What I learned Watching Champs

We all cheer for the underdog each year and then watch in awe as Gotham finds a way, again and again to hold onto that Hydra. But not in 2015, Rose City’s Wheels of Justice are the first WFTDA team to beat Gotham since Nov 6th 2010. (5-year unbeaten streak!)

Rose City; who after losing last year by 3 points on the last jam, came back to beat the unbeaten champions. By utilizing “2-walls”…..yup good old “2-walls”, a strategy that many of us (us old ones) recall using in back in the first few years of derby. Of course this was an updated version being executed as the highest level but the base line was two 2-walls. One to hold the jammer, one to play aggressive offensive against the opposing teams defense. Sounds straight forward, and many of you are probably already drawing up plans for your 2016 seasons to implement the “ROSE” walls, as they will certainly become known. Like everyone jumped on the “Victorian blocking tri-pod of death” strategy wagon, certainly the ROSE walls will be all the rage soon enough.

One thing about that strategy that isn’t as obvious (but is absolute in achieving success) is Trust, Commitm
and Belief (TCB). These are the fundamental building blocks of instilling strategy in a team sport. That means from the leadership right thru the coaching staff and even skaters on the roster that play infrequently or not at all, everyone has to be on the same page. Imagine
the first few practices of implementing 2-walls and having people roll their eyes, doubt that this will work, and generally wait to have it be proven to them. What makes this equally difficult is that the introduction of most new strategies often fail, in fact they should fail. Only a few years ago reverse blocking was a skill that only a few skaters could do successCommitmentfully, now it’s part of most team’s toolkits and an integral part of almost all walls.

What is even more impressive with what Rose achieved is not only did they fully commit to the strategy but they also did it against incredible emotional odds. Rob Lobster (their long-time coach) was terminally ill and tragically passed away between Divs and Champs. How many times in that void did they question their plans? How could you not allow emotions to get the better believeof you and pull your focus away from your goal? During the back and forth game and particularly when Gotham pushed away at them in the last 10 minutes, it would be easy to go “oh no this is just like last year!”….but they didn’t. Rose persevered and achieved what they came to do.

2-wall strategy is what many of us watching saw, or heard about after the game but Trust, Commitment and Belief is what got them there.

To learn more about how TCB and how other team-based strategies can improve your skills and your team’s play – contact Camp Pivotstar for a weekend or one-on-one coaching with your team.

-Mack the Mouth

Derby is for the stars

Derby, like many sports, has produced a formidable number of stars. We all have our favourite skaters, our jamming and blocking idols. But sometimes our appreciation of exceptional skaters can skew our fundamental understanding of the game. Roller derby, at its core, is a team sport. Certainly, having rockstar skaters and brilliant strategists filling out a roster radically improves a team’s chances on game day. But creating a strong team takes more than strong skaters; it takes a commitment to team building.

A solid team works with the strengths of each skater and each skater plays an important role in the team’s development. I think that Philly Roller Derby highlighted this idea succinctly with their hashtag,#any5anytime, suggesting that any five skaters from the team could go out on the track and perform as strongly and coherently as any other grouping of five.

I’ve come up with another way of explaining this. It involves a lot of triangles that suspiciously look like nacho chips.


The successful triangle.When we focus our team structure on accentuating the skills and strengths of a handful of players, it can feel great for those players. They can be the heroes of the game, test their limits, and improve their skills in the process. They are the happy triangles.


However, creating a hero/lone wolf-focused team leaves other players (or triangles, as it were) struggling to find their place on the team. It can also create extraordinary pressure on the hero triangles who feel responsible for the fate of the entire team.

Derby, when played with a line of lone triangles looks something like this:stars3

Some skaters will be having a great time and will be accomplishing great things. They will have a larger role on the track while other triangles shrink into the background and feel a bit lost. There is no doubt that skilled skaters can do awesome things on the track. But, again, derby isn’t a solo sport. Not even for jammers. It is a team sport that requires team development. What does team development look like? I’m glad you asked.


I believe in a star model of team building. Conveniently, there are five skaters on the track at any given time, and five points on a star. It’s kind of a match made in heaven. What I like about thinking of team building as creating a star is this: each point of the star has equal weight. You can rotate the star 15, 45, or 90 degrees, and it looks the same. There is no hierarchy, no one is held in higher esteem than any of their teammates.

And that mysterious blue centre? That’s the magical business that comes from creating a strong team. It’s the manifestation of the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Because a team is so much more than the skills of its skaters. A team is its own entity.

A strong team is one where each player, each point on the star, is provided the opportunities to play an equal role in their team’s success. For players who are used to being the hero, it means stepping outside of her own experience to consider what actions will help strengthen the team as a whole, evaluating how to help all of the triangles have equal weight to form a star.

There’s nothing wrong with being a solo triangle. There are lots of sports that cater to strong solo triangles, like tennis, marathon running, and golf. The beautiful challenge of roller derby is that it is a team sport. It is the bringing together of five separate individuals on the track to act as one. Roller derby is a sport for stars and that is what makes it amazing.


Solo triangle enjoys tennis.

