Q&A with Frankie Lipinski, Insights Analyst, Escalent

Editor’s note: Nancy Cox is the founder of Research Story Consulting and former CPG corporate researcher. Her work and play include words, sketchpads, cooking (not baking) and the occasional sock puppet.

Passions, hobbies, healthy distractions and even guilty pleasures – discover how the research community plays and how that plays out in their work life. In the Venn diagram of work and play, what happens when work and play overlap? Research colleagues share their work and play stories in this interview series by Nancy Cox. 

Hello to Frankie Lipinski, insights analyst, Escalent (Chi-Town Choker on the track!)

What is the “play” in your life?

I’ve just returned to roller derby! Back in seventh grade, I helped start the Chicago Riots Junior Roller Derby team which I played on through my sophomore year of high school. After pivoting to high school sports, college and recently a laser-focus on my research career, I’m lacing up my skates again for the Chicago-Style Roller Derby team. 

While my team is new, it’s also a homecoming as this team has roots in the Chicago Outfit, the adult team that first coached and mentored my junior roller derby team. That coaching and mentoring connection continues between the teams today. I was enthusiastically welcomed back by the culture that raised me.

Roller derby has given me immense confidence, strength and empowerment since I was 12. It’s amazing to skate right back into all the joys of playing and competing but also the joy of community. Today’s roller derby is not the roller derby that people may have seen in movies or TV that depicts the “no rules” style of pre-2000s. We are definitely competitive in this aggressive, full-contact sport but we are also very supportive of each other even across teams. I’m welcome to practice with other teams – now part of my business travel means packing my derby gear. We all benefit from skating against people who have different styles and sharing different teams’ skill drills.

The roller derby community is also a very creative community, with lots of self-expression and arts and crafts play! I recently made personalized stickers with each team member’s derby name for them to decorate their helmets, water bottles, etc. Our awards ceremony featured awards designed, 3D printed and assembled by team members. I won the “Sin Bin” award for “Most likely to watch the game from the penalty box.” My first day back was a scrimmage and I got six penalties – seven and you’re out for the game. And for one penalty, I accidentally skated into and broke the penalty box chair so I guess I deserved the “Sin Bin” award.

How has your play influenced your research work?

Roller derby is an awesome way to balance my life physically, socially and emotionally. But roller derby is also a sport that requires its players to run the organization. Since we are a brand-new league born from two teams merging, players built our organization – everything from establishing a board of directors to brand work such as creating and voting on our name, logo and colors. We have highly engaged committees running everything from skater relations to administration to game productions to finances. I am making use of my marketing research and organization skills for the team.

In the research industry, I am involved with the Insights Association IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access) Council. Specifically, I am working on developing inclusive demographic question standards for the industry and am currently focused on gender identity and sexual orientation questions. In addition to being in the LGBTQ+ community myself, I attribute much of my compassion for and deeper understanding of this community to my long involvement in the derby.

There is a much higher incidence rate of LGBTQ+ folks in roller derby than the 5% to 20% incidence in most communities. Most leagues – including Chicago-Style – invite non-binary and gender-diverse skaters to join legacy women’s teams. Having that exposure and access to so many people in the LGBTQ+ community, including mentors from my junior roller derby days, brings richer understanding to my IDEA Council work. I can circle back to the research industry with the insights, commitment and motivation for LGBTQ+ advocacy I’ve gained from roller derby.

What would you tell readers who want to know more about your area of play?

Roller derby is a global sport with several different associations and hundreds of leagues around the world. My team plays under the guidance of a global governing body, the WFTDA – Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. If you go to the WFTDA site, it’s easy to look up leagues in your area. Local skating rinks usually have information as well including if leagues practice there. Most teams promote themselves with sites and Facebook pages.

Want to try it yourself? Your local team may have recruiting events or open practices. Don’t worry about gear, you’ll find many teams like mine offer loaner gear. Don’t worry about having all the skills or even being a good skater. I’ve seen people fall in love with the sport who have never skated before! Again, it’s a community and being part of a team will advance your skills with practices, drills and coaching.

If you’re in Chicago, perhaps at the Chicago Quirk’s Event, reach out to me. I’m proud to skate in Chicago – where roller derby began in the 1920s and rolls on today with Chicago-Style Roller Derby!

Photos courtesy of  Steve Jurkovic Photography. 

Frankie Lipinski Work And Play (1)
Frankie Lipinski Work And Play (2)
Frankie Lipinski Work And Play (3)
Frankie Lipinski Work And Play (1)
Frankie Lipinski Work And Play (2)
Frankie Lipinski Work And Play (3)