Published on July 10th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor0
Drills, spills and bellyaches by Andy Frye
Men’s Team USA Tryouts
By Andy Frye
At the end of June, the first-ever Men’s Team USA roller derby tryouts were held. The initiative spearheaded by Mo “Quadzilla” Sanders, Jonathan R. of the New York Shock Exchange and others comes ahead of the 2014 Men’s Roller Derby World Cup, which is now scheduled for March 2014 in Birmingham, England.
The weekend of June 22 and 23, approximately 70 skaters from all over the country flew to Chicago to venture out to the countryside, suiting up at the Aurora Skate Center, on the outskirts of Aurora, IL, for two days of rigorous tests.
Derby men from larger and more established derby leagues like the St. Louis Gatekeepers, the Race City Rebels, New York, and national champions Your Mom Roller Derby all joined in the mix with other skaters from smaller clubs from across the nation.
“What we’re looking for,” said Jonathan R., “is ultimately to enter the World Cup with USA having two full rosters of 14, plus two alternates, for a total at this point of 30 players.”
Jonathan R., one of the New York Shock Exchange’s veteran jammers and one of the main organizers, spent much of the time during Saturday’s session monitoring players’ agility, speed, strengths, and weaknesses. Meanwhile, Quadzilla, the owner-entrepreneur behind Grn Mnstr Roller Sports who also skates with the Puget Sound Outcasts, issued commands and orchestrated testing drills throughout the day. Jonathan mentioned that this first men’s national team is a grassroots effort modeled much after the women’s Team USA tryouts from just two years ago.
“Basically we’re working backwards from the World Cup 2014. It’s all kinds of DIY in the making, but we’ve reached out for support to the women’s national team for a little guidance on how to get things going.”
Starting the first session held on Saturday afternoon, each skater got a red and blue Team USA shirt with an assigned squad number on the back after checking in, plus a quick orientation about the weekend’s agenda.
All in all, Team USA tryouts were fast and rigorous, run like a comprehensive roller derby practice at a fast-than-normal and highly competitive pace. Saturday’s session started out with endurance drills, followed by a skills course designed mainly to test each player’s finite agility and skating skills. After the initial tests, Quadzilla led the participants in a series of blocking and jamming drills. Sunday, Day Two consisted of additional warm-ups, testing drills and a pair of scrimmages once players were broken up into three classes, based on skillsets, position, and ability.
While an initial cut after of 15 participants was made at the end of Day One, and the 28 skaters and 2 alternates of Team USA were announced July 10th, the organizers hope to better establish their final roster through training camps to be held in the Fall 2013.
The current word on the World Cup is that a rankings system will be put into place in order to rank the different national teams and ascertain who plays who in the first round or group stage of the tournament. Thereafter it is likely that the March 2014 World Cup, with its planning efforts still in-progress, will continue competition after the first round in a secondary knockout stage, very similar to the women’s Blood and Thunder World Cup held in Toronto, in December 2011.
“What we’re expecting this is a pretty broad competition,” Jonathan R. said, “with up to 17 different countries from around the world entering men’s teams.”
Last week the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) release its “Midseason Rankings,” which noted the top 31 MRDA member teams in the world. And currently, the MRDA rankings hint at the growth of the sport internationally with two teams from England –in Manchester and London—as well as one in Montreal, Canada, sitting among the top ranked club teams.
In addition to the MRDA news, Team England Roller Derby announced its final roster of 42 players on Tuesday, July 2. Currently Team France is in the works, and Team Canada has set its tryout sessions for September 1, in Toronto.
A video from the tryouts by Andy Frye.