Friday, October 12, 2012

I am Greensboro Roller Derby.

I am Greensboro Roller Derby. 

I am an athlete.
I am a warrior.
I am smart.
I am really, really strong.
My beauty is measured by how I treat others.
Therefore, I am beautiful.

I am Greensboro Roller Derby.

I am one person, a part of something bigger than myself. 
I am a teammate you can rely on.
I matter to my team.
My team needs me and I need my team. 
I learn from my mistakes.
When I fall, I get back up.

I am Greensboro Roller Derby.

I contribute to my league.
My ideas make my league better.
My presence makes my league stronger.
I listen to and learn from my teammates.
Others learn from me.

I matter to my league.

There is only one me.
There is only one Greensboro Roller Derby.
Together we make this community the mighty force that it is.
Together, we can do anything. 

I am green and gold.
I am black and red.
I am teal and yellow.
I bleed red and blue. 


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Let's settle this.

So, lately I feel as though I have been bombarded with derby conflict. Maybe I feel this way because I am on a temporary derby sabbatical, or maybe it is because the sport I love is changing at such a rapid pace I feel as though I am watching sand run through an hourglass. I love roller derby and have dedicated a good chunk of my life to the sport. I want it to change people's lives the way it did mine and for it to have a lasting impact on how the world thinks sports should be played and organized. Therefor, there are a few things I wish we could all quit yappin' about so that we can re-focus on what is actually important: the unification of women with different backgrounds, cultures, countries, bodies, strengths, religions, sexualities, ethnicities, ideals, and beliefs. Here are a few things I would not mind never “debating” again:

  1. The pivot line. Don't like scrum starts? Don't do them. Think they are effective? Keep em up. Either way, this nostalgic view people seem to believe in about the pivot line is a little silly. It is like when people say the “good old days” forgetting that they are referring to a time when black and white people could not go to school together. The pivot line was not the “good old days” ladies, it was a few years ago and it is still there. If you like it, learn to be an awesome pivot and incorporate it into your plays with your line up. Otherwise, learn to find the hilarious joy in squatting in front of someone on their knees.
  2. Lazy train. If you don't like the lazy train, keep your jammer out of the box. Done. 
  3. Men's roller derby. Hard to sum up in one paragraph, but I will try. The only thing that annoys me about this topic is that there is a debate on what to call it. Merby? Dangle derby? Cue the eye roll. They don't call woman’s basketball “wobasketball” or “ovary ball”. The call it “woman’s basketball” (the fact that sports that women and men both play are assumed to be male is another reason why we need to refocus the goal of roller derby). If men want to lace up and get out there and play derby, have at it boys. Just call it what it is: “Men's Roller Derby.” We were here first and it shows respect. If you are still not sold on men's roller derby, go see a Gatekeepers (St. Lois) bout. They had me at the first whistle.
  4. Skaters transferring to another league (particularly Oly). Are these skaters on your bench? Do they pay league dues to your league? Do you know them personally? Know their skating history? Have you had a conversation with them? Do you always harshly judge people's actions based on something you only know about because of a Facebook post? Then move on and let the ladies skate where they want. People said less harsh things about Lebron.  
  5. Derby names. Some leagues like to use government names, other leagues stick with the tradition of using derby names. One is not better than the other, or more “legitimate.” My birth name is Susan but everyone calls me Susie-and no one questions it. Lets do the same for leagues choices about what they call themselves. This also applies to debates about league uniforms vs all other derby wear. Don't tell a woman what to wear, she has enough people doing that already and if what other people are wearing bothers you or affects how you see them-why are you wasting time with derby when you could be working with Rush Limbaugh? ZING!
  6. Olympics/Being “taken seriously”/Being on ESPN/etc. There is nothing I could say to wrap this up in a cute little paragraph package, so I will say this: our sport is new and unique and defies gender norms so it scares the crap out of people. We fascinate spectators, the media, other athletes-but we rarely take time to pat ourselves on our back and say “job well done.” Instead of worrying about being apart of everyone else's world, lets fall back in love with the one we created. 

So that is it! My rant for the month. Re-focus your energy on bettering yourself as a woman and as a skater. Both will make your world a better place. And in closing, let me leave you with the wise words of Tina Fey: “When faced with sexism...ask yourself, 'Is this person between me and what I want to do?' If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way.”

See you dingos soon.

Love, Miller 

Friday, August 3, 2012


When people ask me why I love roller derby so much, I usually tell them something about how awesome the sport is. That answer is true, so very true, but I also love this sport with my full heart because to me roller derby is a revolution that set me free...

Every time a woman moves her body, some man somewhere thinks it is for him.


I hang out with really beautiful women. Women who train hawks, ladies who get full scholarships to law school, and women who can wrangle four kids' schedules without breaking a sweat. 

When I skate in a pack with my league mates, no matter what my day has been like, I feel safe. I am free. Not only am I flying on my eight wheels, but I am surrounded by people who know what it is like to run to your car from the grocery store. Who know what it is like to obsess in the mirror over every inch, every curve, every piece of skin. Who know what it is like to be treated like a child, to be paid less, to be told that your interests just are not as important as men's. My league mates know what it is like to have to defend themselves from someone who does not think “no” means stop, they know what it is like to have to work extra hard for less respect, they know what it is like to pick up a sports magazine and not see their half of the population represented. They know what it is like to be giddy about watching the Olympics, only to be crushed when the female athletes' hair and weight get more attention than their talent. My league mates know what it feels like to have your body picked apart by a society that does not represent you. My league mates know what it feels like to hear those awful words “you asked for it.” They know what it is like to flip through a magazine, one that is directed at them, and close it feeling like they will never live up to what is expected of them. 

