December 2012 Featured Skater: Sandrine 'Francey Pants' Rangeon

December 7, 2012

Hailing from France, Sandrine “Francey Pants” Rangeon, has been living her American Dream in the United States, and proudly represents the Denver Roller Dolls on the track. Growing up, Rangeon was an avid athlete who played a variety of sports, and competed internationally in both ice and inline hockey. Since finding roller derby, she has been on the fast track to success. Most recently, she earned Jammer MVP at the 2012 WFTDA Championships. Read on to learn more about Rangeon's journey in the roller derby world, the training regiment she uses to perform at her very best, and the determined attitude that keeps us all waiting to see just what she'll do next!

What is your derby name?
My derby name is Francey Pants, but we – the Denver Roller Dolls' Mile High Club – play under our legal names (Rangeon, how French, I know).

Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
When I started derby [in California] I didn’t really know about the derby culture, and everyone was already calling me “Frenchy,” so that was the first derby name I used. I then moved to Canada and an announcer there said that with a name like that, I was probably French Canadian. So my friends from Capital City Derby Dolls in Ottawa, Ontario said I should have the word “France” in my name. They came up with “Francey Pants,” which fits perfectly, as I also tend to dress a little fancy…

What is your number?
24. It’s always been my number in hockey and I wanted to keep it for derby.

What is your home league?
I don’t really have a home league. I played for three months in California when I was living there for grad school. I then moved to Canada to start a PhD, where I played with Montréal Roller Derby for four months and also practiced with leagues in Ottawa. But I didn’t play with any of these leagues for very long. Denver Roller Dolls is the league that feels like home to me.

Which home team do you play for?
I play for the Shotgun Betties and sport an amazing cowgirl outfit. Yippee-ki-yay motherf***ers!

What is your position of choice?
Jammer. My blocking skills are rather questionable.

What is your skate gear of choice?
I love the new skates I just switched to. They’re the new Luigino (Atom’s sister company) Vertigo Q6 with Pilot Falcon F-16 plates. It’s a hard boot that you can aqua-mold, so it makes the skates incredibly reactive and you don’t waste any energy pushing in soft leather that will bend with your feet. The plates are also fully adjustable, so you can adapt them to your skating style.

Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
I love to sleep, so I always sleep in and/or take a nap on bout day. Then before the bout I take some supplements and I like to hang out with my teammates. Being too serious doesn’t help me; I like to relax and goof around so I don’t stress about the game.

What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
I try not to think about the game too much, so I can be thinking about very random things.

What is your motivational quote?
There are a lot of quotes that I like, but one of my favorites is from a French author, Paul Valéry: “La meilleure façon de réaliser ses rêves est de se réveiller.” (“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”)

It reminds me that having dreams is one thing, but waking up and making them happen is another. Your dreams don’t have to be limited to the confines of your imagination. A lot of times, we impose limits on ourselves and believe that things are impossible, just because it’s what people around us tell us. For example, runners thought it was impossible to run a mile under four minutes, until someone broke the record in the 1950s. People then realized that it was possible and a lot of runners started running sub-four minutes miles soon after, because that psychological barrier had been lifted. In a lot of aspects, we could become so much better by going after what we want, no matter how unattainable it seems, instead of finding reasons why it’s not possible.

What is your theme song?
I don’t really have one. Anything upbeat to make my teammates shake their shiny butts will make me happy.

WFTDA December 2012 Featured Skater: Sandrine

Photo by Jules Doyle

Please tell us about your best derby moment.
Probably the 44-point jam against the Texas Rollergirls in the bronze medal game at this year's WFTDA Championships. That game was so crazy and exciting, I still can’t believe it!

How did you get involved with roller derby?
I played hockey for a long time before getting into derby. I didn’t really know about derby until a few years ago, when I saw it in a music video (Break This by Hunter Valentine). Skating fast and dodging hits – that sounded super fun and a nice break from hockey players and coaches who tend to take themselves way too seriously.

Can you talk a bit about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby?
To be honest, I vaguely remember how I played at the Roller Derby World Cup a year ago, and realized I really didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing out there. Then I started learning what derby really is about when I was playing with Montréal this winter, and things really started to make sense when I started playing with Denver in April. Playing and practicing with Denver is the best way to learn; I get my ass kicked at every practice and I have to come up with ways to get through my blockers. I really think that we have the best defense in the world; getting through those walls is a challenge at every practice.

