Every blog has its ups and downs and Derby Frontier has certainly seen its fair share of them as of late. One of my largest personal challenges for Year 2 was in regards to finding a healthy balance between life and derby as well as the struggles of putting myself out there so much. While 2013 was primarily geared toward small personal pieces and provincial topics, I reached much farther in 2014 by covering broader subjects such as bullying in roller derby, body image issues and the issues faced by Trans* athletes in this sport.
Between last year’s anniversary post and today the blog has seen an outstanding 758% increase in site traffic. The 2013-2014 year saw a total of 151, 546 visitors to Derby Frontier, which is over 8x that of the 17, 631 visitors to the blog in 2012-2013.
Here are some of the big highlights for this past year!
Reaching 121 Countries Around the World
2013-2014 saw readers visit Derby Frontier from 121 countries across the globe. That’s 72 more countries than this time last year! Blog guests most frequently originated from Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and France. Other countries regularly checking out the blog have included New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Mexico, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Argentina, to name just a few. Check out the screen caps above to see the complete list and numbers as of this morning!
Interview with Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner of DC Comics about Harley Quinn Playing Roller Derby
Being a HUGE comic book fan, I was giddy when I learned that one of my favorite characters, the delightfully wicked Harley Quinn, would be playing roller derby in her new monthly series from DC Comics. Taking a shot in the dark, I reached out to series writer and illustrator Jimmi Palmiotti for an interview to talk about how Harley would be interacting with the sport and why Palmiotti, and his wife Amanda Connor, chose to feature the game. To my surprise, he responded rather quickly and before I knew it I was speaking to a DC Comics Media Representative about conducting an exclusive interview with the duo!
The interview was a dream piece for me. Being able to talk to two prominent comic artists and illustrators about roller derby and Harley Quinn was something I will never forget and to this day, this piece remains one of my personal favorite highlights on the blog.
SRDA Presidential Campaign
Following a blog post made about the Sask Derby Mini Conference I attended on November 30, 2013, I found myself nominated for Presidency of the Saskatchewan Roller Derby Alliance (previously “Association”). As such, the last few weeks of 2013 and first week of 2014 were spent rather heavily focused on the nominations, speeches and voting. Though I wasn’t elected, the overall experience of talking more seriously about derby in Saskatchewan and discussing my thoughts on some of the large issues in the province, was an invaluable exercise in addressing big topics surrounding the sport in my region.
The first official SRDA Board of Directors was announced on January 6, 2014 and over the past several months, I have continued to share news about their progress. I sincerely hope they have a successful first year of operation!
Derby Frontier’s 2013 Best of Sask Roller Derby Vote
Aside from a few hiccups along the way, mainly in how I originally worded and organized the nominations process, I was overall very happy with how the online event went. Not only did the polls end up getting shared well over 1000 times but it also engaged well over a thousand people and was widely publicized across Saskatchewan.
Leagues were engaging with their communities and fans, garnering support in what soon became a fun competition to see who could get the votes required to come out on top. Most exciting was how many rural and provincial media outlets took notice of the vote as well. Discover Moose Jaw, Discover Swift Current, the Weyburn Review and the Prince Albert Daily Herald, were a few to promote their local nominated skaters. This all culminated with an exhilarating on-air interview I had with CBC Radio 1 host Craig Lederhouse (The Afternoon Edition).
As word spread online, as well as in newspapers and over radio stations across the province, the polls drew in 12, 395 views overall. Though there were some who voiced their disapproval, wishing that the event had been closed to the general public and only for “derby people” to vote, I am pleased with the outcome and I still stand by keeping it light and completely open to anyone and everyone.
Destination: Derby 2014
Although the trip had to be postponed (until 2015) due to a number of unfortunate and unforeseeable circumstances, I immensely enjoyed posting about the trip and I look forward to doing the same again this coming year. With more time to plan, raise funds, get the word out and build a larger team, I’m sure that the postponement will prove to have been for the best!
Derby Frontier’s Pink Shirt Day
Seeing an opportunity to address some bullying that I had personally witnessed and experienced within the sport, the Pink Shirt day campaign was a sort of spur of the moment thing that ended up becoming much bigger than I originally intended. In all, 17 leagues and 6 individual from around Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom sent in photos to contribute to a collage showcasing leagues standing up to bullying in sport. I also dabbled a little in specific instances that are more universal to sports everywhere such as the treatment of officials at sporting events, harassment from a team and/or coaching/training staff. I hope to explore the dynamics of these things more closely next year.
Trans* Awareness in Sports Week and Coming Out of the Closet… Twice.
