How Roller Derby prepared me for a Pandemic.

Over the summer and this past month myself and Robert Lane have been hosting some online chats about this and that – the most recent of these with Chris Keniger and Roxanne de Bastion, it was a really interesting and insightful, funny and realistic chat about “Pivoting” in a pandemic.
Both Chris and Roxanne have creative careers and have navigated very creative ways of managing those careers in this strangest of times. I shall link to the chat if you’d like to take a listen.
Here it is

My main take away from it was to embrace all of the things…try the ideas, be flexible, cry if you need to, do nothing if you need to, persevere, take a nap, be angry, be positive, push forward, hibernate…and feel free to change tact at any point. This isn’t just career advice it is life advice.

So, this word…Pivot, has come up a lot this year. People are pivoting their business models to make ends meet, to carry on and to make things work. People are pivoting their lives to manage home-schooling, lock down, Life with little loo roll – whatever it is, we are all being asked/forced to make and embrace change.

Pivot is not a word I used day to day prior to March but it is one I used on Sunday mornings at Roller Derby training.

Let’s assume for a minute you aren’t sure what roller derby is and let me just drag you up to speed…

Here’s a snappy definition from

“Roller derby is played on an oval track.  Players called “jammers” attempt to pass groups of players called “the pack.”  This involves somewhat simultaneous defense and offense, resulting in a great sport to watch.  Roller derby is a full contact sport played at a break-neck speed — on rollerskates!!

Hidden in the “Pack” is a player who takes on the role of the Pivot. The Pivot has extra responsibilities to other players in the pack, they can be identified because their helmet has a coloured stripe down the middle. They are often the leader, telling the rest of the pack what to do, making decisions and switching up at a fast pace in almost impossible and ever changing circumstances -Roller Derby is full contact carnage!! ( with sensible rules and full safety gear)
The pivot helps the jammer get through the pack by physically sweeping opposing blockers out of their way so they can make it through, the pivot is constantly switching and sacrificing their position to make a clean line for the Jammer. However, if the Jammer really can’t carry on then they can perform what is known as a “Star pass” taking the cover off of their helmet and handing it to the pivot who places it over their striped helmet and assumes the jammer position.

The position of the pivot is essentially to organise, plan, do their darndest to get that Jammer through and then if all else fails they volunteer as tribute, take the star pass and tackle the opposing team directly themselves.

That role is a lovely analogy for these times. We can all be the pivot. We can all plan, and encourage others, and mix it up and switch and take the lead role.. and when the tough stuff gets too tough for others, we can take that star pass, take the burden and give others a break.

But remember we can also be part of the pack, the sturdy wall of players who fend off the opposing forces, who listen to and heed the advice and do what they can to be a team player without charging full throttle through the opposing pack.

We can also all be a jammer – the star of the show, the zippy fast mover who the audience love and want to see- we can be that player and also know that it is ok to occasionally take a moment, realise we are overwhelmed and outnumbered and pass the star to somebody else.

How Roller Derby prepared me for a Pandemic.