Posted: 10/01/2013 by PVRD
VIDEO: Why we joined derby, and why you should, too.
Got you convinced? Register now for our Fresh Meat Night on Wednesday, November 6.
Posted: 09/20/2013 by PVRD
After celebrating our 7th anniversary in January, we had a busy year with six home doubleheaders and six combined away bouts for our men's team, the Dirty Dozen; our women's A-team, Western Mass Destruction; and our women's B-team, Quabbin Missile Crisis. We are grateful to have continued our relationship with the Williston Northampton School via usage of their facilities for our bouting venues, and are thrilled to have had the chance to skate in the 10,000-seat Mullins Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
For our fans who used to cheer on our women's home teams, the old Quabbin Missile Crisis and the Florence Fightin' Gals, 2013 saw a structure change on the women's side of PVRD. Previously, league skaters and players on Western Mass Destruction were rostered on two teams that only played each other locally. In 2013, we switched to an A- and B-team setup, with Western Mass Destruction and the revamped Quabbin Missile Crisis each playing teams from other clubs, in order to allow for more growth opportunities for our skaters in competing against a variety of opponents.
Quabbin Missile Crisis had great success in its debut interleague season. Led by captain Cali Burr, the Quabbins, mostly made up of skaters in their first or second bouting year, skated their way to a 3-1 season record with strong showings throughout. QMC logged a lot of hours in extra team practices, and the time and effort paid off in spades.
Western Mass Destruction saw much roster turnover in 2013 as graduate school and job opportunities led a few PVRD veterans to other parts of the country, but under Legend of the Hit 'n Trample's strong leadership, the WMDs were 3-1 at home and gained invaluable experience playing away bouts against tough teams such as the Boston B Party, Charm City Roller Girls' Female Trouble, and DC Rollergirls' National Maulers.
The Dirty Dozen, captained by Snidely Rinkrash, struggled this season with only a handful of skaters, but devoted energy to training their new recruits well and sought assistance from new and longtime friends in the derby community to field fuller teams for games. With several recruitment nights this off-season, the Dozen are looking for fresh new talent to take 2014 in a new direction.
Our officiating crew honed their skills all season by staffing bouts and scrimmages nearly every week in various capacities, in and around New England, and continue to train and network when officiating opportunities arise. They, too, are looking for new recruits.
2013 was a year of many firsts, including our debut roller derby appearance at the Mullins Center, interleague bouts for the Quabbin Missile Crisis, a monthly open mixed co-ed scrimmage, and our brand new Junior Roller Derby program for youth aged 13-17. The Juniors' inaugural practice took place September 18 and the participants progressed quickly through several foundational skating skills. We can't wait to see where they end up!
That said, the year's not yet over for us; we have another recruitment night coming up on November 6, a ref clinic for officials in their first year on September 29, and the first-ever Late Nite Derby Affair on October 4, with multiple round-robin scrimmages running all night and a party thereafter.
We'd like to thank our many sponsors, fans, friends and family, officiating crews, volunteers, and competitors on the track for making this spectacular year possible. Onto the next!
Posted: 09/18/2013 by PVRD
We have two exciting upcoming events that are of interest to the roller derby community:
The first is a First-Year Ref Clinic and Scrimmage on Sunday, September 29. This all-day training is geared towards newer officials, both skating and non-skating, with an additional session for skaters who wish to hone their NSO skills as well. The day will culminate in a black and white scrimmage, at which officials will put their learning to the test. Participate in the officials' training, attend the NSO workshop, and/or skate in our scrimmage. Read more and sign up now!
On Friday, October 4, party with PVRD and derby friends deep into the night as we host our first ever Late Nite Derby Affair. The Affair begins at 8 PM with several rounds of scrimmages and continues on as a party at 2 AM. Attendees will receive a souvenir T-shirt and dinner is provided. Sound intriguing? Register now!
Derby All-Around: Pioneer Valley Roller Derby puts the world's fastest growing sport on the fast track to gender equality
Posted: 09/16/2013 by PVRD
by Amanda Drane
Originally published on September 14, 2013; re-printed here with permission from the author.
The valley has long been a place where notions of women, gender and sexuality have come into question, so it's only fitting that its very own Pioneer Valley Roller Derby (PVRD) was the first league in the country to host both women's and men's teams. In the spirit of acceptance, athleticism and fun, Pioneer Valley players of all genders get together to take part in the $60 million global industry gaining speed in communities around the world.
