Full Speed to Dallas

At the inaugural roller derby World Cup Finland surprised by finishing in a good fifth place. This autumn, the national team had a downright influx, and the team was compiled with careful consideration. The desire to succeed and evolve is intense.

In March 2011 just over twenty young roller derby enthusiasts tried out for the first Finnish national team. The first ever world cup in history took place in December of the same year. In early spring 18 skaters had been selected to join the national team, and when injuries and new family additions took their toll, replacements were added within a few months through new try outs.
The final tournament roster consisted of 16 skaters from four Finnish, one Swedish and one English league. Joint practices were held a few times before the games, and one mixed scrimmage was played in Tampere with the Tampere Rolling Ho’s.
History was forged before the actual tournament itself when Team Finland welcomed their Swedish counterparts in October 2011 to Helsinki. The bout was the first encounter of national roller derby team’s in the sports existence. With the experience provided the team flew to Canada, where they played, won, lost, got injured, cried and laughed. In the end, an incredibly stunning fifth place was brought home, the second-best as a European team.
In the autumn of 2012 the old national team activated itself again as Team USA arrived in Helsinki. Helsinki Roller Derby organized a major event around the national team: first, the United States took on the Swedes, and in the evening's second bout the hostess country Finland. In addition, the following day most of the team attended a training day coached by the sports superstars, which drew participants from all across Europe.

The First Step: Selecting a Coaching Team

As we are slowly approaching the 2014 and the second World Cup, a lot has happened behind the scenes with Finnish roller derby. The number of leagues in our country has increased manifold, and the sport has established an umbrella organization, Roller Derby Finland ry. (RDF), which manages the national team and its coaching team.
In the spring of 2013 a new and fresh coaching team was sought through open applications to build and assemble a new national team. Based on applications RDF's Board of Directors selected Suvi Hokkanen (Helsinki Roller Derby) as head coach, who has four years of experience as a skater and coach. Operating with Hokkanen on the coaching team will also be Jori Hämäläinen (Helsinki Roller Derby) and Raisa Siivola (Kallio Rolling Rainbow).
The new coaching team's first task was to organize try outs, which after a cut down were attended by more than 40 roller derby enthusiasts not only from Finland but also from Sweden, England and North America. Each had a goal to gain a place on the national representational team.

The Best Skater Is Not Always the Best Derby Player

Much more than good skaters is required to form a good team, but basic skill levels were inherently high.
"At the national team elimination we wanted to test the players skating technique, teamwork and game intelligence. To reach the national team a player must be able to perform a variety of technical deliverables such as braking in every direction", said head coach Hokkanen.
Although the importance of skating technique cannot be overemphasized, Hokkanen points out that a good skater is not the same as a good derby player.
"A lot of other factors are needed, such as the physicality and determination. These aspects of the players came out among others in scrimmages. We were able to follow the player's game intelligence, ability to work in the team and their coachability. "
After a long weekend the coaching team’s next step was to weed out the group which would be chosen to build the future representation team with.
"Most on the national team circuit are experienced skaters, but a few newer hopefuls were included. We want to see how these potential players develop over the next year, now that they
have access to train with the best in the country“, describes Hokkanen of the national team circuit structure.
In addition, living in a small country has its own advantages in the view point of training a national team: "The national team circuit has time to train for over a year before the next games, and the majority lives within a few hundred kilometers radius of each other. This is a huge advantage compared to other countries, and we try to take everything out of it. "
However, there are also Finnish expatriates on the team, who do not always get to train with the group.
"We aim to keep them up to date with the national team objectives, strategies and style of play, among others through video materials", Hokkanen says.

Old Roles Have To Be Forgotten

The first joint training weekend was held in October 2013 in Pasila sports hall. Most of the national team circuit players were able to attend.
The national team camp started with skating exercises which focused on pack work this time. Afterwards, a full-length bout was played, which also gave coaches an opportunity to observe the players game features and coachability.
The day continued with dining together, and as the evening progressed the national team circuit players were also given tools for mental training and team building.
Emerging discussion themes consisted of the future team, its creation, the ‘us’ –spirit, trust and openness. Time and space was reserved for spending time together, open discussion and getting to know each other.
Skill wise all players on the national team are relatively high level, thus exercises focus on the formation of a common style of play. Everyone is accustomed to interacting with specific actions and strategies in their respective teams. The demands of a good national team player is to have the ability to adapt to the team. A role within the national team may be quite different from one’s own league.

A National Team Develops the Whole Country’s Derby Field

In 2014, the national team will train about once a month around southern Finland, and each national team circuit player is committed to training in their own league to keep themselves in condition in preparation for the December 2014 tournaments.
In addition, the program includes fitness programs and national team bouts in the spring. Cuts are made along the year and the final 20 player team going to the World Cup will be published in the autumn of 2014.
What's best, each player will be upping the ante with their own efforts in raising the skill levels and standards within their own league. This pushes Finnish Roller Derby up to the next level.
Roller derby is still a relatively young sport which however is here to stay. It will most likely establish its own position in both team and particularly in women's sports.
Also, head coach Hokkanen is already looking towards the future: "I do not want to keep an eye on only the next World Cup, I wish continuity for the national team circuit, from which a team will also be formed after the 2014 World Cup."
"The national team circuit is to ensure a strong development of our sport in the future, even if the current sight is of course in Dallas", she says.
There is more suspension preceding the World Cup in addition to the Finnish team’s development. In 2011, 13 teams headed to the games, and it is expected that the increasing number of enthusiasts in 2014, the World Cup will be attended by a growing number of participating countries as well as viewers. Since already in 2011, the Finnish girls were able to rise from a predicted 10th place to fifth, what can be accomplished when being all prepared in the year 2014?
One of the team's playfully biggest challenge may well be a rousing national anthem performance in the likes of the New Zealand team’s haka or the Scottish catchy drinking songs.

