Check this out. This lady (known as Big Jeanie to her friends) loved to roller skate in her heyday and TBB HQ were asked by her daughter if she could come along and  have one more go on skates as it was part of her bucket list.

Of course the TBB crew were more than happy to accommodate. So here she is with Boba Fettish and Thrill Collins, smiling like a sunbeam!

Brawlers take on the USA – 2 sides of a dime (Part 2: Tails)

I want to say up front that while what I am about to relate to you has technically come out of the Brawlers trip to the US, it is more of a reflection on the emotional investment we make in roller derby and the sometimes vulnerable position that puts us in.

Following my injuries last year I had been only blocking for the A Team, putting my jamming aside to reduce my risk of aggravating said injuries as much as possible (i.e. not making myself the type of target that jammers tend to be). However, I was approached by the TBB captains in the early part of the year who said my jamming in scrimmage had been good and I was asked to concentrate on jamming for the A Team, with ECDX as the goal.

Jamming has always been a love-hate activity for me. On a good day I could do really well but then I could have a bad day and lose my head in a real funk. I felt like a basically hit or miss jammer and at that time, the thought of jamming at such an important tournament left me filled with dread. I was scared about not being able to control my performance, about failing in front of such a massive (and world-wide) audience and ultimately, of letting the team down.

Needless to say, with Operation ECDX underway (alongside my personal ‘Operation own it for Wales’), I got stuck in, forcing myself to take on the jamming roles in drills and scrimmage and trying to up my game in terms of stamina, skills and versatility of approach.

I worked on my mental game, making real strides towards flushing ‘bad’ jams and instead taking them as learning opportunities. In the months leading up to ECDX I jammed both for the Brawlers and for Team Wales and became much more comfortable with the notion that my success as a jammer relies not only upon my jamming skills, but also on my blockers’ ability to switch between defence and offence effectively. My confidence in myself grew, and through all of the bonding and training leading up to our trip, my confidence in my team mates grew as well.

When we played our first US bout against Suburbia I felt really good and found throughout the first half that my style of jamming appeared to work well against the opposition blockers. I was disappointed not to jam in the second half, especially as I’d had such little trouble breaking through the opposing walls, but I figured the bench wanted me to block more and so I spent the rest of the game in the pack. Following the game I asked if there was a particular reason for the change in my usual rotation and was told that there was none other than other jammers appeared to be doing well. I have to be honest – this confused me as I didn’t understand how I did not fit into that description also. Anyway, at that particular time I just thought, C’est la vie, we’ve got two more games and then the tournament so I’ll get to do plenty of jamming then.

Indeed, come our closed door against the Gotham B Team I got to play as both a blocker and a jammer in good measure and found myself to be generally strong jamming against their walls, and even where I didn’t get lead I was pleased to find that my work on flushing bad jams had paid off and I didn’t dwell on them at all. Over all I thought I played confidently and was pleased that all of my hard work and focus in the 3 months leading up to the trip appeared to have paid off.

A couple of days and one Greyhound ride later, we found ourselves in Washington to face the DC Roller Girls. This game was a real struggle for me.

As I said in my previous post, I had managed to pick up some kind of food poisoning or stomach bug at some point in the 24 hours preceding the game and while I did manage (just about) to play the game, I was feeling extremely weak and shaky. In an attempt to reduce the impact of my bad health on the team, I informed the line-up manager and spent most of my time on track as a blocker rather than a jammer. I was really sad to be in that condition on that day, as my jamming confidence in the previous two games had added to the building blocks of ‘Operation Jamming for ECDX’ and I really felt like that game was going to be the one where I cemented everything I had been working on.  But at least I still had the tournament to look forward to.

Oh boy was I wrong.

On the back of our losses leading up to ECDX the captains and bench manager decided to re-jig the packs that we had been playing in for the previous few months. Obviously the intention was to shake things up a bit and revive the team spirit in advance of the tournament. Certain players were played more to their strengths and others were played less to allow room for this.

I was devastated to find that I was not going to be jamming at ECDX.

After training so hard for 3 months solid to make myself reliable in that role, and specifically for the ECDX tournament, I was now no longer allowed to do it. I cannot even begin to describe how this affected my morale or confidence, especially since I felt that aside from DC (where I was sick) I performed consistently well as a jammer in both the U.S. games and in the closed doors and scrimmages leading up to the trip.

