BUILDING A TEAM
2010 was an extraordinary year for Toronto Roller Derby in many ways. The success of the 2010 season in terms of on-the-track play and off-the-track exposure was unprecedented. Led by a core group of veterans who are growing ever more strategy-savvy, 2010 also saw the intake of what could have been the best rookie class ever. And it made for the best action on the track yet seen in ToRD, culminating in a wildly anticipated sold-out championship bout aired by Rogers TV.
But flat track roller derby not only continues to grow in Toronto, it has literally exploded all over the western world as well. This year’s WFTDA Championships in Chicago set attendance records and the development of competitive leagues in England, Germany, New Zealand and Australia shows that flat track roller derby has now become a global phenomenon. It has also sparked discussions of a potential World Cup of roller derby. For a derby nerd, the first question that this speculation inspires is, “How would you pick a team?” As with any sport, as roller derby has becomes more defined (strategies set, rules refined) being aware of positional and role responsibilities has become essential to putting a successful team on the track. When building a team from scratch with the best players in a country or region up for grabs, a coach may have to sometimes look beyond the perceptions of who the best players may be: As evidenced in various other sports leagues, professional or otherwise, a conglomeration of the best players does not necessarily equate to a great team.
The most logical way to build a squad is to take a team-management approach and build the team position-by-position, filling the spots with players who can fill the necessary roles. It was with this team-management strategy in mind that I put together my 14-skater bout roster as ToRD’s “All-Nerd Team” for 2010.
Any successful roller derby team begins with successful pivots. Since the evolution of slow derby and pack isolation and trap strategies, the role of the pivot has grown increasingly important. She is the skater who controls the pace and formation of the pack, and should have the sharpest mind in terms of strategy, but also the poise to be able to react with a split-second strategic decision. The winner of the last two ToRD Awards for Best Pivot, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls’ Brim Stone, leads my selections. No skaters was on the track for more of her team’s jams than Brim was this season lining up for a remarkable 55% of the Gore’s jams. Despite taking on more of a blocking and jamming role in 2010, Brim still led her team in pivot percentage (36%) and led the league in pivot +/- (+194) and in overall +/- recording an extraordinary +246. She also led her team in blocks and knockdowns.
Next is Chicks Ahoy!’s Rebel Rock-It, a master strategist and one of the top defenders in the league, Rebel knows this sport just as well as anyone in ToRD. She was the Chicks’ top pivot this season, and also led her team in overall +/- with an extraordinary +182. My final pick at pivot also doubles as my pick for most underrated skater in ToRD: The Death Track Dolls’ Panty Hoser. With a level of athleticism and physical presence on the track rare for a second-year player, Panty Hoster emerged this season as the Dolls’ top pivot and with a 38% pivot percentage spent more time leading her team on the track than any other player in the league. A strong positional player who has a naturalistic control over her packs, Hoser has the potential to be a model pivot for ToRD moving forward.
In terms of blocking, blockers have two distinct roles on the track, either positional or striking. A positional blocker is usually the blocker up front with the pivot setting front walls and being the last line of defense, but also plays in the back on the inside to hold the line against approaching jammers and ready to set traps. The ToRD Award winner for most improved player in 2010 was Molly Boom, and much of that had to do with her development into a strong positional player. Molly was third on her team in overall jam percentage while sharing pivot duties with veterans Junkie Jenny and Brim Stone. She also led her team in assists. Another blocker who spent a lot of time pivoting this season is Mega Bouche. Known primarily as a striker, Mega showed the composure this year to take on to more of a role pivoting (second on her team in pivot percentage), and finished second on the Chicks in both assists and knockdowns. Finally, the only rookie to crack the Nerd’s 14 skater lineup: the Gores’ Hurlin’ Wall. Hurlin’ put together a fantastic rookie season. Second on the champion Gores in total jam percentage (48%—a huge load for any player, not to mention a rookie), she also led the league in blocker +/- (+225), and was second on her team in assists and blocks while finishing third in knockdowns.
The ladies with the big hits. Best at the back of the pack (or outside front when dealing with a physical opposition), these are your blockers who have the freedom to move from position to deliver those flashy jammer take outs or to clear a hole in the pack. After somewhat of a quiet 2009, Chicks Ahoy!’s Nasher the Smasher came back in 2010 in a big way. Nasher was a monster on the track this season playing 51% of her teams’ jams while leading the Chicks in assists, blocks and knockdowns while also be called upon to pivot. In terms of highlight-reel hits, no player in the league delivers better than the Dolls’ Audrey Hellborn. With the most precise and devastating hips in ToRD, Audrey can deliver a timely jammer take out or clear out a pack almost at will. It’s no surprise that she led her team in knockdowns, but she also led in assists as well, and finished third in ToRD in total track percentage, stepping on to the track for 52% of her team’s regular season jams. She also had some pretty memorable moment with the star as well. Finally, another player who improved exponentially this year was Lady Gagya. With two ToRD championships under her belt now, Gagya will undeniably be a pack leader for the Gores moving forward. Third on the deep Gores squad in blocker percentage, Gagya’s physical presence was huge on a team that is known for its positional play.
Again in terms of building a team, you should look for jammers who can fill a role. While there is some discomfort in looking at one team exclusively to pick a jammer squad, it is difficult to deny that the Gores’ trio of Bambi, Dust Bunny and Lunchbox are not only amazing individual jammers, but also fill distinct roles on their team, making them a one-two-three punch that can deliver the blows in any situation. In terms of jammer statistics, these three skaters accounted for the league lead in four of the five jammer-specific stats, and finished 1-2-3 in Jammer Quotient ratings. With explosive speed and the malleability to twist and turn her way through a pack, Bambi put up some huge numbers in 2010 recording a record-setting 45JQ along the way.
This high rating came from leading the league in points (197 or 39% of her team’s total points) and points per jam (5.1) while finishing second in jammer +/- and jam percentage. The tenacious deke-machine Dust Bunny has the ability to fight through any situation no matter how tough, and became only the second player in ToRD history to record a JQ over 40 (43) by leading the league in jammer +/- (+118), finishing second in points, and third in points per jam and lead percentage. Finally, the supremely athletic Lunchbox—as capable of winning races to the outside as she is dancing along the line inside—finished third in total JQ (38) while leading the league in lead percentage, taking lead jammer in a remarkable 76% of her jams.
TRIPLE THREATS (2)
Finally, the triple threats; that rare breed of skater who has the poise, insight and track-sense to be capable of taking on any role on the track when called upon; she can come in and put up a grand slam if her team needs it, or don the stripe and lead a defensive pack to counter a power jam. In 2010, two women who stood out far and above the others were the Dolls’ Betty Bomber and the Chicks’ career triple threat Mach Wheels. 2009’s most improved player and newly elected Dolls’ co-captain, Bomber stepped up her game in a big way in 2010, leading the Dolls to their most solid regular season performance in years.
Bomber was on the track for 52% of her team’s jams in ’10, divided almost equally among jammer, blocker and pivot. Despite all that time on the track in all those various roles, she still managed to finish with an overall +/- of +114 and finished in the top four on her team in every major statistical category. To top it all off, the recorded a 30 JQ rating, good enough for fifth overall in the league. The player who finished just ahead with a 32JQ was Mach Wheels. Probably the most purely talented skater in ToRD, Mach did it all this season when called upon including leading her team in points and jammer +/- and finishing second overall in the league in jammer lead percentage (75%).
Check here for a bout-by-bout breakdown of 2010 ToRD stats.
On Thursday, part two of the 2010 All-Nerd Team: The Rookie Line
**Disclaimer: stats and consideration are based on regular season only**