Archive | May, 2013

On the Road Again: How to Survive a Derby Road Trip

23 May


We’re in the height of derby season, and what does that mean?  Derby road trips!  In fact, I’m headed out on one myself (Quebec City, here we come!).

Derby road trips are amazing.  They’re fun, they’re a great way to bond with your teammates (as Joy Collision says shared biological experiences bond a team like nothing else), and they’re a chance to have wicked adventures.

They’re also a chance to be trapped in a car for 8+ hours with girls that you see 3-4 times a week, along with their cases of stinky gear, trying to navigate to oftentimes hard-to-find arenas.  Hm, interesting predicament.  Chance for awesome fun – absolutely!  Chance to be cranky and sick of each other by the time you get there – yes ma’am!

So, how to you survive, nay, dominate a derby road trip?

1.)  Drive/Room with like-minded people (but don’t let that stop you from driving/rooming with new friends too.

It’s important to fill your car and/or hotel room with people that won’t make you crazy.  That’s not to say that driving with girls you don’t know will be a bad experience.  Often some of my best trips were with girls I knew very little, since being trapped in a car together forced us to get to know each other and find common ground (other than derby).  If you want to get to bed early, try not to be in the party room.  If you want to make sure to hit the road bright and early the day after your game, make sure your car-mates are on board.

2.) Have a schedule, but be open to unexpected fun.

I’m sort-of Type A.  I like to have everything organized all of the time, so I like to run a pretty tight ship when it comes to my road trips.  I have audiobooks on hand if the conversation lags (silent car for hours on end, not fun, trust me),  I have car games to play when stuck in traffic, and I try to plan my rest stops as best I can in advance.  Stuffy, right?  Yep.  And I know this about myself.  So, that’s why, for me, it’s important to remember that if we pass something cool or exciting, it’s okay to spend a bit of time there.  The only thing you *really* have to do on a derby road trip is get to the arena on time – so allow yourself time for unexpected adventures.  They’re often the best part of your trip.


3.) Bring snacks and a cooler/Check out local restaurants in advance.

I like to eat pretty healthily (as best I can).  I track what I eat.  Not having agency in my food choices freaks me out a bit, so I like to have healthy options along the way.  Traveling needn’t be a reason to completely derail your nutritional plan – and derby girls should try to eat like the athletes they are.  I research cool restaurants in my destination city before I leave, and I check out their menus.  I keep a cooler with water and snacks in it for the ride.  Having a solid plan helps you stick to your healthy habits.

4.) Keep the trash talk to a minimum.

Yep, where there’s derby there is drama.  But that doesn’t mean that you need to talk about it for the whole trip.  Instead of spending all of your down time getting riled up about the things that bother you about your league/your leaguemates/the team you’re going to play/the refs/etc., talk about what’s awesome about your league/your team/the refs.  Talk about strategy, and what you need to do to be even more awesome – both before and after the game.    Talk about things that aren’t derby so you don’t burn out.  Getting down on the things that irk you will only make the trip feel longer.

5.) Wash your filthy gear.

4+ skaters, 4+ gear bags, sweaty bout, heat of summer.  Blerg.  Wash your gear before you leave so that at least the ride there is pleasant.  Your teammates noses will thank you.


6.) Finally, pack smart. 

I was a Girl Guide, so I’m always prepared.   Here’s what I pack:

  • Uniform, gear, tools, tape, sharpie, scissors, extra helmet covers, the usual stuff
  • Clothes, but not really many of them, since most non-drive time will be spent in an arena and trunk space is at a premium
  • Change of wheels (for floor variety) or vinegar/rosin
  • Snacks and a cooler (for the car and the hotel)
  • Cash (for buying merch and cool stuff along the way)
  • A bathing suit (most hotels have pools or hot tubs)
  • My own pillow (I hate hotel pillows, they are way too squooshy)
  • Phone Charger (and phone)

Derby trips are fantastic, they often end up being the best derby memories that you create.   Remember to take pictures.  Remember to respect your teammates.  Any tips I’ve missed?  I’d love to hear from you.

Have fun derby trippin’!

