Everyone loves burpees. And sprints. Performed together in rapid succession. On skates. Right? Nobody loves them more than Rusch, our newest head of training, who cheerfully doses out (and practices) this blissfully painful prescription on the regular. But she's no sadist; this drill, like everything Rusch does for the league, training or otherwise, has underlying function contributing to our overarching goals. (What function do burpees, humankind's most despised exercise, have to do with derby? In derby, we fall hard, and then we have to get up fast, sprinting to catch up. Boom.)
In addition to head of training, Rusch is also our treasurer and WFTDA representative, a veritable expert and guru at all things dollars and rankings. Running numbers and statistics continuously like a Wall Street ticker tape, she knows what's up when it comes to teams to play, point spreads, wins and losses (both of which can improve our rankings depending on how we play it!) and ensuring there's enough bank in the bank so that we can keep skating. There's a strategy to everything, and Rusch finds the threads and connects them.
But Rusch isn't only brains; she's got a substantial amount of brawn. And she brings it on the track. She's modest so you'd never know it, but you should see the iron she lifts at the gym. Next time you see her, ask her to flex. You won't be disappointed. She demos that strength as she demolishes the competition, literally holding together our walls. She's one of our strongest braces, both on and off the track, the keystone that holds us together!
Read on to learn all about Rusch!
How did you come up with your name?
My parents picked it for me!! In my first season, I used the name Nic Nic Boom, but it never felt like the right fit. It’s becoming a lot more common for skaters to use their real name, and several of my favorite skaters in the WFTDA go by their real names, so I opted to go that route. Plus my last name is pretty fun when it’s said like, “Ruuuuuuuuuusch!”
What position(s) do you like to play and why?
My favorite position is blocker. I don’t mind jamming in practice, but the idea of jamming in a real game still terrifies me a little.
How did you get involved with derby?
Prior to joining the team, I didn’t know very much about roller derby at all or that Rochester had a team. A friend had recently joined the team and spoke very highly of it, making it sound like the best thing ever, and coincidently, the team was holding an informational meeting the next week. My girlfriend (Knock Knock Knuckles) and I decided to go to check it out and immediately decided that it seemed amazing, and we went out to buy all our gear that next weekend. After playing sports in high school, I missed being part of a competitive team. There aren’t many opportunities for that as an adult. Plus, everyone seemed so nice and welcoming, so we thought it would be a great way to make some new friends, which it certainly has been!
What is your athletic background? Did you skate before derby?
I was a frequent patron of my local roller rink growing up and had a pretty sweet pair of bright blue Adidas roller skates that I put a lot of miles on. I also spent large portions of my time in the winter playing hockey by myself on frozen-over puddles, which was way more fun than it sounds. I really enjoyed playing all sorts of sports, but once I was in high school, I settled on tennis, basketball, and softball. I played those three sports all four years of high school, with the exception of basketball, which I did not play my senior year. Although I loved it, I was pretty terrible and decided to get a job instead.
What sort of training do you do off the track?
CrossFit Progression has been one of our sponsors for the past couple of seasons and by attending classes there, I learned that I really enjoy CrossFit workouts and strength training. Prior to playing roller derby, I had little to no experience with lifting weights. Now it has become a huge part of my training program, and I feel it’s made a dramatic difference in my performance on the track. During an ideal week, I try to get to the gym at least 3 times. Strength training is definitely my favorite type of workout. I’ll occasionally work in sprints, agility, and endurance workouts, too.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
I can get kind of obsessive about pre-game rituals, so I try to keep it pretty low key, which I’m not very successful at doing. Mostly, I make sure to eat quality food the night before and day of the game and drink lots of water. Once I get to the venue I like to listen to music and stay focused but relaxed. In the half hour or so before the game, I like to be pretty quiet and do some visualization of how I see myself and my team playing in the the game.
What do you eat after practice?
All the food!!! My favorite treat meal after practice is definitely Chipotle followed closely by Culvers. By the time I get home from practice, it’s already pretty late, and I work early in the mornings, so there isn’t much time for cooking meals. I’m usually super hungry though so anything quick works. Oftentimes, I will have a protein shake, followed by eggs, frozen pizza, cereal, leftovers, or anything else easy to prepare.
Describe your greatest derby success.
My greatest derby success happened last summer when we played in the Uff Da Palooza tournament in Wausau, Wisconsin. There were a lot of doubts surrounding our team’s ability to compete in the tournament, because we were going to be facing some very difficult opponents. On top of that, our team had gone through some tough times over the course of the season. But during the 3 games of the tournament, something magical happened. We all came together and played the best derby of our lives. Statistically speaking, we only won 1 of the 3 games, but I believe all 3 games were victories because of how well we played as a team. It was probably the greatest sports experience of my life.
Describe your biggest derby obstacle/disappointment and how did you overcome it?
During my first couple of seasons, I experienced a lot of disappointment when I didn’t make rosters for some of our games or didn’t get much playing time. I just kept working hard in practices and spent a lot of time at the gym working on my strength, as well as watching a lot of roller derby games.
Another big obstacle involved a trampoline mishap resulting in a fractured vertebrae in my spine. That happened a little over midway into my first season. It took a lot of mental toughness to get back into playing a full-contact sport after such a serious injury.
Besides skating, what other roles do you take on for the team (committees, volunteering, etc)?
This season, I am serving as head of training which involves mapping out strategies for the season and planning practices along with the team captains. I am also a member of the board of directors as the treasurer for the league. Additionally, I am one of our league’s WFTDA representatives. In that role, I keep up to date with what’s happening internally with WFTDA and relay important information back to our league. I’m also responsible for compiling all of the statistics gathered by our wonderful NSOs after our sanctioned home games and submitting them to WFTDA. I try to help out however else I can by volunteering, helping to set up for home bouts, assisting with art committee when needed, and doing whatever else it takes to run what is basically a small business!
What do you do outside of derby (career, family, hobbies, etc)?
I love roller derby but an even bigger passion is animals!! My girlfriend and I share our home with 3 cats (Madison, Talon, Butter), 2 dogs (Parker, Rufus), and a tree frog (Tulip). I’m a business and marketing teacher at Pine Island High School where I also teach a course in animal law, which is my most favorite topic to teach students about.
How has derby changed you (physically, emotionally, mentally, etc)?
Roller derby has made me a stronger person, both physically and mentally, than I ever thought I could be.