From Manager to Misfit to Meat to Nightmare – the Tartlet Dodger’s journey through NHRD

Tart is pretty awesome. She’s been the bench manager for my home team, the Nightmares on Elm Street, for the past few years and I’ve really grown to love her quiet and calm presence. I was stoked when she jumped at the opportunity to join the recreational team, the Millyard Misfits, this summer when we started up. Tart had been an amazing asset to NES over the years but we knew that we needed to let her go to start on her own journey. She went from a Misifit to Fresh Meat in November and entered into her first ever home team draft this January. I wanted to know all about how she got there and how she felt so I present to you the February’s Skater of the Month: The Tartlet Dodger!

Tart was drafted onto the Nightmares on Elm Street just a few days ago, so I followed up with more questions about that process at the end — congrats, Tart!

1. Include name, number, position and teams and years:

I’m The Tartlet Dodger (Tart for short), and my number is 1837.  I’ve been the NES Bench Manager for two seasons, and I am currently a Misfit/Fresh Meat skater.  I started skating in fall of 2010 in Bemidji, MN.

 2. How did you first become involved in roller derby?

In 2010 I moved to Bemidji, MN, a tiny town of 14,000 that is four hours north of the Twin Cities.  One of my new acquaintances was a star jammer on the local derby team, The Babe City Rollers, so I went to a bout to watch her skate.  It was the coolest thing I had ever seen!  I went to a practice and soon started skating.  That year was very challenging for a lot of life reasons — I had moved 2,000 miles to a small town in a part of the country I had never lived.  I uprooted my life and my husband’s life for a faculty position at a university (we have a national job market in my field), and one month into the job I learned my position was at risk because the university was facing a major financial crisis.  I was so frustrated and stressed out, and derby — the sport and the friends I made on that team — REALLY helped get me through that year.  I transferred to NHRD when I took a job in Manchester in the fall of 2011, but I had a non-derby-related eye situation and needed surgery — so I switched over to bench managing in January of 2012.

 3.  You recently joined the Millyard Misfits over the summer after bench managing the Nightmares for two seasons. What has been the hardest part of transitioning from manager to skater?

Hmm…good question.  I think the hardest thing has probably been the fact that I’ve been scrutinizing skaters for two seasons now, so I have a pretty good sense of how far I have to go with my own skating skills — and that’s a frustrating realization!  But one of the best parts of the experience has been getting to know skaters from other teams better, and getting to know all the skaters as a skater.  It’s a different kind of conversation, the one you can have with a fellow skater.  At least that’s what I’ve found.

Tart bench managing NES

Paul Erhardt photo
Tart bench managing the Nightmares on Elm Street.

 

 4.  I personally know that you’re looking to be drafted to a home team this season. Do you think that being involved with NES taught you anything to help you get teamed?

Well, to be completely honest with you, I’m trying not to think too much about the teaming process because it kind of freaks me out!  :)  Last year NES made teaming decisions as a team, and that experience showed me that the process is kind of like a job application process, in that a lot of it comes down to “fit.”  And “fit” might mean something different depending on the other individuals and their strengths.  So this takes some of the pressure off, I think — it’s not always about individuals in the draft being objectively “good” in a simplistic sense, but about those individuals being good for a particular team because of how they will fit into that team.  This means a significant part of teaming is out of any one individual’s control.  All I can do is keep practicing and work on the things I can control!

5. What motivated you to stick around and volunteer if you couldn’t strap skates on?

I love derby.  I’m not going to lie–it was hard for me to stay involved off skates, particularly because I could remember skating in bouts and being involved in this very different way.  But one thing I really loved about my experience on NES is that the team ALWAYS made me feel like I was a part of the team–not ancillary in any way.

 6. Are you nervous for your first ever tryout?

Of course!  I was freaked out about my Level 1 Assessment!  In derby I am completely out of my comfort zone.  I’ve never been an athlete — I run half marathons now, but aside from some very embarrassing softball and basketball experiences and an awkward partial season in track, I was never really involved in organized sports growing up.  So I’m out of my comfort zone in that sense.  I’m also out of my comfort zone in the sense that I figured out my academic strengths early on in school, decided I would make that my career, and never looked back.  I’ve had large and small setbacks professionally (cf. Bemidji example above), but I have also developed a certain self-confidence in my work.  I absolutely do not have the same self-confidence in derby.  I’m not used to this and it terrifies me.  But for me, that makes the small triumphs–finally figuring out how to do a transition or finally making it through a wall of blockers without falling on my face, for instance — all the more valuable.

