April 2014 Featured League: Gold Coast Derby Grrls

April 1, 2014

gold-coast The Gold Coast Derby Grrls have always had a flare for fun and for doing things big – whether it is their fun themed bouts or ambitious tournament and conference hosting. This league is dedicated to embodying roller derby’s larger-than-life approach and strength, on and off the track. The derby-verse recently watched the Gold Coast All Stars win the Clover Cup, and is excitedly anticipating Gold Coast’s upcoming Beach Brawl mega-tournament. Read on to learn more about Gold Coast’s big fun plans for the remainder of 2014!

March 2014 WFTDA Featured League: Gold Coast Derby Grrls

Photo by Jeff Tavss

What city are you based in? Fort Lauderdale, Florida

How does your season run?
Our season runs from January through November.

What are the closest WFTDA leagues to you?
We have the Tampa Roller Derby, Fort Myers Derby Girls, Jacksonville RollerGirls, and Gainesville Roller Rebels all within a four-hour radius from our home turf. Also, we are very excited to have two new WFTDA Apprentice leagues nearby in West Palm Beach (Dub City Derby Girls and Fort Pierce (South Florida Rollergirls).

How many skaters/teams do you have?
We have an All Star Travel Team that is made up of our top 20 skaters and a B Team full of up and coming All Stars. We have around 30 to 40 skaters at any given time.

How is your league structured (home teams, travel team, management)?
We have three levels of skaters: our freshmeat, our rookies who have been bouting for less than one year, and our veterans. Our six member coaching staff chooses the top 20 skaters each quarter to make up the charter for our All Star travel team. Our rookies and other bout eligible skaters are on our non-charter team, the Cat 5’s. The league is managed by the Board of Directors; made up of seven voting positions and three non-voting positions. The BOD members work closely to oversee the day-to-day business affairs of the league, and the league members participate by volunteering for committees and special projects.

Gold Coast Derby Grrls made its start as the Broward County Derby Grrls in 2007. Please tell us about your growth and evolution to become Gold Coast, and attract talent from Miami-Dade and Palm Beaches. Based on your experience, what advice would you share with other leagues who are considering making changes to their structure, name, etc.?
Our league has always done things in a big way. In our first year, we hosted our own tournament and attended the Fall Brawl II in Fort Wayne, Indiana (hosted by the Fort Wayne Derby Girls). In our second season, we took third place in the Sunshine Skate 2009 Roller Derby Championship (a two-day event where 11 teams from all over the state competed for the title of Florida State Champions and prize money). As our team grew, we attracted skaters from all over South Florida – not only Broward County – and we knew we needed to change our name to reflect who we were and what direction we were moving in. Gold Coast is the term used to describe the South Florida area stretching from West Palm Beach to Miami and it just fit better. We made the change at a time when we were just starting to attract a following so our fans were able to transition and grow with us. Our advice to any leagues thinking about making a name change is to consider it carefully and make sure that the change reflects who you really are and want to be.

March 2014 WFTDA Featured League: Gold Coast Derby Grrls

Gold Coast Derby Grrls vs Blue Ridge Rollergirls
Photo by ShutHerUp Photography

Who is your biggest rival? And have you had any outstanding, memorable moments against them when you bouted?
We would have to say the Blue Ridge Rollergirls is one of our biggest rivals. Just recently, we traveled to Asheville, North Carolina to bout against them. What made this event so incredible was the amount of adversity we had to overcome before we even had a chance to get on the track. Being from south Florida, snow delays are a bit foreign to us, so no one could have prepared us for a 24-hour flight delay. Because of the delay, we had to change into our uniforms at the airport before boarding the plane. We have to thank Allegiant Air as the flight attendants let us get off the plane first. We felt like rock stars when the rest of the passengers cheered us on. We put our gear and skates on in the rental cars and finally hit the track almost three hours past the bout start time with a very patiently waiting Blue Ridge Rollergirls. In the end we took the win, but not without one heck of a fight.

Do you have any sister leagues you’d like to give a shout out to?
We would love to give a shout out to Fort Myers Derby Girls. We have been bouting against them for a long time and are close with quite a few girls on the team. We all grew up in derby together and we love spending time with them.

