Monthly Archives: March 2011

Frankenstein Your Skates

This week I decided to take on the intimidating task of changing my own plates, mostly because I was told it was like pulling teeth to get any shop in Ottawa to do it for me. For anyone who’s never done this before, you literally disassemble your whole skate to the point where it’s just a boot. And then, depending on the plates, you have to drill holes in your precious babies.

Am I a professional skate maintainer? NO. Am I armed with some often misguided confidence? YES. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Would I advise just anyone to do it? Um, I’m not so sure. On one hand, I do believe that the average new derby skater doesn’t know enough about her skates or how they “tick” so this kind of exercise is extremely educational. On the other hand, it can be expensive if you mess up and it’s tough to get everything reconfigured the way you like it. So here are a couple of lessons that I learned if you’re considering modifying your skates yourself in any way, even if it’s not as drastic as what I did.

1) Read up! There is a quite a bit of information online, but the best source I found for instructions on installation was by Sin City Skates. You also have a lot of wisdom in your team so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

2) Don’t do this in a hurry. It took me about 2 nights to disassemble, mark, drill, assemble, cut screws, install trucks and finally wheels. The marking and drilling especially take patience and should not be rushed. You have to skate on these babies when it’s all done so you might as well take the time to do it right.

3) Use the right tools. For me, this was a Dremel for the drilling and cutting of the screws. I have freakishly small hands and though I’m quite handy with a drill, the Dremel was just the perfect size to give me precision and that illogical confidence that I needed. I’m also a serial renovator so we have a tool room full of wrenches which were also critical.

4) Know your skates before you change them. After you make a change, you need to be able to compare how they feel different. If you don’t have a baseline knowledge to start, it’s hard to measure improvements or losses in comfort and performance. If you have it though, you can diagnose if it’s the configuration or the part that is the problem. If you don’t think you know your skates, then start small. Trade wheels with your derby wife and get to know what hers feel like. Ask if they’re harder, softer, wider etc. and take note of how they change your skating. Once you can tell the difference, move on to something else, like loosening your trucks.

5) Most changes can be reversed. In the end, I drilled 2 new holes in each skate. Could I put my old plate back on and forget my massive failure if I messed up? You betcha. If you loosen your trucks too much, would you wobble at first and then clue in that you need to tighten them? Probably. The worst thing that usually happens with skate maintenance is that you buy a part which you end up not liking but the actual modifications are reversible. You can always go crying to Plow’her if you don’t know how to fix what you did…that was my backup plan.

When it’s done, there is something amazing about having a skate that performs exactly as you have asked it to. I’ve only been on skates for about a year and a half, and though I’m a pretty confident skater, 80% of my skate knowledge was learned this winter when I got curious and just started tweaking parts here and there. Don’t be scared to try something new, but maybe put the Dremel down for now. There’s plenty of time for that.

Dawn Cherry


To the Amazing Fresh Meat

As you all know, this Saturday is Min Skills testing. I just wanted to let you know how proud I am of all you. Everyone comes to practice with positive attitudes and tries their best. What more could a coach ask for? You all make coaching a blast and I look forward to skating with you every week. I have faith in all of you. Everyone has different strengths but you band together to make an amazing group. You support each other, which is an important part. Remember on Saturday to cheer your girls on as loud as you can. AND BEND YOUR KNEES! Lol!

Shutter Down

Derby Girl at Heart

So, I am literally Fresh Meat… but hopefully not much longer! My Min Skills test is coming up this week, and as some of the Dolls have already mentioned, this will be my first step to becoming a real derby girl.

I have known that that is exactly what I want to be for about 5 or 6 years now, ever since I watched the show “Roller Girls” about the roller girls in Austin, Texas. I’m not sure exactly what drew me to it, whether it was the competitiveness, the comradery, the empowerment, the names, the outfits, or most likely a combination of these and more, but I was sold. I had spoken of wanting to do this for years, and when a friend of mine saw a Facebook page for the Capital City Derby Dolls, I thought maybe my dream could come true.

It was when I left my first Fresh Meat practice, when I could not quell my excitement, that I knew my dream was coming true. That was a few months ago, and I still leave every practice with a huge grin on my face, no matter how many sore muscles and bruises I leave with. I have been a derby girl at heart ever since I learned of the sport, and I can’t wait to be a full-fledged roller-skating, hit-taking, butt-kicking derby girl for the Capital City Derby Dolls!