Add in to the mix that the tournament was smack bang in between Fathers’ Day and my dad’s birthday (the first since he passed away) and you might understand that I was feeling somewhat emotional.

I unfortunately cannot say that I didn’t indulge my disappointment over the course of the weekend, or that I valiantly shook myself by the shoulders to drag myself past the funk I found myself in.

I’m not going to say it wasn’t frustrating hearing the people who were still allowed to jam making comments about how they were finding the walls difficult or the fact that they kept getting lead but not scoring points, especially as all I wanted to say was, ‘hey, at least you’re being allowed to do what you came here to do’…

I would like to state at this point that my intent is not to focus on or encourage negativity here. I am merely being honest about a situation I was in and the feelings I felt. Of course I would love to say that I sucked it up and forgot about it straight away, but I can’t. I was caught in a whirlwind of anger, disappointment, sadness and mistrust. And I was totally crippled with the frustration that I could not control these feelings or turn them off.

Totally ugly, right? Right.

What I did do was the best I could manage in the situation I found myself in. I distanced myself from the majority of my team mates between games so as not to affect their mood, and made a conscious effort to reign in those feelings during my time on the track. This was largely successful (although not 100%) and I feel I made a decent contribution to the team effort as a blocker and concentrated on that for the remainder of my derby play time. Focussing on the next jam with my pack, being in the moment and doing my part when required to do it.

As I said at the start, this is less a review or our USA pilgrimage, and more a reflection on mental toughness (or not), keeping your shit together when it counts, and taking responsibility for your emotions and how they affect other people (and often, as a result, their performance).

Roller derby is an amateur sport with a lot of individuals playing for teams with almost professional-type competitive goals. For those of us playing for such teams, we are about as close to super human as it gets: We live our everyday lives with partners and families, we work our day jobs, many of us volunteer for various league roles and activities and we give our all in training, bouts and fitness. This is a BIG emotional investment!

But we are only human, and there will be times when we just can’t brush off a feeling, and times in our lives when things outside of skating are serious and lend themselves to affecting your interaction in derby.

International tournaments and travel planning take a lot of time, effort and commitment in the run-up and as such emotions will be high. And when you have a whole load of passionate, emotionally invested women in that very same boat, those emotions may well spill out around you.

What I’m trying to say is that this is ok. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for it. We should just ensure that we minimise our impact on others and figure out a way to maximise our contribution to the team in spite of this.

In this particular story, I was aware of my emotions in relation to what was most likely a thoroughly considered line-up makeover and I dealt with them in a way that I hope minimised their effect on my team mates. I did what I was told to do during the games and I contributed to 2 fantastic wins at ECDX. And I can also say (albeit in retrospect) that I am thoroughly glad I was there in any playing capacity, whether jamming or not.

My next big focus is Team Wales and the Blood and Thunder World Cup. I know I am going to be totally invested in this team and my role within it, because I already feel the ‘feels’ for my wonderful team mates and I haven’t even skated with them that much. By the time we get to Dallas I am going to be head over heels for this team in this sport. The potential for disappointment is going to be there and I am going to have to remind myself why I am there and how I got there and hope that this experience makes me that little bit stronger when it comes to dealing with it. Especially since I still have to prove myself to make the final roster selection and there is a real chance that may not happen.

As you may have guessed, mental toughness is going to be way up there among my focus points for the next few months and I am just hoping that no matter what happens, whatever role I am undertaking, skating or not skating, I will be as useful to my team as I can be.

And that’s it. Sorry for the waffle but I hope it has given you something to think about.

This is Jolly, attempting to keep on Jollying on.

Peace out.

Brawlers take on the USA – 2 sides of a dime (Part 1: Heads)

So you probably saw (from myself and the rest of the Brawlers) all the hype over the last few months about the Tiger Bay A Team going to take on the U S of A.

Our invitation to ECDX on the back of ‘2013: A Skate Odyssey’ meant a whole heap of planning, fundraising and training in preparation for our American challenges. In the run up to our pilgrimage the Brawlers were busy implementing ‘Operation ECDX’.

Needless to say, with Operation ECDX underway (alongside my personal ‘Operation own it for Wales’), I got stuck in, trying to up my game in terms of stamina, skills and versatility.

I worked on my mental game, making real strides towards flushing ‘bad’ jams and instead taking them as learning opportunities. My confidence in myself grew, and through all of the bonding and training leading up to our trip, my confidence in my team mates grew as well. In fact, by the time we were ready to fly to the States I was the most confident I had ever been as both a jammer and a blocker.

