Meet Sirius Mischief-Coach to the Stars

Photo credit: Danny Ngan

Ever wonder what it takes to capture the respect and admiration of a team of strong minded and highly competitive women?  Rat City has undergone an extensive re-organization of it’s training program over the past two years, including an expanded coaching plan, which is focused on teamwork and execution, and it is now successfully paving a road to championships. We sat down with the always stunning Sirius Mischief, formerly of the Throttle Rockets to get her thoughts on coaching this year’s new All-Star Program.

Have you ever coached before?

I bench coached for the Throttle Rockets this past home team season alongside Inspector Parts. It was a really great way for me to get my feet wet. I ran the practices and developed the strategy as we progressed throughout the season. Though we didn’t come out ahead this season, it was a very positive building year.

As a former All-Star skater, how does that help you be a better coach? Is it easier or harder to gain the respect of your former teammates and get them to follow your lead?

The All Stars are a very talented group of skaters. We have some of the best derby athletes in the world with a lot of strategic-minded individuals. I’ve seen people come in with little or no experience in roller derby or skating and try to coach and get eaten alive.

A team is bound to measure the fit of any new leader, and the reality is that it takes time to foster relationships and to build trust. Everyone has to adapt and get used to a new way of doing things. That said, it’s certainly easier for the team to open up to a coach with a roller derby background. I skated on the All-Stars for three seasons and on the Rain of Terror for a season under various models of leadership.  I’ve played with a majority of the skaters on the current All Star Team, so I have a good understanding for the personalities and the depth and breadth of skill we have.

In addition to my experience, I’m not a hothead. I’m dedicated to the sport and to this team, and strive to prove that daily to them with my actions. Both this and my prior experience have made it easier to gain the respect of my former teammates and new team members alike.

In the past, Rat City has struggled with coaching, and has switched up their coaching through the years. What factors contributed to you throwing your hat in the ring?

Last season was run by the skaters and although they did a heck of a job, it’s tough not having coaches. It’s particularly tough getting feedback from skaters whom you are competing with to get on a roster.  There’s no fall guy.  The team needed a vision and coaches so that the skaters could skate and the coaches could lead. It’s extremely taxing to try and balance skating and leading a team.

This season, I felt like the All Stars needed a strong female coach and felt I had the experience that the teams needed. I felt like my calm demeanor, strategic mind and personality was a good fit for leading the team to the top. The last time Rat City took to the floor at Championships was 2008 at Northwest Knockdown in Portland, OR. My experience as a player in recent years, including participating in a few very close bids to return is fueling a passion to see Rat City re-take the floor as Championships this season.

How much weight do the captains and training committee have in the coaching and strategic vision? 

I work very closely with our Training Captain, Method of Madness on developing and revamping the strategic vision for the team. Our skaters are also a valuable resource in shaping that vision. Often they see things we miss or can provide alternate perspectives that we hadn’t thought of. Being open to collaboration and receptive to feedback from the skaters is paramount to the success of the team.

What do you look for in a ASP skater when it comes time to draft members?
I look for a well-balanced skater that has the skating skills, is mentally tough and has a great attitude.  If a skater doesn’t quite have the skills, but is on an upper trajectory then I’m willing to take a risk on that skater.

A team that executes a plan together will always outperform a team of individuals focused on proving they’re right. I tell my skaters “it’s better to be wrong together than right alone” and I look for players who think that way as well.

We see you screaming a lot and making motions to the jammers, what is your role, and what are the other coaches roles?
My role during a bout is threefold: to adjust our strategy in real time based on what is or is not being effective during the bout and/or how the refs are making calls, help keep the team calm and focused throughout the game,  and communicate direction to the track. Trackside, I am mostly communicating with the jammers. I’ll tell them when to call of the jam if they are lead or keep going if the opposing jammer is stuffed in the pack by our defense and we are racking up points. When you are a blocker on the track, skating in a large venue like the KeyArena filled with 4,000 chanting fans, you often can’t hear calls from the bench, so I give quick feedback to skaters as they are coming off the track at the end of the jam or in between jams if the skaters are huddled up on the track in a timeout. I’m also communicating to the line-up and jammer runners on the bench – telling them which skaters need to sit based on penalties and who should be played more because they are on fire. Coach Anayalator is watching for skater penalties and the penalties that the referees call. She wears the “A” or alternate designation so that she can communicate with the refs, challenge calls, and call timeouts.  She and I also have a running dialogue throughout the bout and checking in to make sure we are on the same page