Erin Jackson is the type of person to strive for excellence in all aspects of her life: from competing this past fall with New Jax City Rollers in Championships to graduating cum laude from the Materials Science & Engineering program at the University of Florida, Erin’s dedication to doing her very best can’t be missed. A competitive speed skater outside of roller derby, Erin’s cross training and composure has made her one of the quickest and hard to stop jammers in the world. Learn more about what drives Erin and what she’s up to now.
Name: Erin Jackson
League: Jacksonville RollerGirls
Year you started roller derby: 2012
How did you get involved with roller derby?
My manager at Bont, Debbie Rice, wanted me to start playing roller derby with her in Tampa back in 2011. However, I was too busy balancing school and speed skating at the time to make the trips down there (two hours away). In the following year, I took the Fall 2012 semester online since I would be away at the world speed skating championships for a long period of time. When a former speed skater found out I was staying at home in Ocala (versus an hour north at the University of Florida in Gainesville) for the winter, she invited me to a derby practice. I skated a few fresh meat practices with the Ocala Cannibals before leaving for my speed skating trip. Soon after I got back, I was able to start playing games with Ocala. From then on I was hooked. The Ocala teammate who got me started is actually still a teammate in Jacksonville: Eirinn Go Brawl.
What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I’ve been skating for as long as I can remember. As a kid I attended skating sessions at the local rink every week and even spent a few summers there at the summer camp. I joined the figure skating team in Ocala when I was eight, but moved on two years later when my coaches left to pursue Olympic dreams for their daughter — and she made it! Not much later, my mom met the speed skating coach at a diner, after recognizing each other from my mom’s job, and I ended up with an invite to a team party at the rink. (It was a welcoming party for the skaters who had just returned home from that year’s world championships.) I won some races at the party on my little artistic skates and soon began attending speed practices. Thirteen years later I’m still in love with the sport.
Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
My rookie year began in late 2012 with the Ocala Cannibals. They taught me the rules, skills, and how to play the game. I played three games with them from October until the end of that season, then skated as many open scrimmages as I could throughout the offseason. I also attended the 2012 WFTDA Championships as a vendor with Bont Skates; I knew that I wanted to play at that level someday. Soon my sponsors at Bont encouraged me to transfer to a WFTDA-ranked team. My local options were Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Tampa. After interacting with members of each team and attending some of their practices, I landed on Jacksonville. Ocala teammate Eirinn Go Brawl was also transferring to Jax, so that was another plus. I began the transfer on Valentine’s Day 2013 and played my first WFTDA-sanctioned game with Jacksonville in June.
What is your skate gear of choice?
I rock Bont Quadstar boots and Ignite plates, Bont FXX wheels, an S1 helmet, and 187 pads.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
Before every game I warm up similarly to the way I get ready for speed races. The warm up consists of jogging, light plyometrics, and dynamic stretching.
Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” – Thomas Jefferson
A couple more that I like are: “If you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it” and “Don’t stop until you’re proud.”
Do you have a theme song?
My theme song is “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.
What is your position of choice?
I would actually love to be a fulltime pivot someday. I really enjoy blocking! But for now, my position of choice is jamming.
How would you describe your derby playing style? Do you have a signature move?
I don’t consider myself a “fancy” jammer like Jamsterella or a toe stop expert like Krispy. I think the skills I use the most as a jammer are speed and quick accelerations.
Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
I would have to say my best derby moment was during the 2015 Playoffs when my team secured their spot for the WFTDA Championships. [New Jax](New Jax pulled off a close win against Denver in our home city of Jacksonville.
What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
My top three moments would have to be: receiving the Tournament MVP award at the 2014 Division 1 Playoffs in Evansville; playing for, and winning with, Team East in the 2015 Roller Derby All-Star game at RollerCon; and playing two pretty exciting games at the 2015 WFTDA Championships with New Jax.
You are a 10-time World Medalist, 38-time National Champion, and currently hold 3 National records: clearly, you like to go fast! What are some of the training techniques and skills from speed skating that you carry into your roller derby games?
On my inlines I have always been a sprinter, mainly specializing in short distances. The quick acceleration and control that I work hard to achieve in speed skating are also really handy skills for roller derby.
