Featured Skater: Artoo Detoonate, #B33P

Image by Joe Medolo

When considering skaters who impress both on and off the track, Artoo Detoonate, #B33P, comes instantly to mind. Much like the robot she’s named for, Artoo maintains an impressive bank of knowledge and is constantly working to understand advanced derby strategies and techniques for the benefit of herself and her teammates. She exudes a calm competence during gameplay that belies the speed of her feet and the processing going on in the interstellar, human computer that is her brain. Off skates, Artoo guides her leaguemates and opponents with her incredible positivity and supportive feedback. Read on to learn more about the skater who has helped bring balance to the force that is the Boston Derby Dames.

If you had to sum up roller derby in 3 words, what would they be?

Insanity. Delight. Flying.

How did you find roller derby? What inspired you to want to play derby?

It sounds cheesy to say “it found me,” but it’s sort of true. (Though really, it was more like it pushed and pulled and dragged me along until I actually started paying attention.)

I was an ice skater for several years as a kid, but was never very serious about the whole thing. Years later, in 2009 I got hooked on watching the game and the idea of putting on skates again from a friend at Pioneer Valley, but didn’t actually touch a pair until 2010. And even then, it was just goofing off at rinks and doing three-turns and mohawks—I swore up and down I had no interest in playing derby, just having fun on skates and, as a bonus, avoiding going to the gym.

It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco that I even affiliated myself with a derby league—the Bay Area Derby Girls had a recreational skating club called Reckless Rollers, and after months of making excuses, I joined up in May 2011. I blame the coaches there (Mindianapolis 500 in particular) for everything that’s happened since: They took a goof who liked doing silly things on skates and sort of liked watching roller derby and made her obsessed with the game. I protested that I didn’t actually want to play right up until that January, when Mindi basically goaded me publicly into trying out for the league proper. And of course once I did, I completely fell in love. Surprise!

Seriously, though: The people I met along the way, they were my biggest influences and inspirations whether or not I consciously realized it. My buddy Jeff, who showed me a way to have fun on skates that didn’t involve salchows and sit spins; Mindi, for kicking my ass; and Mars, one of my first derby friends, who gave me someone to race against during our endurance skates. Derby is such a wonderful little community.

And really: For a girl who spent most of her formative ice skating years wishing she could just make a short program out of crowd-dodging and speeding around the rink, roller derby seemed pretty much tailor-made.

Where did your derby name come from?

I knew I wanted something Star Wars or robot-related—partially because I’m a huge Star Wars geek, and partially because I wanted to decorate my helmet like a robot’s. (Excellent motivations, right?)

I skated as “Shred Leader” with the robot from Star Tours as my number (RIP, RX24!) for a brief month or two, but knew it wasn’t going to be my real name. I toyed with “Artoo Dee-struction” for awhile, but it was my mother who solidified it in its current form. “I’ve got it. Artoo Detoonate—It’s cute and crazy, just like you!” Uhm, thanks, mum. But she wasn’t wrong!

Image by David Andrew Morris

What teams do you play for?

I play for the Cosmonaughties, and last year played for the B-string of Boston’s travel team, the Boston B Party. Tryouts for the 2014 travel team are in a couple of weeks, though, and I have my eye on them.

You transferred to BDD from BAD’s training and rec team. Do you feel that joining BDD has helped you on your path to awesomeness? Did your experience there help fuel your passion for coaching BDD’s fledgeling TRT?

Absolutely. BAD gave me the initial inspiration and confidence to join derby, but it’s Boston that’s made me the skater I am today and laid the groundwork for my years ahead.

I joined BDD when our Training and Recreation program was barely a few months old, and really got to witness it grow and change as I was evolving, too, which was crazy exciting. Once I got teamed, I kept up with TRT because it just seemed like such a great learning space, and I’ve always loved helping other folks find their path—coaching and teaching seemed like a natural extension. I found the player I wanted to be by going through both BAD and BDD’s recreation programs, and it was really important to me to give back and be a part of that process for other skaters.

I also can’t stress enough how amazing both the Cosmonaughties (my home team) and Boston’s travel team have been to my growth as a skater. The Cosmos drafted me midseason in 2012—despite the fact that I’d never played a regulation bout—and immediately put me out and trusted me like I’d been on the team for years. I owe so much to each one of them for believing in me and constantly challenging me to be a better teammate, skater, derby player.

My Cosmo teammates even pushed me to try out for the travel team in 2013, and I’m so glad I did. Just two months of travel team play and practice made me into a completely different skater, and it introduced me to my latest derby obsessions: footage study and gameplay.

How do you train on your own outside of derby?

