February 2012 Featured League: The Chicago Outfit

February 7, 2012

The Chicago Outfit has been visualizing their success and making their vision a reality. Currently ranked 5th in the very competitive North Central Region, they’ve made consistent progress up the rankings since their debut in 2010. Off the track, as an Illinois registered Not-For-Profit Corporation, they work on helping others’ dreams come true as well. Read on to learn more about Chicago’s derby little secret.

Photo by Steve Stearns

Chicago, Illinois

Please tell us about your league’s godfather theme and how that came about?
When we first started in 2007, we wanted to form a league that was different from other leagues. We were trying to think of things Chicago is known for and the gangster/Godfather idea really stuck out to us.

How does your season run?
We bout from March through WFTDA Big 5 Tournament season, if we qualify.

Are you close to any other WFTDA leagues?
Windy City Rollers, Rockford Rage Women’s Roller Derby, Brewcity Bruisers, Mad Rollin’ Dolls, and Naptown Roller Girls.

How many skaters/teams do you have?
Since our most recent recruitment, we have about 60 skaters. We currently have 3 teams: The Syndicate is our WFTDA Charter 20, The Shade Brigade is our B Team, and we recently added The Shakedown, which is our C Team, at the end of our 2011 season.

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We are a travel-only league. When we first started, we wanted to make a league where everyone got the opportunity to skate and we knew we didn't want to skate against each other in home teams.

How many days a week do you practice?
We skate 4 days a week and our charter team skates an additional 5th practice when our season starts. We also have one off-skates practice that is optional.

The Outfit v Arch Rival, North Central Region Playoffs 2011
Photo by Steve Stearns

Who is the Outfit’s biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments against them when you have bouted?
Our arch rival would probably be the Arch Rival Roller Girls from Saint Louis. ;) Arch Rival was our WFTDA mentor league when we were in the WFTDA Apprentice Program. We had the opportunity to bout them 4 times in 2011, only one game of which was actually scheduled. We have alternated wins every time we played, and we ended up winning the 5th place spot against them at the 2011 WFTDA North Central Region playoffs. We've gotten to know them a lot over the past year and we're looking to move the relationship forward and ask them to “go steady.”

Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
When we first started, one of our founders, Althea N Hell, communicated with Sacred City Derby Girls a lot to help us get started. We wanted to get advice from another travel-only league and they even wrote us a letter of recommendation before the Apprentice Program started.

What are the individual challenges of your city?
Finding cost efficient practice space and a cost efficient bouting location.

What are your biggest training challenges?
Not having control over our practice space is our biggest challenge. We have 60 skaters that all skate together in a roller rink and we're forced to practice late due to lack of rink availability.

What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
We practice at a roller rink and we bout in a fieldhouse. The floor at the fieldhouse is a weird soft rubber so we have to lay down a masonite floor. Those that we bouted during our first season will never forget how awful the floor was before we had the masonite.

We understand that the Outfit holds its rolling recruitment event in November. How does your recruitment process work? Is this the only time of year that you take on new skaters, refs, and other volunteers?
We normally run rolling recruitment tryouts in the fall/winter and we have an advanced tryouts over the summer. During our rolling recruitment we have 1 practice a week designated to training girls to get them ready to pass the WFTDA minimum skills. During the advanced tryouts, we test girls in 1 day on the WFTDA minimum skills.

As an Illinois registered Not-For-Profit Corporation, it is clear that The Chicago Outfit does a lot for the community. Specifically, you partnered with Howard Brown for your 2011 season. Can you tell us about this charity partnership and why you decided to choose one charity to support for your entire season? What have you been able to accomplish with Howard Brown over the course of this partnership? Will you select a different charity to partner with for 2012?
Every year, we choose a new charity to pair up with and last year, we chose Howard Brown because they are such an asset to the LGBT community; providing health care services at a reasonable cost. We had a conversation within the league about who we felt would be a worthwhile charity, and we found that Howard Brown supported a lot of the same ideals that we did, so we decided to support them. We are going to be selecting another charity for the 2012 season. Stay tuned to find out who we choose this year.

Who are the “behind the scenes” skaters who make your league run?
Every skater contributing is basically how our league is structured. We require “off-skate work hours” as part of our bouting eligibility requirements. Helsa Wayton, Lexistential Crisis, Bloody Elle, and The Shoveler are our WFTDA Representatives and put a lot of time into maintaining our Class A WFTDA membership status. Lola Blow, CeCe Painiston, Sylvia Plaster, Lexistential Crisis, Lindiana Jones, Rude E. Huxtable, Ghoulita, and Dianasaurus Ross currently sit on our Board of Directors and put in more than the minimum requirement of off-skate hours. Code Adam is our Head of Officials and is an important asset to our Administrative Committee.

