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MRDA’s May 2013 Featured Skater of the Month: Seahorses Forever

MRDA’s May 2013 Featured Skater of the Month: Seahorses Forever of Your Mom Men’s Derby

May 17, 1013

Interview by Malcolm Sex

Seahorses Forever basking in the 2012 MRDA Championship glory. Photo by Mr. McWheely.

What is your derby name?

Seahorses Forever

What is the history behind the name?

I heard the phrase ‘seahorses forever’ in a satirical video by Dan Deacon (contains cuss words) on YouTube a few years before I started playing flat track derby.  I thought it was funny so it found its way on a list of potential future derby names.

What number do you wear?

Number 7.

Why did you choose it?

When we started Your Mom, we had an 8, 6, 7, 5, 3, 0, and a 9er (A reference to a Tommy Tutone song.) I’m the number 7.

What is your preferred position on the track?

Blocker.

How did you get involved in roller derby?

My first involvement in roller derby was in 1998 on the television show Roller Jam. Roller Jam was a three-year trip on a seahorse starship. It was a crash course in the history of roller derby from some of its stars dating back to the 1950s, including Little Richard Brown from the movie Kansas City Bomber. Roller Jam was sports entertainment high on acrobatics and theatrics and an orchestrated story-line. After the show ended, I did what I could to keep up with, what at the time, was the almost non-existent world of roller derby.

I’m not sure how or exactly when I became aware of the flat track revival, but it was sometime soon after Roller Jam ended. The first person I knew involved in the revival was my arch nemesis from Roller Jam Mo “Quadzilla” Sanders. After Roller Jam ended, I moved back to Missouri and Mo moved back to Seattle, where he became involved with the Rat City Rollergirls. I kept in contact with Mo after the show was over and was aware of his involvement in the sport.

My first involvement in the flat track game was in Missouri in 2005. While attending some local speed-skating sessions, the rink operator approached me to start a women’s derby league. After a few months of convincing, I put some flyers together, started recruiting, and soon was coaching my first flat track derby practices. That’s where I began to learn and play the flat track game. I moved to Iowa to start playing men’s derby in 2010 with the founding of Your Mom.

What’s your athletic background?

My athletic background is mainly in skating. My father worked at a skating rink and both my father and older sister speed-skated on quads, so I was around skating before I could walk.

When I was two, I started learning to skate, and I skated my first quad speed meet when I was four. I’m now 35 and have been involved in roller sports consistently, competitively, recreationally, and on the manufacturing side ever since. I have competed in speed-skating indoors and outdoors on quads, downhill inline racing, jam skating, ball hockey on quads, puck hockey on inlines, aggressive inline skating, short-track ice speed-skating, legit banked derby, legit flat track derby, and sports “interwinement” theatrical derby. Out of all of these skating sports, over all, I have spent the most time speed skating. Besides skating, running and cycling are my favorite sports. I’ve run off and on since I was a teenager and cycled off and on since I was about ten. I’ve been running quite a bit lately and have been building a road bike to start riding again this summer.

Are you a founding member of Your Mom? Can you give us a brief rundown of how the league got started? Where did you get your skaters? How did you recruit?

Yes, I am a founding member of Your Mom.  Your Mom got started with a series of phone calls between Dante Muse (Frank Not Sohotra) and me. Dante and I were friends through speed-skating in the early 1990s. After we both quit speed-skating around 1996, we stayed friends, remained involved in roller sports, and kept in contact with each other. While catching up with Dante over the phone in late 2009, we discussed skating sports in general and our involvement in skating at the time. Dante had watched the development of women’s roller derby the last few years and knew of my involvement. I told him about the progression of the men’s game and about my plans for a men’s league, where I was living in at the time. Dante was interested in playing the game and putting a team together. It didn’t take much convincing from there to get me to move up to Des Moines and start a team with him. After all, he was one of my childhood heroes, along with his brother Tony Muse (Peter Pan.) Within a few months, I was living in Des Moines, and Your Mom was having its first practices.

All of Your Mom’s early skaters were involved at one time or another in skating at one of the four Muse family skating rinks in Des Moines, Iowa.  It was an interesting mix of speed skaters, jam skaters, hockey players, quad and inline skaters, and rink rats. Several of us were regional, national, or world champions.  Most of the early skaters were involved in Dante’s roller dodge ball league at the rink he manages.