National Team Camp 2014:
A.M. Chaos– Stockholm Roller Derby
Blocking Molly– Helsinki Roller Derby
Deadbeat Debbie– Helsinki Roller Derby
Dominå F. Äkt – Kallio Rolling Rainbow
Doomey B. Hind– Kallio Rolling Rainbow
Elina Ruhoranta– Tampere Roller Derby
Estrogeena Davis– Boston Derby Dames
Finn McCruel– Helsinki Roller Derby
Heli Runteli– Helsinki Roller Derby
Iiris Suominen– Helsinki Roller Derby
Kat Strator– Dirty River Roller Grrrls
Killpertti – Kallio Rolling Rainbow
Kira Horpi– Tampere Roller Derby
Leeloo Dallas– Helsinki Roller Derby
Linda– Helsinki Roller Derby
Little Hooligan– Tampere Roller Derby
Mirkkuli– Helsinki Roller Derby
Only– Kallio Rolling Rainbow
PolygAmy Winehouse– Stockholm Roller Derby
Pygmi – Kallio Rolling Rainbow
Raivo – Helsinki Roller Derby
Rita Hateworthy– Granite State Roller Derby
Sara Mack-EH?– Helsinki Roller Derby
Super Maria – Helsinki Roller Derby
T-Bag – Kallio Rolling Rainbow
The Blizzard– Bristol Roller Derby
Tigre Force – Helsinki Roller Derby
Tiina Kimari– Helsinki Roller Derby
Triptease– Dirty River Roller Grrrls
Tsubutex– Kallio Rolling Rainbow
Udre– Toronto Roller Derby/Kallio Rolling Rainbow

First published in KARU 2/2013
Text: Janica Saxelin
Translation: Adelle


A love letter to officials, or how NSO'ing makes me a better bench coach.

I'm going to tell you one of my secret weapons as a bench coach - NSO's. Trusting that all the non-skating officials will do their jobs right, and actually knowing what those jobs are, gives me a peace of mind.

I NSO every now and then. I'm not one of those kick-ass dedicated magical unicorns who can handle the penalty box by themselves in a scrimmage, or keep score and jam time at the same time. I am comfortable in the penalty box (even with just one clock! even with paper work!), and I actually enjoy keeping score. I've been known to line up track grudgingly. The scoreboard didn't explode when I was working it. I can get by as a NSO, but I'm by no means Army of Darkness -level awesome at it. 

There are two main reasons why I volunteer as tribute, ahem, as a NSO. First of all, officials, skating and non, rule. There's no roller derby without officials. Officials take great pride in knowing what they do, and always try to do their best possible work. I've rarely laughed as much as I do hanging out with other officials in cramped locker rooms pre-bout. There's this special feeling of camaraderie among officials. We're there to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible, we help each other out, we support one another. We're part of something great, something you have to understand to truly appreciate. 

And every single time I officiate a bout or a scrimmage, I learn something new about the rules or game play. That's the other reason I volunteer - it makes me a better bench coach. There's so much about roller derby you don't quite get no matter how many times you read through your rule book. Now I know to advise my players to go sit in the box during their warm ups, so they know what kind of force they can use without sending the chairs flying. I know that I can walk in to the box and bring my player a water bottle or a rubber chicken as long as I don't communicate with her, and just as well I know that I can stand outside the box and say whatever I want to her. I know the scoreboard may not have the official time, and the scores may be wrong, and that nothing in this world is official until the board says so. 

 Once you've stood in the penalty box with two jammers sitting time, the whole audience and half the players shouting at you, you KNOW what those situations are all about. Those 25 seconds teach me all about that situation that The Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby part 7.3.1. never quite could.

The level of officiating is rising by the minute here in Finland. We have amazing crews of officials who are willing to travel all over the country, all over the continent even, just because they love what they do. The days when any injured player or freshmeat skater was asked to work the box last minute are over, and I'm glad they are. 


I am happy every time I coach a bout, and I can name every single official working in the box that day, and I can trust that they won't fuck up. And even if they did, they'd do everything in their power to make it right, because that's just how it goes. It truly does.

There will be a day when my skills might not be good enough anymore to work bouts, but until that day I'll keep part-timing with my special super secret club mates. And you know, even when I don't, I'm their biggest and loudest fan, balloons and unicorn puppets and all, because that's what you do when you know a little about the magic that goes on behind the scenes. So I'd like to raise my glass to Team Awesome, you rule my world.

// Anna Miettinen