Okay, so I bleat on about the Tiger Bay Brawlers a lot. But I like roller derby, and our local team are great, so you’re just going to have to put up with it. They’re so great in fact, that there are members of the Brawlers that have been picked for the Team Wales squad! We put together a small Q and A with them to see what life is like representing your country in your chosen sport!
Tiger Bay Brawlers Team Wales representatives: Jen Moseley (Jen-Clawed Van Slamme), Christina Jolliffe (Jolly-Pop) and Laura Haman (Haman) – photographed by Simon Ayre. Also in our Q&A are Amie Gardner (Fearne Rotten) and Laura Kemp (Kemp).
WAC – How did you all end up in the Brawlers? Can you talk me through your journeys to get there?
Amie Gardner – Thanks Helia! It’s really exciting!! Well I have been skating with Swansea City roller derby since its set up in 2010. By the end of 2013, as much as I loved the team, I felt like I needed a bigger goal. I felt like a big fish in a small pond and didn’t feel there was any more I could learn there. TBB have a reputation for being very committed, athletic and professional so I wanted to push myself. Not only that but my buddy Kemp had transferred and Haman was moving to Cardiff. I thought it was the perfect opportunity
Jenny Moseley – I started out with TBB at their first intake in April 2010. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to prioritise my commitment to roller derby over other interests and see how far I could take it. Making it on to Team Wales is my most exciting achievement to date!
Laura Kemp – I started skating with Swansea in early 2011. In fact my first ever open bout was against Tiger Bay’s B team! I decided to make the move to TBB last year after a few issues within my old league ended up becoming unresolvable. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to join a team I’d always admired and respected. I’ve always had a serious outlook when it comes to my commitment to roller derby, and have always considered it more than a hobby, so to be part of the best league in Wales and now the National team is a very exciting time!
Laura Haman – I used to play for Swansea city roller derby and I moved to Cardiff as my boyfriend was offered a job, so moving to tiger bay wasn’t only a logical choice because of the city move but it was something I wanted to do for some time, who wouldn’t want to be involved with the Brawlers?! And now I’ve been selected for the training squad for team wales is just the cherry on top.
WAC – You must all be absolutely chuffed to have made it into team Wales! What were the tryouts like?
Christina Jolliffe – I joined the brawlers in the first in take in 2010 on the recommendation of my friend, now known in derby as Boba Fettish. Initially I was just going along for a bit of fun as I already did capoeira as a hobby. However, I gradually found myself doing more and more derby and less and less capoeira until I had to decide to focus on just one in order to progress. Looking at my time on the Tiger Bay A team and now getting on the team Wales training squad I think I made the right choice.
The first team Wales tryouts for me were a bit of a blur as my dad had died the week before but I remember being really pleasantly surprised by the friendly atmosphere and positive attitudes and having been a bit reserved about it all, that day made me certain that I wanted to make the team. On a personal note, that day also really helped me to take my head out of a really stressful situation for a few hours – something I find that derby does a lot for me generally.
WAC – Oh man – that sounds really tough. My sympathies. I guess that’s the good thing about being involved in something that’s so physical. Also the derby community seems so supportive.
Christina Jolliffe – It is for sure! (sorry to put a downer in there – that was just my circumstance at the time).
WAC – Not at all – that’s life, isn’t it? Have you all found that the derby community are supportive? Not just in cases like this, but all round? There’s never any shortage of fans at your bouts.
Laura Kemp – I’ve found the Brawlers to be a great support system. Both as team mates and personally. I’ve honestly never been around a group of women so passionate about supporting and empowering each other.
Laura Haman – The tryouts were intense. There was a combination of nerves and excitement, five hours for each tryout was tough though! As for the community … yes, there is a huge one. Not only from a player’s perspective but personally… it can be something as simple as having a bad day at work you’ve got people to talk to and then you’ve got that very physical edge during training to let off steam.
What I feel really that’s what brings everyone on a team like Tiger Bay together is that passion to succeed and constantly improve, not only yourself but the collective league.
Christina Jolliffe – I think the wider community too. For instance we get a lot of support from skaters from other more advanced leagues who feel passionately about developing newer leagues / skaters to improve the sport as a whole. We’ve had a lot of contact as a league with skaters from the USA and Canada and also London Roller Girls. I think that has a lot to do with how far the brawlers have come in such a short time.
Amie Gardner – The try outs were crazy … so inspiring. I genuinely believe that the training the brawlers gave me in the two months before the second round of try outs, got me through!! I agree with Kemp everyone is so positive!!
