The final round of Team USA Roller Derby try-outs wrapped up at 4:30 p.m. on Monday Aug. 12, 2013 in Seattle Washington at the Rat’s Nest, Rat City’s practice space. Just shy of one month later (Monday, Sept. 9) Team USA coaches Buster Cheatin and “Endless” Justin announced their list of semi-finalists. After what they said was "a near impossible decision" Buster and Justin managed to whittle down a list of 300 skaters to 46.
Decisions must be made
In the coming months these coaches will be watching the remaining 46 skaters as they play in Divisionals and the like, and plan to reduce the list to a mere 20 skaters. That may not sound like a very big number out of 300, but it only takes 14 girls to fill a roster and the standard WFTDA charter is 20 skaters. After all this heartache, Buster and Justin plan to hold another tryout, inviting anyone who didn't make this cut or who missed the first round another chance to make the team.
Some things never change: location location location
Some things in roller derby will always be in roller derby. There are two things every derby player has certainly come to expect. One, as they say, is location location location. Ever wonder why roller derby is always found in the dangerous abandoned dregs on the outskirts of the city? Why are the women sent past abandoned buildings with undesirables lurking in every corner? When directions to the space include things like behind the rubble pile, past the hazard sign, and don't go to or from your car alone, be assured that derby is close. Some might suspect that They (the powers that be) don't want women organizing in safety. Regardless, Team USA try-outs weren't a step up, even in the name of America.
Try-outs were held in a warehouse on the dock and the concrete floor wasn't flat. The questionable locale and imperfect facility is nothing new to roller derby. In fact, it’s the status quo. Most indicative of what a derby girl is happy to endure is that the 120 some-odd girls who showed up for open tryouts noted and joked at the “banked track” they would be skating on shortly, but none guffawed or declared the conditions untenable. After all, the Rat City Rollers, currently ranked 12th on their way into Division 1 playoffs, skate on that same floor every day.
Organized chaos in derby time
The other expected phenomena in roller derby gatherings is derby time, aka lateness. As usual, things were moving a little behind schedule and skaters waiting to sign in were encouraged to do stretching and off-skates warm ups while in line, as there would be little time to gear up and no group warm-up once things began.
The estimated 120 girls were split into three groups, black/white/red, and either 1 or 2. These distinctions soon proved relatively meaningless as all 120 were on the track at the same time, first doing narrow, right-footed snow plows, then narrow left-footed snow plows in the opposite direction.
Buster Cheatin, one of only three evaluaters, encouraged skaters to utilize the outside of the track, but warned, “Don’t stay out there, don’t hide on the outside.” Next came two-footed hockey stops and lots and lots of falling.
Whatever happened to safety first?
Perhaps it goes without saying that, in a roller derby bout, there are always only 10 girls on the track (and that's more than enough). Not everyone stops with the same speed, trajectory, or efficiency. When there are merely centimeters separating one skater from another, calamity must ensue. Even once the girls were split into their three color groups to do backwards blocking drills, bringing the count down to 40 girls on the track at a time, many were overheard saying, “This isn’t really safe,” or “There’s no room to move.” Even Suzy Hotrod did a somersault over a wayward leg. If Suzy Hotrod is falling during a stopping drill, maybe there's a few too many feet on the track.
Not just cream rises to the top
As the drills became more contact related, and as there were no refs on duty during the skills portion, out-n-out cheating became prevalent. Though Buster Cheatin emphasized, “Just touch (shoulder to sternum), and then start,” the face-to-face shoving match more than one girl would omit the soft touch start and immediately throw a shoulder into the opposition's sternum. When asked who got around their opponent more than 9 times, some girls were prone to exaggeration. As two and three person wall building drills commenced, Buster specifically asked for some referees, saying, “Your penalties are being noticed.” Perhaps some weren't cheating, per se, but just weren't listening to the directions. Is that any better?
