January 6, 2013
Few skaters spend as much time in the air as the Oly Rollers’ Onda Sligh. Onda Sligh is the current Guinness World Record holder for long jump on roller skates, and she takes her sense of adventure wherever she goes. Growing up playing roller hockey, Onda has always felt that skating was as easy as walking; a confidence that shows in her agility and speed on the track. Read on to learn more about Onda Sligh!
What is your derby name? Onda Sligh
Please tell us about the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
You know the saying, “I’m on to you?” Well that’s where some give me the name “Onda,” meaning that skaters will be “on” to me because of my skills. Sligh is my real last name and I wanted it to be part of my roller derby name.
What is your number? 66
What is your position of choice? Jammer
What is your motivational quote?
Offense sells tickets. Defense wins games.
What is your theme song?
“Uprising” by Muse.
Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
I grab my hockey stick and ball and play for a couple of hours before the bout.
What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
What’s the first jam I’m in going to be like? Can I produce points for my blockers, so they can pay more attention to the opposing jammer?
What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
Roller hockey, speed skating, ice hockey, long stick hockey, and track.
How did you get involved with roller derby?
Well Geno from the West Sound Rollergirls came to my roller hockey practices, and watched me and the other girls play. He asked us about playing roller derby and we responded, “no” – we were not interested in playing a sport where all you do is skate in a circle. To all us former speed skaters, that was boring. Later on, I saw a flyer that said, “Slaughter County Roller Vixens is looking for new skaters to join our league.” I showed up in my torn up hockey skates with my hockey stick, but I passed the league qualifications and the WFTDA minimum skills. I was put on TMX, which is a home team for the Slaughter County Roller Vixens.
Can you talk a bit about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby?
Well, I consider this my “rookie” year. I’ve been playing for four years now, but I was a “rookie” at the 2012 WFTDA Playoffs and Championships.
How would you describe your derby playing style?
My style is based on my reaction to the jam. I skate based on the reaction I get from the opposing blocker or my own reaction to what is happening. My skating can be smooth or jagged. Plus, I have a huge hockey background, and a little speed skating as well.
Please share your best derby moment.
When I was hit by Mercy from the Rose City Rollers of Portland, Oregon, at the 2012 West Region Playoffs. I was hit while trying to do a 360 and she caught at 180, and it was all eff’d from that point.
What is your signature move?
My signature move is coming up on a blocker and stomping my skates to make them believe that I’m far away.
You are known throughout the derby-verse as an incredibly agile jammer. How do you train to be so agile?
I play hockey on quads at Bremerton Skateland. I also do dry land drills to be more diverse on the tack and I watch other skaters and use their moves and some how make make them mine. I study the best to beat the best. I watch ice hockey games, basketball moves. Mostly, I watch sports that use a puck, ball, hands, no hands. I watch for footwork they use and body movement. If you can fake someone out on just using your body and not the ball you can do anything. I use this to train.
You've previously competed in roller sports on inline skates. How was the transition to quad skates for you? How did you have to modify your skating style to accommodate quad skates?
I started on quads for hockey and speed skating. My hockey is played on quads so the transition was nothing. I skated speed on inline from age 7 until 18, so I can pretty much skate on both with ease. I started hockey at age 5 and still play now.
In addition to physical skills, do you do anything off the track to mentally prepare for roller derby? What goes through your mind on the track as you analyze the pack and strategize your path?
I think of what moves I can do to get through the pack clean and fast. Also if I have to deal with a 3-wall or a 4-wall, I think about what’s the most I can get away with without getting a penalty. I have a rule: pick a path and commit to it. I learned at Playoffs this year that you have to have both “A” and “B” paths to get through the pack.
We understand that you are an amazingly accomplished long jumper in your skates, and that you recently jumped a world record (female) 12'11" that WFTDA.com has confirmed with Guinness World Records. Wow! Please tell us about this achievement.
