Derby Pebbles with Pain Gwen
This is is Pain Gwen’s 8th season on the Chicago Outfit. She joined back in 2008 when the Outfit was still small and and getting their sea legs with roller derby. Without any prior skating experience or athletic experience in general, PG’s learning curve was steep while the Outfit was still finding its footing. There wasn’t much in the way of training at first. It was more of a “figure it out as you go” approach. In PG’s first game, she didn’t even quite know how to stop effectively so she spent her game just coasting to the pivot line on the track. These were the early years and everyone on the team was still finding their way and learning the game. As the WFTDA has grown so has the Chicago Outfit. Per PG, training has really come full circle since starting. In those early years, there weren’t the 3 different teams or levels of skating we have now. Everyone was just one big group and as we grew, so did our skills and so did our training. As more and more skills were developed and as new skaters came on to begin their time with the team, the Outfit has been able to fill itself out into the 3 levels of training and play that it has today.
Pain Gwen fell in love with derby immediately. To her, sports were always too difficult as she’s always been more artistic. Painting and mixed media, you can find PG’s artwork all over the Outfit. With derby though, she found that she wanted to practice and workout with the team to get better. It was a slow progression for her. She played a lot of games in those early years with the then Shade Brigade. More game play along with all of the practices and off and on-skates workouts, helped to develop her skills and confidence. She also spent a year on the coaching committee, coaching our junior team, the Chicago Riots. Being able to teach others how to play the sport, even if she couldn’t do the skills perfectly, helped her to better understand herself as a skater. She was a founding member of the Shade Brigade B Team for the Outfit and quickly rose through the ranks to help newer skaters navigate their way into derby play and help her teammates gain their confidence in play as well. As she grew in her own right, she found herself rising through to the top levels of the Shade team and playing many games.
After 4 years of hardwork and perseverance, she found herself skating on the Syndicate A team. Our charter team. PG found that it was a tougher transition than anticipated though. Going from number one on the Shade Brigade to number 14 on Syndicate and really, going from being on a B team to an A team or a C to a B or any combo thereof can take its toll. There was a plateau period for her and feeling like she just was not getting any better. In those first few years, she found herself being rostered for Syndicate games but not seeing much time spent on the track. She still played with the Shade as well and found that her time spent playing with the Shade and gaining the confidence in her skills there, is what gave her the confidence to put toward finding her way onto the track with the Syndicate.
This will be her 4th season with the Syndicate and putting in the off-skates hours, going to team specific and general practices, and just watching more and more roller derby has helped PG to keep moving forward in her game play and stepping off and up from that plateau. She is now focused more on her jamming skills than the blocking skills she’s honed over the years and she is taking all of that energy and hard work and putting it toward a new obstacle for herself. Something any veteran skater will tell you is tough work but keeps the game interesting and fun and challenging for yourself.
Pain Gwen’s best advice to our new skaters looking to make their way up from the now Shakedown C team to Shade Brigade and eventually onto the Syndicate, is to watch as much roller derby as possible. Watch the team skate at scrimmage, go to games and watch and cheer, watch other teams via youtube and derby blogs. The more you watch the more you can see what others are doing, how their bodies are moving and being manipulated, how their feet work on the floor, and it will provide you with a better idea and a great foundation of where your body should be when you’re in the rink at practice or squaring off in a game against an opponent.
- Pain Gwen & Rhonda Swanson