The shared experience of being a woman is not one that men can empathize with. You can not know what we feel or what we can handle because if we told you the WHOLE TRUTH you would think we were lying. Being a woman is really, really, really hard. (And it is also the best thing in the world.)

We are sick and tired of having to follow society's rules of how we should act and how we should look. 

So instead, we strapped on some skates and we made our own rules and we started to fall in love with ourselves. 

Roller derby brings women together by allowing us to reveal the most hidden version of ourselves. It lets you hit, scream, compete, and push yourself to be a mighty warrior. Strapping on skates is like releasing a volcano of awesome into your own world, and you get to do it alongside other women who “get it.” 

Until a woman president.
Until rape does not exist.
Until female athletes are treated with respect.
Until our paychecks are equal.
Until our decisions about our bodies are our own.
Until we can all get married.
Until there is no “ideal” body.

The revolution is calling. You gonna answer?!

Love, Miller Lightnin' 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Roller Derby: It Does a Body Good

A few days ago, one of my derby sisters invited me to an event. It was a virtual event called I LOVE (all of) MY BODY! and I was so inspired by the stories posted there that I wanted to share more of my own story.

Joining roller derby two years ago did wonderful things for my life, but I have to say one the very best ways it improved my life was by changing my relationship with my body and improving my body image. I remember going to derby for the very first time and being awe struck at all the gorgeous, powerful women I was skating with. I am still awe struck by the beauty and power of every single person I skate with. Reading that they had insecurities made it easier to talk about and confront my own.  It also made me realize how important it is to be able to talk about these issues.  

My entire life, I have had serious body image issues and I have struggled with eating disorders since I was 13. By age 17, I was so severely anorexic that I could barely function and spent much of my time in the doctor's office and the hospital. At the time, I seriously thought dying was a better option than gaining weight. It was the darkest period of my life, and though I recovered enough to go to college, I struggled with eating disorders all through college as well. I saw my body as a constant improvement project and there was always some body or facial feature that needed to be improved upon. I was never really comfortable in my own skin. I was athletic, I ran marathons and half marathons, but the primary motivation behind running was weight loss, not becoming healthier or a better athlete. 

Fast forward to age 24. I am done with college, I have my first "real world" full-time job and I am still struggling with eating disorders off and on. I hear about roller derby on facebook, and decide to go to a practice that night. I was hooked instantly. For the first few weeks, I thought about how playing roller derby would be a great way to lose some weight. False! I watched the scale creep up more and more the longer I played. But for the first time in my life, I was starting to be ok with that. It was, and is, amazing to watch and play with gorgeous women of all shapes and sizes who are all so very talented and strong. I watched my body grow as I gained muscle and power, and I was excited to think that maybe I was starting to look as amazing as all my friends on the track looked. 

I still have some body image issues, but ever since I started playing roller derby, I have grown so much emotionally and physically. I've gained 20 pounds in the two years I have been playing, but I see those pounds as sources of power and muscle. It feels amazing for weight gain to be a good thing. It feels amazing to have a rear end and some serious leg muscles. It feels amazing to skate around the track and to be able to hit and block effectively because I am strong. It feels amazing to feel sexy and powerful not because I have reached some ideal weight or because I have "fixed" some part of my body, but because I am physically strong and healthy. It feels amazing to challenge myself mentally and physically. I am more determined, more motivated and much, much happier since joining GSORD. 

It's hard to talk about body image issues because society sets up an impossible standard of beauty and then mocks those who go to any length to attain that image. It's embarrassing to talk about eating disorders and all the ways in which we would like to change our bodies in order to look better. As hard as it is to talk about, it is important that we do so that we stop wasting so much time hating ourselves. One of my biggest regrets about my eating disorders and body insecurity is all the time and opportunity wasted. I spent so much time counting calories and working out to be rail thin that it consumed my life. I didn't go to the beach or the lake or the pool with my friends because I was terrified of wearing a bathing suit. I ruined my health and did some irreversible damage to my body. The stomach acid ruined my teeth and it has set me back thousands of dollars to fix them. I never thought I was good enough to be treated well in relationships. I don't ever want to feel that way again, and I don't want anyone to ever feel that way! 

Here is the lesson in all of this: Let's all engage in the very brave, very feminist, very empowering acts of loving our bodies instead of hating them. Let's let derby build us up, physically and emotionally. Let's talk about this stuff that is so very hard to talk about. Let's be grateful for the bodies that we have and the fact that we are physically able to play roller derby. Let's keep being real with each other.  Let's keep encouraging each other and reminding each other how amazing we are, because it is true. Ladies and gentlemen of Greensboro Roller Derby, you are beautiful and and amazing and inspiring. 


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How To Care, But Not Too Much

“Y'all, let's just play some derby. And then afterwards, we can all hug!” -Brody Slaughterhouse 

Is winning the most important part of derby? What happens when it becomes the top priority?

Guilty, by the way. Yes, me. Totally, one hundred percent guilty. I am one of those aggressive, full out, smack talkin', ride-or-die roller derby girls that embarrasses her mother. I have thrown my helmet, yelled at refs, growled at my competition. Sometimes, when I lead practice I wear a t-shirt (that I made) that says: “Nut up or Shut Up” (technically, it says “Zut up or Shut up” because I ran out of “N” letters). 

I really, really like to win. Sometimes, I lay awake at night dreaming of what it must have felt like to win the derby world cup. I also wonder how that skater from New Zealand, responsible for the one point they scored against Team America, must have felt (I hope she goes to bed at night knowing she is a hero to all us underdogs). 

