Who is your favorite roller derby player

Roller derby is women's empowerment. This carries over to all areas of life. Athletic queer feminist sport helps develop independence and self-efficacy. For several years now, roller derby has been probably the fastest growing amateur sport for women around the world. There are teams in Russia, Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Iran, South Korea. There is now also a men's derby (“Merby”). The clubs are queer and trans-friendly.

Bear City Roller Derby1 is a WFTDA Class A Division 1 Roller Derby League from Berlin and was founded in May 2008 as Berlin Bombshells by a handful of club members. Today the Roller Derby players are now with three teams, whose referees and non-skating officials are organized in the “Bear City Roller Derby” league; this is part of the S.C. Lurich 02 e.V.

In the Bundesliga, the B-Team has been playing since last season, which has recently been called under the name Berlin Wallbreakers operates. In the past, playful dominance was too great. The top 20 players like Hannah Satana, Emmazon, Jane van Pain form the A-Team that goes by the name WFTDA20 takes on challenges from the strongest teams in Europe and around the world. They occupy 33rd place in the WFTDA team ranking list2. WFTDA is the acronym for the world association. Furthermore there is still with Breaking Bears a variable team, young talents who pass the minimum skills test3 passed. The Breaking Bears will also compete in the 3rd Bundesliga for the first time in 2019, making Bear City the first Roller Derby League with several Bundesliga teams. In addition, 7 officials, referees and non-skating officials (NSOs) such as 'Martin McFly' and 'Formalhaut' ensure that the game runs fairly.

There are players who have been involved for many years. What were your motives for participating in the roller derby?

WS: For me, roller derby is a self-determined and physically extremely versatile sport. From the beginning I was fascinated by the personalities of the players and I found the mixture of the speed on skates, the body control through the controlled contact and the complex strategy and tactics behind it very appealing. After my first contact with the sport when reading an online article, it was clear to me: A team sport of strong women *, on roller skates, in full contact and without a ball - that's exactly my thing!

Later, other aspects were added, such as the feminist, queer and inclusive self-image. I like that everyone is welcome at the Roller Derby, that they can find an individual playing position according to their own requirements and abilities and that their own personality and individuality is strengthened in the community. Roller derby has the potential to change your whole life - because you know what you can do with yourself and because one of the basic ideas of the sport is to fall down and get up again and again. You can grow from it.

Why is roller derby no longer a sideline sport, but a (e) lifestyle (attitude to life)?

WS: I think roller derby can be what anyone * wants. It is possible to simply do roller derby as a sport - however, all players are expected to invest time and energy in the league in addition to training. We are a DIY sport and our umbrella organization WFTDA has the motto “By the skaters, for the skaters”. In practice, this means that each of us is involved in at least one committee: This can be training or matches, organizing events, networking with our umbrella organizations or, as in my case, public relations. This claim to take part beyond participating in the training and to create and continuously improve our offering naturally requires a certain amount of commitment.

But the community offers the potential for more, what you call lifestyle or attitude to life - and it is certainly very attractive for most of them to participate: At the roller derby you will meet many feminist, queer, committed women * who have the desire have to build something out of this network. At Bear City, for example, we are working on understanding our League work politically, taking a position on selected topics and creating an inclusive safe space. We try to support each other beyond the game and - from our chosen little section - to make the world a little bit better.

How have terms like punk, riot grrrl, feminism influenced / shaped the sport in your opinion and still do it today?

WS: The modern roller derby arose out of the third wave of feminism and was particularly shaped in the early days by references to punk and riot grrrl. During this time, most of the actors came from this scene or made contact with it through roller derby. Some of it has been preserved, some has evolved. Overall, there has been a strong sporting professionalization in the roller derby in recent years. This creates a certain - I would say productive - tension.

On the one hand, there is a desire that roller derby be taken seriously as a sport - which should actually be a matter of course with the training structures and sporting achievements, but was not the case for a long time - also because of the punk and feminism elements. On the other hand, the origins and enduring connections, especially with riot grrrl and feminism, undoubtedly continue to set Roller Derby apart from other sports.

Derby names are one aspect that expresses this tension. In the early days of Roller Derby, each player had their own name for use on the Roller Derby Track. These names are highly individual, sometimes quite funny, and often have both pop culture and feminist references. Spontaneously I think of Battlestar Grrrlactica, Aurora Brutalis or my teammate Oprohr Deern (Low German for Riot Girl). At an international level, it can now be observed that many players do without these derby names and compete under their real names out of the desire for professional sporting perception. As I said, overall I perceive this tension as enriching.

