Beginning her derby career in Seattle nearly a decade ago, Swede Hurt got her start with the Jet City Rollergirls. After seeing her first WFTDA Championship, she knew she was hooked, knowing that she wanted to strive for the highest competition roller derby could offer. Since that rookie year, Swede Hurt has played on several top-ranking WFTDA teams, Team Sweden and has found time to turn her passion for the sport into coaching as well. Learn more about Swede Hurt, your Featured Skater of August!
Name: Swede Hurt – Lina Berglöf
League: Stockholm Roller Derby, Stockholm Sweden
Team(s): Stockholm Allstars
Year you started roller derby: Fall 2007
How did you get involved with roller derby?
In the spring of 2007 a few friends of mine took me to a roller rink in Seattle, I had never roller skated before, but I loved it. I told them to take me again, but they never did. So a few month later I found a pair of 70’s roller skates at a thrift store, in my size! (I’ve got a size 9 mens) I realized it must be a sign. So I bought them and tried to learn… My neighbor at that time watched me skate back and forth in the hallway, and he had a friend that skated for Rat City, so he told me about Roller Derby. I youtubed it, and realized that this is my sport: I get to dress up, roller skate and hit others. So I got another pair of roller skates, made all my friends go to roller rinks with me so I could learn how to roller skate. I was WAY to shy at that time to try out for Rat City, but one day skating at the local roller rink I saw a guy wearing a Jet City shirt, I found Jet City on MySpace and messaged them.
I was invited to a practice, It was a 45 min drive from Seattle where I lived, but that seemed like nothing to me at that time.… I was SOOOOO nervous. I remember showing up that day wearing acid washed stretch pants and an oversized Misfits shirt and all the gear I knew was required for roller derby. I sat outside the rink for 30 min in my car, I was scared, this was what I wanted to do, but still, everyone looked so cool that were walking into the rink, and I had pretty bad social anxiety. Finally I sort of slapped myself and made myself go inside. When I got inside I felt lost and wanted to turn around but really quickly I was grabbed by a short stout woman (Suzy 9 mm) who looked at me up and down asking “You must be the Swedish one? Fresh Meat are over there, go there and put your gear on.”
What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
I competed in snowboarding for almost 8 years, I went to high school for snowboarding and snowboarding was very much my life from about the age of 16 til I was 24. I love the winter and the snow and the freedom in the mountains. I mostly competed in HalfPipe and went to the FIS junior world championships in 1999 and to the Goodwill Games in Lake Placid in 2000. I competed in World Cups and Triple Crowns around the world 1999-2004 and in 2003 I placed 3rd in the Swedish Championships, both in HalfPipe and BoarderCross. I really loved competitive snowboarding, and it was really hard for me to quit, but I came to the point my knees were hurting constantly and I just didn’t have the drive to push myself anymore. I was watching the younger girls and they were doing and trying things in the halfpipe that I didn’t dare to try. I believe that when you don’t have the drive and fire anymore, it is time to let it go, leave room for the ones that has it. It was hard to quit, I usually say it is the worst break-up I have ever had. Finding roller derby was like finding a new love and filling that hole that snowboarding had left.
My family is not super sporty, rather academic, but there was three things that my mom thought was very important that her kids could do: ski, ice-skate and swim… so I master all of those, both downhill and crosscountry skiing, ice-skating (and now roller-skating) and swimming. But except from that I was a pretty horrible athlete and a supernerd with questionable social skills.
Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
My first scrimmage was on the 10th of January 2008, I remember this because it was my birthday. I had just been placed on a home team and our first game was 9 days later… It was scary and so much fun at the same time. I quite quickly became a jammer, and I loved doing it, because it was where I was needed and I was doing good, even if it took a great toll on my anxiety. I think I always tried to be a very versatile skater, I wanted to be able to do everything, to be an asset to my team.
I actually found my own blogpost about my rookie year right here.
I know that I was one of those annoying and determined Rookies that always came to practice, I wanted to improve sooo bad, and I tried and tried, and tried. I plunged myself into league work, I volunteered for everything, my team even made me participate in a bikini contest at a Harley Davidson store in Lynnwood… (I put this into the box of experiences that roller derby has made me do). We also did a bunch of craft fairs and I crocheted a bunch of hats to sell, I worked the bouts I didn’t play, I went to the surrounding leagues and volunteered at the WFTDA championships in Portland. It was the first time I saw Gotham play, and I wrote in my blog after Nationals (it was when Champs was still Nationals), “I have set my goal, that’s how I want to skate! Nationals, on a team! I want to win Nationals! Bring it on!”
