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Labs Q&A: Christy Demons

Christy Demons Interview3

Recently, I caught up with VRDL All Star Jammer Christy Demons. She talks about playoffs, the tough loss to Gotham, and how she keeps her penalties down.

 Read time: 4 minutes

Conan: Congratulations on finishing third place at WFTDA Champs this year. How are you feeling about the tournament?

Christy: So proud of my team! Each individual player personally stepped up, and the whole team played at a new level. Our training paid off. At a team goal setting meeting at the start of the year, we set one of our long-term goals as ‘win a medal at Champs’, so we were stoked to reach that goal.

The Gotham loss must have been difficult.

We knew that we would be likely to come up against Gotham so we had focussed a lot of our preparation on that game. It was hard losing that game after being in the lead for so long and feeling like the win was totally within our grasp. Personally, I felt really happy afterwards because it was such a challenging and exciting game. But there were a mix of emotions in the team. We went out for a team bonding dinner after, and I don’t think anyone got too much sleep that night.

How were you able to rally and defeat a very tough London team the following day?

It was a little hard for the team to refocus the next day, but I think it helped us to just go through our pre-game rituals, and trust what we had practiced. For me going through all those familiar steps gets me really focussed and ready for games.

Going back to Divisionals, you were awarded the Tournament MVP in Tucson. What was that experience like?

It was a huge honour to be acknowledged like that – exciting and overwhelming and I couldn’t really believe it. It means a lot to me and it is an experience I won’t forget.

You played a LOT of jams the Tucson Divisional because Victoria only traveled 12 players. How do you prepare for something like that?

Our training sessions are really intense. We do a lot of scrimmage A vs A, so at times we are jamming every second jam. Prior to this scrimmage we have a two hour Allstars training session. I am used to skating in hard situations while tired. In the leadup to playoffs, we had sessions 4-6 times a week. On Sundays we had a jammer training session in the mornings, then Allstars training in the afternoons, to simulate tournament play. Basically I skate as much as I can, as hard as I can, trying to push myself. I want to work on improving my endurance more in 2016.

You only had 1 penalty for the entire Tucson Divisional. What is your secret? How do you keep penalties down?

I was really pleased with that! It’s important to me to be a clean jammer. I try to keep calm, trust my defence and offense, and not do anything too risky. It’s easy to trust my blockers when they are so good!

We practice specific drills for avoiding penalties. We practice spins while actively getting our forearms out of the way. Sometimes our goal for the session is simply to not use forearms. We yell friendly reminders at each other. We try to have referees at as many of our sessions as possible, and encourage feedback from all skaters to tell us if we do something that looks like or feels like it could have been a penalty.

I have also always loved the rules. I read them a lot and think about them a lot and ask questions and love to talk about them. This helps keep the rules in the forefront of my mind.

What’s next for you? Do you take an off season?

Presto 59 93A Angle 210 x 160

Presto 59 93A

We officially have a six week break from skating, but there are still a few optional sessions each week which I will attend so I can keep working on some skills, and try out some new things I saw at Champs. It’s summer in Australia so I’m going skating outdoors or ramp skating after work and on weekends. It’s so fun to skate in the open air outdoors and jump off things. I would miss skating too much if I took a total break from it.

Last, a gear question. Talk about your wheels:

I used Radar Prestos (93s) in all of the games. They were perfect on both the playoffs and champs floors, and gave me the right amounts of grip and slide. It made it easy to go really fast and also to stop confidently when I needed to. I love these wheels a lot.




Video: 180 Transitions

Ghetto breaks down the 180 transition.

Labs Q&A: Trisha Smackanawa


Recently, I caught up with Trisha Smackanawa from the London Roller Girls. She tells us about her skating past, when she decided to transfer, and the importance of fitness in her derby pursuits.

Conan: When was the first time you put on skates?

Trishia Smackanawa: I was a 90’s rollerblade kid. From age 4-14, I only took off my inlines to go bmx biking or play soccer. My first time on quad skates was February 2012 in Dublin. I attended an open free skate for people wanting to start fresh meat. At that point, it had been 10 years since I had done any skating so I was rather awful at first. The weight distribution and ankle movement was totally different to inlines so I had trouble even going around the corners without feeling like I was going to fall on my face.

