January 2014 Featured Skater: Bloody Mary

January 1, 2014

It is hard to imagine contemporary roller derby and the WFTDA without this month’s featured skater. Bloody Mary is one of the “godmothers” of roller derby, as a founding member of the Texas Rollergirls, and the WFTDA’s first ever Executive Director. Not only has Bloody Mary been active in modern roller derby from the very beginning, she continues to dazzle us with her talent and passion both on and off the track. Most recently, she was recognized as the MVP of the 2013 WFTDA Championship tournament in Milwaukee. Read on to learn more about how Bloody Mary stays involved, competitive, and passionate!

January 2014 WFTDA Featured Skater: Bloody Mary

Photo by Bill Smotrilla

What is your derby name? Bloody Mary

Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
There’s not really an inspiration or story behind “Bloody Mary.” It’s punny. I like bloody marys with brunch (who doesn’t?). Queen Mary the First of England was kind of terrifying. It shortens to “Bloody” nicely, and that’s funny to hear people say wearing a mouthguard.

What is your number? I skate for the Texecutioners as number 30.

We understand you have changed your number several times. What prompted these changes?
I started on the Hell Marys as number 4. When I made the Texecutioners, I rostered as 40, because Hydra was already skating as 4. (You’ve heard of Hydra, right? Just kidding!) A couple of years ago, people started mixing up me and Olivia Shootin’ John (or “OJ”), who skates as 03. As an homage to her, and to sort of play with the mutability of derby numbers, I changed mine to 30. (Okay, it’s also possible I wanted to screw with the refs a little. They had just gone on this bender, measuring jersey numbers with little tiny four-inch rulers. Incidentally, the joke was on me—and on OJ, unfortunately—as we saw many of my minor penalties go up on her tracker in the years that followed.) A related funny story—I’ve changed my legal name a few times as well, first and last. Maybe I’m a little too interested in semiotics. Maybe I’m just addicted to change.

What is your home league?
My home league is Texas Rollergirls. I’m homegrown by Texas, they taught me to skate and have been my home for a decade.

You have skated with the Texas Rollergirls since day one. Wow! This makes you one of the founding skaters of women’s flat track roller derby. Wow again! What are some of the most exciting changes that you have witnessed in your roller derby career?
Once upon a time, “roller derby” referred completely and totally to 50 skaters in Austin’s rock bar scene. Only about a decade later, it refers to a global community and an international sport. Seeing women all over the world fall in love at first sight, the same way we did a decade ago, shows me that what derby stands for is powerful, and it is contagious.

January 2014 WFTDA Featured Skater: Bloody Mary

Photo by Jules Doyle

Based on your experiences so far, what do you imagine the future of roller derby will look like? What would you like it to look like?
I’ve stopped trying to predict or guess what the future holds for us. (It takes all the fun out of getting there and finding out.) I hope that derby continues to grow and be even more widely acknowledged as a sport, while maintaining our perspective as a counterculture movement. I hope we make our name in the mainstream without ever forgetting what is fearless, radical, and unapologetic about what we’re doing.

Which team(s) do you play on?
I play for the Texecutioners and the Hotrod Honeys. I’ll pretty much play derby anywhere I’m invited. I love mashup scrimmages and guest skating on teams.

What is your skate gear of choice?
I’m not a gearhead at all—my entire derby career is oriented toward being able to pick up and skate, anywhere, anytime, on whatever is available. I think, most of the time, it’s faster to adjust your skating style than change your gear a million times. For tournaments, I only bring the set of wheels that’s already on my skates. Right now I’m on Murillo skates and Atom plates. I got invested with those products because both Brooklyn Skate Company and Atom are owned by derby skaters who spent a lot of time with me, making sure everything was set up and adjusted and fit perfectly. I’m also a very loyal Reidell customer for skate boots—and Sarah Hipel has gotten me hooked on Faster Wheels.

Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
Ten years would be a long time to maintain anything terribly superstitious, especially given all the diverse places we’ve gotten to skate over that time. I suppose you could say my pre-bout ritual is working out, going to practice, being with my team, and making derby the center of my life, for the six months leading up to the bout. (My teammates might say my pre-bout ritual is dropping things, not drinking enough water, and alternating between fearfully intense and appallingly silly.)

