Matt Biron stands in front of the Skate Free or Die All-Stars bench, arms crossed. He’s quietly studying the newly drafted skaters during league scrimmage – are the walls tight enough, are the jammers controlling their speed, are they all working together?
Last season – 2013 – was a season full of firsts for New Hampshire Roller Derby’s A team, including cracking the Women’s Flat Track Derby Associations’s top 40 rankings, competing in a playoff tournament, and being nominated for Derby News Network’s Women’s Team of the Year. Now ranked at 35, there is no taking it easy. In order to remain a competitive contender in Division 1, Skate Free or Die must crank up the intensity and train like a top team.
“My goal for this season is easy. Help SFOD continue their climb in the WFTDA rankings together,” Biron affirmed, emphasizing the last word. Former coaches Carroll Huss and Johnny Cash Machine, integral to the team’s success last season, both hung up the clip board at the end of 2013 to focus on family and careers. Biron is an apt replacement. In addition to being on the No. 4 ranked men’s team, the Mass Maelstrom, Biron has a life-long history on skates. “I first started roller skating when I was 2 years old. My family, beginning with my grandparents, competed regionally and nationally in artistic figure skating my entire childhood,” he said. “We would travel the country competing almost every weekend.”
His derby career started with the co-ed league Roller Derby Manchester, followed by a brief coaching experience with Seacoast Roller Derby’s Poison Pixies. “In the beginning of September 2012,” Biron explains, “I made the decision to finally try out for Mass Maelstrom and began skating with who would soon become my best friends and teammates.” At the 2013 Mohawk Valley Cup in New York, the Maelstrom became the third team to ever defeat the New York Shock Exchange. They entered the Men Roller Derby Association’s Championships ranked No. 5 and left at No. 4. Biron himself contributed 70 points during their bout against the Magic City Misfits.
Mass Maelstrom jammer Matt Biron, of Manchester, has been named the coach of New Hampshire Roller Derby’s A travel team, the Skate Free or Die All-Stars. Photo by Hispanic Attack
“When I first heard NHRD was having a rec league, I reached out for more information, looking to maybe get some more skate time in locally,” he said. “As soon as I heard that SFOD was looking for a new coach for the 2014 season, I jumped on the opportunity to get my name in the hat. Roller derby’s my passion and Manchester’s where I was born and raised. How could I not be interested?” Coach Biron will lead the 2014 SFOD alongside skater Pammy Decker. The two will work closely together to run practices and prepare for the highest level of competition.
“There will always be challenges, and most are unexpected. The real test is how you adapt once you’re faced with them. Whatever challenges come our way, SFOD will tackle head on as a team and work to overcome,” Biron said. “I’d just like to say thank you to all of NHRD’s fans and supporters, and I look forward to seeing you at all the bouts this year. Hustle, Hit, Never Quit, Together!”
For more information about NHRD’s upcoming 2014 season or how to join the league as a skater, ref or nonskating official, visit www.nhrollerderby.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. – By Katrina Swirko