How do you see the social and sporting perception and appreciation of the Roller Derby? How important is public relations to you as image profiling?

WS: In general, studies show that the perception and appreciation of sporting activities by women * is far below average. We all know this phenomenon when we leaf through any sports section of the newspaper or watch sports coverage on television; even major sporting events are regularly lost here. A large part of the public interest in sport is in a few, selected sports - and here, as a rule, male actors.

That is why it is important to us that, firstly, the existing variety of sporting offers and services becomes visible and, secondly, women * are shown as athletic identification figures. Sport is a connecting element between people, an important area of ​​our society. An area in which women * and / or marginalized groups can be shown as strong, productive people, contrary to frequently used clichés or expectations. It is not important who is at the top of the podium, it is about a basic representation that is important and appropriate.

Equality in sport is also a social issue. Because only when people discuss social problems do they have the chance to solve the still prevailing discrimination against women * and the problem of discrimination. Isn't Roller Derby a positive advertising medium for this and how do you stand up for it or can this focus also be integrated into public relations?

WS: Roller Derby is a positive advertising medium in this regard because women * are the focus of sporting activity and attention. There are now also men's and all-gender teams, but roller derby with this focus on women * is an absolute exception. Women * are shown here as strong, self-determined individuals who face the challenge of full contact sport. This creates an important counterbalance to the unfortunately still ubiquitous discrimination, sexism or the ubiquitous reduction to social beauty standards.

Roller derby not only makes generally strong women * visible, but at the same time opposes constructed body norms, racism, ableisms, gender stereotypes or other forms of discrimination, for example with regard to sexual self-determination.

That does not mean that we are perfect here - on the contrary, we are far from it. We are aware that even though we try, we still support or cause discrimination. For our league to be based in Berlin Kreuzberg, we are on average far too white, too middle class, generally too thin and too able-bodied. We still have a lot to improve and catch up on and are currently working on a diversity focus within the league. That is why we do not want to stand up in our public relations work and claim that we have eaten the wisdom aka anti-discrimination with spoons; that would be simply wrong. All we can say is that we are ready to learn and listen to those who are so generous as to share their experiences of discrimination with us.

In addition to European teams, there are also global teams in Brazil, Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Iran1. Actually, nobody has been interested in this sport since the 80s. What do you think makes this sport appealing and attractive to women *?

WS: The content of the modern roller derby cannot be compared with the early roller derby. The early roller derby was more show than sport. While staged disputes, constructed protagonists and agreed courses of action - similar to wrestling today - were in the foreground at the time, the athletes and the playful processes in roller derby are real today.

Today's roller derby is determined by real athleticism, strong individuals and an unusual community. Sports promoters are no longer behind the events, but the women * themselves. They contribute their energy, their fighting spirit and their self-confidence. Anyone who has ever seen a roller derby game will probably be impressed by this experience: At first, for inexperienced observers, it often looks like an uncoordinated clash of speed, skating skills and heavy body contact - but the longer you watch, the more you discover the strategic structure, the individual body control and the interlocking of team movements. At the latest when you become aware of the number of officials involved (7 referees on skates alone, plus 11 non-skating officials without skates), you will understand the complexity of the rules and the game.

Personally, I think that what happens on the track often arouses interest, but that the real fascination arises in the moment when what is behind the game unfolds.

How has the roller derby changed nationally in an international comparison?

WS: The level has clearly risen. In addition to the actual roller derby training, the training of skate techniques or mental set-up has become more important, the tactics and the interaction have become much more complex. In recent years, European teams have also become much more present among the world's best. In the past, only US teams shaped the world's best. An Australian team now leads the world rankings, with a quarter of the participants in the playoffs in the top 28 teams from Europe. These are London, Paris, Helsinki, Stockholm, Manchester, Malmö and, for the first time, our A-Team. This is an incredible sporting success that the entire League is proud of.

Beyond this top-class sport, roller derby is spreading more and more, and new teams are constantly emerging around the world. In this country, the Sports Commission Roller Derby Germany (RDD), which consists of skaters from various teams, has set up a league operation. In the meantime, 22 of the 36 leagues active in Germany are already playing there in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Bundesliga (north / south). There are more and more from year to year, both overall and in the Bundesliga.

You offer so-called newbie courses and training for junior derby players. Is there still a need for new players - measured against a relatively large squad - and how great is the demand?

WS: There are around 135,000 active soccer players in Berlin and perhaps 135 active roller derby players across all clubs. So we still see capacities and “needs”, of course. Is this question also asked in football clubs?