Our first State-side sanctioned game was in Yonkers against Suburbia, and was the day after Aga, Mustang Mitch and I had flown out. I thought I would feel a little jet-lagged and would possibly struggle with the heat, but come game day I felt pumped and we were lucky enough to have our game in the evening and of a relatively cool day.

The first half of the game went well, with the Brawlers more than holding their own against the home team. There were a few points to adapt to, namely the style of reffing and, weirdly, the angle of the sun coming through the windows (but this was blinding players of both teams, and refs alike and so was no real handicap one way or the other)!

The second half unfortunately saw multiple trips to the box for TBB players and in conjunction with this we lost our lead and when the final whistle was blown, the home team had secured a win.

Despite our loss, however, we still performed much better than predicted by our ranking, and every last one of us felt we could perform better at the next game. It was following this game that Jen-Clawed Van Slamme awarded me with the ‘Spirit of the Pack’ (which I like to think was for positive mental attitude and team work), and this served to boost my confidence even further.

The Suburbia girls were wonderful hosts, putting up the whole team and demonstrating American hospitality in style. Aga, Mustang Mitch and I stayed with the lovely Rita who not only provided a beautiful and comfortable place for us to stay but provided a veritable feast for breakfast with fresh coffee, fruit, pastries, eggs and bacon. Omnomnom! 

Game number 2 was an unsanctioned, closed-door game against Gotham’s B Team, The Wall Street Traitors. Gotham’s B Team!!! Rubbing elbows with Bonnie Thunders and OMG at the Gotham Crash Pad was pretty awesome in itself, but then we got to play some roller derby as well!

I was super excited to jam and block in good measure, and the whole team was emanating positive vibes and tight play for the whole game. We worked well as a team and ended the game with a 5 point loss to the B team for arguably the best league in the world. To say I was pleased would be an understatement.

In between our New York bouts we were also lucky enough to be able to fit in a bit of sight-seeing. I had a lovely wander through Central Park with Aga, Mustang Mitch and Ava Assassin, undertook a spot of education with a whole bunch of Brawlers at the American Museum of Natural History, and some shopping in Times Square with Kid Block, Dos Santos, Bloxie and Aga.

One Greyhound ride later, we found ourselves in Washington to face the DC Roller Girls. I will say fairly little about this game as I had either eaten some dodgy fish or picked up a horrendous tummy bug. Either way I was amazed that I was even managing to play, let alone worry about my performance or keeping a running commentary of how the game went! Again, we performed much better than the rankings predicted and although we would have loved to grab a win on that day, we knew that DC were a worthy team who played well on the day. You can’t really ask for much more than that.

The very next day we were on our merry way from DC to Philly – finally on the eve of the tournament. And we were EXCITED!!!

As the unknown British newcomers our predictions from both the stats people and ECDX spectators were not the most hopeful with the general consensus being that we would lose. Badly.

However, following the most inspirational speeches from our bench manager Neil Helado (where he pretty much made everyone want to cry), we played 2 extremely strong games against Garden State and . I don’t know if it was the atmosphere or the excitement but both games seemed to fly by with us owning each one throughout and emerging victorious! So much so in fact, that TBB were dubbed ‘Biggest upset’ of the tournament! Woooooooooohooooooooooo!!!! Not bad for representing British derby, eh?!

Following our official games of the tournament, Jen-Clawed Van Slamme and I had been fortunate enough to get involved with a challenge bout against the Pensylvania All Stars (eeee!). Representing Team Wales in a World Cup mixed team called United Nations of Roller Derby we got to totally let our hair down and mix things up a bit. Obviously the established team won but we didn’t care as we had so much fun and got to meet lovely people from national squads including Portugal, Greece and Ireland.

And as if that wasn’t amazing enough by itself, ECDX was responsible for reuniting the Brawlers with their long lost and greatly missed, original head coach, Tui Lyon (aka BB Bombshell). That meant that as well as partying alongside a whole bunch of excellent derby ladies, including Helsinki and such derby names as Mick Swagger and Smack Daddy, the Brawlers also got to once again party with BB!

I have to say though, aside from all the derby amazingness and partying, some of my biggest highlights of the US Brawler adventure were catching up with old buddies (specifically BB and Garth) and feeling a little but closer to some current buddies, specifically Mustang Mitch, Aga, Hello Reeshii and Jen-Clawed Van Slamme. What a bunch of absolute babes!