And now to play derby: a little criticism
Early information on Team USA try-outs said there would be a skills portion, after which a cut would be made, if necessary, followed by a scrimmage portion. After the skills portion, however, all but 28 skaters were cut. Make no mistake, the 28 skaters left standing are incredible titans of roller derby and absolutely deserve the chance to compete. A few favorites include Scald Eagle, On Da Sligh, Baller Shot Caller, Jamsterella, Sinister Tsunami, Mickispedia, and Maus.
Several skaters, however, equally as bad ass, weren't given the opportunity to show what they can do...on the track. A backwards chop-chop and a 15-second wall building exercise isn't really indicative of one’s ability to play derby. Not to question Team USA coaches Buster Cheatin or “Endless” Justin’s ability to select and harness talent, but it doesn't seem possible to truly evaluate that many skaters in that crowded of a setting.
Will the skaters on Team USA be awesome? Of course. Could they be missing out on real talent? Absolutely. If roller derby has taught us anything, it’s that amazing skaters appear out of nowhere. Buster and Justin failed to give opportunity to the sleepers, the silent killers, the non-WFTDA elite that could easily dominate the track if given the chance. Time is an issue but open try-outs are held in the name of discovery, aren't they?
The scrimmage portion: never before seen derby, made fresh
In the scrimmage portion of Team USA try-outs, a new derby was created. Towering, and gigantic, we made it fresh, like dough capturing wild yeast and raising on a window sill. The game played with the best in the business is like no derby ever seen before. The first two jams were stalemates, without a single player losing position for what seemed like minutes. After that the game was fast, really really fast. There was no such thing as slow play and above the grunts and swoosh there was an ever present, clack clack clack of wheels digging in with fierce stopping power. It was well worth the $40 admission price and two hours of on-skates humiliation to be there and see what we, women's roller derby, had made out of scraps and less than ideal raw materials. In the words of the coaches, even if only a few can be on the team, WE ARE ONE.
The finalists, many of whom will not make the cut later this year
Julie Adams, Denver Roller Dolls
Tracy Akers, Denver Roller Dolls
Amanda Jamitinya, Bay Area Derby Girls
Antidote, Philly Rollergirls
Baller Shot Caller, Gold Coast Derby Girls
Barbara Ambush, Texas Rollergirls
Bonnie Thunders, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Cam Arrow, Ithaca League of Women Rollers
Carmen Getsome, Rat City Rollergirls
Claire D Way, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Donna Matrix, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Fifi Nomenon, Texas Rollergirls
Fisti Cuffs, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Holly GoHardly, Charm City Rollergirls
I.M. Pain, Charm City Rollergirls
Jackie Daniels, Windy City Rollers
Jamsterella, Jacksonville Rollergirls
Juke Boxx, Minnestoa Rollergirls
Killanois, Windy City Rollers
Mercy, Rose City Rollers
Mick Swagger, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Missile America, Rat City Rollergirls
Nancy Nightmare, Green Mountain Derby Dames
Olivia Shootin' John, Texas Rollergirls
OMG WTF, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Onda Sligh, Oly Rollers
Pfister, Melaine, Wasatch Roller Derby
Polly Gone, Texas Rollergirls
Racer McChaseHer, Detroit Derby Girls
Jes Rivas, Denver Roller Dolls
Scald Eagle, Rose City Rollers
Second Hand Smoke, Minnestoa Rollergirls
Shaina Serelson, Denver Roller Dolls
Sexy Slaydie, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Shenita Stretcher, Philly Rollergirls
Slambda Phage, Minnestoa Rollergirls
Smarty Pants, Texas Rollergirls
Snot Rocket Science, Steel City Roller Derby
Suzy Hotrod, Gotham Girls Roller Derby
Teflon Donna, Philly Rollergirls
Trauma, Kansas City Roller Warriors
Urrk'n Jerk'n, Rocky Mountain Rollergirls
V. Diva, Philly Rollergirls
Varla Vendetta, Windy City Rollers
Wild Cherri, Atlanta Rollergirls