Park at Home with Hammer City

Introducing Hammer City’s new coach: Parking Lot
By C-Bones

Ask anyone in the roller derby community, and they will tell you: A good coach is hard to find. The job requires someone who has time to commit, strong leadership skills and a deep knowledge of the sport. It’s rare that anyone who isn’t already skating has all three.

For Hammer City and its new coach Parking Lot, this holy trinity evolved out of the worst of circumstances. Park was a well-established, highly decorated WFTDA referee before suffering a debilitating concussion in August. His recovery was slow, and he was advised that another similar fall could have a devastating impact on his brain. Not one to stew in misery, and eager to stay part of the community, Park expressed his interest in coaching and was immediately snapped up by the league.

“HCRD is truly lucky to have Park as a coach,” says league co-captain Bean Stalker. “Park brings to us… a wealth of knowledge in terms of gameplay, strategy and skills.

“He is encouraging and promotes team play and togetherness, giving us direction and incentive to work hard for our team.”

Even better? “Referees shudder when he makes an official review.”

Fellow co-captain Abba Stab-ya puts it this way: “Park has been an amazing member of our league for a number of years as a ref and has so much knowledge of the game we love to play… I can’t even say how happy I am to work with him in the years to come.”

For those who aren’t familiar, Park is 41, from Burlington and a long-time member of the derby community. He’s a level 3 certified referee, a level 2 certified non-skating official and has worked in those capacities at more than 500 games. He officiated at WFTDA playoffs from 2012 to 2016. His derby career began in 2009, when he signed up for Toronto Roller Derby’s learn-to-skate program with his partner, Sonja, with the goal of becoming a referee. He joined that league’s ref crew shortly afterwards, transferring to Hammer City in 2013.

We asked him a few questions so we could all get to know him a little better.

What brought you into coaching?

I had always been interested…Teaching and developing officials really showed me there’s more to the sport than skating around and blowing a whistle. When I had to refocus what I was going to do in derby, it excited me.

You mean, when you got hurt.

Yes. In August I had a severe concussion and split my head open. It took seven staples to close the wound and I was off work for three months. I was just skating for fun on a Saturday (when it happened).

What are your goals as coach?

The biggest thing I want to achieve as coach is to give the league a place to develop their skills and go to the next level… Developing a competitive team that will rise in rankings, as well as fostering the skating at home for people who aren’t able to travel.

What’s been your experience with Hammer City so far? How would you describe the league?

Hammer City has been super accepting of me even before I joined as a formal member. They were always the closest league to me and when I was with Toronto welcomed me with open arms to practice. When I was injured, the league came together to get me to appointments and encouraged me to get better at my own pace. They have been doing amazingly at helping me develop the skills I didn’t have in order to coach, like leading practice. The training committee brought me in and showed me their tricks and guidelines. The players at practice listen to me and seek out my advice, not as the new guy but as somebody whose skills they want to leverage.

What skills do you bring from reffing to coaching?

The ability to watch referees and identify the strengths and weaknesses of a crew. In derby, there’s a wide range of skills in the community. Being able to approach (the refs) in a game is something that will help my team improve their penalties… To talk to refs about impact spectrum.

Is coaching better than reffing?

I can definitely be more myself when I coach. I can be more animated and be more vocal, which I had to really stifle as an official. You have to be impartial, stoic, diffusing. As a coach, you’re more concerned with the bench’s morale and helping everyone reset between their jams.

Catch Parking Lot calling the shots from the Hammer City bench at his first public home game, and our 13th season opener, on April 21 at Right on Target.

Photo by Eileen Reilly