My Life

Celebrating Year Two of Derby Frontier

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.

4th Annual Clam Slam:  Team Vagine Regime Canada vs Toronto Roller Derby Clam Diggers

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

Exclusive

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.

The Derby Frontier interview was shared on Comics Refueled, Word of the Nerd, and the DC Comics official news page, among many other prominent comic book websites.

 

SRDA Presidential Campaign

Vote Kevlar 1

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

BestOfSask

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

Kevlar Ref-Coach Promo

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

PSD Photo Mosaic 2014

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.

I sent the mosaic photo into www.pinkshirtday.ca and was thrilled to see that they featured it in their PINK SHIRT DAY 2014 photo album on Facebook.

 

Trans* Awareness in Sports Week and Coming Out of the Closet… Twice.

Trans Athlete Week Banner

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.

The event was particularly close to me as I had also decided to come out of the closet (for the second time).

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!

 

2014 Canadian Weblog Awards Nomination

link-masthead

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.

 

Discontinued Resources

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!

A New Approach, Major Blog Changes and Silence on the Derby Frontier

If you’ve been to Derby Frontier before you’ve likely noticed that a lot has changed over the past couple of weeks. With less than a month to go before DF’s Second Anniversary, I’ve decided to completely and utterly re-approach this blog.

As I mentioned in my last post Derby Frontier has been many things to me and to visitors. However, at its core it was always a personal blog. It is a place where I can learn about the history of the sport and how it has affected both others and myself. A place where I can share things I have learned from others during my travels and a place where I can discuss my experiences of the bizarre culture and unique community that has developed right alongside the derbs. Yet at the same time, I got it into my head that I could develop this into a phenomenal resource and news site for the sport in my region.

I created and maintained a Master Bout List for Saskatchewan and some of our neighboring provinces (2012-2014), I was writing player profiles and event previews, running votes, giveaways, and I put together a Western and Central Canadian Roller Derby League List outlining all the leagues in those regions, their websites and social media and how they were affiliated. Meanwhile, I continued to discuss my personal life and interactions with the community. Writing advice pieces, answering questions from peers and discussing how I felt about issues within the sport that were incredibly important to me.

The blog had essentially developed a dual identity that ultimately led to a great deal of frustration and miscommunication between myself and many readers.

Clearly, it cannot be both. So, I finally had to ask myself the big question: what is Derby Frontier? Is it a personal blog featuring guest writers or is it a news and resource site?

After a great deal of reflection and consideration the answer was pretty clear, its the former and always has been. As such, many changes have been made to the overall perspective, mood and focus of the site. Aside from switching up the layout and dropping that black and gray color scheme, below are all of the major changes that have been applied so far:

  • The site heading now states “a personal blog exploring the culture and community of roller derby.”
  • The Blog Staff & Contacts page is now the Blog Support Team. Some titles have been switched and gone is the overall concept of any of us being “staff”. We’re a team, sharing in this fun, passionate, now completely casual blog.
  • The “About” page has drastically changed. Firstly, I have deleted the “mission statement” and “goal” sections, including all accompanying text. The page now includes a small personal bio, a short description of the blog, a list of Awards & Nominations the blog has received and a section highlighting press that the blog has received over the years.
  • Much like the Master Bout List of 2012/2013, the Western and Central Canadian League list is now gone as well.
  • Both the Derby Frontier’s Pink Shirt Day and Derby Frontier’s Trans Awareness in Sports Week pages have undergone a name change. They are now called Stop Bullying in Sports and Trans* Awareness in Sports Week.
  • The Partners and Sponsors page has been renamed to Friends and Donors. Everything about looking for sponsors and partners has been removed, including blog sponsorship/partnership opportunities and the site sponsor call out. I will no longer be seeking these things going forward.
  • Wrote up a very small Contact page highlighting the preferred contact methods should you wish to speak to somebody involved with Derby Frontier

I’m currently working on an articles for fiveonfive magazine and for Derby Life. I’m hoping those go well and that I can continue to write for them. Additionally, I’ve been hard at work on a novel that I’ve been wanting to finish for a long time now and I’m excited to be getting back to it.

As for upcoming content for Derby Frontier, I’d be lying if I said there was a lot on the horizon aside from Destination Derby next month. I think it’s time to step away from a while. Perhaps I will return to writing here with the same vigor and excitement I had earlier this year, perhaps not. Time will tell. For the time being though I think the healthy thing to do is take a deep breath and enjoy what’s left of this Canadian prairie summer with my fiance before I’m on the road in August.

NOTE: As some of you may or may not have noticed, I am no longer on Facebook. I have deactivated my personal profile and I am committed to staying off of it for the remainder of July (bare minimum). If you would like to reach me for any reason please feel free to contact me at kevlar@derbyfrontier.com.

