February 2013 Featured Skater: Bork Bork Bork

February 6, 2013

Growing up playing almost every sport imaginable made Bork Bork Bork tough and competitive, but it was roller derby that proved to be the passion she was looking for in life. Through intense training, hard work, and the encouragement of her teammates and coaches Bork has been able to transform herself into a blocking machine on the track, and an inspiration to her team and fans across the derby-verse. Read on to learn more about Bork's journey as a skater, and why fans are always excited to see someone get “borked!”

February 2013 Featured Skater: Bork Bork Bork

Photo by Gil Leora

What is your derby name? Bork Bork Bork

Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name. What does it mean?
I tried way too hard with my first attempt at picking a name—plays on words, puns, and homages to favorite movies, and on and on. I tried and tried and finally gave up! And the second I stopped trying to pick a name, the stars aligned while watching a Swedish Chef (from The Muppets) video. The absurdity spoke to me.

What is your number? 75

What is your home league, and on which home team do you play?
I am a Windy City Roller, brought up through the amazing training system of the Manic Attackers.

How do you balance your attention to two different Windy City Rollers’ teams: the Manic Attackers (home team) and the All-Stars (WFTDA Charter team)?
This year is pretty unique for me as I’m captaining my home team, the Manic Attackers, along with the WCR All-Stars. My attention right now is focused on helping the Manics defend our title as league champions while also working with my All-Star co-captain to prepare for our upcoming travel season. Our home and travel seasons overlap until June, and then the All-Stars continue on to tournament season for the remainder of the year.

Preparedness is one of my favorite things. I spend a lot of time in Google Docs with others planning practices, crunching numbers and stats, and strategic planning for my teams. I am lucky to work with strong leaders with whom I share the same, straightforward sense of purpose, and to have two teams of women that are committed to working extremely hard. Showing up and working hard is easy if you’ve got a good plan together.

We’re trying to run our league and its various competitive tiers in complementary ways so that the league works fluidly, efficiently, and powerfully.

How has being a home team captain affected your approach to the sport and/or the role you play on the All-Stars?
I’m not sure how it is elsewhere, but on our WCR home teams, captains often serve in heavy coaching roles. We’re driving strategy, critiquing game play, and calling the general shots.

Dialing back coaching tendencies while playing is a struggle. I didn’t realize how much I love to direct traffic until my co-captain from last year pointed it out, and that directing traffic while in a pack takes focus away from participating fully in the pack, which absolutely does not help the pack. I’m working on it.

What is your position of choice?
Truthfully, I would love to be a jammer, but in starting out, blocking is what came more naturally to me. But I will continue to journey on my path to being a jammer and maybe in another four years, I will be ready!

WFTDA February 2013 Featured Skater: Bork Bork Bork (Photo by Gil Leora)

Photo by Gil Leora

What is your skate gear of choice?
I’ve never been particular about my gear. I skated in Riedell something or others for a year with the 88 stock wheels. My team shamed me into getting new boots (Riedell something-65s with non-plastic plates—I’m so glad they did!). I finally graduated to non-stock wheels, and I’ve had the same set for two years. It’s probably time to get new wheels because they’re all chipped and bald.

I entrust all of my skate and plate choices to Steve Highley at Lombard Roller Rink, and then for any other ideas, I copy my leaguemates. Some of them are wearing Radar Bullets these days, so I’m going to give them a shot.

Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
When we play at home, I like getting to the venue early, before everyone else, if possible. There’s something really calming about being the first skater there, in the huge open space, chilling out in the ambiance of a huge, vacant venue. If I get there first, it feels like it’s my space and that translates to my peace of mind on bout nights. I feel a sense of ownership over the track, and by proxy, the opponents who will skate on it that night.

What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
That I will have some really neat things to talk about when I’m an old lady with bad joints in the home. All of us playing this sport get to have “A League of Their Own” moments and I feel really lucky about that.

What is your motivational quote?
I remember complaining about this or that in sports growing up, and my dad would always say, “No excuses.” This very unsympathetic approach, while confusing early on, has served me well in my sports life. No one cares about your excuses, they care about your ability to suck it up and execute.

What is your theme song?
“Que veux-tu?” by Yelle (Madeon remix), mostly for the music video. Energetic and silly!

Please share your best ever roller derby moment.
Most memorable for me was the first time I trusted myself on my skates. I remember getting hit during a scrimmage, and for the first time ever, I tuned into my edges, and I realized that I had a choice on whether or not to fall. I think that is the moment I began to really love this sport; from then on, if I got knocked down on skates, it was because I let myself.

