September 12, 2013
Blue Ridge Rollergirls have made their mark on WFTDA, climbing up the rankings to become a top D2 team in just over a year since becoming full members. At home, these skaters have made quite the impact on their small town and earned themselves a great reputation along the way. This fall, they will be building their reputation in the WFTDA as they host Division Playoffs in Asheville, North Carolina and compete at 2013 Championships to play for 3rd Place in Division 2. Read on to learn more about the Blue Ridge Rollergirls.
What city are you based in? We are located in Asheville, North Carolina.
How does your season run?
Our bouting season normally begins in late February or early March and runs through November. This season we had a heavy travel season in the spring. In the fall we run tryouts and focus on basic skills and getting our fresh meat bout ready. Once we hit January, we shift our focus to advanced skating skills and strategy. Then it is time to do it all over again.
What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
Little City Roller Girls are in Johnson City, Tennessee, which is about one hour away from Asheville. Greenville Derby Dames, Hard Knox Roller Girls, and Charlotte Roller Girls are about one and a half to two hours away. Also, Appalachian Rollergirls, a WFTDA Apprentice league, are about two hours away.
How many skaters/teams do you have?
We currently have approximately 34 skaters.
How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We have an All Star team and a B-team, the French Broads. Both teams travel.
We understand that your league recently re-branded, including changing the logo. This is a huge undertaking for any league. What was the reason for making this change? And how did you approach the re-design and re-branding?
Our league underwent a change in focus over the past year. We decided to become more competitive as well as focusing on the business of running our league. We felt updating our logo, while still maintaining the essence of what had made it recognizable, was a great way to reflect what we were doing all around. We are still the Blue Ridge Rollergirls, but have shifted our focus.
To redesign, we determined what the vital aspects of the logo were and worked to maintain those in the new design. Once we had the new logo printed and out in the community, we determined there were some changes that were still needed to increase readability and appeal to all audiences. Ultimately, we enlisted the help of a graphic designer to iron out the details and finalize the logo.
To rebrand, we sent out a press release explaining our new focus and new look. We updated our social media sites, website, and merchandise to reflect the new logo. The biggest help in getting our new logo out in the derby community was the WFTDA’s marketing for the 2013 Playoffs.
What feedback have you received about the league's new logo?
The most recent version of our logo has only been out for a few weeks now, but so far, we have received a lot of positive comments and approval. Skaters and fans alike feel that it is a great representation of our city and our sport. It’s a very positive and progressive image that we’re very happy to have developed for our league.
Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments against them when you bouted?
Some of our favorite “rivals” are teams that we know well, and we build up the rivalry as a bout approaches. The rivalry isn’t just due to an overwhelming desire to win, although that’s a nice bonus. It comes more from having friendships with so many of the individual skaters; it’s like a family reunion on the track. We also know these skaters so well that we can appreciate how every league and team evolves. They are the teams that our skaters will travel to support, and when they need it, we’re there to help. These teams know who they are!
More specifically, the BRRG All Stars’ biggest rivals and favorite teams to play include Jacksonville Rollergirls and Tallahassee Rollergirls. The French Broads’ biggest rival and favorite team to play is the Appalachian Rollergirls. It is always fun and challenging to play them, as they always go all out.
Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
Carolina Rollergirls and Charlotte Roller Girls were extremely helpful to us becoming a WFTDA member league. We’d also like to give a special thanks to Smoky Mountain Roller Girls for showing up and providing such great support this season.
What are the individual challenges of your city?
Asheville is located in the western, mountainous end of North Carolina, with a population of approximately 84,000. Since we are located in the mountains, some of the girls have a long drive to practice. As a smaller city we do not have a large population to draw from and most of our skaters are trained from the ground up with the BRRG program.
We hear that Asheville is full of roller derby fans, and you are able to attract crowds as big as 3,000 people! Wow! What has your league done to cultivate such a large fan base?
Grassroots campaigns have always worked best for us. Over the years we’ve found that being tuned in to our community and working hard to reach out touches the most people. Efforts like distributing handbills at local events, performing community service, and taping flyers up all over town are sometimes more successful for us than anything else.
What advice do you have for leagues that would like to increase their own fan base?
Make as many community contacts as possible! Take advantage of any opportunity you have to be able to meet and talk to people about derby. Many people do not realize derby is in the area, but after their first bout, they are hooked on the sport.
Also, never forget the fans you already have. Your fans have friends and family that will hear them rave about how they got to meet their favorite skater, how much fun their kids had at a bout, or how impressed they were with the athleticism they saw over the weekend. Additionally, it helps to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere.
What are your biggest training challenges?
As a league we have very limited resources. The skating rink where we practice only allots six hours a week for us to use the facility. We rarely have refs and NSOs present during practice and scrimmage, making it almost impossible to practice how we play. Currently, we are lucky enough to have a full roster for both our All Star team and B-level travel team, the French Broads. This also means that all league members share the track for all six hours of our rink time. This makes it so that neither of our teams gets very much dedicated “team time” on the track.