Regret and Reflections on Derby Frontier

Derby Frontier has been many things to me, and to those reading it, over the last two years. Sometimes readers and I have been on the same page, while at other points we have not. At first, for me, Derby Frontier was a small, personal blog that I wanted to use in exploration of the sport in my immediate area, Saskatchewan, for both my friends and myself. As much as I enjoyed writing about bout results, promoting events, compiling a list of leagues and putting together a provincial bout schedule, some peers from the neighboring provinces hoped that they could be included as well (and why not!?). Ultimately, I decided to branch out as I saw that this offered me a great opportunity to learn more (which it did) and would allow individuals from other provinces in Western and Central Canada to cross promote and share news with one another via interviews (which it also did!).

Many minor shifts in focus followed. In early 2013, I began writing about broader events such as what the Roller Derby Association of Canada (RDAC) was doing as well as coverage of tournaments in the region. By the late summer, early fall, I started to focus on self-care articles and pieces about finding your identity as an athlete/official/coach (which included submissions from guest writers). I then finished off the year and rang in 2014 focused back on Saskatchewan with coverage of the provincial conference and nomination/voting period for the board of directors of the newly formed Saskatchewan Roller Derby Alliance (which I ran for as well). The New Year started with some challenges as I attempted to bring some exposure to the Saskatchewan derby community through an online, public vote. While I feel I was very successful in this (especially through the CBC Saskatchewan Radio on-air interview) I absolutely recognized that the overall process needs to be tightened and better planned out for any similar votes in the future.

Over the past three months, the blog shifted slightly again to a platform of sorts for social politics as I had a desire to discuss some issues that I am quite passionate about such as sex/gender policies in this sport and the common struggles that trans* roller derby athletes face (while also exploring the same issues in other sports and athletics). In re-reading through some of those posts, I do see that I was projecting my own frustrations that, as some have pointed out, resulted in a couple of articles written with a degree of discontent to them. The articles “6 Reasons Why Roller Derby is NOT Ready for the Olympics”, “United Kingdom Roller Derby Association’s Transgender Policy a Mixed Bag” and “3 Reasons Why Quidditch is More Gender Inclusive Than Roller Derby” are prime examples of this. The products of letting my frustration and discontent with internal and external situations get the better of me. Where I should have been writing constructively, I was writing critically without offering solutions to the issues I was addressing.

Two days ago, Derby Frontier was scandalous. While attempting to illustrate how I felt about self and communal censorship in regards to discussion of sensitive topics and issues, I chose to utilize two pieces of “he said, she said” gossip as an example. I chose to air dirty laundry that did not involve me in an inconsiderate and unfair manner. Frankly, it was insensitive toward those who it concerned. There are consequences for decisions such as that, which I now fully deserve to experience. My choice to write openly about that gossip was mean, hurtful and for all of this I am sincerely sorry. While I still feel strongly about the overall message I was attempting to relay in that article there is a very fine line between productive writing and destructive hearsay. I crossed that line and as a result I’ve disappointed others and I’ve disappointed myself.

Almost everything I have gone through in my personal life, and how that has affected my involvement with this sport, as well as my relationships within it, is reflected here on this blog through posts and the comment sections. All of my personal difficulties and struggles. All of my successes, failures, as well as clear evidence of all of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve detailed my personal internal struggles with my sexuality, my gender identity and I’ve written about the many mistakes and poor decisions I’ve made, of which this is another that will remain here permanently as a reminder to myself of the negative effect that sensationalism has in any form of media. Simply put, a large portion of my life, of my thoughts and personality, is laid out on the internet, made completely vulnerable in every regard and honestly… I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It has been fundamental to my efforts in personal self-care, counseling and my personal commitment to hold myself accountable for my choices and actions. All of these experiences, these posts and the reactions to them (be they positive or negative, strong or indifferent) contribute to that. They have encouraged me to sit and reflect on myself, on my own reactions (and why I reacted in those ways), on my perspectives, my thoughts, my words, my behaviors, my goals and on my morals and values. For the past two days I have continued that dialogue with myself and others and I see that in moving forward I need to develop more constructive ways of presenting content and approaching issues, while also being more attentive to how I am expressing my thoughts, ideas and opinions.

In August, Derby Frontier will become a personal travel blog for approximately 21-days.

To those of you who are getting off here, I understand and I would just like to say thank you for the time you spent reading and commenting on the blog in the past. To those who remain, I look forward to continuing in sharing more of my personal journey, including all the ups and downs still to come, with you!

Finally, to any potential bloggers out there, there is certainly a lot to be learned from the 165 posts published here. There are great moments and there are poor moments, loud moments and quiet moments, proud moments and regretful moments. I hope you can learn from it all as much as I have.

Kevlar 2 Kevin “Kevlar” Dennison