Featured Skater: Librawlian #622

Our latest featured skater is a bit of a legend both within the league and in the broader roller derby circles. Librawlian is a co-captain of our charter travel team, the Lake Effect Furies.  Before dedicating all of her skating time to the Furies, she played four seasons on the Nickel City Knockouts.  Originally from Colorado, Brawl is an intense, yet goofy, athlete who has contributed to the Furies’ move up WFTDA rankings into 18th, their highest spot ever. While crowds love watching her epic apex jumps and slippery footwork, her value to QCRG extends beyond just her skills on the track.  She is heavily involved in the league, contributing in her roles as training director and coach of B-team, the Subzero Sirens.  Her skating on the track appears deft and effortless, but she works tirelessly behind the scenes in order to refine and strengthen her skills, her team and the league itself.  Her positive leadership, passion and work ethic make her a great role model and QCRG is proud to be her derby home.

You have quite an extensive athletic history, including hockey, lacrosse and gymnastics.  Did you play any other sports?  How has your athletic history translated into roller derby?

I definitely played a bunch of other sports. I played soccer and basketball as a kid, but that was more at that level where kids just play every sport that they can. I stuck with hockey and lacrosse the most consistently and picked up gymnastics in high school.  I definitely feel like hockey helped a lot, obviously. I think skating is skating when you come down to it, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re on inline skates or quad skates or ice skates, the mechanics are all the same.  For me, it was just a matter of figuring out the logistics of going from a thin blade to four wheels.  Ice is a little bit more forgiving when you’re skating because you can slide.  A wood floor is not as forgiving as ice, and that was an interesting thing for me to figure out when I started playing roller derby.

How old were you when you started skating?

Growing up in Colorado, we had lots of ponds in our neighbourhood.  As soon as I could skate, I was out there skating with my family in the winters. I didn’t officially pick up hockey until I was maybe eight, somewhere around that age.

Could you tell us about your rookie year?

Oh gosh. My rookie year flew by.  I joined QCRG in April and I tried out and made the Furies in May, and I started bouting with them that summer.  I played a few games with the Nickel City Knockouts over the summer and then I was drafted to the Knockouts later that year.  It was a blur because I was still trying to figure out exactly what I was doing. It all happened really fast.

Photo by Brian Grinham
Photo by Brian Grinham

What was the experience like trying out for the Furies still being so fresh?

I hadn’t 100% figured out how to stop yet, but I knew how to go.  So that was my strategy. “If I just go, everything will be fine! I’ll just figure it out.”  But I definitely struggled a lot with stopping.  At the tryouts, I accidentally crashed my former coach Andy into the carpet bunkers at Rainbow Rink.   He has a scar to prove it.

You spent four seasons playing for the Nickel City Knockouts before going Furies only.  What did you enjoy about playing in QCRG’s house league?

I loved my time on the Knockouts.  Anybody who has played for a home team and a travel team would probably agree that there is a different vibe on each team.  There is a lot less pressure on the home teams. I think there is a little more room for fun and silliness.  It’s a blast playing for the travel team, but it’s just different.  Playing in the house league also gave me the opportunity to test out and try a lot of new things and then bring that to the Furies.

How would you describe your playing style?  What do you consider to be your signature move?

I would like to think that I am fast and nimble. But I think I’m a little bit more of a bull in a china shop.  I don’t know if I necessarily have a signature move, unless you consider falling a signature move.  Because I definitely fall down! A lot.

I definitely think that you’re very good at fooling people and controlling the blockers with your jukes, which is actually very hard to do.  How did you learn how to juke?

I picked up juking from my experience playing lacrosse.  I hadn’t really realized how difficult juking was until putting on skates and then trying to show other people how to do it.  It takes some patience and focus to try and figure out how to get it just right.  Sometimes during practice, I’ll skate around practicing my jukes on other people. This helps to give me that exact perception of when you’re supposed to throw what, and at what time and what distance, and what speed, and making impact or no impact.

You are well known as a jammer, but you are an excellent blocker as well.  What do you enjoy about blocking?

