- Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Full transparency… this is a VERY uneducated opinion of mine and it is only with such little factual information that it gives me a view of around 30,000 ft above ground.  This means it is an opinion which has been made without many of the important details.

I do not think the United States Inline to Ice program (or whatever it currently is being called) is good for either the sport of ice skating or the sport of Inline skating. 

Last week, one of the athletes I have been training for a few years, decided it was time to move to Salt Lake City to start working on his Olympic dreams. I do not blame him at all for having hopes of competing in or winning Olympic gold medals. It is a common conversation I have in my own head about my career and the would have/should in the rear view mirror. In reality, I had guided his training in a way that he was always headed in the Olympic direction with his current trajectory and age even while training for inlines in Des Moines. What disappoints me is that I feel our United States inline skating athletes are being told it will be a good idea to stop focusing on inlines and to move to ice. Our inline skaters are being “bartered” in such a way that what is best for the long term of both the sports of inline and ice as well as the athletes themselves are being overlooked. Before we get started on a Inline vs Ice conversation, understand that I DO NOT BELIEVE that an athlete has to only be successful at one or the other. Desly Hill-Kluiver proved in Holland with Michael Mulder and many other skaters that athletes could win on both Ice and Inline at the same time (and she proved the Dutch could win at sprints). Bart Swings, Peter Michael, Francesca Lollobrigida, Livio Wenger, Daniel Nero and many more have shown that success could be had in both sports at the same time. Since my view is from so far away in the states, I am not sure on how they are getting it done, but the bottom line is that it is happening in other parts of the world….just not so much in the United States.

Through years of competing and coaching, here are a few things I believe: 1) Athletes have to be rewarded at certain points along the way with competition in order that they both gauge their own current quality and also to in order that they have emotional stimulation returned to them for for the heavy workload they are putting in to try and be the best. 2) Winning tends to be a habit. A habit which is tough to learn, heavy to carry and bitter to let go of. In other words, the mind has a gigantic role in our athletic hero’s and those minds have been molded by past experiences. 3) People/athletes need hero’s or role models to look up to, learn from, follow in foot steps or maybe even surpass records set by in order to aspire.

By taking the United States “next person in” for inline skating every couple of years and sending them over to the ice, I would argue that we are overlooking all three of the points I have listed above. I can’t speak on what it takes to win an Olympic gold medal on Ice, only a few people know so I would defer to what they tell us. I do know by riding shotgun, some of the things it took for Derek Parra and Chad Hedrick to win. I had the blessing of being their teammate and lead out guy on both of their first world championships wins and I skated for years with and against them on the pro circuit. Both Derek and Chad raced a number of roller races every year, winning often but also losing enough times to make them keep going back to work. Both learned to carry that crown of being “The Man” as they both defined a generation. Lastly, both learned the responsibility and work involved in trying to keep that crown. Both had legends and hero’s they looked up to and both found ways to surpass any legacies that were left in front of them. I didn’t get to see the early victories of Joey Mantia but I did get to skate with him and race him. I know he also raced a bunch. I know he had people he looked up to and I have talked with him enough times to know he understands the role he plays in the sport and how much work that role requires. I would imagine that Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson Bergsma would also share similar experiences coming from such historic roller speed clubs and having themselves left such a great legacy on inlines and ice. 

The thing is, they all learned and practiced these skills on wheels which in my opinion, allows for a much greater launching pad than the ice currently does in the United States. Rollers have more teams to compete with/against, more races with easier access, more opportunities for training and the United States legacy to chase after is pretty decent on wheels (as it also is on ice). I fear that we are currently taking our younger athletes who are showing great potential and dangling the allure of the Olympics in front of them. They may be having good younger results or national results but perhaps they have not fully formed in other areas yet which is in the long run, keeping them from reaching their full potential on ice as well as inlines. I am also not saying that moving to Salt Lake City is a death nail for inline skating, I would have loved to train in the mountains and with some of the other benefits found in Utah. I also know the “potential” to have great coaching of inline and ice is in Salt Lake as the legendary Derek Parra calls Utah home. I just have yet to see the United States ice skaters have much intent or determination to have the same kind of success on inlines as they were once destined for or for being regular athletes on the inline schedule. I can see the need for a sharper focus on ice for Olympic years, for rest periods/cycles around certain international events or for just needing time for a mental/physical break but it often seams like when something has to give…it is the inline skates that suffer. 

