March 2013 Featured Skater: Admiral Attackbar

March 5, 2013

Auld Reekie Roller Girls’ Admiral Attackbar has progressed rapidly from rookie to all star, and demonstrated that hard work and goal setting are some of the greatest forces in the world! Aside from her amazing jamming skills on the track, Admiral Attackbar has been living the true derby girl life, and using all her talents to bolster her league, from her graphic design skills to cartoon enthusiasm. Read on to learn more about this month's multi-talented and doughnut-loving featured skater, Admiral Attackbar.

WFTDA Featured Skater: March 2013: Admiral Attackbar

Photo by Jason Ruffell

What is your derby name? Admiral Attackbar

Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
Admiral Ackbar is a character from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. He's the guy who looks like a weird squid in a space suit and is famous for saying, “It's a trap!” I just thought up the name one day because Admiral Ackbar was one of my favourite movie characters as a little kid and he's like sort of a cult figure now.

What is your number? 11:11

What is your home league?
My home league is the Auld Reekie Roller Girls. We're from Edinburgh, Scotland, and I play for the Twisted Thistles travel team.

Which home team do you play for?
My home team is called the Leithal Weapons. (It's not a typo! Leith is a notorious part of Edinburgh.)

What is your position of choice? Jammer

What is your skate gear of choice?
I skate on Riedell 495s with Revenge plates, and currently my wheels of choice are Rollerbones Turbos 92A. I can't recommend the wheels enough actually. They give me everything I want in a wheel, which for a while I didn't think I'd ever find.

Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
This is quite ridiculous, but ever since I was about four or five years old doughnuts have been my absolute favourite treat ever, ever, ever. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I told them I wanted to be a baker because I wanted to make loads of doughnuts and eat them all day. Anyway...I'm no stranger to a doughnut or two, so some time at the beginning of last year my girlfriend made a joke about how doughnuts might be the source of all my power and ever since then, a few hours before every bout, I have a doughnut. Just in case she's right. Also, because I really like doughnuts.

What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
Before a bout I try to think as little as possible actually. I tend to psych myself out if I over analyse things going into a game. I find it best to just clear my mind to prevent any negative energy getting in there. That's easier said than done though.

What has been your best derby moment?
Jeez this is a tough question! There have been so many amazing moments since I started playing roller derby. Being involved in Track Queens: Battle Royal as the first WFTDA sanctioned tournament in Europe was amazing. 2012 was a really tough transitionary period for the Twisted Thistles because we went through quite a few big changes in our roster. We were working really, really hard at Track Queens to prove ourselves as one of the teams to look out for in Europe, and I think we really did ourselves proud. Everyone stepped up their game and it was just a beautiful thing to be a part of.

How did you get involved with roller derby?
I had known about roller derby for a long time and the idea of trying it was always sort of in the back of my mind since I heard that a league was starting up in Edinburgh back in 2008. But, because of other life commitments and traveling and things like that, I didn't actually get around to getting involved in roller derby until much later. Almost two years ago a friend of mine was thinking of going along to fresh meat and she basically talked me into going along too. And so we went and I was completely hooked from day one.

WFTDA Featured Skater: March 2013: Admiral Attackbar

Photo by Jason Ruffell

Can you talk a bit about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby?
ARRG has a really great 16-week long Fresh Meat programme during which time you're taught the basic principles of roller derby and everything you need in order to pass your minimum skills assessment. So I did the full Fresh Meat programme and then two or three months after passing minimums, I was pretty much straight into bouting. I've been skating for the Twisted Thistles for roughly a year now and it has honestly felt like one huge dream. If somebody had told me when I started out at Fresh Meat the sort of opportunities that roller derby was going to offer up to me, I really never would have believed it. Back when I graduated from Fresh Meat we didn't have home teams yet, we just had the Cannon Belles who are our B team, and the Twisted Thistles who are our A team. I remember setting myself a goal of getting onto the Belles’ roster within a year, so for everything to have turned out the way that it has I'm pretty over the moon! I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of something so special and empowering.