I entered the competition at the 2012 “Big O” in Eugene, Oregon. I signed up because the existing record was 10 feet, and I knew I could jump further than that. Plus, only one other female signed up. When I was practicing my jump, I was able to jump 14 feet, which is closer to the men’s record. When it came to the real thing I got nervous and only jumped 12 feet. But, I still broke the record. (See the Video)
How do you train for jumping long distances? How, if at all, do you incorporate this skill into your playing technique on the track?
Jumping the “apex” on the roller derby track. I want to jump the whole thing.
What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
Scoring a 38-point jam. Um, scoring 94 points against the Rose City Rollers’ Wheels of Justice at West Region Playoffs. Skating with or against the top players in the sport. Only going to the penalty box five times in all of my games at Playoffs.
Off the track?
Getting my first apartment and owning my own car. Also, having a good paying job that allows me to do roller derby.
In 2012, you had the honor of competing in the 2012 WFTDA West Region Playoffs and the WFTDA Championships representing the Oly Rollers. Your team earned a 1st place finish at Playoffs and 2nd place at Championships. Congratulations! What were some of the ways that you trained to be prepared for these tournaments?
I try to transfer my skills developed in hockey to roller derby and vice versa. To prepare, I went to practices with Oly, and I went to hockey practices where I worked on ball handling skills and time shooting drills. At derby practice we practice a lot of “what would you do if this happened?” and that helps with my decision making on the derby track.
What are some of your most memorable moments from the 2012 WFTDA tournament season?
Getting 1st place at the West Region Playoffs, “Bay of Reckoning.” Being offered a sponsorship from Antiks and GRN MNSTR. My most memorable moment was being asked to play with Oly, and that is the moment I am most grateful for.
Can you please talk a little about your decision to play with the Oly Rollers during the 2012 season? What do you think about the controversy surrounding the idea of “satellite skaters” in roller derby?
Oly had asked me to skate for them in some charity bouts before the 2012 season, and I loved the level they skated at. My league at the time – the Slaughter County Roller Vixens – were nowhere near that level yet. Oly’s staff of coaches and captains asked me to skate with them for bouts in July 2012. I went back and forth with, “is this good or bad?” and “will I regret my choice?” Well, as you know I made the decision to skate with them and I don’t regret it at all. I have learned and will keep learning more at this level of derby, and what better team than Oly? Satellite players? Well, everyone is mad and upset that Oly made that decision. Right? Well my thing is that if another team did the same thing, would the results be the same? I think it has pros and cons. The pros are you can have an awesome team with top players, and the cons are that you can’t always play as a team and develop an awareness of your teammates. My opinion truly is that professional teams do it [so why can't we?].
What have you been doing since Championships? Have you taken a break from roller derby?
I went to the roller hockey World Championships in Recife, Brazil. We placed 9th out 12 teams. Then I had knee surgery, so yes I’m taking a break but not by choice.
Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for and why?
No bouts until the doctor says, “good to go.”
How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
Um, it has cost me a lot of time – time that I could be using for other things – but then I wouldn’t be happy. Drama has gone up, but when you have a bunch of women you get that no matter what.
How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
Life comes first. Why? Because you cannot be happy in derby if you’re not happy in life. People say roller derby is like an outlet from life, but you have to go back to reality sooner or later.
What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
My advice is to please try to learn different styles of skating. Roller derby is a style of skating. Skating itself is when you go to a session and talk and dance while skating. Skating is to me as walking is to everyone – it’s a second nature.
Do you have a special message to your fans?
Thank you so much for supporting me from the beginning and through my change of leagues and telling me I belong at this level.
Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?
Lilly Lightning, a junior derby skater with the Seattle Derby Brats. Lilly loves every moment of derby, and has been a friend of mine since I started skating with Slaughter County.
Is there any other information we haven't covered in the previous questions that you’d like to share with the wftda.com readers?
I have been on the U.S. women’s roller hockey team since I was 15 years old. I have received MVP seven times at roller hockey national championships. Plus, I’m originally from Greenock in Scotland.
Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.