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Published on August 10th, 2011 | by Frenzy Lohan

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The Hustle: Derby and Work Wisdom from Brawling Barista

I’ve known River City Rollergirls’ Brawling Barista since we were both young teens in Richmond, Virginia. We were in different, though sometimes overlapping social circles, but while we weren’t best pals we’ve been keeping track of one another through the years.

She does derby and cafes, I once did derby and now do a cafe. We’ve commiserated during time periods when we were both working crazy hours to get businesses up and running, as well as randomly messaged one another with cafe and derby questions . She is one of the hardest-working people I know. Her answers to my goofy questions knocked me dead, and they will knock you dead, too. Then we’ll all be dead, and we’ll all know more about what a very wise skater thinks about derby, business, and life.

FL: Tell me some basics. Name, how long you’ve been doing derby, etc.

BB: Brawling Barista #31, I’ve been playing for a little over 4 years now for the River City Rollergirls of Richmond, Virginia..

FL: Let’s talk bidness. I know you manage cafes, and have helped open many cafes, and do a lot of promotion for your league, but mainly, I just have an overall impression of “Brawling Barista knows her shit.” What do you actually do, and how’d you get to know your shit so well?

BB: Hahaha. Hey thanks! I pride myself in knowing my shit actually! I like to be a leader. I like to pivot, I like to coach, and by virtue of angry breeding I have a loud-ass voice that can shake the rafters and make people flinch. If I’m coaching, and I tell you to do something, you will never be able to say you didn’t hear me.

Before I actually knew my shit, I spent a lot of time studying. I went to countless games, and wrote notes at every single one. I read a lot about the sport, and tried to talk to seasoned players about the game. I have notes on just about every team in the east, and I like to find patterns and strategies in the game.

In regards to my real life job, I did the same thing. I have literally worked almost every job in food service from ice cream scooper to chef, and if I counted up the number of jobs I’ve had, its in the low 30’s range. I’m not afraid to ask someone how to do something, I’m not afraid to fail or look a fool, and that influences every aspect of my life. Even though I know I will never be the best at everything, it doesn’t stop me from working hard at it. There is no replacement for determination.

FL: What is the one thing that you wish skaters just took as a given that would make your league business easier?

BB: Everyone has to work, everyone has to have a job, and everyone needs to care about the success of the league regardless of their own ability or station. Its really easy to do everything yourself, because you know you can count on you. But that leads to burn out, bad feelings and frustration. It’s hard managing other people’s schedules, and begging for assistance at times. But you know what, this is everyone’s league, I’m not the boss here, this is not my livelihood, so everyone has to pitch in. Sometimes it takes some serious guilting to get it done, but we manage.

FL: Get braggy: what are a couple of things, in derby, career, or the old double-dip that you’re really proud of?

BB: Any time we beat another team as a team and a bout goes really smoothly, I’m as happy as if I had won an Oscar. I’m prone to making speeches, and shedding a tear over a victory. In my professional life, we win a lot of awards and accolades for our excellent food, and I did win “The One to Watch” and “Top 25 under 25″ in my field once upon a time. In derby I’ve won MVP, most improved, most motivational, best leader, best death stare, and a couple others I can’t remember. I’m blushing just listing these, because I really don’t like to brag. I like “best death stare” the best.

FL: Everyone’s felt derby sucking their time and energy away from work, and work cramping their derby style. What are some of your tricks for finding balance?

BB: Make a plan, and then ask for help. If you’re working on something for derby, and its starting to suffer, ask someone to help, to their face. I always try to remember that if we win it’s as a team, and if we lose it’s as a team, so why should it be any different in the operational side of things? State your case to someone who you feel could help you, explain the goal, and get them on board.

I stress the importance of speaking with your league mates face to face, because we all get emails and texts and see people’s whines on facebook or whatever. Asking someone personally makes them feel like they (not just someone) are part of the solution.

For work, remember that you’re doing all that hard work so you can do derby. Stop procrastinating, make priorities, and get your shit done. Think of practice as a reward, and not a punishment. If you have to miss practice because of work, drag yourself to the gym or open skate and try to make it up. Always do it for your teammates, if you don’t want to do it for yourself.

