"You talk a lot of shit for someone who never says anything."

"My skating career lasted 10 minutes, so you'll find me sharing my opinions about bench coaching, NSO'ing, and everything else one can do quadless. Knee pads are optional, but advisable."

That is the introduction I wrote for myself a couple of months ago. Since then, I've fallen twice, both times on my left knee, leaving it gushing blood, and now I am seriously considering wearing knee pads at all times.

Since then, I've also done something new I can do in roller derby without putting skates on, besides bench coaching and NSO'ing. You know those people whose job it is to talk through the game? The announcers, yeah? Since we last spoke, I've taken on that role too.

It just so happens that a friend of mine has done quite a bit of announcing, and she had a dream in which I was announcing with her, and well, how can you say no to making someones actual dreams come true? And so when she asked me, I panicked for a couple of hours, as one does when confronted with something outside of their comfort zone, and asked half the people I know for assistance in my decision making. When they all said "yes, do it", I trusted that I have surrounded myself with people who'd rather see me try new things than set me up for an obvious failure to gain a few laughs. So I said yes, let's do this.

I'd never really thought about announcing much. I have to admit that rarely do I even listen to the announcers, I am often so focused on the game itself, so I didn't have much to work with. My mom gave me solid advice though - "don't start talking too fast, no-one will be able to understand you." In all honesty, that advice stuck with me and I tried to make myself talk slower and actually pronounce the words I was saying. I'm not sure if I managed - I tend to start talking faster when I get excited or nervous. Needless to say, roller derby makes me excited, speaking in front of big crowds makes me nervous. Building blocks for a great success, eh. 

I won't go around calling myself an announcer, by no means do I want to compare myself with those who actually know what they are doing, but announcing wasn't as frightening as I thought it'd be. Sure, I started repeating myself and caught myself using the same phrases over and over again. I struggled with trying to use terms that any non-derby enthusiasts would understand as well. I stumbled on my words, a lot. I stated the obvious - "one is always more than zero." Are you sure about that, Anna? But at the end of the day, it's just talking. Talking to a crowd of people, but still. And I can talk.

It's difficult trying to find the line between what you can say and what you definitely shouldn't mention. It is easy to stay unbiased, because honestly, when any player or official does well on that track, it's worth a mention, no matter the team. Trying not to comment on penalties, points and strategies before they've been executed is excruciating. Seeing jammer being hit out right in front of you, seeing the blocker who hit her out fall, seeing the jammer skate back to enter the track behind the pack that is bridging backwards, knowing she could come straight back on the track, and not being allowed to say anything?  Thank goodness for the mute button.

I was given a video link to the bouts a couple of weeks ago, but I will never be able to watch the games with audio on. I sure as hell don't want to hear what I said. I am just going to keep on being proud of making it through the experience in one piece. I didn't choke. I kept on going, I made silly little jokes. I actually enjoyed myself by the end of it all.  I stepped out of my comfort zone, and now I have one more experience to tell tales about. Isn't that what this is all about in the end, challenging yourself? I think I am doing a pretty good job with that.
My partner in crime, Ani, and yours truly. Picture by Carlos at derby.pictures.fi.
// Anna Miettinen


Greetings from EROC

The European Roller Derby Organizational Conference (EROC) was hosted by Bear City Roller Derby for the 5th time in February 2014. This time around, EROC was bigger then ever with approximately 200 league representatives participating.  

Whilst taking part is plenty of fun it’s also exhausting as EROC lasts two or four days depending on whether you participate in the workshops. The weekend is packed full of informative sessions followed by official afterparties as well as unofficial get-togethers at the Tiki Bar which is practically an institution for the seasoned EROC-goers. It is also a big responsibility to represent your league and to bring home useful information as each league gets to send only four representatives.

EROC offers tips and updates for older and newer leagues and both skaters and officials can benefit. This year, the sessions contained everything from tournament organization to mental coaching and visual training.  At least I filled a whole notebook with thoughts and ideas, including the very useful note for myself: get some muscles to become a better derby player.

Finnish representation

This year’s EROC had a great turnout from Finland; Helsinki Roller Derby, Kallio Rolling Rainbow, Tampere Roller Derby, Lahti Roller Derby, Dirty River Roller Grrrls, Shitty City Roller Derby and P-Town Brawlers were all there. The Finnish representation was pretty great especially considering that in 2013 only the two leagues from Helsinki went to Berlin. 

National roller derby organizations were also invited to participate in the extravaganza and Roller Derby Finland was there to share the Finnish success story. Finland is in some way unique in Europe as we are the only country that organizes the national championships as a cup that runs throughout the year. This means more opportunities for Finnish leagues to play but in addition everyone taking part can also try their hand at organizing bouts. The Finnish Cup is going to be particularly exciting this year with the addition of four new leagues in the 1st Division.

Hopefully, next year, we’ll get to see even more Finnish leagues taking part because EROC is a great opportunity to forge relationships with other leagues, whether it may be through agreeing your next bout or just by having a beer with a skater that you didn’t know before.

We’re all Europeans

EROC kicked off with discussion sessions which were held separately for veteran, intermediate and rookie leagues. Kallio took part in the intermediate leagues session and at least there it quickly became clear that most European leagues suffer from similar problems as us: there’s never enough training space for on-skates practice and never enough funds to do all the great things we would like to do. Volunteers seem to be another problem as we all just want to skate but unfortunately running a competitive league requires a lot of work.  It’s somehow really comforting to know that we are not alone with these problems and to see how other leagues have tried to solve these issues.  

At the same time, we learned many positive things too. European leagues co-operate a lot with each other even across country borders. And having so many different ways of doing things enriches the European roller derby culture.

WFTDA and Europe

WFTDA relationship with Europe seems to be this year’s hot topic along with junior derby and thus a lot of time was dedicated to discussing WFTDA with both member and non-member leagues. Many Europeans still see WFTDA as an organization representing mostly the North American leagues and at present there’s perhaps has some truth in that: only 10% of the WFTDA leagues are based in Europe. However, our influence in WFTDA has been increasing and will likely continue increasing as more and more European leagues are thinking about becoming members. At least in Finland, HRD is already a member, KRR is currently going through the AP process and there have been rumours that some other Finnish leagues are also considering starting the application process.

Another concern in Europe is the WFTDA rankings system. The feeling is that new members and AP leagues are having some difficulty in finding opponents for their mock sanctioned bouts and also the first sanctioned, but un-ranked, bouts. We are all pleased to hear to WFTDA has heard our cries and it currently considering various options on how to improve the situation.

Until next time

After a month I have finally recovered from the long weekend in Berlin and have had time to introduce all the new ideas to my league. Now I’m already looking forward to next year and next EROC. Can’t wait to see what great things are in store for us then.

// Schlagerlöf