Jay Pegg - Moving Stateside

Jay Pegg - Kansas City Roller Warriors

Transferring to a new league can be tricky; but transferring to a new league in a different country, well that can be very tricky indeed. I transferred to the Kansas City Roller Warriors from England in July 2011 without knowing a single person there and the prospect was daunting - KCRW were the 2007 World Champions (indeed there's some debate as to who were the first 'proper' champs, whether it was Texas in '06, KCRW in '07 or Gotham in '08 when the Hydra was first awarded but that's neither here nor there), and had placed 4th at 2011 Championships which is quite a pedigree. Now I was fortunate enough to have started with London Rollergirls and been a founding member of Southern Discomfort Rollerderby and so I knew and had worked with some of the stand out players like Steph Mainey, Kamikaze Kitten, Sutton Impact and Ballistic Whistle, and the truly awesome LRG ref crew, but I still felt that this was going to be a step into a far bigger pool where I would be a far smaller fish. I mean I was going to get to work with derby superstars Snot Rocket (who is probably in the top three of all time best WFTDA flat track skaters) , Annie Maul, Trauma (currently on Team USA) and Bruz Her to name just a few. I also knew that KCRW would be playing teams like 2009 champs Rocky Mountain, Denver and lord knows who else. Add to that the fact that the two local MRDA teams, The Gatekeepers and Your Mom are ranked 2 and 1 in the world, respectively, you can imagine that it would be a terrifying proposition for a Brit in stripes.

And I'll tell you what, I needn't have worried. And there were two reasons for this: firstly, Americans are actually pretty friendly and having a British accent helps, if only to break the ice. But secondly, and far more importantly, UK roller derby, in every aspect, is of a far higher standard than many people give credit. We all know that the USA is the birthplace of modern rollerderby and we've seen how dominant American teams are - what with Gotham being undefeated for years and Team USA (both men's and women's rosters) being bowel looseningly impressive. But does this mean that UK (and indeed European) roller derby is a second class citizen? Not at all. 

There is, in some areas, a tendency to look down upon non-north American teams with a kind of well done for trying and thanks for turning up kind of attitude, and I'm not the only one who will tell you that. I remember at my first practice when I called a cut, one of the skaters said 'oh, so you do call penalties', which took me aback. Of course I call penalties, that's what referees do. At first I thought it was just people being patronising, but as I reffed more games across the US I realised it was actually somewhat more complex and I think it's down to geography. For example, the nearest WFTDA league to Kansas City is four hours away; the nearest MRDA team is 185 miles away. To travel to Denver is nearly 1,100 miles round trip, which means that American teams, for the most part, grow up in comparative isolation compared to the UK where almost every English team is within 400 miles of every other English team. 

What has this got to do with anything I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you. The relative density of teams in the UK makes it easier for dissemination of skills, training, ideas, referee and skater clinics, knowledge base etc, etc, which means that the learning/improvement curve in the UK is generally faster than here in the US where teams, in relative isolation, rely more on self-improvement. And it's important to note that we're not just talking about skating skills here, we're talking about referees, NSOs, league structure, the whole kitten kaboodle. This leads to some people making assumptions that because a league in the UK was formed in 2011, only having three years of experience will mean that it is still green as a league. But whereas a US team may have had 15 or fewer bouts in 3 years, it's easy for a UK team to have had 30+ games which leads to a much greater learning curve and thus the possibility US teams underestimating UK teams based purely on their length of existence. Sioux Falls said as much when they were crushed 307 to 19 by LRG in 2011.

This is why London's excellent, and continually improving performances in regionals, divisionals and champs is something to be really proud of, not just because of the way the team plays, but because of the way the team is, and as more and more European teams - like Auld Reekie, Glasgow and later this year Windsor - come stateside and show just how developed every aspect of European rollerderby is, the more and more plaudits the European teams will get and the more American teams will come to Europe. Which can only be a good thing. Europe, you're awesome. Remember that. 

About The Author

DOB: 11/27/1968

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Jay Latarche

Those are some really interesting points about the geographical closeness of UK teams in comparison to US teams, and something I never thought about before.
Now if only we could just have more than just 2 teams in Mainland China...

Really interesting article!

- Jay #15


Two is better than zero.