Featured Skater: Necromatrix #462

Photo by Jim Bush

If you’ve been to a Queen City Roller Derby bout in the past several years, have you ever wondered who that jammer is with the scary face paint?  This skater is a longtime vet of QCRD who loves busting through seams on the track while also training our rookies to meet their full derby potential.  Meet #462, Necromatrix!

Necro has a very extensive derby career.  Her derby journey began with Niagara Roller Derby in 2013 where she trained as a rookie.  From there, she joined Hamilton Area Roller Derby in 2015 where she skated with the Hamilton Bombers and Los Coños, then made her way to the Decapulettes and Woodstock Roller Derby Misfits in 2016.  The end of 2016 is when Necro finally made the transfer to QCRD where she was eventually drafted in 2017 to the Alley Kats and made it onto the Subzero Sirens that same year.  Necro is one of a small group of skaters in our league who has played on all three of our home teams and has played on both of our travel teams!  Currently, Necro is one of the coaches for Queen’s Court and plays in our travel program.  This sci-fi nerd with a passion for all things NOLA is always ready to talk derby with anyone and show us the best jammer moves!

Where are you from?

I was born in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada and I still live here in the Niagara Region. I currently reside in the city of Thorold, which is in between St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

What is your day job?

I am a full-time university Teaching Assistant and I teach in the disciplines of Communications, Popular Culture and Film Studies.  I am a media expert, more or less.  I teach a variety of topics, such as film, television, popular music, social media, digital culture, food culture, narrative, comics, subcultures, news media, and so forth.  When I was a kid, my parents would scold me that I spent way too much of my time watching television.  And now it is my job!  Sometimes, there is a lot of grading, prep and reading, but it is very cool that I get paid money to watch movies and talk about them.  I have even on occasion given talks and conference papers on the cultural significance of roller derby!

Photo by Chris Kalisiak

How did you get involved in derby?

I had been living full time in Australia for about a year.  During that time, I was working as a migrant worker as part of their 417 Working Holiday Visa program.   With this visa program, you can do farm work to qualify to renew it for another year, so I picked zucchini and tomatoes on farms in Queensland for months.  But my dad had to get major heart surgery while I was away, so I came home to see him.  My plan was to work for a year on campus to save money, then go back to Australia, and teach English in South Korea after that.  But I saw an advertisement in the university newspaper for roller derby here in Niagara. I signed up and fell in love with it so much that I never ended up going back to Australia – my life took a complete left turn.  This was over 10 years ago and I am still playing.  I do not regret this at all, and I cannot even identify with who I was before I played derby.

What are some of your hobbies outside of derby?

I am an absolute huge nerd and I have a voracious appetite for television.  My all time number one show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  My other favourites are Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica and Six Feet Under.  I am in the middle of re-watching Veronica Mars, and my favourite show currently airing is Showtime’s Yellowjackets.  I love science fiction, horror and fantasy the most. I also really love CrossFit.  I signed up at the end of 2017 for three months to see if I liked it, and I just never left. My gym, Fit Collective Studio, is just amazing, and I can be found there most days of the week.  CrossFit is one of the hardest things I have ever done, and it really has helped my mental resilience while playing derby.  I don’t know if I could ever go back to a conventional gym: it is so much fun!

What is the significance of your derby name and number?

Photo by Jimi Curry

I originally wanted Zombinatrix, because I love zombies and The Walking Dead, but I decided to go with Necromatrix because it is much more easily made into a short-form name: Necro.  My derby number is a reference to my favourite band, Tool, and their song Forty Six & 2.  The song is about the Jungian concept of the shadow self.  The shadow self represents the unconscious, dark and repressed parts of your personality.  I like to think of Necro as the physical embodiment of my shadow self.  She certainly has given me a vessel for working through a lot of anger and trauma.

In addition to skating, you coach Queen’s Court. What has that experience been like?

I have been coaching Queen’s Court for a really long time now – five or six years I think?  When I started, we had a small space beside the track at Rainbow Rink during boot camp’s weekly time.  Since then, I managed to build it up to a complete structured and scaffolded program with dedicated practices, practice points and team scrimmages.  I really wanted to build something that was bigger than me, and I have been fortunate to find more like-minded individuals to help with our goals. I started with BobKat, and now we have Mouth and K Buddy.  I am passionate about training and making new skaters, and because I am a jammer, I also make sure to not overlook jammer skills when we are planning practices. Coaching also gives me an opportunity to bring in the skills I use for my day job as an educator, because I put a lot of focus on structure and progression.  Of everything I have accomplished during my derby career, Queen’s Court is by far the thing that I am most proud of.

Photo by Scott Threlkeld

You’re quite the world traveler. What are some of the coolest places you’ve visited?

I’ve been to like 30+ countries, and a majority of US states.  Probably the most memorable thing I have ever done is visiting the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine.  Getting to wander around the abandoned buildings of Pripyat, still with pictures of Lenin on the walls, was incredibly surreal.  I got to walk right up to reactor 4!  Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than anywhere else in the world and it also has gelato!  Some other major highlights for me include the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat and Auschwitz.  But anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that my favourite place in the entire world is New Orleans, Louisiana.  I have been to many of the world’s greatest cities and none of them compare.  The vibe in NOLA is so palpable:  the combination of hedonism, history, and Creole culture is so idiosyncratic and unique.  The African diasporic cultural influence embodies this sense of both joy and resistance that is just so potent and so much fun to experience. There is nowhere like it in the entire world!  It really is magical.

What is your favorite thing about jamming?

My favourite thing about jamming is that it is a creative problem solving process.  You try to put more tools into your toolbox, and then figure out when and how to use them.  It takes a lot of trial and error to learn new jammer tricks.  At practice, we spend a lot of time on blocker skills, and I am always reverse-engineering them to figure out how to beat those walls.  I try to brainstorm new approaches and ways of attacking defensive formations.  Lately, I have been able to work in some one-foot transitions and backwards one-footed toe stop hops.  It is the best feeling in the world to successfully pull off a fancy new move!

Who is your favorite skater and why?

I feel like these answers are all so obvious, but I am really drawn to the best jammers in the game.  If you don’t like Scald Eagle, do you even like roller derby?  She is a very creative player who uses a lot of rotational force, unusual toe stop moves and jumps. I think Bonnie Thunders is the best jammer to ever play; she plays really smart and clean and doesn’t over-rely on high-risk high-reward moves.  And I love jammers with a physically aggressive style, because that is more similar to how I play, so Freight Train and Falcon Punch are both players that I enjoy watching and learning from. I have been fortunate enough to have done workshops with each of these players, and they are all amazing.

Do you have any advice for new skaters?

Photo by Rene T. Van Ee

If your attitude is “roller derby is my gym membership,” this is a recipe for injuries.  You need to train off skates at the gym.  In my opinion, a lot of derby players, and women in general, completely over-value the importance of cardio because society tells us that we need to be smaller and take up less space.  If you want stability, strong joints and good bone density, focus on lifting weights and getting stronger. I recommend compound movements such as squats and deadlifts.  I am not saying that everyone who signs up should learn to squat 200 pounds, but take some time to work on your strength!   Remember that derby is a full body sport. Shoulders, for example, are a legal target zone, so doing some push-ups or overhead lifts can help protect those areas.  Cardio can be periodized depending on where you are in your season, but it takes time and consistency to build physical strength.  Derby can be a risky sport, and even if you are playing recreationally and are not interested in competitive sanctioned play, you still need to take it seriously and give the sport the respect that it deserves.  There is so much we can do outside of roller derby to help set ourselves up for success on the track.

– Interview by Thrash Bandicoot