Month: August 2014

Stuck in the Middle with You – Merry Khaos Class Notes

Stuck in the Middle with You – Merry Khaos Class Notes

I got to revisit this class at BEAT ME HALFWAY in 2014, so I’ve gone through the original notes and added in some stuff we did at BMH, but kept in the stuff we did at RC 2014. 😀 Anything BOLD is new content. There’s not too much. 

I used to be a big fish in a small pond. I thought I was advanced because of how many points I would rack up during games, because of my jammer differential, because of my lead jam percentage, because I could own opposing players with my team. Then I transferred to a Top 20 team and, though I knew I was in for a humbling, I didn’t realize how humbling it would be.

It was awesome.

I have improved so much in the last year through changing my training program up and skating with Charm City Roller Girls (and now Tampa Roller Derby and Tampa Bay Men’s Roller Derby!). I designed this class to pass along the things I’ve done in the last year to take me from true Intermediate to a low-to-mid Advanced roller derby player.

Here is the video that compliments this blog!

TOE STOP SIDE RUN

Each skater approaches the lane on their wheels and must quickly transition to the toe stops, side step (preferably with the grapevine step) through the cones, and then burst out of the cones back onto wheels. When sidestepping, skaters should be facing the interior of the track.

If you have many skaters, make lines before each set of cones and have skaters rotate between inside and outside line as they go through. Skaters should challenge themselves to be as close to the line as possible. Think about where you are looking (not at the ground!), how straight are your legs (knees need to be bent a bit), and how easily you can drop your toe stops (they may need to be lowered).

AMENDMENT: If running on your toe stops is super easy, try different ways of running the line – forward, side shuffle, side-step crossover, and also BACKWARDS through the cones! Try all the new things!

How to set up the toe stop run cones
How to set up the toe stop run cones

BACKWARDS LATERALS

Using the cone pattern shown below, skaters have to move backwards to each cone. THEY SHOULD NOT SHUFFLE STEP, they should use backwards crossovers to get from cone to cone.

At each cone, skaters should use a one foot plow stop to stop COMPLETELY before moving on to the next cone.

Focuses: Stopping as CLOSE to the cone as possible, getting from cone to cone as QUICKLY as possible, and spotting the cone then looking forwards again. We want to work using periphery and not relying on having to stare at an object to get there.

If skaters have trouble with backwards crossovers, have them create small Cs with their feet to get them going. If skaters have trouble starting the lateral, wiggling the butt is a great way to get started. You can also do a pivot on the front wheels to start the motion.

Pattern of movement for backwards laterals
Pattern of movement for backwards laterals

EDGING AT THE LINE

Every skater will need a straight line of clearance on the track. For 30 second intervals (at first, you can bump it up for more advanced skaters), skaters will push off from one side of the track. The goal is to get from one line to the other in one push, and use their edges to stop as close to the line as possible. A video will explain this better, but here’s the procedure:

  • Standing at the outside line
  • Inside foot points towards your destination. Outside foot pushes off of the outside edge of your skates to get momentum. All weight on the inside foot.
  • Put the back foot down on the floor, pointed at the spot you pushed off from, and transition your weight onto that back foot.
  • At the inside line, ‘stomp’ your foot (push into your edges) in order to stop your momentum

Remember to keep your center of gravity low, but you probably won’t be able to do this in SUPER low derby stance.

Do intervals of these. I like to do at least 3 30 seconds worth of practice. This will lead into the next drill.

STEPPING IN FRONT AS A WALL

We’re deviating from the flow of the class at this point, but I don’t care, it makes the most sense to explain this after the edge to edge work.

In groups of four, have everyone number off. This is their number for the whole drill. The groups will skate around the track in a four wall (hopefully winging out in the corners, and practicing all other good fundamentals of wall work as they do so).

The person controlling the drill will stand in the middle and call out numbers at random intervals. When the number is called, that person “has the jammer”. Their job is to tell their team mates. Their team mates job is to step in front of that person as quickly as possible while maintaining their wall. The person who was called IS NOT DROPPING BACKWARDS – EVERYONE IS COMNG FORWARD. The person who’s number was called should do some lateral motion for a three count, and then re-enter the wall quickly and efficiently. The person calling the numbers should do so every 7 or 8 seconds at the beginning and then you can get faster as the drill progresses.