I probably haven’t summarised this in the most eloquent fashion, but it is a basic (and over due) low down of all the goodness of the Brawler ECDX ‘big summer blowout’.

Now I’m just hoping to do it all again in December with my Team Wales buddies for the Blood and Thunder Roller Derby World Cup!

8 more sleeps… Tiger Bay U.S. tour: New York - DC - Philly - ECDX!!!!!
Squeeeeeee! :)

8 more sleeps… Tiger Bay U.S. tour: New York - DC - Philly - ECDX!!!!!
Squeeeeeee! :)

Jolly’s Plank Challenge - Week 3 progress

At the end of week 3 (on Sunday 25th May) I got up to 3 minutes 15 seconds.

 However, this week has been difficult and I am no longer quite on track with my 5 minutes in 5 weeks - but I am well ahead of schedule to meet my minimum of 3 and a half minutes!

 I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather, or that my theory of getting exponentially stronger was just pie in the sky thinking, but the last 5 - 10 seconds of each increased plank I have done has completely wiped me out, meaning I have needed a rest day every other day, which in turn has slowed my progress.

 The 6 sponsors I now have are keeping me going, but I really do feel that I would be a lot more pumped if I have a few more…

 Please support our cause and show me that my efforts are not in vain!   

 You can make a pledge here:

 https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1dXqk1yRTFwb1i67iE3UQZuOMXsNmWrwJQMcAuJw-Pig/viewform?usp=send_form 

 If you can only afford a small amount, (like 2p per 5 second increase) that is totally cool – I just want to know that you’re out there. And of course, every little helps!

Making Team Wales: My experience

On the run up to the first round of Team Wales try-outs I was apprehensive, excited and intrigued all at the same time. I didn’t know what the Team Wales squad would look like, what calibre of skating there would be, how the massive expanse of mountainous Mid Wales would affect the amicable arrangement of training sessions for both north and south, or whether I would be a good or worthy fit for the team.

But just before the first try-out, all of that was wiped completely from my mind.

Just before Christmas 2013, my father was taken seriously ill while on holiday in India. Just before New Year he passed away in New Delhi. To say that it was a shock would be an understatement. And to say that it was difficult trying to get him home and deal with the fall-out would be a gross understatement.

My first instinct was to withdraw from the Team Wales try-outs, but in the midst of dealing with such a devastating situation that I had so little control over, I took the decision to go through with the try-outs as much to just keep myself occupied as anything else.

Needless to say, when I rocked up on 4th January 2014 my mind was of limited capacity and I feared the very real possibility that I might just burst into tears if someone hit me too hard… As it turned out, it was the best decision I could have made.

Once again, roller derby proved to provide me with a mental safe-haven and gave my brain a well needed rest from the upheaval at home. In addition to this, the other girls attending the try-outs were all so positive and friendly that any apprehension I may have had just melted away.

I can’t say I remembered much else from that day - including how well I performed - but it couldn’t have been too bad as I managed to make it through to the second round of try-outs.

Thankfully, the second round of try-outs were not until a couple of months after the first and this allowed me some time to regain some control over my home life, deal with my grief and get my head back in the game.

With everything that happened I decided that life is way too short to hold back on things, and I went along to the second round with a clear head and a solid motivation, determined to secure my place on the squad.

The second round was an even more rewarding experience than the first, with a generally high standard of skaters from all over Wales (and some from England, with Welsh descent). The drills were challenging and scrimmage was a blast, and I honestly could not say how the decision on the final cut was made.

Thankfully, the squad charter was announced relatively quickly after the second round and I was super pleased to find that all of my TBB teamies that had tried out had also made it onto the team.

Team Wales training officially began on Saturday 5th April and while it is clear we all come from very different strategic backgrounds, I have absolutely no doubt that we will be well oiled and putting up a decent fight come December and the World Cup.

This first quarter of 2014 and my journey onto the Team Wales squad has certainly been an experience – some of which I wish had never happened, but some of which I wouldn’t change for the world.

Cymru am byth!

The most belated ‘year in review’ award goes to…

It’s been a long old time since I last posted anything on here, and even longer since I did a real home grown blog.

