short-sighted. (Garnering points is important, but perhaps even more so is a team's defense; their ability to stymie opposing jammers and prevent scoring passes.) Even so, jamming is hard work. And the fastest skaters aren't necessarily the best jammers. Because a good jammer should be swift, have good stamina --enough to sprint the full two minutes a jam may require-- and loads of cunning, be light on her feet and able to juke and weave, and have an inexhaustible personal reservoir of moxie and grit.

An able jammer should be able to hold her own while her teammates tackle the opposing jammer

A good jammer should be able to get through the pack and pick up points without being dependent on their blockers (whose main focus should be on the opposing jammer) to break up walls and protect them opposing skaters. She should have what I call 'jammer eyes' --that is, the ability to see holes and paths where others might see none-- and be able to anticipate the movement of other skaters. She'd ideally be exceptionally quick taking off of the line. And, equally as vital, she should be savvy and smart: Know when it is wisest to "hit it and quit it" (i.e. pick up four quick points and call off the jam before the other jammer can accrue any points), to positionally block the opposing jammer and whittle down the clock instead of going for more points, or to gun it when the other team's jammer is sent to the box and results in a power jam.

Jammer's eye view: Jammers have a few short seconds to devise a plan before reentering the pack

Jamming can intimidating, but it can also be an exhilarating experience.

Do you have what it takes?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

By popular demand

More action shots from Saturday courtesy of Emily Sherman Photography:

Ride 'em, cowgirl: Ophelia Fracture scored 58 of OCCRG's 148 points...

...but she's also an expert booty blocker

Left 4 Deadwards (right) lines up on the jammer line against Suzy Spew

Then there's me, with my "demonoid face" on

Bat R Up broadsides Lady Gotcha...

...and knocks Pink Taco out of bounds

...but she's really just giving the fans what they want

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bout de Triomphe

First of all, I would like to apologize to those of you who do follow this blog since I haven't updated in quite some time and failed to provide any sort of buildup to the Old Capitol City Roller Girls' Flying Elbow bout versus the Quad City Rollers yesterday in Davenport. I'm in the midst of a pet health crisis and it's been a hectic and stressful past week.

That aside, I am proud to report that OCCRG posted a dominant 148-98 victory over the Quad City Rollers, showing no mercy from the outset. In the first half we had some big jams from Ophelia Fracture (not a surprise to anyone by now), Left 4 Deadwards and myself. Fast Bettie did split shifts as jammer and blocker; Fannysaurus Wrex, Animal Mother and Recyclopath put up some rock-solid walls that stymied quite a few Quad City Rollers jammers. And of course Bat R Up, ever the menace, had quite a few big hits that had opposing skaters flying in all directions.

In the weeks before the bout we had been spending a lot less time scrimmaging and a lot more time adding new skills to our repertoire, learning new drills and practicing new strategies. Even sitting on the bench from time to time, it was evident the deviation from scrimmage-intense practices was paying off and it was very satisfying to see the drills we'd rehearsed playing out as they were designed to. OCCRG played sagely; working together to control the pace of the pack, trap opposing skaters and break walls for their own jammers.

The score was 95-32 at the half; during the second period the Quad City Rollers mounted a niggling comeback but never seriously threatened OCCRG, who held sway with 50 points by game's end. On a personal front, I finally toppled my bout jitters and kept my head in the game. Vastly improving on my performance in the home bout LaCrosse Skating Sirens last month, I managed to land a couple big-point jams and deliver a few hard hits to a few Quad City Rollers jammers. And I played smarter; pulling a few 'Hit It and Quit It' jams, keeping a more vigilant eye on any Quad City Rollers coming out of the penalty box and watching my bench coach for signals on each go-round. Sometimes it really is all in your head.

Next up will be another away game for OCCRG versus the Cedar Rapids Rollergirls in October, followed by the season finale against the Quad City Rollers at the former's stomping grounds of the Coralville Marriott.

Photos from last night's action:

Benzo Bang pushes out Lady Gotcha of QCR

Bat R Up jams?! And gets lead jammer status!

Yours truly walling with Bat R Up to hold back QCR's Sugar 'n Slice

Layne Rubber denotes Left 4 Deadwards as lead jammer

Fannysaurus Wrex is not only a great blocker; but has the best paint job around

Ho No U Didn, Recyclopath, Bat R Up and Left 4 Deadwards toe the line

Striking the front

Monday, September 6, 2010

Per volar sunata

As a skater and member of the Old Capitol City Roller Girls, I field a lot of queries. Some of the most common questions are:

Is roller derby fake?
How is roller derby played/scored?
Aren't you too small to play roller derby?
Do skaters ever get seriously hurt?
Why on earth would you want to do something like that?

I'm also asked about how much work goes into being part of a roller derby team. There's the short answer: We have demanding practices twice a week where we do core exercises, weight training, intervals, various drills and scrimmage.

And then there's the long answer: Countless hours are spent together with teammates off skates working to keep the team practicing and bouting. We are not professionals. We are not paid to play; in fact it's quite the opposite. We pay for our own equipment (everything from skates, pads, helmets, mouthguards, etc.) and uniforms individually as well as monthly team dues that go towards paying for practice space at the Coralville Marriott. OCCRG does receives some financial aid in the form of sponsors; revenue is also generated from ticket and merchandise sales.

But there's also a lot of elbow grease involved. We arrive at the Marriott seven hours before the start of every home bout to set up everything from the track, the merchandise table, the sound equipment, chairs, signage, etc. In the weeks beforehand we plaster our posters and fliers around town to generate excitement and interest, make radio appearances and send out our own press releases. The OCCRG website, Facebook page and blogs are all skater-operated and updated.

Each skater also belongs to one or more committees. These committee members are responsible for everything from bout productions (photo shoots, poster design, etc.), merchandise (tracking current stock as well as ordering new items like cowbells and pompoms), fund-raising (auctions, jello shot sales, etc.), coaching (sharing training responsibilities and expanding the team's library of drills) and public relations (making appearances and expanding our community presence). They meet several times a month to ensure responsibilities are being met and to discuss plans of action.

Finally, OCCRG is also very focused on making a positive contribution to the community. We volunteer at several local events including the annual Jazz and Art festivals, hold public scrimmages to raise money for the recreation centers and this summer we even organized a 5k run to benefit the Iowa City Animal Shelter. Most recently you may have seen us working as official Hokey Pokey wranglers at Fry Fest for the new world record dance.

As cliche as it sounds, it really is a labor of love. This team and sport have become a part of who I am, and I am more than happy to devote my time and energy towards prolonging them.