 7. Is there anyone on NHRD or in derby who you admire or has helped motivate you?

Um, EVERYONE.  Seriously, one of the best things about derby is the number of people involved who go out of their ways to mentor, motivate, and inspire.  My first team captain, Olive Mayhem of BCR, started this tiny derby team in a tiny town in northern Minnesota.  She kept it going through charisma, endless work, and sheer force of will.  She showed me that determination can take you a long way.  On our league, I would have to say that Slam-I-Am, DKB, Bette Thistlehurt, and Mack Truck Mel were all extremely encouraging to me when I first started skating in New Hampshire.  I remember DKB messaging me once after practice, just to let me know she thought I was doing a good job.  That meant a lot.  More recently, I was really frustrated at a Fresh Meat practice — I just couldn’t make it through a line of blockers no matter what I did.  Bash pulled me out of the line and really helped me refocus on the adjustments I needed to make to get out of my own head and skate smarter.  Once I get started with a list like this, it’s hard to stop.  At this point I would have to say it would be harder for me to find people who *haven’t* motivated me on NHRD!

I would also say that beyond the trainers and other NHRD skaters (who have all been so very positive and supportive), my fellow Fresh Meat skaters have been such a source of motivation.  Everyone has been extremely positive.  One of the most comforting things about the Fresh Meat process has been the fact that we are all experiencing a pretty rigorous process together.  We’ve been there to encourage one another and help celebrate personal triumphs.

Paul Erhardt photo
Tart hugs one of NHRD’s refs Woody after a bout at the JFK Coliseum in Manchester.

 

 8. I heard you’re a reptile lady?! Tell me about your little guys

We have two dragons: Spike is a Bearded Dragon and Eduardo is an Asian Water Dragon.  We adopted Spike seven years ago when he was a year old, and we adopted Eduardo a year and a half ago when he was maybe three.  We originally got Spike because my husband is allergic to dogs and cats, and at first I was a little concerned about owning reptiles.  But both of them have a lot of personality and Spike in particular is really friendly.  Sometimes he will just come sit on my lap for hours as I work.  I would like to believe this is because he loves me, but it might just be because I generate heat and he does not.

 9. What kind of advice would you give someone looking to join the MIllyard Misfits?

The Misfits are a fantastic option for anyone who wants to learn derby on their own timeline and/or wants to keep their involvement casual.  I know it can feel intimidating, joining a new group of people who play a sport you might not play (or even just joining a new group of people who play a sport you already play!), but the Misfits are truly open to all levels of ability and commitment — it’s really fun!  My advice would be to stick with it for at least a couple of months — it can take time to get to know people when we’re all skating around the track, and it can take time to develop skating skills.  But it is definitely worth it!  It’s a fantastic way to get involved with a great league.

 *I had Tart answer these two questions because she HAS been through the draft and has been chosen*

10. What was the drafting process like?

The drafting process was both more relaxed and more stressful than I thought it would be.  The draft really lasted all month, so on the one hand I had the sense that no one single jam during scrimmage was going to necessarily make or break me — but the cumulative effect of being watched for a month worked on me a bit, I have to admit!  I didn’t feel a lot of pressure the night of the actual draft, because I knew we had been observed all month.  I *did* feel a lot of free-floating anxiety and just excitement to find out whether or where I would be drafted.  I started feeling a lot of stress in those last few days because I couldn’t get a good read on how things were going and what the teams were thinking.  The Nightmares (rightly) had to take me off their forum and I was too nervous to really feel like I could even talk to any of the NES skaters much leading up to the draft.  I didn’t want to appear presumptuous or actually be presumptuous.  I tried to keep a low profile.  Psychologically, it was very exhausting — I feel really invested in NES after two seasons bench managing and I wanted to be able to talk about all of that — but I didn’t really feel like I had an outlet.

 11. How do you feel now that you’re a Nightmare?!

Oh, I am so happy to have been drafted and to have been drafted by NES!  I feel like I have been a Nightmare these past two seasons, and NES has always insisted I’ve been part of the team, but I do feel there is something different about being a skater.  I’m excited to see where this season will lead!

You can see Tart skate with her new (old) team, the Nightmares on Elm Street, at the JFK!  NHRD’s home season begins on April 12th 2014.

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