How do you get a roller derby league going, especially when you and your friends have never even played before? VooDoo McQ worked through this as she helped develop Highland Derby Dolls, a fledgling league in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.
A blocker for Kickin’ Vixens (the league’s sole team), #34 explains the effort in gaining support in her area, the fortune she found in Atlantic Canada’s derby community, and the “selfish” reason she joined the sport.
Voodoo McQ works her magic – with enthusiasm – for you here.
Pepe LePunch: What’s the history of your league?
Voodoo McQ: We still have that new car scent! We are just over a year old as we formed in July 2012. Our league is filled with girls primarily living in Pictou County, NS, which is smack-dab between Truro and Antigonish. Although we all live in this small county now, our league is filled with girls originally from all over: Ontario, NB, NFLD, and one of our coaches is from Houston, Texas. We’re like a spice rack of personalities.
PLP: The match I announced for you [August 2013] was a combined team of Riptide Rollers [Annapolis Valley] and Highland Derby Dolls. You faced PEI’s Twisted Sisters. For some players on your joint team, that was their first full game, right?
VDM: Yep, for us five from Highland Derby Dolls, for sure, it was our first full game.
PLP: What expectations does a new player have in her first bout?
VDM: The word SURVIVAL came to mind!!! The thing about us participating in that first bout was, number one, we were forming a team with girls we had never met before. They were still pretty fresh, as well, with only a few games themselves. But we were stoked about that. We chatted about being nervous and so forth but in the end we decided to just take it all in, learn what we can and bring it back to our mates and teach them what we learned from it all.
PLP: Late in the game, some players were looking… wobbly. [PEI announcer] Austin Tatious and I mentioned to the crowd that skaters’ legs can get weary near the end. Could you explain the stamina it takes to complete 60 minutes of contact derby?
VDM: Wobbly would be a fairly accurate description near the end of that, no doubt. It takes a lot of stamina for derby, period. It’s an all-over workout, that’s for sure! Derby is like anything, though; you get out of it what you put into it.
You really have no idea what it’s exactly going to be like until that whistle blows and there you are in the depth of it. Adrenaline is pumping big time, I will say that, and you’re on and off the bench so much… It’s a definite high that I loved!!!
PLP: What were your players saying after that match against the Sisters?
VDM: Our players were so hyper with pride!!! It was that accomplished feeling of participating in your first bout. Regardless of the score or mistakes made, we were here in PEI playing against the Twisted Sisters, which has been the goal the whole time: to play!
VDM: What we learned… hmmmmm. Transitions come to mind. Ha!!! We learned that PEI is a classy bunch and, although the score got away from us, that every team was once where we are right now, and that we only grow from here.
PLP: What are some challenges in setting up a derby league? You just download a checklist and it’s pretty easy from there, right?
VDM: Challenges??? Nah, it took a solid two hours and then we just started skating!! Ha! Starting a league is a crazy, time-sucking machine!!! It’s everything you think, then more, way more. It’s so much work: contacts and research and mistake after mistake, and it takes a lot of people to make an extreme commitment to get it on the go and keep it going. We have a great bunch of girls who help out with tons of stuff and that helps big time. That said it’s so rewarding and becomes your baby in so many ways. It’s ridiculous how derby swallows you up. Even when you thought you were busy before derby, now it’s so much more than that. But you love it so much that most days it doesn’t matter; you find the time.
PLP: How is it finding training and game facilities in your area? That can be challenging, even in a city the size of Fredericton.
VDM: Finding facilities to train and bout in has been a struggle. Tons of calls, emails, meetings, etc. We live in a very small town. Roller derby has that age-old stigma against it, going in right off the hop. Our challenges were to convince people that this is an actual sport. There are no pre-planned plots and hyped-up theatrics (okay, maybe some). We did a lot of smiling and shaking our heads “NO” to comparisons to WWE and Skinny Minnie Miller.
PLP: But you succeeded
VDM: Once we explained the growth of derby, not only in the Maritimes but all over the world, we slowly got more attention. We stressed the idea of what we believe derby to be: an actual sport for woman that was super competitive but in such a positive way. We’ve been lucky to have the support of our local community college and one local rink. They have let us grow and build our skills over the past year, which we are very grateful for.
PLP: The idea to start a league is easy but where do you get the guidance to help it grow?
