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Post playoffs blues

Our All-Stars came back from their playoffs tournament from Madison. They played four tough games, winning two of them and losing two, placing 6th in their group: the same seeding they came to the tournament with. (Check the game scores here!)

Now it is their time to rest and focus on their off-season activities. The tournament in Madison was their number one goal this year, for which they worked vigorously, so it naturally raised a lot of thoughts and feelings. Before the tournament we published the text by our All-Star jammer MIA, who was recovering from an injury. Now we offer you some post-tournament thoughts by Salla Karjalainen and Dominå F. Äkt: Salla is a fairly new and very shiny star in the All-Stars blocker line-up, and Dominå is a long-time blocker idol known for her super hard workouts.

Salla Karjalainen: from “staying alive” to tournament MVP

“Whoosh what a playoffs trip it was and also what a year this has been. Now I’m sitting home alone, feeling the post tournament blues striking in and going through our games once again. Luckily I have three days left of my summer holiday to swell in all these thoughts and emotions.
About a year ago I got into roster of HRD All-stars to be playing in D1 playoffs in Omaha as a crossover player. About two weeks before the tournament I heard I would actually be playing in one lineup. There was no time to worry too much about it. My personal goal was to give my best, stay alive and not to do anything too embarrassing at the track. I knew I was the “weak link” in the team. I tried to take the playoffs experience as a learning possibility.

Salla did phenomenal job as a jammer after some tough star-pass situations

Salla did phenomenal job as a jammer after some tough star-pass situations

Well, I survived even though against Angel City was not sure if I can make it (lol). Then I got into A-team in January. We went to Malmö to play in Smackdown, then to Big O in Eugene and a week after that arranged the Mayday in HEL -tournament in Helsinki. In May we had seven games during one week.

After the spring I had a position in a lineup. I had a stripe in my helmet. At that point I realized it’s quite much more now but staying alive at the track. At the same time I felt super motivated and that hard work was paying off but all this also led to more challenging situations and mental pressure than before. I know it might sound weird if you haven’t done any high level team sports in your life.

This autumn didn’t start out as I had imagined. I got sick and frustrated. I was tense and struggling with managing my feelings and keeping up the good spirits. Roller derby had always been such a cheerful thing in my life and a way to forget or end all the miseries. Three/two weeks before playoffs I was in doubt and thinking I don’t have what it takes. I also was afraid of speaking about it to any of my team mates or coaches as I thought I didn’t want to mess their preparing for the biggest goals of our season.
I don’t know if it was the last training filled with high fives, my work trip to Lisbon, the nice three days with Vega and Laatikainen in Chicago or what, but luckily I managed to get my sh*t together before the tournament.

All-Stars shouting

The game against Minnesota was hard and there simply was no room for doubting yourself. Maybe I’m one of those who need to get properly pissed off or beaten up to get best out you. Anyway during and after that game – that we lost – I felt whole and a solid part of our team again. We played three more tough games. I probably played the game of my life against Ohio (despite the messy last jam). I also won the after party.
Now when I sit here and think of this year I realize how far I as an individual and our team as a great bunch of fishes have come. This season has been my and our team’s best by far. Can’t wait what next year has to offer. One great lesson this year has taught me is that hard work pays off – it takes but it gives a heck of a lot more. Apparently also makes you write about your feelings in Facebook.”

-Salla Karjalainen #90

Dominå F. Äkt: Blaming the referees is never a solution to a penalty problem

“It’s been SO SO SO nice to hear that people were watching our games last weekend and were cheering for us! It means the world to us, and it keeps our spirits high throughout tough weekends. I’ve personally got many super nice supportive messages and comments over the course of last weekend but unfortunately also some that maybe should have just been left unsent. All feedback and critique is of course good and welcome but sometimes timing is really important.
I’ve always been a penalty heavy skater. That’s just how I play: aggressively and intensely. I have a big disadvantage in my size (mentally I’m the same size as Bicepsual, in real life apparently not???) so I have to be more active on the track to be effective. I train 6-7 times a week with my team and on my own, and do everything I can to be in the best shape possible to play the most important games of the season… just to feel like I have to tone it down and not give my 100 % on the track.

Dominå ready for action in front of the back in the game againts Mad Rollin Dolls.

Dominå ready for action in front of the back in the game againts Mad Rollin Dolls.

My penalty count was 7, 6, 4 and 1. So in our last game I only got one penalty which is of course great because I played more than 50 % of the jams. But let’s be honest, it’s only because I consciously played passively on the track, hence I was not effective enough. When you come to the main tournament of the season to supposedly play the best games of your season, you don’t want to feel like you cannot give your 100 %. I’m extremely proud and happy about my AMAZING team, and that 6th place is a really good achievement but on a personal level I’m disappointed. I have a lot to learn from going 100 % (results in 6-7 penalties) to somewhere where I’m still active on the track and don’t end up in the box, and last weekend I really failed at it.
When you’re sitting in the box, your team can only give max 80 % on the track. When those penalties start piling up in tight games, it gets into your head. It feels like you’re stealing your team their chance at giving their best and you obviously blame yourself for losing the game. After every game where I’ve got 5-7 penalties I have a horrible emotional breakdown. It takes a couple of hours, sometimes even days, to recover from that, and during tournaments you don’t have that time. My solution has been to save those emotions until after we’ve come home. It has resulted in me wanting to quit derby after basically every tournament, and that is a horrible emotional roller coaster to go through.

Look how global we are: have some really nice fans in Madison!

Look how global we are: we have some really nice (and hard-working) fans in Madison!

Luckily this time I’m not having those thoughts and that’s only because of the immensely warm and loving and amazing team spirit we have in Helsinki Roller Derby All-Stars. Right now I feel more motivated than ever to find the right activity level on the track where I am still effective (Dominå F. Äktive lol) but not going overboard with it, and therefore be of more use to my amazing team.

If you are not an aggressive, visible skater and don’t get many penalties on a regular basis, you don’t know hard it is. Saying “stop going to the box” is not really a good feedback – it’s not like I’m not trying really hard already. It’s like saying “don’t cut the track” and not giving any good tips of what to do instead.

We have amazing coaches, captains and team mates that give us productive feedback, and we have managed to get my penalties all the way down to zero before going to the Playoffs without me losing my effectiveness but I need to learn to be more adaptive way faster. I need to have better roller skating skills to be able to transfer my fitness abilities to my roller derby moves.

It’s not about the difference between the referees in Europe and in the US, it’s about my personal ability to be more adaptive. Just like floors are different in different venues, so can the referees be. There is nothing you can do about it during the game so you just need to adjust your own game according to that. Blaming the referees is never a solution to a penalty problem.

Salla and Dominå working in the Team United game

Salla and Dominå working in the Team United game

So here’s to off season!! For the next few months I will focus on getting bigger, better at roller skating and doing completely non-roller derby related things on my free time as well. This season has been the greatest, and I really cannot wait for season 2017! It’s going to be ridiculously amazing, just wait and see.
Thank you all for your support this year, especially my family, co-workers, fellow-derby people and extra especially Radar Wheels, Jam in the box and Chaya! ”

-Dominå F. Äkt #455

Photos: Marko Niemelä Photography

Did you watch the play-offs? Have you ever experienced the “post tournament blues”? Feel free to comment below!

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