Did you know that the Jet City Rollergirls have the longest running comprehensive league skater training program in the Pacific Northwest? Skills are taught in our Basic Skating Lessons (BSL) and once skaters master the minimum required skills for roller derby they advance to our fresh meat team (Jet Cadets). From there they have the opportunity to be drafted onto any of our four home teams.
Hot Quad recently sat down with skaters Woah Nellie! (CarnEvil/Bomber), Rainbow Bite (Camaro Harem) and new draftee Miranda (Pink Pistols) to talk about their experiences as skaters who were homemade by Jet City, for Jet City.
To learn more about Jet City’s New Skater Training click here
Hot Quad: Let’s start with introducing yourself and tell us how long you’ve been with Jet City and when you started training with Jet City.
Miranda: I officially started I would say February of this year – I’m not going to count when I started the other time. I got picked up last week so In September.
Biter: I’m Biter and I started BSL three years ago and I got picked up May last year.
Nellie: I’m Nellie and I started in January of 2012. So I found out about the program through this little , you know, Xeroxed copy of the schedule and then I went to the website and it said “We’re training rollergirls!” and I thought “oh! That’s cool” It was right before Christmas and I said “oh! My birthday’s coming up I’m going to buy some skates and I’m going to go check it out. So I bought skates on Friday, my 37th birthday, and Saturday I showed up to BSL. And that BSL was HUGE! There was like, I don’t know how many people were there. You (Hot Quad) were a Cadet at the time.
Hot Quad: Yeah there were like sixty people that day
Nellie: Yeah! It was gigantic!
Nellie: And [Big] Poppa kicked us off like – we were down in his end and he’s like, “um the BSL has to go that way.” and I’m like “I don’t know what to do!”
So that’s the day that I started and I was hooked. And then so I did that for half of a round (six weeks) because that was sort of in the middle of a session. Then I tried to get onto the Cadets at that time but I didn’t make it and that was – you (Hot Quad) were a Cadet at the time and you (Biter) were a Cadet at the time.
Hot Quad: That was our second round of Cadets, right?
Nellie: And I couldn’t do the worm so they wouldn’t let me on. So and then I spent another three months in BSL and then went to Cadets in June of 2012 and then was picked up in September of 2012.
Hot Quad: When you were learning how to skate what did you like or what did you not like about BSL? Was it a good program for you guys?
Miranda: I thought it was a good program because it solidified the fundamentals of skating even though I got to be like “I don’t want to do stops again” or things like that – now that I’m at where I’m at I’m so glad that we did do that because you stop focusing on the fundamentals because you’re trying to learn the sport but you already have a background because of our BSL program.
Biter: I loved it, but when I went through there were four of us and it was taught by nobody that is there right now so it’s totally different.
Nellie: I thought it was great and I loved all the skills that I was learning. And I did – I even liked the pace of it until I felt like I wanted to move on.
Hot Quad: Talk to me about tryouts. We don’t really have tryouts here at Jet City but we do have sort of a point of transition from BSL to Cadets. What was that day like for you guys?
Miranda: I technically started BSL when you (Nellie) did and then I stopped because I got busy. Then I went back and ShaNita [Penalty] was watching me skate and then told – ‘cause they were just getting ready to do another round of Cadets and they had started that week. So [Big] Poppa watched me skate and said I could go to Cadets. So it was just like a “whoa that’s exciting!” I’m back and I’m in here.
Biter: Well – it was kind of one of those things that you looked forward to but it was like no one was there. There was just the four of us and Phearless [Diller] was watching our every move and she was like, OK – do this.
Nellie: yeah – Do crossovers! Do crossovers as you’re tripping…
Biter: It’s nerve wracking a little bit but at the same time you’re so ready to get to Cadets that it’s awesome.
Nellie: yeah – I have to say that the first time I tried out and didn’t make it and didn’t complete the worm like I was supposed to – that was pretty nerve wracking and I definitely felt like perhaps I was, it was evident that maybe I was in a little bit out of my league. But then when I actually became a Cadet I was definitely supposed to be there so it felt really smooth and really easy just to show up and be like “alright let’s do it. Let’s learn.”
Miranda: And I think that the BSL again the fundamentals of it allowed you go just go in and really focus on learning the sport which is already super confusing when you’re so new.
Hot Quad: After the first several weeks of Cadets you guys would have started practicing and skating with teams. Tell me about your very first team practice.
Miranda: It was a Hula/Carnie practice so that was fun. It was like super scary and all the new Cadets you could see there were six of us in our cars like – 15 minutes early – ‘cause we were all so nervous. Then we see ‘Fraid [Knot] get out of her car so we all jumped out of our car and were like ‘oh are you getting out?” and she was like “I was fixing my skate… but…” and we were like “Oh. We were… too.”
But once we got into it the two teams that were there that night were really welcoming. There’s always that fear that you’ll go in there and be like ‘oh my gosh. I’m gonna be awful and they’re gonna hate me’ but everyone understood where you were at and wanted to help and it was really accepting.
Biter: All I remember from our first practice is that it was a Pistol/Harem practice and as soon as we got there we were told to put on our skate and [coach Putin on da Foil] put us through the worst endurance drill and it was pretty awesome because you got to see everybody who you thought was awesome dying a little bit. And there were people on the Pistols and the Harem that kind of had to stop and probably puke in a corner – so you felt like you were on more even ground with everybody.
Biter: That’s the only thing I remember about that whole practice was the first ten minutes!
Nellie: My first one was Pistol/Harem and I remember everybody just saying how hard those practices were and how they never looked forward to those practices and so of course my skates – you know – weren’t fitting right for THAT night only -laughter- I was tripping over myself and I had blisters and I was having a hard time. Then I think that even in the Harem warm up we were probably on the 5th lap around and I think I tripped – and probably took out 10 people behind me. I think I just got the worst look and from then on it was just like ‘oh no, they hate me!’
