Our next featured skater is another veteran of Queen City Roller Girls. Lip Service, a lifelong roller skater, has been involved with QCRG since the start. For her first two seasons, she was an announcer. In 2008, she joined the league as a skater on the Lake Effect Furies and Devil Dollies. She played one season on the Alley Kats, and since the league scramble after the 2015 season, she has been a member of the Devil Dollies. In 2017, she won the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award at QCRG’s annual awards banquet.
Not only does she contribute to the league as an announcer and as co-Chair of the Events Committee, but she also is co-captain of the Devil Dollies. Her experience, pack awareness, smart gameplay and leadership on the track continues to strike fear into the heart of the league’s jammers, as she is a skilled and formidable blocker and pivot.
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Marietta, Georgia and I grew up in Florida.
What is your day job?
I am a Franchise Manager for a cleaning company here in Western New York.
Before roller derby, you were a competitive roller skater when you were younger. What can you tell us about this experience?
It was wonderful. It has definitely helped me with roller derby! Figure skating helped mold me into the competitor I am today. I had some fantastic role models and coaches as a young skater. I was a competitive USARS roller figure skater from 8 until I was 18. I was able to compete at a National level by the time I was 10. I competed at a Nationals from Juvenile through World Class. I believe I have accumulated a total of 75 State, Regional and National medals over the years and I think someday when my derby journey is at an end, I will head back to my figure skates where it all began.
I understand this is a hobby that runs in your family, and that your mom is also a skater. Is this how you got into roller skating?
Yes, my mom is a skater and that’s how I started. When I was really little, she had me in gymnastics, ballet, tap and jazz and things like that. But my mother went to the local roller rink in Fort Lauderdale, it was called Gold Coast Roller Rink, and she was taking skating lessons and she learned the competitive dances at a housewives class. I had to go and sit and watch my mom skate. I was a fidgety 8 year old and I wasn’t very good at sitting there and watching, so they asked me if I wanted to put some skates on. The next thing you know, I was in a competition and so was my mom three months later.
We both skated our first competition together at the Palace in Lantana, Florida, and we both got last place in everything we did. At the end of the day, we came back to the car and my mom was really upset and we both cried about how badly we were beaten. I also remember my very first program. I skated to the music from Jaws and it was super cheesy. I wore this orange outfit with three gold heart appliques on the left shoulder. The other girls at the competition had crystals all over their outfits and I was like, “I want more crystals!” I was really disheartened that I didn’t have as much glitter on my dress. I was told by my coaches, “You have to earn the glitter on your dress!” I was determined I was never going to be last place again. My next meet that I went to, I got third place. And I earned more crystals on my dress!
You started your career as a roller derby announcer. What was it like announcing QCRG at this time?
In the early days, it was a little bit different. It was more about a show and a production. People were just learning how to skate and they loved hitting each other, but we really wanted to put on a theatrical show for the fans. We interacted with the crowd and there was always a theme for the game. I actually worked QCRG’s first game, but I worked as the DJ and I did the music for the bout. By the third game, I started announcing with Mason Stone. He was the original announcer for QCRG and I became his female counterpart, Lip Service. We used to dress up in costumes together. By QCRG’s second year, it started getting really competitive and fun to announce. The play was more organized and you could see teamwork on the track. When I heard that the league was looking to start a travel team, I caught the derby bug. I wanted to play too, so I started as a player in the third season. I kept my announcing name Lip Service and hoped the crowd would remember me.
So you feel like your time as a competitive roller skater has translated to roller derby?
Absolutely. It has in so many ways. I’ve been competitive my whole life. Figure roller skating helped me embrace that, and this has helped me with roller derby. When I started playing roller derby, all I wanted to master were the rules. Most people coming in were learning skating skills, as opposed to myself. I came in and the first thing that I wanted to learn to do was how to draw a penalty on somebody. My training as a figure skater allowed me the luxury of having solid skills and to focus on more advanced play.
You still regularly contribute to the league by announcing our games. What is your favourite thing about announcing?
I love entertaining and amping up the crowd and seeing them pumped about roller derby and our athletes. I know how much that means as a player to hear the audience cheer for you. I think it’s really important to announce the skaters appropriately and let them have that moment of shine. I really like making the skaters feel special and like they are a part of something bigger. I want the girls to feel like the announcers support them no matter what color they’re wearing and I want our fans to feel as close and included to our players and sport as possible.