In the end of 2008 I decided to try-out for Rat City because it was closer to my house and also because they were a WFTDA league, and after watching the WFTDA Nationals/Championships in Portland, I realized that it was what I was aiming for. I had to start all over with the Rat City Fresh Meat program, but as I always say, basics will just make you better.
What is your skate gear of choice?
Finding gear you are comfortable with is so important! Good gear is not gonna make or break you, but it will help with small improvements. I am currently on Roll-line Killer plates and the Gladiator wheels, and I am very happy with them, super responsive and durable. I am just about to get on MOTA skates and I am SO excited to have new colorful skates, and all my friends skating on them love them. I have DeadBolt kneepads, and its great here in Europe because they don’t mark the floors. I love my Ennui wrist guards, I’ve had them for almost 2 years now, so its about time for new ones.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
I used to have lots of pre-game rituals, I used to ALWAYS HAVE to eat hash browns. This just became extremely difficult, so its no longer on the list of things: I need to have coffee.
I count all my pads, mouthguard, my helmet, my armbands and my bout shirt: should all add up to the number of 11 plus skates and I am all set! I have almost left my skates at home several times, I can be quite scatter-minded.
I think it is good for me to be in charge of something, because then I don’t have time to be nervous, when I’m nervous I tend to get a little too charged and more penalty prone, keeping my calm is important. Calm in my mind might mean for my body to bounce up and down and sing children songs…
Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
Hard work beats talent, if talent doesn’t work hard.
I came into a locker room in my rookie year, and it was written on the wall, and it has been my favorite quote ever since. I have always been a workhorse, I don’t think you can grow a team without showing up. There is always something I can improve or help someone else to improve. I know I have some talents and maybe I could skip practice, but for me being at practice and working hard I hope to inspire the rest of the team to do the same. In the end all the hard work is worth it! Roller derby is a team sport, and it is the teams that work hard and together that will win in the end. Individual talent will take you far, but it is not until you can combine all the individual talents and create a team that it will really be successful. We are all cogs in a machinery, and I think that is why I fell in love with roller derby, together we can do this.
Do you have a theme song?
“Hit me with your best shot” by Pat Benatar always gets me pumped
What is your position of choice?
My first choice will be pivot, but I will play wherever the team needs me the most. I love blocking, but I don’t mind jamming at all (maybe hate it a little, I am human after all). Being a pivot I can do both, I mostly practice as a blocker, and that is what I am the best at but I try to practice jamming too, it always good to be versatile on the track. I also think that to be a good blocker/pivot I need to understand jamming, and vice versa, to be a good jammer, I need to understand blocking and blockers. It’s about thinking, but not overthinking, if I overthink as a jammer holes and opportunities will already have closed and the same for blocking, if I overthink as a blocker, I will plug a hole too late or not be where my wall needs me, or the opportunity for offense already be gone. And sometimes it is about patience, as a jammer not to just go and destroy my own walls or as a blocker try to help too much and instead creating chaos helping the other jammer out.
I think I love that about derby, it keeps me on my toes all the time, always learning.
How would you describe your derby playing style? Do you have a signature move?
I am a defensive player first and foremost, catching the other jammer is always my first priority. I fill lots of space, I have long limbs, and I cover lots of track laterally. I am good at plowing and getting wide, and I don’t carry so much weight, so I really have to use my edges to dig.
I am quick to get places, and can reset quickly on the track. I am versatile and smart on the track, I can both lead and follow. I just tend and try to be where I am needed, putting any legal blocking zone in the way of the other jammer. I can adjust quickly and am comfortable pretty much playing anything, even if I am best at defense with my back on the other jammer.
I like to have fun, and playing rollerderby is fun!
How is Swede Hurt the Coach different than Swede Hurt the Skater? What are some of your recent coaching roles?
I think I am quite strict as a coach and can be demanding and honest, and sometimes the honesty is taken as harshness. I try to find things that skaters need to improve and I am very honest about it, so if a skater asks me for feedback it will be very honest and “those are the things to improve.” I think it’s the way I am towards myself, I always think there are things that I can improve, and that is what keeps me going.