Before a bout, I have to actively turn off my bull dog attitude. I have to physically and mentally prepare for a bout by changing who I naturally am. I have to do this, because I am a captain. I also have to do this because my attitude tends to go over the line of “caring” to “caring too much”, and I wasn't a very good teammate to be around when things weren't going our way. 

The words of wisdom at the beginning of this post were brought to you by my teammate Brody Slaughterhouse, spoken when we were losing our fourth bout in a row by over sixty points. Our home team, the Elm St. Nightmares, went from 0/4 to being the team to beat over the course of one season. I am immensely proud of my team, but I take no credit for the change in our dynamic that lead us to our first victory. All the hard work of creating a positive atmosphere on our bench is my teammates doing, as is evidenced by Brody's words. 

I will never not care, that is impossible. But, I no longer play angry, or blame others for a loss, or only enjoy a bout because the score was in our favor. To me, a true athlete is humble, always learning, and doesn't have to yell to express passion*-you can see it by their actions on the track.

Not sure how to go from caring too much to just flat our caring? Here is what I have picked up over the last three years of being teammates with a wide range of women:

  1. If you expect other people to do things the way you would do them, you will constantly be disappointed. (Thank you, Ann What?!)
  2. Learn to lose nobly, or stop playing sports.
  3. Nobody cares that someone elbowed you. Shut up about it.
  4. Playing roller derby mad is a free pass to the penalty box. If you play mad, or hit someone for revenge, you are not playing very well and you look like a jerk.
  5. Keep getting the same penalty? Whose fault is that, really? 
  6. Humble yourself to the rules of the game. You know less than the refs. 
  7. A hit is not personal. You learned this the first day. So, stop taking hits personally.
  8. That girl you are yapping about who backed blocked you? She is your derby sister, possibly even a good friend. Stop talking about your friend. 
  9. Don't be that skater that yells ref calls. Just don't be. 
  10. Women don't thrive on criticism, but we can take it. Know where the line is, and do not cross it.
  11. If you have given a teammate advice, and she did not take it well, stop giving that teammate advice. 
  12. The only person in charge of your actions is yourself. This is an extreme amount of power for one person to have. Use it. 
  13. Stop waiting for help. Grown women know how to help themselves. Help yourself. 
  14. Learn to take a hit like a woman, and learn to hit like a woman. 
  15. GET BACK UP.  

So, these words are simple. So very simple. But for some reason, they took me two and half years to follow. Join me, in my quest to be a better skater and person. Because basically, that is the same thing.

In love and derby,

Miller Lightnin' 

*When people make comments about women athletes and say negative, insulting words about them or call their behavior unsportsmanlike, I think that is sexist. Men are allowed so much room to act like animals when playing sports, so I think the same courtesy should be extended to women. Caring about winning is not limited to the male gender. I also think that people see aggression as negative in women because it goes against gender norms. We are already breaking gender norms playing sports, so when we aren't all cutesy and sweet about it we are only confirming that you can't keep us in a box forever and we really are shifting the paradigm of who is IN CHARGE. So, although I think that there is a line between “caring” and “caring too much”, I think the line is subjective and completely open to interpretation. I also would like to re-iterate that roller derby is one of the best and boldest feminist statements a woman can make. BE LOUD AND PROUD. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Play Like A Girl- A Treatise on Female Athletics

“Look at that, workin’ for free. You gotta admire that.” -Hank Hill

Each camping trip my family took in my youth was planned around the Carolina Tar Heel's basketball team's schedule; or, more accurately, the men's team. My parents drank cheap beer and yelled at the screen, clearly aware of secret plays and the name and background of each pro-ball hopeful. But we never, ever watched women's ball. Or any women's sports for that matter.

I have been to several pro-football games. (Don't get too jealous, they were Carolina Panther games.) I have seen the Charlotte Bobcats, cheered on the Carolina Hurricanes, and I've even yelled from the nose bleed section of a Greensboro Gators game. As a kid, my favorite pastime was going to see the Greensboro Bats. It was the one night when I could run around with a few bucks in my pocket and buy any treat I wanted, as long as I took my little brother. Now, as an adult, my friends and I regularly meet up at Greensboro Grasshoppers games. One of my favorite sporting events ever was a race at Bristol, where I managed to carry in two cases of Budweiser, thus gaining the friendship of every race fan in passing distance. But for all the hundreds of sporting events to which I have borne witness, the only female sporting events I have attended have been my own.

Pat Moss, rally car driver and awesome lady
When I was growing up, I dabbled in soccer. My most clear and vivid childhood moment, the moment that made me know the world was full of surprises, was a movie-worthy state championship that my preppy, undisciplined, 0/10 record of a soccer team won. My team, the Soccer Rockers, got to the state championship by sheer luck. All the games had been rained out and we just happened to win the coin toss that determined who advanced from our region to the finals. This made our team the lowest ranked, by a huge margin, going up against girls who actually wanted to play college soccer. (We were 12 years old, by the way, but some of these girls already knew they were going for soccer scholarships.) On the day of the first game, we all piled into our two coaches vans. Only a few parents came along, as we were sure to lose and the games were out of town. You know the rest. We won the first game, then we tied the second. The reason why we tied the second game was because I scored my first (and only) goal. The third game we played against the highest ranking team in the state. We beat them by one point. By the third game, not only were all of our parents in the audience, all of our teachers were too. And our siblings, neighbors, and classmates. We got to be heroes, Rudys, Rockys... just for that one day. This soccer championship was a turning point in my life. It took an additional 15 years for me to embrace it, but this was the moment I became an athlete.
Lisa Leslie of the WNBA
There is something so honorable and heroic about training and competing in sports. Maybe I feel this way because I am an athlete, and we all crave purpose in our lives. Or maybe I feel this way because it’s one of the only places where people of different skin colors, religions, sexualities, and traditions can play as one; equals on the track, or court, or field. Maybe that childhood victory has stuck with me. (I know it did, and it will forever.) But to become well-versed in a sport, you must discipline yourself and train for years, possibly not even seeing appreciable results from one birthday to the next. You must work with other people, and be told what to do by other people. You must be humble, and loyal, and you must listen to other people's voices and bodies. To be someone's teammate is a bond. Together you work for a common goal, much like the quest in every great fantasy novel. So, why does the world* act like only men accomplish and excel at such a noble feat? Why are even the most feminist of men often blind to how wrongly women athletes are dismissed? When did we decide that being an athlete worth watching means being a man, and that it’s worth a ridiculous (and, I think, dishonorable) amount of money? Why don't you go to female sporting events, or watch them, or support them?