A NOTE: I have not done this drill yet where there is at least one person/group that does not understand the “Count to three and then get back in the wall” concept. There is always a person who will hang out behind the wall and look at you confused (and sometimes angry) when another number is called and they’re not in the wall. If you figure out a way to eradicate this, please send me an e-mail.

HIPS IN FRONT

Back to solo stuff! This is something I go over in the video. You want to pair up and have partners (first at a standstill, then rolling) work on moving their hips in front of an opponent. The skaters should be hip to hip, and then one person at a time will work on stepping just in front of the other person and moving their hips to establish position. There’s a big of a hip swaggle that happens. You have to get a little sexy with your partner.

CREATING SPACE TO KNOCK A JAMMER OUT

Jammers are really good at leaning on our backs and making it impossible for a goon defensive skater to come out of the wall, and knock that jammer out of bounds. Often times, there’s just no room for us to get our shoulder or hip in front of the jammer to walk her out of bounds. So, we need to know how to create space between ourselves (the wall) and the jammer who is leaning on a seam to get through.

These are not supposed to make HUGE impacts. When you’re practicing these, if it feels like the opponent isn’t going very far, it is ok! You’re just trying to create a breadth of air. These may not be used all the time, but you want to be able to know how to use them.

CAN OPENER (Johnny Crash, any number of other names)

In pairs, have one skater leaning on the back (legally, no back blocks!) of the other skater. The skater in front will practice throwing her shoulder backwards to pop the opponent off of her shoulder.

BOOTY POP (Twerk, and any other silly name you want to give it)

Same set up to practice as the can opener, this time, instead of using the shoulder, you are going to pop your hips backwards into your opponent to create space.

A NOTE: For both of these, you must have proper derby form. That is to say, strong back, tailbone tucked. If your ass is exceptionally extended behind you, you will have no booty to pop. You will have no contact with the jammer before you throw the can opener.

TAKE IT UP A NOTCH: Next time you practice walking a jammer out of bounds with a wall in front, have your skaters practice these techniques to create space. When I am blocking, if I can’t get my shoulder in front of a jammer, I will yell to my wall, “Pop her!” and they know to throw a shoulder or hip to make room for me.

BREAKING WALLS

JACK HAMMER SHOULDERS

Just like you can use your shoulders to attack people while blocking backwards, you can attack a wall with ‘jack hammer shoulders’. In groups of 3, have one blocker press up against the seam created by the two wall.  (S)he should use her shoulders [independently] to hit the legal pieces of the opponents to create some space and hop thru the hole. Bonnie Thunders does this ALL THE TIME.

ASS IN THE GAP

This is something that not everyone will do well, or should do at all. This is another tool for the tool belt. You will have your two wall (like above), and the jammer will get a little bit of speed (the two wall should be rolling), and right before she gets to the wall, she should transition backwards and thrust her ass into the seam.

In order to do this successfully, you must fold yourself in half and propel yourself into the seam, you cannot turn around and attack the seam at a full stand up. It doesn’t work. Snot Rocket Science (Steel City), Holly Go Hardly (Charm City), and Skinny Guinea (Brandywine) are some skaters I’ve seen do this in bouts. I am trying to find gif footage!!

YOU’RE FACING THE WRONG WAY!

Ok, so we love backwards blocking these days. However, many many many skaters use it too much, and incorrectly. If you are backwards, and catch someone, you have two options: 1) Hold that skater until your friends come to your rescue or 2) pop them a bit as you turn around to face normal derby direction [which is where you have more power and control and are less likely to incur a pentalty].