I also have this way of sometimes trying to lighten up the mood, and I say something wildly inappropriate and I just get awkward and people stare at me. Yeah… I am a goofball…
When I coach I try to explain and show at the same time, to be able to both reach the visual and the auditory learners, and then let everyone try it, before evaluating it. It is hard to be good at something first time you try it, and we can’t expect people to just be awesome at it first try. I like to build drills up when I coach, so start with basics and then add more and more.
Currently I am on the coaching committee of Stockholm Roller Derby, I am coaching the Swedish Mens Team and I am one of the Track Advantage coaches. The past years I’ve coached a bunch of leagues and bootcamps all over Europe (Netherlands, Germany, France, Finland, Spain, Denmark, Iceland, UK, Norway and so on) mostly via Track Advantage and I just came back from coaching at Euro Derby Con in Barcelona.
It has been great being one of the Mens Team Sweden coaches the past year, sadly I was not able to go to Calgary with them, they did really awesome at the World cup and I am very proud of them. They were holding walls and staying together and working as a team!
I was one of the coaches of the previous two Team Sweden going to Toronto and Dallas, but this time around I have tried out as a skater and it is going to be nice to only be a skater.
Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
When I got picked to be the opening jammer for the Sockit Wenches at the first Key Arena bout… When Bravo called me and told me I made the Rat City Allstars in 2009 I cried. When I got my first Gotham All-Stars shirt in 2010 I cried. When Crime City beat Berlin in 2011 I cried. When Stockholm came in third at Track Queens in Berlin 2012. When Stockholm Roller Derby became full WFTDA members I cried. When Stockholm Allstars almost beat Houston at Beach Brawl in 2014 I cried. When I made Gotham Allstars in 2014/15 I cried. When Stockholm performed way better than expected at Smackdown in Malmö 2016 I cried. Those good tears, a feeling of being on a good path, that hard work pays off. Those are just a few moments from the top of my head, there has been so many amazing moments that I can’t really single out one or two, every practice, bout, team and tournament has had its own highlight.
Actually when I got the email that I was the WFTDA featured skater of August, I did cry a little, it does mean a lot to me!
What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
That my team keep on believing in me as a skater and as a captain, that I can inspire my team to become better and reach the goals that we set up. It is always amazing to get MVP awards, but when it comes down to it all, I would not get those if my team wasn’t so awesome and worked hard together with me.
Off the track?
I think my biggest accomplishment is to never give up, to believe in roller derby and keep on working hard. Roller derby has taken over my life, and I am ok with that, this is what I love doing, and I am going for it. I feel like I have been a big part of helping grow Scandinavian and European roller derby, and being a part of that is something that I am proud of.
When I moved back to Sweden in the end of 2010 roller derby was small and new, and together with people like Vix Viking (CCR) and Bess Irv Cold (STRD) we moved it towards and into WFTDA and lots of coaching together with Mad Malooney (HRD) got the gameplay going. I know I thought when I moved back, leaving USA after playing Champs with Gotham: “I love roller derby too much to quit, and even if people are not on my level now, I will do my best to get them there.” I know I didn’t do it by myself, but I like to think that I inspired and helped, we did it together, and I am proud of all of us.
I guess also putting together the first Scandinavian Tournament together with Vix Viking should be mentioned, ha ha ha. Battle of the Nordic Light was an amazing experience and I don’t think we really knew what we got ourselves into when we decided to put a tournament together for five teams back in 2011, but we did make it happen, and it turned out well and a huge thanks to everyone that helped us with that.
What has roller derby taught you about pushing your limits, either physically or mentally?
Ha ha ha, I think roller derby has taught me I have limits, and that’s a good thing, for a person like me. I was close to burnout once, and I didn’t do anything about it, and I just kept on going, and in the end I really did burn out mentally. I ended up coming back from that by working out and just playing roller derby, leaving all responsibilities for a while, I had to, or I might never have been able come back . I am slowly learning to say NO, it is a new experience for me, and very liberating.
Physically it has taught me that if I want to push myself physically harder, I HAVE to do off-skates, I can’t skip out on something that is fundamentally important. My off-skates routine has become much more regimented and in the past few years I’ve gotten into the best shape of my life, and a lot of it is because I’ve had the help and support from Good To Go. But I have also learned that I need to let my body rest both physically and mentally at times. If I don’t rest at times I will not be able to perform to the standards I have set to myself. I am becoming an old lady… and old ladies need to rest to be at their best…
I had a quite bad injury four years back, and it took a long time to come back from, but I turned more energy into coaching my team seeing them grow while I was doing my rehab and that gave me strength and kept me positive.