All of this ranting leads me to my final point:

The most honorable of athletes play for the love of the game, not a paycheck. Women athletes may be overlooked by most of the world, and treated as less than by their fellow male athletes, but this only makes us stronger and more noble. Because we truly do it for ourselves.

Venus and Serena, of course
 To all of my fellow female athletes: I salute you. And to my fellow roller derby sisters, see you on the flat track. I look forward to beating you, or losing to you by the sweat of my teeth, like any strong woman would. We, and our fellow women athletes in all different sports, are part of something so much bigger than ourselves. We are paving the way for all the girls that come after us, making the world a place where they to can achieve their dreams, whether their dreams involve sports or something else we’re told women can’t be as good at as men. Being a female athlete is a bold, feminist statement--a platform to set fire to all the injustices in the entire world.

In love and derby (and equality),

Miller Lightnin'

*If you feel as though my point is invalid, please do your research. Compare the number of male Olympic sports versus women's. Then also read the Olympic gender policy (it is horrifying). Look at the “Sports Movie” options on your Netflix queue, or pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated. How many women can you find? (Swimsuit issue doesn’t count and in fact backs up my point.) When you say you are “watching the game”, does it go without saying you are watching a men's game? Does your city have a professional women's baseball team? Compare the salary of a pro softball player to a pro baseball player. Look up Title 9, then go on a college campus and observe how absolutely none of the schools in North Carolina abide by the Civil Rights amendment. None of them. Ask yourself, how much does a pro-football player make? Can you think of anything a woman could do to make that amount of money in sport? How many female race car drivers can you name? Now, how many can you name that are not forced to use their sexuality to get a sponsor? Sigh. If you still think that women and men have equality in sports, I beg you to prove it to me.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ode to Smackson Pollock

The family of Greensboro Roller Derby continues to expand, which sometimes means our skaters must head off to other places and spread their awesomeness elsewhere. This hurts me in my heartal area, but I get comfort knowing some of the best people in the universe are out there, reppin' hard in other places.

Smackson Pollock-- formerly MSG, a beautiful Bettie and a Gate City all-star-- is leaving us for the coast. We will miss her. I will miss her. So I wrote her this poem. Please enjoy.

For Smackson

Smackson, Smackson
How I love thee
In my heart, you have always been MSG
Your muscles so ripped
Your booty so big
So pretty and girly, yet you eat like pig
Your laugh is infectious
And your hugs so sincere
Always the last one to wash your smelly gear
Your hits are the worst, but my favorite to get
Getting a hip check from you is truly the pits
I love how we hit each other the entire jam
Or how we help each other achieve a grand slam
Going against you or with you is always so fun
Cause I know we will giggle with each other when the clock says its done
There is something so special about you that I wish I could capture
An afterparty with you is always a delightful disaster
You really are one of the best girls I will ever meet
My favorite to lose to, and my favorite to beat

Smackson Pollock, you are a wonderful and unique woman that makes the world a better place. I will miss your laugh, hugs, and your wonderful approach to life. Hitting you and being hit by you is one of the reasons I love roller derby so much.

Keep being you.

XOXO Miller Lightnin'

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Don't drink the Haterade!

Seriously. Put it down, forget it exists. And here's why:

This will surprise no one: roller derby is diverse. There are almost as many kinds of derby leagues as there are derby skaters. Some leagues love epic entrances, while others prefer to let their skating speak for itself. Some leagues use their given names only, while others revel in the opportunity to create an alter-ego. Some leagues like to get rock star wild at after parties, while others like to just chill and talk about the bout. Some leagues like to engage in tension-deflating play on the jammer line before the first whistle, while others completely stonewall their opposition. A few teams focus all their efforts on community building, while others work their tails off to play derby by a traditional sports mindset. Who among us really is perfect enough to say their way is the only way?

Every single derby league is unique in its own right, with its own set of skaters and supporters. Each league has the space to create their own traditions, training schedules, strategies, playing style, uniforms, and opportunities.

That is why this sport RULES.

When I hear of leagues splitting apart, or overhear a teammate or fellow skater hatin' on another skater or league, my heart breaks a little; especially because it reminds me of how much time I have wasted hatin' on chicks I don't know (especially when I could be using this time to be improving my skating technique). Roller derby is a middle finger to the patriarchal machine that is collegiate and professional sports. We were created by and for women. We embrace women on the full spectrum and are a LBGTQ safe haven that highly encourages participants to not only be themselves but to WAVE THEIR FREAK FLAG HIGH.

Seriously, wave that flag!

This is my rally call skaters. Stop gossiping in the middle school bathroom because the other team doesn't do things the way your team does things. Assume the best, because after all, they play roller derby too. Doesn't that kind of guarantee they are awesome?

