The roller derby world is set to be a little dimmer next season, as three of the sport’s most vibrant players are retiring. Montreal Roller Derby New Skids on the Block veterans Smack Daddy, Lil Mama, and Georgia W. Tush are making this their last year. This past weekend’s Salt Lake City playoffs were their final WFTDA tournament, and the World Cup in Dallas will be their last skating event. We caught up with Smack Daddy and Lil Mama to find out more about their exit, and what they have planned for their newfound spare time.
While New Skids fans around the world may be in shock that some of their favorite players are hanging up their skates, the team has actually been preparing for the exit of these three vets for some time.
Smack Daddy says, “We’ve been preparing this for two seasons, making sure that the rookies got track time during important games and developing new talent was a priority in order to make this transition as smooth as possible. We made sure that the B team was being coached in line with the Skids playbook. We also had some players playing both for the A and B teams this season and some B team players were invited to the A team practices.”
Despite the long goodbye, it would be hard to deny the space left by these three powerhouse skaters. Alongside league founder Georgia W. Tush (skating since 2006), Lil Mama has been around for eight seasons and Smack Daddy, six. Over the years, these skaters have received top accolades for the sport too – Lil Mama was awarded Blocker MVP at Eastern Regionals in 2012 and Smack Daddy received Overall MVP at the inaugural World Cup in 2011.
Recounting her favorite moments in the sport, Lil Mama says, “Winning divisional MVP blocker in Vermont a few years back [was] totally unexpected! Playing in the first World Cup on Team Canada was amazing! Being part of MTLRD from the beginning and watching its transformation over the years. I’m very proud to be part of such an amazing league!”
Of course, it won’t just be their on-track prowess that fans remember. Longstanding Skids fans will also fondly remember their video antics, often Directed by Smack Daddy.
The big question New Skids fans will be asking is “Why?” Lil Mama assures us she hasn’t fallen out of love with the sport. Instead, she says, “It’s time for a break for me. Ten years of rugby and eight years of derby means not a lot of free time for anything else. I’m going to take a year off and see how things go from there.”
For Smack Daddy, it’s a few important factors that conflict with her life in neon. “I am opening a business in Montreal and also have a nine-month baby girl named Brooklyn. Playing for Montreal involves a greater amount of travelling than most teams. We travel a dozen times during the season and play multiple games on those trips so it’s a lot of time away. Also I’m 35 years old and have been playing contact sports my whole life – my body has been asking for a break!”
Walking away won’t be easy for these two competitors who put in years of time and effort to reach the top of their game. Smack Daddy says she will miss playing the game, being part of a team and training to be the best. “All the emotions involved in competitive team sports is home to me,” she says. “I love the sport, the competition, the drive to push myself within a team and of course, all the fun times. It’s where I’ve learned and grown the most in my life so it’s pretty scary to imagine life without it.”
Lil Mama agrees, and says, “I absolutely love everything about derby! The thing I’ll miss the most is playing the game at an elite level! It’s such an amazing feeling when you’re in your groove and working with your team mates, and all that hard work and practice you’ve put in comes together! Looking back, I’ve done 18 years of competitive contact sports so I’m probably going to miss a little of that as well! It’s in my blood!”
Looking to the future of New Skids, both Lil Mama and Smack Daddy agree that the Skids bench is deep enough to weather their exit, and have a few go-to players to look out for next season. From the might of Jess Bandit and Beth Rave, to the juking and jiving of Ohi and Mel E Juana, the future will remain bright for the neon team from the North. And meanwhile, on the sidelines…
“Yes, all the heckling,” says Smack Daddy. “I also love coaching. I’ve coached one of our home teams, our league and other leagues but often had to refuse invitations because my schedule was jammed. This will make it more possible. And I plan on staying involved in our league training.”
“There will be some heckling and some helping with Skids coaching staff, but really just taking some time off,” says Lil Mama. “We’re definitely not going to be too far away.”