When roller derby was first popularized during the Depression of the 1930's, both women and men enjoyed the sport. In fact, a man named Leo Seltzer is credited for the introduction. Derby remained in demand during the early days of television, yet its popularity ebbed during the 1970's as viewers complained the bouts appeared "scripted" and "staged." Now, says PVRD founding co-owner Sarah "Pink Panzer" Lang, derby couldn't be any more genuine.
"You don't have to have tattoos or piercings to play roller derby. It's not a crazy time sport, it's a real sport . . . so you get a little bit of everything," says Lang.
Even during bouts, PVRD teams show unity by wearing the same color tops and bottoms, but are otherwise free to wear whatever they choose. That sense of individuality is important to the league—it was created to be a safe space within the community. Though derby's most recent resurgence, which began in the early 2000's, has taken hold more quickly with women, Lang and partner Jacob "Bazooka Joe" Fahy started the league in 2006 to bring the sport they fell in love with to everyone in the valley.
That inclusion, however, has made it difficult for the league on a national level. The men's team, dubbed 'The Dirty Dozen,' was accepted into the Men's Roller Derby Association (MRDA)—an organization that PVRD helped found, yet stringent rules in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) prevent the women's A-team, 'Western Mass Destruction,' from being ranked with other women's teams on a national scale. WFTDA rules stipulate participating teams must be 51 percent or more owned by women. Fahy and Lang remain fifty-fifty partners and stand by the precedent that sets for their league.
Men's leagues have sprouted worldwide in recent years, yet the majority of roller derby leagues remain available only to women. Fahy and Lang explain that, in the interest of keeping equality at the forefront and interest on-the-rise, it has not been in the league's best interest to turn anyone away, regardless of gender.
"Why would we tell people they couldn't play," Lang says.
Though PVRD players are obviously serious about their sport in all of its full-contact glory, a spirit of welcoming acceptance permeates the league. In their private practice space in Florence, senior derby players take the time to ensure newcomers learn every aspect of the game, even if they have never skated before (and many haven't).
Rebecca "Chewbecca" Groveman has been in the league for over three years. Groveman says before joining PVRD, she was shy and less outgoing. Derby has changed that entirely—she now has a large circle of close-knit friends, increased self-confidence and quads like a champ.
Groveman tore her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) during a bout in July, yet continues to attend every practice and anxiously awaits her return to skates.
"I have never once regretted getting involved, even after I got hurt," says Groveman.
In roller derby, pain is part of the game—bruises, bumps and sprains are commonplace, as with any contact sport. Derby is all about having fun, supporting each other and toughening up.
"If you don't fall, you're not trying hard enough," says Groveman.
Posted: 09/11/2013 by PVRD
Originally published September 11, 2013 on the Smith College Grécourt Gate News.
Perhaps it has something to do with Smith students' feistiness, their willingness to take on challenge, turn toward conflict, get ahead of anyone slowing them down, and overcome obstacles.
Roller derby jammer Myra Lam '11 rounds the
track during a recent game. Photograph
courtesy of Black Dog Pictures.Or maybe they just like to skate around an oval track.
Whatever the reason, several Smith alumnae (and a visiting faculty member) have taken up the fast-growing sport of roller derby. Half a dozen Smith women compete with the local league, Pioneer Valley Roller Derby (PVRD), the premier flat track roller derby club in Western Mass., and nearly as many have past experience in local roller derby.
For those who haven't noticed, flat track roller derby has seen a wheel-spinning growth since the sport evolved in 2001. Unlike the roller derby of the 20th century, which became overshadowed by theatrics and fixed outcomes, modern roller derby has grown into a widely respected competitive game, played internationally. The sport is dominated by women's amateur teams, though it is quickly adding men's, co-ed and junior teams, and is among consideration for inclusion in the Olympics. PVRD is a co-ed club with a budding junior program.
"Roller derby embodies a lot of the values I saw being cultivated on campus during my time at Smith," says Teresa Huang '10, whose team is slated for competition this weekend. "The importance of teamwork, perseverance, pushing through obstruction, leadership. The culture of the sport is very do-it-yourself, and has very woman-centric roots."
