Sloppy Boggins at Ted Reeve Arena

Preamble: Sloppy Boggins has done the special kindness of allowing his experiences in Sweden and Derby to be journaled on these pages. Originally with the Austin Rollergirls where Derby was reborn, he was bidden a sad and fond farewell by the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls when he came back home to Canada. Here, Sloppy lent his coaching hand amongst the GTA Rollergirls in Toronto and helped nurture the Chrome Mollys. After a while, Sloppy left the country for another life to continue coaching in Sweden. Everybody in GTAR awaits the day Sloppy comes back.

In his first installment Sloppy wrote about his introduction to coaching Derby in Stockholm Roller Derby (STRD). The second chapter GAME TIME! detailed the STRD travels to play in Malmö, then came the birth of a great day in Swedish Roller Derby, “the birth of Swedish rollerderby”, the first Derby bout in Sweden itself ever. The third chapter covered Fresh meat and coaching from Sloppy’s point of view. This new chapter covers the latest action in STRD and birth of a new team in Sweden.

Over to you, Sloppy!

Sloppy: It seems odd that Stockholm was having their first home bout after years of preparation and several away bouts and scrimmages but it was worth the wait. The sold out crowd was treated to a grudge match of sorts with the Hamburg Harbor Girls in town trying to repeat their performance from December. STRD had lost a close and hard fought battle and were looking to avenge their loss in their home debut. That they did.

Stockholm Rollerderby (150) vs Hamburg Harbor Girls (55)

Stockholm vs Hamburg - Gruesome Action (in foreground) - photo credit Räven Frejd

Calm is not something commonly said about derby but there was no panic in the steely eyes of STRD who were determined to take care of business and they had all the confidence and ability to do just that. Jam after jam of smart but tough domination tempered with high speeds that left the Harbor Girls looking for a life boat. It was exactly how you want to play a team that had recently pulled victory from your grasp. A stomp before the smile.

It’s not how I would normally approach a game. In men’s sports it is far too common to have an angry approach to a game. I thought it was good for STRD to play a game with a little anger and see how that approach worked for them. Each of the games we had played together had a different vibe, and being experienced in how to deal with emotion in sport, I feel, is important. I had also used a more common line structure that, in combination with penalties, did not evenly utilize players. Some were less happy with this approach but it is how the game is played. We all have days where we aren’t playing up to our level and there are opponents that require the use of certain players above others. Would it be responsible of me to continue to play a player who is either having a bad day or whose abilities are not working against an opponent simply to have them on the track for an allotment of time? Certainly not if it means that we lose our edge and then possibly the game.

Personally, I’d love to play everyone as often as possible but in reality there are always those who don’t make a roster and those who don’t get as much track time in a bout. For players who seem to be in this situation more often than others and have difficulty in dealing with it I recommend playing for the B team. A pessimist may see it as a demotion but the time you want will be available and I often see people do this and are then able to find their game and truly understand what it is that they bring to the table in a bout. It also builds leadership skills with the players who may often find themselves being looked to for advice.

With Team Sweden try-outs between games, there was ample opportunity to tune up with the best the country has to offer. The physical mayhem so close to a bout meant that those involved in the try-outs could focus on the more mental side of the game in the few practices before the bout.

Stockholm Rollerderby Rookies (97) vs Kallio Rolling Rainbow Rookies (14)

Birdy Black Eye (left in white with STRD pivot cap) and Maskulina (right, in white with black helmet))

Time did not allow for a full length game but after two 15 minute periods there was no denying the result. With simple, well rounded lines the objectives were clear for the rookies: “Play each pass one at a time”, “The only mistake is to dwell on mistakes” and “Remember to have fun”.

They certainly had fun as their nerves dissipated with the first whistle and all the scrimmages against the veterans began to show their worth. Sticking to what they knew rather than reaching too far was what I asked of them knowing that it would keep their heads cool in the crazy heat.

I felt that the rookies knew enough to win but they really surprised me. The rookies lit up the crowd, the veteran squad and myself with a performance that made us all think that they were practicing in some secret location and had waited until now to show what they really had. Dominant, in control, calm and cool, the rookies dismantled their opposition. Hits did not rattle the rookies’ resolve to play their game and they are now Fresh Meat no more.

Stockholm Rollerderby Veterans (146) vs Kallio Rolling Rainbow Veterans (40)

from left to right (standing), Blood Countess, Bess Irv Cold behind Blood Countess, Becky Lawless, Hyper Nova - photo credit: Hank Oscarsson

The veteran squad had played a tightly fought battle back in February with KRR and we knew that they had gotten even better. With all the distractions in the previous week, there was an odd feeling going into the game, but with the joy of the rookie performance in our hearts, our love for our competitors, and the feeling that the team had reached a new level, STRD went out there to play the game they play and see if it was enough.

Was it ever! It was a total team effort. It didn’t seem to matter who was out there on the track as each unit worked so well together. I had even made lines on the fly that seem to gel instantly. Someone said: “KRR played great but STRD played as a team!”

With the focus on “fun” there was an early confusion that quickly settled into a “this is why we play this sport” kind of feeling. I’m sure that every player on STRD would agree that despite what the score read it was not at all an easy victory. Every point was worked for as KRR always fight to the very last whistle. In contrast to the last game against Hamburg we wanted to get everything out of every jam that we could. Our “goating” was exceptional, whereas against Hamburg we gave them no rest from speed. STRD even performed its first in game “amoeba” to the delight of the crowd who were in full force to cheer on their team.

With the game over I got the usual question from the photographers, “How was that?” After Hamburg I said with a smile: “They did their job”, but after these two games all I could say was “Wow!!!”

The afterparty let out into the early morning sunshine of downtown Stockholm where the “pony races” took place. The reigning champs of STRD retained their title to the delight and/or complete befuddlement of a large crowd outside. I got a falafel to go with my flask of whiskey to savour the moment.

But hold those thoughts for my next and last installment.

Thanks to Sloppy as always! Looking forward to seeing you again on the track!! Many thanks to all the Derby photographers in Sweden who provided the photographs for this installment: Räven Frejd and Henrik Hank Oscarsson!