New to 2016 WFTDA Playoffs: Nidaros Roller Derby

New to 2016 WFTDA Playoffs: Nidaros Roller Derby Photo credit: Erlend Lånke Solbu

Getting an invite to one of WFTDA’s Tournaments is a huge goal for many roller derby leagues, and this year five teams achieved that dream for the very first time. Last week we talked about the goals and plans of the UK’s Rainy City Roller Derby, and today we have another team from Europe, Nidaros Roller Derby.

As the first Norwegian team to make it this far, Nidaros has already traveled great distances to get a place in the top 60 teams. In fact, you may remember some of their stories when we featured them in an article last year. Having journeyed to the United States Midwest earlier this year, they will be returning this month, but this time it will be for Division 2 Playoffs. Here, we’ll be focusing in on their many tournament experiences and how the World Cup helped their skaters gain more than just a chance to play Team USA.

As one of two WFTDA member leagues in Norway, Nidaros has had the classic dilemma of regions outside North America – needing to put in the miles from the very beginning to get any kind of real game experience on the track. Oslo Roller Derby, the one other WFTDA member league, is a six hour drive away and there are only about ten leagues total in a country that geographically takes up nearly 75% of the space of California.

“Sometimes it can be challenging to get Nordic/European teams to come play us as well, no matter how much we tempt them with fjords, mountains and northern lights.” says Sofie Norheim who skates and coaches for Nidaros. In a country that is not densely populated, she says that they have never played a sanctioned game at home in Trondheim, but they maintain that the travel expenses are worth it to play against amazing opponents.

After Nidaros joined WFTDA as a member league at the end of 2013, their first big sanctioned trip was the following spring at Mayday Mayhem in Greely, Colorado. They got connected to that particular event through a Norwegian skater who had been living in the States and played for the Slaughterhouse Derby Dames, the host of the tournament. Norheim says it was such a valuable experience for them. “We were so excited and humbled by this invitation that we had to call an extraordinary meeting. Of course, everyone agreed that we were not letting this chance go.”

10303370_813157822027958_2600485555884841606_nThey picked up two wins and three losses at the tournament that year, and played teams ranked from#151 to #96. Besides the excitement of getting their first big tournament experience and seeing how they could hang with ranked teams, the weekend really tested their teamwork and ability to overcome obstacles together.

They took 13 skaters and a coach with them, but during their first warm up, one of the skaters got injured while at the same time another skater was laying down in the rental car with a horrible migraine. Another skater dropped out with injuries during their second game, and then they were down to 10. “Blockers turned jammers, jammers turned blockers, and players turned line-up managers. After our fifth and last game on Sunday, our current captain, Brawly, was seen gracefully barfing into a goodie bag behind the Norwegian flag, held up by a teammate, while two others were sobbing in a corner.”

After a long weekend in Colorado, they returned home and at the end of the month traveled to Belgium to participate at 2014: A Skate Odyssey. There they picked up four more sanctioned games and by the end of the month they entered the WFTDA rankings at #144. Due to the rankings inequality in Europe, the SKOD games may have actually hurt them as far as rankings points, but Norheim said they couldn’t pass up any opportunities to play. “Our goal was to become a better team, and that is not possible without actually playing games.”

That November they also went to the WFTDA European Tournament (WET) where they picked up two sanctioned wins over Gent Go Go and Oslo, and one loss to Stockholm as a Strength Factor Challenge game. It didn’t really work out in their favor, and since they couldn’t play another SFC game for 18 months, it affected their future game scheduling.

Team Norway vs Team USA at the 2014 World Cup. Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Team Norway vs Team USA at the 2014 World Cup. Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Adding to the challenges of their first full season playing sanctioned games, many skaters concluded 2014 playing on Team Norway at the Roller Derby World Cup in Dallas. “We ended up playing against Team USA, and it was definitely a highlight for us as a national team. We scored some points, even got lead once, and had tons of fun.” With Nidaros making up half the team, it helped them continue to gain experience and learn from other Norwegian skaters. 

The World Cup also got them Varla Vendetta. “I respected the energy they brought to their Team USA game, and I saw a lot of talent, but maybe even more, a real drive to be great.  Plus, they knew how to really enjoy the hell out of playing this sport.” Varla says of watching them in Dallas.

After their game she befriended their Captain, Brawly, and stayed in contact with Nidaros after the World Cup. They invited her to help run a boot camp in Trondheim with Quadzilla, and it was there where she helped bench coach their team for the first time when they took on Copenhagen. She joined Nidaros the following Spring at Beach Brawl and coached for them again, and after that they worked out a plan for her to coach remotely.

Varla Vendetta coaching Nidaros during a game against Dock City last November. Photo credit: Ole-Petter Holmvassdal.

Varla Vendetta coaching Nidaros during a game against Dock City last November. Photo credit: Ole-Petter Holmvassdal.

Utilizing Facebook chat, Skype, and numerous Google Docs, Varla also makes the occasional trip overseas. Having retired after a decade of playing roller derby with Windy City, she has been able to stay connected to the sport through coaching. “I had no idea what the next chapter of derby would look like for me, and it just unfolded in this amazing, fulfilling way, amongst these totally incredible women that are now like long lost family to me.” Varla says. Norheim hopes someday they can finally convince her to just move to Norway. “She is an experienced, strategic and inspiring coach as well as a wonderful person and friend, and she quickly became a solid brick in the fortress that is this team (her words).” 

After playing 13 sanctioned games, of a 15 game total, in 2014, Nidaros only played four sanctioned games in 2015, including their trip to Beach Brawl. Before they even got to Florida for that tournament, they took a little tour down the East Coast and took on Greensboro in a sanctioned game, winning 176-129, and then played a game against Atlanta, losing 384-80, albeit unsanctioned. This trip nonetheless earned them 69 spots in the rankings, to put them at #106 by the end of June in 2015. As older games fell off their average, they then bumped up to #85 by the year’s end.

This year, in 2016, the team had just one unsanctioned game in Europe before flying back to the United States again, this time to Michigan. They played four sanctioned games, beating their weekend host Grand Raggidy, Ft. Wayne, and Killamazoo twice. They played all of these games within 24 hours but Norheim says that Grand Raggidy treated them like royals. “Midwestern hospitality, generosity and friendliness is something that will never be forgotten, and we are so happy we got placed in the Lansing tournament!”

Nidaros vs Killamazoo. Photo credit: DeFord Designs.

Nidaros vs Killamazoo. Photo credit: DeFord Designs.

Norheim attributes their success in making it into these upcoming playoffs to consistency within their team, as well as transparency and leadership from their captains and bench staff. Varla also attests to their drive and dedication from the very first game she coached for them. “Sofie unfortunately suffered a break very early in the game, which was emotional and tough on everyone, but the team really pulled together and rallied. Despite the trauma, the team was very resilient, as was Sofie. I had so much respect for that.”

Nidaros has already fought a tough battle on their long journey to getting to Division 2 Playoffs this year, but now they must fund yet another trip to the States. Head over to their fundraising page and help them get to Lansing later this month.

Make sure you like Derby Central on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so you can read about more leagues who are new to Playoffs this year and see Nidaros Roller Derby’s full bracket preview as it gets closer.

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