To make the opponent hurt, and give you a second to turn around, you will pair up. The jammer will press into the blocker. The blocker will practice the quick succession of throwing a shoulder into the jammer (as practiced before), turning 90 degrees, and popping the jammer in the sternum area, completing the turn to establish contact with the booty of the blocker. There is no 3rd hit necessary. Shoulder facing the jammer, shoulder at a 90 degrees (at full speed it’ll look like a hockey stop with your feet), finish the turn and establish position. It is quick, it is sharp, and you have to bob with your legs on the second hit a little bit.

TO THE LINE! (PARTNER ASSIST)

In pairs, you will practice a cannonball to the line. I like having one person practice for a length of time and then switching. The pair will start in an ‘unsuspecting’ two wall. The person throwing will push their partner to the line, catch their arm, and keep them in bounds. They will then reset into a two wall. The person being thrown will be loose enough to be thrown, extend the ass over the line as FAR as possible (fold yourself over like when you put your ass through a seam as described above), and keep your skates in legal ground. Immediately reset into a two wall ON THE LINE. Then move back towards the center of the track to do it again.

See video for more explanation of this move!

NOTE: Do not anticipate being thrown on this!! Try and simulate how it would actually happen in a bout. You’re not going to be set up for a cannonball with the jammer approaching, so don’t practice it here.

Crazy Legs Drill

Two lines of cones should be placed about every ten feet in a line, and just wider than the track. Skaters are to ‘lead with their knees’ and move their feet in small, edging motions to get across the track. Toe stops are not to be used (in fact, I would recommend doing this drill during a practice where no toe stops are allowed). This is not a shuffle step, or a crossover. They are small, sometimes gliding, steps and stops where you control your speed and balance with your edges.

Your hips are always facing forward. Once a skater has reached the cone by going across the track, they should move up to the next cone at a diagonal, and use a one foot plow stop at that cone. Try and get as close to the cone as possible. Then, move across the track again. The first time through, the crazy legs should be moving to the right, and they’ll be gliding to the left. Reverse it for the second time through.

ADVANCED VERSION:

Do it again, but this time, keep your head over your shoulder. Pick ONE shoulder to look over the whole time. Move across trying to keep your eyes on that spot behind you for as much of the crazy legs as possible. You can also reach your hands behind you, pretending that there is someone on your back, and you are just making a one second contact in order to know where they are.

The very last gif on this page has an example of the “3 second check”. This is Tony Muse (Peter Pan) of Your Mom executing in perfectly. Look for the gif with the description: The “less-than-3-second-hand-check” rule can effectively widen your wall by up to a few feet on each side. Just be careful it doesn’t turn into a forearm block.

http://rdjunkies.tumblr.com/tagged/defense/page/25

FINAL THOUGHTS

Don’t be a drill dick. There’s a lot of skills in here that involve some practice. Don’t make your two walls ridiculous – make them realistic. No two wall is glued at the hips and body from the moment the jammer approaches, because if they were – the jammer would just go to the outside, and that two wall would be rendered ineffective. Keep some space. These drills are just as much practice for the blockers as it is for the jammers.

Blockers should practice keep their brakes on as jammers challenge them, and keep it challenging (but not asshole level).

Outside of derby: Start lifting weights. If you want to know why, read my blog about PERSPECTIVE SHIFT!

This was a class about getting to the next level, so I gave a similar speech in the class and I will type something similar here:

Roller derby is not always fun.

I know that we like to think it is. We like to tell ourselves that derby is a blast and amazing and fun all the time. Guess what? If you really want to improve, you are going to have to train. If you train, it’s not going to be fun all the time. Getting better is not fun. Knocking a bitch over in a game is fun. Winning is fun. Knowing that you just deadlifted twice your body weight is fun. Pause squats are not fun. Falling is not fun. Persistent sweat, pain, and failure is not fun. However, it is necessary for improvement. I did not get awesome at footwork magically. I simply did things over and over and over. I fell. I pushed. I lifted. I flipped tires. I cried. I bled. I sweat. I bruised.

It is not always fun, and that is ok. If you’re not ready for it not to be fun, than you may not be ready yet to advance to the next level. Everyone has to decide their level of commitment and level of training they are willing to accept. (And sometimes, team mates, you have to be accepting that your team mates may not be at the same level of commitment that you are.)