It's not just about strengthening our league, but also about making an offer to children, adolescents and women * that can help everyone to become a more confident, stronger person. And especially in the junior team, it would be great in the medium term if we had more than one team for the large age range from 7 to 17 years; I think that would also be in the interests of the teenagers.

The demand is definitely there, there is now a longer replacement list for our current newbie course, as we have more interested parties than we can offer. However, some jump out again in the first few months because they realize that they cannot or do not want to invest that much time in training and the league.

Roller derby is a time-consuming hobby, especially in a sporty, ambitious league like ours. Even our C-Team trains 9 hours a week (50% attendance is mandatory in order to be placed in games), plus the committee work. Not everyone can and does not want to do this. In the long term, we would really like to set up a Rec-League to give those who cannot afford this time but would like to stick to the opportunity to skate. Fortunately, there are two leagues in Berlin with the Berlin Rollergirls and the Berlin Capitals (all gender, also for players with male self-identification) that offer leisure-oriented roller derby with 1-2 training times a week. The time required for referees and non-skating officials is also more manageable.

You now have 3 teams with different levels of play. In my opinion, mutual competition in the formation of a hierarchy is on the one hand an effective means of differentiation, on the other hand it is also the most anti-social of all logical forms, since it forces everyone against everyone to fight ...

WS: Our team allocation does in fact reflect playing strengths, it says nothing about the value of the individual players in the club. We aim to treat all League members with respect and willingness to help, regardless of whether they * play in the A-Team or C-Team, train in the newbie course or support the League as an official.

We play a team sport and try to constantly improve as a community. That requires that we support each other. You cannot win a roller derby game with a single good player, not even with several good players who play against each other and not with each other.

I think we all respect the enormous effort that goes into working your way into the B or even the A team - even someone with a lot of talent doesn't get that for free. If you want to move up in the team structure, you usually have to train more or more intensively than players of equal strength. Anyone who consciously decides not to make this effort can keep their current level with just as much personal appreciation. The process of team allocation includes the players and their wishes and life situations. It is important to us and a constant task to strengthen the cohesion in the teams and across the teams. Crossover players like me carry the progress from the stronger team level to the closest team so that everyone can benefit from the overall development. We all know that we owe our skill level to other players who share their knowledge and skills with us - so it goes without saying that we pass on what has been taught to us. In individual cases, this can also mean that a C-Team player gives feedback to an A-Team player in a specific training situation. As a rule, of course, it's the other way around ...

Let's stay with our competitive thinking again.Always wanting to be the best can become a way of life in addition to sports, which has a negative impact on the social environment. How important do you see a self-critical approach or even an educational mandate for the younger players to counteract the characteristic degeneration?

WS: I don't see the risk of putting individual goals above team goals at roller derby. Even if someone took this approach - and didn't realize for themselves that it backfires in team and match practice - the team would bring that person back down to earth very quickly. From football there is the nice sentence, “One-two is not possible” and in roller derby this is all the more true. As soon as you play against opponents of roughly equal strength, you depend on the cooperation in the team and the performance of each team member. A wall (defensive formation in roller derby) is only as strong as its weakest link and even an excellent jammer (= scorer) depends on the support of their blockers. In this respect, we tend to automatically fulfill an educational mandate for all those who train with us ...

A whole life is often dependent on competitive sport. Training, away games ... What about the compatibility of sport, work, family ...

WS: That is a sore point indeed. We have a few players with families and children, but they usually don't play on the A team. I have absolute respect for anyone who can agree to this. After a pregnancy, players often switch to a lower-level team or to a club that offers roller derby as a purely recreational sport, simply because of the time required. There are clubs in which this works better, but the combination of family and competitive sports is a challenge even in sports without a DIY structure. For us there is definitely still another field of work for the future, something that we would like to tackle in the medium term.

Even the interaction between work and competitive sport is often difficult. A team sport has to be trained together, so we have relatively strict attendance requirements. This is very difficult for those who work in shifts, for example, or who are often stuck in the office for longer in the evening. There are elements such as strength training that everyone can train for themselves, but for regular training it becomes complicated at least for those who do not have a 9to5 job. During our League Day, we cracked jokes about how nice it would be if all League members were paid for their activities - but let's face it, that usually creates new addictions that you don't necessarily want. Therefore it unfortunately remains an act of balancing for the time being.

Roller derby sport like you do it also needs financial support and sponsors. With regard to the growing interest in the Roller Derby, are there also increasing requests for sponsors, are there any requests for sponsors and how are the costs for your international appearances covered?

