Thursday 8 March 2018

The New Girl

"It felt scary leaving my comfort zone..."

Three and a half years ago I joined my local roller derby team; this was the best decision that I have ever made. Roller derby is inclusive and accepting. No one is left out. 

In October last year I decided to move from my local team to another team based 26 miles away from where I live. This was a huge decision that I had been thinking about on and off for a whole year. So in October 2017 I decided to leave my team and join the Riot City Ravens.

I recently read a post on ‘oursquad' about how it felt to be the new girl. This, along with a fellow team mate inspired me to write my own post about how it felt to join the team.

It felt scary leaving my comfort zone. In my old team, I had felt pretty experienced, to join a new team where I would be at the bottom of the pile. I knew that I would need to work my way up and gain a whole new skill set.

The Ravens were very welcoming and friendly. They also encouraged me to keep trying and that I would definitely improve by attending their sessions. I would gain new skills; the Ravens are inspiring along with being super supportive. 

Training Session with Luklear Blast of Bristol Roller Derby

I've felt quite disheartened over the past four months and still do from time to time. The girls are continuing to help me build my confidence; they must see that I have potential and something to offer them.

They also invited me along to all of the social events to make sure that I felt part of the team and that I could bond with them. Being friends and having fun seems to be a huge factor for this team, though they are very determined and serious about the sport and they are fierce on track. 

Joining a new “squad” can be scary, but I have only had positive experiences through changing teams. 

I have learnt a lot more about roller derby, trained harder and have made a bunch of new friends.

Changing teams can be daunting or scary, but if all of the teams out there are as amazing, welcoming and friendly as the Riot City Ravens then you'll be fine! 


Sunday 30 July 2017

Finding Your 'Derby Voice'

'Speak your mind even if your voice shakes...'

The roller derby track is a confusing place to be. There are positions to be maintained, plays to be understood and executed and jammers to be seen and trapped all within a fraction of a second. Effective communication is, therefore key, both on and off the track.
In every team there are players for whom this seems to come easily. They talk to their walls, organise the troops and notice everything. They are trusted and are rarely questioned or blamed even when their decisions might not have a positive outcome. The weird thing is that these players might not always be considered to be the best players on the team or the most experienced, but without them, the wall falls apart.
It is easy to become over reliant on these players, but what happens if you are not lined up with one of them? When for some strange reason all eyes turn to you and you are expected to 'step up' and fill the communication void. In that moment you doubt your ability to do this successfully and you ask yourself a series of self-deprecating questions:
'What if they think that I am too bossy?'
'What if I get it wrong?'
'Why would they listen to me?'
'Surely there's someone better than me who can do the talking?'
In our non-derby life we are all experienced talkers. We might be paid to be leaders at work, we might be in charge of the safety and development of our children. We might suggest nights out with friends, arrange holidays, tell our hairdressers and partners what we want and don't want and we might make calls to get jobs done. However, put us on track and we are suddenly rendered mute. We, therefore, cannot assume that our life experiences mean that we should be 'natural' on-track communicators.
Derby communication is a skill which needs to be practised deliberately. Remembering to communicate and 'shout what you see' is a little bit difficult when your number one focus is often sheer survival or managing two minutes on track without another little trip to the penalty box! There are so many rules to consider and big hits to avoid. It's hard enough to look up most of the time let alone to look around you and communicate the best next move.
In our game we need to practise communication at all times and not just when the whistle goes. On the bench it is helpful to know what jammers want from their blockers and who to ask to do that for you. Being able to change the plan is another important skill to master. What if there are suddenly two blockers in the bin when you go to line up to do that amazing bit of offence off the line that you were planning a minute earlier?

Remembering to listen to instructions from the bench during the jam is also key. This isn't always easy, there is crowd noise to ignore and the shouts of the other excited players to filter out.

After a jam, feedback from the other players and coaches should be direct and timely. Individuals should not be blamed for the failure of any one move and the bigger picture of the match should be considered. Equally as individuals we need to learn to receive feedback and to ask questions with a thick skin. Any perceived criticism can be turned into targets for improvement if the problem is fully understood.

As with everything in this sport, sometimes you just have to rise to the challenge and have a go. Take a risk and see what happens. We will never be ready if we just keep waiting to be. Even if you don't really have a clue, if you shout your command with enough conviction, people will do it anyway. If it fails, will anyone really remember that it was your idea?

