Q&A with WFTDA Executive Director Double H

Erica Vanstone, “Double H” was recently named Executive Director to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) after serving as interim Executive Director for over a year. She brings to the position her wide-ranging experience of over a decade in many different aspects of the sport, most notably as WFTDA Broadcast Director. Get to know Double H a little more as we talk about how she got her start in roller derby, why coaching juniors fills her with hope, and the goals she hopes to achieve in this new role.

When did you first get involved in roller derby?

I joined Philly Roller Derby as an announcer in 2007 after my friend (Persephone, who is still skating for the Liberty Belles) asked me to come to a game. I thought it was the most exciting thing I had ever seen, and I very much wanted to announce — mostly so I could explain the sport to other people. At the time, I was going through a difficult divorce, and I wanted to stay focused on my son so I didn’t even get on skates until 2011 when I started officiating.

Why officiating?

I loved officiating, especially pack definition, because it’s the part of the sport that has to run like an app in the background, but it sets the stage for literally every action you want to accomplish as a skater. I loved the cerebral aspect of officiating.

Then you decided to play. Why, and what do you like about it?

Eventually, I wanted to experience the sport from the skater side to see what contact was really all about. I started the new skater program in Philly in 2013 and graduated in spring of 2014. This year I decided I wanted to push myself to try out for the All-Star 30 roster, and I made it! I am a blocker most of the time, but I enjoy being put in as a relief jammer. I really enjoy thoughtful, solid teamwork, and I work hard to be a calm communicator on the track. We play our best derby when we are focused, and it’s so easy to become unraveled. I love that I can bring that to jamming as well. When I get put on the line and no one knows what the heck to expect from me, I like being able to use that to create a productive jam for the team.

What is it like to watch your son, Catman, play roller derby?

He and his teammates are fearless. Watching them overcome the same anxieties about getting hit or learning a new skill that I have in the past amazes me every single time. Our juniors program has also given me a lot of excitement for what JRDA does. I didn’t get to have roller derby growing up, and it would have been so life-changing for me. 

The Open Division game play has been so rewarding for these kids — and some of the skaters have been turned away from other sports, so to see my son collaborate with non-binary children in a way that’s normalized is so powerful. We’re raising a whole generation of kids who don’t just accept differences, but celebrate them — and roller derby is the framework for that. 

You’re coaching your son’s derby team. What has that been like?

I coach Catman and the Brawlstars, and the best compliment I ever got was after a recent game when one of the 12-year-old opponents came up to tell me that she appreciated how nice and gracious our team was to play. The kids really focus on being kind and team-oriented.

How do you think these different experiences inform your role as Executive Director?

I think it has given me invaluable insight into what different communities within our organization experience. Working as the Interim Executive Director has allowed me to reflect on that on a deeper level by exploring what roller derby is like for marginalized populations. I have also tried not to shy away from my own mistakes and failures but to use them to make positive changes. In light of that, I have been working on an organizational Code of Conduct that we’ll be sharing with the public soon. I am pleased that it has been inclusive of so much feedback from all corners of our membership. 

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is that people still don’t think women have any business running a sport, and they are not afraid to tell us that every single day. It comes through in myriad ways — things as seemingly innocuous as complaints about the way the WFTDA manages stats, or claims about how we’re swimming in piles of gold (we’re not).

 We’re a women-led sport that has survived and adapted without investment from a major league sport, and that is impressive as hell. But taking more moments to appreciate how far we’ve come, and recommitting to eliminating the marginalization so that others can share that feeling too, is the ongoing goal for me. Embracing business leadership shouldn’t be a thing that’s hard for women. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part for me is when I see evidence that change is happening. We have great things coming down the pike in our Talent Management Committee, for example, in the area of inclusion. In addition, we’re revamping our membership structure to lower barriers to entry. Officiating certification was a dream for so long! And now it’s real. And I am beyond grateful to the staff and volunteers who pushed ahead to keep the WFTDA running. Another deeply rewarding part of my job is working with our officers, chairs, committee members and board representatives, who put in so much work that is not paid, as well as the WFTDA staff who have pushed through some challenging situations to keep us moving forward. They are amazing people, and I am grateful to know and work with them. 

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