What’s the history behind the name “Your Mom?”  A lot of people wonder about it, but your team website appears to leave that a mystery.

The history behind “Your Mom” goes back to roughly 2006 when I was coaching women’s derby in Missouri. Early on in my involvement in the women’s game, I was interested in starting a men’s league and playing. I thought about what the name and theme of this future derby league would be and what my derby name would be. Roller derby since its reincarnation has a pretty hardcore image, which is a reflection of the skaters who founded the flat track movement and its early adopters. The flat track derby revival was a vehicle for self-expression, and I’m more satirical in nature than hardcore. Consequently, the theme of the league I was envisioning was a reflection of that part of my personality. I decided to go against the traditional hardcore theme with a more lighthearted, satirical name and league theme. After deciding to go in this direction, some of the girls I was coaching at the time and some guys associated with the league, who were interested in playing the game, started coming up with lighthearted satirical derby names. By the time Your Mom was founded, I had a long list of satirical derby names to pick from. Some of the names on the list were The Fastest Rainbow Ever, Moon Flower, Mr. Bubbles, Star Catcher, and Sugar Boots. I think the first name I decided on was Dr. Sparkle or maybe Unicorn Master. I can’t remember. Years later, while talking to Dante about putting together a men’s derby league in Des Moines, I told him about the concept, and Your Mom progressed from there.  I believe it was Dante who came up with the actual name.

How would you describe your skating style?

My skating style is a combination of all of the skating sports I have skated and all of the influences I’ve had in skating. While playing derby, I use mechanics from every skating sport. Roller derby is the mixed martial arts of rollers sports, which is how I think the sport should be viewed in the skating community. I recently learned some of the footwork from artistic skating, which has helped my derby game a lot. Our coach, Mark Muse, is an ex-artistic skater. He helped me early on with my artistic techniques. My roommate is also an ex-artistic skater and coach, which has furthered my progression in artistic and figure skating.

Without giving away any secrets, what is Your Mom’s philosophy behind the game? How do your strengths as an individual skater fit into that greater scheme?

It’s tough to define our philosophy as a team because there are so many influences that go into our game. We have a lot of skaters with previous skating sports experience, and at least six of those skaters are former or current derby coaches. Having that mix of skaters, we have different philosophies on how to play the game at times. It’s through our coach, Mark Muse, that all of these philosophies come together to produce Your Mom’s game. Mark is the older brother of teammates and Your Mom co-founders Dante and Tony Muse. He was their speed coach and coached most of the other founding members at one time or another, including me. Mark also coached some of the stars of the women’s game, including Atomatrix and Urrk’n Jerkin. Mark coached the US national speed team and was inducted into the Roller Skating Hall of Fame as a coach. Mark is an experienced skater, who competed in artistic, speed, and hockey. At the moment, he is coaching men’s and women’s derby, speed skating, and hockey. Mark’s name was brought up early on in Your Mom’s search for a coach, and we decided unanimously to approach him to help us. Mark, at age 56, could easily make the top end of our roster but is of best service to the team as the head coach. Brothers Dante and Tony both have input into our gameplay, and they both run some of our practices, but brother Mark is the general. The combination of the three super Muse brothers makes Your Mom tough to beat.

So, we all know Your Mom won the MRDA Championship tournament last year. How does it feel to be on top? Do you think starting the 2013 season on top will affect the way you prepare for bouts?

Being on Your Mom is great, and Your Mom being on top of men’s derby is even better. Our success makes us more of a target than ever before, so we have to expect more pressure from opponents this year. Everyone wants to beat the current champs, so we will have to be extra prepared.

So, having seen a few Your Mom bouts, I’ve noticed you use unique skates. Can you tell us about the skates you use?