I love everything about blocking.  I think my favourite part about blocking is getting to work with other people, because when you’re jamming you’re not necessarily by yourself, but it is a much more solitary position than blocking is. As a jammer, working with your blockers to get out is essential but trying to turn four minds into one mind is a super interesting thing to me. I like being able to work closely with other people.   I really like positional blocking and being in somebody’s way, trying to bend and contort your body in order to adapt to the other jammer.

Photo by Rene T. Van Ee
Photo by Rene T. Van Ee

Do you feel like because you jam it helps you read the jammer’s mind sometimes?

Absolutely.  Sometimes you’ll be blocking, and you’ll think, “Okay, if it was me in this situation, I would try to pull the blockers all the way here, and then I would pull this move!”  So it definitely helps in terms of thinking what the next steps are going be, and thinking about how we need to prepare for that as a wall in order to keep us a step ahead.

Could you tell us about what kinds of things you do to train off skates?

I would say the primary thing I do is weightlifting.  I lifted weights throughout college because of lacrosse, but after I graduated, it was a weird time because I wasn’t playing any sports and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, so I got into weightlifting.  It’s definitely carried through to my training with derby to help supplement what we are doing on the track, by building power, speed, and strength in the gym.  We train as a team at IMPACT  Sports Performance which has definitely helped out a lot.  I bike ride a lot too.  That definitely helps and it’s just something different to do in terms of cardio.

What kind of things do the Furies work on at Impact?

Ooh! We get to do some fun stuff.  They have some of that weird equipment that you wouldn’t come across at a normal gym because it’s equipment that needs adult supervision.  We usually split our time on the turf or treadmills and the weight room. They have some interesting treadmills that we get belted into or are self-powered, which have helped build our speed and power. I think our training at Impact has helped a lot in terms of our strength and endurance, in addition to our general proprioception. Through weightlifting, you have to really focus on the movement and mechanics of your muscles, so as we’re skating, we have a better awareness of what our bodies are doing and where it is in space.

The Lake Effect Furies are a very hard working team, and this has paid off in their increased WFTDA rankings. What does the Furies’ schedule look like?  What goes into being a D1 level team?

Our practicing multiple times a week definitely helps.  Our practices are intense and focused because everyone treats it like a job.  As soon as we get there, we are there to work.  We want to get as much out of that practice as we possibly can, so we don’t waste a minute of that practice time because we value it so much.  The weight training we do at Impact has also helped the Furies accelerate in the rankings.  Watching footage, not only of our opponents, but to see what else people are doing out there.  I don’t think there’s a day that I don’t watch footage.  We try to absorb everything that’s out there, and that has been very valuable and paid off, too.

What are your personal and team goals for this year’s playoffs in Dallas?

I want us to win as many games as we can! We have worked so hard this season, and the seasons before, to get to where we are now. If we go in there and we play the best games that we can, then I’ll be happy.  You never know what has changed with your opponent, or how they are going to be on game day. If we are able to just play Furies derby for an entire weekend, that is my primary goal.

You tried out for the 2018 World Cup Team USA.  You made it to the scrimmage portion of the tryout, but ultimately did not make the team.  Could you tell us a bit about the tryout process? What was it like?

Long and hard.  I think the tryout was about five hours long including the scrimmage, so it’s a very exhausting process. It makes sense, because they’re trying to test you as much as they can in the shortest amount of time.   It was such a valuable learning experience.  I took so much out of that tryout and getting to play with the best of the best that’s out there.  It was an honour to be there with the skaters that were there, I got to play with skaters I probably would not have the opportunity to play with otherwise. It was a really great environment too because everyone, even though we were competing against each other for a spot on the team, was very supportive, encouraging, and motivating.

Photo by Jim Bush
Photo by Jim Bush

Alongside with Bricks Hit-House, Go! and Insinerator, you played in the Battle of the All-Stars tournament for Team New York, and your team took first place.  What was this experience like and what did you learn from it?

Playing with Team New York at Battle of the All-Stars was a highlight of this season.  It was such a fun weekend because I don’t think I would ever have the opportunity to play with most of those skaters, so it was awesome to be able to play with people from all over the state and other states.  We didn’t get a chance to practice before the weekend, so when we went in, there were a lot of unknowns.  Going in without ever having played with your teammates, and being able to gel as soon as you hit the track and instantly hit your groove was really exciting.

