How did you choose your derby name?
My name was actually chosen for me! When I started skating with Athens Ohio Roller Derby, I used the name StrawDogg, which I’d picked up when I was deployed to Afghanistan. At the time we were required to register on an online site for derby names, so I did. The next year I was on the league’s board and we were trying to decide if we should keep that requirement. It looked like the site wasn’t being updated, so we decided to check for to see if my name had been added. It hadn’t, but it pointed out the name “Stray Taco” was similar. The other board members got a kick out of it, and since I was the only male identified person in a room of female identified people, someone pointed out that I kind of was a “Stray Taco”. I fought the name, but they kept calling me “Taco”. Then one night at practice, a skater was trying to get my attention and I didn’t hear her. Then she said, “Hey, Taco!” I turned an looked, and the rest is history.
Tell us about what you do for the league. What are your goals this year for your position with OHRD?
I’m a referee, and as far as I’m concerned roller derby is the best sport to referee for, because we get along so well with the athletes. I have several goals this year. The main one is to earn WFTDA certification. Definitely not an easy process! I also want to master the Inside Pack position, and continue to hone all my skating and officiating skills.
How did you get involved with derby in the first place?
I first saw a bout in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2009. I don’t remember a lot about it except it was kind of confusing, really exciting, and a lot of fun. Fast forward to June of 2012, and I was home on R&R enjoying a couple weeks with my then-fiancée. The Appalachian Hell Betties had a home bout in Athens, and we decided to check it out. We didn’t fully understand what was happening, but we both loved the sport. The next February, we went to a practice and the head referee convinced me to try it out. I hadn’t been on skates since 1986 and even back then I wasn’t any good! But they worked with me and encouraged me, and now I’m completely hooked!
What is your favorite derby moment from this past season?
I’ve got two. The first was the weekend of my birthday last year. My birthday present was to go watch an OHRG game. It was the first time I was actually able to watch a game since that first game in 2012, and that was a lot of fun. But the favorite moment was the next morning, when I got to referee a hangover double-header. It was my first sanctioned game and first time officiating at that level. I was awestruck and amazed, and had a ton of fun!
The second one was this season, but not with OHRD. I got to officiate my first Junior Derby game in Charleston, WV. The enthusiasm and raw ability of those young people is infectious!
What do you enjoy doing on your spare time?
Roller derby! Oh, you mean in the rare times when I’m NOT doing derby. I love spending as much time as I can with my wife, Final Straw. I’m also in the midst of a major project called Intersections, where I record interviews with people of various genders, sexualities, and relationship orientations. Coming soon: an interview with The Smacktivist!
What is your favorite color?
Right now, I’m kind of evenly divided between blue and purple. Of course, my favorite team color is the black and white of Team Zebra.
Lastly, what is some advice for those that are interested in reffing, coaching or volunteering?
If you’re thinking about it, try it! The worst that can happen is you find out it’s not for you, but still learn some great things. And be patient with yourself. I know I felt extremely awkward when I started and was completely clueless. But derby people are awesome, and I learned from all of them as I went. I’m still learning, and always will, but the people I work with are always teaching me – even when they don’t know it.
Also, for anyone who’s taking up skating, don’t make the mistake I made and just order a random pair of skates off the internet. I spent 3 years on a set of skates that didn’t fit my feet properly (the trucks were too far forward). I thought I just was generally unstable until I bought new skates, and they made a huge difference! If you’re just getting started, you don’t necessarily need to buy a $600+ pair of skates, but at least check them for the right fit by either trying them on at a skate shop or having someone who’s experienced help you. Properly fitted skates can make a huge difference!