As myself and Tiger Bay wind down after our first ever tournament (2013: A Skate Odyssey, hosted by the wonderful Gent Go-Go Rollergirls) I have been pondering over the events of the weekend and thought I’d share some of my thoughts with you guys.

© Marko Niemelä

“I am not a jammer. I am a blocker who occasionally jams.”

This has been my ‘go to’ response to ‘what position do you play?’ ever since I started competing in roller derby.  I do enjoy jamming, but I enjoy blocking more.  I do think I’m a fairly good jammer, but I believe I’m a much better blocker.

However at our weekend at 2013: Skate Odyssey, I somehow managed to find myself jamming in two of the most important jams of Tiger Bay’s existence; the final jam vs. Helsinki and that final jam vs. Berlin.

(What is quite entertaining to note is that both jams played out exactly the same way, only with the complete opposite outcome for us. The jam vs. Helsinki saw us three points ahead and all we had to do was get lead and run down the clock.  The jam vs. Berlin saw us at a deficit of three points and all we had to do was get our jammer out, get awarded lead and get four points (or more!) and call it.  One went exactly as we planned, one unfortunately didn’t).

I found myself jamming at the tournament way more than usual, especially in the Berlin game.  It seemed that my body type and ‘head down and power through’ approach to jamming worked well against their style of defence. As such, line ups were switched around and in the second half I found myself jamming one off/one on and think I only blocked two or three times – this is unheard of!

So what did I learn?

I need to start thinking of myself as a ‘real’ jammer (even writing that feels weird) and I need to be prepared for the possibility that I may get jammed more than three times per half in games.

I need to further improve my fitness. I feel like I could block forever if needed, but as soon as my normal rotation is switched around and I’m jammed more than usual? Oh brother!  I’d like to get to the point where I can jam one off/one on without wanting a hug from my Mum.  By the end of the Berlin game I looked like I’d dipped my head in a bucket of water. Master Blaster on the other hand looked like she’d just stepped out of the salon.

I am able to stay calm at crucial moments.  That last nail biting jam vs Helsinki was probably the most calm I’d been all weekend. We knew exactly what we needed to do and how it was going to go, so I just totally internalised everything and got it done. I was actually quite surprised at how calm I was (thank you ‘Mind Gym’)!  I can’t say I was quite as calm for the Berlin final jam however. Knowing you HAVE to get lead and claw points back from somewhere leads to a whole other feeling but I tried my best, and noticeably so did Berlin – the wall I came up against in that jam felt like the strongest of the whole game.

The European derby community is kind, generous, welcoming and LOUD! The cheers and support that we had all weekend (both in Gent and online) were so so appreciated.  We’ve had some wonderful comments about our game play and our team work and it makes us so happy.  One of our main goals as a league is to 100% work together and support each other (both on and off the track), be professional, stay classy and love each other.  It makes me so proud that this is visibly noticeable in our game play.

The tournament come down is massive!  You think you’re prepared for it, let me tell you – you’re not.  In the days following the tournament I was physically and mentally exhausted and my emotions went haywire (with the added bonus of having the flu!)  I missed my girls (and Pete). I missed being in sweat pants every day. I missed post-game team showers.

And one of the most exciting things I learnt?

European derby is getting more and more awesome all the time. Six points total separated the top three teams from the weekend. SIX POINTS! We beat Helsinki by three points and Berlin beat us by three points. Now that is something to be excited about.  I really cannot wait until June to watch LRG destroy the West Coast and Glasgow and ARRG kill it at ECDX!