I struggle to see how having a weaker USA Inline team is beneficial for the growth of inline skating. I struggle to see how US ice speed skating can see that taking fledging inline skaters is the best “grass roots program” and the way for them to farm skaters and shape future generations. I fail to see how taking a athlete before they have “emotionally” matured as a champion or augmenting the natural or normal arc that athlete was on mentally is good for the future of that athlete. If Inline skaters in the United States run out of memories of inline skaters they want to be like or be better than, what is going to drive them to work hard or compete. And if Inline skaters stop showing up or succeeding in the United States, what will that do to the future growth strategies or “farm team” of the Unites States Ice Federation.

Until Inline skating becomes an Olympic sport, the draw for ultimate success will always be to the ice and the glory the 5 rings bring. My opinion is that the governing bodies should be forward thinking now and devise a better relationship between athletes, coaches and schedules which will keep the success of the athletes and of both sports for future years. From my view point, way too far away to know better…I see short term ideas and deals being made without long term planning or understanding happening. I think it has to be a win – win situation for inline skating and ice skating for the system to work well.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to fill me in all of the blind spots I may not be seeing. Prove me right or wrong and lets all be a part of MAKE AMERICA SKATE AGAIN.

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Right now Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby is in a small dilemma and is struggling with how to move forward. For a few years, we have been participating in and helping to promote Spring Roll, A coed roller derby tournament put on by the Ft Wayne Derby Girls. We love this tournament because this event and these girls were some of the first people to embrace men’s derby and to give it some national attention. In a way of helping to give back, in 2013, Your Mom participated in a prime time bout with a group of Midwest All-stars females in a “made for the fans” event.  This game provided an opportunity to merge the two sets of fans together and the spectators had loads of fun.

 

Move away from Spring Roll for a moment and enter the politics that are involved in the Men’s Roller Derby Association. The MRDA is fairly new but growing really fast as the governing body for Men’s roller derby. For the past couple of seasons (or since YMMD started our run of success) a few vocal people have tried to implement policies based on where people can play and how far players are allowed to go to play on a team. Before YMMD became a top team, a handful of teams in MRDA were already made up of players from different places. Most notable were the Magic City Misfits made up of jam skaters from different parts of the country. With only 44 current MRDA teams worldwide (nearly doubling in last 24 months) it is often necessary for players to travel numerous miles to play the sport. Also, with the sport in the recruiting and growth stages, many people are calling on relationships from all over to try and get them involved. Since people are more acceptable to trying new things with friends, it only makes sense that they may travel to do so at first. It is that very concept which made up the core of friends and jam skaters that brought together and made the Magic City Misfits so unique.

 

Currently the WFTDA (the women’s governing body) has nearly 350 member teams and it still has no travel or population restrictions for its competitive teams. I applaud the leadership for understanding that for a sport which is growing so rapidly, putting restrictions in place can only stunt the growth and take away people’s opportunity to play. Over the weekend I was able to spend some time with both Gotham (currently the top women’s team on the planet) and with the Garden State Girls (a top 100 team out of New Jersey). Gotham is and has been my favorite team in the sport because I love how hard they work and how they still play every game like they are the underdog…defending champion. They are in the biggest city in America and they have people moving into the big apple all of the time for numerous reasons. The charter for Gotham and the home teams is full of people who came from all over the country. Across the way is GSR. A fantastic group of ladies who are currently scratching and clawing to gain some respect in spite of the big giant just a few miles down the way. GardenState also has plenty of players to choose from as New Jersey is full of people and large cities. In speaking to some of the players from GSR they enjoy having Gotham next door. Yes, they say that they may lose a handful of players every year to players who want to try stepping up to the very top level, but they have just as many who want nothing more than to try and take down the king. Both teams have to deal with a few more WFTDA teams in the area as well as Philly right down the road in holding on to players. Yet the women’s sport continues to grow and the game play keeps getting better and better.

 

Back on the men’s side, the handful of very vocal members annually go on a witch hunt to try and place mile restrictions on how far people are allowed to travel to play for a team (with only 44 current teams I am guessing they may have to have a big ruler). They say it is to help the sport grow but the sport is not really having much trouble in growing right now. If we implemented population restrictions which are how high school sports are done, think about how many YMMD they would have to split our cities into. Try the MRDA second and third places, NYC and St   Louis. If DSM has 500,000 people and one team than NY with 8,300,000 would have to have 16 teams divided by geography or St Louis with 2,900,000 would have to have nearly 6 team divided by geography. They would never consider population to be beneficial for building a team or growing a league but that is because it doesn’t benefit them. They would rather see distance as the variable, which in my opinion is even more unfair. Think of the density on the east coast, west coast or down in Florida. Compare that to the upper parts of our country or even our farmlands in the Midwest (or try Australia). No pinpointed, radius circle could be fair for the globe if mileage was our marker (isn’t that what State Wars is for anyway?). If we are worried about growth and you want to argue one team is not helping… I am out on the derby road representing YMMD and spreading the message.