I would totally go on a trip with these guys.

I would totally go on a trip with these guys.

Game Face

2 May

We have a big game this Saturday.  A BIG game.  A game my team has been preparing to win for years.  As such, I thought a pre-game tip was in order.

So we’re clear, my team LOVES smiling.  We’re all sort of hippies, who like to bake and get along and throw theme parties and all that good stuff.

This is our typical face:

Photo courtesy of David Crane

Photo courtesy of David Crane

In researching how to beat our rivals, I came across this interesting study, which I think has carry-over into derby. Two recent researchers studied the images of MMA fighters and their win records. Those smiling in their pre-fight meet-up were more likely to lose the match.

The researchers, Michael Kraus and Teh-Way David Chen, had coders who were unaware of the purpose of the study, look for smiles and smile intensity in photographs of 152 fighters in 76  UFC pre-bout face-offs. Data on the fights was then obtained from official UFC statistics.

The researchers wanted to test the idea that, in the pre-fight context, smiles are an involuntary signal of submission, just like teeth-baring is in animals.  Just like they predicted, the more fighters smiled, the more likely they were to lose.  Fighters with neutral facial expressions were more likely to dominate the following day’s match.

Hmmm, so maybe the smiling is not so much a tool that helps keep us loose and relaxed, as an unconscious show of nerves.

Perhaps not surprisingly, smaller fighters smiled more often than larger fighters.  I might be what you call a “smaller fighter”.

Building on the initial data,  Kraus and Chen asked 178 online, non-experts to rate the aggression and physical dominance of the same fighter either smiling or expressionless in a pre-match face-off.  Smiling fighters were consistently rated as less dominant.  The follow-up data suggests that not only is smiling before competition a subconscious signal of submission, it’s one that your opponent can pick up on.

That’s tough.  As I said, I love smiling.  But, as far as this game is concerned, I love winning more.  So, on the track the only face you’re going to see is this one:

Photo courtesy of David Crane

Photo courtesy of David Crane

But before you put your lovely smile entirely on the shelf in the name of derby dominance, here’s a follow-up:  You need that smile to better recover from stress.

Like I said in my last post, we’ve got cursing to help us stand the pain of the game during the bout, neutral expressions to demonstrate our physical prowess pre-bout – what about post-bout?

Post-bout, put those pearly whites on display.

In an research report, by Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman (2012) studied 169 college students.  They hooked them up to a heart rate monitor, and had them spend two minutes doing a difficult task, using their non-dominant hand to trace a star-shaped design without going off a provided outline, using only a mirror image to guide them, having been given unrealistic predictions of accuracy.  They also made participants put their hands in ice-cold water (what is it with scientists and these water tests?).  Stressful, right?

Here’s the meat of the experiment – The participants were divided into groups: Some forcing their faces intro neutral with chopsticks, some forcing mouth-only smiles with chopsticks, and some forcing Duchenne smile (both mouth and eyes) with chopsticks. Duchenne smiles are generally regarded as “genuine” smiles.  Within the “smiling” groups, half were told they were supposed to be smiling, half were just told how to position their faces.

Regardless of their awareness, smiling participants returned to their pre-stress heart rate more quickly than those with neutral expressions, and the Duchenne group recovered slightly more quickly than the mouth-only group. If you’re looking for a more complete recovery after an exhausting bout, make sure to smile it up.

What did I learn from all of this reading?  Keep your game face on.  It actually does make a difference.  I liken it to walking into a room with your power stance (neutral spine and pelvis, arms relaxed and by your sides, feet shoulder width apart).  When you carry yourself with power, in your body, in your face; you will feel more powerful.

In derby, we can use all the confidence boosters we can find.  Returning to neutral face is an easy one to employ, and one that you can use to reset after each jam.  Bad call?  Nasty hit?  Miss an obvious play?  Let it go, and clear your face.  Make it a routine, and before you know it, those tough moments won’t phase you quite so much.

Time to get your game face on.

Smiling – save it for the afterparty.

Here is my after-party face:

Photo courtesy of Nick H.

Photo courtesy of Nick H.