Trying to picture a train across the Atlantic. I took a cruise across the Baltic and that was like a crappy Vegas bus.
Preamble: After heading up north from the Austin Rollergirls where Derby was reborn, Sloppy Boggins found company coaching amongst the GTA Rollergirls. After lending his guiding hand to GTAR, it was a sad day when Sloppy left to continue coaching in Sweden. In his first installment, Sloppy wrote about his introduction to coaching Derby with Stockholm Roller Derby (STRD). Now Sloppy has kindly written this second installment of his Derby ventures with STRD and an exciting chapter in Swedish Derby.
We Won!!! And then we lost. In derby there is rarely suspense when it comes to who won or lost. Unlike other sports it is not the most important part of a weekend when a bout takes place. A win or a loss—it isn’t what you savour years down the road. It’s all about how you played as a team and how fun the experience was. And if that is the gauge, then both bouts were awesome!!!
|Stockholm 110 versus Kallio Rolling Rainbow 74
Prior to the bout we had to get to Finland. The cheapest and most “interesting” way to go from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland is on a booze cruise. Smaller than Ocean going cruise liners these boats are still pretty big and after being greeted by clowns and jugglers, they have duty free shopping, saunas, gambling, shows, nightclubs etc. It may sound very appealing in an advertisement as people actually take this as “a cruise” to spend a few hours on the other side of the Baltic sea and then return. But the reality of it is considerably less appealing unless you are trying to get from A to B with a fun bunch of derbygirls/guys and you enjoy people watching and cheesy entertainment.
Helsinki looks very much like Stockholm but with war memorial statues. The derbygirls/guys we met there in Kallio were fantastic hosts. Their team seemed fairly even but what struck me in warm-ups was that they were “a team”. I thought to myself “this will be a good test”. The track was tight down the straights but the refs warned everyone and both teams respected the potential danger. What the refs lacked in experience they more than made up for in fairness and being overseers of the game. Certainly no control issues with the officials. The scene was set and all we had to do was play our game.
Right off the first whistle the derbygirls of STRD did just that. They played as the lines they had practiced and didn’t allow KRR to pull them off their game ever. Our primary jammers didn’t allow penalties or high blocks to distract them from the calm, cool focus they had right to the end. The positional blockers needed only to tweak strategies slightly to throw off any adaptation by KRR. And the wildcard players gathered the attention from KRR’s defense after showing their intentions to make life hard on the opposing jammers. The first half ended and I knew that KRR would adjust so we had to change things up slightly.
The second half we were to come out hard, physically dominate the opponents and make them see that it was only going to be more difficult in the second half. The result was that we drew bad penalties on them from retaliatory hits which helped our plan of wearing them down. With things going our way I was reluctant to use a timeout at all, but I wanted to buy our lines some time to adjust and focus and I also wanted to address a small procedural issue with the head ref. When I turned around to return to the bench the team had had time to see that victory was sitting there and all they needed to do was take it.
It was a complete team effort with every player keeping their cool and playing within themselves. A score seems irrelevant next to the performance as a team. And yet they still seemed like they could play another half. They knew that despite how well they had played, there was another gear they could get to. That feeling may be required in just two weeks as STRD goes to Malmö to take on the Crime City Rollers.
Again at the afterparty, but certainly not the last time this weekend, KRR showed their tremendous hospitality. STRD honoured me with a song that I will always treasure. There was some late night craziness as taxi cab drivers in Helsinki were horrible on many notable occasions.
The next day was scrimmage for newbies and anyone else that was fit enough to play. The warmth of KRR derby love was again felt and we slowly made our way back to Stockholm to prepare for Malmö.
|Stockholm 88 versus Crime City Rollers 132
We arrived in Malmö and it was awesome to feel the spring warmth along with CCR’s hospitality as they had opened their homes to us all. This would be a momentous occasion as it would be the first bout in Sweden and competing were two teams from Sweden with many friendships crossing leagues. Despite being years in the making this was the birth of Swedish rollerderby.
For us, playing this game would be no easy task, let alone winning, but our focus was on playing as a team and keeping our heads. CCR wanted to stamp a victory on their debut and they had the talent to do just that. STRD was as ready as they could be despite a late roster change. With a small ref crew and no outside refs there was going to be much for either side to take issue with despite the best efforts of a fair officiating staff. This game sold out in one hour of tickets being on sale so you can only imagine the hardcore ruckus crowd cheering both sides.
The first half was a back and forth struggle where one team often held a strong jammer lead. CCR had drawn first blood and held the edge but STRD was not going to lay down. They battled back to take a small lead before a monster jam erased the advantage. Pride was palpable as the chippy play would get most derbygirls off their game but everyone held tight through to the half. I could see in the locker room that STRD was enjoying the struggle. Ghosts of games past may have loomed over them, but did not penetrate the spirit that we had built as a league.
It was in the second half where CCR put their foot down, playing their best players hard and often in an attempt to put us to bed early. It certainly wore on the energy of STRD but only strengthened their resolve to push with everything they had, saving nothing. A critical error on my part had a tired jammer trying to salvage some hope in the last jam. Spirit alone would not win the day for STRD as the early lead CCR had earned in the second half could never be surmounted.
Our win two weeks earlier gave us confidence but this defeat hardened the team as warriors. They embraced the adversity that was dealt to them and that was STRD’s victory. Tired players often get lost but they never lost heart even when there was so little left in the tank. We played our game, I couldn’t ask for anything more of them.
The various afterparties were exactly what was required to wind down from the last month of preparation. I enjoyed getting to know many of CCR’s awesome derbygirls and staff. And another serenade warmed my heart before I had to retire for the evening.
The “Fresh Meat” scrimmage the next day was a lot of fun. With some more experienced girls in there to challenge them, the chaotic experience has everyone leave with big smiles. Then back to the snow of Stockholm and the beginning of stage 2 in working with STRD.
Now a new set of goals awaits, a new group of derbygirls will get their minimum skills, and the first home games for STRD. The fun has just begun.
A shout out goes to Allota Riot from Malmö’s Crime City Rollers.
Next time: Fresh Start
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[ STRD in Kallio – photo courtesy of neekoh.fi]
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