Featured Skater: NicNugget #4pc

Photo by Jim Bush
This month’s featured skater is none other than the co-captain of the Subzero Sirens, NicNugget. In 2014, Nic transferred to QCRG from her first league in Minnesota. She spent a year in Queen’s Court and then spent a season playing for the Alley Kats. After the league scramble, she found herself doing double-duty on both the Devil Dollies and the Sirens. Throughout her career, she has played all three positions. She is a strategic and agile jammer, as well as a smart and strong blocker. You will often see her wearing the pivot stripe. She is known for her calm and collected presence as a leader, as well as her beautiful edging skills. When she is not playing roller derby, you can spot her trackside helping the Buffalo Herd as a Non-Skating Official.

Where is your hometown?
I grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but I think of home as Duluth, Minnesota. I lived there for about seven and a half years and that where my actual development was. I moved there for university right when I was 18.

Photo by Rene van Ee
What is your day job?
I am a Teaching and Learning Consultant. Essentially, we sell products to higher education and those products are designed to facilitate tracking assessments, student success, facilitating teaching and learning development, working with instructors, that kind of thing. I work with a bunch of people across the US, addressing whatever training needs they may have and identifying professional development opportunities for instructors. It’s an interesting job. Sometimes it’s just clicking buttons, and other times I get to develop an entire process for professors and adjuncts.

What are your hobbies outside of derby?
Jamie [Stretch Harm-strong] and I just bought a house so I feel like our hobby is turning that into a home. It takes up a ton of time! I also like to bike. I’m not hard core enough to bike in the winter, but pretty much anywhere I go I try to ride my bike. I enjoy beer, so I like to try different breweries. I’m also really big into board games. Just earlier today, I was actually was filling out a doodle poll to try to coordinate a Dungeons and Dragons game. That is like the dorkiest thing ever, but so much fun!

Photo by Chris Kalisiak
What’s your favourite board game?
Right now it’s probably Dominion, which is a card building game. I actually just went to Cleveland for a conference for work and there was a game shop where you could pay $5 and pick from this library of board games, have a beer and play. That’s like my ideal environment.

You spent some time in France. How was this an important life experience for you?
It really shaped how I view community. I went over there for about 10 months for a degree. When I went to France, it was my second time on a plane and my first time in Europe. I didn’t really speak French. I knew some from high school, but not enough to have a fluent conversation. When I arrived, I didn’t have anywhere to live because I didn’t want to get taken advantage of for an apartment. I couchsurfed for about a month until I found an apartment with some folks that I met. The premise of couchsurfing is that you go and you sleep on someone’s couch, but they also make you dinner and they show you around the city that they love. So I spent a month exploring this city that I would then live in for another 9 months with people who lived there and loved it enough to host. That was super powerful.

Photo by Rene van Ee
The university that I actually attended had about 28 different countries represented in my international business school, so getting to know all of those different personalities from all of those different walks of life was super intriguing. It was awesome. And I got to travel to other places in Europe! I went over there totally vulnerable and it was amazing because when you actually open yourself up like that, it’s awesome how many people you meet and are willing to help if needed.

On your QCRG skater profile, you list your patronus as “Tina Tuna.” Who is this famous Tina Tuna, and why is she your patronus?
Tina Tuna is my cat and she is perfect. Others may disagree. She’s sassy and loving and pretty much everything that I would want in an animal. If I could be anything, it would be Tina Tuna. I love her to death. She’s got to lose a couple pounds for her own health, but I think she’s adorable.

Photo by Jim Bush
You started your derby career in Minnesota, before transferring to Buffalo. Could you tell us about your time there?
The league that I started with was very small. It was out of a little skating rink in Superior, Wisconsin, which is not the biggest or flashiest town. It is made up of a lot of collar workers in the steel mills. I was this little academic trying to get back into athletics because I timed out of college sports and I wanted to play something. The league had some really big, very rough looking women. They were intimidating, but they were the sweetest, most loving women that I could have possibly met. It was actually very difficult to leave Duluth because I was finding community with them, but that is also why I started playing derby here in Buffalo after moving. I wanted that semblance of community and I wanted to meet people.

It was strange moving from such a small community to such a large one, but it was also seamless because everyone here was so loving and accepting as well. I used to joke around at that time that I wanted to start doing derby in Buffalo because I would meet all of the feminists and the lesbians, my people, and ironically QCRG is pretty much the straightest league I’ve seen. But of course, I love it nonetheless.

Photo by Chris Kalisiak
You spent one season as an Alley Kat, and two with the Devil Dollies. What was your favourite thing about skating in the house league?
You see such a large threshold for development in the home league. You knew that you were going to play multiple games against the same people, so you could meet them on the track at the beginning of the season, and then meet an entirely different team at the end. With the travel team, you play a different team each time and you don’t get to know those players and see how much they’ve grown. My favourite part of the home league is you can see that growth and you can be so proud of each other, even as you are all really wanting to win.

