May 9, 2013
Smarty Pants started her roller derby career on the banked track in Austin in 2003. Transitioning to the flat track and the Texas Rollergirls in 2011, she has seen the sport, and the players, evolve over her ten years of competitive play. Smarty contributes to the roller derby world not only as a skater, but also as a coach and a mentor. Read on to learn more about this month’s featured skater and roller derby icon, Smarty Pants.
What is your derby name? Smarty Pants
Please explain the inspiration and story behind your derby name.
When I started skating, intros were a big deal. I wanted to throw things at people. I almost chose the name Candy Kean because I could throw candy canes and my last name is Kean, however that seemed too seasonal. I then choose Smarty and purchased a load of Smarties—the American version. I used to put them in my helmet and throw them out at the fans when my name was called. I stopped doing that eventually. My friend Miss Conduct told me it was not tough enough.
What is your number?
I started as 43—the year my mom was born. I then changed to 4.0 (to go with the Smarty Pants theme). When I joined the Texies (Texas Rollergirls), that number is retired for Hydra, so I took the number 5—my mom's lucky number. I'm a mama's girl.
You have been called “an icon and ambassador for the sport of roller derby”. Wow! How does it feel to be someone who is defining the sport of roller derby in such a huge way?
There are so many of us that are part of the “good fight” that I really feel like one in a larger movement. I have goals and dreams for the sport and am proud to have made an impact. When I lace up, either to practice, coach, or compete my simple goal is to do better than the last time. If that is helping to define our sport, I'm happy to do my part.
What is your skate gear of choice?
I have been sponsored by Antik since 2010. I love my Antiks and love representing the company.
I am sponsored by the Houston, Texas, based company Pro Designed for my gear. They take care of me and insure that when I fall, it feels like there are pillows under me.
I'm currently in the market for a good helmet, one that matches the quality of Pro Designed.
Do you have a pre-bout ritual?
When in Austin, I like to start the morning drinking coffee with my partner Chris and listening to “Wait Wait Don't Tell Me”. I then do something during the day that I find relaxing and that will not trigger my adrenal glands. Working in the yard has been on the top of the list lately. I like to ride my bike to the game and once at the facility I prefer to be in my skates warming up for as long as possible. I like to warm up my slow twitch muscles first and then move to my fast twitch muscles. It's a must that I get to block before the game. I also warm up my footwork and stopping throughout the process.
What do you think about when you're lacing up your skates?
I’ve never been asked this before! I suppose I am feeling to see if my foot is comfortable in my skate.
What is your motivational quote?
Desire, determination, and hard work. That’s what you’ve got to have to succeed in roller derby. We all fall down hard, but it’s about getting up faster than everyone around you and having the determination to try again.
Please share your best derby moment(s).
My best derby moment happened May 17, 2003, when I saw an ad in the paper advertising tryouts for a roller derby league, and I made the decision to try out. Within five minutes I was in the car with three of my good friends driving to Skate World. I had no idea what I was in for.
After that, my best derby moments happen when I’m on the track and the game is coming naturally and my team and I are working together as a solid force. That feeling is priceless.
How did you get involved with roller derby?
At age 21 I had nothing going on and tried out on a whim.
What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I skated all the time when I was little. I used to set up obstacle courses on my skates and time myself. It’s the first thing I really wanted to be good at. I did ice skating for a few years and then stopped skating at age 14 until I joined derby at 21. I did all the typical sports until I found rowing at 15. I was recruited to row for UT Austin out of high school.
Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
I was very unaware of my body and derby my rookie year. I did well because I had skated all the time as a kid, so the skating came easy. I did not focus very much and had no idea what people were talking about when they said offense and defense, but I skated fast and hit people, and had a great time. I am so happy I got to skate with the women I started with. Lucky me.
What is your position of choice?
I like to block and to jam. I usually know early on in a game if it is going to be a blocking game or a jamming game. I have been serving as a relief jammer for the Texies (Texas Rollergirls’ WFTDA Charter team, the Texecutioners) for the past year. I can generally tell my coach when she should put me in to jam and when it is time to put me back on the blocking line.
How would you describe your derby playing style?
I am a very focused skater. I feel comfortable skating forward or backward and my feet generally move me to where I need to be, regardless of the position my body is in.
What is your signature move?
I was one of the first in our sport to block backward. I turned around on the track because I could, and also because I wanted to see the pack better. My former league made it illegal to backwards block in 2004, so there was a solid five years when I did not do it. When I came to flat track I could not stop very well, so I would turn around and help my teammates slow down their walls. I have a maneuver where I can take an opponent to the outside by hooking her with my thigh while skating backward. I’m actually trying to stay facing forward now, so I do not default to what I am good at.
You started playing roller derby right at the very beginning of the modern movement, and have continued to grow and evolve with the sport. As a veteran of modern roller derby, what are some of the things about this sport that help to keep you passionate about it?
As roller derby changes it constantly becomes more challenging. I have a bad habit of not being able to back away from a challenge. Derby is challenging to me. I have to tinker at it and think about it and fail to succeed. I have a ton of fun with my teammates, and appreciate the support I get at practice and on game day. There are hard days, and periods of time that I only see my shortcomings, but then I get a little taste of success and it keeps me motivated to try harder.
Who are your derby heroes?
I have a ton of respect for Bloody Mary. Although she’s been playing for nearly 11 years, she is more determined to play the sport to the best of her ability than many of the rookies. When she falls down, she gets back up. When I fall down, she lends me her hand. She is a tremendous leader on my team and league, and I am fortunate to have her friendship. Also, my good friend, Barrelhouse Bessy in South Australia. She is the founder of the Adeladies, and was one of the driving forces that established Australian roller derby.