What have of the toughest losses of your career taught you?
Losses has taught me to recoup, reevaluate and come back. A loss is just a possibility to become better, to see what you can improve and work towards a win next time. Nothing is built or created over one night, I love winning, but not letting a loss keep you down in the most important. You never lose alone, you are a part of a team, and together you will get up from it and work towards that win that you want. They say that losing builds character I think winning does too. But in the end it is playing the game that builds character and reaching goals that you have set up.
Who are your derby heroes?
I would lie if I said I have derby heroes, put I have people that have pushed, inspired or supported me. Summer Assault (Rat) and Malice with Chains (Windy) for being my first derby crushes and tall skater friends, Carmen Getsome for the relentless coach and teammate she was when I was with Rat City, Demanda Riot (Bay Area) for being an amazing friend and for the blocking skills I want, Fisti Cuffs (Gotham) for being a goofball with me, Only (Helsinki) for the hardworking player and supportive friend she is, Bonnie Thunders (Gotham) for the great leadership and athlete she is, Mad Malooney (Helsinki) for pushing me and believing in me the years I moved back to Sweden, Master Blaster (LRG) for all the work she has done for European derby, Justin Campoy (Gotham) for letting me cry on his shoulder several times throughout the years and Team Legit for all the trouble we have gotten into together.
Have you held any leadership positions in your league? How have those positively impacted your personal roller derby career?
I have been on the board of both Crime City and Stockholm Roller Derby and also been the Head Coach.
I am currently the 2016 captain of Stockholm Allstars, together with CrackHer and Final Cunt Down and it has been a great experience, building a team and evolving together, finding new and old ways to work things out.
I think what I have mostly learned through my different leadership positions is to be more diplomatic, that I can’t do everything myself and that when we do things together we do better. Even if there has been times when I been SO mad because I knew I was right and having to fight for every step. In the end we win and lose together. If I want something done, I might have to start it myself, but I will have to get people onboard, to want the same things as me. A team or a league with only one or two players are not going last for very long. I’ve learned that everyone has different triggers and to see things out of others perspective and most of the time to find a way to inspire others and get us all to work for the same thing, maybe not always what I originally wanted.
You have been playing roller derby for nearly a decade now: looking back on the early years of your career, what are the biggest changes you have made in your playing-style and approach to the sport?
Ha ha ha, when you say decade it sounds sooo long, are you trying to make me feel old? Or maybe just dedicated?
I guess I am much more fit now, the roller derby we play now requires off-skate and fitness. In playing style, I am for sure calmer and smarter, I can read the game much better and I recognize situations fast. I am also for sure a much better skater, I love skating and goofing around on skates.
I think that I was a more playful skater in my first years, just a little all over the place and didn’t really take much responsibility more than just coming to a lot of practices and volunteering for whatever that was needed. I am by nature a big goofball… When I moved back to Europe all of a sudden people looked up to me and expected me to have the answers to everything, from how to lay a track to how to set up a bout… Thanks to all the volunteer work, all the practices, support from WFTDA, the wonderful and amazing coaches I have had, a bunch of referee webpages, friends back in the States and so on, I managed to actually figure most things out. I’ve done so many mistakes and I have at times had to be a harsher and more unforgiving person that I really am, and I think I am working on finding my way back to being that more playful person again. Balancing being serious and fun at the same time is hard work… I see shiny things and unicorns everywhere… and things to be done…
The support I have had both from other skaters and officials here in Europe and the rest of the derby world is beyond what I have ever expected that first day I stepped into that roller rink in Everett. In the end I think I take things less serious now, in the way that I dont think that every negative word comes from a bad place and I have a zero derby drama tolerance. I come to roller derby to play roller derby and have fun, to build up and not to tear down.
What is your job outside of roller derby? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
I am currently back in school to become a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. I am pretty sure I have roller derby to thank for this career change. I think I’ve worked so much on myself and how to change my destructive thought patterns that I figured I want to help others become stronger and more secure in who they are. We all have our own inner battles, and some are just too hard to fight by yourself. Last year I also took a class at the University in Sports Psychology, and also that very much inspired by roller derby and am taking another class this fall in Sports and Entrepreneurship. I love learning and lots that I learn I can apply onto roller derby.
