April 2013 Featured Skater: Holly GoHardly

April 8, 2013

It’s no surprise that Holly GoHardly has been recognized as the Charm City Roller Girls “workhorse” award winner every year since 2008. As a skater and a coach, it is obvious that Holly lives what she teaches: hard work and determination pay off. After fighting and conquering grad school, injuries, and tournaments (including multiple WFTDA Playoffs and three WFTDA Championships), Holly has a lot to teach everybody in the derbyverse. Read on to learn more about Holly GoHardly, this month's featured skater.

What is your derby name? Holly GoHardly

Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
I actually had a terrible time trying to figure out a derby name that I liked and fit me. I believe I went through a couple iterations, the first being Kickassidy which I wasn't too sold on and then a friend of a leaguemate of mine, who is a big Breakfast at Tiffany’s fan, came up with Holly GoHardly, and I was sold because it was a great play on a classic movie character and it utilized my actual name, which was way less confusing, avoiding the two name dilemma. 

What is your number? 415

What is your home league?
I started skating with the DC Rollergirls when the league started up in early 2006, and transferred to the Charm City Roller Girls in 2007. 

Which home team do you play for?
I currently play on the Junkyard Dolls (CCRG 2012 season champs!).

What is your position of choice?
The position I'm most comfortable with is blocker/pivot. I'm always looking for a challenge though and love to jam/block my way through a pack. 

What is your skate gear of choice?
I'm currently skating on the Luigino Vertigo Q6 boots and Pilot Falcon Plus plates. As far as gear, Atom D-Rods are my go to favorite wheel for any floor, Smith Scabs kneepads, triple 8 anti-gloves, and pro-designed elbow pads. I want to give a shout out to As the Bearing Turns Skate Shop

Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
For our home games, there's not a lot of time of free time to think or prep for the game but I always try to listen to the Beach Boys and at some point prior to our on skates warm up, get a few minutes to myself on the track. 

What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
I try not to think too much about the game or my skating, my brain gets cloudy that way. What I do think about is staying present and keeping a clear mind.

Please share with us your best derby moment.
My favorite roller derby moment was winning our game against the Boston Derby Dames at the WFTDA Eastern Region Playoffs in 2010 and securing Charm City's spot in the WFTDA Championship tournament for the first time ever for our team. My second and equally favorite derby moment was leading my team to the 2012 WFTDA Championship tournament as captain of the team. 

How did you get involved with roller derby?
I started derby in 2006. I had moved to DC to attend grad school, and of course, why not, was looking for more stuff to add to my plate. Actually, I was looking to get involved in some sort of physical activity outside of the classroom and also looking to connect to some sort of social circle with like-minded individuals. I ended up watching a re-run of a King of the Hill episode where the two main female characters join the local roller derby league, and it reminded me that I had heard of roller derby before and prompted me to look up a team in the local area. 

Can you talk a bit about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby?
I was both lucky and unlucky to begin with a start up league. Lucky in that there wasn't a lot of prerequisites, assessments, committee requirements, headaches (in the beginning), and unlucky in that learning derby took forever. Skaters nowadays have so many resources at their fingertips and what it takes them six months to learn, took me the better part of two years. My rookie year started with meeting once a week at a roller rink for “practice” (open skate). Early that summer we switched to our first real practice, which was an hour and a half skills practice at a Jewish community center and later that summer a second practice each week outside in a parking garage. In addition, I skated as much as I could outside around town and in a tennis court near my apartment. 

Two funny moments from my rookie career include a transfer skater from Dixie Derby Girls who came to our closed practice and witnessed us scrimmaging (us having never seen a game) and forcing us to stop and start focusing on skills. The other moment was when I saw that same skater do a turn around toe stop and all of our jaws just dropped. I can credit multiple events that I was lucky to be present at for really opening my eyes to the wide world of derby: attending RollerCon 2006 and scrimmaging for the first time, watching Dust Devil 2007, and skating at ECDX 2007. 