Gender has been an incredibly important thing to me for much of my life and roller derby was a huge catalyst in my finally embracing and accepting myself for who I truly am. As I began to become more involved with the LGBT communities in my city and province outside of the game, I started to look at how gender was approached in roller derby as well. In late March, with the Trans* Day of Visibility less than a month away, I decided to quickly get together some guest bloggers and interviewees to join me in exploring these topics.
The overall hope was twofold. Firstly, I wanted to create an outlet for Trans* identified individuals involved in not only roller derby, but in other sports and communities, to share their stories and experiences as TGI athletes. Secondly, I hoped that these discussions would lead to the creation of new resources and would provide valuable suggestions for how leagues and governing bodies in this sport could improve their policies for Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming and Intersex (TGI) athletes.
All in all, I felt that the event went very well! A lot of people seemed to keep coming back over the course of those 10-days and quite a few comments were made here and on the Facebook page about how the event had encouraged people to think about things they hadn’t before. Plus, it was a pleasure speaking with and learning from the likes of Easy Break Oven, Ms Dr Joseph Simonis, The Smacktivist, Miss Identified, Chris Mosier and Mikayla Schultz. Can’t wait for next year!
Earlier this year, Derby Frontier was nominated in the categories of Sports, LGBT and Life for the 2014 Canadian Weblog Awards! The nominees will be shortlisted by November 15th with winners announced on December 1st. Derby Frontier was also nominated as Best Sports Blog in the 2013 Canadian Weblog Awards and was featured as a Five Star Blog on http://www.schmutzie.com.
Though there were some individuals who really appreciated them, the Master Bout List page and Western and Central Canada League List page were both incredibly labor intensive and received only a moderate amount of attention and support overall. For the bout list, I would spend countless hours every month scouring social media for bouts, scrimmages and tournaments around western and central Canada. Exhausted from the work, earlier in 2014 I decided to reach out to all of the leagues in these regions to request they send me their schedules so that they could be added to the list. Unfortunately, with only a handful of leagues responding to correspondence and actively submitting their schedules, I decided it was time to close the page down.
Within the last month, the Western and Central Canada League list was also discontinued due to similar concerns; however, the main reason for this was due to the blog having a very large international readership. In fact, 53% of all site visitors have been from outside Canada, with a significant number of those readers residing in the United States and United Kingdom. As such, it no longer made sense to tailor the blog’s main resources to a single, specific country when that energy could instead by spent on developing more universal content.
Final Thoughts and Looking Ahead
I learned a great deal about myself, about roller derby and about writing over the last 12-months. From struggling with personal problems such as two major deaths in the family, embracing my gender identity, finding myself near the center of much drama in the sport, seeking a healthy balance between life and derby and dealing with my first adult cyberbully in the derby community, I found myself drifting further and further from direct involvement in the sport to instead focus on myself. For a long time there I fell out of love with roller derby and it certainly showed. I’m happy to report that through this all I have found my happy place in writing about and researching the cultural phenomenon of roller derby, while periodically attending bouts as a spectator. While I do miss officiating and I am sad to say goodbye to the Saskatchewan roller derby community, I feel extremely content with this role as a blogger and fan!
Overall, despite a lot of ups and downs, especially in the latter part of the year, looking back on it all as a collective experience I can’t help but feel it was one hell of a great ride!
I’ve begun to explore the international derby community a great deal as of late and have found it to be an incredibly enlightening and fascinating experience. Talking with Ellie Harrison of Glasgow Roller Derby and Rebel Rebel of London Rockin’ Rollers was wonderful as I learned a lot about women’s history in the UK as well as how roller derby has become a cultural/social movement of sorts for a variety of progressive causes such as gender and sexual diversity rights, among many others. It has also been interesting contemplating the importance of documenting a sport and cultural movement such as this while the information and memories are still fresh. Plus, thinking about roller derby as a community that has influenced and been influenced by countless other things such as film, music, literature, social media, world events, advocacy, etc. has really started to open my eyes to the true value of the game as a catalyst for social and cultural change.
Over the coming months I plan to continue writing about roller derby as it exists and operates as its own community, and as a subculture in correlation to other subcultures, around the globe; speaking not only about leagues, skaters and organizations but also drawing parallels between the sport and other aspects of history and society. I’ve got a lot of ideas of new topics to explore through discussion with representatives in other regions of the world too, so that will be fun I think! Plus there has been a lot of planning going into Stop Bullying in Sports next March and Trans* Awareness in Sports Week next April/May to ensure that both events are well prepared.
So, as Year Two ends, I find myself looking ahead to a whole new frontier in Year Three and I could not be more excited to explore the international derby community more than ever before!