Let’s face it, I couldn’t let 2011 pass without giving you a bit of an insight into what kind of year I’ve had roller derby-wise. It would just be a bit weird, wouldn’t it?
January | Tiger Bay Brawlers’ first public bout vs. Bristol Harbour Harlots.
I wasn’t on the team and though I loved the bout (it was a win in our favour, 173-37, and amazing to see all my team mates skating against another league, especially such a lovely league as BHH) I felt so sad not to be on that track with them. I set myself a little challenge then – to make the Tiger Bay Brawlers travel team before BB Bombshell – then our head coach – returned to her homeland of Australia. Lo and behold, I’ve achieved it every bout since but I don’t take it for granted. Ever.
The day after that bout saw me hit a bit of an incline. I had what I still consider to be my best session; either because I really wanted it or because everyone else was still shattered from their bout the day before! Anyway, it makes no difference why, but that session was when my switch flicked on and I knew I had to get better.
February | Tiger Bay Brawlers vs. Birmingham Blitz Dames
I was named as a sub on the travel team for this one. Yes – one month after setting myself the challenge. I ended up bench managing – something I’m not sure I’ll ever want to do again. I wasn’t too awful (and I got to wear my pink sequined hot-pants) but that win (123-110 to TBB) will be forever tainted by serious injuries to Sian of the Dead and Queen LaQueefah; our first two serious injuries.
I think that bout really brought home the realisation that we are playing a full contact sport and you may very well hurt yourself. Neither of the injuries was caused by malicious hits, these things just happen. What it also proved is that you can’t let injuries dominate your mind-set and the positivity and courage those ladies maintained until they got back up to strength was inspirational. I always think about it if I ever I get a twinge in training or a little niggle in a bout. I actually did a little cry when Queef made her return to bouting in July.
March | Tiger Bay Brawlers vs. London Rockin’ Rollers Rising Stars
My first actual bout. I. WAS. SHITTING. MY. SELF. I tried to pretend I wasn’t worried at all but myself and lady-wife, Boba Fettish, went to a park to eat our lunch and I pretty much threw all of mine in the bin! The floor at York Hall was slippery as hell and I knew I’d forgotten to pack my outdoor wheels (lesson learnt; prepare for any surface). I’m not sure this was a fantastic introduction to bouting but I’m glad I made my debut away – it took some of the pressure off as the only people who knew me were my teammates and my parents (let’s face it; I could be slamming into the floor every two seconds and they’d think I was brilliant). Although we lost (112-73) we played our hearts out and all of my nerves dissipated when I hit the track (they still do, everytime).
I’m super excited to play LRR Rising Stars at home in March 2012. Undoubtedly both leagues will have improved since then and I think it’s going to be VERY exciting!
Lola fact: It was that bout that made a lightbulb in my head go “Oh. I do want to be a jammer” after I’d been fighting it for so long. This remains a goal today.
April | Tiger Bay Brawlers birthday bash; Princesses vs. Pirates
We celebrated our first birthday with an intra-league public bout – Princesses vs. Pirates. I was a Princess and started off in a tutu, ending up in pants and a vest. I just can’t wear clothes when I’m skating. This was definitely a) the most nerve-racking bout I’ve played and b) my favourite. I loved every minute and I jammed loads! This was the first time Wayne (the man-friend) had ever seen me skate and I think he was pleasantly surprised. I had been so negative about derby for such a long time that I think he genuinely expected me to be crap. And, though I don’t really admit to knowing it, I’m not too bad. Team Princess won the bout by one point and it was just amazing. I really got my bouting-love in that one! Final score was 96-95.
April | Off-skate fun-times; Anarchy in the UK
Of course, April also saw Anarchy in the UK in London which a few of us attended. I’m going to try not to gush, but OH MY GOD. The only thing better than playing roller derby is watching it and I’ve never seen such talent as I did that weekend. Looking back, this must have been the pivotal moment for London Roller Girls – the birth of their stellar year! I think those of us who went not only came home with crushes on the whole of MTL Roller Derby, but it also cemented the bond between the Brawlers. We’re pretty famed for our ‘Brawler Love’ and if I wasn’t part of it then the whole notion would probably make me sick, but seriously, the friendships formed within the team and the buzz shared amongst us all are just fantastic!
June | Tiger Bay Brawlers vs. Bedfordshire Roller Girls
This bout was the first time I’ve realised just how important it is to be mentally fit in order to fulfil your full potential on the track. Although we played well as a team and won the bout (208 – 54) I was really not happy with my performance and had a little cry about it in the after party (loser). My jamming was really poor and my confidence took a knock which affected me. I’ve learned to stop that now thank god, but I think it’s important for everyone to have a bad bout/bad jam so they get it out of their system and really build on it to improve. I had made my peace with how bad my performance was an expected not to be included in the Travel Team pick for our next bout so took the pressure off myself for the next month of training. I was pleasantly surprised (as I continue to be every time) to see my name on the 14-skater roster for our next bout against the Glasgow Roller Girls.
