January 2015 Featured Skater: Mick Swagger

January 1, 2015

In 2014, fans had the opportunity to watch Mick Swagger both skate in the 2014 WFTDA Championships and again in the Derby World Cup as a part of Team USA. An accomplished skater, coach, and mentor, Mick Swagger will be hanging up her skates after such a dynamic year – but don’t think that means she’ll be slowing down in the roller derby world! Learn more about Mick and her post-skating plans.

January 2015 Featured Skater: Mick Swagger

Photo by Sean Hale

What is your derby name? Mick Swagger

What is your number? 503. It's my date of birth and Portland, OR area code.

What is your home league?
I'm a Rose City Rollers Alum, Gotham Girls Roller Derby Alum, and currently a coach for Montreal Roller Derby's New Skids on the Block!

Which team(s) do you play on?
I just finished my third season with the Gotham Girls Roller Derby All Stars. I am a member of Team USA. I'm also on a retiree fun team called The After Party! Look us up on Facebook!

How did you get involved with roller derby?
I was given a couple free tickets by my boss for a job well done at an event. She thought I deserved a night of fun. Little did I know I was about to be inspired by the evening. I watched a Rose City Rollers bout, and in those days the production was set up like a rock show. There were 3,000 fans, a drum corp to kick things off, fan sections and a light show that set up drama and suspense. From the first whistle I was hooked. I saw the joy in these ladies faces as they hit each other, slammed into the audience, raced around the track, dodged hits and skated their faces off. I looked at my girlfriend at the time and said, "It's like rugby on skates and PERFECT for me!" I didn't have time at that moment, so I held off for a year. By the next time I looked up the Rose City Rollers online it was time for tryouts that day! I got off work a bit early, raced over to Play It Again Sports for all the equipment and made it just in time for tryouts. I was wearing awful skates, with plastic plates and crap wheels, but I kept up in the endurance portion. We took a quick break and while skating over to the stands to rest, these two women called me over and asked if I was a Native. I said yes, and they got excited and said "We thought so." They told me my skates sucked and asked my shoe size. Then they took me out to their car to try on a pair of their skates. They fit perfectly and I skated the rest of the tryout in them. It felt like floating on a cloud! Suffice to say, I made Fresh Meat and it was all hard work and dedication since.

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I got a pair of white and blue Smurfette skates for my 6th birthday. I tried them on and skated down the sidewalk and didn't take them off all day. My brother and I ripped up the streets since we were kids, I street skating and him skate boarding. I also played a ton of softball, basketball, volleyball, cross country, track and field, ballet, gymnastics, tennis, and rugby. Something else I loved doing, which is super vigorous, fun, community-building, and spiritual is Native American Dancing. It reminds me a lot like the roller derby community.

Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
My rookie year was pretty magical. My fresh meat coaches were dedicated and hard on us. They really pushed us beyond what we thought we could handle and that was life changing for me. I felt amazing as I got stronger and faster on my skates. It was the first time in my life and in a sport that my size was celebrated. I was fresh meat when the 2008 WFTDA Champs were held in Portland. After watching the 3rd place game and the Finals I was hooked. I knew that was the level I wanted to play at. I asked for tips from skaters I admired, which was everyone on Rose City's WFTDA charter team, Wheels of Justice, and many other skaters on the league. There was just so much talent on the league.

What is your skate gear of choice?
I love my Brooklyn Skate Co boots, Roll Line Energy Plates, and my favorite wheels are Radar Bullets. I also love my Impact mouth guard. They can be personalized as well as perfectly fit your teeth. I've tried many types of boots, plates, and wheels. I'm open to trying more, but as it comes to game time, I always go back to what I love and am used to.

January 2015 Featured Skater: Mick Swagger

Photo by Sean Hale

Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
I like to have a giant breakfast, something that will get me through the day because I don't tend to eat close to game time. I put on some type of sparkles, because it reminds me of my first home team and when I fell in love with the game. When warming up, I have a certain footwork pattern I do to warm up my feet and legs. Gotham skaters routinely punch each others arms and "slap up" our chi before the game. Then I like to have Donna Matrix slap me across the face and get a head butt from Bonnie Thunders!! It gets me in the war zone and reminds me that no one will hit me harder than my teammates do at practice.

What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
This is one of my favorite times, whether at practice or before a game. You are there, with your teammates, your best friends, your loves, your coaches, your inspiration, the people that you spend most of your time with. I don't really think about much, except the conversation I am having with any number of those people. It's a special time and these times are when I get to know my teammates better.

Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
"Practice puts brains in your muscles." - Stephanie Mainey. Saw that quote posted up at Manchester's Rainy City Roller Girls practice space and it stuck with me since.

Do you have a theme song?
I love listening to Michaels Jackson's song, "Wanna be Startin' Somethin."

What is your position of choice?
I love blocking and being the "quarterback" or on track leader in my packs. I feel I know each of my teammates well and can place them in starting positions that will benefit us the most at the start of the jam. I can assess and communicate strategy mid-jam to my pack, which is what is needed in a track leader.

What is your signature move?
I worked hard to improve my footwork and edges in order to hold a jammer slowly behind me and/or my wall, so I would say my slow positional blocking is my "signature move."

How would you describe your derby playing style?
I work hard to play smart and always with my teammates. I try to stay in strong and smart walls. If I find myself alone in the pack, I maneuver myself and lead the jammer to a place where I can wall up and continue to hold back the jammer with my partners. I also believe I play a style that is a mix of fast and slow derby. I benefit from starting derby on the West Coast then moving and learning the East coast style of play.

Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
I have had many highlights over the years, however the first time winning the Hydra was pretty special. It was the first time my Mom attended a tournament, so to share that with her was amazing. I watched Gotham win their first Hydra in 2008, which is what inspired me to work towards playing high level roller derby. It was a dream come true to play on the Gotham All Stars in 2012 and help them win the Hydra for the 3rd time. I felt like I was representing my former team, Rose City, who taught me to play derby and my new team who took me the distance that season in winning the Championship.

The second time winning the Hydra, in 2013, was amazing as we played against the women and team who invented Roller Derby in its latest incarnation. Texas Rollergirls' Texecutioners are a team I've looked up to for years, so it was truly an honor to skate against these fierce ladies. The game was so fast, hard-hitting, exciting and a satisfying win. We had to fight to the last second.

January 2015 Featured Skater: Mick Swagger

Photo by Sean Hale

This last Champs win was secured in the last seconds of the game, and was one of the best games of Roller Derby I've ever played. The defense was something to behold! I was in that 2 minute jam where neither jammer got out and I was in the last jam of the game. Both jams I have replayed over and over in my mind, and both will never leave my memory.

My last derby moments I'll share has to be when we skated out for the Parade of Nations at the 2014 Blood and Thunder Roller Derby World Cup! Previous to going out, each country was lined up in order in the hallway. Each team was singing, dancing, waving flags, laughing, talking and just exuding pure joy! Team West Indies were playing limbo and of course Team USA joined! We took pictures with each other and videos of the singing and dancing. My heart swelled with pride and I definitely teared up as Team USA skated around the track and each members name was announced. When my name was called I yelled out a Vocable, which is a Native American pan-tribal exclamation of joy or honoring. I felt great pride in being a member of the Navajo Nation, Omaha Nation, and Pawnee Nation playing for the USA World Cup team. It was my way of honoring my heritage while still representing the country my tribes reside in. As each country lined up across the track the excitement was palpable. Everyone was yelling out, smiling, singing, and then I saw Georgia W. Tush being carried across the top of the crowd! It was the perfect moment to capture what the World Cup was all about. Thirty teams representing their countries, displaying athleticism and showing their love for the game. It was a magical moment.

We understand that you are planning to hang up your skates and retire this year: what are some of your goals and ambitions in retirement?
I've always wanted to coach after I retire from skating, so I am ecstatic to transition to just that next season! I will be coaching the Montreal New Skids alongside Plastik Patrik. We hope to build our team and ranking this season. I also will be coaching even more this season and hope this can become a full time job. I love roller derby so much and want to continue to support our sport. I feel I have many skills and strategies I can pass on to teams and skaters.

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
Gotham becoming the five-time WFTDA World Champions! Every time we win the Hydra, I feel so humbled. Winning those games with my teammates feels so satisfying, as we worked so hard to accomplish the win. I know every team works hard, but for your hard work to mean you win the Hydra...I mean, it's what every team works for. It's truly an honor and a dream to be in this position.

Playing in the 2014 World Cup Team USA vs Team Norway game where we won 837 to 6, winning by the largest margin in roller derby history is pretty cool. I couldn't believe it either, as Team Norway played very smart and never let their foot off the pedal. They were always in the right place at the right time.

Off the track?
As a teacher and social worker there have been many accomplishments I am proud of. Building a cob classroom with my students, each time a student came back from failing to not only passing but going to college, starting a teen parent group, each time I taught a student to not just bead, but to love beading, inviting our Elders into the classroom and my students loving it, teaching a student the love of art and the of their culture. Teaching is something that is rewarding every day, even the hard days.

