Anyone at the sideline during the WFTDA Championship final, in St. Paul, Minnesota, saw an offensive battle, but much more. As Rose City huddled down against five-time champs Gotham, it was Rose’s gritty blockers who made much of the difference both enabling their jammers to score, and in earning the win.
Tasked with playing offense and defense in twos, Whitney Griffin, along with Sarah Gaither, Jessica Chestnut and others, was one of Rose City’s often unsung heroes who helped grease Wheels of Justice just enough to grab The Hydra last Sunday night.
(Photo by Whitney Griffin)
Earning the game on Sunday.
We knew going into Champs that we would face many worthy opponents. Our team knew better than to underestimate the teams we were matched up against. We had to play one game at a time and respect the process or as Lobster would say, “win the moment”. Once we earned the opportunity to play in the Championship game, we just had to stay calm, work together and win the last five minutes. We were prepared for the possibilities and we are ecstatic to have beaten the odds.
It’s a week later and it’s still a bit surreal. Being a support player myself, I cannot speak enough to the importance of trusting one another, constant contact and calm communication. I brace my teammates (physically and emotionally). It is my responsibility to help them absorb impact, communicate pack awareness, move laterally and finish hits to the lines. WOJ blockers work in pods (Cobras and Tigers, our jammer core is the Barracudas) and we spent countless hours fine-tuning our micro movements to better support each other. That focused work largely contributed to our success.
The road to the Hydra started on day one.
We bought in. We believed in our leadership and each other. We’re lucky to have incredibly innovative and strategic minds such as Shaina Serelson, Jes Rivas, Rob Lobster, and Tofer Griffin. They were constantly bringing new ideas to practice, which kept us growing as a team. Our latest jam starts could have been scary and probably seemed risky, but we believed in the strategy and we believed in each other.
Love is all you need.
This season had it’s share of highs and lows. My pod (The Cobras– Jessica Chestnut, Jes Rivas, Brawn Swanson, and Shaina Serelson) quickly became my family, especially closer to tournament season. Each and every one of them gave me the confidence necessary to do my job on the track. I’m forever grateful for the love and support we shared as a team this year. We also have a lot of genuinely nice people in our presence, Sarah Gaither and the entire Nacho Family; I’m talking to you. Our Rose City family really knows how to bring the love.
Preparing for the fight.
I have been told for many years that I possess RBF (resting bitch face) and I tend to use that when I’m preparing for battle. Often that can get confused with pretentious, cocky or bitchy behavior. Sorry about it! Though, something that most people don’t know about me is, I am a really shy person. I was the kid hiding behind their mother when being introduced to strangers. That’s me off the track. On the track I’m a fighter. I fight for justice and the success of the people I love- my teammates, the legion, my league and our fans.
Mental game can often carry too much weight. Some people can perform really well under pressure and not so well in an unchallenging situation and vice versa. It’s not always about “being positive”, because that can make some people forget about their extreme desire to win. Sometimes you need to be willing to take an uncomfortable risk to make something amazing happen.
I started in early 2013, a few months after I uprooted my life to move to Portland for roller derby. I knew immediately that I had to become an athlete and build some goddamn muscle!
I began working with my trainer and now co-worker, Quint Fischer at Crossfit Magnus, who exclaimed- “I’m going to make you a weightlifter” (he was speaking of Olympic Weightlifting specifically). I strongly believe my growth in roller derby is directly related to weight training. Stop worrying that you’ll get “too bulky” because that is a really REALLY hard thing to achieve and it doesn’t just happen to anyone on a maintenance routine.
Life outside roller derby.
Day trips to the Oregon Coast are always a beautiful and welcomed adventure. Weightlifting is my therapy. I enjoy spending time with my three cats (Hero, Villain and Robot) and fiancé Napoleon Blownapart.
Rob Lobster was not just a great coach, but also a great man.
I met Robin when I was living in Eugene and he was opening the VooDoo Doughnut down there. We were neighbors. I, of course, knew who he was even though I was still very new to the world of derby. I just knew I was in the presence of someone with passion for the sport and determination to give it 100%.
Fast-forward a few years and I proudly found myself in his ranks. There wasn’t a practice, scrimmage or game where I wasn’t thankful he was my coach. He was funny, intelligent, passionate and hard working. He gave us heart and helped guide us to greatness.
Why roller derby?
I am a person who keeps a list of goals. Roller derby has me constantly setting new goals and achieving them. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to see and feel marked improvement in multiple areas of your life. It has helped me become less shy. It made me want to learn better communication techniques. It’s taught me how important a strong community is in my life. I owe a lot to my Rose City Family.