Oh, and this one time when Old Drrrty GoGo and I lined up a simultaneous hit on a skater—not a 1-2 PUNCH, but two people hitting one person at THE SAME TIME. We both saw her, went for her, and blasted her! I took the front half of her body, and GoGo took the back half. It was a beautiful, primal moment of aggression. I don’t think it will ever happen again in all of my derby career.

How did you get involved with roller derby?
My good friend and leaguemate, Joanie Utah! We went to the WCR versus Rose City Rollers bout in 2009. I remember watching everyone skate and admiring it all, but it never crossed my mind that the sport could be accessible to me. Joanie had other plans, though! There was an info session up in the nosebleeds, and we listened in and then signed up. Joanie and I went to speed classes, tried out together, and got drafted (to separate teams) on the same night! It’s been such an awesome experience to go through with a pre-derby friend!

Can you talk a bit about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby?
Beth Amphetamine and Ruth Enasia drafted me—I couldn’t skate at the time, but they knew I had an athletic background, and they took a chance. They threw me in the mix from day one and kept encouraging, correcting, and giving me more responsibility on the track. I distinctly remember wanting to cry in my first pace line because it was SO FRUSTRATING...a simple weaving pace line almost got the best of me.

For me, there’s nothing worse than feeling like a burden on the track, and so I found that my motivator was to get myself to a place where I didn’t detract from the pack. I just wanted to get better as soon as I could so I didn’t feel like I was letting down this amazing team that gambled when they picked me.

WFTDA February 2013 Featured Skater: Bork Bork Bork (Photo by Gil Leora)

Photo by Gil Leora

What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
You owe the league; the league does not owe you. Do not join a league unless you are ready to give to it without expecting anything (roster spot, accolades, etc.) in return.

Who are your derby heroes?
There are a ton of awesome technical skaters out there, but having been part of so many teams throughout the years, I am way more impressed by team dynamics rather than individuals. Putting the team first is a quality that I can spot a mile away. There are skaters I try to emulate, but more frequently, I find myself thinking, “I would love to be a part of that team” rather than “I want to be like that skater.” Being part of a team and working towards unified goals is the ultimate test because you have to put yourself last.

I think that the Rose City Rollers and the B.ay A.rea D.erby Girls have some of the healthiest approaches to derby, and it shows in their game play—there is so much heart on those teams, and it’s an awesome vibe to play against.

I do have to mention the most miraculous derby feat that I have ever witnessed, though. There is this one dude who we on WCR call “The Dolphin.” In April 2012, we scrimmaged against the Puget Sound Outcasts and he did this flying fish dolphin leap over the apex. He catapulted through sheer force of will, it seemed, over the shoulder of one of our tallest blockers, and landed about 12 feet away. Dropped jaws all around were followed by the most uproarious laughter. It was incredible. The footage is out there on YouTube somewhere!

How would you describe your derby playing style?
My play style is aggressive, so I’m trying to balance with more finesse as I learn to skate better. Playing at All-Star level is a constant battle of blocking restraint and explosion, over and over again. Having to channel energy and power into a positional block when all you really wanted to do was blindside someone is a level of mental fitness I’m hoping to master. I try to keep a style that jives with my team’s needs while still being able to exercise aggression in a smart way on the track.

My basketball experience is the most applicable to derby with zone coverage, pressing and trapping, and screens all being useful derby tactics. I’m always trying to think ahead to who needs to be shut down on the track in order to maximize my jammer’s effort, and then going a step further and communicating that to my teammates.

What is your signature move?
Well, my favorite way to block is a butt-swing block—the one where you are at the entrance of a turn and you manage to clip a jammer’s hip which potentially sends her sliding out. But with the No Minors rule set, I’m going to have to tone it down for fear of getting instantly boxed.

WFTDA February 2013 Featured Skater: Bork Bork Bork (Photo by Gil Leora)

Photo by Gil Leora

Please tell us about what it means to be “Borked!”
People call my hitting “getting Borked”—it’s onomatopoetic which seems to entertain announcers who call the bouts. If I see someone who is not looking or is a bit off-kilter, it’s like a switch flips in my head, and I have to hit them right there.

I recently learned about Justice Bork and the initial meaning of the term, which is “to obstruct through defamation.” This has added an air of solemnity to my hitting now, knowing that the term has a two-fold meaning.

In addition to seriously effective hitting, you are a fast and agile blocker. What do you do to work on your speed and agility?
I really had a breakthrough doing Crossfit last year with a gym called Chicago Elite Fitness. There were steps and movements in my skating that got stronger and sharper, and it also steadied my mental game a bit more. Off-skates cross training is the key to getting to a next level in derby, and Crossfit was a level I had never experienced.