Photo by Rene van Ee
In addition to a skater on the Subzero Sirens, you are also a valued member of the Buffalo Herd and have learned several NSO positions. What do you enjoy the most about officiating?
Well, first off (and this is controversial) I enjoy the paperwork. I really like the process of documenting and then providing the opportunity for stats for skaters to learn from. I also really enjoy the amount that I am able to learn by simply being around the crew. For example, I was at the Fresh and the Furious tournament just this past weekend and through being able to participate as an official in half a dozen games and have a literal herd of refs to hang out with and answer my many, many questions – I was able to learn so much about aspects of play and get some ideas that will impact my own playing style. I feel like my working as a part of the officiating crew has also given me an extremely valuable perspective of gameplay and what officials do, and the experience has taught me a ton.

What made you decide to be captain of the Subzero Sirens? What are your goals for the team this season?
I find being in a leadership position I can have a greater impact. I can try to not only develop myself, but invest in developing others. As captain, I try to see that skaters’ goals are achieved. It also holds me accountable in my own skating more, which is helpful. I always felt like in sports I could be a leader. Trying to be a captain for a team and having your skaters vote you in is a really powerful thing. I was a captain for the Dollies as well and that was a very important experience. You can show up to practice or you can show up as a leader. The Sirens come from a lot of different home teams, a lot of different places, and one of my main goals is to have us play as a team. To get us to play together, build trust, and get to know each other.

Photo by Darren Stehr
Last year, you played in the Baltimore Classic B-team tournament with the Subzero Sirens, and the team won. What was your favourite thing about this experience?
I always like tournaments. I feel like you really get to know each other because you’re going against all of this adversity. It’s just wave after wave after wave, so you really get to see that growth and development. Last year, we were a different team in the first game than we were in the last. That last game I think is something that we can all be proud of because as other team got upset with one another and weren’t supporting each other. That was heavily contrasted by our team because we came together. We played together and because of that, we won – and that was the most powerful moment. We really transformed throughout the day.

What is your favourite thing about blocking?
I love when I block and my line really comes together in a way that it feels like we are moving in slow motion and like we are dancing. I live for those moments in blocking when everything is connecting. It doesn’t mean that we won that jam or we did especially well, but when you click with those people on your line – that is my favourite part.

In addition to blocking, you are also a skilled and experienced jammer. How do you describe your jamming style?
I try to be as patient as possible. I try to think like three steps ahead. I try to jam smarter because I know I am not the biggest, strongest human on the track. When I first started jamming, I danced a lot, and I think as I continued to jam for the Dollies, primarily, I was a lot calmer. I think my favourite part was being able play mind games with the blockers, work on a footwork skill, try it out on them, see how it works and adjust, then try it again and see how it works the next time. It is always a learning curve because as much as I try to be as strategic, sometimes you get that tunnel vision and it doesn’t always work out.

Photo by Brian Grinham
How do you compare blocking to jamming?
It’s hard to compare them because they’re very different but they are also extremely similar because in either position you have to think strategically, you have to work with your team, and you have to communicate. But if I had a preference, it would be pivot any day, because you get to do everything!

You have some experience skating bowls. How has this informed your skating as a roller derby player?
It was really scary at first. The biggest obstacle was dropping in. For anyone who has not done so, dropping in is not something that is natural for any human to do. Your body tells you in every way that it is a bad idea. But you figure it out and your body eventually learns (whether it likes to or not) to allow you to throw your body over the ledge. More than anything, bowl skating improved my balance. You have to be able to move your skates and shift your weight in strange ways in order to not fall down while trying to do certain movements, and this translates a lot to gameplay. Bowl skating is scary, but also a ton of fun. In the off-season, we would drive up to Toronto planning to skate all day long and then on my fourth or fifth run, I would inevitably fall really hard and my body wouldn’t let me get up again. Not from pain, but instead my mental state would be like, “You shouldn’t do that! Stay down!” Working through that barrier and getting back to it is where you develop, and moving past fears like those is just as important to practice as basis skills are.

What skaters do you admire, and why?
I always kind of go for the underdog, so a lot of the time I find that I admire not the biggest, baddest lady out there. I spend a lot of time looking at some players in our league that transform themselves. For example, I admire the newer skaters in Queen’s Court because they show up and they put in the work. They are passionate and they are growing. I admire skaters who bring up other skaters. They’re positive and they’re not fake about it. They’ll give you advice and say you gave it 100% that’s all that matters. I really admire those who are able to lift up other women and have that camaraderie.

Photo by Rene van Ee
In terms of gameplay, I like to watch the little ones, because they can teach me a lot about my own skating. I really like to watch Mange [blocker from Montreal New Skids on the Block]. They are a smart, calm, and vigilant skater and their style of skating makes them a force despite size. So, I try to skate like them. I don’t always succeed, but I try to emulate their play in a number of ways.

What advice would you offer to other skaters who are just starting out?
Don’t give up. I think the most challenging part of derby is the internal strife that happens, but that’s also where the growth happens. Keep a positive spin and give yourself a break when you maybe don’t perform as well as you’d like all of the time. Work on your mental resiliency and your emotional stability as well as your body and your movements. In order to be well rounded, you have to develop all of those skills. And always remember to have fun, because it’s a big part of why we do this!

Interview by Necromatrix.