Who are your derby heroes?
This has to be the hardest question I've been asked. Rhea Deranged, who came back from a spinal injury to play at Championships with Rose City. She's an amazing skater and determined woman. Skintastic Dynomite for always working hard and keeping derby fun! Mel Mangles, my blocking life partner. We read each other so well on the track and it was amazing being on a team with her! My first loves, the Heartless Heathers who taught me the love of teammates in roller derby was more important than winning. Mobi Wan Kenobi and Soulfearic Acid who were just so gifted, but worked harder than anyone else and always had beautiful attitudes. Mom and Dad, AKA Bonnie Thunders and Buster Cheatin for being amazing coaches and motivating in a way that only moms and dads can do. Donna Matrix for being a ferocious blocker and always leading by example. Sexy Slaydie always has the best attitude and quiet calm as she's killing people on the track. OMG for motivating and bringing our team together. I also am inspired by Fifi Nomenon's blocking skills. I mean, she jumps the apex in order to continue blocking the jammer....what? Serelson's offense is spot on. Mutch Mayhem is someone I've watched since she started as a junior and she just gets better every year. I could go on and on about so many more skaters.

What is your day job? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
I am an educator, which lends itself to coaching. Whenever I learn a new skill, I have the desire to pass it on! I love coaching roller derby and will be transitioning to coaching full time very soon.

How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
Derby has helped me explore my love of travel and coaching. I spend my extra time passing off the skills I've learned to other skaters. The opportunities to coach internationally is something I have appreciated and will be able to do even more.

How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
The answer to this question is probably the answer every derby player is seeking. For the past 7 years I feel taking a true "off season" break has helped me find balance physically and mentally. This past year I skated on the All Stars only, which meant I had the weekends free to spend with my partner. Making sure we have time together that doesn't involve roller derby is important.

It was incredible to watch you and your teammates perform at the 2014 WFTDA Championships! What were some of your favorite moments from the tournament?
The flag ceremony was awesome! There were 5 countries represented at the WFTDA Championships! When we secured our place in the semi finals and then the finals! When we won the Hydra vs Rose City was like my Derby career coming full circle.

January 2015 Featured Skater: Mick Swagger

Photo by Sean Hale

Tell us more about what was it like to play your former team at Championships with that nail-biting last jam?
It was surreal. I've replayed that jam over and over in my mind a hundred times. As I lined up with my teammates, I looked over at Scald in the box and back over to Slaydie, Violet, OMG, and Bonnie. In that moment I knew we would win. We were down 12 points. We had to get lead and hold Scald, Bonnie would do the rest. I had complete confidence and perhaps the experience of being in that position before helped us keep our cool.

Aside from being a skater dedicated to self-improvement on the track, you also step into the coaching/teacher role on and outside your league. What can you share about some of your most recent boot camps? Are there any upcoming opportunities for skaters in 2015?
I've had some great bootcamps this past year! My favorite moment has to be in Nantes, France. I was so overwhelmed and impressed by these ladies and gents. Every single drill I taught, they dug in and excelled at within that moment. I was so impressed with their tenacity. In 2015 I will be coaching in New Zealand, France, Mexico and a few other places I am still working out. I'm super excited for the year ahead!

What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
Work hard and get decent gear.

Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for and why?
Montreal New Skids' first game next season will be super exciting! It will be the first one since Plastik Patrik and I took over coaching.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
Many many thanks for all the love and support I've received over the years! Rose City super fans are something to behold. They are so special and have became my friends and supporters as I transferred to Gotham. The fans/friends I made since have also been so supportive and because of the opportunity to travel in the past few years, span the globe! I have friends who have hosted me in their homes and who I have hosted in mine. Lets continue to do that! Also, if you are interested in me coming to visit for a coaching trip email me! derbyswagger@gmail.com As long as it doesn't interfere with the New Skids game schedule I'm wide open! :) Also, I'll be in Melbourne, Australia for a couple months starting January...lets go outdoor skating and hit up a skate park!

Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?
My fiancé, Twat Rocket, who I met in roller derby and supports my derby vision! My coaches and teammates, who I learned so much from, who are my friends, who are my family and who I love so much. The teams and skaters I've coached in the past, especially those I keep in contact with! They have become great friends and a place of mutual support and respect. I'd also like to thank the New Skids for taking a chance on me! I can't wait to coach these amazing ladies and thank them for the opportunity!

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.