What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?

  • Take it seriously without taking yourself too seriously.
  • Get in really good shape and spend time skating by yourself to work on your technique.
  • Do a lot of work off-skates. If you don’t have endurance and agility off-skates, you sure won’t have it with eight wheels under your feet.
  • See everything as an exciting challenge to overcome. Don’t expect to be a good skater right away, but learn from every possible source and enjoy the journey.

After playing for Team France at the Roller Derby World Cup and, most recently, earning MVP Jammer at the 2012 WFTDA Championships as a member of the Denver Roller Dolls' Mile High Club, you have become an internationally recognized roller derby skater. How has your derby notoriety affected your experience of the sport?
It’s really amazing, I now get asked to coach leagues around the world. I love coaching and I’m always extremely flattered to receive invitations to teach at boot camps.

Please tell us about your involvement in international roller derby, especially in France. Do you see yourself as a role model in the roller derby world?
I don’t know if I would say I’m a role model, but I definitely want to help develop French roller derby as much as I can. I’m going back to France for a month over Christmas and I’m really excited to see in person how roller derby is developing there. French roller derby is in its early stages of development, and I think it’s amazing to be part of the growth and legitimization of roller derby in a country where alternative sports have a very hard time being accepted, because of the way the sport system is structured.

Who are your derby heroes?
I have tremendous respect for Bonnie Thunders. She has been a model for me since I started derby and I can only hope to become a jammer of her stature. I also try to emulate Atomatrix’s skating style; she has the purest skating technique I have ever seen on quads.

How would you describe your derby playing style?
Not sure…I took the easy way out on this one and asked my teammate, Rivas, how she’d describe my playing style. Here’s what she said: “confident, dynamic, supremely athletic, and the best part – rapidly evolving. Think she’s got francey footwork NOW? You just wait and see.”

You rarely seem to get tired when you skate. What do you do to stay in shape, especially your off-skates training?
I break down my season in several phases. During the off-season, I try to take a break from derby and spend a lot of time developing my VO2 max (endurance) and hypertrophy (build muscles). I then switch to a phase of doing a lot of lactate threshold training and developing strength. The third and final phase is mostly about power and speed.

I also tried to do small cycles repeating these phases on a smaller scale between regular season bouts, and it seemed to work pretty well. I make sure that the overall volume of workouts decreases throughout the season while the intensity increases.

WFTDA December 2012 Featured Skater: Sandrine

Photo by Dave Wood

I find that a lot of derby skaters do the same kind of workouts throughout the season, so they end up “plateauing” instead of peaking when they need to. Derby is hard on the body, so in my mind, off-skates preparation is a crucial aspect of performance.

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I grew up playing a lot of different sports: soccer, basketball, track and field, judo, etc. I then got into ice hockey and roller (inline) hockey seriously when I was 12. I played on the French national ice hockey team from 2002 to 2011 and on the French national roller hockey team from 2004 to 2011. I still like to play a lot of sports other than derby, especially during the off-season. I do a lot of running, cross-country skiing, and weight lifting right now.

You have had the opportunity to participate in a variety of sports at the very highest level of excellence, from World Championships in both inline roller hockey and ice hockey, Olympic qualifying tournaments, and of course the Roller Derby World Cup and WFTDA Playoffs and Championships. Wow! And congratulations! How have these elite level sport experiences helped you to develop as an athlete?
I learned a lot from playing international ice hockey and roller hockey and I still apply it everyday. The main thing was learning how to physically prepare in order to peak at the right time during the season. In hockey, we had pretty strict conditioning programs to follow and it taught me what works for me, and where I need to improve. I also gained a lot of maturity as an athlete from these experiences. In inline hockey, the French national team was successful on the world stage and I learned to deal with high-pressure situations where a World Championship medal is at stake. In ice hockey, I learned something very different that is, in my opinion, just as important: I learned to lose. During my international ice hockey career, we definitely lost a lot more games than we won. It taught me to put things in perspective and to keep working hard; even when it seems as if you will never achieve the goals you set.