A BIG thank you to our good friend, Francesca Fluré for sharing this article.  You can check out more of her work here.


Camp Pivotstar’s doggy derby team

Derby is such a big part of our lives and so are our dogs!

Here is our doggy roster:


Age: 1 year ( we think!)
Hometown: I was born in San Bernadino, California but now I live in North Vancouver

Strengths: I can chase the ball for hours and hours and hours
Weakness: If the ball isn’t moving I can’t find it
Likes: Dismembering stuffed animals
Dislikes: Children – they are terrifying!
Secret Weapon: My stinky farts

Crash Test Ref and Swiss Army Wife

Age: 4
Hometown: unknown

Strengths: Insanely agile and fast
Weakness: Cats make her nervous
Likes: babies, agility courses and running
Dislikes: being patient
Secret Weapon: stealth mode

8mean MacKenzie

Age: 11( we think!)
Hometown: unknown

Strengths: I’m smarter than the other dogs!
Weakness: Slightly neurotic
Likes: hip rubs, traveling and chasing the ball
Dislikes: feet
Secret Weapon: stink eye

Owner: Mack the Mouth

Age: 12
Hometown: Abbotsford BC

Strengths: Fast and agile
Weakness: Poor vision
Likes: sunshine, warm fires and kids
Dislikes: dudes with hats or glasses
Secret Weapon: lurking in the shadows and stealth mode

Owner: 8mean MacKenzieHometown: BC
Strengths: Strong and has great hearing
Weakness: Can’t resist a snack

Likes: Swimming, bananas and chasing balls
Dislikes: Rainy days and faster dogs
Secret Weapon: Friendly personality

Owner: Bobbi Barbarich
Age: 2
Hometown: Nelson BC

Strengths: explosive power and strength
Weakness: grace
Likes: snow, sloppy kisses, sticks and sleeping Dislikes: burrs, brooms, garbage bags
Secret Weapon: a heart melting goofy smile

Active Learning in Roller Derby

What’s the thing I hear the most from skaters that want to excel in roller derby? “I wish someone would give me feedback! I wish I had a coach that could tell me what to do or what I was doing right/wrong!”

Here’s the honest truth: IT IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN!

Unless you are blessed with a coaching staff of 20 people and a training budget in the $$s, the likelihood is that this feedback you so crave is going to be pretty sparse.  The more experienced you become, the less you get.

The key to moving forward as a skater and a team is to create an active learning environment at EVERY practice.  Here is my five step plan to facilitating active learning within your team.


1) Personal Learning: Before practice everyone shares one skill that they are going to focus on at the practice (ie. this practice I want to focus on my edging, toe stop work).  Stick to one skill (not strategy) to keep it simple and achievable.  Regardless of what your coach has planned, you can always work on your specific skills in every drill.

At the end of practice get together and go around and ask each skater if they achieved their goal or even remembered their goal.  It’s important that you do both steps because at first it will be difficult for skaters to remember their goals, especially if you are scrimmaging. This reinforces the importance of personal learning and accountability to one’s own training.


2) Team coaching during drills: Make sure you take time during EVERY drill for feedback.  Stop half way through a drill and open up the floor to people’s comments/questions.  Don’t allow it to go on forever, but take 5 minutes to say “hey, how do we feel about this strategy/skill? What do you find makes it easier? What are you struggling with?”  Empower ALL your team mates (especially the newer ones) to feel comfortable voicing their thoughts.  This will facilitate group learning.

3) Scrimmage with a purpose:  Make sure before every scrimmage you have a goal or purpose.  “Staying together” is not a concrete goal.  This is a great time to tie in drills that you have been doing at practice, into “real life.”  So, say you spent last week working on bridging – during scrimmage you are going to create scenarios where you need to bridge ie. you might get your jammer to take an intentional major so you can practice it in real time.  There is no point to “winning the scrimmage”, you need to focus on achieving your goals and practicing your strategies.  This scrimmage goal could be set by your captain or your coach and needs to be done BEFORE you get on the track.


4) Teamwork learning: Be disciplined about teamwork learning.  When you are scrimmaging, make sure your lines are working on a plan before they go out. Then when they come back off the track, make sure that the whole team evaluates whether they executed on their plan/strategy.  Designate a different person to be the “facilitator” for a couple of jams at a time (not just one jam because you need the repetition to really get this).  Their role is to make sure the line is focused before going out and has a plan in place, their role when the team comes off the floor is to say “hey, so what worked? What didn’t work? What could we have done better?”  They are not necessarily going to come up with the answers, but they are the facilitator.

**Make sure to keep it POSITIVE!  People learn better in a positive environment.**


5) Peer coaching: Create a comfortable and open atmosphere for peer coaching by creating a buddy system at each practice.  Pair up with different buddies each practice.  Your goal with your buddy is to watch each other during drills/scrimmage and help each other achieve your learning goals.  This would be the person that you can turn to before you go out on the track and say “hey, I am working on staying calm and not getting distracted, please can you watch me and let me know how I do?”  Eventually peer feedback becomes so natural, that you don’t need to have buddies, because each team member is watching out and helping their other teammates to become better and more awesome on the track.