 

I will land this plane by telling you what is bothering me today. We were selected as one of the teams to play at the 2014 Spring Roll tournament. We were asked to submit our list of teams we would like to play from all of those who were selected. The initial draft list came out last week and we were asked to play a couple teams who didn’t list us and who we didn’t list. We immediately messaged Spring Roll and mentioned that it was a bit odd that this scheduling happened but we would be willing to play 2 of the 3 match ups but we couldn’t play one of them based on principal. Here is why; a specific team in our part of the country has refused to schedule any games at home or away with us and encouraged other teams to do the same based on the unhappiness they have with our team make up. We know we need to have home local games and local rivalries in order to help our league to grow. This specific team happens to be very competitive and would be an amazing rivalry to have as a home and away every year (much like NYSE and MASS have). Spring Roll scheduled one of our games to play this very team and we explained our the them our dilemma. We submitted that we would be happy to play the other two match ups and requested that if this other team agreed to schedule local bouts with us moving forward we would play the third bout or Spring Roll could schedule a different game for us as our third. After much deliberation, the other team still refuses to play us in regular scheduled games and Spring Roll refuses to find us another game to play in. I am certain that we are going to be made out to look like the bad guys (again). If the growth of the sport was really the key issue for everyone….The other team would play us (home and away) which would be great for fans, media and local people who do not know yet how amazing this game can be. Or Spring Roll would switch that one game for us as we are still playing other games we did not request to ease their scheduling pains.

 

I am not yet sure how this is going to pan out but the politics of men’s derby is killing my spirit. Ymmd is playing heck trying to find teams who will have a reciprocal game relationships with us. We love the great number of women’s teams who have stepped up to play us or have requested games. We love playing the women but we need men’s teams for growth and MRDA requirements as well. In any sport that I have ever played, if I had the chance to play the current best in the world, I would have jumped at it. Win or lose I know I would learn something and the fans would get to see something special. Although the easy answer might be to play the third game, but the hard truth is the league and the sport need local games and not just tournaments in order to grow. So we are stuck..

 

If you read the whole rant, thank you and I am sorry I had to vent.

 

Tony

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The First (And Most Important) Question

The First Question

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The first question that I typically get when I encounter someone for the first time is “what do you do for a living?” At first glance, it appears to be an easy question but it actually riddles me more than most any other. It really isn’t that I don’t know what I do, rather I don’t know what I do that I would want to define myself as “living” for. By occupation I am a Real Estate Broker/ Realtor at Re/Max. I love that I get to help people find homes.  In the last few months alone I have been blessed with being able to find first homes for a handful of newlyweds. To hundreds who have grown up in Des Moines, I am Coach Tony. It could have been the easy ones like all of the speed skaters, hockey players or derby players I coached at the rinks or it might be where I had to stretch my skills a bit and I coached them in soccer, basketball or my current gig as a high school football coach. To many people in Des Moines I will always be that little rink kid who skated before he could walk. I spent a good part of my life living in a skating rink that my parents owned.  Do I introduce myself as a speed skater? The majority of those days are long behind me but as an Iowa kid who at one point conquered the world, many people still like to remember me as that hero. How about roller derby player? Currently I play for the top roller derby team on the planet. I have also been named one of the captains for Team USA Men’s Roller Derby at the 2014 World Cup in England. Should I say husband?  I did celebrate another anniversary this past year to my wife Cassandra. She might say I get a 7 out of 10 score but that is still a C which is passing.  As a father of five kids, no one would argue if I introduced myself as a dad but being a donor is the easy part. Because they still like giving me hugs and kisses or holding my hand I think I could qualify.

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As 2013 comes to an end we are blessed with a brand new calendar. The new year will be ready with a bunch of new opportunities, adventures and challenges. My biggest challenge will be to try and better define my answer as to what I do for living. You see, although I graduated many years ago, I also could still be defined as a student. And in this instance, my daughter Rachel the child-teacher posed a stinging question to me which she had heard and loved.  She asked  “Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?” (Leonard Ravenhill ).