Jenny Moseley – The try outs were a great chance to meet new people from other leagues too, as people came from all over the UK. Skating with people outside your league is a great way to develop your skating and I was happy to be there just for that! I hadn’t really given it much thought beforehand, I think I just dismissed it as “not for me”. But Pip (Team England) said that she was thinking about trying out because the opportunity to represent your country in sport wouldn’t come around often again, especially with the increasing popularity of the sport and rise in skill levels. That made me seriously consider it and I ended up applying when they reopened applications, just a couple of days before the first round.
WAC – Good job you did Jen! So it is a pretty big deal, representing your country in a sport … Is that something any of you ever thought you would do? Were any of you particularly “sporty” before/as kids?
Laura Haman – It’s nothing I could’ve imagined! I’ve never found myself drawn to another sport, but I knew when I started I knew it was for me, and I haven’t stopped loving playing derby since. I used to skate a lot as a kid, and growing up with a big family, a majority being male. when it came to skating it was a keep up or get left behind situation, and I guess i’ve never let that go!
Laura Kemp – I was as a kid really sporty. I swam, danced and competed in gymnastics! So playing for my country was something I’d always considered from a young age. But I completely disengaged from sport as a teenager after a big knee injury which left me in a cast for months. Derby was the first sport that I got involved with since school, and it just clicked I knew there was no looking back after my first session. So being able to represent Wales in a sport that I have such a huge passion for is priceless.
Christina Jolliffe – I used to do track and field stuff in school (1500m and discus mainly) but not really team sports. I never thought I would have been part of a national team of anything!
Amie Gardner – I have never been interested in sports and have never been competitive. I was bullied a bit at school so I didn’t have much confidence in myself so never thought winning was a big deal haha. Not anymore though! ! Derby has brought out my confidence and my competitive spirit. I only got into it as a hobby and it took me sooo long to even pass my min skills. I was never a natural so I had to work hard. I never thought in a million years that I would get this far so it is a massive achievement!!! Its great to make your family proud
WAC – Derby seems to be one of those sports that really starts everyone at a level playing field and encourages those who may not have done well in sports at school. I wonder why that is though? There aren’t many sports that have that same thing? Do any of you have any theories why?
Amie Gardner – I don’t know … it is a weird one … haha I think that when I started I had no expectations. As someone thats never been into sports I thought of it more as a “give it a go” mentality. In the beginning you are very much taught that roller derby is for everyone all shapes and sizes all fitness levels etc which attracts women. women that thought they could never play a sport. For me it was the cliché. I saw Whip It and thought it looked cool! After a while then you see serious and competive (awesome) side of the sport.
Christina Jolliffe – I think it also has something to do with the fact that there is no expectation that new comers will have prior skills or knowledge. Most leagues are set ip yo teach people from scratch – literally teach you how to skate and fall before even going any where near the rules of the game or fancy skills. I think that makes it less daunting than coming into other sports completely fresh.
Jenny Moseley – I was fat and lazy before derby, and after a bad session I still think about giving it all up and going back to that lifestyle, but I don’t think I actually could. I did a martial art in my early teens for a couple of years but no team sports. I think the roots of the game lend it to inclusion- a bunch of women in Texas decided to start playing and wrote some rules. It snowballed and here we are today, just over ten years later. The best players in the sport still have day jobs, so there isn’t that pro/amateur divide. Anyone can rise to the top.
WAC – I love that about it! I loved Whip It too – such a great film how much would you say derby has changed you guys since you started doing it? Obviously there’s the fitness thing, but have there been any other effects?
Laura Haman – I’m much more confident now. And it sounds really cliche but I have a different side of me when I skate, since starting derby has made me more patient. I used to be so hard on myself that if I couldn’t do something first time, it was awful and I was useless, but its taught me that you need to stick to something and work at it… No matter how long it takes, it’s always worth it. There’s nothing more satisfying than working on something for so long and it clicking!
Jenny Moseley – I’ve learned a huge amount from it. It’s made me more ambitious but it’s taught me a lot about other people too- how to interact with and respect them, and the more you give, the more you get. I love the sheer variety of personalities I’ve met through derby.
Amie Gardner – Yeah its made me more determined. Mostly what jen has said! I have learned that I am good enough to do this and that makes me want to get better. It gives me belief in myself. I found as well that as much as I love winning, I learn so much from losing too!! I actually think I learn more from losing sometimes haha.
Jenny Moseley – That’s definitely a thing.
Amie Gardner – Not that losing is an option from now on
Laura Haman – What these ladies said too. Haha
Laura Kemp – As odd as this one is derby has taught me I can be friends with other girls! My friendship groups beforehand were largely male and I felt like I never really got on with other women. But since starting skating I’ve found a brand new appreciation for how wonderful women are! We’re funny, strong, ambitious and really I’ve found I celebrate myself and other women so much more now I’m involved with derby. I think that’s the culture within derby in general it’s kind of like we’re here, we’re awesome, we’ll kick ass and we’re hot!
