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Roller Derby Blog | February 2014


Coping With Sport Injuries

28th February 2014

By Fanny Von Viper

In any team sport, not being able to train, play, compete or practice can be just as painful to an athlete as the injury itself. Recognition and proper management can mean the difference in obtaining a healthy and strong, mind and body, and the impact on whether someone returns to sport after injury.

I remember when I first injured my knee. Prior I was asked by our Club President and Coaching Committee to attend training with our Bouting team, with the possibility of eventually moving up. This was a dream of mine, something I had worked hard towards, the reason I started Roller Derby. I was right where I wanted to be, all my hard work and commitment was finally paying off. I knew that in time, it wouldn’t be long before I would be skating alongside the teammates I looked up to.

It was the offseason, and I couldn’t wait for derby to start back, as I knew the New Year was looking in my favour. I definitely was not prepared for what happened next. Skating home on New Year’s Day, I lost balance on my board and tried to recover. That moment when I heard a loud popping sound and the inability to hold my body weight, forcing me to the ground, I held my knee in disbelief. In that moment I knew what had happened, but I didn’t want to believe it. Trying to convince myself that I only twinged my knee, and would soon be able to get back up and continue on my way. But I was wrong, and I once again found myself collapsing back to the ground. It was then I broke down in tears. Not over the pain, but the knowledge that I had done some serious damage and would be forced to take time off to recover. This was later confirmed by my doctor and specialist, who advised me that I snapped my ACL from the bone, split my meniscus, shattered the cartilage and bruised the bones in my knee, resulting in surgery.

With any injury, you are told of timeframes, given pain management, exercises and rehab. There are specialists, doctors, physios, aides and resources in dealing with the management and recovery. People will give you advice and tell you stories of their own journey and experiences. You become an expert on your injury and the best ways to ensure a speedy and successful recovery. Being goal driven and use to a sport where heavy hits and injury is worn like a badge of honour. Talking about emotional and mental hurdles is almost taboo and something no one can really prepare you for. No one tells you that you will question your return to the sport you once loved. The fear of never fully recovering, re-injuring yourself or not being able to do things that once seemed so easy. How difficult would be, sitting on the sideline as a spectator, to a sport that you was once so heavily involved in. There were times where I felt so alone and helpless.

It wasn’t until I was approached by a teammate who had just returned from a similar injury, asking how I was coping.  She told me to be prepared for the mental roadblocks and if I ever needed someone to talk to, that she was there. It was then, I recognised that I wasn’t alone in this emotional backlash and in order for me to recover effectively, that I needed to accept this was just another hurdle to overcome.

When dealing with an injury and focusing on the recovery, it is easy to forget that working on your mental wellbeing is just as important. If it wasn’t for my teammate, I’m not sure of my future within the sport, or even if I would return. Just as she did for me, I want to shed light on recognising these hurdles and give some points that I found useful for effective management, which allowed me to return to Roller Derby stronger than before.

1. Improve your understanding of your injury

Research!! Learn all there is to know about your injury, the surgery, the recovery and the time periods. Your doctors, specialists and physios without a doubt are trained and experts in this field, but not on your own body and personal recovery. I forever frustrated my team of experts as I took their advice but challenged their timeframes. I knew my body better than them and worked with both their and my knowledge to ensure that I was always ahead of their set goals and timeframes. When they told me I wouldn’t be back on skates until early 2014, I told them November 2013. I knew how long it would take for a graft to fully heal, the rehab and the drive to make sure I hit the mark every time. I wouldn’t accept them putting me in the bracket of “average”. They didn’t know my drive or my commitment. I wasn’t prepared to put myself in a situation where causing more damage or possibly re-injuring myself was an option, but I knew my limits and I had an understanding of my injury. I knew what was involved. I knew what I was in for.

2. Be kind to yourself

It is easy to be too hard on yourself, especially when your body is at a different stage as your mind. Be kind to yourself, things take time and you will be sure to face setbacks. There will be times when your mind needs a break, it is important to allow this. It doesn’t mean you are weak or that you will stay in this state of mind. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. We put limits on ourselves, expectations and are our own critics. When goals aren’t met or we can’t quite do something, we punish ourselves. It’s ok to take time to allow these feelings and this will allow us to then have the strength to regroup, refocus and start again.

3. You are not alone

Someone sure as hell is going through, has been through or will go through the same thing.  Although you may think that you are alone in this, you are not. The worst thing you can do is think that you are alone, that no one understands or try to manage your struggles on your own. Seek support, whether it’s through teammates, friends, family or a professional. Those who have also been in the same spot are great sounding boards and always have their own stories and ways of managing their own hurdles.

4. Manage fear of re-injury

When you injure yourself, there is a fear around the possibly of re-injury. You know what it is like to have gone through what you have, and there is no way you want to do this all over again. Injury doesn’t just affect your return to sport, but everyday activity. You can be cautious in your approach and have the ability to have some form of control over the level of activity and involvement. There was no way in predicting or preventing your first injury, so if it is going to happen again, it will.