The world can be a cruel and horrible place, full of heartache, disease, and oppression. Roller derby is the one place women can go and be themselves--any version of it they please. So lets stop the girl on girl crime RIGHT NOW. Lets start rallying behind other leagues because we need each other, build from each other, and can learn from one other. You can not improve or grow as a person if you only surround yourself with people that are just like you, so embrace the variety of derby women with open arms. We are all the better for it.

Say it will me sisters:


In love and derby forever and always,

Miller Lightnin'  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


My nickname on the flat track is “EnSusiasm”. I love it! I LOVE IT! I LOVE IT!

My coach, Colonel Heavage, came up with it after a particularly grueling practice where I remained optimistic and kept yelling “My name is Miller Lightnin' and I love roller derby!” The mantra and nickname stuck, and for two years running I have earned the great honor of being given our league's spirit award. 

Seeing a glass half full (or a flat track half full, if you will) has been my lifestyle for as long as I can remember. I was raised by two amazing parents, who managed to keep my two brothers and me out of jail  (for the most part), healthy, and happy our entire lives. We all speak several times a day and actually choose to spend time with one another. Dinner with my family around the table, usually after several beers, turns into a roast of one another and an exchange of awesome stories about our adventures in our lives separate from family. My family has supported my derby endeavors and regularly tell me they are proud of me for the strength and skill I display on the flat track.

I am extremely lucky and grateful for these gifts EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. 

My other family, Greensboro Roller Derby, reminds me of the Williams. Supportive, funny, always up for a beer (or six). I chose this family, and they chose me. How could I not be enthusiastic at practice? I am literally encased by love in all directions. 

Recently, I was asked by a woman on my team how I stayed so positive. “Well,” I told her, “fake it till you make it.” I use to beat myself up after every practice, cry into my pillow “WHY THE HELL CAN'T I PLOW STOP ALREADY?!?!”, and dreaded scrimmage time for fear I would let my teammates down. Derby started to be stressful, instead of awesome. So I made a choice. I decided, to hell with it: I am going to just do me, y'all. 

The best way to stay positive and fulfilled by roller derby is to constantly challenge yourself, on your own level. Try to improve at every practice, with every drill. If you don't get it right the first time, do it until you get it right and then do it some more. Put your derby gear on and look in the mirror and say to yourself: “I am a goddess of the flat track and a supershero to little girls. I can and will be awesome at roller derby.” Really, I say that to myself all the time. Try it. 

Another thing that keeps me so excited about roller derby is that I see the potential for greatness on the flat track in EVERYONE. By everyone I literally mean everyone. Chick sitting next to me in class who rocks motorcycle boots everyday? Awesome pivot. Woman who sells me beer at the gas station? Dang, she would make a great wrecking ball. And then my league! Oh, my league, how I love thee. The recently drafted skaters make my heart swell like the Grinch. I watch them in drills and in my brain thinks “Crap! The student has become the teacher! I can't wait for them to knock me out someday!” (New skaters-I am not the only one who thinks this. Pat yourselves on the back. You are BLOWING OUR MINDS.) 

So, if roller derby has become a source of frustration for you and the flat track seems half empty-remind yourself why you started, do some pushups, and yell: “MY NAME IS -------- AND I LOVE ROLLER DERBY!” 

You won't regret it.

In love and derby, Miller Lightnin' aka EnSusiasm 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The only thing I have to fear is....?

I read a great article recently about letting go of things that hold you back and cause you unhappiness or stress.  It spoke to me loud and clear, especially when it talked about letting go of fear.  I've said this in previous blog posts but humor me.  I was afraid of skating when I was younger.  From time to time, my desire to try something overcomes my fear of it and I face it.  That's exactly what happened when roller derby came into my life.  Now, I no longer fear skating but I've still got quite a few other fears I need to face and have had to face along my journey.

It's sad to admit this, I suppose it was how I was raised but I HATE being in the way.  I know what you're thinking: "That's part of what derby is about!"  For example, when sprinting around the track, I typically get out of the way of the faster skaters.  The only way I can explain it is that it's just my natural instinct.  One of our skaters, the amazing Ka$h Honey, told me that I need to get in their way.  Basically, skate the diamond pattern and stay there.  The better, faster skaters will find a way around me. The idea of annoying people really bothers me(another reason I get out of the way) but I know that the only way I will get better is to push myself, which is what she was saying.  I fight fear every time I'm on the track but I know that while I'm doing that, I'm getting better. 

I would also be kidding myself if I didn't admit my fear of getting hurt. The probability is high and it's not even the pain I worry about as much as being off skates.  The idea of losing ground on my progress as a skater and having to "start over" is scary.  Many people have done it and I admire them because just getting back on skates after a serious injury takes courage.  I've spoken with a few of our injured skaters who are returning to life on the track and getting back out there was not easy for them.  They were concerned about re injuring the same area and being able to get their endurance back where it needed to be. It's a relief to know I'm not alone in my concerns. 

I think this is where the love of something takes over, though.  If derby means enough in your life, then you do what is necessary to keep doing it.  For me, I believe it would mean facing some of my mental blocks over again and maybe even new ones.  That's the risk, though, and I can't fear what may or may not happen.

I could go on but I'm sure you get the point.  I have many goals for myself and the only way I can achieve them is to push myself even further out of my comfort zone.  That's the only way I'll grow in this sport.  I'm proud of the progress I've made and one day I hope to look back and laugh at the things I once feared.

The Worst Noel

Thursday, March 15, 2012


When I first began roller derby I was disappointed when I found out there were rules. No fighting?! Really?! What was the point?!

I couldn't believe the structure that was required to participate in a derby league-especially one that I was helping found. Fundraisers, public relations, interviews, finding sponsors...and the rules! So many rules. Most notably: no drinking while skating.