VDM: Guidance… right!! We started this league with not one person with any kind of background in derby, which I think happens in many places. When this happens you really get creative. At first we used what we had, which was internet: Facebook, YouTube tutorials, league web sites, etc. It wasn’t until we got out there and made contacts that the ball really started rolling, and when it did we were flooded with help from all over. It was fantastic.
PLP: Who helped you through the learn-to-skate and contact training?
VDM: Naming everyone would be crazy insane but there are people we MUST thank.
• Shreddy Crocker [Moncton-based referee] is from this area and came down with the girls from Dieppe very early on. Countless visits, emails and Facebook guidance never stopped from him.
• Invites from Muddy River Rollers for a closed-door scrimmage was an awesome opportunity, with email help from Burn n’ Rub’her (we love her & MRR peeps).
• Invites from Capital City Rollers to participate in the Scrimmage 101 put on by CCR and Punchy O’ Guts, with email help from the awesome Penny Traitor. Help from her and CCR has been endless.
• Fog City Rollers’ Ryder Wrong has been a super email/phone buddy of mine and ours as a league, and she has given awesome advice and derby info, which is so helpful. I love her!
PLP: I should ask you to stop as it’ll take me forever to tag everyone in this article.
VDM: This is going too long; I hear the music in the background! So, in short: Riptide Rollers, Tar City Rollers [Cape Breton], PEI, Moncton, SJ, Freddy and Hali have all been a huge loving ball of help from the get-go. And lastly, I’d like to thank the Academy… Geez, sorry that went long but, hey, if we didn’t have the help of these people we would still be skating in a circle without skill.
PLP: Well said. How’s your fan base in New Glasgow? Do the crowds get into it like they do hockey?
PLP: Wow, 200-plus is actually a fantastic number.
VDM: Our biggest supporters are our family and friends; we are very lucky that way. Also, our local media (radio and newspapers) have been very much on our side!
PLP: Why did you get involved in derby?
VDM: To find myself again. Since moving here I’ve been “Dawson’s mom” and “Cory’s wife,” which is awesome, but I lost “me” in all of that. Sometimes we – as moms and wives – we forget what interests us because we put our family up front so much. In derby I found myself again. I’m so glad to be back!
PLP: You’re from Ontario, you mentioned to me. What was your neighborhood living there? And how’d you get down to Nova Scotia?
VDM: Yep, from Toronto. Raised in Etobicoke. Love where I grew up. So many friends, so many great memories. Etobicoke shares a special spot in my heart! My derby is 34 – the number of the building I grew up living in: 34 Riverwood!!! Whoot!!! My derby name is also a play on words with my maiden name. Guess derby brings out the kid out in me! Family took me to NS in 1995 and love kept me here. Awwwwww.VDM: My son LOVES watching me play derby. He tells me I’m the coolest mom ever. How can that not make a mom smile, eh!!! Looking forward to having our 18-year-old watch me this season. As moms are so busy, practice is always family-friendly. Someone’s kids are always hanging out and that’s cool; we put them to work, and they are our future derby players.
PLP: What advice do you have for people curious about trying derby out?
VDM: My advice is don’t cut yourself short before you try. Derby is for everyone: all sizes, all personalities, all athletic abilities, etc. I’ve seen the most timid of girls not only become a kick-ass player but a force of strength you can’t slow down. I’ve never been a part of any sport that has been this positive, and that’s the truth. There is even a lot of cheering-on from your opponents. I have made some wonderful friendships from derby and it’s something I’m so glad to be a part of!
PLP: Thank you, Voodoo McQ. Love your passion. Here’s the 5 in 25 and then you can skate on outta here.
• 5 in 25 •
Questions? 5 Answers ≤ 25 words.
PLP: (#1) What’s something derby players don’t know about you?
VDM: That I am a vegan. Just jokes – pass the bacon!!! Also, scared to death to drive a car but working on it.
PLP: (#2) What is a peeve of yours?
VDM: Negativity. Don’t allow it in my life. Period.
PLP: (#3) If someone was looking for a vacation destination, where would you recommend?
VDM: Toronto. No place like home.
PLP: (#4) Do you have a motto?
VDM: Do I??? Yes, yes, I do!! Love quotes/mottos. “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great!”
PLP: (#5) Finish this: Nothing better than… ?
VDM: … a hand-written letter, hearing my kids laugh, and that sound your wheels make on the track!