Go forth and be awesome!! Thank you again for anyone who came to my class at RollerCon 2014, make sure you tell them that you love me and you want me to teach more! If you want me to come to you, or if you want me and DNA Coaching to come to you – drop me a line at DerbyAmerica@yahoo.com … I also am a health coach with DERBALIFE and it has changed the effectiveness of my training. Get with me for more info!

VIDEO LINK ONCE MORE

Thank you to Keyesboard for the featured image on this blog!!

2013 Mid-Atlantic All-Stars

2013 Mid-Atlantic All-Stars

I know my friends within the Mid-Atlantic Region have been antsy for this list, so I’m going to publish this one first. The Mid-Atlantic included any Maryland/DC/Delaware teams. All voting was based on where the skater PLAYED, not where they LIVED. As long as they played as an active member of a team from the region in that season (regardless of rule set) they were eligible for vote.

I am writing from the perspective of 2013, keep in mind! Most of the people on these lists have had pretty incredible seasons thus far as well. With all of these articles, remember – maybe not everyone gets a picture. Sorry. You have no idea how much time it takes to find photos for 60 skaters that are 1) good and 2) from a photographer I have permission to credit. ❤ PS THANK YOU ALL PHOTOGS FOR THE HARD WORK YOU DO!!! You are awesome, we love you, and I highly suggest that everyone who reads these articles check out the photogs listed [and buy things from them].

RESERVES:

Serious Snowflake – Salisbury Roller Girls

Long of leg and strong of hip, Snowflake uses muscle to get by her opponents. She’s not afraid to jump an apex, but often you’ll just see her push right through a blocker (sometimes with a pirouette just to be sure she gets by). Snowflake is one of those skaters that brightens a bench; always excited to learn and play more. She got a chance to try out the bank track on the East Coast Outlaws this season versus the Penn Jersey Hooligans, and her skills have earned her a spot on the Maryland All-Stars.

Uvetta Work – Charm City Roller Girls

This woman is terrifyingly gorgeous on the track. I love watching her be a rock in front of jammers and when she jams for her home team I can’t help but giggle (and be glad I’m not the one bouncing off of her). She is a critical, dominant piece of the Charm City blocking core.

T – Free State Roller Derby

You’ve gotta be good to have your derby name be just a letter. Almost pixie-like in her jamming, T is around you before you realize she was there to begin with. The apex is nothing more than a small obstacle to jump over for her, and before you know it, she’s back around the track and taking your point.

O’Chit (Rebecca Simon) – Charm City Roller Girls

Power. That is Chit. Watch her hit someone. Chit has mastered a bursting pop that will take girls off their skates. Her control with her edges is amazing and her positional blocking is nothing short of pure intimidation. Watching her jam is fun simply because of the amount of strength she can put into her wheels to cut back and forth and through walls. It’s no wonder she’s a member of the Maryland All-Stars.

 

ALTERNATES:

Jackie Treehorn – Free State Roller Derby

Standing 6’Forever on her skates, Jackie is still considerably new to the sport of roller derby. The amazing thing about Jackie is not her ability to take up half the track or her booty blocking – it’s her adaptability and her eagerness to learn. She is a Maryland All-Star who once was top heavy with blocking, but no longer relies on her shoulders for strength. She understands that her hips are where the magic happens, and is a rock in any wall.

 

Thee Mighty Isis – Mason-Dixon Roller Vixens

Isis makes an impression whenever she is on the floor. Like Treehorn, Isis commands attention in a wall and is a leader on the floor. Far more agile than teams will give her credit for (before the bout), she is able to recycle through packs to punish jammers. With the star she is a battering ram who also can roll off of hips and duck past opponents. She is a secret weapon in the Maryland All-Star arsenal.

 

Isis and Treehorn work together on Team Maryland Photo by Keyesboard
Isis and Treehorn work together on Team Maryland
Photo by Keyesboard

ROSTER:

13. Warren T Voider – Harm City Havoc

Still relatively new to the sport, Warren is a key jammer in the Havoc roster. While other jammers on his team rely on pure agility, Warren is able to jam like a blocker to get through heavy walls. His footwork is just as good, and as a blocker, he is starting to become a real leader in the pivot position.