Skating has literally taken you around the world! What have been some of the highlights, and how do manage to juggle life as an international athlete?
Until recently, I had been pretty fortunate to not have many conflicts between my speed and derby lives — though my speed coach would disagree, haha. Juggling both sports with college was the bigger challenge. But actually, what I found was that staying busy kept me more on top of things. I had priorities and plans and I stuck to them the best I could. Now, with college out of the way and a flexible job schedule in hand, everything is going smoothly! As for the highlights, I was very excited to finally be able to take part in the European Cup races again this year. (While in college the trip was not a possibility.) However, the six-week trip brought about my first major conflict between speed and derby. I missed a three-game tournament with New Jax in April, but of course they did just fine without me!
Could you share with us some of your personal training routine, on and off the track?
At the beginning of the season, my routine usually includes one New Jax practice, one scrimmage night with the league, one indoor speed skating practice, and one outdoor speed practice (generally longer distances) per week, with a bit of plyometric training from time to time. A few months into the season (nowish) I’ll start with additional outdoor trainings and a more steady routine of plyometrics.
What has roller derby taught you about pushing your limits, either physically or mentally?
I’ve heard the saying, “you can do anything for 30 seconds.” But through derby, I’ve learned that you can actually do anything for two minutes. That’s an extra minute and a half 😉
What have of the toughest losses of your career taught you?
Through any loss or failure in any aspect of my life, I always try to remember that it’s never really that bad; losses are not the end of the world. In fact, I treat each one as a learning experience to do a better job next time and hopefully not repeat the same mistakes.
Who are your derby heroes?
I have a lot of derby heroes. They are my teammates, coaches, and supporters. Without them I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play the game I love.
2015 was an impressive year for the New Jax City, from hosting and placing 2nd at the D1 Playoffs in September to an impressive showing at Championships in St. Paul, MN! What can you share about your plans to prepare for another stellar season?
Personally, my plans are to be in much better physical shape, in terms of cardio, than I was in last year and to add a few extra jammer skills to my repertoire. I spent the first two months of practices this season slowing things down a bit, thinking about what I would do in a certain situation, then trying something different. Luckily my teammates were pretty patient with me through this process.
What is your job outside of roller derby? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
Until a year ago, my jobs were going to college and speed skating. I was fortunate enough to have great scholarships that covered my expenses and more. Since graduating, I began working in the Contenders Program at Dick’s Sporting Goods. The Contenders Program is basically a partnership between the U.S. Olympic Committee and Dick’s that allows Team USA athletes to support themselves through a flexible job that works around their training/competition schedules. I guess the major way this job has contributed to my roller derby experience is by affording me the free time to train and travel.
As a recent cum laude graduate of the Materials Science & Engineering program at the University of Florida, what are your plans for the future?
Since I’m still traveling quite a bit for both of my sports, I decided to hold off on starting my engineering career. I plan on returning to school for a Master’s Degree in Materials Science in the next year. Beyond that, I don’t have a prediction for when the sport-to-work crossover will take place in my life.
How has your involvement in roller derby affected the way you live the rest of your life? How do you find a balance between your derby life and “real” life?
Skating competitively, and the traveling that goes with it, has been a big part of my life for so long that I’m used to spending a great deal of my time with teammates and fellow skaters. One of the things I love most about my sports is the people. Some of the best friendships I’ve made have come through speed skating, and now derby. Because of this I don’t really see it as a sacrifice to spend so much time around these people. In short, skating has pretty much become my life haha.
What advice do you have for people who want to play roller derby?
If you don’t play yet, just try it! Derby is one of those sports that people fall in love with from the start. Then, once you’ve tried it and have fallen in love, don’t forget to always work on the basics no matter how advanced you get. One thing I like to point out when I run clinics is that derby is different from the more traditional sports in the major sense that we aren’t born with skates on our feet. For that reason I think it’s important not only to learn to how to skate properly/efficiently before learning your “minimum skills”, but also to revisit those basic skating techniques throughout your derby career.
Do you have a special message to your fans?
I love you all! Thanks for your support!
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