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Published on July 18th, 2012 | by DerbyLife


Derby Pen Pals: Meet Wendy

My name is Wendy Knaub, I am 25 years old, a resident of Columbus, Ohio and have been skating addictively since I first strapped on quads March 28, 2011. I guess I should start out by confessing that I’m not really rookie in the truest sense of the word. I skate on the Ohio Roller Girls Recreation League. I’ve been skating on their Rec League for a little over a year. Tryouts for OHRG’s B-team (Gang Green) are later this year (super extra nervous!). I aspire to be on registered WFTDA team within the next 1-2 years. I am most interested in joining OHRG because that was the team that made me fall in love with the sport and the team I am best acquainted with. However, they are super competitive and I know have few opening spots. I am willing to relocate around my state to join a lesser-ranked team if it means I actually stand a chance of becoming a registered skater (obsession defined).

Current struggles:
Prepping for tryouts
Quieting negative voices in my head
Being a slow learner
Learning to be an athlete
Overcoming shyness around other (better) skaters


Short term:
Gaining confidence as a skater (and around other skaters)
Finding ways to challenge/push myself
Skills (turn around toe-stops, crossovers while skating backwards, side-to-side skating)
Fortheloveofsweetderby learning to keep my elbows in

Long term:
Make a competitive team
Become a better jammer
Learning the rules and being able to apply them

I would have to say my biggest accomplishment so far is just sticking with it, a huge success composed of a hundred smaller ones and several hundred failures. I am a slow learner and over a relatively short time span (1 year and 3 months) I have gone from barely being able to stand up in skates to being able to fly around a track and hit people. Being a rec league skater (we scrimmage once a month and have one practice a month), most of my learning has occurred through my own endeavors. I have zero athletic background; I was the fat kid in gym class who was always picked last. My persistence (stubbornness) to become a successful derby player has completely made over every aspect of my life. I found this sport as an obese recent college grad. I skated through a deep bout of post-college depression, lost over 100 pounds (literally skating my ass off) and through a very debilitating divorce. I remember when learning how to just execute a clean cross-over felt like the hugest achievement. I have experienced many things: getting injured several times and learning to come back from it and correct my mistakes. Overcoming my severe social anxiety–“Hey you like derby and own a cat too? Let’s be best friends!” Dealing with jealousy–one of my best friends with crazy innate skating talent makes the team before me and I’m left struggling as she continuously excels and I feel completely left behind. My most prized realization that the best success as a skater comes from taking responsibility for your own improvement. Knowing that even as my list of skills and talents to work on (skating faster, smoother recoveries, not tripping) I have the ability to set these small goals and actually achieve them when only a year previously I fully believed it would take me an entire year to just learn a basic crossover.

My derby heroes (if I am chasing down my roots):
White Flight (Rose City Rollers): I remember watching her interview in Brutal Beauty as a total derby newb. I was amazed at how articulately she spoke and how successful she seemed to be in every facet of her life. Roller derby women are some of the most genuine and amazingly accomplished (not to mention diverse) people. White Flight is not only a phenomenal skater (Hello pegassist!); in her career working with children with mental illnesses and coaching her team’s junior derby team she seems to have filled her life with activities she is truly passionate about. That is the kind of life I crave!

Pippi Rip Your Stockings (Ohio Roller Girls): My very first derby game/my very first afterparty; she probably thought I was some sort of psychotic stalker because I couldn’t stop staring at her. When you watch her skate, she looks the epitome of a high caliber athlete. At the after party I sat at a table near her…staring starstruck, every muscle in her body has such amazing definition and consequently she is ridiculously tan because she is also an agricultural goddess/farmer. When I think of the sport’s shift to becoming a mainstream form of athletics Pippi is the poster child I envision.

Lalala (Cleveland Firestarter’s Junior Derby): This little athlete, who even has her own Facebook fan page, is the daughter of retired OHRG skater Handle Barz. Is it possible to feel completely elated with inspiration and simultaneously devastatingly inadequate? She has been roller skating and playing several sports her entire life. I will never be as good as the skater she will become. She skates with such an unadulterated passion, watching her; one knows truly she is the future of this sport. If these junior derby skaters (aptly named fire starters) are the burning, flowing arteries of the derby corporeal body I am thrilled be a small pulsing vein of such a powerful creature.


Hi Wendy,

Thanks so much for sharing your story with me. I’m excited to be on your derby journey with you.