Tony Muse

December 2013

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Your Mom Takes the 2013 MRDA Championship

Your Mom Takes the 2013 MRDA Championship

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Photo Credit Bob Dunnell

 

 

Just like our sisters are doing in WFTDA, the men of roller derby are finally beginning to create a style of play that is unique and ground breaking. For the formative years of the men’s side, we were playing catch up, learning the ins and outs of game play while at the same time trying to stay on our skates. With a great deal of help and apprenticeship from the more experienced females and hard work with a bit of derby addiction, top level men’s derby has finally arrived.

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Photo credit Manish Gosalia

 

Every year the competition grows with the top teams getting better and the number of viable contenders becoming greater. Some of the top matches of the entire tournament happened on day one including a nail biter between the number two seed St Louis Gatekeepers and the number seven seed Puget Sound Outcast. The outcome wasn’t decided until the final jam when PSO jammer Dilly Dally received an ill timed jammer forearm which sealed the victory for the STLG. The moment was one of sadness for the spectators as everyone in the building wanted to see the game finish out full strength to enjoy the total madness at hand. The game that everyone was looking forward to on day one was the rematch from Spring Roll between the numbers four and five seeds, Magic City Misfits and Mass Maelstrom. This game started out just like the first bout with each team hitting each other with burst of scoring followed by a handful of zero net jams. By the second half, Mass had worn the Misfits depleted bench down and penalties were beginning to take a toll. The bout proved to everyone in the building that Mass was not the same team they were year ago and that any team that could set their mind and bodies to the task of teamwork could generate victories at the top level. Your Mom Men’s Derby and New York Shock Exchange were the other two semifinalist from day one with victories over newcomers The Deep Valley Belligerents out of California and the a team to watch in the future, The Bridgetown Menace out of Portland.

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Photo Credit Bob Dunnell

 

The semi finals were both matches that everyone wanted to see. Semi one was a rematch from the 2012 MRDA opening round with defending champion Your Mom Men’s Derby taking on the highly motivated and rebuilt Mass Maelstrom. These two teams mirror each others game play. Both have fast agile jamming and one on one recycling blockers that turn four walls into what seems like 12 walls. The bout was as rough and fast as promised with a halftime advantage going to YMMD 100 to 61. Nearly every jam was played with each team missing players to the penalty box and jammers still being recycled to the back of the pack numerous times. The Mass blockers were a mix of backward skating chests and agile skating footwork that kept taking jammers out of bounds whenever they slowed to avoid the contact. YMMD continued to recycle the Mass jammers over and over with relentless skating and positioning. In the end, the game was largely won by perseverance with the speed skaters from Iowa outlasting their brothers from the East. The final from semi one was 173 to 119 going to the top seed Your Mom. From a highlight perspective, the Jammers from both of these teams displayed amazing moves and power in order to get free as all teammates were relegated to defensive play in this fast and penalty filled game.

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Photo Credit Bob Dunnell

 

The other semifinal featured the two pillars of men’s derby, The New York Shock Exchange and the St Louis Gatekeepers. The two teams had met earlier in the year in St Louis with the Gatekeepers winning big. With the work ethic of the Shock Exchange as well as the training partners they have with the women’s team known as Gotham, everyone knew this would not be the same match up we saw earlier in the season. The Gatekeepers are well known for having the strongest walls as well as the best offensive plays in men’s derby. The Shock Exchange features tireless jammers, well timed team defense and the most educated team on the men’s side. With history on the line and both teams relying on team work, everyone in the building was ready for a show. The first half saw both teams pull ahead and then fall behind with St Louis eventually taking a 73 to 67 lead at half. New York came out firing on all cylinders and took the lead in the second and built up what looked like a comfortable margin. With around five minutes to go, The Gatekeepers caught fire and closed down an over 40 point deficit down 2 points with one jam left in the game. It was either teams game now to win or lose. Side bets were being waged all over the arena as many of us have witnessed St Louis pull out some incredible victories in the past when it looked like all was lost and who could forget the breathtaking finish from Spring Roll 2012 when the Shock Exchange educated us all on what was possible with rule interpretation. Jonathan R and the Shock Exchange were able to get lead jammer on the final jam and hang for to a 161-149 victory.