July | Tiger Bay Brawlers vs. Glasgow Roller Girls
Before this bout I sought feedback from anyone and everyone and knew I had a lot to prove. It was also Queef’s first game back and I was chuffed to finally get to skate on the same track as her in my uniform. The game against GRG was a major eye-opener. We went in strong and confident. We knew we had worked hard and had perfected some strategy to use and we were pumped. They’d done the same and came out stronger. It was fantastic to play such a strong team though; those are the games you get most out of both as an individual and as a team. You can learn so much about strategy, game-play, reactions and your mental approach to the bout. My team-mates also learned how much of a bad loser I am hahaha. Final score 58 – 186. A well-deserved win for our friends from Glasgow.
August | Tiger Bay Brawlers vs. Dolly Rockit Rollers
This game was fun! It was close and we had to fight; I always push myself much harder when we’re fighting for a win. Playing under pressure is my favourite. My jamming wasn’t so good in this bout (I took a MASSIVE fall on my hip and limped my way through a jam) but I was very happy with my blocking. I remember working specifically with BB Bombshell and Jolly-Pop and there’s a cracking photo where you can play ‘spot the jammer’ because we’ve wedged her in so well. Added pressure in this bout came from not being able to see the scoreboard so there was a moment where I had no idea if we’d won or not. But we had and we really earned it. Final score was 95-86. It must have been an awesome game to watch! It was awesome to play, that’s for sure. This was the first Brawler after-party I missed (boooo) so I danced to Eye of the Tiger in the car on the way home with my parents.
August | Rocky Mountain visit the UK
August also saw RMRG take on the London RollerGirls. The bout was awesome. Watching LRG really hold their own against a team like Rocky was just amazing. Kami really stood out in this game and I studied her quite obsessively throughout. Inevitably the focus was on RMRG though and Whippity Pow stole the hearts of many Brawlers that night! We went on to spend the weekend in Birmingham for the RMRG bootcamp which was awesome and further instilled my desire to be a jammer. I was worried I’d be out of my depth but I wasn’t at all which was a nice little confidence boost. The only bad fall I took was off-skate when I jogged down-hill and promptly face-planted! It was another weekend filled with Brawler-love – my favourite kind.
September | Tiger Bay Brawlers vs. Rainy City Tender Hooligans
We finally got to play a game in Cardiff (rather than Newport) and we were all super excited to come up against the Rainy City B Team as they’d been such a helpful league in setting TBB up. I didn’t jam in this bout but I really enjoyed it. I could feel myself playing more aggressively than I had before and I really focused on my blocking as I knew I wasn’t in to jam. This bout saw my first trip to the penalty box since making my debut. Which I did in two jams consecutively! But I didn’t stress out – some penalties are worth taking. We won the bout 169-79 and I was really happy with my performance and that of the team as a whole. I was very aware that I was touching a team-mate all the way through which can only be a good thing.
October | Double-header; Tiger Bay Brawlers B team vs. Swansea City Slayers and Tiger Bay Brawlers A team vs. Cardiff Roller Collective
This bout was exciting for all kinds of reasons. A) Our B team made their bouting debut against Swansea (they lost 79-77 but it was a fantastic bout and I was so proud to see just how far our newer skaters had come) and b) our A team was taking on the Cardiff Roller Collective in a local derby – fun times! I loved this bout. I love a friendly local rivalry and I got to jam a fair few times which I was excited about. I was mega happy with my own performance and felt I really put into practice all of the positive thinking and mental strength I’ve been working on this year. I also worked with some different people than usual and really gelled with different skaters on the track which was exciting. We won 190-37.
October | Sk8 Heaven
The Sk8 Heaven bootcamp in October was awesome. I won’t go into too much detail because I already blogged about it, but it reignited my derby fire and further instilled my new positive approach to roller derby.
December | Tiger Bay Brawlers vs. CCR Slay Belles
In our final bout of 2011 we took on the CCR Slay Belles. Again we lost a player to injury which is never nice but we won 200-104 and played really well as a league. I was happier with my jamming performance than my blocking one but I did experience what I will forever call ‘the jam from hell’ (where I basically came in and out of the penalty box for the best part of three jams oops). It took a quick word from BB Bombshell to bring me back into the game and keep my eye on the ball. We set a team goal and we achieved it. I knew this performance would inform the decisions for the Travel Team to take on the Ultraviolent Femmes in February 2012 and put my heart and soul into it. Which worked, because I made the team.
So, 2011 started on a low for me personally and just improved steadily as the year went on. I’ve become much happier with my own performance and much more comfortable with my teammates who I now touch, pull, push and grab to my heart’s content on the track. I’m ready for 2012 and can’t wait to get back on the track and take on the likes of UvF, Glasgow and LRR amongst others. All of our upcoming bouts and subsequent results will be posted on TBB’s website, but hopefully we’ll see you all there.
PHOTOS: Jon Pountney, Simon Ayre and Dave McAleavy.