You made a swift journey from Fresh Meat to the All Stars! What training and/or other motivation helped you along your speedy path to the top level of play?
A lot of hard work and determination and a lot of working out! When I graduated Fresh Meat I was SO hungry for it, like I wanted to play with the big guys so bad and I really threw myself in at the deep end. I would just try to jam against the all stars as much as possible at practice and for the first couple of months I really got my ass kicked. But if you want to improve, you need to play people who are better than you and you need to not give up. I really learned a lot from getting my ass handed to me every Friday night!

What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
Believe in yourself. It doesn't matter what size, shape, colour, skill level you are, if you're prepared to work your ass off then you can do it. It takes a hell of a lot of hard graft and commitment, but if you can give that to roller derby then you will receive amazing things back. If you're unsure about joining a league because you're intimidated and worried about meeting new people, don't be. I promise you will meet the greatest bunch of weirdo misfits and you will have a blast.

Who are your derby heroes? There are quite a few! At the moment Sandrine “Francey Pants” Rangeon is definitely a skater I've been studying a lot. Her juking is just incredible. I'm also a big fan of Mick Swagger from Gotham Girls Roller Derby because she's just such a badass! A little closer to home though there's a bunch of skaters who I've skated with who are just amazing and who I admire greatly. Zillah has been on our jammer rotation for years and she really took me under her wing when I was new to the team and showed me pretty much everything she knows, which was super appreciated. Unfortunately she's heading back to Canada soon so we're all really sad to see her go.

How would you describe your derby playing style?
I try to find a good balance between aggressive, hard hitting jamming and agility. An announcer once described me as a tiny powerhouse so I really try to live up to that as much as I can!

WFTDA Featured Skater: March 2013: Admiral Attackbar

Photo by Jason Ruffell

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I spent a large amount of my childhood on skates of some description. I think I got my first pair of skates when I was about 3 or so. They were those Fisher Price skates that you put on over your shoes. After that I moved on to proper quads and then roller blades. I have an older brother and I used to play roller hockey and ice hockey with him and his friends so I do have prior experience of getting beat up on skates by people who are bigger than me, which I guess has served me well! I also played a lot of basketball up until the age of about 16 and have done a lot of skateboarding and snowboarding.

We hear that when you’re jamming, you rarely get knocked down. But when you do, you seem to be able to get up almost before you hit the floor! How have you developed these skills? What tips would you share with skaters looking to improve their jamming skills?
I'd say this is mostly to do with off skates exercise. In order to get knocked down repeatedly and keep getting back up you need to be super fit. I like to keep fit by doing off skates training specifically suited to roller derby, so a lot of interval training, plyometrics, and agility ladder work. I've started doing Crossfit recently also, which is excellent for strength training. If you want to improve your jamming skills then get really fit. After that, do not stop moving your feet in the pack. Lastly, never give up.

During the 2012 Track Queens: Battle Royal semifinal against the London Rollergirls, your aggressive jamming helped to really rack up the points. What were some of the highlights of that game for you? What kept you going for the full 60 minutes?
Basically this whole game was a highlight for me, but I think the first time I got lead and I heard the crowd go absolutely crazy, that was a pretty incredible moment. We always learn so much from playing London Rollergirls’ London Brawling and have to play to our absolute limit and I just love pushing myself that hard. I'm not exactly sure what kept me going for the full 60 minutes. I think it was probably sheer adrenaline. I'm so proud of how we did in this game though. We got a lot of stick in the derby-verse for the last time we played Brawling as I think it was the highest score deficit in WFTDA-sanctioned history or something like that, but this time we really came out guns blazing and we cut the deficit by about 200 points and everyone played amazingly.

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
Just getting to where I am in such a short space of time is huge for me. There are times when I can't quite believe it.

Off the track?
I'm constantly setting myself goals with regards to physical fitness and this is certainly the fittest I've been in my life so I guess that is a pretty big accomplishment. However, I don't want to stop, I want to be better, I want to keep pushing.

WFTDA Featured Skater: March 2013: Admiral Attackbar

Photo by Jason Ruffell

Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for and why?
We have several bouts that we're really excited for this year. London Rollergirls have just announced they are hosting Anarchy in the UK again this year and have invited us to play the Berlin Bombshells and London Brawl Saints. That same weekend, the Windy City Rollers are also going to be there playing London Brawling and hosting a bootcamp. All of that is really exciting!