Off skates we are blessed to have a gym, a trainer, and a nutritionist that are invested in our success! They have greatly assisted us in readying our bodies for tournament play and helping make up for the lack of on skates time we get as a league.
What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We practice at a local skating rink, Tarwheels Skateway. This is a challenge, as our training schedule is dictated by their schedule.
How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
We have three on skates practices each week for the entire league, plus numerous off skates or training activities throughout the week that a skater can opt to attend.
The Blue Ridge Rollergirls are playing host to one of the WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs. Congratulations! As a relatively new WFTDA member league (having earned full member status in March 2012), what made you decide to take the plunge and host a WFTDA tournament?
We had community support in the form of the Asheville-Buncombe Regional Sports Commission. We felt that it would be an honor to host the WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs and that Asheville is the perfect city for such a tournament.
What are some of the exciting things you have planned for skaters and fans attending the D1 Playoff tournament in Asheville? What are the must see and do sights and activities in your fair city?
There are already several large events going on around town, so if anyone needs a break from the derby, they will have a lot of options (although we don’t know how anyone will want to miss a single minute of the tournament!). Downtown Asheville alone is chock full of must-sees. Asheville has tons of galleries, an amazing variety of bars and music venues, local shops, and restaurants like nothing you could find anywhere else.
Tournament attendees won’t need to go very far to find something that appeals to any taste. And within a few minutes of downtown, we’ve got natural sights that have brought tourists and transplants here for years. (Download the Hospitality Guide)
Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
All of our members put in many hours behind the scenes. As a small league with plenty to do, everyone has to be active on at least one committee. Many are active on more than one. We work together as a team on and off the track.
Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
Historically we have had “star skaters,” however more recently we have been focused on the team rather than individuals. This has led to a deeper bench and less reliance on anyone to be a star. The team focus is one of the aspects that has been vital in our performance over the past couple of years. There are definitely fan favorites (primarily jammers) though.
Congratulations to the Blue Ridge All Stars on their performance at the D2 Playoffs in Des Moines! They earned second place and a trip to the WFTDA Championships in Milwaukee in November. Wow! How did the team prepare to compete at the first ever D2 Playoffs?
One of the biggest lessons we learned was about personal fitness. So, this season, we have taken our off skates training to great new levels. We also changed the format of our schedule to incorporate more tournaments and hangover bouts. Going into last season, the majority of the league had no experience playing multi-bout weekends or multi-day tournaments.
Making D2 Playoffs this year has been a long time coming for us Blue Ridge girls. We have been working steadily over the last two seasons to realize this goal. We had a long discussion about competitive WFTDA play during a league meeting last year and voted unanimously to make 2013 the most competitive season Blue Ridge has ever seen. So we scheduled an insanely busy travel season with as many high ranked WFTDA teams as would have us.
We have played leagues well above our rank all season. We have received beating after beating from the likes of Olivia Shootin’ John (of the Texas Rollergirls), Wild Cherri (of the Atlanta Rollergirls), Little A (of Tampa Roller Derby), and DBC (of Houston Roller Derby), but learned from every loss. Our training committee attended multiple training camps, seeking out new skills and drills, and as a league, we had the privilege of working with some of the best guest trainers available. An incredible amount of hard work and heart have gone into making playoffs this year.
Months ago, our training committee identified a few key skills and strategies that we felt would benefit our skaters and our game play the most. We have been concentrating on sharpening those skills and implementing those strategies as seamlessly as possible. We created an atmosphere of urgency and repetition with both our on and off skates training.
How will the Blue Ridge All Stars prepare for Championships? For example, what did you learn from competing in Des Moines?
Playoffs simply confirmed, positively and negatively, what we already knew about our league. First, we work hard and hustle, we are strong and smart, and we use those things to our advantage in our game play. We have become a much more disciplined league over the past few seasons and our hard work and dedication to fitness and bettering our individual skating skill has most definitely paid off.
Second, we have a penalty problem as a league. This comes back to what we mentioned earlier to be one of our biggest issues with training, i.e., we have very limited resources. We rarely have extra bodies present at practice and during league scrimmages to keep score, track penalties, or even ref for us. Training committee has been continually brainstorming to come up with creative solutions to the problem, but none are as effective as simply having a dedicated ref and NSO crew that are present at practice, so we can practice how we play.
We are proud of our performance at Playoffs, but have identified the aspects of our mental and physical game that we can tweak before the D2 championship game in November. We will most definitely be ready.
How does your league give back to the community?
Throughout the year we volunteer in our community, doing anything from picking up trash to meeting with veterans and just saying “thank you.” We also take some time to show up and just support other events or efforts by being there for them. While we might not seem to “get” anything from doing that, we seem to have a good reputation in our community, which is very important to us. For instance, recently we have partnered with the Asheville Humane Society to help them with adoption campaigns and events.
Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
We get a lot of support from local businesses that have helped us with this successful season. The diversity of our sponsors has been amazing.
Do you have a special message for your fans?
There really aren’t enough words to say how much we appreciate the support of our fans. Some of our fans have dedicated so much time to our league through volunteering and just showing up at our events that they’re part of the family. We love our fans and can’t thank them enough for their support!
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