We understand that Gold Coast Derby Grrls and SoFlo Men's Roller Derby – your local men's league – have a very close relationship. Please tell us about developing this relationship, and collaborating with the men's league to promote roller derby in your community.
Having the SoFlo guys on the track with us was more of a natural progression, than a conscious decision. The guys were already involved in the coaching and reffing aspect of our league and it was clear they wanted to play as well. We decided as a league we were comfortable with the idea of coed training and adding them to the track. They skate and hit differently than we do, so mutually it was beneficial for all. They have helped us think outside the box when dealing with larger and stronger opponents. One of our SoFlo veterans, David O'Connor (also known as “Gate Keeper”), made an insightful statement that gives you a clear understanding of the dynamic between our two teams: “They've really taken us under their wing and we complement each other — the women have learned how to hit harder and we’ve had to learn how to use our hips more. And most importantly, they have no hesitations about hitting us into a wall.”

March 2014 WFTDA Featured League: Gold Coast Derby Grrls

Gold Cost Derby Grrls vs SoFlo Men's Roller Derby
Photo by Ken LeBleu

At first our local derby community was a bit hesitant about the idea, but they have come to love and understand the concept. Today, we are able to host a ton of open, mixed/coed bouts that clearly indicate gender is not an issue here in South Florida. SoFlo is more than our local men’s roller derby league; they are loved as brothers and are part of the Gold Coast family.

What are the individual challenges of your city?
One of the biggest obstacles we face living in south Florida is the year round warm weather. We are not called the number one tourist destination for no reason. There are numerous attractions that we have to compete against, both indoors and outdoors, that make keeping people’s attention and drawing crowds difficult.

What are your biggest training challenges?
South Florida has some of the most unpredictable weather in the U.S. You can be standing on one side of the street watching it rain on the other side. With this type of unpredictability mixed with 75% of our training being done outdoors, we tend to get rained out quite often in the summer months. Additionally, because we are in the tropics, we deal with very hot and humid conditions that can be dangerous for our skaters. We take this safety issue very seriously and try to schedule our practices for early morning and later in the evenings to alleviate some of these concerns.

What kind of training/bouting facilities do you have?
Sadly, we kind of consider ourselves homeless at the present time. Our host roller rink closed about two years ago and we have not been able to find another full time indoor training space. As of right now, we spend one day a week indoors at a local skating rink and three days a week training at a local outdoor hockey rink. We have spent countless hours traveling from place to place looking for a safe and cost effective space to hang our helmets. Hopefully, with the success of Beach Brawl, we can put an end to this dilemma.

Our home bouts take place in the historic War Memorial Auditorium, which is owned and operated by the City of Fort Lauderdale. The WMA is a 20,000 square foot facility with seating for 2,210 fans. It hosts an elevated stage area for our VIPs and has ample parking for our guests.

How many days a week do you practice? How are your practices divided/organized among your teams/skaters?
We practice four days a week, sometime five depending on closeness of upcoming bouts. We welcome all skaters to each practice, but we do divide our skaters by skill level for obvious safety reasons and training effectiveness. However, we feel it is important to have everyone participate in all aspects of training, such as fresh meat not yet qualified to scrimmage learning how to NSO during practice as an example.

We take our fresh meat program very seriously and recently added another coach whose sole focus is providing them the tools they need to excel in all areas of derby. It all starts with basic fundamentals and we gradually work them up to contact drills, pack situations, scrimmaging, both educational and official. They get the entire derby experience, so when it’s time for them to participate in their first bout, we are confident in their abilities.

Who are some “behind the scenes” skaters/members who really help your league run?
We have so many amazing people that act as the glue of our organization, and functioning without them would just be impossible. This support system is made up of present and past skaters and their family members. Debbie Pichardo aka “Bruha Ha” keeps our finances in the black and Linda Harrison aka “mama baller” keeps us from falling apart and can be best described as our voice of reason and league “oracle.” We love and appreciate all of our volunteers and know without them we would not be here.

March 2014 WFTDA Featured League: Gold Coast Derby Grrls

Jess Business jumping over a teammate at an event
Photo by Amy Lowe

Who are some of your star skaters on the track, and why?
We have our veterans like Jess Business and Carnivorous Licks who never fail to pack the house, and they sell more tickets than any other skater bout after bout. We have our fan favorites Bitchin-N-Rollin and Soul Journer, and our foundation that holds the team together: Freek-A-Rella, Lucy Lunatic, Tackle Me Elmo, and Sookie Skankhouse. However, if we were forced to pick just one star skater, we would have to choose Baller Shot Caller who recently competed with the best of the best and earned her rightful place on Team USA. She is no doubt our league MVP, and we could not be more proud to claim she is from Gold Coast. Needless to say, we are all very excited to see what the future has to offer her.

One thing we can say for sure is that no one on Gold Coast is considered any more important than the other. Each skater has their own unique talent that they bring to the league and have at one time or another been a star on the track.

