by Heather Bennett (Heather “The Gun” Gunnin)
Jim Larson has been competing in quad and inline speedskating since 1974. He began competing in Roller Derby in 2012. Jim was asked to skate with the Team “YOUR MOM” in Des Moines, Iowa. He is 53 now, and lives in Southern Illinois, near St Louis. I caught up with Jim and here is his story.
(Heather) What are some of the most important qualities someone must have to excel at Roller Derby?
(Jim) A few important qualities a player must possess to excel in roller derby are: Agility, Balance, Endurance, Strength, Quickness and one of my most important qualities is TRACK AWARENESS. You must know the rules first and foremost, know your team mates, be able to re-act to your team mates action and their awareness, head on a swivel type of skater, know your offense and defense, all in setting up your next jam, your start, your next lap, know the other team, where they are, the jammers, the pivot, who’s in the penalty box, all comes down to TRACK AWARENESS.
(Heather) Do you play multiple positions on your team?
(Jim) I played jammer about 50% and the other 50% in position 2 as a blocker mostly. I didn’t play a lot being a newer player with the team but did learn quick from all the coaching from Mark, from Tony & Dante Muse, and all my other teammates.
(Heather) What are the benefits of being both a jammer and a blocker?
(Jim) One of the benefits to being a jammer and also playing as a blocker would be if you are the pivot player and in certain situations during a jam, the jammer could pass off their helmet cover to you, and this would depend on a certain play, a particular situation with the score or time. Also if jammer, being tired or maybe hurt, there could be a number of ways this could come into play. Also, a benefit would be to be able to play more, gain more experience and be a valuable asset to your team, in multiple roles.
(Heather) What is the best part of being a part of a team?
(Jim) I know there are many different opinions people will have to this question, but one main part in my experience is the camaraderie, being able to play as a “unit”, being together with respect of each other’s playing ability, and having your team mates there as a ”support system”! Also, communication and knowing each other is key. If this component is missing, you better adjust and make it right, or your team will not be much of a team. This applies to all TEAM SPORTS, the NBA, the NFL, MLB, you are part of something special, it takes all of you to get the WIN. Be on the same page, can’t play derby being selfish, it doesn’t work!
(Heather) Tell me about what you see in your future and something you would like to accomplish in the next 3-5 years?
(Jim) I’d like to give Roller Derby one more little run at a possible Championship, even though with the team “YOUR MOM” not being together any longer, we have 3 Gold and 2 Silvers, from 2012-2016. I didn’t get to play much, I broke my left leg in 2013, and played again in 2014 and what a win that was for a 3-Peat! That win felt great, but I really wanted to contribute more, but was just unable to do so. As I stated above, I was there for our TEAM, physically and mentally! I broke the same leg again in 2015. I’d like to see in the next few years, the sport grow more and become even bigger than it already is. I would like to be a backbone in the industry with a product like GOODYEAR tires in NASCAR!
(Heather) What is one thing you would like to tell Roller Derby Weekly that most people don’t know about you?
(Jim) Well, I know a few people that do know me in the sport, know that I did skate for YMRD for 4 years. …..and YES, I was ASKED to skate for them and I gave them my answer after I competed in the Inline and Quad National Championships in 2012 as a Defending Champion. I did happily accept the invitation, and then the fun began! I didn’t have a clue to any of the rules, and my first Bout was the 2012 MRDA Championships in St Louis. I blocked and jammed against UMASS in the first round, then we went up against the strong and quick Magic City, and with those wins, we went on to play the St Louis Gatekeepers for the title, and all along knowing it was going to be a tough bout! A great group of guys and a lot of fun! In the prelim bout with Magic City, I took a hard shot to the ribs and it really slowed me down and I didn’t want to hinder the team if I wasn’t at 100%. So, I actually told Mark, to not put me in unless he absolutely needed me because I wasn’t going to be able to do much. The jams I was put in on was to just guard the inside line and force the jammers to the outside and the defense would handle the rest. That was about it, we ended up winning with Frank NotSoHotra, taking the final jam to the time limit and we won the bout by 1 point! It was an amazing feeling and I then completed my speed skating season, by winning the Inline and Quad National Championships and topping 2012 off with a Gold Medal at the MRDA Championships! A great year that was! Never forget it!