What you’re probably noticing about my skates is the boots. The boots I skate on make it appear as if I’m skating on off-the-rack rental skates, and that is partly true. My boots actually are off-the-rack rental boots, and my bearings are rental bearings. My boots are from Skate Corral in Springfield, Missouri, the skating rink where I grew up. Skate Corral was the home of the largest speed skating competition throughout the ‘80s and into the mid-90s. After learning that the rink was sold to be turned into offices to house a local construction company, a group of speed skaters met up to skate the final session at the rink. During the last session, we decided to have a final race. Most of us were one-time quad speed skaters, so we decided to race on quads. At the time, I hadn’t owned a pair of quads for roughly ten years, so I pulled a pair of rentals off the rack to wear for the race. After the dust settled, I came home with the championship belt and the rental skates that won the race. A few years later, when I got involved in derby and skating on quads again, the skates became my quad skate of choice. After my first year with Your Mom, I upgraded my plate from the original Sure-Grip rental plates to a set of roughly 30 year-old, out-of-production Italian artistic plates.  The plates once belonged to our Coach Mark. I believe they were the plates he competed on in the ‘70s but will have to check my facts on that one. The plates found their way to brother Dante and thanks to Dante eventually found their way to me. I’m using Snyder’s artistic toe stops at the moment because I believe they stop the fastest and Atom wheels because the chemist who pours their wheels has consistently produced the best wheels for the last 30 years.  Finally, I use Hartford rental bearings because I’m not particular about bearings.

What team is Your Mom’s biggest rival? Is there something about playing them that makes you enjoy those bouts more than playing against other teams?

Without question, it is St. Louis. We have had an in-region rivalry with them since the giddy up, which spilled on to the national scene in the 2012 MRDA National Championship. They were one of the first teams we played, and the team we have had our closest games against.

If you were forced to play for another team in MRDA, but you could choose any one, what team would you play for and why?  

I’ve watched and been involved in the inception and progression of skating sports prior to derby, and the progression of these skating sports abroad has been of particular interest. It’s going to be interesting to see how the sport progresses throughout the world, where it will grow the fastest, who will have the strongest programs, and how the international growth of the sport will affect the game. At this time, London and Montreal are the only other international MRDA teams, so I’d be interested in playing for either of them, especially experiencing the flat track movement from an English perspective.

Looking forward to the 2013 season, do you expect any relatively unknown teams to take MRDA by storm and drastically improve on last year’s performance?

Yes. I think there is a good possibility of a relatively unknown team taking MRDA by storm.  The Men’s Roller Derby Association is only three years old, so it’s still the Wild West. There’s the possibility of some unknown gunslinger walking  into town, shooting a bunch of dudes, then taking off with their stuff.  I think that’s how it worked in the Wild West.

Is it true the mayor of Des Moines honored Your Mom?

Yes. Everyone got to hang out with the mayor, and he declared Your Mom Day in Des Moines. It was rad. I think everyone got medals and got to go on a hot air balloon ride with him. I’m not positive because I wasn’t there and actually don’t know much about the subject, but I heard it was a good time.

I already mentioned winning the 2012 Championship above. Other than that, do you have any memories that stick out from 2012? 

My favorite memory, besides winning the Championship, was skating at Spring Roll. Spring Roll was my first men’s derby tournament. Beating the number one-ranked and defending national champion New York Shock Exchange was a highlight of the trip as well as meeting some of the Magic City Misfits. The Misfits are a team of pro and semi-pro jam skaters from Florida. While filming Roller Jam in Orlando in the late ‘90s, I skated adult sessions at one of the sport’s rebirth places, Semoran Skateway. Seeing the jam skating at Semoran got me interested in jam skating again, and I’ve jam skated off and on and followed the sport since. A few of the Misfits grew up skating at Semoran, so it was cool meeting and talking to some of them about their experiences in derby and jam skating. I finally got to skate against them in the semi-finals of the 2012 MRDA Championships.

Have you taken a step back or a break from derby at any point since Championships?

Yes. From November to roughly February. During that time, I skated a few practices here and there and played a few games but nothing consistently. I’d been involved in the flat track game for roughly eight years and was in need of a break. Although I took some time off from derby, I actually skated more than normal. I spent most of my skating time jam skating, sharpening up on my quad skating fundamentals and relearning inline speed skating.

What do you do to prepare for your games? Do you have any pregame rituals?

Before big games, I like to watch The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a documentary about my favorite recording artist.

You discussed your skates above, but do you have any sponsorship you’d like to let us know about?

I’m not interested in any equipment sponsors at this time. I like what I’m skating on and want to be able to skate on whatever equipment I want.