WS: There are increasing requests for sponsorship; However, we differentiate here: We are happy about and would like sponsors who would like to support us as a sport. However, we do not want to be harnessed to the cart of corporations that contradict our sporting and community goals, and above all we do not want any interference with the League's democratic right to self-determination. That is why we have already rejected sponsorship requests several times.

Fortunately, we are receiving generous support from our umbrella club, the Sport-Club Lurich 02 e.V. Currently, we are financing travel expenses, among other things, by offering training camps for players from other clubs and organizing an annual conference with seminars and strategy workshops. Nevertheless, we would be very happy to receive support from sponsors who share our goals.

In other sports, women in particular still have to struggle with some clichés within the fan culture. Are you interested in the gender balance in sports, especially in roller derby and how is your fan support staffed?

WS: Yes, I am concerned with the gender balance and gender issues in sport. In addition to roller derby, I'm personally interested in boxing and chess, both of which are very male-dominated sports. When it comes to boxing, I follow the activities of Team Fighterella, among other things, and am dismayed by the failure of the German Boxing Association to respond to the #CoachDontTouchMe campaign.

While I personally had only very positive experiences in the Guts'n'Glory boxing club in Cologne with regard to the gender ratio and in dealing with athletes (greetings! You are great!), Unfortunately many out-of-date sexist relics have survived in boxing overall, one thinks only to the number girls. The general atmosphere among the spectators is also different: Nobody is booed in the roller derby, unfortunately I've seen this several times in boxing matches.

As for our fan support: Because we have been able to offer very few public home games in Berlin for a number of years, it is currently very difficult for us to develop a real relationship with a larger number of fans. We are constantly looking for a venue with which we can change that again. Overall, the audience at our games is very diverse, both in terms of gender and age composition. Our A-Team has also had a small, very loyal fan club for many years, the Emmazonahs, who have even traveled with us to the USA. It's a clique of five young men. But we also have very vocal female fans.

The support at the roller derby is of course also important. Are there also ultra groups here with choreographies and chants?

WS: There are also ultra groups in the Roller Derby, our next Bundesliga opponents in the St. Pauli Roller Derby have - of course, we're talking about St. Pauli - their own Ultras, the deckhands. The deckhands sing a lot. Other roller derby teams also bring ultras with them, the fans of Sucker Punch Roller Derby Nuremberg, for example, raised the mood when they visited the Bundesliga last year. Overall, however, ultra groups are the exception.

My personal favorite support group are the Fearleaders from Vienna Roller Derby, an all-male group that deconstructs gender roles and creatively answers clichés with their cheerleading performance. The Fearleaders really deserved their own article here ...

What is the general situation with fan support in the Roller Derby? Are gender roles deconstructed / dissolved here or, in your experience, is it dominated by male, heterosexually dominated fan support?

WS: As I said, the Fearleaders are an excellent example of the deconstruction of gender roles - because here a purely male group of female athletes supports them, plays with the clichés of tight clothing and sexually charged movement patterns and thus reverses role stereotypes. Of course, simply reversing existing gender roles is not a sustainable approach. But making these stereotypes visible leads us to grapple with them and the Fearleaders are reflective enough not to stop there.

Otherwise, the fan structures are probably different depending on the league. For me personally, the Roller Derby World Championship in Manchester in January was an absolute highlight in terms of fans. The Fearleaders also performed here, but there were people in chicken costumes (Team France), distinguished men in kilts (Team Scotland), colorful groups of women with inflatable kangaroos (Team Australia), parents with babies (with headphones, of course). , the fancy leggings and full-body glitter costumes that are compulsory at the derby and are worn by people of all genders, grannies with colorful hair and unicorns in onesies. And everyone celebrated: All fans, all players - including the respective opponents - and officials on the track, but also the fans for each other, the players for the fans and everyone together for the sport. When we've finally found a regular public venue again, that's exactly what I want.

What are your next big sport-related tasks, challenges and goals?

WS: My next big sporting goal is to be on the track at a Bundesliga game. Our B-Team competes in the 1st Bundesliga for Bear City Roller Derby. As a B / C crossover, I train with the C and B team, but so far I have only been able to support the B team in Bundesliga games on the bench. For me, a dream would come true if I could play in a Bundesliga match.

1. http://bearcityrollerderby.com↩

2. Status: October 2018: https://wftda.com/rankings-september-30-2018/↩

3. https://wftda.org/resources/wftda-minimum-skill-requirements.pdf↩

4. A note on Team Iran: While original local leagues are active in Brazil, Egypt and Abu Dhabi, Team Iran is an association of active players of Iranian nationality and / or origin who live in New Zealand, the USA or Europe and train and have come together specifically for the World Cup ↩