Featured Skater 2018: Thimbleberry Slam

Name:  Thimbleberry Slam

Number: 11

Team History: Keweenaw Roller Girls / Team Michigan

Year you started roller derby: 2013

Where are you from originally? I was born and raised in Southern California, spending most of my time in the San Bernardino Mountains and beach-bummin it on weekends. I moved to Calumet, Michigan in March 2007 with my boyfriend at the time. It was rad, so I stayed. Most people follow up this factoid with a puzzled face and say something like, “Why would you leave Southern California?” And to that I say… “It’s frickin beautiful here and I can have my dog and a bonfire on just about any beach without another soul out there.”

Name a fun little known fact about you: I went to school in a place called the Valley of Enchantment.

How did you get involved with roller derby? Keweenaw folks are friendly in general. I met the first members of the league during Michigan Tech’s Winter Carnival one night. We were all out at The Dog celebrating snow (licking the wounds of winter) and three or four of the them were toting around a giant trophy they won as part of their participating in snow statue building. I was impressed, they were friendly, they told me to buy gear, so I did. I guess that’s that.

How did you pick your name? Thimbleberries are tasty, delicate, beautiful, bold red, unique, and without thorns. They smoosh easily so they are not cultivated commercially. They’re regional, and I love them. I adore the culture of berry-pickers in the Keweenaw, and a summer day out chest deep in a patch of thimbleberries is a day will spent.

 What is your pre-derby sports/skating background? I definitely was not a sporty person growing up. More of an artsy type, although I loved hiking when I worked in outdoor education many years ago. I had some rollerblades when they were hot in the 90s, though that was short lived. After I moved to Michigan and later found roller derby is when started to get more involved in sporting activities. I was a part of the Copper Country Curling Club for 4 years and really loved that.

Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby? I watched A LOT of footage (still do) and I think that accelerated my learning. I bought a package from Rollergirl.ca, went to every KRG practice and learned what I could watching YouTube videos. KRG had a great coach named Matt Powers who lead us along until he moved away, so we all just took the reigns and taught each other after that. I played in three mixed team games my first year, and that was a great way to learn from my peers.

Do you have a pre-game ritual? I kind of turn into helicopter mom on game day. It’s difficult for me to find calmness and serenity until I know everyone who makes up game day is feeling confident or knows what to do what’s going on. Home games I’m just making sure I know that everyone is present and things will go off without a hitch. About 40 minutes to game time, I tune out the organizer side of my brain and do my best to focus on my team. Whether home or away I like to find a moment where I’m by myself and can unpack my gear and look at it all and visualize what I’m about to do…. Alright and I also blast Rihanna on the ride to the arena.

Do you have a favorite motivational quote? Currently it’s, “Nobody cares. Work harder.”  – Cameron Hanes

What is your position of choice? I like em all. Sometime I love Jamming and I’m all about it, other times all I want to do is own another jammer… I do like feeling clever, and I feel pretty clever when I can escape the pack. That s*#^ is hard.

How would you describe your derby playing style? Smarter not harder. I also am very aware that this is a GAME that we like to PLAY and I think it’s really important to have FUN! Which is why I really like to make derby friends, it’s nice to have some camaraderie between teams and sass each other on the track.

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track? Looking back at derby photos over the last season I feel accomplished that I was able to stay upright against some massive blocks while jamming. Like this wicked shoulder check from Stunt Double of Chippewa Valley Roller Derby. Stunt Double is such an amazing and strong derby player and beloved track nemesis. Playing on Team Michigan also provided many feelings of accomplishment. Making the roster for one, but also having the opportunity to play in Philadelphia at Battle of the All Stars alongside some supreme athletes makes me feel pretty darn good.

Have you held any leadership positions in leagues? How have those positively impacted your personal roller derby career?  I’ve been invested in my league since the beginning. I feel taking a leadership role, especially when you feel like an imposter, is a great place for personal growth. I was the president for two years and have served as a training leader and captain. I think my calmness is one of my strengths, but I really was given the ground to build confidence because of my teammates who put trust in me. Because of that I feel present when I’m on the track and less worried about what will happen next. I’m more likely to take other leadership roles in my life because of the positive experiences I’ve had with KRG

What is your job outside of roller derby? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby? I’m a jack of all trades. In the winter I help manage a ski shop at a ski hill, and throughout the year I work as a freelance artist/illustrator although I have been many things. I think the best way to think of this is how has roller derby contributed to my professional life. It really is symbiotic. Both roller derby and my jobs outside of roller derby lend to one another. I’m able to contribute to KRG and the roller derby community at large because of my experiences in service and in the arts. It’s important to be a good host, to learn with your peers, and to bring beautiful things into the world. Work = Life = Derby ….and so on.

What advice do you have for people who want to play roller derby? I’d first ask yourself why you want to play. It’s not a pick up game of hoops, you’re entering the Matrix. Red Pill Blue Pill? Are you ready to be humble and try something new (fully?) If so… Then DO IT ALREADY! It really is one of the best things I’ve ever gotten involved with, and I will be so happy when I’m old to tell these stories.

And lastly, favorite places in the Keweenaw? I love a lot of beaches and inland lakes, but right now really like to go to K.C. Bonker’s Toys & Coffee and play Kendama.