When I first heard the whisperings I couldn’t believe my ears. Scratcher in the Eye is leaving the Heartless Heathers?! The skater who defies gravity and jukes blockers like UO’s LaMichael James jukes tackles (that’s right, another Oregon Ducks reference, I LOVE MY DUCKS!) will never again don the blue and silver? Imagine my immense relief to then be told (I really should have held back my sobs til I heard the end of the sentence) that Scratcher would still be skating for RCR’s all-star team Wheels of Justice. Well, I thought, that sucks, but it’s understandable. Between travel team practices, home team practices, scrimmages, bouts, away games, and various other obligations, a WoJ skater devotes an average of 15+ hours a week to the grand sport of roller derby (even more if tournament travel is involved). As a SuperFan I will never fully comprehend the level of devotion of amazing skaters like Scratcher, SoulFearic Acid, or Mel Mangles, to name a few of the women who live, breathe, sleep, and eat roller derby. I can only assume it must be painful to stretch yourself so thin between the many facets of the sport.
But then I started hearing about more skaters leaving their home teams to commit to Wheels of Justice exclusively. At first, I’ll admit, I was a little angry. But if you’ve ever read a DNN comment thread (it doesn’t matter which one, it happens in every single one of them), you know that reacting in anger to something you haven’t bothered to educate yourself about just makes you look ridiculous. Worried about the implications this growing trend would have on the league that I love, I swallowed my feelings of betrayal and confusion and started digging for answers. Here’s what I found:
First of all, this is a vast and complicated matter. I will be outlining the policy and the reasoning behind its creation and implementation, as well as the talking points I have deemed important (ah, a writer’s prerogative). This is by no means an exhaustive explanation. I’ll provide some resources for you to look through and form your own damn opinions later.
Here’s how (in a non-inclusive nutshell) Wheels of Justice and Axles of Annihilation (heretofore referred to in total as “travel team” or “TT”) will work in 2011:
- TT is made up of 30 skaters, a list of which is assembled by TT Leadership and Training and grouped according to skill level. Skaters #1-20 are WoJ. Skaters #15-30 are AoA. Notice the overlap. The bottom 6 WoJ skaters (#15-20) are “contract skaters,” who may play for AoA as alternates when not immediately needed for WoJ.
- TT will hold two try-outs for the 2011 season (mid-December and late April). There will also be up to 4 TT drafts throughout the season. The list of TT skaters will be re-evaluated via tryouts, new skaters may be added via the draft/waiting list (see below).
- There is a TT waiting list. Anyone wanting to skate on TT can request to be added to the list, which is roughly ranked on skill level. The waiting list is used to add new skaters to TT at draft time.
- Only WoJ skaters (the top 20) may elect to skate TT-only. AoA skaters are not eligible.
- Skaters opting to be TT-only must have skated on a home team for at least one year.
- TT-only skaters must have made 70% of the WoJ rosters (i.e. bouted for WoJ) for the previous season (certain exceptions can be made if, for example, a skater is primarily a jammer, and may not have made the 70% requirement).
- TT-only skaters must still attend tryouts and continue to earn their spot on the WoJ roster.
- TT-only requests must be approved by TT Leadership and the Training Committee.
And some of the finer points of the TT-only policy:
- TT-only skaters must meet a home team assistance requirement of one practice per month (this can involve coaching, skating with practices, and even Fresh Meat coaching).
- TT-only must still participate in the monthly WoJ bootcamps.
- A skater cannot opt for TT-only status mid-season.
- If a TT-only player loses her spot in the top 20 (ie the ‘WoJ charter’) she must be added to a home team via the home team draft (only if space is available).
- The Training Committee would like to see as many skaters as possible go TT-only.
Some pros and cons:
Cons (says me, to be dispelled shortly)
- We will not get to see many of our favorites WoJ skaters tearing it up during the home season.
- Home team play will lack the same level of intra-league competitiveness that having all-stars on the roster produces.
- Fans will purchase season tickets expecting to see their favorite WoJ skater, and feel ripped off after discovering she no longer skates for a home team.
Pros (says them, and now me)
- Less risk of injury, burn-out, etc for WoJ skaters (this is a big pro- not only is roller derby a demanding lifestyle choice, it’s a commitment to an enormous amount of wear and tear, both mentally and physically).
- Home teams will not be “carried” by all-stars, meaning more opportunity for improvement and room for new talent on the home teams (also a major pro).
- Travel team skaters will be able to identify more as a team instead of a conglomerate of all-stars who compete against each other on different home teams.
- Two words: Championships 2011. WoJ skaters will be able to focus primarily on bringing home the Hydra trophy (you know you want it!).
Drinking the Kool-Aid:
I have been assured (and now convinced) by members of the Training Committee that removing the all-star element from home team play will actually increase the level of intra-league competitiveness. Home team skaters will be forced to step up their efforts and fill the shoes (skates, whatever) of the absent all-stars. Between the 2 all-star teams, 4 home teams, Fresh Meat program, rec team, and junior team, we are one of the biggest leagues in the country, with 250+ skaters. This new policy is a way of expanding the ever-growing league without having to create a whole new team. Overall, this decision will benefit the entire league by making our all-stars more focused and competitive on a national level, while encouraging home team skaters to emerge from the impressive shadows of the all-stars. if you’re worried about buying a season ticket now that your favorite skater has gone TT-only, don’t be. WoJ has a packed schedule this year, and your season ticket gets you into all those bouts too (except away games, assuming you’re willing to travel for derby). The home teams have a full schedule as well, and if you’ve ever been to a home team bout you know they are always a lot of fun. Trust me, your money will be well spent. Also, keep in mind the goal is simply to have as many skaters as possible go TT-only, not a set number, which means some of your favorites may still remain on home teams.
In my humble opinion:
What can I say? I’m a sucker for logic, and this makes sense. This sports-minded decision was made after numerous board meetings, forum discussions, voting, and fine-tuning. Now that I know all the facts and the reasoning behind it, I no longer dread the impact this will have on my beloved Rose City Rollers. I’m excited to see just what our Wheels of Justice can do, as well as what our home team skaters can become. I encourage each of you to learn all you can about this new policy before you decide how you feel about it. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Have more questions? Ask you and shall (probably) receive. The league wants you to understand the tt-only option so you can be as excited about it as they are. It’s a big step for the Rose City Rollers, one of the many changes we are making as we continue to grow and evolve. And I’m on board.
WTF: “Travel Team Only’ Option? Part Two – look for a follow-up blog post further into the season, once we’ve had a chance to see how it all shakes out.
2011 Official TT-only skaters:
- Blood Clottia
- JK Rolling
- Mobi-wan Kenobi
- Mel Mangles
- Mick U Cry (now Mick Swagger)
- Napalm Beth
- Rhea Derange
- Scratcher in the Eye
- Smack Ya Sideways
- Sully Skullkicker