Also, Auld Reekie Roller Girls will be going stateside for the first time ever this year as the Twisted Thistles head over to ECDX! We have always dreamed of going over to the states to play derby and it was always thought of as a far away league goal. But this year it's really happening so we're incredibly excited about it and it's a huge achievement for the league.

How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
I think I'm a more confident person now than I used to be. I have a lot more confidence in my own ability for sure. I really feel like I have found my place and have found something that gives me a reason to better myself both physically and mentally, which has affected my whole life in the best possible way.

We understand that you're a talented graphic designer and have become instrumental in the design for numerous marketing pieces for ARRG. Where do you draw your inspiration from? What makes for a good roller derby design?
I have done a lot of graphic design for ARRG over the last couple of years and I'm the spokesperson for the design committee. What I try to do when I'm designing roller derby posters is keep things pretty clean and simple, and I really try to keep a certain amount of continuity between posters so that they are visible as ARRG posters. I really enjoy doing them because I can sort of let loose and try different things, unlike doing paid work. I'm really not a fan of the stereotypical old school pin-up girl style derby poster. I'd much rather promote athleticism and strength rather than sex appeal.

What is your day job? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
I currently work as a graphic designer for a business that specialises in garment printing. Right now I'm working on a line of limited edition merch that the league will be selling soon to raise money for our travel fund.

You are one of the creators of the “Pony” video, which showcases the ARRG skaters intermixed with My Little Pony cartoon characters and country music. Where did the idea for this video come from, i.e., why ponies? How have your league and fans responded to it?
Someone from the league found a My Little Pony generator online that allows you to create your own My Little Pony character so she started making them for a few people and posting them on Facebook, and the whole thing just sort of went viral. Basically everyone from ARRG made a pony for themselves and pretty soon it started crossing over into other leagues and Facebook was suddenly taken over by ponies. This was around the time that I was putting together the skate out video for Track Queens along with our headshot page for the programme and we thought it would be funny to have ourselves as ponies instead of our usual head shots. People really seemed to like it!

How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?

WFTDA Featured Skater: March 2013: Admiral Attackbar

Photo by Jason Ruffell

I don't really! The two are pretty intertwined actually. I don't try to keep them separate. I'm lucky because my girlfriend (Lilo & Stitches) also plays roller derby and we're on the same team so she doesn't get mad at me for spending all of my time playing roller derby and working out because she does it too! We do try to have one day a week where we do nothing roller derby related but it is quite hard sometimes to switch off. Some of my friends have had issues with me spending a lot less time with them but most of them are really supportive and happy that I'm doing something I love. It’s the same with my family.

There have been times like going back to work after a huge tournament weekend that have certainly been incredibly difficult but if we didn't all have to work day jobs, roller derby just wouldn't be the same.

What do you think about the rapid growth of roller derby in Europe? With so many new leagues, as well as established leagues, which teams and/or skaters are you looking out for in the near future?
The growth of roller derby in Europe has been pretty astonishing actually. Even in the short time I've been bouting the level of play has just risen so rapidly, and it makes me really excited for the future of the sport. There are loads of European teams who have the potential to be really great. I think at Track Queens, Helsinki Roller Derby really proved themselves as a team to watch this year. They invited us over in April 2012 to do a bootcamp with them and seeing how much they've improved since then is excellent. They're also just a really fun team with great spirit.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
Just thanks so much for all of the support and please do keep coming along to our bouts, it's hugely appreciated! We have some amazing match ups coming this year so check out for details or you can find Auld Reekie Roller Girls on Facebook and Twitter.

Is there anyone that you would like to send a special thank you to?
I'd like to thank all of the Twisted Thistles for being amazing teammates and for the frankly obscene amount of fun I've had over the last year or so. Also, everyone in ARRG who contributes their time and effort to making the league the best it can be. It takes so much work to run a roller derby league and without the tireless efforts of our members we just wouldn't exist.

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.