What does it take to get me out the door by 8:00 on a Saturday morning? Damn right — Kansas City roller derby.
Winnwood Skate Center is up north somewhere. I’d only been there once for the Bloody After-Valentine’s Day Bout in February, and since I would need to check in by 9:00, the drive from Blue Springs meant leaving the house no later than eight. I hate being late, I hate being rushed, and when it comes to derby, I don’t want to miss a gem.
So yeah, I’m not much of a morning person. And on this morning, I was lookin’ the part.
But on this particular weekend, the Kansas City Roller Warriors All-Stars were hosting a two-day boot camp at Winnwood, and after a brief e-mail exchange with the amazing Annie Maul, I had been cleared to sit in, take pictures, and stay well out of the way at all times. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
I walked in and immediately saw my three-year derby crush sitting at the un-crowded check-in table. Shit. I was not looking my best on this morning, I may have mentioned. Fortunately, she was further down the alphabet, and I stopped at the A-D station to let them know I’d arrived, as Ms. Maul had requested. After introducing myself to the ladies at my end of the table, and after receiving a good-natured chiding from my crush about the Dead Girl Derby t-shirt I was wearing, I ventured onto the floor to get my camera set up and poised for the atrocious lighting conditions at Winnwood.
Right off the bat, I saw skaters from Des Moines, Capital City, NW Arkansas, River Valley, Mid-Iowa, and Wichita. Then came CoMo, No Coast, Omaha, Green Country, the Oklahoma Victory Dolls, and several members of Kansas City’s own Dead Girl Derby league. I even saw a t-shirt that said Team Scotland, for what that’s worth. And this is when it really hit me (if it hadn’t already) — these ladies were coming from all over the country to learn from our Kansas City Roller Warriors All-Stars, and although I was in no way surprised, I couldn’t help but feel awfully proud of the league I’ve come to love so much over the last three seasons. The attendance alone at this boot camp was a testament to the respect Kansas City has earned throughout the WFTDA.
And most of these women weren’t exactly lightweights in the sport themselves. Take Temptress Storm of Green Country, certainly one of the most graceful, agile jammers in the South Central Region — but so serious about improving her game even still that she made the trip all the way from Tulsa to take a lesson from KCRW.
And that means twice the awesome.
And speaking of awesome, one of the first things I did was take a look around at which All-Stars I’d be spending the day with. Annie Maul was obviously one of the coordinators of the event; she took the mic first thing and went through some of the workshops the ladies would be participating in. The legendary Bruz Her would be teaching Cones & Hitting, Ruth Canal took us through Edges and Stops, Track Rat took Jammer Strategies, of course, and the lovely Shady O’Dread wore herself slick with four straight sessions of Plyometrics.
I didn’t know where to begin. It really didn’t matter, most likely, I wouldn’t be able to pair up the photos with most of the sessions anyway, so I did the best I could to get the best shots I could without getting in the way, and without putting the flash in any one group’s face for too long.
Also, I stayed away from Plyometrics. It looked entirely too much like an aerobics class, and the last thing most ladies want is some guy running around that scene with a camera.
The second rotation included sessions like Walls & Blocking with Trauma and Matron Malice; Wall Busting with Track Rat; Blocker Strategies with Annie Maul and Bruz Her; and Being a Good Teammate with Extremely Frank. (Special thanks to Annie Maul for the complete list of sessions I didn’t see fit to write down myself.)
At one point, Annie got on the mic and informed everyone of a minor snafu that had taken place earlier in the week: somehow, Winnwood Skate Center had double-booked the facility from 1:00 to 4:00 that afternoon, and that meant that everyone on wheels would have to vacate the premises for those three hours. We would then resume the camp from 4:00 to 6:00, and during this three-hour downtime, Bruz Her and Track Rat were hosting an afternoon barbecue at their house, which was only a short distance from Winnwood. It wasn’t immediately clear who, beyond the boot campers, was invited to the shindig, and I wasn’t about to invite myself, but I figured I could call it a day at 1:00 if I had to, because I’d already gotten dozens of pretty decent shots, even in the horrible lighting.
A few minutes later, I was making the rounds between sessions when Annie Maul rolled up.