You spent five years skating on the Lake Effect Furies. What did you learn during this time? What did you enjoy the most about travel roller derby?
I learned how to work well with others and challenge myself in the next level of roller derby. I learned that even though we all love the same sport, we are unique and we need to try and embrace different concepts for the betterment of the whole team.The thing that I loved the most about being on the Furies was playing against people that I didn’t know and seeing what works for other teams and leagues. It was always a passionate fight to the very end and I respect that about other athletes. I also really enjoyed being on the road and visiting different cities with my teammates. I loved having that camaraderie and sharing team bonds with each other. I really enjoyed being a Fury, I felt that our team was going to be phenomenal someday. I wanted to help make sure that we made those stepping stones in the beginning so we could be a top ranked WFTDA team someday. They are, and they have made it. They make me so proud.
Throughout your career, you have skated as jammer, blocker and pivot. Which of these roles is your favourite and why?
I like them all. I love to jam. It is a lot of fun to go fast, turn left, and hope that all goes well and hear the crowd roar! I am not Librawlian, so I need a lot of help! But I favour being a pivot. If I need to come in at the last moment and get the star pass, I am okay with that, and I will do my best to put points on the board, or to prevent the other team from scoring by forcing their jammer to call it off. I definitely prefer being a blocker or pivot, because to me, it is like chess on wheels. You have to line up in a strategic way. You have to be very strategic with every action. From years of experience, I feel like I can see the other team’s plan unfolding in front of me, so I try to stop them from what they are trying to accomplish. You have to be in the right place in order to make the right play. Blocking is a thinking game for me and I appreciate that challenge.
What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you during a roller derby game?
During my very first game, I was a jammer, and I jammed the whole darn game! The blockers came in and they were hitting me and hitting me, and then I yelled at them. I actually swore and told them to get out of my way, because I thought they were not supposed to hit me because I was so nervous. One of the blockers from the other team had these very long braids in her hair, and my wrist guards caught in her hair and I couldn’t get them out. I was trying to wiggle and move and they would not come out of her braids! I was like “Well, forget this!” and I pushed her to the ground. Of course, I got a penalty and I went to the box. I felt horrible. This was back when penalties were a minute long, so I sat there in a pit of misery for a whole minute, reflecting on what I had done.
Is it true that you have a toenail collection?
Yes! I actually haven’t been collecting them recently, but I used to collect them all the time. It’s kind of a funny story where that got started, actually. When you play roller derby, you spend a lot of time on your toe stops, which can make toenails fall off. The Furies were on the road in their early years. We played a game in Wisconsin, and we went back to the hotel after a long and hard fought bout. The team decided to hit the hot tub and then my toenail came off and started floating around. They were so freaked out and thought it was really gross. I was like, “That is beautiful!” and I kept the toe nail as a memento. It grossed out my teammate, Lamb Chops, so much that I started collecting and saving them. KonichiWOW sent me some toenails when she was playing for Windy City in Chicago. I have been collecting toenails for a while now, so I have a plethora of them. One time, I made jewelry with them and presented it to someone as a gift, and they loved it, until they figured out that it was toenails.
You spent one season as an Alley Kat. What was your takeaway from this experience of switching teams?
There were some great takeaways. I was at a point in my life where I had skated derby for so long with the same people. It was such a family on the Dollies, and I loved them, but I really hadn’t had the opportunity to skate with other people in a while because I wasn’t doing travel team any more. My takeaway was that I love to help other skaters, and I enjoyed skating with a different team. I made so many new friends. I didn’t know the girls very well because we were on different teams. Skating with the Alley Kats allowed me to embrace derby again in a time where I felt that I had become stagnant. The league could feel segregated at times and it gave me an opportunity to feel the joy and excitement of roller derby from other people. When you’re in the same place for a long time, sometimes you lose the perspective of why you began in the first place. It was great to hear other people’s perspectives on roller derby.
I think it’s important to mix things up from time to time. You don’t know who you are going to work well with. We all joined roller derby because we wanted a challenge, to better ourselves, and be a part of something bigger. I learned new things, and I think I brought some new things to that team as well. It’s important for everybody to share the derby knowledge to improve us for the betterment as a whole, and to help each other.
You have witnessed so many changes in the sport of roller derby. Not only have the rules changed many times since you joined the sport, but the style of play has evolved dramatically. What has this experience been like?
