Windy City Rollers All-Stars
Photo by Katie Stapely
Is this team a collection from home teams, or a separate entity?
The team is made up from players from all four of our home teams (The Double Crossers, The Fury, The Hell's Belles and The Manic Attackers). Currently captains are elected each year by the previous travel team and then there is a tryout process for positions. Most of the players from the 2007 season tried out for this season and made it which helped a lot with continuity and training.
How do you keep the team as a working whole?
When we first start out every year it's sort of a battle to get people to gel together. They are coming off these intense bouts where they have literally beat each other to a pulp, and then we ask them to practice together. We would have practices on Sunday's following our home games and depending on how the game ended there could be some very weird tension in the practice space. After some warm ups it would be ok, but that was just one of a couple of issues we had. The other had to do with strategy. Individual team strategy is slightly different than what our travel team strategy would eventually become. Because teams are all different you have to make up in your strategy for weaknesses you face as a team which is dependent in part on your makeup of players. Skaters didn't always agree on what the strategy was and would sometimes just forget all together and revert to the way their home team did things. That was one of the biggest hurdles for us. In the end, time is what makes a lot of those obstacles become obsolete. The other important part that made us pull together is actually playing as a team in bouts. When we would win we wanted to stay at the top, when we lost at ECE, which I mark as one of the most pivotal points of our season, we came home with a renewed dedication to training. The team builds the more they are together, having so many bouts to solidify that team bond was very crucial for us.
What is your general regimen with the team?
We're very fortunate to have our own practice space so practice time is pretty ample. A normal skater on our league has the opportunity to practice up to 4 times a week if they choose. Travel team members have the opportunity to practice 5 times a week if they want. They are required to make at least 3 practices a week but most are going to those 5 a week plus additional speed practices at our local rinks. We have two nationally ranked speed skaters on our team and their speed involvement has to do with just wanting to better themselves, which is the kind of attitudes I have to "deal" with on the team [laughs]. It's inspiring! During our season we have two designated travel team only practices, in the off season we only have one. Again while in season our practices consist of a general strategy practice every week and then alternating speed and scrimmage practices. We just started implementing an optional Friday night advanced skills night for travel team members to prepare for the tournaments. You would think that no one would show up on a Friday night to practice but somehow at least half the team is always there. League practices where any skater can attend are a mix up of training. Mondays are a scrimmage night, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are dedicated to individual home teams, Thursdays are skill/endurance practice, Saturday are boot camp/strength training in the morning and skills/endurance in the afternoon. We like to make sure all of our skaters are getting the type of training that will keep our league on top and alive.
What do you think your team does differently?
I don't know that we actually do anything different than any other team. Derby strategy is no secret...some people just play it better than others, but for the most part no one team is doing anything drastically different than another. I will say that a lot of people have commented this year on our fitness levels. I think Roxy Rockett commented that when we played Carolina at ECE it was the fastest pack she had ever been in. I think that made a lot of us smile. As a league we don't really have unfit girls who are skating and a lot of that has to do with our aggressive practice schedules and captains’ commitments to making good teams which in turn makes good derby. We all strive to be good derby players but the core of that is being an unstoppable skater.
Tell us about the recent win against KCRW, how did it feel? Was there a moment when you knew you guys would take it?
Oh, I don't even know what to say. It came as a complete surprise to us. We all remember watching KCRW at National’s last year and thinking, "that is what I want to be like when I grow up!" I personally have the biggest derby crush on Annie Maul, she was amazing to watch and controlled the front like I hadn't seen since Deadlock Doe at Dust Devil ‘06. I'm still amazed every time I see pictures of her playing. Having them accept our bout invitation was like getting Christmas early and we were all excited to get the chance to test out our skills on them. I don't think either team expected the outcome of that bout, it honestly felt like we were always losing or in jeopardy of a loss. The All-Stars just played like a well oiled machine that day. Everything was in line and we never let up. I think people understood we trained really hard, brought our A-game and were fortunate enough to come up on top. I think each team was super gracious and we both won at the dance party afterwards! We love KCRW and know a rematch is in our future.
