Right Place, Right Time
People ask me pretty often, “How the hell did you fall into coaching roller derby?” The simple answer is that my Lady is involved in the sport. Most times I respond by saying, “I was just in the right place at the right time.” Its the truth, but more often than not I give that answer because its a pretty drawn out story how I became a coach on an all-girl roller derby team.
Remember that scene in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button where he breaks down all the small unrelated events that occurred earlier in the day that eventually lead to his love interest being hit by a car, breaking her leg, and ending her promising dancing career? That scene really hit home for me because I, like the scene describes, believe that sometimes the defining moments in our lives are placed in front of us by a chain-reaction series of random and unrelated events. And if any one of those events didn’t happen or occurred slightly differently than they played out, there’s the possibility that you could have ended up in an entirely different position.
This is how I feel when I think about how I ended up in the position that I am right now, coaching AZDD’s Bombshells. So let me take you back to the beginning.
One of my favorite TV channels is the Food Network. No one makes cooking more manly than Bobby Flay, but that’s beside the point here. There’s this show called Ace of Cakes that Lawless and I love and its given me a whole new appreciation for bakers and birthday cakes. One of the episodes a few years back featured a cake that was ordered by a local roller derby team. Chef Duff created this badass cake that looked like a fully functional roller skate with rotating wheels and all. The episode highlighted the roller derby league and this was the point at which I realized that roller derby had become a popular sport again. After watching that, I found it a bit strange and frustrating that I kept catching the same re-run of that episode every time I tuned in. Ace of Cakes planted the seed and my interest in this reborn sport grew gradually from that point on. I wondered if Arizona had its own derby league, but didn’t think much of it for a while after that.
I used to not read the New Times very much. I happen to pick it up back in early 2008 because of a couple of articles that I was told I should read regarding some pretty heavy legal and political bullshit here in town. The shit was just barely starting to hit the fan with all the illogical and desperate legal moves that were being made by Sheriff Joe Arapio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas jointly. I despise these two men and the New Times does too so I was interested to hear what they had to say about them. I was flipping through that edition and before I came to all the adult/porn ads I saw an ad for a roller derby game. That was the point at which I realized that Arizona did in fact have a league that we could go check out sometime.
Several weeks went by and Lawless and I came to weekend where we were looking for something to do. That’s when I made that fateful suggestion to Lawless that we go check out some roller derby. I hopped on Google and searched “roller derby arizona” and the first match I got was for Arizona Roller Derby, also known as AZRD. They were holding a bout that night and Lawless and I had to decide weather to rush out and catch that one or plan to wait till the next weekend when another league, the Arizona Derby Dames, would hold their bouts. We opted to stay in that night rather than rush out to catch the bout that was about to start in an hour and the idea of catching a double-header as advertised by the Dames sounded like more fun. Such was the plan and come the next weekend, we executed it.
When we got to the Castle Sport Club that night and absorbed the crowd and the atmosphere, it took little time after the first few minutes of the bout for a wide-eyed Lawless to proclaim simply, “I want to do this.” As luck would have it, tryouts for the next group of Fresh Meat would be that Thursday. She didn’t even have to wait long. We hit up Skateland that Monday night because Lawless wanted to see if she still had the skills on skates that she had developed and honed through much of her adolescents. Tryouts would come and go and Lawless got the call back that she would be invited to join the league’s Fresh Meat class. It was crazy how quickly it all happened. We were introduced to this sport on Saturday, went to Skateland on Monday, she tried out on Thursday, and by the next Saturday she was a Fresh Meat. Bing! Bang! Boom! Just like that.
After a few weeks of Fresh Meat training Lawless found herself being pursued by several teams. None were more adamant than the Schoolyard Scrappers and their captain Rowdy Roulette. She put the full-court press on Lawless and it almost worked out. When it came close to decision time, Lawless had narrowed it down to the Schoolyard Scrappers and the Brutal Beauties, but the recruiting by Rowdy had her falling towards the Scrapper camp. But as I mentioned, it ALMOST worked out. While Lawless’ was still a Fresh Meat she showed up to a Season 3 bout and was berated in public by a member of the Schoolyard Scrappers for something trivial. I wasn’t there when it happened but her reaction to the situation when she described it to me was disappointing. I knew it was serious when she told me she was ready to quit. Lawless never quits. It takes a lot to get Lawless to give up on anything and I could tell she was serious. Things cooled down and when draft time came around I was floored at the fact that she put the Bombshells as her first choice. I was like, “Seriously, you want to be on THAT team? No one even watches their bouts cause they’re always getting blown out. BY 100 POINTS!” But Lawless’ reasoning made sense, and I bought into it. Between her two choices she had eliminated the Scrappers after the incident and though the Beauties wanted her, they didn’t really need her. She explained that she wanted to be on a team where she could really make a difference. She wanted to skate, and to be on the Bombshells most likely meant that she would be able to skate a lot. It all started to make sense and at that point I began to joke with her and started calling her “Neo/Mr. Anderson” and “Luke Skywalker.” I would tell her, “Doll, you’re The One. You’re The One that’s going to bring balance back to the force. You’re going to be The One to help make the Bombshells competitive again and bring balance back to the league.” (Flash forward to present day, I didn’t realize back then just how much I was prophesying about Lawless’ involvement and influence in the league.) So, off to skate with the ladies in red and camo she went.
Several weeks went by and Lawless was really getting into the new culture that comes with roller derby. I would follow her everywhere because I was just as eager to learn about a new sport and get to know the people my Lady was giving her time and body to. But all too often I was seeing her leave practice slightly disappointed. She didn’t feel like she was getting what she wanted out of team practice and after paying closer attention I saw why. There was great lack of organization with the Bombshells and it became easy to see why this team struggled on bout night. The practices weren’t functional and almost counterproductive. They didn’t practice basic team/roller derby concepts that even I was able to pick up after a couple bouts. So I would suggest to Lawless that she take a few things with her to suggest to her captain, Gabrihella Gauntlet. Then I did it again the next week, and the next, until I was making up drills for her to take to her team and work on. Lawless gave me credit for the organization the Bombshells were beginning to enjoy during their practices. Then that fateful moment came. I was having a drink one night with Lawless, Gabrihella, and a few other Bombshells when Gabi told me she wanted me to come coach the Bombshells. She’d been made aware of the tips I was feeding Lawless and she wanted me to come coach on the track, rather than making suggestions way off from the sidelines. I was blown away by the invitation, and felt very very unqualified to coach any team, much less a roller derby team, but I jumped on the opportunity. It’s been a life altering experience ever since.
The rest is history.
So you see, if I hadn’t been watching my favorite show about cake on one of my favorite channels; or if I had picked up the Arizona Republic instead of the New Times to get the dirt on Joe Arapio; and had we something to do on that Saturday night, or had we decided to rush out and catch the AZRD bout instead of waiting a week later to catch the Dames double-header that happened to fall right before their next tryouts; or had Lady Lawless never made the cut to join the league; and had that Scrapper not yelled at my Lady making the team Lawless was sure to be on less attractive to join; or had the Bombshells not been a struggling team that needed any help they could get; and if Gabrihella Gauntlet hadn’t taken a huge chance on me and asked me to be a part of the team…I would never have become a women’s roller derby coach, and you wouldn’t be sitting there reading this blog.
Right place, right time.