August Featured Skater: Ferociraptor
She’s ferocious. She’s clever. She’s Ferociraptor! And she’s here to tell us about what makes her Rawr. I hope this article enRaptors you as much as it did me.
Thank you for sitting down with me, Raptor. Let's dive right in.
Last month, Malicious noted that you are new‐ish to Knoxville, but you are not new to roller derby. What do you like best about our team vs other teams you have played for?
My first team, the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse (Kaiserslautern, Germany) taught me how to skate, and the basics of derby. They were an ambitious team, and we had some awesome guest coaches. So I learned a lot, but some of it went over my head as a newbie. I’m still friends with a bunch of people, but most of us play for different teams around the world now.
I joined my second team, the Los Alamos Derby Dames, three years ago when I moved to New Mexico. With them, I learned a lot of track awareness and leadership, and I quickly took on the role as pivot (before, I was a blocker). What I admire most about this team is their sportswomanship. To me, they embody the spirit of derby at its best. We rarely won, but we improved and had a lot of fun every single game. A little over a year ago, I moved to Knoxville and joined the Hard Knox Roller Girls. I feel out of all the teams I’ve played for, this is the one where I fit in best. One of the things that drew me to derby was that it challenges me, and I definitely get that challenge here. We have some great coaches here, who have very different styles from mine, so there’s always a lot to learn. And we play at the level I’d like to play at.
What drew you to roller derby in the first place?
Obviously, it’s totally bada$$. It is also very diverse, and there are all kinds of body types. It’s not as uniform as other sports. So I was like, “Oh, wait. Maybe I can do this.” Then I started playing it, and now I love it even more.
Where and when did you start playing roller derby?
I started a little over five years ago in Germany, when I was a PhD student. It is what got me through my PhD.
I didn’t realize you were a doctor. I am going to call you Dr. Raptor now.
You can call me Dr. Raptor. *laughs*
Tell me about your feelings in your first bout, if you even remember, and what has changed the most for you since then?
Track awareness! During my first game, I had no idea what was happening. It was like, “Oh, there goes the jammer! Hi!” *waves* I only got to play four jams, and three of them were in the last few minutes. I was pretty frustrated because I expected to have more play time beforehand, but just because of how that team worked…if someone went to the penalty box, the new person sat out in their place. There were a lot of penalties that game, so I sat a lot.
You don’t get many penalties yourself. You are a pretty safe player.
I would call it a “clean” player because there are a lot of “safe” players that get penalties. I officiated a lot the first couple of years. I have 150, or so, games as an official. I actually started out as NSO (non-skating official). Right after I started skating, I had already previously scheduled foot surgery. Three weeks into skating, I was off skates for a month or so. I NSOed a lot then, so I just kind of kept doing it until I moved here. Then I played mostly both games all summer [Allstar and Brawler].
NSOing is a great way to get your start in derby. For anyone out there wanting to become more involved and learn the game, volunteer as a NSO.
I knew the rules before I started playing which was incredibly helpful.
How would you describe your roller derby style?
I would like to think “smart,” but… I wouldn’t actually say I’m super hard-hitting. I don’t usually hit harder than necessary.
You are very forceful in keeping your space.
Yes. I would think just “aggressive.” I play a lot of offense. As a jammer, I definitely go for those hits.
And you follow through on them.
I do follow through on them. I am trying to be smarter about jamming though, because jamming is less exhausting when you don’t get knocked around as much.
Do you have a preferred position to play?
Pivot. I like to save the day. *laughs * What sucks is when you get a star pass in the first 30 seconds and the other jammer gets a penalty. It fortunately doesn’t happen that often. I like being pivot because it’s a good balance of blocking and jamming. Nowadays, I also like jamming. But when I started off jamming I didn’t have the stamina at all because I was a very aggressively hitting jammer. That is definitely something I have improved on a lot over the past year or so. We have a lot of very agile people on the team. I have learned so much from them. They have really helped me refine my jamming skills.
In the past, and very recent past, you have given me some really good advice and tips. What is some really good advice someone gave you? Is there any particular thing you want to pass on?
Something I would like to pass on is, “Don’t give up.” If there is a particular skill you are working on that you just can’t seem to get, just talk to a lot of different people. My biggest issue was always transitions. I still am not happy with my transitions after five years. It took me two or three years to do a transition in game play. I was struggling to get them at all. I managed to get to where I am now by talking to a lot of people and getting tips and tricks from a lot of different people. Someone may give you a tip that works for your style or body. Or they may just be able to explain it in a way that works better for your brain. That is the other part of derby. It is a very mental game.
When you get frustrated, how do you overcome?
I focus on the good things. In derby specifically, I just practice jamnesia. If a jam doesn’t go well, I try not to focus on what didn’t go well. Instead, I say specific things that I am going to do in the next jam. Like if I let the jammer by three times on the inside line, I would tell myself, “I will guard the inside line.” I phrase things in a positive way. “Not” is not a good word to use. Your brain doesn’t hear the “not,” and then you do what you were trying not to do.
When you aren’t on skates, what is your favorite thing to do?
I love to travel. I really like national parks and monuments. I have been to 58 national parks. I have been to 12 during a roadtrip a couple of weeks ago. We didn’t see all of Yellowstone in a little over a day, but my plan is to sometime fly out there, rent a car, go back to Yellowstone, and go to Craters of the Moon.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is all the people you meet along the way.
Yeah. And I do the Junior Ranger programs. I really enjoy them.
One of the first things a person may notice about you is your accent. Where did you get it from?
I was born in Germany. I lived in Switzerland for five years. My siblings were both born in Switzerland, actually. I moved back to Germany and lived in four different German cities. So I have gotten around. So people are like “Where are you from?” “I’m from Germany.” “But where exactly?” “Southwest…” I did all 10 years of my studies at the same university in Kaiserslautern. I had originally planned to go to different schools for my bachelor’s and master’s, but the school I went to had an international PhD program I wanted to get into. I did end up getting into the program, so I spent 3 months each year in the U. S. I went to UConn once, UC Davis twice, and Los Alamos once. Most of my non-derby friends there were students, so most of them left. My derby friends from Kaiserslautern were mostly U. S. Air Force or dependents, so most of them left, too.
What would you say your greatest accomplishments are on and off the track?
Off the track I would say getting my PhD. On the track, I would say getting to the point where I can actually do fancy footwork.
What is your gear set‐up?
I have Solaris boots with Avenger plates. Fun fact: my boots are mismatched. I have to pay extra to get different sizes for each foot, so I figured why not make them look different. My pads are 187s. I can’t remember my helmet brand -- my last one was an S1.
Thank you for sitting down with me. It is now time for you to pick the next featured skater. Who would you like to know more about?
Crash Cymbal. She came back a while ago, but I don’t know a lot about her, and I think she is cool. I would like to know how long she has been skating: when she started, when she quit, why she quit, why she came back.
Thank you readers for sitting down with me to learn more about our Dino-mite skater, Ferociraptor. Join us August 4 and August 18 at the Knoxville Convention Center to catch Raptor and the rest of Hard Knox Roller Girls in action. See you there!