B-TEAM SET HIGHS MARKS AGAINST COMPARABLE SQUADS
by the Grand Poobah, ARRG Bout Co-Announcer – Photos by Bob Dunnell
For the 137 leagues that are members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, all of them – regardless of size and complexion – field a primary travel squad. As noted yesterday, this collective of skaters within a chartered league is known as the “A-team,” the squad that competes against other leagues on a regional and national level.
And it seems that it wasn’t all that long ago, perhaps fewer years than one could count on one hand, having a “B-team” of developmentals was considered a luxury for inspired leagues.
Today for all of them, and for the 67 others nationally under the WFTDA’s Apprentice Program, a solid “B-team” is a necessity for the future progression of the sport.
After the Arch Rival Roller Girls joined the WFTDA in September 2007, the plan was put immediately into place to not only field a primary “A-team” of All-Stars but also a “B-team” as well.
This resulted in ARRG’s “B-team” – the Saint Lunachix – which provides opportunities for athletes that are not members of the league’s “A-team” an additional outlet for competition beyond the local level.
“Most skaters come in with the idea that they want to play nationally, but playing with the Lunachix gives them an understanding of what to expect,” says current captain Boom Boom Pow. “This gives them the right mental attitude to take on the task of becoming an even better skater and to perform at a higher level of play.”
The squad – consisting of fourteen skaters and two designated alternates on bout night -is fashioned in a similar complexion to the league’s All-Star squad. Lunachix are culminated from each of ARRG’s four local squads and competes throughout the calendar year, primarily against other “B-teams” from leagues within the WFTDA North Central region such as Cincinnati, Madison and Chicago Outfit.
“I get to play with a lot of skaters that I am normally pitted against, and I love that aspect of the team.” says Saint Lunachix blocker Ginny Beastly, who plays locally in ARRG for Rebel Skate Alliance.
Much like the ARRG All-Stars, the Lunachix are the sum of many unique parts.
“On our local teams, we have certain strategies that we use consistently, and I feel we become “known” for different types of play on each team and/or execute a few key strategies while not utilizing others as much,” says Beastley.
“With the Chix, we get to meld all of those styles of play together, and the end result is pretty awesome. We take the best aspects from our local teams and combine them as Chix, which I feel makes us a force to be reckoned with.”
“B-team” bouts are traditionally shorter in length, two twenty-minute halves compared to the full sixty experienced on the “A-team” level.
But as one could expect, the rivalries that exist between a pair of regional “A-teams” can also be found in an undercard that feature the competing leagues’ developmentals.
“Regional top ten ‘B-teams’ are the challenge we look for,” says Pow. “It gives us a better understanding of the strategy and performance that we strive for as a league.”
“We work hard on the track, but we never forget to have fun, and that’s probably the best thing about the Lunachix,” adds Beastley. “I like being able to play against other leagues while still keeping derby fun and exciting.”
The squad also competes against smaller-populated “A-teams” from the Midwest such as the St. Chux Derby Chix (St. Charles, MO), CoMo (Columbia, MO), Springfield (MO) and Southern Illinois (Marion, IL).
The team’s namesake is a playful offshoot of the Grammy Award-winning Nelly’s rap/hip-hop group St. Lunatics.
But whereas the musical influence has been recently classified as “AWOL,” ARRG’s Saint Lunachix has been anything but hidden on the national “B-team” derby scene.
Consider this. Since 2009, the Saint Lunachix has compiled a cumulative record of 22-4, which includes a 10-1 record in 2011 and a 2-0 mark this season via wins over Madison and Cincinnati.
“Our bout against (Madison’s) Team Unicorn was a memorable one for me, because I finally executed a proper soul crush on their jammer in one of the first jams,” recalls Beastly.
But don’t think for one moment – as Pow is quick to point out – that the Lunachix were designed solely to fulfill soul-crushing personal goals.
“It’s all about team work,” says the captain of the team’s mission. “We spend time getting to know each other and working together. Since the Lunachix are composed of players from each of the local teams, the focus has to be on working with skaters that you are not use to being with on the track.”
The squad actually serves multiple purposes. Not only does it provide an opportunity for a skaters to develop skills outside local play, it also provides the cushion for a member of the “A-team” to skate off the proverbial “rink rust” when returning from injury.
“I think it gives the injured skater a chance to push themselves to their limit and know what they need to work on to be at the competitive level that they are used to,” says Pow. “They have to know where they are ready mentally and physically to take on the challenge of national play.”
And this is important, considering the high-impact style of flat-track roller derby. After all, rehabbing from injury is one thing. Competing at speeds once experienced is another.
“If they do not have the opportunity to take a chance to see where they stand, they may run the risk of re-injury,” says Pow.
Arguably, if “B-teams” were ranked by the WFTDA, the Saint Lunachix would find itself at the top of the list in the North Central, if not nationally.
The Saint Lunachix have a chance to hold up to that assumption later this year at Midwest Brewhaha in Franklin, WI. The two-day event – set for the first weekend in June -features bouts from over twenty different WFTDA North Central leagues.
In short, it’s a chance for “B-teams” to garner bragging rights over other comparable squads. Last year at Brewhaha, the Lunachix posted impressive wins over the Brewcity Battlestars and Madison’s Team Unicorn to finish the tilt undefeated.
“I’m excited for Brewhaha again because it really is an exciting weekend full of awesome derby,” says Pow. “Who am I kidding? I’m looking forward to every team we play!”
The term “B-team” – to the uneducated fan – could be considered somewhat a misnomer. The talent and skill set of these athletes are comparable to those found on the primary level.
“We are a fiercely competitive ‘B-team,’” says Beastly. “And the more experience we get bouting against other leagues, the more we bring back to ARRG. Many Lunachix become All Stars, eventually. It’s nice to have a ‘b’ travel team to cut your teeth with before you step into the ring with the “big girls” and get down to business.”
“The great thing about this team is that there are many players who choose to just play on the Lunachix,” adds Pow. “I think most of us see (the Saint Lunachix) as a separate entity rather than just the team you play on before you play nationally.”
Regardless of how the record at the end of the season turns out, there is one missive that Pow has set in stone for the 2012 version of the Lunachix.
“Our goal is one thing….have fun!” says the captain. “We all love this sport for different reasons, but this is the time to play against some amazing cities and learn about ourselves as players.”
“The time these amazing skaters put in to play on the Lunachix proves that we are more than just a B team!”
The Saint Lunachix compete next against the Southern Illinoisan Roller Girls on Saturday, April 21 at Midwest Sport Hockey in Ballwin, MO. We’ll have a preview of this bout later in the month.
COMING UP TOMORROW AT 8 AM FOR ARRG’s 30n30: The third travel squad of ARRG presents the true “future of the league.” It provides opportunity for recently drafted skaters to continue their development against other leagues from the Midwest. It also provides unrostered skaters the chance of goal fulfillment and become drafted by one of the four ARRG intraleague squads. Friday morning, we’ll look at ARRG’s “c-team” of travelers, the ARRG Rookie Rivals.
ARRG’s “30n30″ is a daily feature that examines different aspects of the Arch Rival Roller Girls – St. Louis’ first female flat-track roller derby franchise. In this section every morning at 8 AM for the entire month of April, a new feature will be presented.