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I was never really too into sports prior to high school but that didn't mean that I was opposed to sports or being active. I tried out for my middle school basketball team, with no basketball experience outside of free throws at the basket, and didn't make the cut. As a kid, I was always out in the woods climbing something or exploring with my brothers. I loved riding my bike, and ending up breaking my wrist at one point. I used to climb roofs in the town I lived in with my friends. In high school, I got a pair of roller blades and taught myself to skate. Since I didn't live too far from the beach, I would skate from the start of the boardwalk to the end. I started playing rec co-ed soccer in high school and then on the Junior Varsity team and eventually the Varsity team. I started long boarding in high school and would skate to school daily. In college, I was invited to play on the soccer team and ended up not committing to the team because the athletic director had a sour attitude about my green hair. That, and the fact that I had no desire to get up and run at 6a.m. every morning with the team. I continued to play indoor soccer and really began working out on my own at the school gym every day. 

What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
Skate every day. Push yourself to learn new things. Don't expect somebody to teach you to be a great derby skater; there has to be self-motivation. Condition your body outside of derby. 

Who are your derby heroes?
I've always admired Roxy Rockett's skill and sharp mental game. Prior to the availability of bout footage, the only way to really examine “moves” was to go to a game in person or look up and critique photos on Flickr, and I'd always pull her photos and really try to emulate her skating style. My other derby hero is also a really good friend of mine, and my derby wife, Joy Collision. She's the one that taught me that being a great player comes with blood, sweat, and tears. I've never seen anyone work harder in and out of skates than she did. Coming to every practice, conditioning outside of practice, and constantly being a coach and a mentor.

How would you describe your derby playing style?
Hard and grinding.

WFTDA Featured Skater: April 2013: Holly Gohardly

Photo by Tyler Shaw

What is your signature move?
If I had to pinpoint one move, it would be the hold block. It's kind of like a lean block in that you catch a blocker or jammer with your ass behind her and your foot and leg in front of her and drive her to the line, but there's no way for her to escape the block. 

We understand that you are a coach/trainer for the Charm City Roller Girls. What made you decide to move into this role in your league? What do you like most about coaching?
I started to coach with the DC Rollergirls after returning from Rollercon 2006 – after having my eyes opened to all sorts of skill levels and a desire to want to help my league improve. When I transferred to Charm City I had to join a committee and I wanted to continue to help my fellow skaters improve and teaching is one of the greatest forms of learning. I've remained as a coach because I want to continue to train skaters to their highest ability and keep our league competitive nationally and internationally. I'm always looking to learn from every resource I can, within derby and outside of derby. I also coach outside of CCRG and have coached for the Atom Skate Academy and at the Low Down Derby Throw Down in New Zealand. 

What are some of the benefits and challenges you deal with when balancing your time as a skater with coaching and mentoring your team?
One of the benefits of being a coach/skater is that I often get to decide what I want to work on at practices since I'm setting the practice agendas so frequently. Another benefit is that I'm fortunate enough to be part of a league that's really invested in keeping our training fresh and challenging and thus willing to invest in our coaches by sending us to training activities every year. A challenge is that because I'm coaching so frequently, I don't get to take part in too many of my practices. I'm spending so much time coaching that I have to invest so much additional time attending practices so that I am skating enough to keep my own skill level up. Thankfully, I have such an awesome bench coach for the Charm City All Stars that I work with to craft practices for our All Star team and I can really just focus on my own skating those days. Despite the enormous amount of time that coaching takes the continual reward of seeing skaters learning, and my team continuing to remain at the top of our game, makes it all worth the effort.  

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
My greatest accomplishments on the track would include making it to the WFTDA Playoffs every year I've been a member of the Charm City Roller Girls, and making it to the WFTDA Championships for three consecutive years. Winning against the Arizona Derby Dames at the ProRoller Derby Invitational banked track event in 2012 was pretty sweet too. Sometimes, even defeats are great accomplishments and a couple of my favorite team moments are our comeback against the Boston Derby Dames at WFTDA Playoffs in 2008 for the 3rd place game. I don't remember the score but we ended up coming back strong, about a 70-point comeback, with minutes left on the clock and three of our best players removed from the game due to injury. Individually, I've won blocker of the year for CCRG for 2008, 2011, and 2012 and my favorite accomplishment was League MVP for 2012. 

