It was an early spring Saturday when we sat down together as a team to think through what makes up a good team. Themes such as commitment, team spirit, clear goals, lifting each other up, smart strategies, confidence in yourself and each other and no ego came up. We set our goals high up for the season 2018. We agreed as our ultimate goal to make it to the Champs this year. We felt there existed both a mental and physical fit within the team never seen before.
Few weeks back we were sweating out asses off in the Northwest coast of Spain. We travelled to WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs in A Coruna to battle for the ticket to Champs. There by the beachfront that early spring Saturday felt like a distant memory even though our goals and all the team principals were crystal clear in our heads. Our dear captains had even printed out for each team member the list of things that makes up a good team we made at the beginning of our season.
We had three though games in the Playoffs. Our minds were set for three wins to secure a spot in the Champs. In our first game we faced Detroit and took win a with the score 373-163. Win over Detroit meant that we were still in for the battle for the Champs ticket. Next up was Rainy City from Manchester, UK and what a great battle it indeed was. Despite the sprint we made in the score, closing the gap only to around 10 points in the second period, Rainy took the win with the score 115-156. The lost game meant that we did not reach our ultimate goal that was the Champs this year. Thus, our last game was a consolation game against a team from Buenos Aires, 2×4. 2×4, also known as Team Osom, took a win over us with a score 172-208.
It goes without saying that we were very disappointed at the end of that Playoffs weekend despite the fact that both of the two last games were great battles. While there needs to be time and place for the feelings of disappointment and frustration, what is most important in the competitive sports is the capability to look forward. And that is exactly what Helsinki Roller Derby All-Stars are right now doing.
Alongside looking forward this is a good time for our team to look a bit backwards and think through the season 2018. Looking back to the beginning of the season feels like it was ages ago, even though we actually started our season properly only 7 months ago. Due to the Roller Derby World Cup arranged in early February this year meant that ten skaters from our charter were away most of the January and February representing either Team Finland, Sweden or Canada. While both the World Cup and the national teams were a privilege and a great learning experience it also was mentally and physically a heavy journey for our skaters and extended the start of our All-Stars season quite much.
We faced our dearest frenemies Kallio Rolling Rainbow in mid March after practicing around one month together with our fairly new team. In April we played against Malmö’s Crime City, Stockholm Roller Derby, Kallio Rolling Rainbow and Rainy City in the EuroCup tournament in Manchester. In mid May London Roller Girls travelled to Helsinki and our spring ended to the FINvitational tournament arranged by Kallio early June. Our two games in FINvitational showed what we can achieve with this team even within a short timeframe. Our games two months before in EuroCup did not go as planned but in two months we pulled our s*it together and showed what we got taking a win over both Crime City and Rat City.
During the summer we always have a break from derby due to all sports halls being closed up in Finland. The team approached the break from different directions; some went to Australia and skated with VRDL a little while, some to Euro Derby Con to Barcelona. While it is crucial to have breaks from the intensive training program, not being able to skate and practice for few months before the playoffs was not perhaps the optimal solution. It was exactly 4 weeks before the A Coruna Payoffs when the sports halls opened their doors to us again.
Our team saw many changes this season. We got brand new captains Maiju Rinne #39 and Vega #257. Three experienced veteran skaters – and former line-up buddies – retired. I personally though a lot at the beginning of the season about these changes and how it will be skating without Iiris Suominen #404, Janica Saxelin #1 and Joanna Koskinen #455. Also Tiina Kimari #94, a skater who’s been with the All-Stars from day one retired after the FINvitational tournament. However, the places of the veteran skaters were filled up with though skaters. We got Lotta #888, Varpu Knuuttila #88, Siiri Fuchs #112 and Viivi Salonen #32 on board this season. Also during this season Maiju Rinne started to play as a blocker and Tiina Laatikainen #85 and Kujis #24 became a full members of A-team after being a crossover players. A big challenge to the team was also injuries faced by our jammers who could not train during those 4 weeks before A Coruna and unfortunately had to even sit out Playoffs.
Now, sitting by my kitchen table writing this piece I come to realize how damn special, yet such a great lesson this season has been for our team. Changes always shake up things and make people nervous but changes also makes good. This year there was a lot of changes in the players roles, new people stepped up and we learnt so much from each other. But most of all I think we learnt from ourselves. This year we have been developing and teaching us how to be us. As a team we learnt to see our weaknesses better than ever before and we’ve learnt little by little how to tackle those. We know what we need and where we need to focus on and you know what – the best thing right now is that we have motivation and trust to develop and go further.
This season we climbed up the rankings to the spot 13. That is highest where Helsinki Roller Derby has ever been before. While Playoffs in A Coruna did not go as planned, I think we can be proud of ourselves. Moreover, disappointments just makes one even more hungry.
Season 2018 was special to us also because we did not have to travel to the US. While travelling and playing overseas is exciting, we were very relieved by the fact that this year after so many years travelling several times a year to the US we could only travel within Europe. We all pay our travels from our own pockets, thus this year was the very first one that was kind to our wallets.
European Roller Derby is on fire and it is great to take part in challenging the worlds best teams. Talking about challenging the top teams; we will travel to Malmö in the end of October to give some challenge to Crime City Roller before they travel to Champs in November. Did I not say it is important to look forward after disappointments. We have our eyes on the price and we are hungry for more.
Salla Karjalainen #90
…with a little help from my team, especially Tiina Laatikainen (translation) and Nina Erwes (pictures) <3
Pictures: All-Stars players and Marko Niemelä
This post is also available in: Finnish