Things have been… interesting (?) / experiential (?) / unexpected (for sure) since my last post, and it as taken me a little bit of time for me to get my head together. Less of that for now though - you’ll have to wait or this years update to read about that. However, for me, the whole of 2013 was in fact a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but I’ll fill you in on that as we go.

So anyway, 2013 saw the launch of the new WFTDA rules set and I had my first real experience of this at the UKRDA Sur5al tournament at Tattoo Freeze in January. And it wasn’t as scary as I had anticipated.

Being a skater who had previously been pretty clean but who had often picked up the dreaded 3 minors, I was pleased to find that the new rules set appears to suit me quite well and during the Sur5val tournament our TBB team did ourselves proud, coming 2nd out of all teams and in fact scoring the most jam points overall!

The next big thing that happened was a coaching visit from the lovely Ballistic Whistle and the AMAZING Juke Boxx!! Yeah, you read that right - Juke Boxx. I have to say I actually felt a little but sick when I saw just how skilled that woman is and to top it all off she is also nice, beautiful and funny. No biggy (yeah whatever, Jolly!). Anyway, they covered some super useful and revelatory (yeah I said revelatory) stuff and I found my skills subsequently took a nice little boost as a direct effect.

Following that, we did what had previously seemed impossible and somehow won a bout against the previously (and since to date) unbeaten LRG B Team, Brawl Saints!!! Needless to say that was the best start to our official bouting year and the sellout game was followed by lots of dancing with the LRG crew, including some of my favourite derby personalities, Stefanie Mainey and Raw Heidi. Such a good day!

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23 February 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Brawl Saints (LRG B) {Home} - TBB 204 - 135 BS LRG B

 This then set us up beautifully for the host of excellent bouts that followed:

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30 March 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Go Go Gent Roller Girls (Gent) {Away} - TBB 333 - 119 Gent  

31 March 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs One Love Roller Derby (OLRD) {Away} - TBB 371 - 41 OLRD [closed door, released score]

Just before our off season we were invited to attend the European WFTDA Tournament: 2013 A Skate Odyssey, and being the only apprentice league to had been invited we felt that there were a lot of expectations on the team. Indeed, we were seeded 4th in the tournament which meant that every opponent we faced was a formidable one and without our usual bout prep time we were a little unsure of the impending result. It turns out that we needn’t have worried as we managed to win our first two games and proved our right to be there when we came in with a mere 3 point loss in the final! TBB ranked 2nd in the overall tournament after the following results:

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10 May 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Crime City Rollers (CCR) {Away} - TBB 242 - 212 CCR

11 May 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Helsinki Roller Derby (HRD) {Away} - TBB 168 - 165 HRD

12 May 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Berlin Bombshells (Berlin) {Away} - TBB 149 - 152 Berlin

Unfortunately I suffered several injuries between that tournament and our following games, damaging (what still seems to be permanently) my sacro-iliac joint and my AC joint, which resulted in a lot of time off-skate. I had assumed that this time would mean that I would be stepping off the A Team for the following quarter charter but as it happened the time off did me good, and although my fitness obviously suffered, my blocking ability / approach benefitted. Therefore, stepping away from my jamming role I continued to focus on this.

So, after a few months of recuperation, strategy assessment and training, Tiger Bay’s A Team had their return to bouting in September, following our formal acceptance as a full WFTDA member league. We met again with one of our favourite opponents from SKOD, Crime City Rollers, and after some tough game play on both sides, this is how it went down:

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7 September 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Crime City Rollers (CCR) {Home} - TBB 223 - 132 CCR  

Following on from this we faced some old foes…

26 October 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Leeds Roller Dolls Rebel Roses (LRDRR) {Away} - TBB 266 - 135 LRDRR

23 November 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Windsor Rollergirls Who Dares Windsor (WDW)  {Away} - TBB 305 - 175 WDW

And then onto some grudge matches…

Cover Photo

7 December 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Helsinki All-Star Ninja Turtles (HASNT) {Home} - TBB 171- 144 HASNT

8 December 2013: Tiger Bay Brawlers vs Brawl Saints (LRG B) {Home} - TBB 171 - 242 LRG B [closed door, released score]

Unfortunately my family life took a swift turn for the worse following this, but in terms of roller derby (and despite the injuries) 2013 was one to remember, and if I could have ended the year on that day of the Brawl Saints game I would have said that 2013 ended on a definite high.

Here’s hoping 2014 will blow 2013 out of the sky!