Huang, who joined the league early last year, had never even skated before, nor had she any experience in contact sports, like rugby or ice hockey, that might have helped her efforts in muscling other competitors aside. But, as she says, practice pays off, and roller derby has taken on an important role in her life.
"We all play this sport because we love it and because of the community we've built around it," she says.
Teresa Huang '10As the local Smith-heavy roller derby club approaches its final games of the season this weekend, Huang recently talked with her fellow Smith teammates—Aleks Kajstura '05; Alex Deschamps '05, who officiates roller derby; Myra Lam '11; Sharla Alegria, visiting instructor in sociology; and Diane Williams, who completed her masters degree in exercise and sport studies in 2010—about the sport and their participation.
How did Smith College prepare you for roller derby and life on eight wheels?
Aleks Kajstura: Smith prepared me for PVRD by providing a supportive sports environment via the Smith hockey team. Having some hockey experience definitely helped with derby.
Diane Williams: One of the things I loved about being at Smith as a graduate student and coach was seeing the ways that the undergraduates on my teams seemed to really embrace opportunities to be themselves and follow their passions. This same spirit is present in PVRD, and is part of what I have long loved about derby culture. Everyone has different talents and powerful contributions to make, and in a supportive environment, we can work together to realize a goal much greater than each of us could accomplish individually. Also, we have a lot of fun playing together, working hard, being silly, and just being a team!
Alex Deschamps '05 in a referee crew huddle.
Photograph courtesy of Bob Dunnell - mrmcwheely.com.Alex Deschamps: The reality of officiating in derby is that the majority of referees are male. This past May, I was the head referee of an officiating crew at a tournament, in charge of a group of extremely skilled referees, and in addition to being the only woman, I was also shorter than all of them by at least a foot. Smith helped prepare me for this type of situation—learning how to speak my mind and stick with my convictions. The Smith community is all about intelligence and understanding differences—that plays a large role in officiating roller derby, especially when an angry coach wants you to overturn a call.
Myra Lam: There are a lot of similarities between roller derby and synchronized swimming, which I began at Smith: moving in tandem with teammates, for example, competing in front of a crowd, wearing lamé costumes, and unfortunately, getting accidentally kicked in the sternum.
How have you seen roller derby evolve over the time you have been involved with the sport?
Diane Williams (on right) fends off an opposing
competitor. Photograph courtesy of
Black Dog Pictures.Diane Williams: Some changes reflect the sense that derby is becoming a more "legitimate" sport. Themed uniforms have largely disappeared, replaced by shiny, corporate, fancy, traditional uniforms. This is one of the ways that the sport has moved to be more mainstream. However, many teams still have their own space for individuality, in ways I find really important. The members of PVRD's women's A-team, Western Mass Destruction, wear a uniform top and anything we want on the bottom, as long as it is black. This way, the women on the team don't have to play in a uniform that forces them into someone else's notion of what they "should wear" as a "female athlete." Women play in long, baggy shorts, in tight shorts, and in "skorts," and they are still recognizable as a team. In traditional sports culture we have this obsession with teams being identical, as though that is the only element that would bring a team together. I love that our team wears what we want, but there is no doubt we are a team.
Sharla Alegria: We are not playing the same game now that we were four years ago. When I started playing derby it was all about skating fast, making big hits, and embodying a kind of tough, cool, DIY/punk aesthetic. Now speed is reserved for occasions when it makes strategic sense; hits are smart, which usually means small; some of the DIY, "bad girl" aesthetic is still there, but it's sharing space with more athletic focus. This kind of derby is actually much harder to play. Derby players have to be better skaters—more agile, faster, better at stopping, and much smarter—and teams have to be much tighter. Many plays just don't work without trust and communication.
What's the strangest misconception about modern day flat track roller derby that you've heard?
Diane Williams: That it's all fake!
Alex Deschamps: "So where does the ball come in?"
Sharla Alegria: "Aren't you worried someone will just beat you up?"
Pioneer Valley Roller Derby's 2013 season closer takes place Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Mullins Center, University of Massachusetts, starting at 3 p.m. Tickets ($10 general admission, $8 for students) are available online and at Turn It Up Records in Northampton, Food For Thought Books in Amherst, and at the Mullins Center box office.