I played the safe card. I was very cautious with everything I did, out of fear of re-injury. Four months after my knee surgery, I was walking out of a building and slipped on a small, barely visible, puddle of water. With my knee still recovering and unstable, I fell. As a result, I re-tore my new ACL and required a second surgery. This taught me that some things are just out of our control and unpredictable. I am still cautious of re-injury, but I am now able to manage my fear around it.

5. Put yourself in control, have a plan to manage setbacks

Setbacks will happen. There will be days where you may be mentally or physically exhausted. Days when the rehab and exercises you did last week, you may not be able to do the following week. There will be days of sickness, other injuries or just time where life gets in the way. It’s important to know that it’s ok, and to have a backup plan. Put yourself in control and just do Plan B. Set goals and envisage success.

6. Stay positive

This by far, is one of the important points, which is why I have left it to last. “In time, this too shall pass.” A positive mind can achieve anything. So stay positive and you will get through this, stronger than ever! 

Consider your psychological wellbeing in the recovery process during and after injury. Stay positive and focused on the end result, and in turn, you will have a better chance of returning to the sport you love. It may not seem like it at the time, but injury has the opportunity to allow us to refocus on our goals. It mentally prepares us for future hurdles and setbacks. Gives us the drive to achieve things we didn’t think were possible. And, it allows us to grow and be proud of our achievements and what we have overcome.

Remember, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”


Chattin with Rubix Krug #333 (Sun State)

14th February 2014

By Blockodile Dundee

Kruger: I reffed my first game in November 2009. I wasn’t ready for it; it was NBR vs Sun State, it was the first time they’d played and it was a really big deal. They just went, “Kruger, you can jam ref.”

Blockie: You jam reffed your first game?

K: Yeah.

B: Why?

K: We didn’t have outside pack refs back then. We just used four inside refs; that’s all we had.

B: What do you most like about reffing derby?

K: I like being good at it. That’s why I do most things. I like that I can find little things to make myself better at it.

B: Had you ever reffed another sport?

K: No, never.

B: So why’d you pick derby, then?

K: I used to watch a bunch of games – March 2009 was my first game. First game, I was hooked. I went to the next five games and I didn’t plan to ref, but we went to a training where the refs were doing the rules test. Mick said to me, “Hey, do you want to do the test?” and I passed! He said, “Well, you should probably be a ref.”

B: What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to reffing?

K: When you’re actually reffing, the biggest thing is those borderline calls, the ones where you have to use a lot of judgement. When you look at it, and you can almost imagine it going both ways in your mind. Like judging between no impact, or minor or major impact, it’s hard.

B: Do you ever go home and think about whether you should have called a particular moment differently?

K: Not after I get home. Sometimes in scrimmage I’ll think about it the next jam, but in a game, you’re trained to forget about it straight away. A good skill for refs to have is only remembering things that are useful, and deliberately forgetting things that aren’t. The other big challenge is the mental side of it, staying focussed, recovering from mistakes, dealing with annoying skaters, or loud crowds.

B: It’s funny, because skaters have to do that as well – dealing with annoying skaters and…bad ref calls…

K: BOO! We need to be able to support each other, too, as refs – identifying when other refs are having a tough time and supporting them to get out of that negative spiral.

B: So as head ref, are you kind of like a team captain whose job it is to keep everyone positive and motivated?

K: Yeah, totally. One of the things I tell people who want to become head refs is that it’s your job to get the most out of your crew, and you have to do whatever you need to, to get the most out of them. Knowing whether to bring up a mistake someone made, or recognising if they already know it was a mistake.

B: What’s the most misunderstood rule?

K: I think it’s a combination of failure to reform and destroying the pack. Just pack definition stuff in general. I think about it a lot, but it’s not easy to explain it simply. Half the time skaters don’t even know what they’ve done to destroy, like they might do a little T stop just to scrub off a bit of speed, but if that T stop eventually leads to a destruction of the pack, it’s a penalty. I train refs to never call destruction unless they can identify exactly which action caused it – so you don’t see the pack destroyed and then go, “Oh, why did that happen?” You need to notice when a skater changes what she’s doing and so if the pack does get destroyed, you can say exactly what caused it.

B: Can you describe the most unusual scenario you’ve had to review?

K: The Tropicarnage before last, in the Sun State vs Gold Coast game, Gold Coast did a star pass from in front of the pivot line, to the pivot who was standing on the line. I go back and forth every few months thinking about how we should have called this. She was basically really far behind the jammer line, she passed the panty backwards into the pack and the pivot took off, but which pass was she on? Technically if the jammer joined the pack from in front of the pivot line, she’s on a negative one pass. And since the pivot picks up where the last jammer left off, was she on a negative pass, or did that count as her initial?

B: How do you cope in those high-pressure games when there’s only a few points separating teams, a few jams left in the game, and the crowd is going mental?