When I first started, I had this nice little notion in my head that derby *was* training, and I didn’t need to do anything else. Ha ha ha. Needless to say, I learned pretty quickly otherwise. It’s not even so much about building general endurance or strength, for me—it’s about injury prevention and being able to achieve what you want on the track. If you don’t have good core strength, you’re going to be falling all the time, your knees will hurt, and it increases your chances of crashing in a bad way.

I try to train at least two days a week outside of team and league practices, if not more. One of those days is all about strength and resistance training—kettlebells, exercise bands, planks, bridges—while the other focuses on short-burst interval training. I also need at least a few hours a week of goof-off time on skates. When I’m on the track, I want to be able to concentrate on the game, not my skates—even if I’m backwards, on one foot, balancing precariously over a boundary. So I tend to wear my skates a lot—even in my apartment—and do ridiculous things on them.

What do you think Boston needs to do to be successful going into the next season?

I think we made huge strides last season in our gameplay and our skating skills. This year it’s all about continuing that pattern, studying the top teams, staying calm, and working on our speed modulation and timing.

I know it’s a lot, but what do you do for BDD off the track/behind the scenes?

I run our Communications Committee and make sure everything’s being updated on social media and our website, along with overseeing poster design and the street team. Last year’s big project was our new website; this year is all about getting together a cohesive brand. I’ve been chanting “BDD brand book” for the last few months—we’ll see if 2014 is the year we actually get it together.

I also co-coach our C Team with the lovely Beantown Brawler, helping our newest scrimmage-eligible girls advance their gameplay and their skills and giving our retired skaters a fun space to skate. And this year, I’m co-captaining the Cosmonaughties with the incomparable Stella Kronos (née Tiny Dancer).

Image by Joe Medolo

How do you feel in the middle of a jam?

Like Luke Skywalker in the Death Star trench. Eerily calm but focused. Jams run at quarter-speed for me—everything’s in ultra-slow motion. Unfortunately, that sometimes includes my feet, which I’d much prefer to run a little bit faster than everything else.

You struggled some with injuries last season. Do you have any advice for staying positive, even while off skates?

It’s really, really, really, really hard. Excruciatingly hard. Especially the first week you get back on skates and the rush of being back combines with the sinking realization that you’ve just lost months of skill development and muscle training. Or, as what happened to me, you return and then put yourself right back on the disabled list.

So two tips: My first is to find some way to keep your derby brain active and excited about the sport despite not being able to play it. For me, that was coaching and endless footage-watching. I was able to learn a lot by watching and working with others, even if I couldn’t work on what I wanted to myself. The second is to stay off your skates until you’re fully healed. I know it sucks, but nothing’s worse than coming back only to sit right back down again. Your derby career can last you years if you take care of your body—don’t shave time off that just because you’re impatient and don’t want to wait a few more weeks.

What was your favorite moment from last year?

Coming back from a shoulder injury and months off skates to play in the B Party’s last game of the season up in Vermont against the Black Ice Brawlers and a few Mean Mountain Boys. During the warmup, I felt absolutely horrible about myself and my skills, sucking wind, etc. But I took a second on the bench during the first jam, focused on what mattered (skating with my friends and having fun), and had one of my best games ever. I realized that despite the injury, I’d still grown as a skater, and taking the time off had actually let my body heal and get to where it needed to be to play at this level.

If you could go back in time and talk to your newbie self, what advice would you give her?
Move your feet, move your feet, move your darn feet! And stretch more after practice—your muscles will thank you.

Who are your derby heroes?

So many. Probably too many to list. BAD’s Trixie Pixie and Chantilly Mace were huge jamming inspirations—they’re both small, but so mighty—and I consider Brawllen Angel my spirit blocker (she’s everywhere, wicked smart, and faster than you ever realize). I also love watching the Texies play. Smarty Pants and Sarah Hipel are so amazing in their quick thinking on the track, while Polly Gone and Fifi teach a master class in blocking every time they’re out there.

And I could gush endlessly about Boston. Space’s mohawk blocking and jamming; Mangle’s eerie ability to be EVERYWHERE; Shayna’s brilliant derby brain and terrifying derby butt; Hard Core’s terminator stare.

Image by Joe Medolo

What is your favorite thing about derby?

It’s the closest I’ll ever get to flying in a space battle.

But really, the people. Hands down. While I’ll always adore skating, it’s the people that make me love this sport so much, and challenge me to rock every day harder than the one before.

What do you do when you’re not playing roller derby?

I’m a technology writer by trade, so I spend a fair amount of time playing with the newest Apple gadgets and gizmos. I also do a bunch of miscellaneous things in my (limited) spare time: doodle, knit, swing dance, perform and direct radio plays, cook, and play the occasional game of D&D.

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