...also known as Regulation Scrimmage (by Undead Miss Red)
Once a week, our practice time isn’t about drills and scenarios. We don’t focus on agility or endurance or speed. Once a week, we show up and just play roller derby together. Technically, it’s called Regulation Scrimmage; but since joining the Outfit in January 2013, I’ve always thought of it as Family Night. And here’s what it looks like….
We walk into our practice space at Fleetwood Roller Rink, wearing either black or white as our practice jersey -- and all of us, to one extent or another, sometimes more intently than others, start looking around to see which Outfit skaters wore the same color as we did that night. (Full disclosure: Mimi Furst and I have been known to text each other in advance and agree on a color so we can play on the same side.) This is also when we wear some of our more ridiculous Outfit swag -- Hero Shima, one of our PhD’ed skaters, wears her ‘Stoopid Shima’ jersey; Nikita wears one with her signature cheer for Matza across the back (‘Yeah, wife!’); and ask any 2013 Shakedown skater about our infamous Steak & Shakedown alter ego jerseys, because those are out in full effect at scrimmage, too. We get into our gear, warm up, and then get in line for an equipment check from our refs, just like you see before the start of a bout. The bench coaches and NSOs are there, too (along with penalty boxes). We split off into sides for a quick strategy talk, and then the first of two 30-minute halves gets underway.
The Chicago Outfit doesn’t have ‘home teams’ like many other derby leagues, where leaguemates compete against each other for a crowd. We are an all-travel league, which means we only play teams from other cities, either on their turf or ours. So our scrimmages are the one chance we have to play full-scale derby together. We capitalize on the strengths we see in our leaguemates, both veterans and newer skaters. We use the time to work on our weaknesses, both individually and as a league. Everybody jams. The hits are every bit as real as in a bout against another city, too. Take a second to consider what it’s like to join the Outfit and skate in your first scrimmage, heading out onto the jam line alongside Suzie Crotchrot, or to put on the jammer star for the first time ever and realize you need to get past Lethal Dose. It’s intimidating, but also one of the most supportive environments I’ve ever encountered.
We cheer like crazy when we see someone do something great -- on either side, because we’re excited to see fellow Outfit skaters make something amazing happen, whether they’re wearing the same jersey as we are that night or not. We yell even louder when a newer skater out-jams The Joan Ranger, or ducks past Lady K in one piece. I'm pretty sure I've never skated back to the bench area after a jam at scrimmage without hearing at least one compliment from one skater to another. Our Family is awesome.
Tonight is our last Regulation Scrimmage before the last home bout of the 2014 Chicago Outfit season. While we practice in the off-season, we won’t start scrimmaging each other again until January. We’ll gear up, split into sides and play our guts out tonight. We’ll name MVPs at the end of the night, as we always do. But MVP or not, each of us will think about how we skated as we stretch out afterward. Each of us will mentally note something we did really well on the track; we’ll try not to dwell on that one thing we completely screwed up. And more than a few of us will realize how much we’ll miss Family Night during the off-season.
Come out to the Windy City Fieldhouse this Saturday for our Home Closer against the DC Rollergirls -- doors at 6:00, first bout at 7:00. The Chicago Outfit has had a fantastic 2014 season, and there is no one we would rather celebrate with at our Home Closer than every single member of our Extended Family.
Click here for tickets, and we’ll see you Saturday!