September Featured Skater: Space Riot

Many of you may know her from seeing her on the track executing a fancy spin move off the back of an opposing skater or assisting the jammer by providing some sweet offense, but did you know she is also the team mystic and has a love for aggressive quad skating and Stevie Nicks?

How did she discover the amazing world of roller derby?  How has her game progressed from when she first began?  And will this upcoming game be the game she just goes for it--the epic apex jump?  To find out, take a moment to sit down, relax and read about this month's featured skater, Space Riot!!!

Did you grow up playing organized sports?  If so, have you found any similarities between roller derby and any sports you played growing up?

Yes, I played a few different sports throughout my childhood. I started with gymnastics when I was pretty young. Then when I became taller than my coach, I moved into basketball, and from there, softball and volleyball. I would say the most similarities I see between roller derby and any of these sports would be between basketball and roller derby. A lot of the offensive moves we do as blockers in derby are similar to the picks and screens you see in basketball. Likewise, some of the footwork and spin moves basketball players do when handling the ball are similar to what jammers do to juke around opposing skaters.

Photo by: Phil Lackey 

Photo by: Phil Lackey 

Tell us a little bit about your skating background.  I know you spent some time on a skateboard back in the day.  Did you also spend any time roller skating or know how to roller skate?

I had been skateboarding for about a decade when I started playing roller derby, but I didn’t bring any roller skating experience with me. The only pre derby roller skating experience I had was from a handful of parties I attended at the local skating rink when I was in elementary school, and I wouldn’t really call all that aggressive wall hugging actual roller skating (thank God for those shag carpet-covered-walls).

I did log about 2 years of skating during the mid-90s but, it wasn’t on roller skates, it was on inlines. Back in high school, my sister and I got some janky inline skates from Kmart, err, the North Pole, for Christmas one year. We invented a game we called bockey. It was our own ghetto version of hockey. We played on inline skates using baseball bats as our sticks and a tennis ball as the puck. We played out in the street in front of our house and pretty much the only rule was:  get outta the way when a car came. Other than that, we just skated around and smashed each other trying to whack the “puck” as hard as possible to send it flying past one other without knocking out our neighbors’ windows—or each others’ teeth—in the process. Man, a tennis ball can really fly when you hit the shit out of it! None of the other neighborhood kids had skates, so they either played on foot or on bikes. It was nothing short of a blood bath at times, but it sure was fun!

How did you find roller derby?  What was it about the sport that made you want to play?

I found out about roller derby from Miss Murder. I moved to Knoxville the same year Hard Knox was formed: 2006. We knew each other from a previous life. She knew I skateboarded and thought derby would be something I’d be interested in because I wasn’t scared of falling down or getting roughed up. She said to me, “You’re fearless. You’ll love it!” I can still remember her first telling me about derby when she was trying to recruit me way back when. I honestly had no idea what roller derby really was. I politely declined the offer because I was in the middle of my love affair with my skateboard and I wasn’t about to give it up for some dorky ass roller skates. Little did I know that 4 years later, I’d give in and ultimately fall in love with having wheels right there on my feet! Yes, roller skating is actually super awesome and not dorky at all! 

So once I showed up to derby practice, I was totally hooked. Because I had no background in roller skating, the challenge to learn how to skate motivated me just as much as the challenge to learn the sport itself. When I first joined the team, there were a lot of girls and it was very competitive. You really had to fight for your spot and earn your playtime. I guess I wanted to play because I missed being a part of a team and I didn’t really have very many female friends in town. It was nice to meet several like-minded, strong, badass, athletic women. I learned a lot from those ladies, some of which are still around today. The physical and mental challenges made me want to push myself to really learn the sport and that’s what’s kept me playing all these years. There’s always something to work on, something new to learn, and you can always, always push yourself harder than before.

You play the position of both jammer and blocker/pivot on the track.  How did playing both positions evolve from that of your rookie year or first few seasons?

My first 3 seasons of roller derby, I was only fielded as a blocker. I didn’t pivot or jam at all in game play.  Back then, you really only had one role on the team--you were either a jammer or a blocker--and I was considered a blocker. Pivots were more like the quarterback then, calling out plays and keeping the pack pace, and less like the relief jammer ready to take the star if necessary. The beginning of the 2014 season, which was my 4th season, was when I transitioned into a jammer, and that was when I also started pivoting. Our strategy had evolved at this point to where jammers tended to be fielded as the blocker who wore the pivot stripe so that they could take a star pass if necessary, so once I started jamming, I also started pivoting. I had been working hard jamming at practice and had proven myself to the coaching staff, so that was when I earned my spot as a regular-rotation jammer on the Allstars. From then until now, I jam, block, and pivot pretty much equally. I am grateful I earned my spot as a jammer because it is fun and challenging in ways that blocking is not.

