RCRD is full of incredible humans! This new series will showcase various skaters from our league, and we will be starting off with our very own Rugburn. Rugburn is our league’s Head Coach and the co-captain of the Brute Leggers to boot!

Skater Name: Rugburn

Number: 83

Age: 36

Team: Brute-Leggers

Position: Blocker/Pivot

Leadership Roles: Home team coach (KQ/VU) 

Preferred pronouns: She/Her/They/Them

What teams have you skated with? Smoke City Betties & Killer Queens

How long have you been playing roller derby?
9 years

How did you get into skating? 

Someone took me to a game for a date and it looked so awesome that I decided I had to try it. I bought myself some skates, but they didn’t have roller derby in the town that I lived in (Kingston) at the time, so I would skate in parks and streets. When I finally moved to Toronto a few years later, I signed up for their intro to derby program. 

How did you come up with your derby name?

At my draft party for ToRD, where the league welcomes new draftees to the teams, some skaters started wrestling. I joined in and ended up getting a bunch of rug burn from the carpet. After laughing with my new teammates that “rugburn” would be a good derby name, I decided to use it.


What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?

I played rugby and field hockey in high school.


Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.

I did the fresh meat program with ToRD in 2010. I played my first derby scrimmage with that rookie team against skaters from the brand new Royal City league. I played my rookie season in Toronto with the Smoke City Betties (now Bandits). 


Do you have a pre-game ritual?

I like to make sure I eat a good meal and get a good sleep the night before. This is a lot harder when we’re on the road with the travel team. Cooking, taking the time to spend time on myself puts me in a good mindset. It helps to make me feel more grounded. The night before a game I will cook up a steak and usually eat it with a side of rice/risotto & a good veg like broccoli. That’s a typical pre-game meal for me. And the next morning, I’ll eat the leftover steak with eggs for breakfast. I try to eat 3 hours before a game and I always keep two water bottles with me on the bench. One is straight water and one has nuun electrolyte tablets. During a game I’ll switch between the two. After the game  I’m usually hungry so whatever is available I will stuff in my face!

Favourite pump up song? 

Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies’ cover of Cher’s Believe. I like it because it’s upbeat but I know all of the lyrics and I can sing along. The autotuning in that one just makes it funny. 

Listen here!

What advice do you have for people who want to play roller derby?

Don’t be intimidated by not knowing how to skate or understanding the rules. Our intro programs are designed for folks who have never been on skates before. You will learn everything from how to skate, stop and fall safely, to the rules and basic strategies of the game. No experience is required at all! And while the hitting looks hard, it’s a lot of fun when you learn how to do it safely. Plus, the community is incredibly supportive and encouraging – you will think you’re joining a sport, but you may end up finding friends and family. 


What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?

My greatest derby accomplishment off the track was winning my first official review as a coach. Being confident in what I saw, and knowledgeable enough to make my case to the referees was a great feeling. Getting the opposing jammer sent to the box for their 7th penalty, causing them to foul out, was a nice little bonus! An official review is a request of the official’s decision or lack of decision. Whereas a coach you make a case based on the action that you saw on the track and ask the head referee to discuss the action with the fellow referees. It’s super intimidating. 


What has roller derby taught you physically, mentally and/or emotionally?

Roller derby has taught me a lot about myself. Managing your emotions and reactions in the face of adversity can be hard on a good day. Doing it while getting hit repeatedly by strong skaters can be extra challenging. Working on my mental game is an ongoing process, but learning how to take hits, accept losses, and still move forward to the next jam with positive attitude, has served me well when it comes to taking life’s more metaphorical hits. 


How do you work on your mental game? What does that mean?

What’s worked very well for me this year has been making space to acknowledge what I found frustrating, accepting the things that I can’t change and letting those go. I try to focus on the things I can change which is usually my own actions. The hard thing about roller derby, unlike in life where you have a lot of time to have those thoughts and let these things go, is that you have like 30 seconds before the next jam starts. I am working on putting my energy into creating positive change in the areas I can change, instead of being frustrated by the things that I can not. 

What roles do community and activism play in today’s roller derby?

For many folks, roller derby isn’t just their sport, it’s also their community. As such, we hope to have our values reflected by the derby community, and sometimes we learn new values and lessons from our derby friends and family. It’s a constant learning curve, but I love that derby is working to be an anti-oppressive environment. Derby has always stived to be a feminist sport that works to build up and empower female identified folks. But we are learning that in order to be effective, this feminism needs to be intersectional. The sport is becoming known as a welcoming space for queer folks, non-binary and trans folks. We still have a lot of work to do to be more inclusive of people of colour, folks with disabilities, folks with limited incomes, and more. But we are making strides, and those efforts are very encouraging. My dream derby community will be welcoming and supportive of the folks who need this kind of strong, supportive community the most.

Special thanks to Neil Gunner for his rad photographs!