Pick Your Team: The Honky Tonk Heartbreakers
The history and the future of Texas derby, according to Devil Grrl
By Richard Whittaker,
3:33PM, Fri. Feb. 18, 2011
When it comes to the Texas Rollergirls, there's few with a sense of history like Amy Hutchins. As Devil Grrl, she was there at the birth of the sport. As a veteran of the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers, she talks about winning, losing, and the fourth wave of modern roller derby.
The Score: So how has the play changed over the last ten years?
Devil Grrl: This is third wave roller derby, maybe even fourth, because the first couple of years, when we were first trying to get established, was 'What the fuck am I doing' roller derby. Bambi on ice, just hit someone with some semblance of rules. Moving to public bouts, using old speed coaches, old artistic coaches, old roller derby skaters giving us advice. We've designed a flat track, and the banked track's over here. They're doing more antics, we're doing more sports, we're training harder because a lot of us are saying, 'We want to train like real athletes.' Just skating on the floor with this centrifugal force caused this natural, 'Well, we're going to have start getting faster.' We immediately started training with speed skaters, and if you notice the best teams in the nation come from a speed skating background. The Olys, the Rocky Mountains. The third wave happened in 2007: The Heartbreakers got championships, championships, championships, and then that team disbanded. There were a huge amount of transfers, so that was the wave of other top 10, top 20 teams bringing their skills to our league, and that undoubtedly changed us. Now we're in the fourth wave, and we've experienced serious loss at the national level, largely with the same core of people. Now we're realizing that there are several different ways to play this game, and we didn't hold the cornerstone of how to win. A lot of people describe us as, 'Skate fast, turn left,' the endurance team. But now we're realizing that it's less to do with endurance and all to do with footwork and execution. We're re-learning the sport together.
TS: So where do the 2011 Heartbreakers fit into this?
DG: I think the Heartbreakers were what the Hotrods represent today, which are the tight knit group that's been there and they don't get too many people leaving and they've won several years in a row. We were the hated Hotrods of 2004, '5 and '6, and then the team seriously disbanded, and it's been in that pattern since 2007. So there's been a constant rebuilding of the Heartbreakers since then. We're in a state of flux. We've just taken on a 45 percent new team, so we've been in a rebuilding, retraining, learning curve for the last two years. I think we do compare to the Hell Marys in our bad luck. We're full of raw talent. We just don't have enough of a chance to synthesize it. It's like, at the end of the year, we've had about four or five games worth of experience with this new group, and then the group recycles. It's kind of tough on the veterans on the team. Now I feel like there's less veterans on the team and more of a new influx, which is always great for Texas Rollergirls and we always pick fantastic skaters. It's just, how do you synthesize that and win games after playing together for a few weeks?
TS: How are the new players fitting in, and where are the 2011 Heartbreakers right now?
DG: We have an odd season. It's high Texies times when we're selecting new girls, and six of us did do not skate with them at all. There's only nine of us left on the team, so the rest of the team was working out on their own or taking a break from derby, as it should be. The rest of us were working our asses off on another team, with no time to commit to the home team. So it's kind of a schizophrenic position to be in. Then, voila! These people are placed on our team, based on the good faith and the results from try-outs. I'm liking this girl, and she has natural athletic ability and she can skate and I think she can fit in well with the team. We've replaced our losses, and who knows if that's the right decision or not. I don't have any answers to how we deal with that turnover, because that's what I've experienced on this team since 2007. So we're kind of a guinea pig project. It's almost like rec league style. We've replaced our team pretty heavily almost every year, and it's hard to come out with wins when you're in that situation. It took some really proficient captaining and coaching, but I think we are the team that has that.
TS: You'll be facing all three teams straight off the bat with the round robin this weekend.
DG: The round robin is a funny game. It's new to me, because I had my first one last year. I don't think 15 minutes is enough time to accomplish anything. My simple goal is to beat the Hell Marys again.
TS: So what are the big targets for the Heartbreakers this year?
DG: The things that we should set our goals on should be simple, like simple team work. We have the Texecutioners' coach, and that helps. A lot of the girls that we've placed on the team are seasoned athletes in other areas, so they're very coachable. We've been referred to as the nice girls team, the Sweethearts instead of the Heartbreakers. Does that mean we can win games? I'd like to think that we will. I'm pretty idealistic to realistic. I think that we can beat the Hotrods, but it will take a hell of a lot of work. It might happen later. It might happen next year with this team, or it might happen at the championship.
Texas Rollergirls season opener, Feb. 20, 5pm (doors 4.30pm.) Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez. $12-$15, kids under 12 free. www.texasrollergirls.org.