C: But you became a member of the Dublin League and eventually played for the A Team?

TS: Dublin Roller Derby welcomed me from the start and gave me nothing but encouragement every step of the way even when what I wanted to do seemed crazy or impossible or they just couldn’t understand my New Zealand accent.

C: When did you know it was time to transfer to a Globally competitive league?

TS: The wheels were definitely set in motion (pardon the pun!) when I went to Rollercon in 2013. It completely opened my eyes to the bigger world of roller derby. I even got to play in the Team Balls vs Team Conan challenge game! I got lead and scored points and didn’t die! This gave me the confidence to try out for the training squad for England roller derby. When I made it through, it further fuelled my desire to make the final squad.  All of this eventually lead me to consider transferring.

C: You decided to transfer to LRG. Was it a difficult decision?

TS: It was a really hard decision. I had been living in Ireland for 6 years and was ready for a change. I chose to challenge myself and the time seemed right to move on and my team was really supportive. If I am selected for the LRG roster now in a month’s time, I may be facing my old Dublin coach Violent Bob. He is the bench manager for the Euro All Star team vs London Brawling at Anarchy in the UK in April so that could be interesting!

C: You competed against Ireland in the World Cup as a member of Team England. How did that feel?

TS: Playing against Ireland was a bit heart-wrenching. Many of my former Dublin teammates (including my derby wife) were on the opposition. My partner sang Ireland’s Call as loudly as possible directly behind our bench (complete with cowboy hat and drink in hand). But Ireland had already qualified for the next round by upsetting Germany the previous day so everyone was already happy.

C: Did you enjoy the experience of playing in the World Cup?

TS: I absolutely loved every aspect of the World Cup! Well except maybe the horrible long flights to get there (*cough* have it in Europe next *cough*) and the game schedule was a bit gruelling. It was my first tournament though so I really couldn’t have asked for a more amazing experience.

C: What was it like playing in the Final against Team USA?

TS: The final was a surreal experience – I had never played in an arena before and the noise from the crowd was deafening. I was so nervous I didn’t actually look at who my opposing jammer was as I didn’t want to be intimidated. I couldn’t believe it when I got lead. For a second I thought maybe I was being sent to the box.

C: What was the overall feeling on the Team England bench at the end of that game?

TS: I am so proud of how we came together as a team during that game and the result we achieved. We scored more points against team USA than every other team combined. This probably best exemplified by how much we celebrated by dogpiling Kami at the end of her last ever game despite having technically lost!

Presto 59s 93A700 x 620

Smack Skates Presto 59 93A

C: Training for a high level of derby play is very challenging. How do you deal with the highs and lows?

TS: I have been lucky in that every time I have a plateau, I have managed to find a new challenge in order to overcome it, usually with a lot of help. Derby walls used to be a lot faster and open which suited my style of jamming. Walls slowed, I found myself getting stuck. I would dance around behind walls waiting for someone peel off to hit and then not be able to get out.

C: Right. You aren’t a physically large player.

TS: When I first made the A team, opposition jammers were hitting me on the jam line as I looked small. So I started working with a trainer and got into powerlifting which I now love just a little less than derby. As I get stronger I see improvements in my derby performance. I recently competed in my first powerlifting competition.

C: You recently went back to University?

TS: Yes. Leading up to my move, I was trawling through job applications and realised that I no longer wanted to be a biochemist.  My life and interests had changed, mostly through derby. Now I study sports and exercise science. I’m working on applying what I am studying at university to roller derby training for myself and my team.

C: Lastly, about gear: what wheels are you skating in now? How do wheels affect your particular style of play?

TS: I skate on Presto 59mm 91A (highlighter yellow) and 93A (red-orange). I tend to favour grippier wheels as I jam rather aggressive and like to push my way through walls. Prestos have such responsive edges I feel like I get the most out every push and can also be accurate when running the lines as I can still stop quickly. They are also super light which I love. Nothing beats getting a nice screech out of them from a quick hockey stop!