Lola Blow
Photo by Marc Lebryk

Who are some of your star on-track skaters and why?
Queefer Sutherland is one of our OG [original] skaters and she's a huge asset to our charter and has never missed a Syndicate game from the very start. Lola Blow is one of our star jammers and is also an OG. Lady K is one of our key brutalizing blockers. Smashley "The Spaniard" Destructo is also an outstanding blocker who just plays so consistently and has excellent teamwork skills.

The Chicago Outfit was a member of the first graduating class from the WFTDA's Apprentice Program, and became a full WFTDA member league in June 2010. What have been the benefits for the Outfit of being a WFTDA member league?
When we first started, the league goal was to achieve WFTDA Member status. Under the old process, where other teams controlled your fate, we almost lost hope that it would be possible to become a WFTDA member. We thought it would be impossible to become a member due to our initial request being denied. By allowing teams to join the WFTDA Apprentice Program, it gives all teams a more fair and equal opportunity to become a member. We have found that our WFTDA membership has opened up a lot of opportunities for increased competition, and being able to participate in the North Central Region playoff tournament was definitely exhilarating for us.

For the Outfit, what are the benefits and challenges of being in the WFTDA's North Central Region?
The main benefit is that we are in a closely competitive region. Moving forward, it's reasonable to think that more teams in our region will continue to improve and make the level of play between teams even closer from top to bottom.

Since becoming a WFTDA member league, the Chicago Outfit’s all star team, the Syndicate has managed to advance rather quickly through the North Central Rankings, including making it to Regional playoffs on your first opportunity to do so. How hard was it to break through into the top 10 of the North Central Region? How did it feel being able to play in the 2011 North Central Region playoff tournament?
Entering the top 10 wasn't too much of a challenge because we entered our first rankings at #10. Our biggest challenge was moving up from there. It felt amazing to be invited into our regional playoff tournament on our first opportunity to do so. Sweet Mary Pain and Gaygan were original Outfit members and it was an honor to have them finish their last season with us by finally making it to a WFTDA Regional Tournament.

The Outfit: North Central Region Playoffs 2011
Photo by Steve Stearns

As we said, the Syndicate has very quickly advanced in the North Central Region, starting out in 10th place for your first ranking in the 3rd Quarter of 2010, to 9th place through 2nd Quarter 2011, to 5th place after 2011 playoffs. To what do you attribute this significant advance in ranking? What changes, if any, did you make in the second half of 2011 to make the difference when you got to your first Regional playoff tournament?
We were able to add an additional team practice to our schedule to allow our charter to skate together. We also worked substantially on our mental game. All of our losses and some of our wins throughout the season helped us realize mistakes we've been making and pointing out areas that needed improvement.

We have to ask, what was the deal with the mustaches you all wore during the North Central Region playoff tournament?
Throughout our entire 2011 season, we've had themed face paint for every home and away bout to take the seriousness out of it. The face painting we have found to be helpful in getting rid of pre-bout jitters. We've done some pretty elaborate themes that included shapes, sugar skulls, forces of nature, rainbows, seeping orifices, half face, and mustaches. We had a "juggalo" themed Detroit bout and Valerie of the Dolls is the only one that followed through with it. During the regional tournament, our first bout was at 9:00a.m., and mustaches were the fastest and easiest theme to do. After we lost our first bout, we had to play at 9:00a.m. the second day against the Mad Rollin' Dolls. Mustaches were again the quickest and easiest theme to do, so we decided to do milk mustaches this time. From there on, we decided to keep the mustache theme throughout the rest of the tournament, and color coordinated our mustaches to match our opponents.

From reading your skaters' blogs and articles about your league, it sounds like visualization is a key part of your training regime. How did the Outfit start using visualization as part of training? What were the challenges involved in convincing all the skaters about the benefits of this type of training?
We did a boot camp with Catholic Cruel Girl and Assault N Pepa from the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls at the beginning of our 2011 season and they inspired us to work on visualization more. The biggest challenge is probably having skaters do more visualization on their own on top of what we do together as a team, but so many have incorporated visualization into their training as we've worked so hard to get everyone on the same page.

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
Danico, Inc. paid for our masonite floor for us a few years back. ATI Physical Therapy has been amazing to us and we also really appreciate our beer sponsor, Finch Beer.

We have heard rumors that there are changes in store for the Outfit in 2012, including losing some big name skaters to Colorado. What is the Outfit planning for 2012? Have you set any league goals you would like to share with wftda.com?
Sweet Mary Pain and Gaygan are transferring to Rocky Mountain, and Margles McNasty retired to go to Veterinarian School. With a few recent transfers and our skaters constantly stepping up and improving, we plan on continuing where we left off last season and are striving to qualify for the WFTDA Championships in 2012.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
We love and appreciate every last one of you for being so supportive of us over the years. We're amping up our training and our production for you this next year to bring you the very best derby action we can offer. The Chicago Outfit is a true Chicago Roller Derby experience and we want our fans to continue to enjoy the radness.

Is there any other information that you would like to share with wftda.com?
We feel very lucky to be a part of such a great organization as the WFTDA and are looking forward to our 2012 season!

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Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.