Tori Bee is a Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Coach from the U.K. From starting in January 2011 with Manchester Roller Derby, she started coaching almost as soon as she had passed her minimum skills. ?After a couple years of building experience and confidence, she started to coach outside her league and, in 2014 became self-employed as a roller derby coach.
Roller derby is a sport where coaching is in demand. As new teams start up every day, sometimes instigated by a group of women with no previous skating experience, there is always a call for a coach for hire. This is where Tori Bee comes in. Starting as a local coach on the UK derby scene, she’s broken team ties to wander the world. Tori founded Team n mad, a team for skaters without a team that allows for flexibility in training and a chance to take life as it comes. This has opened up opportunities for her to set out and travel the world, on skates.
How did you learn to coach?
MRD was a young league when I joined so anybody willing to coach was welcome to. I’ve always wanted to teach, and roller derby gave me the perfect opportunity to gain experience in doing so.
I coached and ran the leagues ‘Zero to Hero’ new skater programme for over 3 years. Although I have done some teaching courses in the past, I’m not sure I ‘learnt’ to coach, more developed and tuned a skill that felt natural to me. You figure out what works over time, from what you get back from your skaters.
What do you like best about coaching?
Problem solving. I like to pick skills and strategies apart, in order to successfully pass them on. I’m into science and physics so putting that into practice in such a cool way never fails to excite me. And also spreading the derby love by sharing knowledge and seeing people’s progression and the pride of knowing you helped them achieve it.
Who do you train/ play with?
Since 2015 I’ve been an independent skater, and I play with a whole host of challenge teams. Challenge teams have become pretty big in the UK, there’s currently around 40 of them, mostly with a theme, that bring together skaters from different leagues. For example, Vagine Regime for queer skaters, and Team Crazy Legs, who skate out for Mental Health awareness. Both I’m a part of, along with Team Dragon, Girls of Skatanist, Team Wheezy, PBJ, Bi-furious, too many to list.
I’ve even set up my own challenge team- n?mads, for skaters like me, who travel, are independant, live in a vehicle, or are in some other way nomadic. Unlike many challenge teams’n’mads also have our own training sessions, because travelling and being independent often creates a need to get some training where you can. Sometimes, too, it’s nice to get some sessions away from your usual league routine and skate with new people.
Where have you coached in the past?
As well as up and down the UK, I’ve coached around Netherlands and France. I’ve also coached in Spain.
Currently I’m on a mission to spread my favourite strategy far and wide in a hope to see it played out more frequently on track. ‘Eat the baby’ is when the jammer switches to defence in order to re-absorb the opposing jammer back into the pack. It’s a strategy I aim to achieve each time I play. So far I’ve coached this in France and Spain where they’d never heard of it and loved it! Mange le bb has become my favourite thing to heckle.
What are you most often asked to coach?
Jamming Skills, almost always. When people see me play, that’s what stands out. I specialise in transitions, and how to use them to transport past walls and avoid blocks.
I’m coaching a young league in preparation for, and through their first British Champs season next year. So my focus there is very much on teamwork. Wall formations track, pack awareness and offence. These rookie girls are like sponges and I’m loving getting into the nitty gritty of strategy and developing skaters over a longer period of time.
What do all the teams have in common? What sets a team apart?
The community and passion, it’s amazed me how you can reach out and derby girls from around the world are so hospitable and welcoming and all have a eagerness to learn.
Each team varies in how they operate and use what resources they have available, with added language barriers, this can be tricky to adapt to.
I always have a back-up plan and take a selection of wheels and clothes! I’ve coached in some amazing venues in Europe, in the rain outdoors in Rotterdam, on the top of a mountain in Bilbao. Skill level also varies massively and you never really know quite what to expect. I turned up to one session expecting freshly passed rookies, and quickly realised these girls are bad ass and I need to step it up.
How does travel impact on your own training?
Before I became ind?pendant, I was that skater with 100% attendance and made the very most from our training time. My peripheral vision is honed from getting my own training in whilst observing the whole team as their coach. I remain independent because I simply wouldn’t be able to make the attendance requirements to be rostered with how much I travel now. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Whenever I travel, I take my skates and find some derby, or at least a skatepark. And I take all the opportunities to play abroad I can, making a proper trip of it. I haven’t done much team training over the past year, and it’s hardly ideal, my blocking strategy in particular has slowed down on track, but I’m still playing several bouts a month which is training time to me.
I train solo when I can, outdoors when the weather is nice, roller discos, and sneaking 10 minutes in before bouts and coaching sessions. In this time I’ve mastered one foot hockey stops and these neat little 180 apex hops.
It is possible to keep learning and progressing on your own, but it’s not easy.
It’s one of the motivations for setting up n’mads, and including training sessions.