This season you took on one of the positions of Skating Coach.  Do you think your years playing with the team prepared you for the role?  Do you think having experience as both a jammer and blocker has helped in any way? 

Absolutely. I think you cannot even attempt to coach a sport until you’ve either played it or have been around it long enough to really understand the ins and out of it. I am currently in my 7th season of roller derby, and I have learned a lot over the years by not only training with our team, but by practicing with other teams, and being coached by some of the top skaters in derby today through boot camps and classes at RollerCon. I try to share my derby knowledge and these experiences as much as I can in hopes that it will help other skaters learn and develop in their own derby careers.

Yes, I do think my experience as both a jammer and a blocker helped prepare me for the role of Skating Coach. It helps me explain things from both positions’ perspectives, just as playing one position helps you understand the roles of the other. Like when I started jamming, my years of blocking experience really helped me out because rather than waiting for offense from my blockers, I would just hit the opposing wall and make my own hole. Because I had all those years of blocking experience, I knew how to hit a wall legally and effectively break it up. Knowing what the track looks like as viewed from both sets of eyes, it helps me teach and explain drills to both types of players. I don’t solely focus on the blockers and forget about the jammers or vice versa. 

Photo by: John M. Blood 

Photo by: John M. Blood 

How do you prepare for the practices you lead?

There are a few different things that go into my practice planning routine.  I try to think of one or two overall concepts I’d like for the team to focus on, and then I design drills to demonstrate these concepts. I either do my own spin on drills I learned from someone else over the years, or I just make stuff up. I always try to incorporate some basic skills into the practices I run, as the basics are the fundamentals to derby. I get ideas for my practices by observing my teammates. I watch them during other practices and also review bout footage to see what needs work. Another thing I do is to talk to my teammates for feedback or suggestions. I then use all of this combined research, if you will, to help build my practices. I try to run them in a manner where one thing is a building block for the next. I like scrimmaging so that we can immediately implement the things we just worked on in drills. Whenever time allows, I also love adding in off-skates stuff like plyometrics, suicides, yoga, and balancing exercises to remind folks that roller derby training isn’t just all about being on skates. You do have to cross-train to become a solid derby player. 

I imagine you have some personal goals each season you skate.  Can you share those you have focused on this season? 

Last season, my main goal was to master apex jumps. I guess you could say it’s been a continuing goal of mine from last season to now because I know I can physically do them, but I’ve always been mentally cautious of them because of my cranky knees. They look wicked cool and are super fun to do, but sometimes it’s not worth it to get nailed when I could have just snuck around the outside line, right T-bone? I do stick some in practices on rare occasions, and I do baby ones as a blocker all the time, but I’ve never had a big glorious apex jump while jamming in a bout so it’s still a goal of mine. I want to fly like an eagle…. Besides landing a sweet apex jump, my one big goal this year is to win “Allstars Jammer of the Year” at our End of Year party at the end of the season. I know my jamming has come a long way over the years, and I'm not ashamed to say that I am proud of myself. I’ve been pushing myself extra hard this year to not only be a strong jammer, but a smart jammer. I’ve really focused on my lead percentage, point differential, and knowing when to say, ‘hey, I’m no longer being effective. Switch me to just blocking.’ So far, I’ve had 2 bouts where I got lead jammer 100% of the time. I’ve also had 2 bouts where I didn’t get a single point scored against me! Overall, I am very pleased with my performance thus far. I think my positive outlook and the clarity and focus of my mental game have really helped my physical game blossom. I’m pretty stoked with my derby career progression from blocker to jammer, and I would love nothing more than to be honored by my teammates if they think I deserve the coveted title of “Allstars Jammer of the Year.” Other goals I have for the remainder of the season are to play strong, stay focused, and to have fun! 

Photo by: Phil Lackey

Photo by: Phil Lackey

What do you do mentally to prepare for a game?  Do you have any pre-bout rituals?

To mentally prepare for a game, I meditate the night before. I start by taking a long, hot Epsom salt soak with a blend of lavender, tangerine, and lemon essential oils. I meditate on positive affirmations: I am smart, I am strong, I am happy, I am healthy. I am an amazing blocker. I am an incredible jammer. Happy hippie stuff like that. While I’m soaking, I think about the last few practices leading up to the bout. I visualize myself playing derby with my teammates. I see their offense and take it. I skate fast and with agility. I read the track with keen awareness. I break down our strategy and see everything in slow motion. I just think about all the facets of roller derby and remind myself I have the knowledge and the skills necessary to play well. I affirm confidence in my teammates and in myself. I remind myself that we have trained hard and are prepared for battle. When the water turns cold, I get out and do some deep stretches and then try to go to bed early. I continue my mellow vibe on game day. I don’t hype up with crazy music like I used to. It’s kind of funny to me that my bout day ritual went from blasting Ministry on the way to the venue to being all calm and quiet. It seems to work better for me this way. Being calm before the game keeps me dialed in and conserves all my energy for when I need it on the track.

