Law professor on a roll with alter ego
To look at law professor Joel Samuels in his conservative buttoned-down shirt and tie and navy blue blazer, you could easily imagine him in a classroom full of attentive law students, or even approaching the judge’s bench in a courtroom. But outside the classroom, he is a hard-charging leader of a team of 14 hard-skating women—Columbia’s roller derby team, The Quad Squad.
Yet it soon becomes clear that this son of a former U.S. ambassador who grew up in Africa has lived a life full of adventure and challenge.
When asked by a friend a few years ago to be the announcer of the Quad Squad, he jumped at the chance. Never mind that he knew nothing about the sport.
“I was a sports announcer at Princeton where I have a few claims to fame,” he said. “I announced the NCAA in four different sports: men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, women’s field hockey and men’s soccer.”
He put his announcing on hold as he pursued his law career until a female friend mentioned that her newly formed roller derby team needed an announcer. Thus was born his alter ego, “Loquacious D.”
“It’s a fascinating sport,” he said. “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.”
But, Samuels’ -- aka Loquacious D’s -- announcing role quickly expanded to coaching when the team’s leader moved out of town, and he was asked to take over that too. He didn’t hesitate at that request either; no matter that he didn’t roller 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 be sure 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 keep the trains running, making sure that everyone stays focused and providing the strategy element to the game.
“The teaching element, which is what I do as a law professor, and 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 intersected.
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.”