Posted: 09/05/2013 by PVRD
We are launching a 12-week Junior Roller Derby program on September 18, 2013 that will run every Wednesday, 5-7 PM, at our private practice facility in Florence, MA. This program is open to youth aged 13-17 of all skating abilities who want to learn the sport of roller derby in a fun, safe, and supportive environment. We'll teach them how to skate!
Registration costs $120 for the 12-week program, with an additional $50 for loaner equipment if needed.
Posted: 09/04/2013 by PVRD
by Logistic Aggression
Originally published on DerbyLife.com on March 13, 2013; re-printed here with permission from the author.
Recently, I did a lot of thinking about some things I never expected to learn when I started playing roller derby. It took me a long time to work these things out—arguably longer than it probably should have done!—so in an effort to shortcut some of this process for others, I've put together the following list (in no particular order) of Things I Learned. This list is a work in progress, but even in its current form, I think it may well be useful, especially to fresh meat.
Many of these things may already be obvious to others. I make no claims as to novelty or innovativeness; these are simply the things that I learned. Furthermore, it's probably worth noting that derby has been a new experience for me in more ways than one. Not only had I never played a team sport prior to playing derby, I'd never played ANY sport before, outside of a compulsory, gym class scenario. (My initial enthusiasm for sports ended at age four when I was told that under no circumstances would I be allowed to play soccer since I was a girl.) So, it wasn't just derby that was new to me, it was, well, EVERYTHING.
1. Not everyone learns the same way.
You need to work out how you learn best. Some people learn best by watching others. Some people learn best by listening to others. Personally, I learn best by doing: When I am learning a new skill, I need to try it 3,000 times until once—just once—I'll do it right. When this happens, I can usually feel that something is different (e.g., if I'm learning a new stop, I'll actually . . . stop). Then, I try it another 3,000 times, just trying to replicate that feeling.
I'm also someone who doesn't have great body awareness. It's often the case that I think I'm doing something correctly, when in fact I'm not. As a result, I've found that watching myself skate—in a mirror or on a video or even in my reflection if I'm skating outside!—can be a really helpful when I'm learning a new skill.
2. Don't think too hard.
I'm a professor. I think about things for a living. I spend all day telling people that the only way to make progress is to think really hard about things. I thought this would apply to sports too. It turns out, I was 1000% wrong. I invariably skate worse if I think about whatever I'm trying to do. This applies all the more so when I'm trying to learn a new skill, such as a stop. Basically, when I'm skating, the most productive thing I can do is turn off my brain.
3. You need to skate outside of practice.
According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes around 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Of course, by that count, none of us are likely to become roller derby experts anytime soon, but it is worth remembering that your proficiency and progress will be directly proportional to the time and effort you put in. Skating for a few hours a week at practice isn't nearly enough time to make significant progress—you need to work on your skills outside of practice too.
4. Adopt a "growth mindset" rather than a "fixed mindset."
I grew up in England during the 80s and 90s. The prevailing attitude within the British academic system at that point in time was one of "either you're initially good at something, in which case you should pursue it, or you're not, in which case there's no point in trying." Over the past decade or so there's been a considerable amount of research indicating that adopting a "growth mindset" (i.e., believing that ability is something that can be cultivated via effort) rather than a "fixed mindset" (i.e., believing that ability is something that one is born with and cannot control) will lead to increased perseverance and therefore eventually success. (These findings are mostly due to Prof. Carol Dweck at Stanford University, though I first learned about them from Hill et al.'s report on the under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering, and math.)
Consciously adopting a growth mindset (which, I'm embarrassed to admit, only happened surprisingly recently in either my professional or personal life) was probably the single best thing I did to improve my derby playing.
5. Nobody expects you to be a stellar derby player when you start out.
What they do expect is that you will try really, really hard. I didn't try as hard as I could have (especially in scrimmages) when I started playing derby because I was embarrassed that I wasn't very good and found it hard. I was worried that people were watching and judging me on the basis of my skills. I'm a perfectionist, so this made me uncomfortable. As a result, I thought I could just hide in the shadows until I was really good and then suddenly wow people with my skills. Turns out, I was 2000% wrong. No one expected me to be anything other than terrible when I started playing derby! But they did expect me to try as hard as I could and to throw myself into everything—even things I wasn't good at.