K: As refs, we always remind ourselves not to take on the energy of the environment, let’s have our own energy and stay calm. We have to really work sometimes when the crowd is really loud to get our whistles louder – the skaters mightn’t be able to hear our calls, but we could really damage peoples’ hearing with our whistles if we try. So we try to use our whistles as best we can to keep control when things are a bit frantic. The other thing is reminding everyone that they’ve done a really good job until that point. Usually when a game is really tight like that, it’s because we have reffed it really well. We’ll say to each other, “Hey, this is an amazing game, and we’ve done a great job reffing it. It’s not every day you get to ref this kind of game, so let’s keep going and finish strong.”

B: It’s so funny you say that, because that’s exactly what skaters are saying to each other before and during a game, too.

K: The refs are like another team. We have to do the same mental things you do.

B: Wow, I always thought you guys were just robots.

K: Well, that helps, too. Being a robot.

B: Yeah, I go robot when I play. You have to. If you get emotive about it, you can really mess with your own head.

K: We have a thing where if a ref jumps a skater successfully, I’ll buy them a bottle of booze.  I would love to jump a skater and award lead at the same time. That’s why, when I’m warming up I’ll do a bit of jumping, so if in a game the opportunity is there, I’m all over it. A blocker will take out the opposing blocker to let their jammer past, and the blocker will go down and the jammer will take off, and I’ll jump, and whistle and signal lead, and a photographer will catch it, and it’ll be amazing.

B: Can you tell us one of the highlights of your reffing career?

K: Maybe when we had The Big Three and Gotham and VRDL came to our home rink. I remember something Dom told me, he was outside pack reffing and watching Bonnie Thunders jam, and she cut someone on the outside. He went, “Wait, that couldn’t have happened.” Their coach called out to Bonnie that she had cut, just so she’d know, and Dom went, “Hey, yeah, that was a cut!” And from that moment he called every penalty he saw, he just treated them like anyone else and trusted his judgement. That was really cool.

B: What are you most excited about this year?

K: I’m excited for Tropicarnage, TGSS...and seeing what we can do this season with eleven refs.

B: You have eleven refs?

K: Yeah, we have eleven refs!

There you have it, folks. If you have any questions for Kruger, he’d love to hear them, shoot us an email!

Blockie talks ramp skating!

7th February 2014

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I'm pretty sure every human in the known derbyverse spent a good portion of last month staring at this video of Estro Jen in awe (my rough calculations estimated the ratio to be about 70% skills-awe, 30% skating booty-awe). If you've SOMEHOW missed it, you can witness the awesomeness for yourself, right here:

I'd seen her skate ramps before but found myself overcome with terror at the thought of attempting it on all previous occasions. For some reason, this time it stirred something in me and I decided to spend my off season becoming the next Estro Jen.

Of course, what this actually equated to was spending my off season nervously standing at the top of a half pipe, making uneasy noises and daring myself to drop in before inevitably bailing at the last second and instead sliding down the half-pipe on my side in the fetal position.*

*dramatic re-telling. It totally wasn't that bad, but I'm in no way the next Estro like I ludicrously imagined.

My overarching philosophy on derby is that anything you can do on rollerskates will make you better at roller derby. Bonnie D Stroir declared it when I went to one of her bootcamps four years ago and I took it more to heart than any other piece of advice I’ve ever received. With this in mind, I’ve spent a lot of time practicing tricks like jumps, some figure skating stuff, side surfing, and backwards stuff. However, this year my quest delivered me to the great sport of ramp skating.

“In what way does ramp skating make you better at roller derby?” you might be asking, you cynical cynic, you. Okay, so it doesn’t per se, but what it does do is help you learn how to control yourself in very nearly out of control situations, how to adapt your centre of gravity, how to manoeuvre your body on wheels in a different way, and how to not abuse your toe stops. Plus, it’s really freaking fun!

If you’re considering trying it out for the first time, I’d definitely recommend checking out an indoor skate park like Ramp Attak in Geebung. It’s a super safe space, the skating surfaces are all clean and in good repair, and the people there are, in my experience, really respectful. Still, you’re definitely going to want to take your entourage with you. 

There’s a great resource for newbs on – their Aggressive Skating 101 PDF contains a lot of info about some different stuff you can do when you first start skating, pointers on visiting a skate park, and some dos and don’ts to keep in mind.

The first couple of times I went, my butt and coccyx got thoroughly tenderised – I just couldn’t figure out how to keep myself upright. What I realised was that I was trying to maintain good derby form – hips back, butt down – simply out of habit. In ramp skating, however, your weight needs to be much further forward – you lean forward and keep your weight further over your front trucks than your back. Little tweaks like this totally teach you how to use your skates differently, and how to keep yourself in control when your weight shifts over your skates. It also presents you with many opportunities to defend quads and poo-hoo inlines, if that’s your thing.

And so, I present to you the fruits of our off-season labour: Hanzilla brought her Go Pro camera to a few of our sessions and The Ugly Duckling edited it into a video that I think you’ll agree makes Estro look like a TOTAL GREENHORN...

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