I complained, moaned, eye rolled. I joined committees, yes-but always with the intention to find something, anything to complain about (and there was usually beer involved). I emailed board members with complaints, griped at practices, drank on skates. The only thing that I focused on was my love of derby, my passion for being a great skater.

One day-while on one of my many tyrants-my friend of ten years, Annie Lastwords, said, “Yah know Miller, you would be a lot more productive if you spent time taking action instead of complaining.”

Right on Annie. Right on.

Of course, I immediately took offense to this statement, thought she was being an uppity know it all (lawyers), but then I realized something: offense is taken, not given. I chose to be insulted by that comment, instead of seeing it as a friend saying in more or less words: “Shut up and help out with this league you love so much.”

So, gulp-Miller Lightnin' aka Hater of Authority aka Cammie Complains-A-Lot-joined the training committee by running for captain of my home team, the Elm St. Nightmares. Surprisingly, my fellow teammates elected me (side bar: I had ran before and not gotten elected, wonder if my buttheadness was related?) and entrusted me to fairly represent them on the committee that decides fates like practice itineraries, rules to enforce, skater policies to implement, rosters, etc. Captains, coaches, and trainers discuss skater concerns and sometimes have to make tough decisions to move the league forward that may not make everyone happy. Instead of always saying “damn the man”, I became the man.


So, this“middle finger to the world” kind of gal is now an “okay, I am not entirely sold on rules but am starting to see their intention” has some knowledge to drop.

Here is how to make the most out of your derby experience (no matter what your feelings about rules and regs are), with out making yourself crazy.

  1. Like I said before-offense is taken, not given. Still mad coach told you to work on your form? Really? Coach noticed you. If he/she did not care enough to say anything to you-that is when you have the right to worry cause no one is noticing you.
  2. Don't make your coach/captain/trainer tell you to do something twice. I cringe when I have to tell a skater on my home team to be quite when a coach is explaining a drill. It literally makes my skin crawl. Telling your peers to do something sucks. Please, don't make us ask you again-and respect that we asked you in the first place.
  3. If you are going to criticize something the league is doing-do not do it without some ideas to take its place. You are just being a jerk if you just criticize. Don't be a jerk-be a woman of action.
  4. When a coach explains a drill, ask questions if you need help. But never ever ask them to adjust the drill because you do not want to do it or think it is too hard. Also, keep your trap shut when coach is talking. You may not care enough to hear his words, but the skaters around you do.
  5. Don't take training committee decisions personally. As someone who has been guilty of this several times, I know how easy it can be. Now that I am on training committee, I see that each decision is made to move the league forward. Nothing is discussed without this intention: What is best for our league as a whole?
  6. If you are not put on a roster, do not get to play the position you want, or are not getting a lot of playing time-DO NOT CRY OR COMPLAIN ABOUT IT (I have done this-it gets you no where). Prove to yourself and the training committee that they can not afford to NOT put you in. Bust your fanny, honey, It will happen someday.
  7. Come to each practice with this in mind: “What can I do at this practice to be better than last practice?”
  8. Even if it hurts, you are expected to participate from 7-9pm each night of practice. Don't sit on the sidelines. There is a difference between “it hurts” and “I am hurt”. You are better than the sidelines. You play freakin' roller derby.
  9. If you are worried about how someone else is doing at practice, you are not worried about the person you should be-YOU. Practice is for you to improve. Use the time wisely, darlin-there ain't much of it.
  10. Your crappy day at work is not my crappy day at work. Please don't allow your mood to dictate the skaters around you-leave it at the door.
  11. Cross train. Duh. (No really, put some sneakers on and run. NOW.)
  12. Join a committee and help out. Go to the after party. Ask vets for help. Advertise for bouts. Thank a coach for their hard work. Ask a ref to explain some rules to you. Don't spread gossip about your teammates. Don't be a butthead.

After beginning in the basement of a bar, Greensboro Roller Derby is moving forward into the big time. We are becoming a sustainable league that the community counts on for grassroots support, entertainment, and girl power. Respect that to develop as a whole, we have to leave some old ways behind. We have to have...barf...rules.

No more drinking on skates. I pinkie swear.

So, I hope that helps. Basically, treat people like you want to be treated and recycle.

XOXO Miller  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Be the Skate; My Journey in Visualizing

So, I made it what?  I passed my minimum skills assessments, I'm officially over one hurdle of what I've come to learn will be many.  I suppose I can answer my question simply and not-so-simply.  I suppose I could just say that I'm on to the next step, the next "make it happen" moment.  But what do I want to make happen?  Who do I see myself becoming as part of this league?  What is my next goal? 

I will say this; practicing with our veteran skaters is such an honor and humbling experience.  I am not saying I ever thought I was super awesome but I see now how these ladies strive to be better and continue learning.  During our scrimmage-type drills is where I am most in awe of them and it's also when I often find myself lost and being ineffective.  This leads to a great amount of frustration at myself.  I've been a spectator at a few bouts now and thought I had a pretty good grasp on what happened during a jam but actually being on the inside is a whole different experience.  I see how complicated it can be, trying to implement strategy that incorporates both offense and defense.  Which brings me to the visualization aspect of this.  I do believe in the idea that you can "see" yourself performing a task as you want to and "make it happen."  The result may not be immediate but in time, it will become a reality.  Right now my default vision of myself is more along the lines of a large, awkward bird on roller skates.

The way I want to envision myself is more like a shark, swimming stealthy around and attacking a pack like a feeding frenzy!!  Maybe that's a bit too much but you get the idea.