Most importantly, you will only improve if you practice, and to practice you need to put yourself out there—which is precisely the opposite of hiding in the shadows. Not participating (or not participating 100%) because you're not already good at something is only going to slow you down. The only way you'll become good is by practicing (see above regarding what you get out being proportional to what you put in). So you have to suck it up and acknowledge that you're going to be awful initially, but that trying—and failing!—AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE is the only way you'll get better. And no one will judge you negatively for trying.
This viewpoint is consistent with recent research by Prof. Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania, who claims that the single personality trait that best predicts eventual success is "grit." Duckworth defines grit as "a passion for a single mission with an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission, whatever the obstacles and however long it might take." Furthermore, Duckworth and her colleagues argue that grit is built through failure: therefore, in order to succeed, you first need to learn how to fail.
6. Derby's not about skating.
If you like, well, just skating, then derby isn't the sport for you. No seriously. It took me years to work this out. Derby's about STOPPING and AGILITY. If you cannot stop like a total badass, you're not going to be a good derby player. If you have to choose one thing to work on, make it stops. More specifically, make it snowplows, hockey stops, powerslides, and turn-around-toe stops.
And finally, something I learned very recently . . .
7. Offer to ref for a few scrimmages.
I love jamming. Sure, I find it incredibly hard endurance-wise, but I love the quick thinking and agility that it requires. However, because I don't have much jamming experience, I'm not yet a super-awesome jammer (see above regarding practicing things that you have not yet perfected). So one of my ongoing goals is to work on my jamming skills. Earlier this year, I was unable to scrimmage due to policy reasons, so rather than leaving practice early, I offered to jam ref.
It turns out, if you want to be a jammer, spending a couple of scrimmages as a jam ref is an excellent way to learn more about jamming. You get to follow a jammer, watch everything they do in incredible detail, and have all the fun of trying to keep up with them. I learned so much from jam reffing and then learned even more by subsequently trying to put what I learned into practice.
Posted: 08/15/2013 by PVRD
Don't miss our 2013 season closer at the Mullins Center in Amherst!
This doubleheader of men's and women's derby will take place Sunday, September 15 at 3 PM, with doors opening at 2:30 PM.
Tickets are $10 general admission and $8 for students, and door admission for kids 6-12 is $5 while kids 5 and under get in free.
You can pick up advance tickets at the following locations:
- Mullins Center box office (UCards accepted)
- Food For Thought Books, Amherst
- Turn It Up!, Northampton
- Online via Brown Paper Tickets
Bring all your friends -- this is the last opportunity to see Pioneer Valley Roller Derby bouting on the track locally in 2013!
Remember, you can bring your frequent flyer card to any of our home or away games. See you there!
Posted: 08/09/2013 by PVRD
BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEO: Getting ready for an upcoming bout by disassembling our skate court floor after practice and prepping it for transport to the venue.
Posted: 07/31/2013 by PVRD
Here's a blast from the past. Bazooka Joe did an interview with The Rebel Yell back in 2009 about his Lego derby setup. It's been upgraded and revamped a few times since it was first created, but we've collected some old photos—along with original captions—here for your enjoyment, and archival purposes. Take a look at how we used to play derby!
The only reason he and Pink Panzer started PVRD was so Bazooka Joe could realize his life-long dream of creating a Lego roller derby bout. And we applaud him!
1/38.4 scale Lego model of a Flat Track Roller Derby bout. (One 5/16 inch Lego stud equals one foot)
Even the Reverend Al Mighty sports his red tunic to support PVRD while he announces! (in the non-lego world - he doesn't really do that)
As is customary at a PVRD bout, there is at least 1 celebrity in the audience.
DJ Sir-Skates-A-Lot spins them bumpin wax trax.
Lego PVRD's Tour Bus
Check out the PVRD tourbus - complete with a roof rack and PVRD flags!
Skaters line up as Pizza Bob in the Snack Shack gazes on with anticipation. "Hey look - it's Pink Panzer!" he shouts.
No, they aren't selling player body parts. They're selling shirts, and buttons and posters :)
Overhead shot of the action
See if you can spot your favorite PVRD player (note: Western Mass Destruction is in red).
PVRD is winning!
The Amazon Women from the Moon have no chance against Western Mass Destruction.
A giant real PVRD skater took this shot while watching the action unfold on his picnic table. Notice the ambulance - safety first!