How does your roller derby experience compare to your experiences in other sports?
Derby is a lot more fun, because we don’t have all the pressures that come with sports controlled by federations and clubs that don’t really care about their women’s teams. I love that derby is “for the skaters, by the skaters.” We are incredibly lucky to have an organization like the WFTDA where we can play a role in shaping our sport and make a difference. I always laugh when I hear people complaining about rules and how derby is run. Guess what, you can do something about it: so if you’re not happy about something, be constructive and become a WFTDA rep instead of complaining that the world is an unfair place. We can become representatives for our leagues and actually have a say in how things are run. I think a lot of people don’t realize how amazing it is that we can all have this power in shaping our sport in line with our shared values.

We understand that you grew up playing hockey alongside men. What influence do you think that experience had on making you the athlete you are today?
Playing hockey with guys wasn’t always fun. I was picked on a lot and hockey guys just love to go after the only girl on the ice. I couldn’t just start crying and give up when things were hard, so it made me a stronger person and taught me to shake it off when I receive bad hits, both on the track and in life.

Have you played roller derby with or against men? What are the similarities and differences to playing hockey with men?
I’ve played a little bit of co-ed derby. The men playing derby are definitely smarter than the men playing hockey. They know that they are naturally bigger and stronger than most women, so instead of taking advantage of that, they adapt their game and try to work on other things such as technique and strategy. Men and women can learn a lot by practicing together.

You were selected as the MVP Jammer of this year's WFTDA Championships. Congratulations! Please tell us about that experience. What were you feeling when your name was announced?

WFTDA December 2012 Featured Skater: Sandrine

Photo by Dave Wood

When my whole team started pointing at me I was actually very embarrassed. I thought Bonnie (Thunders) was going to be MVP, so I thought we were all going to look stupid when the announcer was going to turn toward Gotham Girls Roller Derby and say her name. So I really couldn’t believe it when he actually said my name, it all feels very surreal; that whole weekend does.

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
Having so much fun is probably my biggest accomplishment in my mind. Playing highly competitive derby and winning games is great, but it wouldn’t mean anything if I wasn’t having fun doing it.

Off the track?
Going after my dreams, no matter where they take me. I tend to see the world without borders and it’s why I’ve lived in so many different places.

In your interview with Atom Wheels you described yourself as “living the American Dream.” What does that mean for you? How, if at all, does roller derby contribute to that feeling?
As a kid growing up in a mid-size town of Northern France, I dreamed about living in the US. I grew up without a TV, so I spent a lot of time in my backyard, playing sports and making up rules and stories. I remember repeatedly throwing a ball in the air and running to try to hit it with a big wooden stick, wondering if this is how people played baseball in the US. In my mind, living in the US was the coolest thing I could ever do. Now, I’m not only lucky enough to be living here, but I’m also in a position where some American people look up to me because of derby. This is well beyond what I ever pictured in my childhood dreams.

We understand that you also describe yourself as a “nerd jock.” What does that mean for you? And what are some of your nerdier pursuits in life?
I really like to geek out on things that some other people can find boring. One of my latest nerdy productions is doing a regression analysis to see the association between team rankings and bout costs. We are using this information to schedule our 2013 season and save money, so I was really excited when I did this analysis.

In real life, I’m going to business school for an MBA and I love to learn about the financial markets, especially stocks trading and foreign exchange. Nerdy, I know.

How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
Roller derby has a funny way of taking over your life. I think my life would feel pretty boring and empty without derby, so I’m embracing the time commitment that comes with the sport.

WFTDA December 2012 Featured Skater: Sandrine

Photo by Dave Wood

How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
As of right now, I can afford to let my derby life take over my “real” life, since I’m going to school. I’m hoping to get a derby related job when I finish my degree, so I can work for something I deeply care about.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
I’ve been receiving the most random and hilarious messages on Facebook. It’s always a good day when you receive a message from someone telling you they like how you skate, like your hair, like your glittery helmet, or ask to marry you (seriously!). So keep making me laugh! I always try to respond.

Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?
I want to thank everyone in my league. I’m so proud to be a Denver Roller Doll and I’m blown away by all the support we received from league members during Champs. Some of them even came all the way to Atlanta to cheer us on, and it definitely helped to hear them scream their heads off during the games.

Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.