Hot Quad: After all of that, Poppa would recommend for draft – whether you were draft eligible or not draft eligible. Were you draft eligible your first time and then how did that whole experience work for you?
Miranda: I was not draft eligible and I was devastated because I’ve never been somebody who tries for anything. I always joined sports that I know I’ll be good at and this was an actual physically trying sport. So I was really upset and threw a fit for a long time – like a couple days. And then I realized that it’s not really that big a deal because you’re still skating with all the teams. It’s like – you get so many more opportunities to get better by being able to skate five days a week.
Biter: I was draft eligible but we were told so many times that probably no one was going to get picked up that when I wasn’t picked up it was like – oh. Okay and then.. so?
Nellie: I was draft eligible. I think once it came down to the draft that I kind of had a feeling of where I was with the other Cadets but in the beginning of starting with Cadets I had no idea. I would go to Poppa all the time and say, ‘Now I’m going to be missing this practice. Can you tell me what can I do so that I continue to be draft eligible? Can I do cross training? Can you tell me different things I can work on?” He’s like – “you’re fine.” -laughter- But I didn’t know if that was true! I really honestly didn’t know. I couldn’t see myself where I was skill-wise against league skaters and my own Cadets. It was crazy – learning all those skills.
Hot Quad: So for the two of you (Miranda and Biter) going through that second round of Cadets – do you feel like that was a worthwhile experience? Was there a reason to keep going?
Miranda: Yeah –like I said – I did throw a fit and I was really angry for the first three practices. But in our second round a ton of transfers showed up and a ton of people from other training programs in the area showed up. At first everyone was really nervous ‘cause [the new skaters] had been skating for like a year at least and were really awesome. But it brought a new intensity to it and I felt like it helped me a lot. My goal was to be the best Cadet and having them there made me work harder and I think it was a good thing for me.
Biter: Well – I knew there was stuff I still had to work on, especially blocking things. Doing things that weren’t going fast. -laughter- Anything that wasn’t skating in a straight line – really.
Nellie: I hear you on that – actually.
Biter: I knew I had stuff to work on and I knew that in the next draft there were going to be more people picked up. So it was worth it just to see if I made it and where I made it to just keep going.
Hot Quad: Cadets – obviously – you’re there you’re competing against the people you’re training with for spots. Was that ever uncomfortable? Were there ever times in Cadets where you felt like there was unfriendliness? Was there support was there teamwork? How was that part of the experience?
Miranda: The first round I was just like “this is so crazy I’m a Cadet!” but the second time when the transfers came in and when the girls from the other training programs in the area came in it was nerve wracking. The first practice they came in everybody was standoffish towards each other. But once the ice broke everybody was really, really supportive. Jeanne would help me all the time with moving faster through worms and we ended up being more helpful and supportive of each other than a hindrance, which is nice.
Biter: Our team in Cadets was a team. It was kind of like a second thought that, “oh yeah. We were going to get picked up on another team eventually.” But we were such a team together we didn’t care if someone else made it instead of us really. We wanted for everybody else to succeed with us and not to put everybody else down.
Nellie: I think getting close to the draft there were a few times that it felt like there were some heads that were butting. We ended up having a discussion about it at one practice and kind of came to the conclusion that if we’re going to be at odds against each other, then none of us are going to look good. So we need each other as a team to help each other succeed. And I think that really helped us to build that team mentality and go forward.
Hot Quad: Also during this process we bring in a bunch of higher level skaters from our Bombers program who coach on specific topics for our Cadets. Do you have any one of those sessions that sticks out in your mind as one of your favorites?
Miranda: I appreciated when Ivana [Hercha] would come and talk about jamming. Just because I feel like skating can always be done better. But whenever Nikki [Nasty Nikki Nightsitck] would come my mind would just be blown with the things that she can come up with for strategy. It was crazy. And I couldn’t do half the things she was talking about but I was like “wow, that’s neat!”
Biter: My favorite was Terror [Face Off] just because she pushes harder and yells at us all the time which actually worked.
Miranda: Yeah but you needed it.
Nellie: Mine was definitely Nikki, because it was so scary.
Nellie: But then like I saw this side of Nikki that was amazing.
Biter: …and not quite as terrifying
Nellie: …and educational and then funny and not terrifying. But I still wanted to get the hit just right on those pads. So yeah – that was definitely the best for sure.
Miranda: When any of the Bombers were there I wanted to work harder.
Biter: ‘cause they just have this energy.
Hot Quad: Do you have any encouragement for people who are thinking about starting roller derby?
Miranda: It’s not as scary as you think. All the people I talk to are like “I don’t know. I don’t know if I could actually do that. It’s like, really scary.” And I was like, “well they teach you. They go through every step of that with you in your own pace kind of thing. You’ll be pushed but you won’t die.”
Nellie: I think it’s the best physical and mental challenge I’ve ever had in my entire life. To join at 37 and start learning a new sport has just been I think one of the best things that could ever happen because of what it does for growth, physically and mentally.
Biter: And really it doesn’t even matter because a lot of people are like “oh I’m too old for that.”
Hot Quad: yeah. Says the 21 year old.
Biter: But no! – I mean anybody could do it really. If they really want to.
Miranda: and it doesn’t matter body type or anything like that which is really cool. Everybody can play roller derby.
Biter: Literally everybody.
Miranda: There’s a spot for everyone.
Nellie: And one of the things that I remember thinking before I started was, “well… this relationship with women… that passive aggressive… I just can’t see how it could play out on the track and it seems like that could be a weird thing.” That was shattered on the first day when I was just like, “these people are the nicest people I’ve ever met. Ever.”