Back in January, Team England announced its training squad for the 2014 Blood & Thunder roller derby world cup. That squad looks like this.
Manchester Roller Derby’s Vic Tori Bee listed alongside the best skaters England has to offer. This is a huge honour for any skater, and something Tori has been visualising since the early days of her derby career.
The squad will be training around every six weeks, with the first session being held in Birmingham on 23rd March.
For this MRD skater it can’t come soon enough and we caught up with her for a chat about all things Team England.
You are one of Manchester Roller Derby’s star jammers, how do you see yourself fitting in to the Team England dynamic?
I was pegged as a jammer at MRD before I’d even passed my minimum skills, probably because of my need for speed and because I was petite. I held up that role, in fact I reveled in it. Before the end of my first bouting year I was solely a rotation jammer. It was during these early days of falling in love with roller derby that the first Team England squad was selected. I set my long-term ultimate goal: To stand on the jam line with Bonnie Thunders in the second roller derby world cup.
In the 6-8 months running up to the first round of tryouts, I realised that although I was MRD’s star jammer, my blocking was kind of pants. I’d neglected that side of the game by focusing only on jammer training. That needed to change if I was to succeed at being selected for Team England. I figured it was too competitive to try out solely as a jammer.
I switched my focus to being a double threat and threw myself into blocking. Having coached both of MRD’s women’s teams for over a year, I knew the theory of blocking well, but I couldn’t land a good hit for toffee and it became apparent I was somewhat of a lone shark out there. I practiced blocking so much that I fell in love with roller derby all over again. Blocking and working intricately with the team is a phenomenal feeling I thought I could only achieve by racking up points.
So, how do I see myself fitting in with Team England dynamic, as a jammer or a blocker? I don’t know. At both rounds of try outs I felt my new-found blocking skills trumped my jamming. Jamming against such a high calibre of blockers was extremely tough. Let’s see what team training brings and how the coaches see it. I hope to improve and immerse myself in both areas. I can’t deny my drive for blocking these days, but my vision of standing beside Bonnie still pulls strong.
Have you set yourself any personal goals to achieve whilst on TE? If so, what are they?
Strength is my main goal, the umbrella overarching my short term goals if you will. I’ve never really shown myself as a fine example of an ‘athlete’ when it comes to off-skates training, but if I’m gonna hold my own against those big gals I’ll have to toughen up. Agility can only get me so far, so I’m getting me some weights and CheckerBroad teammate Smack Mamba is gonna make me buff!
I’m always looking for bigger challenges and I don’t enjoy ‘easy’, so training with these formidable skaters is my idea of heaven. It’s only by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone that you can make mistakes and improve. Being close enough to emulate and learn from such strong skaters and coaches will all aid my progression – damn, I’m looking forward to that!
How do you think that skating at a national level with some of the best skaters in England will change you as a skater and on a personal level?
I may need to shift my priorities and do less at MRD to fit in more training for Team England, but I hope to not have to. I am very loyal to my league, and that extends to other teams too. I have a lot of derby love to spread and being on Team England is just another extension of that – I didn’t get this far by being selfish. I truly believe that spreading the derby love, coaching and time put into organising the league has helped me get to where I am. That love comes bouncing back, right?
There is a lot of pressure, and I’ve already experienced the negative effects this can have. Just a week after finding out I made the training squad, MRD’s CheckerBroads played Birmingham Blitz Dames and my head was still up my ass. We skated in front of a sell out crowd and everyone knew my news, helped by Captain Malice proudly announcing it in the skate outs as my name was called. I had to perform, people expected me to perform and when I didn’t, when the floor was my nemesis, I wobbled. I could not get through. I lost focus, or was focusing on the wrong things.
A successful apex jump followed by the roar of the crowd snapped me back into it. I remembered I’m Vic Tori Bee and THIS is what I do. It was maybe a little to late to bring the score back, and it was all a bit of a daze. It was only several days later that I recognised what had happened. The pressure was laid on so thick it suffocated me. I made the Team England squad over some phenomenal skaters, so I feel like I’ve got a lot to prove.
Photo by Shirlaine Forrest
Who, on the team you are set to join, do you most admire and why?
There’s so many big names in there, and I admire all of them, but it’s got to be Kid Block. Kid came to coach MRD’s CheckerBroads in October 2013 and her visit had a huge impact on us as a team and as individuals [read about this here]. She has such a love of the sport, I like the way she talks about it, and her positive character is just infectious. My love for Tiger Bay goes way back, they were playing at the first derby bout I attended, and a visit from BB Bombshell (Tui Lyon) back in 2012 led to probably the most inspiring conversations I’ve ever had. She set the bar for me in terms of derby aspirations and Kid Block holds those familiar views – it’s evident that we were both inspired by BB.
What will you be doing in preparation for the World Cup?
Saving up! I’ve recently become self-employed as a roller derby coach, amongst other side projects like making artists’ canvases and painting the odd one myself – so alongside all the training I’ll be doing some earning too. And eating good food, to feed all that new muscle I’ll be building.
To book Vic Tori Bee as a guest coach for your league, contact her via email or on Facebook, and keep an eye out for fundraisers to help support Tori in her Team England journey. In the meantime, here are some great shots from Team England’s first fixtures of 2014 in Nantes, France – where they took a double victory against Team France and Team Canada.
Related article: Vic Tori Bee buzzing over Team England announcement