Preamble: After heading on up north from Austin Rollergirls in the heart of where Derby was reborn, Sloppy Boggins was then seen skating and teaching amongst GTA Rollergirls. After being his awesome self helping guide the league at games and practices, it was a sad day when Sloppy showed up for his last practice before leaving on hiatus from GTAR. But at the same time we were happy for him because someone was awaiting. Sloppy packed up his earthly possessions and moved from Toronto to continue his coaching and introduce us to the concept of Derbyrisk on the other side of the world in Sweden. With all the anticipation building up for the Blood & Thunder World Cup in December, Sloppy has kindly written this first installment of his Derby ventures with Stockholm Roller Derby.

Sloppy@GTAR

Off the plane the weather was much nicer than I was expecting for Sweden in January but I guess Toronto isn’t much different.

I had just a day to settle in before my first practice with Stockholm Rollerderby (STRD). It was a “newbie” day so I could sit and watch if I liked but of course I couldn’t resist the desire to skate. There were more than 30 girls trying out for 15 to 18 spots with the league’s freshmeat program. I helped out some of the newbies and met many of the members who were very warm and welcoming. That, I thought, spoke volumes about the league. I’ve met with less experienced leagues who can have a bit of attitude towards an outsider and I guess it is always pleasant when that doesn’t have to happen. I think it is because they were at a point where they needed an outside perspective that would be there awhile to not only guide them but assess them impartially. I was happy to do just that.

For me, running 3 practices a week did sound a little daunting but I was up for it.  I warned them that I’d have to start with basics so that I know what they know and could refer back to particular things as I do.  In doing so, the girls at STRD were great about it and I could always sneak a few more advanced things in here or there just to see them run with it. They have all the athleticism that a coach could hope for and a desire to learn more and more. Their determination makes my job easy and it only motivates me more to come up with new things, some from whole cloth, to teach them. Each practice my list of drills and talking points got bigger till I’d have to decide how best to group them according to “skill families”. Sounds simple but everything crosses over everything and they could all skate well so that wasn’t gonna be an issue.

What was at issue was a game. Little more than a month from my arrival there would be a game in Finland versus Kallio Rolling Rainbow and another two weeks afterwards in Malmö. So it was a matter of “what do they need” mixed with “what can they absorb quickly.” Before I had arrived I wondered whether 6 months would be long enough but they showed me quickly that they were serious about learning, passionate about Derby, and willing to put the extra effort into developing their game as a team game.

After a few practices it seemed that we were a well made match. I think they needed someone, and I mean one voice, to take the lead in training. Coaching/training can be tough if you appear to be hanging with certain people on the team. It is important enough to me that I may not savour friendships as I might like to ensure that not only am I seen as reasonably objective but when those relations go sour it may mean someone has to go. So I’m friendly, but outside of practice I tend to avoid much contact, like a decadent food that you like but only have once in a while to not spoil yourself or the experience.


STRD

have been without a regular coach since the beginning in 2007. That and few games played may have held them back some but now they are so perfectly ripe for learning. Thirsty for knowledge and the background and skills to see the value in the details, they and I complement each other nicely. It’s a great test for me in that I can’t rest as they try to figure things out. They figure them out and quickly want more. I love to answer the “whys” that come from really thinking about “understanding the track”, “team and pack structure” and “strategy on the fly”. Perhaps because they’ve had to figure out so much for themselves they [already] have that creative process honed for the track. All I need to do is add colours to their palette.

With a game around the corner and another two weeks afterwards our thoughts probably differ. The girls are looking to win where I’m looking to see how much they can retain from practice. In my experience a team can look great in practice and then you wonder who is out there on the track come game day. Athletes often can overthink and it leads to nerves being a little too on edge. Something to always be anticipated and ready to deal with. For every two steps forward there is that one step back and for a team it is usually in a game. At least that is when it is felt. So it is important to accept and acknowledge that and try to work on another two steps forward before the game is over.

This is our big test in Kallio. Win or lose, can we stay relaxed yet focused on our game and have fun or do we wallow in all that went wrong without trying to put it right when we had the chance? I guess we’ll find out.

photo credit: STRD 2010 by Magnus Hallgren

Next: Game Time!!!

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Thanks Sloppy! Looking forward to the next installment! Derbyrisk!


News from the Sault A quick note from Laura DevilZone Houle up in Sault:
“We are hoping to play against the Mollys sometime this year, and we have some Freshies that very much want to participate in the Fresh & Furious II. We have a game vs NCRD – Sudbury for May but other than that we don’t have anything else booked yet… BUT we are open to ideas!”

Back in Toronto, facing off this week at The Hangar: the doubleheader between Sudbury and D-VAS, plus the CN Power take on Killamazoo Derby Dolls from Killamazoo !

And if you’re seeing this on a MONDAY, February 21
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLISS CAVENDAR!

Whip It!

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