 It's up to me to put in the work and I know eventually it will "click."  I can only get better and understand the game by going to practice and soaking up as much as I can from our veteran skaters and coaches.  I will probably ask some questions that seem dumb and I know that our veteran skaters experienced what I'm going through(though by looking at them, you'd never know).  This is a journey where I can learn as much as I want, get out as much as I put in, and be as good as I can see myself being.

All my awkward derby love,
The Worst Noel

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jams Don't Last Forever

Recently, for the first time since my roller derby career started, I realized that one day it will have to end. I hope it's not for a long time. I have no finish line in sight, no plans to retire. But one day, this will have to end. I will skate no more.

I started roller derby two years ago on a whim. As I start my third season, I have seen many skaters come and go. The founding members of our league, of which I am one, are dwindling in number. 

To be clear, once again, there's no end in sight for me. When I say I am training for Team USA, I am not kidding. It may be ten years from now, but it's a serious goal of mine that I am not dreaming about. I am actively working on it. Skaters in my league refer to me as a “vet”, but in the larger sense of the sport as a whole, I see myself as just having started this whole roller derby thing. I see myself as roller derby Fresh Meat, a sponge ready to soak up any and all information I can to improve my ability as a skater.

When I started to write this blog, it was going to be a plea for skaters to revive the tradition of the after party. But after doing some “research” (read: drinking beers while watching old bout footage) on our league it morphed into something greater. A call to arms. A plea for us all to remember and cherish this time we spend together.

Because roller derby is not forever.

A little over two years ago, I joined a brand newborn Greensboro Roller Derby with my best friend, Shrimp n' Grit (who was also my co-worker at the time). We went from talking about Real Housewives and boys to discussing bearings and bout plays. Our friendship grew in a way that was so special, so intimate, so sincere. We got to be best friends and teammates (and sometimes competitors). Being a teammate with someone is not to be taken for granted.

Because sometimes they move away.

Roller derby is not forever.

Roller derby may be the most intense experience you ever have in your life. It is time consuming, bank account draining, sanity stealing, hurts. There is something almost every weekend: a party, bout, fundraiser, meeting, etc. Your non-derby friends and family miss you. Derby can also be frustrating and hard and sometimes you may never really catch on to things that seem so easy to other skaters. Roller derby can drain you of your very last inch of normalcy. But it is also so much more than that. It is a life experience that will fill you with pride and happiness until your dying breath. You did something awesome.

When “researching” for this blog I came across some bout footage that made me cry into my beer.

This video made me miss so many of my roller derby compatriots who are not in my derby bout-to-bout life anymore. I miss you Moloko Violet, AnneMaRIOT, Goodie Two Bruise, Molly Flogger, Ann What?!, Betty Rumble and (I am so glad computers don't get tear stains!) Shrimp n' Grit. I miss all the retired skaters, all the coaches who needed to move on. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you.

Teammates move away, retire, get too injured to return. Some join for the average 1-2 year commitment, others push for the long haul. Either way, your roller derby career has a finish line, whether you plan for it or are planning on creating a league in your retirement home. My call to arms is to enjoy it for all that it is worth. You can not get this time back, and jams do not last forever.

Both of my grandmothers are very ill right now, and they have both been very nostalgic with me during my weekly visits. Their stories fill my heart with love, and sometimes they break it. Neither of my grandmothers played sports. Neither had lots of girlfriends. Both loved men injured (mentally and physically) by war. My grandmothers- two very different women- never knew the joy of sharing a bench with beloved teammates, celebrating a hard-won victory, or the self-respect that comes from handling a loss with dignity. 

Hearing my two greatest influences pass their legacy on to me, their granddaughter, reminds me that life is fleeting. I will not live forever. One day, I will be lying in my death bed (hopefully surrounded by tons of hot men) reflecting on my life experiences.

I will know with my old lady pride that not only did I live an awesome life filled with adventure and friends...

I played roller derby. And I did it well.

Derby love,
Miller Lightnin'

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Derby Crushes

Just in time for Greensboro Roller Derby's Lonely Hearts club bout... we're going to talk about DERBY CRUSHES!

When you skate derby, you hear it all the time...”I have such a crush on [insert awesome skater's name here]!" The awesome skater could be Bonnie Thunders, Suzy Hotrod, Kelley Young, Beyonslay, Smack Daddy... the list goes on and on. These girls ARE amazing, and I wouldn't kick any of 'em outta my... bench.

But lovin' the stars is a given. They set the bar, rock the house, blow our minds with their phenomenal talent. I get that. Sometimes, I watch YouTube clips of Bonnie Thunders for hours and take notes. Her moves make me have to wipe drool off my chin. I danced in my apartment for ten minutes when she requested my friendship on Facebook (stalkin' paid off!). To me, she is Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Venus AND Serena Williams. She is the best of the best of the best sport.

But when I thought about what a derby crush really is, I realized I have derby crushes on girls I skate with every single day, women I play against during inter-league bouts, girls I regularly whiskey slap. I am so lucky that I am surrounded by skaters who challenge me, frustrate me, and cause me internal injuries.

I posed this question to my league crushes and also asked my fellow league mates to spill their secret: who makes your heart leap on the flat track?

The answers made me fall in love with my league all over again. It was like that dream trip in Paris with your partner that you already love, that reminds you while you fell for them in the first place.

Although I am not going to reveal everything I learned about who crushes on who in our league (since some of it was told to me in confidence), I do recommend sharing with your crush your feelings. They will make her day and make her a better skater. She won't wanna let you down!