Do you have a signature move on the track?

I guess you could say I enjoy the ole spin move. The idea came to me about 4 years ago when I was out somewhere and walked past a TV airing a football game. At the exact moment I glanced over at the TV, I saw a guy running with the ball, and when he came up to an opposing blocker, he did this rad lateral spin, rolled right outta the blocker's grasp, and was gone. A lightbulb went off in my head; I immediately envisioned doing it on skates. I remember first trying it on Wrecking Ball when we were warming up together for a Machine Gun Kellys' bout, and she just froze on the track and was all like, “where did you go?!” We cracked up so hard! It was surprisingly effective! It’s a really fun move I love doing. It feels great to to get around that last pesky blocker this way, and if you do it all fast and smooth, you may get a couple of ooos and ahhhs from the crowd, which is nice too. 

Tell us how your derby name and number came to be.

When I joined roller derby, it was required to register your name and number on the twoevils website. You couldn’t have the same name, or too similar of a name, as any other active skater out there, so as you can imagine, it was a rather daunting task to choose a clever name that wasn’t already taken. My number was a no-brainer. I wanted to be #51 because my husband was the lead singer of a fairly well known and super active local band at the time, Pegasi51. I wanted to pay homage to their band because they were awesome and I loved their unique sound. But my name, my name was so much harder. Everything I wanted to be was taken: Dolly Dagger, Punky Bruiser, Skiddin' Nancy, and oh man, too many others to mention. I believe I actually played my first bout under the name of Flog and Maul Lee—almost forgot about that! So if you’re paying attention, you’ve noticed I was looking to music for inspiration. I almost settled on Ziggy Skatedust (still sometimes wish I had), but then I decided, well if my number is a Pegasi51 reference, then maybe my name should be, too. Space Riot is actually the name of a Pegasi51 album, as well as, a song title. I chose the name for a variety of reasons: mainly, it’s my favorite Pegasi51 album, but also because I love outer space, I love punk music, and I am kind of spacey at times. So because I lacked the ability to be creative all on my own, I completely ripped off local post-punk goth legends, Pegasi51, and formed my derby persona.

I know you are a big fan of aggressive quad skating and recently added a mini ramp to your backyard.  How did you get into using your quad skates at the skate parks?  Do you have a favorite trick you like to do?

Yes, Summer of the Mini Ramp, how rad! Hmm, let’s see. I believe I got into quad skating at the skatepark because of you and EviLucia. Y’all had already started exploring the realm of aggressive quad skating down in Costa Rica, and after returning from a trip there, Evil took me to the skatepark here and I tried it out for myself. That was back in 2013, before the explosion of the Chicks in Bowls movement.  My first time was fun but oh so weird as compared to being on a skateboard. I had to completely change my mindset, and skater-stance, to be able to carve the concrete waves a la quads. Like derby, once I tried it, I was totally hooked. Evil went on to start our Chicks in Bowls chapter here in Knoxville the following year. Then she subsequently set up a once-in-a-lifetime chance for us to get to skate with CIB founders, Lady Trample and Nick Agnew, the summer of 2014. It’s still in the books as one of the best days of my skating life! I learned so much in just 1 day! When Evil moved away, I took over running our local CIB chapter, where we still do official meet ups once a month for instruction and camaraderie. If you’ve ever been curious about aggressive quad skating, come out and give it a whirl! It’s #prettygnarly. I’ve met so many cool skater chicks because of the CIB community. It’s a really positive, loving, diverse, global family. We’re all connected via social media so it’s a great way to network with fellow skaters to not only encourage each other's progress but to get the chance to do meet ups in other cities. I love going to the park and shredding with my lady gang and getting new girls excited and interested in trying new things and overcoming their fears. Do I have a favorite trick? Umm, do I have to pick just one?! I love jumping: skating fast and airing out of transitions, jumping the hip in the flow bowl, and doing little airs when skating ramps. I also love kicking my long leg out into the Can-Can stall, and my newly acquired trick, the half cab stall, is pretty fun too. I love it all, really! There’s nothing boring about aggressive quad skating.

If you weren’t playing roller derby, how would you be spending your spare time?  Do you have other hobbies?  Give the fans a glimpse into a day in the life of Space Riot.  Would it include two of your favorite canines, Sati and Mortie?

