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2019 champs – chat with The Gatekeepers

St Louis GateKeepers, US

St Louis GateKeepers train in the Shadow of a casino just over the drainage River Des Peres in a run down rink that’s been condemned more than once. David Metcalfe, #386, tells MRDA that from time to time the locker rooms have been converted into illegal apartments, rented to people who will just as soon rifle through your gear bags as smile at you. There the track, held together with exposed screws and Bondo, is never the same two days in a row, ‘but we soldier on and practice there three nights a week’.

The team have built a rich sense of community in their league, as well as with sibling league Arch Rival. This, they say, enables them to invest in each other on and off the track. ‘We spend so much time together, we develop a sense of duty towards each other’ Metcalfe remarks, ‘that keeps us coming back, even when we think of leaving.’

The GateKeepers get actively involved in the wider derby scene, sending skaters to coach and train with several local WFTDA teams, and opening their doors to anyone who wants to skate with them, free of charge. ‘While our games don’t really generate much revenue’ Metcalfe says, ‘we try to give any excess to local or small charities, or to various individual causes that someone might be struggling through.’

They also try to invest in the wider local area, setting up booths at all the major Festivals, especially within the LGTBQ+ community, ‘a significant portion of our league is a part of and/or active within that community,’ remarks Metcalfe, ‘and St Louis has such a strong and gracious LGBTQ+ community at large.’

The league are also eager to praise the efforts of their B team this season, explaining how they have been a shining example of the hard work and dedication; ‘We faced several retirements and season-ending injuries this year, and were able to promote seven B Keepers up to our sanctioned travel team with a nearly seamless transition.’ says Metcalfe, ‘Every single skater earned those spots through gallons of sweat and unwavering dedication to making our league stronger. We’re really proud of that.’

The squad have had a remarkable year and now face their ninth Champs appearance. But how is this year different from previous seasons? ‘Two things stand out as different for us, personally. We have the greatest number of rookies on our team that we’ve ever had at one time, and their fresh perspectives bring a very different dynamic to the bench.’ Metcalfe notes, before adding ‘Also, playing at elevation is a new one for us. We’re looking forward to tackling that athletic obstacle.’

Their first game will be against Austin or Denver on Friday afternoon.

MEET THE TEAM…

Name: Jammy Pacquiao
Position: Jammer #1691

What is it about roller derby that appealed to you?

After rediscovering a love for roller skating as an adult I became interested in roller derby because it was a quad based roller sport. I did not really become involved in the roller derby scene until I moved back home to St. Louis and was looking for ways to engage to develop a deeper connection to the city I lived in. But it wasn’t until I started playing that I found what I really love about the sport is the camaraderie and community. 

Have you played any other sports?

My skating background comes from hockey and I have experience with rugby and track and field. To me, roller derby is unique because in a sense what is analogous to the “ball” in other sports is essentially a person. Sometimes it may seem like it’s the jammer vs the world, but every skater on the track can make an impact at any time. I’m not sure if there is any other sport where that statement is as true, which is why I believe Roller Derby is the ultimate team sport. I also enjoy how Roller Derby encourages personal expression and identity with personalized skates/equipment and the opportunity to create your own persona.

How does being an athlete inspire you to do good?

I believe athletic competition is an important measure of human achievement. When we compete, we are not only battling our opponents, we are challenging ourselves to be better than we were the last time we played. That drive to be better than I was, inspires me to make decisions in my life that help me to build confidence and achieve my goals.

What is your ultimate Roller Derby goal?

I would love to be able to continue the legacy of the founding Gatekeepers and become a global ambassador for the sport and inspire the next generation of skaters to enjoy this wonderful game and its amazing community.

…Also, it would be really cool to bring back a 2019 Championship for our two injured skaters, Bled Zeppelin and Spin Diesel.

What mental tool do you use under pressure?

One of my coaches noticed that I was almost hyperventilating whenever I made it through the pack and acutely diagnosed that it was because I seemed to be forgetting to breathe while jamming. Incorporating breathing techniques that I learned through meditation has helped calm my nerves both on and off the track. Focusing my attention on my breathing is particularly helpful to reset/recalibrate on the bench after a jam that went sideways.

What’s your favorite sports movie? 

Watching the Gamechangers documentary about athletes and plant-based diets has challenged me to re-evaluate what I thought about nutrition and performance and has inspired me to be more aware of how little decisions can affect my life and the world around me.

And your go-to Karaoke song? 

Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind.

What were you like in high school? 

A nerdy but somehow athletic kid who loved video games, candy, and anime.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]