Here are a few of my own derby crushes:

To start, I have a confession. I love a truck drivin', foul mouthed shorty named Ka$h Honey. She busted into our league like a bat outta hell, and went from “Fresh Meat” to starting jammer in T minus ten seconds. My crush started when she first made the team, when I first heard her tell me what to do. I loved her confidence, her take-no-crap attitude, her hatred of slow derby. Ever since then, she has sealed my love for her by continuing to play by the same motto as I do: “GO BIG OR GO HOME”.

Ka$h Honey

Like many girls on the league, I have a crush on General Sew for more than just her skating ability. But, it is her skating that makes my heart leap (and those red sequin shorts). I love watching her lap other skaters, seeing her go so fast the wind blows through the back of her jersey. I love how humble she is, how calm, how she can turn literally ANYTHING into derby shorts. General Sew is the glue that holds our league together, the voice that makes us know everything will be okay-unless, of course, she is coming for yah hips.

General Sew

Sigh. AlaBAMison. Our very own home town version of Bonnie Thunders. BAM is one of those skaters that earned her stay, played for keeps, fought her way to the top, made people notice that SHE WAS HERE. BAM is a crush of mine because you think you got her- oh, you think you got her so hard, and then: BAM, she is already through the pack, smilin' that she just tricked you (again). BAM skates so effortlessly, so fearlessly, and still manages to stay classy and adorable at the same time. She is a rarity. She is GSORD.


One of the things that makes me LOVE local derby crushes is that you get to ask them questions like: What makes you so awesome? So, in an effort to “humanize” my derby heartthrobs, here are their actual answers, after much prying:

Cus I got Skills, Thrills and Dolla Bills! Sike just playin – I’m awesome because I push myself - sometimes it can be my downfall because I push too far but I love motivating people and how can I help my team push to be better if I don’t better myself.” -Ka$H Honey (derby crush: Minimum Bruise)

Well thanks for thinking so, but often times I am pretty hard on myself...The one awesome thing that derby has taught me though is that if someone tells you can't or shouldn't do something then prove them wrong.  Who says you can't play roller derby? Who says you can't pass assessments after skating for only two months or that you can't be on the A-team?  Who says you can't skate in a bout, and then compete in a sprint triathlon the next day after driving four hours and getting three hours of sleep? Which by the way is a really bad idea!! You can do anything you set your mind and heart to. You can amaze yourself with what you can accomplish if your really believe you can do it.  If you want something bad enough you'll do what it takes to get to your goal.” -AlaBAMison (derby crush: Betty Rumble)

I got to this level of skating from a combination of hard work, cross training, and genetics, and dumb luck. I was a skating rink rat in the late 70's and early 80's. My parents dated at the skating rink, and I spent a lot of time skating. Although I took speed skating lessons when I was 7 and artistic skating when I was 8, I was never really good at it, but it did give me a sense of comfort with having skates on my feet (and I'm pretty good at Galaga from all that time spent at the skating rink too!) I'm doing some running and I teach yoga, and I try to stay active, and make it to almost every single practice, but I'd better kick it up a couple of notches because there are some awesome and ambitious folks out there. My biggest piece of advice for other skaters out there is to come to practice (as often as possible), give it 100% all the time, and pair up with the biggest, hardest hitting girl out there. Watch how they move their feet, watch where their strength comes from when they hit, and watch how they absorb or counter a hit. Also, read those rules. To me, they're like poetry, and they make more sense, once I've got some personal application for them.” -General Sew (derby crushes: Molly Flogger, Schoolya Childs, Smackson Pollock, Pickle Joose, Ka$h Honey, AlaBAMison, Minimum Bruise, Snarl Young, and Miller Lightnin' [thanks General!])

So you see, derby crushes can be the very same women you see everyday. They are your resources for improvement. That extra push when you think you can't push anymore.

So go ahead ladies, tell your crush why you love her. You never know...she might just feel the same way.

In love and derby always,

Miller Lightnin'

PS: Because GSORD fans love to think we hate each other, I did not mention my favorite person to hit and be hit by: Smackson Pollock-you complete me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Men's Roller Derby: Oh My!

I am so excited that men's roller derby leagues are becoming a conversation in the world of derby. The more people that play roller derby, the better. I truly believe in roller derby world domination, and that the benefits of playing the sport can positively influence all people.

Full disclosure, though: men's roller derby brings out the skeptical feminist in me. I am slightly wary of a potential take over. Roller derby was male-dominated at times during its long history, but the modern incarnation of it has been all about female empowerment. Roller derby is the one place in my life where I am not treated as a second class citizen because of my gender. Roller derby empowers my female force, has increased my sisterhood, and has freed me from the burden of self-body hatred.

When roller derby began in the 20s, it was played by men. Female skaters were added to the sport later as a way to sell tickets. No one could have guessed then how roller derby would evolve into the feminist movement it is today.

Modern roller derby is not just a sport, it is a feminist movement.

I need the men who are creating leagues for themselves to say that out loud. To believe it. Do they truly know the world they are entering? Are they entering it with the full knowledge of their male privilege? Do they know that to women who skate, this means a whole lot more than just hitting one another and wearing cute outfits?

Are these male leagues prepared to embrace and make room in the sport for male-to-female transgender skaters? Do they truly know what a sport created for, by, and with all women means to us? As women?

I say yes. But then again, I am a hopeful, trusting, heart on her sleeve feminist who truly wants a massive social change in terms of gender and sexuality equality. This is what I bleed for.

I am in full support of men's roller derby leagues, and look forward to witnessing my first male derby bout in the upcoming season. All I ask is for these leagues to mention the elephant in the room-the big, giant feminist elephant in the room that is just double checking your intentions.

Sorry guys, thousands of years of sexism and lack of equal treatment will do that to people.

Lookin' forward to seeing you on the flat track, gentlemen.


Miller Lightnin'