I have many interests other than roller derby so I stay pretty busy all the time. I’m really into crystals and working with their energies. I make jewelry out of natural stones and crystals, and I sell my pieces at Curiosities on Chapman Hwy—go check ‘em out. It’s a really unique little metaphysical shop and supply store. The owner, Meleah, is very knowledgeable, friendly, and super helpful. She has lots of cool stuff in there! I also enjoy painting, photography, making bath soaks, writing, gardening, traveling with my sexy hubby and adventure buddy Rusty, hosting dinner parties, hiking, mountain biking, stargazing, chilling around bonfires, perusing flea markets for treasures, and shredding at the skatepark. And of course, the daily life of Space Riot wouldn’t be complete without my little meatballs, Sati and Mortie. Sati is my 14-year-old furry-footed Appalachian squirrel hound, and Mortie is my 8-year-old Barbaloot. He’s really just a chicken in a dog suit, but he’s a sweet little weirdo, and I love him dearly. I found Sati when I was in college, and we’ve been through a lot together, so I think she truly is my best friend. We have a wonderful bond. I can read her little mind. Oh, she says, “send cheese.” Rusty and I take the dogs with us whenever possible. They love adventure just as much as we do, and they’re in fabulous shape for their senior ages. While not out exploring the world, Mortie spends much of his days hot on the trail of Lizzie the Lizard, the blue-tailed skink who occupies the planter on the front porch, and Sati—between naps—enjoys rolling on and eating chicken poo.  

Photo by: Rusty Riot 

Photo by: Rusty Riot 

Photo by: Rusty Riot 

Photo by: Rusty Riot 

I know you have a lot of knowledge about crystals. Can you tell us how you discovered that world and how you use them in your daily life?

I have been collecting crystals and mineral specimens for as long as I can remember. When I was a teenager, I started making jewelry and selling it at New Century, a fabulous little New Age shop in my hometown. It was there, and also from the Bead Lady, that I learned that all of the crystals and minerals I was attracted to were actually made up of energies and possessed specific properties. These properties are considered the metaphysical properties of crystals, and once you learn how to meditate with crystals, you begin to feel their energy. When you start learning what each crystal is for, you can start using them in your daily lives. You can place crystals in your environment or wear them as jewelry and benefit from their properties.  Say for example, if you have trouble sleeping, you can place a piece of howlite under your pillow. It’s supposed to help alleviate insomnia. Or if you suffer from panic attacks and anxiety, wearing jewelry made from amazonite can help calm you down and keep you calm. Learning about the metaphysical properties of crystals is really neat and interesting. I make jewelry because I enjoy the creative side of building interesting compositions, but also because I want to provide affordable, quality jewelry for those looking to benefit from the healing properties of crystals. Jewelry can be practical and beautiful, too!

A few months back, we took a roughly three-hour road trip with you driving.  Fleetwood Mac played the entire trip.  What’s up with that?  Before we go, tell us about your love of Stevie.

It was actually Stevie Nicks, Belladonna. Get your Stevie straight, LOL! That just happens to be one of those albums that when it makes its way into my CD player, it stays there for a couple of weeks. After listening to Jimi Hendrix religiously for 20 years, I figured I’d mix it up a little and put Stevie on repeat for a while. Why do I love Stevie? Oh I dunno… her creative song-writing ability, her fashion sense (can we say, accessories?!...), her twirling skills (she’s an athlete, too)… what’s not to love?! Seriously though, Rusty and I saw her earlier this year down in New Orleans, and it was the absolute best concert I have ever attended. She is a remarkable artist and performer. You could tell she had her hand in every single element of planning that production: the light show, the imaginative projections on the screen behind her, the sculptures and lights that were dropped down from above the stage, the 3+ wardrobe changes, the stories she told in between songs, the songs she performed, the order in which she performed those songs, the stage set up, the opening act (The Pretenders!!!), everything. It wasn’t just a concert, it was an experience, a “journey” she called it, which stimulated all of your senses. It was pure magic. 

Who would you like to see as next month’s featured skater, and why?

I would like to see my little honky tonk, Killer Queen, as next month’s featured skater. She’s one of the most badass ladies I know. She’s like the kid sister I never had. When we met, we immediately clicked because we had so much in common. When I told her I played derby, I think she showed up at the very next practice because she thought it was awesome and wanted to get in on the action herself. She’s quickly grown into one of the fiercest Brawlers we have, and I wanna hear all about her derby journey thus far: her struggles, her triumphs, what challenges her, and what motivates her to keep on keepin’ on.

Photo by: Billy Bailey

Photo by: Billy Bailey

To quote Howard Stern, "I think you’ve said it all." Thanks Space Riot for sharing your time with us and giving our readers a bit more insight into your world of derby, your world of mystic and much, much more.

Keep on rollin’