It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, because not only have the rules changed, but the culture has as well. The rule changes have been necessary for safer simplified game play and it’s very challenging to embrace that at times. Strategies have evolved and can make things difficult at times to ensure that your entire team is on the same page. Terminology has grown and I will hear terms that I use renamed into something else, and that can be frustrating. I remember when backwards blocking became all the jazz and everyone was trying to do that. That one really got me because I felt that players needed to master forward skating skills prior to turning around. Now as I reflect back, it’s all trial and error, and finding out what works best to help you attain your goal.
In regards to the change in culture over the years, it was originally more of a subcultural thing. People joined because it was cool to be a roller girl. It started more as people getting together to have beers, hang out, play roller derby and hit each other hard. Now, we are really challenging ourselves and we are drawing in more athletes. It’s different than it used to be, not that there was anything wrong with the way it was before. People who are here now are really focused on training on and off skates, taking care of their bodies, and the longevity of the sport. It’s been interesting to see just who has come and gone over the years, who has stayed and remained, who has been able to make it through the evolution of our sport.
Is there anything that you miss about “old school” roller derby?
I miss the rope lights! QCRG used to have rope lights on the track and that made it so flashy and cool. Other leagues didn’t really do that, but we did. The fans were different back in the day. We had a streaker at a game once. We used to toss bread into the crowd from one of our sponsors, and I miss that. I really, really miss the big hits. There’s something about seeing someone just get their head taken off. Not that I want to see anyone get hurt, but it’s entertaining to see a big beautiful hit, and the crowd loves it.
At QCRG, every skater must also occupy a league job. You are the co-Chair of Events, which is a very important role for the league. What does this job involve?
The events committee works on fundraising, charities, parades, special guest appearances, events in the community and our league banquet. I love to help bring roller derby to our community and friends here in Western New York. I especially love representing our female athletes at events like Empower Young Women of Buffalo and being apart of Pride Week. I have a phenomenal counterpart on events this year, Joyride, and we hope to help raise funds and awareness for different local charities here in our community in a fun bonding environment.
In addition to Chair of Events, you are the current captain of the Devil Dollies. What are your goals for the team in its 2018 season?
We have a lot of new players on the team this year. Some people have played for a long time, whether they are new to the league, or new to our team. We have some juniors that have aged up that we brought onto the team this season, and we have people who came out of Queen’s Court. But they are all new to the team. Our big goal is to work and play well together as a unit. I would like our girls to really feel confidence within themselves. I want them to come out of the season feeling positive and happy and proud to be a Devil Dollie and continue forward on their derby journey. Obviously, our main goal is to win!
You are passionate about the development of new skaters. Why do you feel this way and how do you try to help them?
I love helping new skaters because they are the future of our league. When I first joined, there were some people who gave me attitude and were like, “What makes you think you can play roller derby?” Since then, the culture of the league has changed because more people are here to help our new friends. These are our volunteers, our sisters, our everything, and we should embrace and help them grow and teach them what it means to be a good league member. It makes me happy to see when someone accomplishes what they’re trying to do. I love seeing that lightbulb moment. It makes me so proud of them and new skaters continue to inspire me.
Do you have any specific pre-game rituals?
I always re-read the rules before a game. I visualize and do mental preparation. I think it’s important to visualize doing positive things on the track with your teammates. I also have to put some glitter on. Glitter is imperative.
What have you learned about yourself from playing roller derby?
I have learned that I can evolve. I learned that things are always going to change, and instead of working against that, you need to embrace it. Roller derby has really opened up my mind to new things and has showed me that I can challenge myself harder than I thought possible. It keeps me moving forward, not just on the track, but in my personal life as well. It showed me that if you want something, you have to go get it and sometimes you will fall down, but it’s about how you get back up and try again. I think it is important to embrace change and evolve and move forward.
Roller derby also gave me a sisterhood. I have two sisters. My oldest sister passed away a few years ago from breast cancer so I love and value my derby sisters a lot. I don’t get to see my other sister as much as I would like to because she doesn’t live here. I am not from here, so roller derby has given me a family in Western New York and that’s really important to me.
Do you have any advice for new skaters?
Go out there and get some! Never give up. Always keep trying. Push yourself harder and harder because the more you do it, the easier it’s going to get. We all have had those moments where we feel like we can’t do something. You’ve got to believe in yourself and you’ve got to be positive and continue to challenge yourself and your teammates. Make sure to train your derby brain and body. Persistence and repetition are key and always remember to not worry about failing, but about the chances you miss when you didn’t try.
Interview by Necromatrix.