Photography Credit:- Questionmark Photography

Wednesday 15 March 2017

The Countdown: British Champs 2017

British Champs logo and league table from

At Ravens HQ the countdown to the 2017 British Championships has begun. Saturday 18th March will see the Ravens boarding the party bus and heading down the M5 to play North Devon Roller Derby at home in the first bout of the women's T3: Regional South division. This season's Champs have expanded to include a wider range of teams and we are looking forward to being part of this exciting competition. Our second place ranking last year meant that we have been promoted to Tier 3 and we are going to be facing some tough competition. We are confident that the new walls and plays that we have been drilling will mean that we are real contenders. Our coaching team has been encouraging urgency and pack awareness and skaters have been setting their own improvement goals. Mindset sessions, fitness challenges and footage analysis with experienced referees have all helped us to prepare. Last year taught us a lot and the stats below tell us that we should be proud of our jammers and blockers and with a full strength team, we are ready to do it again!

Stats and league table from

Our LUM, Devil's Snare thinks that moving up a tier is a big challenge in terms of our mental and physical fitness and the only thing standing in our way will be our own self doubt. Her hope is that we will end this season even stronger and more cohesive than we are right now. Star blocker Morganator is looking forward to the structure and challenge that the British Champs brings and she thinks that we will rise to the occasion and bond even more as a team. Our team preparation and hard work gives us strength and if we fail, we learn! it is, our 2017 Champs schedule. It would be amazing to see you all at our home bout in Cwmbran or at our away bouts if you fancy it! Don't forget that you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and for more information about the British Championships please visit:

March 18th 2017
Riot City Ravens vs North Devon Roller Derby - AWAY
May 6th 2017
Riot City Ravens vs Bath Roller Derby - AWAY
June 3rd 2017
Riot City Ravens vs Cornwall - AWAY
June 24th 2017
Riot City Ravens vs Dorset - HOME

We are looking forward to smashing some ladies on a track near you very soon! See you there!!!

Saturday 11 March 2017

A Raven State of Mind

beXtreme and Nockout relaying Richard's session to our freshmeat

Growth mindset theory with Richard Jones

The Ravens believe that mindset can have a huge impact on our performance level. To be a better player does not necessarily mean that you must train harder or longer. Successful training must involve both mental and physical components and a successful coach will teach psychological skills and strategies as well as providing physical challenge and technique. As Ravens we aren’t satisfied with brushing off poor performance as an ‘off day’ and we want to learn how to analyse why things didn’t go our way.
We recently invited Richard Jones an experienced teacher, coach and public speaker to deliver a training session on the transformative power of growth mindset and deliberate practice.

Richard started the session by introducing us to Carol Dweck’s "fixed vs growth" mindset theory debate. 

People with a fixed mindset might believe that:

  •      Skills are something that we are born with
  •      If someone is successful it is because they are talented
  •      Challenges are something to be feared because they might reveal a lack of skill
  •      Perseverance will not help
  •      Effort is futile. If you can’t do it, you aren’t good enough
  •      Failure is blamed on other factors including other people
  •      Feedback is taken personally
People with a growth mindset tend to believe that:

  •       Skills come after practice
  •       Feedback is something that you can learn from
  •       Failure is a learning opportunity
  •       Skills can be improved
  •       Effort leads to mastery
  •       Talent is overrated

Richard also explained the myelination process. When we practise something over and over again our brain creates a substance called myelin that grows and wraps around our brain’s axons acting as insulation for our nerve fibres. Axons that are well insulated with myelin send faster impulses to our muscles. In roller derby our skills often require split second timing; therefore, well developed brain pathways are very important. Richard suggested that the best way to increase myelin is through deep and deliberate practice. We should aim to practice skills that are just beyond our comfort zone and failure or falling over should be seen as a learning opportunity. The process of failing and trying again is how our brain creates myelin. In a nutshell, if you can’t do something you need to train your brain to be able to do it.

Practice makes myelin and myelin makes perfect.”The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle

Coming out of our comfort zone is an important training requirement for us all including the most experienced of our players who might feel that they have reached the ceiling of their skill level. Richard used the example of James Nottingham’s learning pit to explain this.

Richard explained that excellence is a choice and we need to be prepared to pair up with and learn from people who are better than us. Teaching others will always help the best players to hone their own skills. Personal goals and reflection are vital but it is also important to accept the fact that the myelination process might take four or five years to happen.

The language that we use to talk to ourselves can also be improved through growth mindset training. Richard suggested that simply adding ‘yet’ to our negative self-talk could make a difference to us. “I can’t do it” becomes “I can’t do it..yet” and coaches should aim to specifically praise effort in our sessions.
As individuals we need to take responsibility for our own thoughts and fears and we can’t expect our coaches to emotionally drag us through. We discussed anxiety reducing techniques such as positive imagery, negative thought blocking and rational vs catastrophic thinking. Richard showed us a peak flow arousal chart and suggested that we should be aiming for high somatic arousal with low cognitive anxiety. Basically this means that we should feel physically ready without worrying about it. Some might describe this as being in ‘the zone’.


