Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Deception in Derby

Hey Roller Guys and Gals. Celtic Thunder here bringing you another addition of Men in Derby…
As we roll on through our bout season, there’s so much to look forward to. Many upcoming festivities such as Travel Team bouts, intra league bouts—check out our upcoming
Wicked Wheelers vs. Rolling Thundercats on Aug. 15th—and men’s team festivities to mark your calendars for.

Today I want to give a shout out to one of many men’s derby teams whom have created their own leagues for the pure love of the sport. Welcome Dallas Deception!

Many of you might have questions about men’s teams and how they are formed, how they practice, how they bout, pretty much wondering if there are differences between women’s and men’s roller derby. Well there’s no difference—except they might be a little rougher, but hey now---we’re derby chicks and certainly know how to kick some derby butt! But I can say both men and women’s derby can learn a lot from one another.

We are going to look at the history of Dallas Deception from conception to today and speak with Rhino, the captain and general manager. Rhino is said to be the #1 back blocker in the country according to the reputation and word of mouth in the derby world.

Let’s take a look at some of his tips, tricks and toe-stopping advice!

What is the history of Dallas Deception?
The team was formed in August 2007. Our first practice was at Thunderbird Roller Rink in Plano Texas. We had four guys and four girls. The following week I had a few more. By the end of the month I had a solid seven players. Out of these seven, five are still with me. Matomic, Shortbus (who was at the first practice), Vanilla Ice Pick, Johnny Pocket Rocket (currently playing for the Twin City Terrors ) and myself. We teamed up with Space Case (Dry Heat Militia ) who was with Quadsimoto and Rinkworm ( NYSE ) for the first ever Men's National Tournament Throw Down in the Sound, hosted by Puget Sound in Seattle. We took 2nd... technically we placed 3rd. We gave our 2nd seating to the Diamond City Death Kings (3rd ) due to our low numbers, injuries and the beyond rough game Puget Sound gave us earlier in the day. We as a team agreed that The Death Kings had a better shot at taking the win.

Today we skate 21 players strong and are currently doing the planning for two home teams. I have been with The Dallas Derby Devils (DDD) since 2004 helping them finish their second expo bout before their first season. Like most players I started as a ref. However I have never ruled out playing for Assassination City—DDD was just on my side of town. Assassination City is a huge supporter for us and those were the girls that I had with us in the first practices. I have never turned away female skaters from our practices. I feel I owe it to all of them. Without any support, and allowing us to "piggy back" at their games and do our little 20 minute bouts, Deception never would have grown to the team it is today. Every practice helps anyways right? Special thanks to Luann Splatter and Gloria Vanderbitch, members of Assassination City that were at our very first practice and still make an appearance.

Deception is not a member of MFTRD or MDC or anything else for that matter. Not something we plan to bother with. If the sport becomes something huge, and we are all professionals that is one thing, but we will not listen to others tell us how we need to behave and take care of our league. We play the game the best way we know how. If you don’t like it, then you don’t like it. The only way for something like that to succeed is if the people running it are not players. They need to have the best interest in the overall sport, not their region or team. I think it is too hard for someone to have the power to sway things in their favor and not do it especially in such a highly competitive and intense sport. Make whatever magazine and website you want and put all the stats and ranking you can think of on it. None of that stuff matters to Deception. It’s the word of mouth reputation that we care about..... and Youtube. Youtube doesn't lie.

As captain of the team, what does your responsibilities consist of? We all know derby is fun to play but there comes a lot of organization and patience to manage a team…tell me your experience.
Well someone who knows what they were doing had to get off their ass and start a team in Dallas. So it had to be me. Luckily, I knew where to find great skaters that would be interested. I have the most experience so it just makes sense that I am captain and do the training. I'm also the GM since I have started the league. I don’t really make all the decisions. I like to bring everything to the table. See who is and isn’t willing to travel. Or who can play. Or what our next bout should be. "My door is wide open" and my team calls me and suggests things constantly. So ideas are always flowing.
A few skaters like to run their mouths on forums so games are sometimes easy to find (haha it’s all in fun though).
I’m an event planner, so its nothing is new to me. I can handle the pressure and I like being in control. The part of the job I hate is writing line ups! Everyone needs to play, but you have to play to win. And now that we are bigger than 14, not everyone can play the small amount of games we do get to have. I’m the last one that wants to tell you, that you can’t play in the next bout, but it’s the dirty part of the job that I have to do.

On the Rink with Rhino:
For those new derby fans, they think derby is about just knocking the guy/girl on their ass. But it’s actually more involved! Blocking is a critical function of strategy. From what I hear…you are the #1 back blocker in the country, according to word of mouth in the derby world. Can you tell us what you believe makes a good back blocker?
You have to have confidence in your game and know what it is that you do well, and do it better than anyone else. Practice different things, talk to people, watch players, ask questions. You don’t want to be a one trick pony. You have to have great agility and some speed. You never want to let a jammer pass you on the left. Making them go outside makes the track longer. Hopefully a partner in crime can pick them up. Then you race up for the sweep, or assist in the blocking. If you can get a jammer early in the game, you can get in their head. Stay in front of them. It’s much more frustrating than getting knocked down.

