World Cup Team USA Tryouts Continue

In 2004, Buster Cheatin fell in love with roller derby, along with his wife, Gotham Girls All-Star skater Donna Matrix. Buster was an NSO for Gotham Girls Roller Derby’s first 2005 season opener bout. He went on to referee for the league soon after, and became the manager of the Queens of Pain that season, helping to guide the team to 3 home season championships. In August of 2005, Buster was a part of history when he managed Gotham in their first ever interleague bout. He refereed at the fist ever WFTDA tournament, Dust Devil 2006, and was on the bench with Gotham Girls All-Stars as manager for the first ever WFTDA East Region Tournament championship win. He has since managed Gotham through 3 more East Region championship wins, as well as one National Championship win in 2008.

In 2008, Blood and Thunder magazine founder Dale Rio aka Black Dahlia and some talented friends began leading roller derby boot camps all over the world. In the fall of 2010, Blood and Thunder announced that it would sponsor the world’s first international flat-track roller derby World Cup in Toronto on December 1-4, 2011.

On finding the announcement for World Cup, Gotham co-staffer Endless Justin showed it to Buster and recommended that he apply to coach Team USA. Like many other roller derby staffers worldwide, Buster Cheatin was inspired by the idea of being a part of this historic event and submitted an application to be Head Coach.

Buster was selected to be Head Coach of Team USA. Shortly thereafter, legendary skater and league founder Bonnie D. Stroir, the brains behind the world’s first hybrid banked/flat track roller derby league San Diego Derby Dolls, was selected to be his Assistant Coach. Bonnie has skated and coached roller derby since 2004, starting as a skater with the L.A. Derby Dolls. She has built a reputation worldwide as a coach and advisor of young leagues.

The two coaches have had little opportunity to work together in person thus far, but they’re enjoying the process of creating this superteam together, says Buster. They are looking forward to the work that lies ahead, as well as more opportunity to share the unique skills each brings to the table. Bringing together the manager of what has long been one of the top 3 flat-track roller derby teams worldwide, and the former captain of the only team in modern roller derby to win 2 consecutive banked track roller derby titles, Team USA already has a foundation in coaching success.

The selection process for a team comprising the best skaters available today in the entire US roller derby community is a daunting one, but Buster Cheatin and Bonnie D. Stroir are invigorated by the challenge. They have arrived at what they consider to be the fairest possible methods that give opportunity not only to the top skaters in competition in WFTDA, but any up and coming skaters in the US derby community that have the drive and ambition to compete. Inclusion and fairness are the top goals in the tryout process, and the coaches are dedicated to opening this rare opportunity to any and all comers.

When asked about the significance or meaning of World Cup, Cheatin had this to say, “Being a part of history in the making is very attractive to me, as it is to many skaters and volunteers participating. As we speak I am sitting at work, in a suit, being interrupted by calls and people, while we work on promoting this event. I think everyone involved is in the same position, and that World Cup is a once in a lifetime opportunity for everyday people to leave their day to day lives behind for a few days and showcase their athleticism on a world stage.”

World Cup 2011 will be hosted by Toronto Roller Derby. The event allows for all skaters from every corner of the modern roller derby community to compete for the title, regardless of organizational affiliation, as well as participate in a long weekend of learning and sharing skills with the best in the world. Head coaches have been selected for teams from each of the 13 participating countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, and the USA. Other notable veteran roller derby coaches leading teams in the competition include longtime AZRD staffer Coach Pauly (Team Canada), London Brawling coach Ballistic Whistle (Team England), and former Jet City, Rat City, and Gotham Girls All Star skater Swede Hurt (Team Sweden).

The competing teams will all be national superteams, comprised of skaters from many leagues. The implications of this event for the development of skills for international leagues is profound. For many skaters of the competing countries, World Cup will be their first tournament opportunity, most especially for the South and Central American countries whose skaters will be making their roller derby debut on the world stage. At a minimum, competing teams can expect to make important connections with other skaters they’d otherwise never meet.

Tryouts are under way in many countries already. This Saturday, April 23, Team USA will hold a tryout in Denver, Colorado. This is the second of five prequalifiers that Team USA will hold this year; one prequalifier was already held in Robstown, Texas in February. Prequalifiers will also be held in Brooklyn, NY on June 18; at the Blood and Thunder Training Camp in Waterloo, Iowa on July 9th; and at the East Coast Derby Extravaganza in Feasterville, PA on June 24th.

However, top skaters in the sport in the US may already be qualified to advance to the final tryout on July 23rd in Tampa, FL. Exempt skaters include any skater on a roster of a team that placed 1st in any Battle on the Bank, any skater who was a member of any team that placed 1-3 at any WFTDA National Championship Tournament, and any skater on a roster of any team that competed in the 2010 WFTDA Championship Tournament.

Skaters wishing to participate in any prequalifier or the final tryout in Tampa must first register online. There are various options to accommodate skaters who cannot make it to a prequalifier or the final. The registration fee is $50.00 plus a $6.00 handling fee.

When asked what to expect in any Team USA tryout, Buster Cheatin describes the action as “a very long, very intense practice, with a bout or scrimmage at the end of the day.” Tryouts will include many drills while the coaches conduct skills assessments, in hopes of discovering several diamonds in the rough. It is difficult to quantify every aspect of what will qualify a skater to advance to the final in Tampa. One of several qualities the coaches are specifically looking for in a skater is versatility, according to Cheatin.

Response so far has been overwhelming from skaters across the country ready to compete in this event. A roster of 20 will be selected approximately 2 weeks after the July 23rd Tampa tryout. This team will not only have a chance to compete against other countries in the tournament, but the team will also compete against itself in one bout during the weekend, to showcase the level of play Team USA is bringing to the event.

Once the team is selected, Team USA’s coaches plan to be sensitive to the schedules of the top American skaters in the sport, as many may be solidly entrenched in preparation for the WFTDA Big 5 Tournament season shortly thereafter. Coaches will not impose requirements on skaters who may already be in heavy training for the fall tournaments.

There are no solid plans for a practice schedule leading up to the event, but Team USA will have its roster focusing on training and concepts as they prepare for tournament season. Out of respect for competing WFTDA Big 5 teams, there will be little focus on strategy, specifically. On arriving in Toronto for the event, Team USA will have several days of track time to prepare for the event as a team, and the coaches will use this time to make strategy and roster decisions.

Buster indicated that he has received no feedback from the WFTDA about the event, but is receiving support for his efforts from his leaguemates on Gotham. He hints that we can expect to see some name talent from his league participating in the tryouts process, and Gotham is hosting the Brooklyn prequalifier at their practice space in New York. As for the future of Team USA beyond World Cup, there are no firm plans to continue to compete as a team, but Cheatin hopes that this will become an annual event, and is hoping that the USA’s history making team will go on to do great things together in the future.

Tournament Head Referees for the event will be Mr. Rawk and Rev. Riot, and Miss Trial will be the Third Crew Head Ref. Interested referees can submit an application as well. The deadline for submitting referee applications is June 30th, 2011 at 11:59 pm PST. Announcers interested in being considered for the house call for World Cup can apply at the same link above, by October 1st, 2011. Other interested volunteers can help by applying at the same link. Find more information about World Cup and other participating teams at the Blood and Thunder website.

Derby News Network will provide full whistle to whistle coverage of World Cup 2011, December 1-4, with a crack team that includes major league sports broadcast professionals as well as derby video veterans.