We all want to win, but are we all prepared to hold ourselves to a level of excellence?
We need to be prepared to practise, fail, correct ourselves and ask for advice. We need to overcome challenges, set our own goals and regularly review our performance. Above all else we need to value the skills of our individual players and should not waste time judging ourselves against those who we perceive to be better than us. This is the Raven state of mind!

Big thanks to Rich for a very valuable training session!

Recommended Reading
Bounce – Matthew Syed
The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle
Outliers – Malcom Gladwell
Grit – Angela Duckworth

Thursday 9 March 2017

These girls can!

'Empowered women empower women'
International Women's Day: reflections from the Ravens

Last night, like every other Wednesday night the Riot City Ravens trained together. We chatted, coached, laughed, watched, observed, guided, demonstrated, listened and advised. We hit each other, pushed each other, bruised, criticised and congratulated each other and it struck me that we are so very lucky to have this place where we belong.
Our team accepts women (and men) from a range of backgrounds, ages, fitness levels and experiences without judgement. We are all encouraged to develop our skills and to become fully fledged Ravens. There is no hiding place and from the very beginning new girls are introduced to the contact side of the game. Being a derby girl requires self discipline and a level of mental and physical toughness that might be considered unnatural for women. To know this you only need to watch the faces of people who have never heard of the sport as you describe what we actually do.
Society might decide that we are an unusual breed of tough, strong women who fear nothing and who are busy developing an army of like minded women who are strong enough to stand up against men.
The truth is that equality isn't about making women stronger than men. We are already strong, but it's about changing the way that society perceives our strength and how we bring that out in each other. Our sport proudly showcases female strength and resilience, but what might not be so obvious is the teamwork that has led us to feel confident enough to demonstrate it. We know that our Raven teammates are right behind us. If we get it wrong, they will cover it and this empowers us to risk failure.
So often being a strong woman is defined by women as being in opposition to a man. We are 'just as tough as men', 'faster than men' and some of us can 'hit harder than men.' These attitudes mean that we are constantly trying to live up to the expectations of others. In roller derby, this does not need to happen unless you choose to take part in co-ed games and it gives us a unique freedom to develop our sporting strength away from the male comparison. Our role models are usually females and being a woman does not hold us back.
In our real lives some of us are haunted by self doubt and a feeling that we don't really deserve to be in leadership positions or in charge of something important. This has recently been named as 'imposter syndrome' where we fear being exposed as a fraud. There has been a rise in young women reporting this feeling in their personal and professional lives. In our derby lives we are all acutely aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses and after a while this honesty liberates us.
The Ravens that I have spoken to do not feel that derby has changed their female identity, but they all agree that it has empowered them to find their inner strength and confidence. All described the influence that their teammates have had on them to stand tall, to be strong and to learn fast. We all hope that other women will find a safe place where they are free to belong, to express themselves and to learn to be proud of their strength.

Friday 6 May 2016

Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.

In January 2016 Riot City Ravens were proud to announce their new team sponsor for the year would be the one and only Tiny Rebel Brewing Co!

Tiny Rebel are master brewers, winning countless awards for their tasty beers. Located in Newport and with the team all being a fan they were the obvious choice to become our main sponsors.

Since the partnership began we've been able to offer Tiny Rebel beers at all our home bouts and spend every team social in the Urban Taphouse, Newport where the food, beer and atmosphere is to die for. 

If you haven't had one of their beers or been down to the Urban Taphouse, either in Newport of Cardiff, you really have to go, you won't regret it!

What's more you'll notice their amazing teddy logo adorning our bout tops and merch tops, something we couldn't be happier to promote.

Head on over to their website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and keep up to date on all their latest news, including details of special edition craft beers (all with the most awesome names, Power of Grayskull, Stay Puft, need we say more?!) and Tiny Rebel related events. Plus you can order beer ONLINE! Genius ;) 

If going out and enjoying a quiet pint with some top notch food is more your thing head on down to the Urban Taphouse in Newport of Cardiff and maybe we'll see you down there :)

Sunday 10 January 2016

Next Home Bout: Riot City Ravens vs Evolution Roller Derby

Come and watch us take on Shropshire's Evolution Roller Derby at Cwmbran stadium on Sat 23rd Jan 2016!!

We've got lots of lovely stalls for all your derby, merchandise, and vintage clothing needs, as well as our ever-popular cake stand and bar ;)

Remember to bring all your hard-earned cash as most stalls are unable to accept cards.

Tickets are just £4 advance, £5 on the door and under 12s go free :)