How do you feel about Nationals coming up? Are you doing anything specific to prepare?
We almost can't believe Nationals is already here. We are so lucky to be attending again and battling against the best of the best. It still almost seems surreal, but we are looking forward to skating against RCRG All-Stars for the first time and the [crosses fingers] potential match up against Texas who bounced us from last year’s tourney very quickly. We haven't done anything insane to prepare but we did make sure we had a game with a top level team between Regional’s and National’s to keep the wheels oiled and to test out some of our new additions. I feel very confident in this team...I mean we always feel confident going into any game. We know the skills and drive are there and it's just about putting the whole machine to work. I think anyone can tell you that at this level of competition, it's sort of a crapshoot on who wins. Who has the luck that day, who has the sheer determination, who has the will to make it their team advance. We all have bad game days, we just all hope that those never fall on a weekend that is so important. I think that no matter what, we will be happy with how this season has turned out, two years ago we would have never even imagined ourselves where we are now, second in the East and a top ten team. We would be happy to lose to any of these teams...I mean who wouldn't...but that doesn't mean we intend on letting that happen.
What advice would you give other captains looking to push their teams up in the national rankings?
You have to train hard and challenge yourself at all times. Although we all want to win games, losing games is sometimes the best teacher. I think that our losses to Philly and Carolina at this year’s ECE were pivotal in making our year successful. You won't ever know how to be a competitive team unless you place yourself against heavy opposition.
Where do you see roller derby in five years?
Hopefully, roller derby will be on its way to being taken seriously as a competitive sport. It's on the cusp...teetering somewhere between kitsch and athleticism. I think it has all the makings of the next best alternative sport but people need to find a unified vision for what derby should be. I cross my fingers every day that this thing we love starts to get real recognition by the general public and that we can pursue this as actual professionals. In the next couple of years WFTDA is going to have to come up with more defined guidelines for how they want to market this thing and I hope the WCR is along for the ride. We all know that we have the drive and determination that has made this sport blow up in the last couple of years. When I went to the first RollerCon in 2005, they had a poster of all the participating leagues which was a pretty accurate count of how many leagues were in the country at the time. Today you couldn't even put all the leagues on one poster and we've even expanded into other countries. I mean the sheer awesomeness of how much this sport has grown in less than ten years is a true testament to the viral and infectious nature of derby. I guess I can't really say specifically where derby will be, but I know that as long as my knees are still intact I will still be skating hard, and I've got at least half my league that feels the same way.
How would you feel about roller derby becoming a professional sport?
Ha! People ask me all the time if I get paid for this. When I tell them how much time, money, and effort I put into the league they look at me cross-eyed when I tell them I have to pay to do this. I think that every woman who is serious about roller derby as a sport wishes she could do it full time. Can you imagine what kind of animals we would be if we were paid every day to train like pros?
Anything you want the derby world to know?
Do yourself a favor now and see the awesomeness that is Kola Loka. The Northwest Knockdown is your last chance as she'll be leaving the WCR All-Stars after this season. You'll be a fan...we guarantee it!
List of Skaters and positions:
Belle Diablo - Captain, Blocker & Pivot
Blossom Bruiso - Captain & Triple Threat
Beth Amphetamine - Blocker
Donna Party - Blocker
Eva Dead - Jammer
Hoosier Mama - Blocker
Karmageddon - Blocker
Kola Loka - Jammer
Malice With Chains - Blocker
Megan ForMor - Blocker
Nina Millimeter - Blocker & Pivot
Shocka Conduit - Jammer
Tori Adore - Blocker
Varla Vendetta - Triple Threat
Ying O' Fire - Triple Threat
Yvette YourMaker - Triple Threat
Newest Additions to the Team
Helsa Wayton - Pivot
Peg Legs - Jammer
Wreck N' Shrew - Blocker