What do you think about when you’re lacing up your skates?
When I’m actually lacing up my skates? I’m probably chatting nervously. Or fussing about a detail, trying to find something I can control. I get extremely nervous, getting geared up for big games. But before a game, I’m trying to clear my mind of the highly specific bits of data that like to run around in there. I’m setting my mental channel to something calm, and observant, and intuitive. I’m trying to tune into the hum, so I can hear my team and read the patterns of the game.

Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
I’m absolutely a collector of quotes, but I don’t have one in particular that serves for every occasion.

Do you have a theme song?
No. (Although the temptation to make up something funny as an answer here was pretty irresistible. Now taking suggestions.)

How did you get involved with roller derby?
I went to a bout and fell in love. It’s the same story as everyone who plays derby—saw it, was struck by it, took a risk to be a part of it, and accidentally changed my own life forever.

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
Soccer is my first love. I still play a couple of times a month with teammates from my home team (the Hotrod Honeys). You’ll be interested to know that Hauss the Boss is much less spinny on cleats than skates, but is still a force to be reckoned with on the turf. I’m also a bit of a gym rat. I went to the University of Arizona, where the gym is at least as big as the library, and I sort of fell for weightlifting there.

Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
When I joined roller derby, I hadn’t really ever roller skated. I spent about three months learning to turn around, cross over, and stop in a corner of Playland Skate Center, wearing brown rental skates. Within six months of starting roller derby, the league was going through a pretty serious crisis of direction, and we split. Immediately upon the formation of Texas Rollergirls, I found myself surrounded by ambitious, radical women, and I knew that we would build something insanely powerful. I wanted to be a part of anything we decided to create.

What is your position of choice?
I jam and block at home, but I only jammed this year for the Texecutioners. On a team at this level, you don’t really “choose” what position you play. What you see me doing on the track is what I’m happiest doing, because that is what the team needs me to do in order to execute the plan.

What is your signature move?
I’m relatively strong for my size. When I’m jamming, I can put good strong pressure forward on a blocking wall. I get to practice against pretty immoveable walls, jamming against the Texecutioner blockers all year. I call it my resistance training, pushing 600 pounds of derby athletes around, using my toestops.

How would you describe your derby playing style?
As a skater, I think of myself as analytical and patient. I naturally prefer the most effective solution even if it’s not flashy. But the person I most attempt to emulate is Olivia Shootin’ John, whose competitive intensity is insatiable.

Playing ten years in any sport is a major accomplishment, but to continuously compete at the highest level is truly rare and amazing! What advice do you have for other skaters who hope to emulate your long, successful roller derby career?

  • Let yourself love derby as hard as you want to, for as many hours a week as you want to. But love other things, too.
  • Do whatever it takes to keep your league healthy and your team together. Whatever. It. Takes.
  • Don’t believe your own bullshit. And only you know what that is.

Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
My favorite derby moment of recent history is when the world realized that Texas was a serious contender against Gotham Girls Roller Derby. Even from the track, I could feel the derby world’s heart skip a beat as it dawned on them that we were coming, for real, and we intended to go after the biggest dog in the yard. I had my own heart leap about 24 hours earlier, when I realized that the B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls came in with exactly the same intention.

January 2014 WFTDA Featured Skater: Bloody Mary

Photo by Jules Doyle

Congratulations on being selected as MVP of the 2013 WFTDA Championships! This year’s WFTDA Championships were incredibly competitive and exciting. What are some of your favorite moments, lessons learned, best experiences from this year’s tournament? How does it compare to previous years?
It’s hard for me to remember specific Champs moments—the experience of hearing your name called as MVP has sort of a mind eraser effect. It’s especially disorienting to receive an individual award like that, when my team so clearly did the work to get me in reach of grabbing that ring. It’s been an insanely hard year, personally, professionally, and athletically. I was struggling to find my place on the track earlier this year (run the stats of the last time Texas played Gotham for a stark glimpse of that). And the WFTDA has been moving various pieces for years, patiently trying to find a balance where competitive structures balance growth and access with stringency and equity. We all needed Champs to hit the spot this year, and it did. WFTDA Champs 2013 was, hands down, the best-produced Champs there has ever been, and the best competition the WFTDA has ever put together.