The derby-verse is eager for Gold Coast Derby Grrls’ Beach Brawl coming up on May 2nd to 4th. This is a record-breaking weekend featuring 24 WFTDA teams from around the world. Wow! Please tell us about this ambitious event. How are your preparations going with just one month left before the event?
With Beach Brawl just weeks away, we are busy finalizing all the necessary steps that will make this event run flawlessly. The event planning process has been in motion for quite some time, and is being pulled together seamlessly by our two project managers mama baller (mother of Baller Shot Caller) and one of our newest members, Dr. Ruth Less aka “Doc.” Together with the Beach Brawl committee, every league member will have a part in what is happening. Regardless of whether it is volunteering, raising money, sponsorship or promotions, we as a league want to make sure this event is a huge success for not only the participants, but for spectators as well. We hope to make this an annual event that will draw teams and fans for years to come.

What are the benefits and challenges of preparing to host and participate in the Beach Brawl?
One of the benefits of hosting a record-breaking event like Beach Brawl is that it has helped us to gain a new understanding of the importance of becoming a viable brand within our community. As we prepare for this event, we have had to overcome a few obstacles that ultimately created positive changes in how we run our organization. While it is not uncommon for organizations or businesses to go through some sort of growing pains, for us it has been a transition that has taken us from those awkward teen years into a more grown-up way of handling ourselves.

Your league has hosted a number of really creatively themed bouts, including an Alice In Wonderland theme and a Rocky Horror Picture Show theme. How does your league decide on the bout themes? How do your fans respond to these events?
From our early days as a league, we have always enjoyed coming up with creative ideas for our themed bouts. We would do it to make it fun for the fans, giving them an extra element that might not have been expected. We would come up with a few ideas and allow the league to vote, and choose the most popular theme. We felt it was important to include the fans and having fun activities that correlated with each theme helped us achieve that, especially when the fans would come dressed up. More recently, we immersed ourselves into the subculture of the 1980s and threw a “Revenge of the Derbs” themed bout. There were countless pairs of nerdy glasses; lots of pocket protectors, and of course tons of nerdy “Omega Mus” and Alpha Beta sorority members’ nerding around.

How does your league give back to the community?
We as a league feel that it is important to be committed to not only promoting the sport of roller derby, but also to empower women by giving back to our local communities through cultural awareness and supporting organizations that make a difference in people’s lives. We do this by participating in charitable events such as the Florida AIDS Walk, the Lupus Foundation of America, and Toys for Tots just to name a few. Additionally, we have recently joined the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce in order to build relationships with organizations that will allow us to partner with them. Our goal is to help raise money and give a percentage of our home bout proceeds back to these organizations.

One of our biggest dreams is to be able to provide a safe environment for a junior derby league that will in turn help us to teach our developing youth the importance of teamwork, brother and sisterhood, strength, acceptance, respect, and most importantly how to also give back to our local communities through fundraising and volunteering. They say it takes a village to raise our children, and GCDG hopes to be a supportive, memorable part of that village.

March 2014 WFTDA Featured League: Gold Coast Derby Grrls

Heroes vs Legends theme bout at 2013 WFTDA Annual Meeting
Photo by Ken LeBleu

In addition to your local community involvement, Gold Coast Derby Grrls hosted the WFTDA community for back to back annual meetings in 2012 and 2013. Thank you for being amazing hosts! What made you decide to take on this important role?
Being in south Florida, we are pretty far away from most WFTDA member leagues and as a result, we don’t get to connect with many of them very often. We decided as a league that we wanted to host the WFTDA annual meeting as a way to interact and get to know our fellow WFTDA members. The first meeting was such a success and everyone enjoyed the sun and fun that Fort Lauderdale can offer so much that we decided, let’s do it again. I think we had as much fun hosting it as others did participating.

Who are some of your favorite sponsors?
One of our biggest sponsors is The Japanese Auto Professionals Plus – The J.A.P. Shop. This local, family-owned-and-operated business has been providing exceptional car repair since 1989. They have been supporting Gold Coast Derby Grrls for the past three years and we couldn’t do it without them.

We are so excited about our newest sponsor, and what this new partnership means to the future success of our league. Car-Mercial is a well-respected international company and we could not feel more honored to have them on board. Founded in 2004, Car-Mercial is the most award-winning online video technology company in the automotive industry that has also developed the world’s largest online display advertising network. Their technology has served 4,000+ car dealers in 18 countries, 76 of the top 100 dealership groups in the USA and Canada, as well as by 16+ auto manufacturers.

Do you have a special message for your fans?
On behalf of the Gold Coast Derby Grrls we want to send much derby love and gratitude to our fans, because without your love and support, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

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Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.