FL: Why cafes? For that matter, why derby?

BB: I started working when I was really young, and a cafe was the only place that would hire me. I became pretty good at it, and it just stuck. Now I manage three cafes, and two upscale convenience stores and have a really silly but important sounding title for a 27 year old. A lot of what I do in derby influences how I behave in the real world and vice versa.

I started playing begrudgingly after my sister introduced me to someone at a yard sale. I thought the rollergirls were bitches. They all looked so mean! I had no interest initially. When I was dragged to practice, I really hated fresh meat, (I was awful!) but she kept bringing me back to practice. She believed in me during a time I was a grumpy, overworked mess, and I’m grateful that she made me do it.

The minute we started hitting, I knew I had found my home. She and I are best friends and I’m so happy to know her (love you Booty Queen!). I like to think I bring a level of professionalism from my job to derby, in the hopes that whoever I’m dealing with will look at us as a real sports team, and not sideshow freaks.

FL: I don’t know all about your life, but I get the impression you’re a workaholic and a derbyholic. What do you do about fitting in other stuff, like sleep?

BB: I am–and I get a little less nutzo all the time, getting used to a new normal, and how to prioritize things in my life, and it’s hard to pass up derby for something else. Derby is still way up there in regards to priority, and luckily it affords me the opportunity to travel, but I try to find time to do other things, or just do nothing for once.

Each week, I take a look at the calendar, see what’s going on, and plan out personal time. I actually write it in the calendar like a nerd, because otherwise I know I will plan something in its place. I love to cook and bake, and have been known to take on large projects like making wedding cakes and elaborate dinners.

FL: I know that like a lot of us, you’re in the multiple injury club. How do you navigate your job(s) when you’re broken?

BB: I try not to tell anyone when I’m injured, both for pride’s sake, and being easily annoyed. I try to go about my business in the most normal way possible, even when I’m suffering. I never want my job to think that I’m a risky employee just because I play a sport.

When I have an injury that requires a brace or visible apparatus of some sort, people generally ask but I’’ll say something like “I’m fine, don’t worry about it.” Or, I am likely to tell them a wild and crazy story (“Oh this brace? I’m taking human growth hormone to grow taller so I can enter America’s Next Top Model.” “Oh, this finger brace? A shark bit me!” The boot on my foot? I pulled 10 kittens from a burning elevator!” “Oh, my limp? I slide tackled the washington monument for giving me the side-eye!”) and when they say “really?!” I say “No.”

They usually leave me alone at that point, taking the hint that I don’t really wan to talk about it with them. My boss is pretty anti-, so i try to keep it low key. Some of my coworkers and employees know I play, some don’t. I try not to talk derby at work, and I try never to miss a work day because of derby. I may be sitting on a bag of frozen peas, but I’ll be there.

FL: Getting into motivational poster territory here: who inspires you?

BB: Anyone who shows up to practice all the time, and keeps working hard at this sport. Anyone who comes back from injury or baby leave, and totally kicks ass. Anyone who takes time to thank another player or support staffer. Any coaches who can be that balance of demanding and awesome. Anyone who believes in their teammates, and helps them get better. anyone who is a nurse or EMT in their real life, plays derby and then has to sacrifice their own playing time to take care of an injured teammate.

FL: What’s the biggest lesson from derby you’ve carried into your working life?

BB: I remember my first scrimmage as an All Star, and a teammate of mine told me that she would do anything I needed her to, and that she would always have my back as long as I had hers. That you should help a teammate in need- even if it means losing your position or putting yourself in a rough spot, and to never ever stop fighting until that 4th whistle. And then she actually did it, she put herself in a rough position for me, time and time again just so I could be successful in mine.

She helped me understand what it means to be selfless, and it made me do that for my teammates from that day on. Being on a team of such courageous, smart and interesting women from all walks of life has showed me the importance of working as a team, that you don’t have to do everything yourself, and that someone’s looking out for you. In my life I try to think about my actions and how they affect others. How a good leader would lead this team, and luckily it works in real life too.

Do you know any hard-working derby-connected people I should be talking to? Leave me a comment with that person’s name and how to get in touch, or e-mail cara.dudzic@gmail.com.

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Frenzy Lohan


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