Photo by Jason Walter
Photo by Jason Walter

 

12. Battery Operated – Charm City Roller Girls

“Bops” (as she is known to her team mates) has been an important player in the All-Star line-up and to her home team, The Modtown Mods. As a blocker, she is a leader on the floor, a strong piece of wall work, and has the feet to always be waiting for a jammer at the front of the pack. She is also a wonderful team mate – serious and pointed when the time calls for it. Joking and laughing when given the opportunity.

 On the Mobtown Mods. Photo by Tyler Shaw

On the Mobtown Mods.
Photo by Tyler Shaw

11. Dual Hitizen – DC Rollergirls

Dual is another skater who can blend into the crowd sometimes, because she is so good at her job when she’s blocking that you don’t notice her. The jammer just can’t get through. When she jams, she doesn’t even do anything too magical. She simply gets by you. No no, don’t worry it’s not you. It’s her. She’s magic that way.

 

10. Sin Diesel – Harm City Havoc

This man has been around for a while; he was one of the founders of MDC, Harm City, and has coached for several women’s teams (including Team Maryland). He has always been strong in blocking, and quick footed with the star. Being a member of the Cinderella Team Argentina at the MRDWC leveled him up. Before he was a part of the pack, but now you can see him play as a pack member. Regardless of the experience of his pack, he no longer takes all the responsibility onto himself, but rather directs and trusts those around him. Harm City has benefitted from Sin’s experience and leadership far beyond what I can express in a short paragraph. He looks like a new skater. It’s really awesome to watch.

 

Sin Diesel Photo by Down N Out Photography
Sin Diesel
Photo by Down N Out Photography

9. Susy Pow – Charm City Roller Girls

A member of Team Australia, Susy Pow made her way onto Charm City All-Stars easily with fast feet and agility in her blocking. She made the biggest splash when CCRG made their way to Salem, OR and used Susy as a primary jammer. Susy’s jamming style is unusual: she is light and fluid when she takes a hit, but extremely solid when attacking a wall. She also jumps apexes like it’s her job. Maybe it is! In Salem, she jammed 41 times over the three games. Her lead jammer average was 61%, and she scored 146 points during the tournament.

Susy Pow isn't concerned about blockers. Photo by Tyler Shaw
Susy Pow isn’t concerned about blockers.
Photo by Tyler Shaw

8. Frightmare (Stephanie Griffith) – DC Rollergirls

I love Frightmare: hilarious off the track, aggressive as hell on the track. She doesn’t care who you are, she’s getting past you. And you’ll just have to learn to live with it. When she pivots, she commands her pack. When she hits, she is able to nail those little nerve spots with her hips and shoulders; she is able to stop the blockers that look like they should blow her up. I love Frightmare.

Frightmare Photo by Tyler Shaw
Frightmare
Photo by Tyler Shaw

 

7. Lady Quebeum – Charm City Roller Girls

(It’s pronounced ‘Kaboom’) Here is another skater that makes me happy to be on the track. “LQ” has been around CCRG for a long time, and the all-stars have utilized her long legs and head for strategy effectively. She is able to keep skaters focused on the track, and is amazing at following direction from others. Her leadership on Team Maryland helped the skaters grow as a unit quickly. CCRG is happy to have her back on her wheels too – at the end of last season she suffered a tib/fib fracture. Cleared to skate again, her tenacity will surely get her back on the All-Stars quickly.

 

6. Truth Hurtz – Harm City Havoc

Feet of fury and will of fire: this is Truth Hurtz. A critical piece of the Havoc jamming crew, but powerful in a blocker position, Truth’s footwork is blinding. He is able to squeeze through cracks in the wall you didn’t know were there and can outrace opponents on the outside line all day. He’s menacing at his least, he’s impossible to handle when in his groove.