What do you need to be thinking about when on the rink (as a back blocker)?
You have to think like a jammer. "Where are they trying to make me go? Where do want them to go? What’s going to be this jammers next move? What’s in front of him? Where is his help? Where is mine? Where’s my jammer?” Pretty much in that order. If the jammer wants to have a foot race on the outside—let them. Remember you have the angle. Push a teammate out there. Or go yourself, ride them out of bounds, and go for the kill, but not too early. A good jammer is waiting for that and will cut inside. If you can lock in on them and get them on your pack, stand up and give that jammer a hard shoulder. There’s a 90 percent knock down rate. Most important thing to remember is, if the other team doesn’t score any points then we don’t have to. If they score four, we have to score five.

There are few types of blockers. You got the pivot, inside, outside and back, which are all playing offensively and defensively. Can you give advice on how to strengthen these positions both offensively and defensively?
I like the blockers to work in teams. Yes Lone Wolf is great if you can do it. But that blocker # 2 needs to be ready to assist if the jammer gets away. Blockers 2 and 3 now work together in blocking the jammer. Pivot and blocker 1 can assist the jammer. If the opposing teams jammer makes it through most of the way, but stopped in the front, all blockers get back in front of said jammer. If a quick offensive move is there, take it. But don’t let it open up anything for the other team. Remember if the other team doesn’t score any points then we don’t have to. If they score four, we have to score five.

Many teams do group practices and training to help their performance on the rink. Are there specific drills that can be done (other than the typical hitting, booty blocking) for blocking?
There are always drills that can be done. If you lost your last game, or something was off, figure out why. Why did that team beat us? What makes that player so good? Then find a way to practice that move/play/strategy. The simplest drill can really help. No matter how far you have to break it down. Fundamentals help everyone even if they are boring. My favorite is to sprint and then A-frame as quickly as possible. Four quick steps, A-frame for a second, rinse and repeat. This helps a blocker deal with those outrageously fast jammers on the outside.

What can derby folks do off the rink to strengthen their blocking skills?
Working out will never hurt. Strength is definitely a huge factor. Its not everything, but if you have the muscles, you might be able to get yourself out of a situation.
Also endurance. If you are the go-to player, you will be in a lot, especially close to the end of the game. Don’t spend too much time on a treadmill. Train for skating. Stairmasters and cycling!

When practicing as a group on all positions required for a jam, teams tend to click. However, when you get on the rink, it’s somewhat a different story. If you’re team is either not communicating well or your teammates are sitting in the penalty box, what can you do individually to help your team, blocking wise?
In this situation you would have to try something different. Games can go by quick, or not quick enough. You have to adjust and do it fast, which is why you want many to have a lot of stuff in your arsenal, and reach into your experience playbook and pull something out. Everyone would need to step it up. Play tighter in the pack and frontal block more to avoid penalties. One person can make a difference, but once person can not do it all. Sometimes you just don’t have the cards, but that’s what practice is for. Making sure your hand is always the best one on the table.

Once the jammer has already passed you, the back blocker, what role do you now assume until the jammer reenters the back?
The job is not done just because the jammer has passed me. I may be a point, but only once. Make the jammer pass you over and over again. It will feel like a 20 pt pass but remember only 4 pts can be awarded. Don’t be a dead point out there. If they do get away, make sure your jammer is right on their ass. Get them out of there if they are not all ready. But make sure you get back to the back and on the pack before their jammer hits.

Getting Derby with Rhino:

Why did you join derby?
I’ve been skating all my life. I watch it on TV and always wanted to play.

What do you love most about it?
Like most people I am a completely different person on the track. I have to be an enforcer. I am definitely the most passive person ever in reality, but I think I might be a bad guy when it comes to the game. But it’s fun. You’ll have fans either way. Plus I’m a great skater, derby came easy, and people look up to me. I get to play rock star.

What was your most memorable derby experience?
Definitely seeing how well any of my teams do. I’ll go ahead and tell you cause if you ask you’ll find out. I cried just a little at the throw down when I was trying to give a speech to the team about how well we played and how proud I was. That’s what happens when you build something from the ground up and see it work. Same with the girl’s team I coach. Seeing them apply what I show them, and have them win game, is the greatest feeling I can have.

What about derby has made you laugh so hard your cheeks hurt, you wet yourself or made your stomach ache (I have two….lol – my teammate asked me to help her off the rink and I asked if she was ok and she said she took a good hit but pee’d herself a little….I was dying lol. Also….some of our girls’ strategy for distraction on the pivot line is to begin with a nice crop dusting….lol but shhhhh I never told you that)
I’ll have to try the crop dusting. That’s a good one. Deception is a real close team. We go get a beer after every practice. Most of the dumb stuff happens then. For an odd reason I laugh when someone gets the F*** knocked out of them, including myself.

Do you play any other sports that can help with your derby skills?
I watch a lot of sports. I have been very athletic my whole life. You can steal things from every sport for derby. Really pay attention to football plays. Some of it is so simply you will kick yourself for not thinking about it sooner. When I’m trying to show something new to someone, I always ask if they have ever played another sport or follow something closely. If you can relate, strategy and things to derby through that sport, they will pick up on the game much quicker.

When you’re not at derby, what can we find you doing?
I went to school for radio and spent a year doing that. I learned some great stuff and was on air on a very popular show. But there was no real amount of money for me at the time. So with that in the back seat I am working for a Pittsburg paint store. But I still get to do what I love and that is DJ.

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