Featured Skater: Sexy Slaydie

As one of the most intimidating blockers in the sport, Sexy Slaydie has built her derby career on showing how to capitalize on height, strength and grit as a devastatingly effective blocker. Fans and skaters alike took notice of Slaydie’s skills this past fall at the D1 Playoffs in Omaha where Slaydie was recognized as the tournament MVP, then again while skating through a broken leg in the 2015 WFTDA Championship this past November.

Name: Sexy Slaydie

Number: 68

League: Gotham Girls Roller Derby

Team(s): I skate with the Gotham Girls All Stars, USA Roller Derby, and the Brooklyn Bombshells.

Year you started roller derby: 2008

Featured Skater: Sexy Slaydie
Jean Schwarzwalder

How did you get involved with roller derby?
I was a senior in college in Nashville and heard about roller derby from a friend in Chicago, who had been to some Windy City bouts. I went to a Nashville Rollergirls game that summer and was instantly hooked! I thought to myself, “This is AWESOME. I could do this…I need to do this!”

What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
My background playing sports is extensive, and it informs my roller derby experience — with strategy and techniques and conditioning. Basketball and soccer were two sports I played through high school. I was a goalkeeper in soccer, and in basketball I was a center who liked to shoot the 3. I loved defending, but I also loved the 3-point shot, and taking the ball at the perimeter and driving to the basket. When I’m approaching a wall, often I’ll imagine I’m at the free-throw line and juke left, juke right, fake one way and then burst to the other. Of course there are many differences between the sports, but also a lot of similarities. Another similarity is that both are all about keeping your weight centered.

I see myself in the little kids who watch their moms practice derby on the sidelines. My mom brought my sister and me to her volleyball games when we were growing up. It was awesome to see my mom spike the ball!

Featured Skater: Sexy Slaydie
Marko Niemelä

Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
The morning after seeing a Nashville Rollergirls game, I bought skates and knee pads and then basically just drove to the local rink to figure it out. I wore my skates around the house doing the dishes and doing housework to get more comfortable. After a few weeks of that, I joined the Nashville Rollergirls.

What is your skate gear of choice?
I skate on Brooklyn Skate Company 340 boots, Roll Line Matrix plates, Roll Line Gladiator Wheels, Roll Line Speed Max Bearings, and Roll Line Hockey Toe Stops.

Do you have a pre-game ritual?
I like to wake up early, eat a healthy bite of food and go for a strut. If I’m away from home, I FaceTime with my cat Xerxes. I heard that looking at cuteness inspires aggression. It’s true!

Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
One of my favorite sports quotes is from Muhammad Ali, who was born and raised in my hometown Louisville, KY: “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” It’s all about perspective.

Do you have a theme song?
My home team the Brooklyn Bombshells is nautical themed, and we skate out to “Come Sail Away” by Styx. Nothing like skating around the track with your teammates fist pumping to Styx!

Featured Skater: Sexy Slaydie
David Dyte

What is your position of choice?
Blocker. I jam occasionally and when I do, I experience something that Suzy Hotrod has a great word for: jamnesia. Jamming is so nerve-wracking and exhausting, I completely lose the memory of doing it! It’s probably a survival mechanism. Jammers, I commend you. I don’t know how you do it.

How would you describe your derby playing style? Do you have a signature move?
I get super low and wrap the side of my body around the jammer at her midsection. I call it “surfing” – it provides a nice visual when I’m teaching it.

You’ve been called the “one-woman wall” on the track, both for your height and aggressive blocking. What are some of the challenges of being a taller skater?
Other than my head getting cut off in photos? Bending your knees and getting low is the most important thing to do if you’re tall. You’re half as low as you feel you are getting. Because I’m tall, I think a lot of skaters with similar body types see me skate and are excited about getting tips about how to use their bodies better. I end up giving advice to a lot of tall skaters – and the thing I always say is to get lower. You should be as low as your shortest opponent.

Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
My favorite memories are spending time with my team. The small moments – joking in between drills, sharing hotel rooms, taking pictures of teammates who’ve fallen asleep on airplanes, walking around in foreign cities.

Featured Skater: Sexy Slaydie
Danforth Johnson

What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
In 2011, my team the Brooklyn Bombshells won the Gotham Girls intraleague championships, Gotham All Stars won the WFTDA champions, and USA Roller Derby won the World Cup. So in one year, I was part of teams that won the city, the nation, and the world!

Off the track?
I co-captain my home team the Brooklyn Bombshells. I’ve learned a lot about how to be a leader and the importance of leading by example.

Could you share with us some of your personal training routine, on and off the track?
One of the great things about living in New York City getting to ride your bike everywhere! I ride my bike to get to work, to practice, to the park, when I go out at night. I am also a big fan of the Nike Training app.

What has roller derby taught you about pushing your limits, either physically or mentally?
At practice when I get tired, I like to imagine that it’s the last minute and we’re down 10 points. There’s no time for fatigue. I also try to remember that no matter how hard I think I’m working, it is entirely possible to work twice as hard. It’s all about perspective and state of mind.

What have of the toughest losses of your career taught you?
My home team went an entire season without winning a game. We followed it up the next year with an undefeated season. The difference between a zero-win season and a zero-loss season is sometimes irrelevant. You can work really hard and still lose a game. And as a leader, it can be incredibly hard to stay motivated and encourage your team to stay motivated in the face of successive, compounded loss.

Featured Skater: Sexy Slaydie
Tyler Shaw

2015 was an outstanding season for you: from awarded MVP in the D1 Playoffs in Omaha to helping take home a hard fought 2nd place for Gotham at the International Championships. What were some of the greatest moments of your tournament experience this last year?
Being awarded the Omaha D1 Playoffs MVP was so cool! I love that the skill level and strategy of roller derby is getting better and the competition is harder and harder every year. Whenever we can hear fans supporting us in the stands, it’s a really special moment – especially when there are little kids there cheering!

We heard that you actually broke your leg at Championships and continued to skate the rest of the tournament! Can you share a little bit of that story with us?
In the first lap of the first jam of the VRDL game, I fell backward and fractured my tibia and sprained my ankle in one shot. I got up and kept playing while assessing the situation in my head. I didn’t want to stop the game – we were on a power jam! After the jam was over, I told my coach that I was pretty sure I broke my ankle, and he told me to have a seat and to let him know when I was ready to go back in. And I did! After a few more jams, I realized I should get it taped, and the medics at Champs were incredibly helpful. My leg was in and out of a large ice bucket 20 min in/20 min out for the next 16 hours…

What is your job outside of roller derby? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
I work in the music industry. Sometimes having to go to shows conflicts with practice time. My teammates have a joke that I often appear through a magical portal on our scrimmage nights.

Featured Skater: Sexy Slaydie
Sean Hale

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?
Having a balanced life is so important to me. In five years, we lost our first WFTDA D1 game. That loss is an opportunity to improve and do things differently. More importantly, it’s a reminder that having a balanced life and integrating roller derby into that life without it taking over is what’s actually really valuable. Balance will sustain you.

What was it like to represent Team USA in the last Derby World Cup? How has your family reacted to your international derby fame?
My family is so supportive! I was at my grandma’s 90th birthday tonight and many of her friends approached me asking if I was the roller derby skater! So my grandma is proud. My mom was a Title IX athlete in the 1970s and for decades fought for equal treatment of female athletes. I’m proud to be her daughter and I know she’s proud of my athletic accomplishments too. She’s the first to know my season schedule and she’s a very familiar face in the stands.

Do you have a special message to your fans?
I love you guys!

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