Off the track?
I'm a derby player through the core and that means I'm just as invested off the track as on the track. I've won the “Workhorse” award for my league for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012! 

Early in your career you had several injuries including an AC separation followed by a complete AC tear that required surgery. And last year, you were missing from Charm's roster during tournament season due to injury. What have you done, while injured, to ensure you could return to high-level competitive derby play? What advice do you have for other skaters who want to come back strong from an injury and continue a long derby career?
The most important thing somebody can do is to not dwell on an injury for too long. The mental return is just as important as the physical return. This past fall, I started skating as soon as I was able to get on skates (the only good part about having a torso injury). I skated all of the off season at open skate and started going back to yoga. Once the season started back up in January, I was going to the gym with a buddy a few times a week. My doctor cleared me to skate in early January and I didn't trust his diagnosis but decided to not give way to fear and eased back into blocking and assessed to clear for scrimmage and our home game taking place a few weeks later. There's no room for fear in injury return or you'll risk repeating the same injury. I can't stress cross training enough. Roller derby itself is not enough to keep somebody in peak shape. The better we condition our bodies, the more we can push our playing to the limits of our potential, especially with nagging injuries. And let me add, accidents happen and injuries will happen no matter what physical condition you are in, but being well conditioned prior to an injury will allow for a shorter recovery time in most cases. 

Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for and why?
All of them! We're playing our old rivals, Boston Derby Dames on April 13th in Baltimore, followed by Columbia Quad Squad, Naptown Roller Girls, and DC Rollergirls. As far as AWAY games, we're playing, I’m excited for the “Got to be NC” tournament in May – I love Dorton Arena (home of the Carolina Rollegirls)! We've got Montréal Roller Derby and Atlanta Rollergirls at ECDX, which should be pretty fun, and then we're playing a few games in the pacific northwest, including Rat City Rollergirls at Key Arena! 

As a longtime WFTDA skater representative for Charm City Roller Girls, you work on behalf of the WFTDA as a liaison for international roller derby leagues. What are some of the exciting aspects of your role? Has your holding this position had an impact on your league?
I've always been oriented to thinking more outside of national boundaries, especially with my college and grad school focus on international relations. Myself, along with Preacher's Brat and Georgia W. Tush, got together at the WFTDA annual meeting in 2009 to talk about how to make the WFTDA more internationally friendly and the focus was how to bring Canadian leagues more into the fold at a time when our organization was JUST U.S. leagues. The goal was to really do some PR to let the Canadian leagues know that WFTDA membership was not out of sight for them. It was a dark time, Championships was still “Nationals” and we had JUST admitted our first international member, Montréal Roller Derby. With the goal of increasing international involvement in the WFTDA, I've worked hard to get CCRG to think outside of our own country boundaries. We participated in the first international game in 2008 when our B-team, along with Boston's B-team, went to Montréal to play two of Montréal Roller Derby’s home teams. Charm also played the first international WFTDA sanctioned game in Canada and the first WFTDA sanctioned tournament in Europe: “Anarchy in the UK” in 2011

What are some of the biggest changes in the WFTDA that you have lived through?
Some of the biggest changes in the WFTDA have been the explosion in international membership and the growth and development of tournament play. I have also been witness to a move away from governance in the organization by separate member leagues to the organization growing its own voice and identity, which of course is still directed by member leagues and representatives of member leagues. 

How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
Like everything, it's had its pros in cons. Derby isn't just about skating, right? It's a full time job and until we can all be employed working with our passion, we have to make concessions and find ways to not let derby overtake your life, like it has mine. It has made me more confident and has also made me less fearful of public speaking. 

What is your day job? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
Currently I work at a ropes course and do freelance coaching. The ropes course is nice because I get to climb all day and stay active rather than sitting behind a desk until 6p.m. The coaching is directly related because, well, it's coaching roller derby. 

How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
I haven't. One day… One day…

Do you have a special message to your fans?
Thanks for your support!

Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?
My husband, my teammates, I.M. Pain (my friend and co-captain), Joy Collision (aka Marisa Singelton), Mr. Pistol, Lady Quebeaum, Blind Banshee, Atomatrix, the WFTDA, and As the Bearing Turns skate shop! 

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.