Law professor coaches Columbia's Quad Squad
To look at law professor Joel Samuels in his conservative buttoned up shirt and tie and navy blue blazer, you could easily imagine him in front of a class of attentive law students. Or even approaching the judge's bench in a courtroom.
But outside the classroom, he is the hard-charging leader of a team of 14 hard-skating women -- Columbia's roller derby team, the Quad Squad.
"It's a fascinating sport," said Samuels, who is the son of a former U.S. ambassador in Africa. "All of the women on the team actually pay to play...they're not professional, they pay to help cover our costs for rink space for practice."
When asked by a friend a few years ago to be the announcer of Columbia's Quad Squad, Samuels jumped at the chance, even though he knew very little about the sport.
"I was a sports announcer in college where I have a few claims to fame: I announced the NCAA in four different sports...men's lacrosse, women's lacrosse, women's field hockey, and men's soccer," said Samuels, who left his announcing career behind to become a law professor.
So his alter ego, team announcer Loquacious D, was born.
Samuels' announcing role quickly expanded to coaching when the team's leader moved out of town, and he was asked to take over. He didn't hesitate at that request either, even though he didn't know how to skate.
"So this is a chance for me, as someone who has played organized sports, to help coach in this ethos of working together, establishing teamwork, camaraderie, and strategy, which is something that comes as naturally for me as skating does for them."
It took Samuels six months to get his footing, so to speak, and earn the respect of the women he would be coaching. He also wanted to take care that his strong personality didn't take over in his new role as their leader.
"One of the basic tenets of women's roller derby, here and around the country, and each team has in its mission statement, is that the game focuses on women's empowerment and community involvement," he said. "I never want to overstep my bounds...I serve at the pleasure of the team and of the players."
Samuels says his job as coach is to make sure that everyone stays focused and provide the element of strategy to the game.
"The teaching element, which is what I do as a law professor and is a core part of what I do in coaching, absolutely crosses lines," he said. "I think conveying a sense of confidence is important in both roles."
Samuels' love of coaching his roller derby team is infectious, so it's not surprising that his day job and his coaching world have collided.
Several of his former law students and colleagues are now on his roller derby team.
"I'm Professor Samuels when I'm in the building, and I'm ‘Loquacious D' when I'm on the track."