First, I’ll tell you a bit about myself, then I’ll respond to your email. This is my fifth season with Gotham Girls Roller Derby, where I play for Manhattan Mayhem (my home team, of which I’m Vice Captain) and I am in my fourth season with the All Stars. Before that, I skated with Suburbia Roller Derby for a few months when they were first starting up. I had originally tried out for Gotham in 2007, but was cut after callbacks. It seemed like a devastating setback at the time, but in retrospect, it was great to get another year of roller skating under my belt before joining derby. Prior to derby, I played quite a lot of sports, including 6 years of ice hockey and over 10 years of softball. I’d dabbled in many others, as well, but none of them ever really resonated with me the way derby has. I hadn’t been athletic since half a season of rec-league ice hockey my freshman year of college, but in 2006, at 24, I discovered roller derby and fell passionately in love.

I’ve had a lot of high points in my derby career (winning MVP in my first bout (!); being the league-high point scorer my second season, when my home team made it to the championships for the first time in years; scoring over 70 points in my first WFTDA interleague bout at Eastern Regionals in 2009; being voted in as Vice Captain for Mayhem last year; FINALLY beating the team that knocked us out of the championship for the first time in my whole derby career and only the second time in league history; and securing our spot in the championship for 2012). That said, I’ve had just as many low points, which I hate to dwell on because some of them are still so painful they feel like a punch in the gut (like separating my shoulder in the 2009 home team championship that we lost, or a disastrous run of jammer penalties in the 2009 WFTDA championship game vs. Oly that knocked Gotham out of the running for the title that year). Don’t think that just because this list is shorter that I’ve had fewer setbacks than I’ve had victories. Everyone who has played the sport and achieved any level of success has done so because she (or he) has faced up to challenges again and again, and pushed, sweated, cursed, and sometimes cried until finally, she overcomes the obstacle that seemed so insurmountable.You’ve already had experience with that–so, kudos!

It sounds like you have reasonable goals and are taking a long-term view of your relationship with the sport, which is fantastic. Over the next months, I look forward to hearing about your trials and triumphs, and helping you out in any way I can. For now, I thought I’d address your short-term goals:

Prepping for tryouts
Quieting negative voices in my head
Being a slow learner
Learning to be an athlete
Overcoming shyness around other (better) skaters

What are you doing to prepare for tryouts? When are they? I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, and give you any advice I can.

The next one, quieting the negative voices, is definitely a critical skill for derby. I’m glad that you’ve identified it as something to work on–it really is a skill that can be practiced just like any other. What I’d recommend for starters is to flip it–work on positive reinforcement and visualization. Before my first bout, I was really terrified, because I knew I’d have to jam against Suzy Hotrod. My stomach was in knots for two weeks. Finally, I sat myself down and figured out qualities I’d need to have to out-jam Suzy, then told myself I already had them. For the entire week leading up to the bout, any time I had butterflies, I’d think “I am fast, agile, and fearless.” I told myself that all throughout bout day as I got ready, as I warmed up at Hunter College, and then again as I was skating out to the line with the jammer panty before the first jam of the game started. I honestly don’t remember how that jam went (though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t lead), but I realized that Hey! It’s just like practice! And even if I wasn’t AS fast or AS agile as I wanted to be yet, telling myself I was those things definitely helped me to be fearless. I’m a huge believer in the power of positive thinking for sports. Once you have the basic skills down, 60% of the game is mental, and confidence is a big part of that.

What do you mean about being a slow learner? Can you give me an example of what you mean and how it’s hurting your derby career?

Learning to be an athlete is another great goal! What are you doing towards that right now?

For overcoming shyness, try the positive thinking exercise above. Honestly, everyone has been a rookie, and most people who are super scary on the track are really charming, wonderful people. Some of the biggest stars in derby, who you’d think would have huge egos (see: Suzy Hotrod) are some of the kindest, most giving people I’ve ever met. (Don’t tell Suzy I told you that, it’ll hurt her badass reputation. But seriously, because I expressed interest and desire to learn, and because she could probably see me shadowing her like a stray cat during drills at league practice, she worked with me one-on-one a lot and helped me an incredible amount with jamming.)

I’ve only addressed some of what you put in your email, but I figure that now that you know a bit about me, this can become more like a conversation. Feel free to ask me whatever you’d like, and I’ll try my best to answer your questions.

Em Dash

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