Annie: “KC, are you coming to the barbecue?”
KC: “Um.. I don’t know, am I?”
Bruz Her: “Just say yes.”
KC: “Looks like I’m in.”
I nearly peed myself. You have to understand, I was thrilled enough to be spending the day with all these phenomenal skaters, but to be invited over to have lunch with roller derby royalty on top of it was more than I could have possibly hoped for this weekend. Once at the house, Rat fired up the grill and beer-lessly cooked up a plethora of burgers and hot dogs that Bella Fire took the liberty of distributing to all the hungry attendees (“Bella’s got the meat! Who wants the meat?!”). I believe Shady O’Dread brought the pasta salad , and Extremely Frank regaled us with the tale of how she acquired approximately eighteen varieties of pickles whilst doing her portion of the barbecue shopping.
“And MATH tells us that you can never have too many pickles.”
So I’m sitting in the kitchen, going through one burger after another, watching a Westie/Jack Russell mix named Derby (that Frank referred to as “a Roomba with legs”) patrol the floors for remnants of buns, meat, or chips inadvertently dropped, and Frank asks me the $64,000 question: what was it that inspired you to start KC Derby Digest in the first place?
I’m never prepared for this question. As many times and I’ve been asked that, it’s nearly impossible to explain, even to those whose love of the sport exceeds my own. But I did my best: because it’s the greatest sport in the world, and the mainstream media all but completely ignores it outside of a twice-yearly “community” segment in which an anchor from Fox 4 laces up and pretends to skate a few flailing laps before taking a minor booty bump and falling directly on her ass. And for many reasons — not the least of which is that KCRW is really the only winning team Kansas City has — I figured there was no reason, in this age of self-publishing, that I couldn’t take what I’d learned and build a web site around the four (soon to be five) derby leagues this fine city has to offer. I saved up for some nice camera equipment, registered a domain, and here we are.
And “here we are” is right, because look at it: a few short months ago, I was running around the Show-Me Der-B-Q with a point-and-shoot I paid $200 for in 2007, and on this day, I wound up sitting in Bruz Her and Track Rat‘s living room watching bout footage from last year’s Continental Divide and Conquer with the First Ladies of Kansas City roller derby. It really, honestly, doesn’t get any better than that. As much as everyone seems to love KC Derby Digest, it’s done more for me than I could ever tell you.
Four o’clock rolled around, and we hit Winnwood again for the last two hours of boot camp sessions for the day: Quick Feet/Footwork with Ida Know Squat; Transitional Jamming with Track Rat; Goal Setting with Shady O’Dread; and Building Mental Toughness with Annie Maul. Afterwards, Bruz and Rat needed all of 20 seconds to convince me to join the group at Sidepockets for one (1) beer only, after which everyone’s across-the-board plan was to go home and collapse in a heap. Rat actually weaseled a second beer somehow, and many of us called it a night much earlier than we probably would have on a typical Saturday.
The next morning’s sessions consisted entirely of scrimmages. Two tracks were laid out on the sprawling Winnwood Skate Center floor, and the four teams faced off in a rotation similar to that of the previous day.
Some more successfully than others. Bam!
It was an absolutely phenomenal weekend, and I can’t thank the Kansas City Roller Warriors enough for allowing me the privilege of joining them. I’ve heard nothing but good things from the ladies who attended, and everyone was especially appreciative of Bruz Her and Track Rat for the enormous hospitality they showed the group on no more than a couple days’ notice. The barbecue they organized in practically no time was a wonderful gesture, and I personally couldn’t be more grateful for being included. It was fantastic to get that inside look at a boot camp run by one of the most formidable leagues in all of women’s flat track; I met some very friendly, talented, inspiring women, and I came away with a couple of new derby crushes I really didn’t need, so thanks for that too.
The full photo album from the KCRW 2012 Spring Boot Camp is available for your perusal in KC Derby Digest‘s Shutterfly album; just click on the Pictures & Videos tab near the top to find photos from this and many other derby-related events over the past three seasons.
Many, many thanks again to all the phenomenal ladies who organized this spring’s boot camp, and we certainly hope to join you at the next one.