While some may joke about her youthful appearance, on the track there is no confusing Stacie “Midge” Wilhelm’s athletic and strategic ability! Fans around the world watched her earn MVP at the 2016 International WFTDA D1 Playoffs in Columbia, and you may have seen her featured on ESPNW. Prepare to see even more of Midge’s dominance on the track this year as she and her Denver Roller Derby teammates prepare for tournament season once again. Learn more about your May 2017 Featured Skater, Midge Wilhelm!
League: Denver Roller Derby
Team(s): Mile High Club
Year you started roller derby: 2010
How did you get involved with roller derby?
As an adult, I wanted to get involved with a sport because I never had as a kid. For a number of years in my early adult life, I would tell my friends that I wanted to join a women’s tackle football team, likely in my 60s because that’s how long it would take others to jump on board. Also, my sports knowledge consisted of knowing soccer, softball, and football were a thing, and that tackle football wasn’t a thing for women.
My friend Jessy saw a flyer for roller derby so we decided to go. While a number of skaters were wearing fishnets and tutus (neither of which I’m drawn to), I found myself getting really into the game. Fast forward a few months to a daughter of some friends of mine wanted to join the juniors league in town. They had a tryout in July, so I worked it out to start practicing with the juniors the months leading up to tryouts. Tryouts finally came, and halfway through one of the other skaters trying out asked where I was from. I told her the town, and she said, “No, which team do you skate with?” I took that as a compliment.
What is your pre-derby sports/skating background?
Well, I was in a jump roping club for about two years that attempted to do tricks like this–except we were not great at all (we were like the bottom of D3 compared to the kids in this video). And I had a pair of roller blades that I skated the streets with for a good number of years, teaching myself how to turn around backwards.
Needless to say, my parents weren’t really into sports.
Photo by Phantom Photographics
Please tell us about your rookie year and how you learned to play roller derby.
My first two months of derby were spent learning how to skate on quads with juniors. Half of them were my size, so I didn’t feel too out of sorts. We worked on a lot of skating basics: form, falls, crossovers. We also worked on basic conditioning, and I definitely hated my life for a few weeks until my body got used to the activity.
A month in, I was invited to attend one of the women’s practices as was custom for junior skaters. At the time, though, juniors weren’t allowed to participate in the hitting drills. When they changed the pace line from skating to hitting, I stayed in line because, ya know, I’m 26 at the time. Someone turned and said, “You can’t skate. We’re hitting now.” I said,“I know. I’m 26.” Our conversation went back and forth a bit longer until finally one of the trainers who knew I was an adult chimed in.
I skated in my first game about 6 months after officially joining the league in Fort Collins. We were skating against the team from Cheyenne, which happened to be Serelson’s first game. During the last jam I found myself standing up in my seat, yelling for my teammate but also really wanting to win. At that moment I laughed because of how invested I was into the game.
What is your skate gear of choice?
MOTA carbon fiber boots, BOSS PRO quad plates, TKO wheels, Cheezeballs bearings, S1 helmet, S1 knee pads, SISU mouth guard, and 187 wrist guards and elbow pads.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
Eat. I try to eat a lot at least a few hours before a game: eggs, potatoes (preferably sweet potatoes), avocado, banana, almond butter, coffee. I also drink a lot of water the day before.
Do you have a favorite motivational quote?
“Sometimes there is no next time, no time-outs, no second chances. Sometimes it’s now or never.” – Alan Bennett
Do you have a theme song?
Not gonna lie, I’m a big fan of Motown. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye is one of my all-time favorites.
What is your position of choice?
Jamming. One day I might try to block if I can learn to stay still.
How would you describe your derby playing style? Do you have a signature move?
My derby playing style has always been aggressive. Over the years, I’ve become much more comfortable on my toe stops, body positioning, and solid on my feet. I’m not sure I have a signature move, but I’d like to think morphs throughout the season.
The running gag for you has always been how young you look – always being mistaken for a junior skater! How has being underestimated by your opponents helped you on the track?