I think the more that we played together, we figured out what each other’s styles were, the ways that we communicate, the ways that we block and jam, what other people’s’ needs were.  We were able to figure that out really quickly.  We were constantly playing, then tweaking and refining things. That game against Pennsylvania was when we really figured things out.

Everyone was so supportive.  I remember coming back to the bench and being so happy to be there with those people.  They were just an absolutely fantastic group.

What do you think about before a game when you are lacing up your skates?

I really try to just clear my mind.  I do a lot of visualization and try to imagine the different scenarios that might happen.  I imagine the different starts and try to visualize everything so then when the game actually happens, nothing will take me off of my mental game because I have worked through things in my head.

Generally, when I’m lacing up my skates, at that point, it’s more about focusing on my energy and my breathing.  I try to make sure that the rest of the team is feeling good and that everyone is catching each other’s vibes and getting to the point where we are ready to play when that first whistle goes.  The vibe of the team consumes a lot of my thoughts on gameday because it is important that we are all in the right head space, nobody feels panicked or rushed, and we are ready to go.

You began playing roller derby in 2012, so you have seen a lot of changes within the game, both with rulesets and style of play.  Where do you envision roller derby going in the future?

That’s a great question.  I definitely think the sport is going to continue to gain ground in terms of being validated by larger groups of outside people.  It will break out of the fringe sport realm, which I think we have already been doing for some time.  I think that recognition by the larger sports community is definitely going to happen.

In terms of rules, I don’t know! I feel like I didn’t see some of the rule changes coming that happened in the most recent update.  I am all in favour for anything that helps make the game better.  I appreciate being able to see how the sport has progressed because when I came in, it was a big transitionary time.  Two whistle starts were still a thing.  So now I feel really cool when I can say, “Remember when two whistles were a thing!” Granted, I only played a few games like that, but just seeing that evolution is neat.  I feel like I have more of a context to understand where we are now as a sport. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for skaters that have been doing this for ten years to see how much the sport has evolved from since the beginning.

Alongside being co-captain of the Furies, you are one of QCRG’s training directors.  Could you tell us a little bit about your work on the training committee?  Why is it important to you?

We realized that training is a really big entity in our league because it handles a good majority of the policies, processes and procedures that come up on a daily basis, so we divided it into three positions.  The work that I do deals a lot with the intake of new skaters, visiting skaters, transfer skaters, and some of the day to day business-y type things.  I really value my role as training director because of my long history with sports.  Seeing how other organizations have been run and knowing from an athlete’s perspective the type of things that should be in place, the type of training that we need, I value being able to give that insight back to the league.

Photo by CK Photographic Systems
Photo by CK Photographic Systems

In addition to being QCRG’s training director, you also co-coach the B-team, the Subzero Sirens.    What do you love about coaching?

I love everything about coaching.  My favourite thing is seeing the lightbulb moments when people learn something new.  That brings me so much joy and reignites my passion for playing and coaching every single time.  I know how frustrating and difficult it can be to understand a concept or to master a skill. To help other people get through that process and get to the point where things are starting to click is the best.  So I absolutely love that.

How would you describe your coaching style?

Weird.  Totally weird.  Because I don’t think I could make it through a practice or a game without an analogy or glitter.  I’m about positive leadership and trying to instill a certain work ethic into skaters.  And I really think it is important to lead by example, so I try to practice everything that I preach to the Sirens.  

Can you tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know?

This will probably cause me to lose a lot of my nerd credit.  Some people know this but not all. I have never seen any Star Wars movie.  Like any of the one hundred million Star wars movies that there are.  I’ve never seen one of them.

Do you have any favourite roller derby players?

I certainly have a number of players that I like to watch either for their style or for their work ethic or for a particular thing that they do really well.  I watch so many skaters for so many different things.  But my favourite people are the people that play the sport.  The badass moms who come in and play, the people who work three jobs and commit to playing on a team, or the people that commute and cross borders just for practice. Knowing so many of the sacrifices that people are willing to make to play this sport and to dedicate themselves so fully to it is really what I admire.