-Lulu Demon

Are you planning to attend our next boot camp June 8/9th in Pitt Meadows, B.C? 
Screen Shot design logo
It’s going to be a really sweet camp but we need a logo!

Design a camp logo for “Summer Sweat” and if we choose yours, we’l immortalize it on camp shirts plus you’ll attend the camp for free.

Deadline for entries to be considered is midnight, April 20th.
Entries can be sent to camppivotstar@gmail.com

Jam, Step aside or Block

Ok, goals are set.  They are smart.  Now it’s time to take action!

This is where a lot of teams or leagues can easily get bogged down.  Here’s a great but simple tool that one of our former team mates brought back from Rollercon way back in 2007.  We continue to use it today because it works!

There are 3 ways of reacting to a situation:

Jam:          You’re on board, agree with what’s going on, and are prepared to move ahead
Step aside:  You’re indifferent, so will step aside and abstain.
Block:  You are not in favour of the idea.If you’re going to block an idea then you have to commit to working together to help create another one that works for everyone.

Using this mechanism will help members voice their opinions in a constructive way that will benefit the entire committee/team/league. If naysayers really feel that strongly they will help come up with a solution.
In short: If you don’t like how something is going, feel free to voice your opinions and suggestions for possible solutions rather than simply saying “NO” and letting others else struggle to find a solution that fits everyone.

Goal Setting -part 2

Ok, you’ve gotten everyone in one room.  Now it’s time to set goals for the season. No idea is too big or small at this point so encourage your league mates to share what they would like the league to consider.

On a white board, a chalkboard or a really big piece of paper, have one person list every idea that your league members come up with.  It’s a good idea to separate training goals from league goals.  The difference being that training goals are just that, things to include when considering training.  League goals are all of the other stuff that gets organized before and after practices and bouts, during meetings and via email.

Once everyone has contributed their ideas to the conversation, you should have 2 large lists.  Now it’s time for each individual to weigh in with three votes towards both training and league goal lists.

Have each member come up to the board and place a check beside the three ideas that are most important to them for both training and league categories.  This might take a little while as it should be done one at a time and some people need a minute or two to be sure before they make their mark.

After everybody has voted, tally up the check marks.  The ones with the highest number of votes go to the top of the priority list.  These will be your league’s focus for the upcoming season.

Now comes the challenging part.  Make them SMART goals in order to have a higher chance of success.


Your goal should be well defined and clear so that it makes sense to everyone.


How will we know when we have achieved it?  Your goal should require tangible evidence of completion.


Your goal should be appropriate and achievable.


Goal should represent something that you are both willing and able to work towards.


Set a time frame or a date to achieve by. There should be enough time for accomplishment but not too much time so that it looses its sense of urgency.


Post the finished product where everybody can see and refer to it often.  A team forum, your regular practice space (if you’re lucky enough to have your own) or group face book page is a great place for this.

Check in with each other to ensure that you are on track.  This is easily done at a league meeting, as it’s nice to do it face to face and those who are struggling are sure to feel their league’s support.

Celebrate when you reach each goal!  Remember to give your fellow league a congratulatory pat on the back and a thank you.  League success relies on all league members and with all of the hard work that goes into running a successful league; it’s easy to forget to take the time to celebrate our successes together.

Best of luck this season!


Goal Setting Part 1

Roller derby is the fastest growing sport on the planet and attracts a diverse range of personalities.  Each skater brings her own experiences, work ethics and perspectives to a team. It’s not surprising that getting an entire league (or team) on the same page can sometimes be a challenge.

So how do you get everyone on board?  Allow for a lot of communication.

Easier said than done, right?  It’s not as daunting of a task as it may first seem.

Start with your league’s mission statement. What does it say about you?

If your league hasn’t created one, make it a top priority!

This is the first step to uniting members for the purpose of a common goal.  Think about your league’s purpose. Do you want it to be about fun and fitness?  Are you focusing on competition?  What about your community?

Keep in mind:

The needs of the sport come first.

Your league comes second.

Teams are next and individuals then follow.

Your league’s mission statement should be posted in a place such as an online forum, so that can easily be referred to as a foundation for success.

If your league has already done this then it’s time to review your league’s mission statement as a team.  What does it mean to you and your teammates?  It’s important to ensure that your team’s goals are inline with your league’s mission statement.

Keep communicating and stay tuned for part 2!

Hugs and slugs!

8mean wheeler


Coaching Roller Derby in South Africa

The coolest thing about being a roller derby coach is all the amazing places I get to visit.  The sports revival that began in Texas has now spread around the world, with leagues everywhere from Scotland to Japan.  And now the African continent has joined the party with its very first league in Johannesburg, South Africa.

I popped down there last month and coached the CMAX league who had just had their inaugural bout a week earlier.  With two house teams and a roadshow planned for showcasing the sport and encouraging the formation of more leagues, the seeds of a South African roller derby community are firmly planted.

Check out the video of my visit below.


Best of luck to all the growing leagues around the world – hopefully I will get a chance to skate with you one day!