WAC – Have you made friends in other teams?
Jenny Moseley – Yes, and it’s awesome because you bump into each other at games and other derby events, and you’ve got somewhere to stay in these random places, and occasionally you meet on track and you’re quietly cheering them on even though you want to beat their asses!
Laura Kemp – Sure, I’ve made some great friends with girls in other teams. It usually comes from playing them then bonding in the after party!
Christina Jolliffe – Yeah, I even made friends with my friend’s sister (hope that makes sense?) who is living in New Zealand and we did a t-shirt swap and became online friends, which is something I wouldn’t really do outside of derby. She was skating for Pirate City at the time.
Laura Haman – Yeah you tend to make friends with people outside of your own teams, and more likely than not they become long distance friendships, so you know you’ve got somewhere to stay if you’ve got to travel to games.
WAC – Is there bad blood between any of the teams? Not just with the brawlers necessarily, but with each other?
Laura Haman – As for the bad blood, with there being this many women, let alone them being so strong minded involved, yes leagues do fall out and disband … But I guess it just depends on the type of league or team ethos you’ve got. Some teams do focus on quite a bit of the off track drama and bitchyness. But if you want to be part of a competitive and driven league then you tend to leave it all behind, and really focus on your team’s goals and achievements, rather than who said what behind someone’s back.
Amie Gardner – Ahh there is a question no-one likes to answer. In my time not with TBB I have seen splits in teams but that’s because many people have different ideas on how the sport should be played/taught/nurtured. Many teams want to be for fun, some want half and half some want to be competitive. I think though that the sport is coming together so much that it’s just not worth bad blood. Bad blood means to me being unsportsman-like … and no team wants to be seen that way … so it’s great.
Amie Gardner – Haman’s answer was perfect, hah!
WAC – Have you got any advice for new skaters? People who want to get into it but aren’t sure?
Christina Jolliffe – 1. No one expects you to be good at it straight away and neither should you – set yourself little steps for progression. Some of the best players took ages to get to grips at first. 2. If you are strapped for cash when getting your first set of kit then priorities knee pads / gaskets over everything else.
Laura Haman – Absolutely what jolly said… And to add to it don’t compare yourself to other skaters, we all have our strengths and weaknesses and although they may have picked up something faster than you for one aspect of the game they may struggle with something further along. (Or they might just very well not want to admit they’re having a hard time) don’t beat yourself up!
Amie Gardner – Yeah Jolly and Haman pretty much summed that all up for me haha!
Laura Kemp – I think I’d say do some core work! Your legs will come in time but you’ll fall over less with a strong core.
Jenny Moseley – I feel an obligation to say: watch footage! Watching games is incredibly valuable. Learn how to learn. In derby, most of the coaches are players themselves who are coaching because they feel they have something to give to other skaters. They may not have been skating as long as you or you might not always get on with them well, but if they an teach you something then you need to forget all that and appreciate what you can gain. Also, learning how to analyse your own movements and improve on them is valuable.
WAC – Also do you guys have any Derby heroes? People who have done really well in the game that you admire?
Jenny Moseley – Well Tiger Bay have a massive soft spot for Tui Lyon from VRDL (Australia) who was known as BB Bombshell when she came to us. She helped us become the league we are now an will always have a place in our hearts! Also the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls are good buds of ours, they were our mentors in the WFTDA Apprentice programme and came to train us after they won the 2010 WFTDA championships. We partied hard with them.
Amie Gardner – I really admire Stef Mainey… I remember when I first started I went to watch a game where it was all stars vs LRG. As soon as I saw her skating I was just like WOW! she was a fab coach when she came down to our team! the very same as ballistic whistle … he has such an awesome coaching style, and to be able to coach LRG so well is so impressive.
On a smaller scale, being from wales we do not have many bouting teams, and I have always admired TBB!! Kid Block is just awesome, and Dos Santos’ blocking has always wowed me.. kinda awesome that I am with TBB now!
Thanks Brawlers! And just so you don’t think we’re being nationalist … we’ve got a Q & A with the Brawlers who were picked for TEAM ENGLAND next week! Team Wales vs Team England … that’s got to be a match to watch, eh??
Thanks to all the Brawlers for taking part in the Q&A and big thanks to Simon Ayre for the great photographs. Visit the following links to keep up to date with all your Brawlers news:
Tiger Bay Brawlers website
Tiger Bay Brawlers Facebook
And see you next week for our English sports heroes…