Another goal this year to work on refining my skate form to gain speed—lots of work to be done there. A more efficient stride would help my speed endurance, and it’s something I want to focus on this season.

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
Growing up with two brothers, I was always tagging along with them—playing catch, whatever I could do just to hang out with them. I think that’s where my competitive drive all started. I didn’t like being bad at stuff, which was often the case as they had a few years of coordination on me. That set a tone for how I approached everything.

I played sports year every season of the year, and being part of a travel softball team growing up really got me used to a grueling, multi-day-per-week schedule. In high school, I did two-a-day volleyball “hell week” in the summers and 6a.m. pitchers/catchers practice for softball year round. I lost the high level of commitment to athletics in college, and getting back to 11 months of high-intensity activity made derby a comfortable fit for me.

We understand that you’ve played a lot of sports: from volleyball and basketball to softball and rugby. How have your previous sport experiences contributed to your development as a roller derby player?
As a kid, I tried swimming and dance but was terrible at individual sports, especially at dance (sorry Mom). I always felt happiest and most competitive when contributing on a team. I remember getting disqualified in swimming because I touched the lane rope and I just didn’t care. It was only me that was affected. But playing on teams made me work hard because other people count on you.

Volleyball made me quick and agile; basketball made me tactical; softball made me a leader, and rugby’s fluidity and continuity actually primed me very well for derby, which has similar characteristics to derby.

More important than the sports, though, were my coaches. I had a football coach at my high school who coached our softball teams in the off-season, and we got zero slack from him. He pushed us, and rarely celebrated victories because the focus was always on what we didn’t do perfectly. My formative athletic years were team driven where individual shenanigans were disallowed. If you screwed up or were being a “princess,” you heard about it and then ran laps to pay for it.

You have excelled at roller derby in spite of not having an extensive skating or roller sports background. What were some of the challenges you had to face when learning to skate?
Mental struggle was the hardest challenge for me. The strategy is overwhelming for new people, and for months, it felt like I would never learn how to be productive on the track. WCR has great training in place to teach you to skate, but learning this sport after a long line of others at which I excelled was very humbling. I look forward to when I have skated for several more years and can skate backwards with grace and ease.

Your teammates named you “Blocker of the Year” for 2012! Congratulations! What does this honor mean to you?
It makes me want to work harder. With any acknowledgement, the pressure just gets loaded on and it makes me dig in harder to try something new and to keep learning.

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
My greatest accomplishment was recently executing a 360-degree turn while jamming during a scrimmage. My favorite accomplishment is when my home team, the Manic Attackers, won our league’s cup this past June. We set long-term goals and worked so hard to achieve them.

Off the track?
I’m really proud of the work I’m doing with our league’s charity outreach right now. We’ve revamped some processes and we’re creating new relationships with local Chicago charities whose work we like and want to help out! I work in fundraising and development, and being able to exercise some creative autonomy for the WCR is really rewarding. I wish I could dedicate all my time to it!

WFTDA February 2013 Featured Skater: Bork Bork Bork (Photo by Gil Leora)

Photo by Gil Leora

What are you doing – physically and mentally – to prepare for the 2013 season?
Physically, I’m starting to ramp up my cross-training with a return to Crossfit looming over my head. I’m focusing on improving my stopping abilities with increased reps, and I’m working on quicker feet with plyos.

Mentally, I plan. I’ve planned out my year, looked at travel, looked at when I get a break, and have situated my priorities. Spare weekend in August—family time! Free Wednesday in the middle of September—go to the dentist. It’s daunting (and it can be overwhelming) if you look over the entire year and see all the time going to derby meetings, practices, trips, bouts, etc. Knowing about all of it ahead of time is the only way I can cope with it!

Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for? Why so excited?
Golden Bowl is one of my favorite things, and WCR is hosting this year! B.A.D. started an awesome tradition in 2010, and I get so pumped to get three good games in one weekend against these really excellent teams that are super fun! The aura is always really festive, and it’s neat to see some of the same people year after year.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
Thank you! We are all working so hard to get derby “out there” and scaled up past its novelty roots, and everyone who comes to watch a bout and brings a friend back with them is helping so much!

Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?
This past summer, a coach I really respect told me that third year skaters typically peak out in their game play, and that I need to focus on not allowing that to happen. That is the bug in my ear for 2013 that is motivating me to keep pushing and clawing to improve.

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.