Cat’s out of the bag, everyone! Truthfully, I’m honored to be mistaken for a junior skater. The talent that is coming up in this sport is really incredible. I mean, three of my current teammates are former junior skaters. My opponents better be ready.
Congrats on being named MVP at the 2016 International WFTDA D1 Playoffs in Columbia! What was it like being honored by your fellow players?
Being named MVP was unreal. I have a lot of goals and aspirations in roller derby, so watching some of them come to fruition is exciting and even more motivating to push myself.
Please share your best derby moment (or moments).
One of the funniest was during our game against Philly at Champs some years back. I was trying to break the front of the pack to get out and get lead. I hear one of the blockers say, “My boob is falling out!” And someone respond, “Who cares! Get the jammer!” I almost had to stop jamming because I started laughing.
What are some of your greatest roller derby accomplishments on the track?
Oh man. Placing first at Playoffs my first year with Denver Roller Derby, going to Champs every year, successfully making the move I’ve practiced over and over in game. There are too many to list.
Off the track?
Becoming close friends with some of the best people, receiving the 2016 Sportswomen of Colorado award for roller derby, learning from some of the best skaters/coaches in the sport.
What has roller derby taught you about pushing your limits, either physically or mentally?
What you think is your peak is likely not your peak. Those moments where you feel you have nothing left are often the moments when you’re just getting started. If you can train to be successful at your limits (i.e. mentally frustrated, exhausted from a long work week, sore), there’s no telling what you can accomplish.
Who are your derby heroes?
Four of my derby heroes:
Bricktator: I’ve skated against her a number of times, both with Arch and Bay Area. She never ceases to amaze me with her talent, skill, and drive. She is hands down one of the best jammers in the game.
Luz Chaos: While she’s one of my buddies, she’s also an incredible athlete. There are few people who match her agility and quickness. She lives up to her shine.
Serelson: She terrified me the first time I skated against her (she jammed back in those days). Her ability to not only move so well on her skates, but also seem to know where people are going on the track is uncanny.
Buscek: Even though she retired over a year ago without much recognition, she remains to this day one of my heroes. Her ability to stymie walls by precise movements is, in my mind, unprecedented.
With the recent transfer of big name skaters like Scald Eagle to your team this season, how are feeling about this season? What can fans expect to see from Denver this year?
Denver has always been a hard working team. I’m as excited this year as I’m excited for every year. We have a lot of potential to work with, so the addition of new like-minded teammates only adds to what we’re working to bring.
What have the toughest losses of your career taught you?
Losing sucks. But losing shows you how to improve by highlighting your weaknesses. In my mind, losing is not just about the score. We’ve won games where I came of the track feeling like I’ve lost because I know I can do better. I always want to do my best, to push myself to be as good as I can be in the moments that matter most.
Have you held any leadership positions in your league? How have those positively impacted your personal roller derby career?
I currently hold a position on our Board of Directors after taking over our IT department. Being in a leadership position helps provide vision to your league, an aspect which I really love. Not everyone loves hearing about A records, so I must say sharing vision from the BOD position is a little bit easier than the IT position.
What is your job outside of roller derby? And how, if at all, has it contributed to your experience of roller derby?
Outside of roller derby, I’m a software engineer for a company called Green Chef. Having flexible time-off has helped my roller derby experience. Also, while I really enjoy my job, I really enjoy getting away from a screen for a good chunk of time to go play roller derby with my friends. I like the balance.
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?
I’ve realized I like to jump feet first into things, which can lead to all of my time being devoted in one direction. Having a set schedule/routine for practices and off-skates helps keep me in check. I’m also an introvert, so seizing opportunities to have some down time is important, even if it’s an hour a week. Just like you ward of hangry by keeping snacks around, give yourself the opportunity for downtime, even if you don’t need it in the moment.
What advice do you have for people who want to play roller derby?
Be ready to have a love/hate relationship. Be ready to be pushed, but stick with it for a while before you give up. Derby can be hard to get into, especially if you’re not actively working out already.
Do you have a special message to your fans?
You’re the best…AROUND!!!
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