I am also working for a really cool company called Refurn that recycle and reuse furniture. Their foundational thought is that we need to approach a more sustainable lifestyle, and I so much believe in that. Todays society is so much about just buying, buying, buying and throwing things away and we are always greedy for the new cool thing. I am very much an environmentalist, and I guess I have to do something that weigh up for the huge carbon footprint that I’m leaving behind me because of all the traveling I do. And yeah, I also work with Track Advantage and do a bunch of coaching. So you could say I keep busy.
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?
Real life? After a decade in roller derby I don’t know what that is… ha ha ha.
But seriously, I need nature, I need to get out of the city, sit by a lake, climb a mountain, run through the woods and I am really trying to get more and more of that into my life. I just spent a week on Iceland, and that was epic, but also Sweden is amazingly beautiful and I really try to get into the nature a few times a week, even if it’s just for a quick walk along the lake.
I have an incredible family and I must say that I’ve missed so many important family events because of derby, that I am so thankful that they haven’t disowned me at this point. And they still come watch me play, my nieces and nephews are all really excited about roller derby.
I probably should date more too, but there is always roller derby, and few people have the patience for someone that’s always “but I have roller derby”. I guess I’m also sort of scared to get hurt, so maybe I make myself unavailable by hiding behind roller derby. I mean at this point of life I’d very much would like to find a partner to do fun stuff with, but always being busy that’s hard. Haha ha, I am really putting myself out here.
Roller derby is very much a part of my real life, and I am ok with that. It is where I want to be.
Throughout your career, you have played with some of the biggest WFTDA teams in the world – from Jet City and Rat City on the West Coast, to Gotham and across the pond to Crime City and now Stockholm. What lessons did you learn from each league? What is it like to see them compete this season?
Jet City taught me to play derby.
Rat City taught me competitive WFTDA derby.
Gotham taught me the importance of off-skate and good leadership.
Crime City taught me to be a coach and a leader.
Stockholm still teaches me new things each practice.
I love watching my old teams play, some still have my old teammates, and some don’t at all. Both Rat City and Crime City are looking incredibly strong this year, Gotham is a team that I believe can do anything if they really decide on it, they want the Hydra back! Stockholm really have had a rebuilding year, and it has been interesting and sometimes hard, but we reached our first goal of the year, to make playoffs!
As a member of Vagine Regime and a founding member of the Nordic Chapter, what was your reaction to WFTDA’s recent inclusion statement? How has the inclusion of the LGBT community continued to grow in roller derby since you started your career?
I love the new inclusion statement, I think it is a big improvement, I know it made a big difference for a lot of people and that makes me happy and proud to be a part of WFTDA.
I think VR has done amazing things since it was founded, and it has been a fantastic place for me to explore who I really am and also a place where I made some of my best friends. Accepting yourself for who you are sometimes harder than for other people accepting you, and being in an environment where you can just be you is important. To be honest, I currently I mostly have friends that belong to the LGBTQI world in some way. I personally feel like roller derby is very inclusive and that everyone are welcome, but there is always work to be done, and the ones working on it have my full support, because I think there are many skaters out there that are better at it than I am. I do think that it is important that we continue to explore what can be done and what we can do to make the best experience for everyone. We are all different, and it cannot always be recognized on the surface, things are never really black or white. VR has been a place for me to feel safe and also a group of people to have fun with, it is not always political. I also know that me coming from a place where it’s more accepted to not be a part of the norm, it’s easy to say that I don’t feel excluded. I refuse to define my sexuality, because it is my choice who I date, and love is love. I think I get more crude comments and jokes from my friends about dating men, then when I date women. I try to be respectful towards everyone around me and expect the same treatment, I dont mind the jokes. I want everyone to feel included no matter who they are, at this time I have fought my battles and just want to focus on competitive roller derby.
What advice do you have for people who want to play roller derby?
Just do it! Skate as much as you can, listen and learn, and skate more. If you dont think you get the recognition you deserve, work harder and get so good that you can’t be turned down… and most of all HAVE FUN FUN FUN! AND RESPECT your fellow derby players!
Remember to say THANK YOU to the people that work hard in your league! They might not be the people that get the most recognition, but they are SO important, and a little thank you or a hug goes a long way.
Do you have a special message to your fans?
Work hard, play hard, show each other respect and its ok to be a goofball and it is ok to be serious. It is ok to be you!
And if you see a unicorn, catch it and send it to me!
And I am happy if I have inspired anyone to be a better player! And I am really shy, so if you ever gave me a compliment and I acted weird, its probably why.
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