Truth Hurtz Photo by Mr McWheeley
Truth Hurtz
Photo by Mr McWheeley

 

5. Buster Skull – Salisbury Rollergirls

If you’ve read my writing about Buster Skull in the past than it’s no secret that I am a fan. Buster is absolutely tenacious on the track, whether blocking or jamming. Her work as a blocker within the pack has evolved significantly over the years; now she is able to trade blows with the biggest skaters without flinching. When she jams, she fearlessly attacks walls and has an ability to break packs without looking like she’s putting in much effort.

Buster Skull Photo by Jim Rhoades
Buster Skull
Photo by Jim Rhoades

 

4. Hittsburgh – Charm City Roller Girls

Have you ever been hit by truck? If you would like to be, Hitts can provide that experience for you! Solid on the track, her can-openers can easily put the opposition on their ass. Backwards or forwards, getting by her with the star is challenge, her mobility is top-notch, partially because she is excellent at working within pairs and diamonds. Her blocking has also been super useful to the ranks of Team Maryland. When she wears the star…well… she likes the edges. It doesn’t matter if I tell you that though: she’ll still able to tip toe past you.

 

3.Nuckin Futz – Charm City Roller Girls

 The woman is made of vapor (very, very quick vapor). A student of herself, Futz was able to study her own patterns and make huge leaps in 2013 in her jamming. The Salem WFTDA Divisional playoff had no idea what it was in for when she stepped to the line. She found the smallest crevices in walls, patiently waited for her blockers to create a little chaos, and juked behind teams of blockers so quick that they weren’t sure where her hips even were (much less know where she was going). You want to study a jammer who can be lighting quick to the side and then stretch her stride long out of the pack? Go study some Nuckin Futz.

Nuckin Futz doesn't worry about blockers. Photo by Tyler Shaw
Nuckin Futz doesn’t worry about blockers.
Photo by Tyler Shaw

 

2. IM Pain – Charm City Roller Girls

Co-Captain of the All Stars, Pain is known for her strength in jamming and effortless ability to rack up points. With a background in speed skating, it’s no wonder that she can outrun most of the blockers she comes against, and has extra-sensory vision for the inside line that reveals holes that the rest of us mere mortals cannot perceive. I watch her and wonder how she gets through packs sometimes. She makes everything look effortless. When faced with injury at the end of the season, Pain shifted her leadership role to one off track. Her persistence and dedication also earned her a spot on Team Maryland.

 

IM Pain helps Holly Go Hardly on Team Maryland.  Photo by Side Track Studios
IM Pain helps Holly Go Hardly on Team Maryland.
Photo by Side Track Studios
IM Pain has no time for blockers. Photo by Tyler Shaw
IM Pain has no time for blockers.
Photo by Tyler Shaw

1. Holly Go Hardly – Charm City Roller Girls

Not everyone understands Holly’s level of dedication, drive, and determination of the 2013 CCRG co-captain. Holly is an absolute monster blocker on the track; I have never met someone who can hold her balance in such awkwardly appropriate ways while still being completely effective against opponents. When her walls are as strong as her, she is solid block that doesn’t move. When her team is not as experienced, she can arrange blockers into walls, and direct and brace as the game progresses. Her body awareness also allows her to use her hips in ways that many people have not figured out yet. She is able to make herself long across the track as she drags opponents to an edge, or knocks them out of bounds with a bursting, backwards strike. Now again she puts on the star, usually for funsies, and she spins and maneuvers around blockers; always when they think they have her in their trap.

Holly is never afraid to push herself to failure. She falls. She’s struggles. She improves. She never goes 50%. She never backs down. Yes she can be a little intense and overwhelming when you’re in a high stress situation, but yes, I admit it: I may have a bit of a derby crush on Holly Go Hardly. And I’m super stoked that I got to play with her on Team Maryland.

Holly Go Hardly uses her assest, Hittsburgh is coming up to help. Photo by Tyler Shaw
Holly Go Hardly uses her assest, Hittsburgh is coming up to help.
Photo by Tyler Shaw

 

Backwards blocking is this thing she does VERY well. Photo by Tyler Shaw
Backwards blocking is this thing she does VERY well.
Photo by Tyler Shaw
So … About those 2013 All Star Articles….

