Preamble: We come to part five of Sloppy’s Derby adventures in Sweden.
Over the previous four installments 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 foster the Chrome Mollys. Sloppy then left the country for another life to continue coaching in Sweden.
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. Part four covered the latest action in STRD and birth of a new team in Sweden. Now Sloppy goes on holidays Swedish style in this narration.
Over to you one more time, Sloppy!
That last double bout was a hot and somewhat stressful day, but when it was over I felt great. The last five months were a success. I had set some goals and I think they were all exceeded, and I could now enjoy a little vacation time. Well, more of a derby vacation.
The first stop was a brief one for Mid-Summer in the countryside where I could enjoy the clean air and plenty of dogs. I had been missing the time I normally spend in the cottage country of Canada, but the Swedish version is much the same, awesome! It was a quick but lovely stop before taking the ferry to Gotland.
The ferry landed in the town of Visby which is quite a sight. The town is completely surrounded in a 12th century fortress wall. Unlike other such places it is a breathing heritage site with people living and working normal jobs and lives within. At first glance the cobblestones might make you ask why I brought my skates but this is the home of the Visby Valkyries.
Not far outside Visby, we camped out in the yard under the flag of the Visby Valkyries which we shared with chickens and horses. A few hours of practice each day mixed with some sightseeing and simply hanging out in the beautiful weather was just what I needed. I don’t really hang out with the people I coach as much as I might like to because it can interfere with the derby relationship. But in this case I wouldn’t have the pleasure to work with any of them until the World Cup, so I loosened up a bit. One of the Valkyries even commented on the difference between my coaching persona during a bout that she had seen versus who I was in person. Apparently she was surprised that I was nice. I must not appear so during a game? So I guess there are a few versions of myself in Sweden: the coach/trainer, the coach in a game, and the guy with the silly laugh sitting in the “baden baden”, aka lawn chair, under the apple tree. Well, only two of those were in Gotland for the week that became known as Rauk N Roll.
The Raukar is a long dead ancient coral reef that is now a bizarre rock formation along the coast of Fårö island. Conveniently, there is a very nice path running along side it and the Baltic sea that you can skate on without much problem at all. The low lying lands, the Raukar, the low sun, and the great company made for some of the best outdoor skating you could hope for. There were many more sights, but back to derby.
What the Visby Valkyries lacked in numbers and experience they more than made up for in teamwork and determination. It was so nice to see some development while we were there as we had them play as a team on the last day and give STRD a good challenge. Once again it proved that it is just a matter of understanding what it is you have as a player and using it as best you can. I have no doubt that the Visby Valkyries will do very well if they can attract more recruits. They were the greatest of hosts and I do hope they make this an annual event as I would be so curious to see how good they will be this time next year.
As for Stockholm Rollerderby currently in the off season, it has been a great pleasure to work with each and every one of them. They have great talent and a well-thought out organization that always looks to improve without falling into the idea that they must follow what others do. STRD has carved out its own identity in derby and I hope they will continue to do so.
Some have expressed a sense of “what do we do when you’re gone?” but the fact is that part of their training was in being a very self-sufficient team. STRD can adapt well on the fly to make the adjustments as needed during a bout. They are cool under pressure and never let a lead or a deficit affect their focus. And at this point they have a great sense of team/league which will do well to hold them together when things get tough.
It has been such a great learning experience for me to be free to use all I know to help a league thirsty for knowledge. STRD’s desire and ability to learn and adapt so quickly has not only pushed me to work harder but inspired me to enjoy working hard to come up with drills that would pinpoint specific areas they needed to focus on. It has been a full time job that I have very much enjoyed. I’m thankful that STRD put their trust in me and I will cherish the time together so very much.