Thanks to my coaches, and I hope to do you proud this weekend!

Violently Jill

Calling for Volunteers!

Attention Boys and Girls!

Capital City Derby Dolls is in its first year. We’re close to finalizing our travel team, we have bouts scheduled, we’re coming close to holding a few home bouts, we’ll have a fully functional website soon…there’s so much going on everyday that time just flies by. Seems like just as we’re taking off our skates, we’re putting skates on all over again!

We’ve faced so many struggles this year: finding and keeping practice space, befriending maintenance staff, getting a fully functional executive board up and running, scrounging for money, taking on two successful fresh meat recruitment campaigns, reaching out to other leagues and most importantly, trying to make a name for ourselves. With all this going on, it dawned on us that if we’re going to be holding bouts in Ottawa, we’d better get ourselves some volunteers! So, this is an official call (with more to come…and we’ll resort to begging) for CCDD volunteers.

We are looking for people to help us out with our bouts. Holding a bout is a huge endeavour. Setting stuff up, taking stuff down, MCing, keeping score, keeping track of penalties, peace and order, A/V specialists, after-party enthusiasts…if you have a talent, chances are we’d like to exploit it. If you have more time to give and have a bit of a travel bug, you can join us at our away games in pretty much the same capacity.

If volunteering sounds like something you’re up for, but you’d like to do it on skates, we are always looking for referees! Keeping derby girls in line is a tough job but if you have a bit of a skating background and love the idea of maintaining order, join the CCDD Refs, quad skates not required. You’ll learn the rules of the game, dole out penalties and eject players who break the rules too much. Our Refs will teach you everything you need to know and you’ll get plenty of reffing practice at practices.

Email us at


A Cautionary Tale

Our Fresh Meat have their Minimum Skills Evaluation coming up soon. Having just passed mine a few months ago, I thought I’d take a moment to offer a little perspective on the whole thing.
I was desperate to pass my Min Skills and be done with fresh meat. Like getting out of the car after a long road trip, I yearned to stretch my legs, to jump up and down, to go fast, to HIT SOMETHING! I wanted to be a Derby Doll.

Be careful what you wish for.

I was fortunate to pass my Min Skills on my first try. I didn’t play sports in high school and the idea of having made the league took a long time to wear off. I spent hours agonizing over my derby name and number. I changed my day planner to reflect a new practice time slot. I organized carpools. I was ready.

But I forgot one thing. Now that I was a Doll, I had to go toe stop to toe stop with girls who had been at this for way longer than I had. This struck me as I walked into my first Tuesday night practice and looked around the room. The women there were no longer just my coaches and mentors; they were now my teammates, or worse, members of an opposing team.

“Hi”, I said. “Please don’t hurt me” was all that I could find to spit out next.

During warm-up, my nerves got the best of me. I would fall during exercises I normally glided through with grace and poise. While usually pretty quick on my feet, I felt slow and awkward. Fawn legs, I called it (picture Bambi sliding on a frozen pond).

I’m sure it’s a rite of passage to wipe the floor with the new girl, and did they ever. I was pushed around, knocked down, and passed. Stubbornly I would get back up, hustle, catch up, and all to find myself on my ass again. I refused to look weak. I would not give up. I wanted this.

They weren’t malicious. There was no ill will, or name calling or laughter at my expense. Maybe a good hearted smile at my tenacity, but nothing of the hazing I had been warned about by my jock husband. But they skated circles around me and cheered my falls (and cheered even harder when I got up).

While I knew some of them individually, they were frightening en masse. A clump of wheels, pointy shoulders and swinging hips surrounded me. I was a Doll and yet I was out of my league.
As the 2 hours drew to a close, I had to remind myself that I had fought for this privilege. I had worked hard to pass my Min Skills. After one practice I saw in action what I had only considered in theory. Minimum skills are exactly that…MINIMUM SKILLS. They are not enough to make you a true derby girl. They are merely the absolute bare minimum required to keep you safe on the track. They give you the opportunity to practice with a group of girls who you have so much to learn from. It was an honour to have them wipe the floor with me, and one I look forward to passing on to those girls who will have the honour of joining us shortly.

Bust’er Up