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
I don’t think I can really overstate what a huge shock it is to be recognized as MVP at WFTDA Champs. I was literally (politely, vacantly) applauding the MVP winner without realizing they had said my name. I feel like a tiny ant trying to hold a very big crumb over its head, surrounded by giants. The challenge now is to do something on the track that makes me even prouder. (Look out, Big Dog.)

Off the track?
In retrospect, opening the WFTDA membership to leagues outside North America was smart, and fairly prescient. It was a sort of gutsy move at the time, and we certainly harbor no regrets about it now.

Who are your derby heroes?
When you’re a jammer, you’re very aware that the real game happens in the pack. The Texecutioner blockers are my heroes, for kicking my ass all year long and then turning their fury on my opponents, when it counts. I feel extremely confident in saying that those are the hardest packs I ever have to go against jamming. (We call Polly Gone “the jammer hammer” at Texecutioner practice, if that gives you any indication of my daily life outside of what you see at tournaments.) I have a special place in my heart for self-taught derby stars. Certainly, I admire the rockstars who have been skating in various disciplines their whole lives, or are clearly natural athletes. But there are also people who just fall in love with derby, teach themselves to skate, build the body of an athlete, and rise to the top level of competition. Those are the people I am studying for their “secret sauce,” and those are the people who inspire me.

My non-derby hero is Abby Wambach. My non-sports hero is my dad, who is smarter than the rest of us put together. And who has also never been legitimately beaten at Trivial Pursuit.

You are the Executive Director of the WFTDA, so roller derby is your “day job.” Please tell us what it is like to be in the tiny minority of skaters who make their living from roller derby.
Well, to some extent, I don’t really make my living from roller derby. I make my living from non-profit business administration—which is probably boring for most people, but kind of awesome for me. In that sense, the WFTDA is kind of an amazing opportunity in my career, to create the roadmap for a progressive organization experiencing such growth. But to more directly answer your question—what’s it like for it to be your JOB to lead a movement that is transforming the world, and has already changed your own life? It’s effing amazing. Every single day.

January 2014 WFTDA Featured Skater: Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary hosting a WFTDA Q&A at the 4th annual European Roller Derby Organizational Conference, hosted by Bear City Roller Derby (Photo by Michael Wittig)

What are the skills and work experience that made you the best candidate to be the WFTDA’s first ever Executive Director?
I came into the Executive Director position with a decent resume in non-profit management, strategic planning, and volunteer leadership. Honestly, what’s served me best in my position is a sincere and healthy respect for the smart, passionate people who make the WFTDA happen, and a clear sense of the spirit of our movement.

How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
Every once in a while, I try to imagine myself as a college kid, finding out that a decade later, I’d be able to get around on rollerskates as easily as though they were shoes. That’s kind of a mind blowing, and strange, switch in the trail. I grew up in the church and in a crazy strong family, so finding a community is natural for me. If I weren’t in derby, I’d be in a motorcycle gang or something.

How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
Derby life is my real life. This is real. We are lucky to be part of this movement and I cross-pollinate what I learn here into the other parts of my life, and vice versa.

What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
Ride it for everything it’s got to give you. It’s yours.

If the Texas Rollergirls have an off season, does Bloody Mary have an off season? How will you be spending time post-Championships?
Of course Bloody Mary has an off season! I absolutely love Christmas, so I have about eight weeks of holidays to enjoy now. Also, the Texecutioners have instituted off-season “Cheeze Nights,” during which we watch cheesy movies and eat macaroni and cheese. Or nachos. Or mozzarella sticks. Or fondue. Or…you get the idea. So I’ll spend a lot of my off season getting cheeze-y with my teammates.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
Thank you for believing in the revolution.

Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?
I’d like to thank my team for being incredibly human and supportive and challenging during a very hard year. I want to acknowledge my family for understanding and embracing my “church” of derby, and for teaching me about community that comes from shared vision and values. And I want to thank my girlfriend for being my intellectual companion and my sweetheart. But mostly, THANK YOU, ROLLER DERBY. From us all. You took the best parts of us, made sense of it, and threw it back into the world as our creation.

Do you know a WFTDA skater with a dazzling derby career that should be featured on wftda.com? Please email webmaster@wftda.com and tell us why!

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.