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Photo Credit Bob Dunnell

 

The Final day saw a hungry Puget Sound handle Bridgetown in a rematch from just a month ago. As one of the players in the middle of the battles, I would contend that the PSO are back on their game and I was happy not to see them in the tournament. They are doing great things up in Seattle with Roller Derby and with rumors of a Northwest Champs in 2014, I see the Outcast as the team to beat. The consolation game saw an angry group of Gatekeepers take out their vengeance on a fatigued Maelstrom. The Gatekeepers finally played the game we were all waiting for them to play….just one game too late. The offense they displayed in freeing their jammers was still the best in the business. The Maelstrom had to play most of the second half without the defensive play of Jack Hammered who injured his leg midway through the game.

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Photo credit Manish Gosalia

 

The 2013 championship game at the MRDA Battle of the Midway was another rematch from the summer featuring the relatively new but notorious Your Mom out of Iowa vs. the good old faithful New York Shock Exchange. YMMD had won the first match up in one of the best battles of the season at Coney Island. That battle saw Iowa get into penalty trouble early and New   York continually break the spirit of the smaller YMMD jammers. The depth of Iowa’s jammer bench as well as the jammers turned blockers for a day allowed Iowa to ever so slightly pull ahead in the end.  The scoreboard from game number one favored Iowa but the emotional battle was won by New York. The house was packed for the final game as everyone was done playing for the weekend and this was legitimately the best thing happening in Sioux City on this Sunday evening.

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Photo Credit Bob Dunnell

New York started out strong with a nine to nothing advantage built straight away on the backs of Jonathon R’s jamming and continual battering from the NYSE walls. Abe Drinkin and Buster Cheatin did a fantastic job of keeping the Exchange lines together and moving as one throughout the game. Frank NotSoHotra earned 8 back on the second jam and everyone in the building knew we were in for a see saw battle. The first major separation happened midway through the first when Carnage Asada gave New York a 37 to 21 lead which they were able to hold for the next few jams. The game tightened up bit by bit with Twinkle Toes earning 13 back to the excitement of the local Iowa fans. Your Mom took a slight lead only to see it go away in one giant 20 point run from Ladies Knight giving the Exchange a 69 62 lead with only a few minutes to go in the half. What looked to be a nail biter going into half suddenly changed abruptly. Your Mom was able to free their jammers and give them lead on the last 6 jams of the half allowing them to put up 51 points to New York’s 7 giving Your Mom their biggest lead thus far at halftime, 113 to 76.

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The second half started much like the first with the Shock Exchange taking lead on the opening jam and Jonathon R putting up 9 points for his team. New York took lead 4 of the first 6 jams of the second half and it looked like the adjustments they made at half time had paid off. They had narrowed the score back to 123 to 112 and everyone was back fully engaged to the battle at hand. The next 7 jams saw Your Mom put up 79 points to 8 for New York with the one, two, three punch of Frank NotSoHotra, Twinkle Toes and second half blocker turned jammer B Stang. With the score 202 to 120 and the game three quarters of the way through, the Shock Exchange jammers began taking risk in order to come back. The Your Mom blockers lead by Nicholas Becker, Sugar Boots, Seahorses Forever and Dirty Larry made them pay for their aggressiveness by continually drawing track cut penalties. The game ended with a score of 249 to 130 but all who watched saw a game which was much more exciting and closer then the scoreboard said. Frank NorSoHotra took home top jammer and Nicholas Becker took home top blocker belt buckles for Your Mom but the tournament was filled with lots of other amazing play.

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A special shout out needs to go to the Sioux City Kornstalkers and the MRDA for putting on a perfect event. Minus one random false fire alarm, the tournament ran smoothly. The view was perfect for all spectators. The venue was easy to find and large enough to hold such an important event. The hotels and restaurants were all close and affordable which made watching derby easy. The quality of the men’s side keeps getting better and better with the officiating and sportsmanship sharpening every event. The women of WFTDA have been great thus far in holding our hand, teaching us how to host large events and how to play the game.  Hopefully in the near future we will be able to repay them with some quality play ourselves. The next thing up on the MRDA radar will be Team USA at the 2014 World Cup. Many of the best players from around the country will be representing us and I look forward to seeing how amazing that team plays together. The term “Dream Team” is played out but I can’t think of a better way to describe what we will have on the floor in March.

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Peter Pan’s Magical South Florida Derby Camp

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Peter Pan’s Magical Roller Derby Camp for the South Florida Roller Girls

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