My heroes also include all of my teammates, who push themselves so hard and in turn make me want to work harder.
What advice do you have for girls who want to join roller derby?
Do it! Make sure you’re healthy. If you’re not healthy, get healthy and then get derby. Derby is a hard sport. We hit and fall hard. If you take care of your body, you can play it for a long time.
What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
Last year I was able to help the Texies out when they needed a relief jammer. Although I’ve been jamming for years, jamming at the highest level in the WFTDA is a whole different thing. It was awesome to hold my own and be able to step up for the team when I was needed. Since joining TXRG I have been on every Texie roster and have skated in every game. The Texies are an awesome team and I feel so proud to represent. Being selected to be on the first Team USA roster and to co-captain the squad was awesome.
Off the track?
Last year at WFTDA Championships I watched three different games in which I’d coached both of the teams competing. That was awesome to see: teams I’ve coached competing at the highest level possible. I’m very proud of my business, Get Smarty Coaching. I have been coaching derby since 2003, and have put a lot of effort into establishing the quality behind my name. It is very rewarding to work with the same athletes and leagues year after year and to see them progress after I coach them. There are many people coaching derby these days, and I’m happy that people know they can hire Get Smarty Coaching to get really solid, good quality training and consulting for their league.
How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life?
It's hard to say how my involvement in derby has affected my life, simply because I really was in that stage between just leaving home and coming into adulthood when I started skating. At 21, I was the youngest person in the league and was lacking certain life experiences that the rest of my teammates had. I am sure derby changed my pathway, but it is hard to say as I have been playing for most of my adult life. Before derby, my first job was in the record industry and I was playing a lot of music up until about 2 years ago when I turned most of my attention to the sport. Derby has not replaced music, but it definitely has bumped it off the top of my list.
What is your day job? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
Before I started derby, I was juggling a job in the music industry and one coaching rowing. I was very quickly swept away by the new friends and excitement that came with joining the league and very soon could think of nothing more than derby. I remember the first time I offered to coach a league, the words slipped out of my mouth as I volunteered to go out to their city and coach them. It never occurred to me to ask them for money, not even for travel expenses or food. They gave me an $80 tip at the end of my trip, and I got super excited. That league has done pretty well. Nine years later, I now own and operate Get Smarty Coaching, a derby training and consulting company. I spend half of my time physically coaching and the other half consulting derby leagues, teams, and coaches on how to strengthen their programs. I spend about two thirds of my time in Austin and the rest of the time traveling to either coach or compete. When I'm in Austin I coach derby clients on both the flat track and the banked track. I have also coached rowing since 2000 and still have a few clients I meet with weekly. I really enjoy being able to switch from thinking about derby to thinking about rowing. I learn something almost every time I coach. I really enjoy how an engaged student can bring new ideas to my attention.
How do you find a balance between your derby life and your “real” life?
I make sure to spend a day or two off skates every week. I exercise outside of derby as well. I have tons of friends who do not play derby. My partner's only involvement is coming to my games, so our relationship is derby free. I spend a lot of time with my family as well. I read a lot and play music when I can. On derby trips I really try to spend some time in the city bumming around, seeing the sights. I have also started to coach in Australia every year. I plan it so that I miss the beginning of the season, which helps to shorten our insanely long seasons. My interest in rowing is also a nice way to focus on sport without focusing on derby.
You have been coaching roller derby for a long time now. From a coach’s perspective, what is some of the best advice you have for other long-time skaters who are continuing to build careers on the track?
Choose a goal and work toward it. Always have that goal in mind so that you can stay centered and focused on the purpose of all of your hard work and training. Take care of your body. Derby is a tough sport and we need to make sure that we are nurturing both our brains and our body. You can always improve and get better. Our bodies and brains are capable of so much more than we realize. Have fun with it and try to find out what you are truly capable of. Hard work is fun.
It sounds like you have a lot of workshops coming up, including at RollerCon this summer. What are some of the skills and/or training techniques that skaters request of you most regularly?
I’ve really established a name for myself with coaches. Many of the leagues that hire me ask me to run seminars for their training and coaching staff to help them establish their annual curriculum. I also work with coaches and trainers to help them enhance their teaching technique.
I get a lot of requests for footwork and agility coaching. I also get a lot of requests to break down various skills, concepts, or strategies into micro steps to help with the learning process. I coach in a style that compliments my own learning style. I want and need to know every detail, including the “why” behind the “what” if I am going to do something well.
Do you have any upcoming bouts that you’re really excited for and why?
The Rocky Mountain Rollergirls are coming to Austin on May 11th (it's the first of the WFTDA.tv Presents Broadcasts, and you can watch live on WFTDA's Livestream channel). That should be awesome. We’re playing a few great teams at ECDX hosted by Philly Roller Girls in Feasterville, Pennsylvania (live on WFTDA.tv), and at Golden Bowl III (or the Windy Bowl) hosted by the Windy City Rollers in Chicago, Illinois.
Do you have a special message to your fans?
Thank you for your support.
Is there anyone that you’d like to thank?
I'd like to thank my family and my partner for their support. I'd also like to thank all of my friends, including all of the people I started with who continue to support me. I'd like to thank all of my teammates, both new and old for being awesome. I'd like to thank everyone who I coach, for putting their trust in me to teach them.
Real. Strong. Athletic. Revolutionary.