So … About those 2013 All Star Articles….

So about 7 months ago I began writing All Star Articles for 2013 for several regions of the world. Then as I began writing them several things occurred: I realized I bit off FAR more than I could chew, the platform I was posting on (Examiner.com) changed a whole bunch of policies and it became miserable to post on (and unenjoyable to read), and the site also lessened the quality of photograph appearance, so many of my photographer friends were very upset at how their work was presented. For these reasons the articles fell to the wayside. I was frustrated and angry with the site and with the whole process.

Forty Ounce Bounce of River City Rollergirls
Forty Ounce Bounce of River City Rollergirls

 

I am not going to write articles for each individual skater, but what I WILL do is release all the lists and include whatever pictures and quotes and snippets I have for those folks. I’m loaded up with Sugar Free Monster (ran out of my Herbalife LiftOff….) and have energy to burn so hang tight.

Cloudkicker Photo by Jeffery Kerekes
Cloudkicker
Photo by Jeffery Kerekes

This might be the way I release them next year too. I don’t want to let the All Star vote fall away completely, but I don’t know if I can handle the full shebang next year. I may do some pre-votes as well to help narrow down choices and actually get a lot of people voting. If you have recommendations on how I could streamline the process or increase voting numbers , please let me know! Last year I simply posted a lot on different social sites asking people to send me an e-mail with their list of favorite skaters. I know there is going to be a better way.

 

 

Wags of the PJRD Hooligans by David A Carter
Wags of the PJRD Hooligans by David A Carter

Thank you again!

Perspective Shift: Roller derby & shifting the way we look at training

Perspective Shift: Roller derby & shifting the way we look at training

Living in a house with powerlifters and bodybuilders, and going to a ‘sweat on the walls’ gym has opened my eyes about training in the last eight months. Not just training for personal gains, but the way roller derby, as a sport trains itself on the track and off. There have been many conversations breaking down the conventions of training in roller derby, and comparing to the conventions of other sports.

Along with rhetoric, I have seen my own progress jump dramatically since beginning a 5×5 powerlifting scheme. I was able to track a noticeable difference in a new league from January (first practices) to May (home team champs), and for me the proof is in the pudding.

Me powering past Allie B Back - a thing I could not do when I came to Charm City. Photos by Tyler Shaw - Prints Charming
Me powering past Allie B Back – a thing I could not do when I came to Charm City.
Photos by Tyler Shaw – Prints Charming

We are a new sport. We’re still trying to figure out how to play the game, much less how to train for it. I’ve noticed some habits and some structure about our training process that is not helping us improve ourselves and will not help the sport as we pass it on to our daughters and sons. I wanted to share some things, quickly, that I have been pondering. I’ll be doing expanded writings and I am restructuring the training book I was writing to reflect these new insights.

I think I’m going to get a lot of finger waving at the end of this article. We, as a community, have not be super stoked to hear that we may need to change things. We certainly don’t like hearing that there are ways outside of our league to look at training, business, or the basics of derby. Trust me. I have seen the wrath of derby girls faced with change. However, here I go again, putting my ‘radical’ ideas out there. Feel free to post at the bottom how much you disagree with everything.  😀

 

Background

When looking at our history, I believe the protocol of training today is largely based on what the women of 2008-2010 did for their own training. Stick with me on this one: This is when the sport started to boom. Suddenly, women of all ages and skills were coming into a rapidly evolving sport. At this time, the average age of the derby skater was PROBABLY between 28-32 years old.

Many of these women had never played a sport before; their way to train to improve was to simply skate more (and that definitely has to be considered in a training plan when you have no experience on roller skates).  Some of us caught on that we needed better fitness in order to compete with the women who already had a few years jump on us. This led many of skaters to begin using that derby buzz word: Cross training.

Most of us didn’t know what cross training really meant, or how to approach off skates training for roller derby. So this misconstrued system of Insanity training, land drills, and long distance running started cropping up as part of our system of preparation for bouts.

 

Myself and Trixie Twelvegauge were the first at HARD to hit the workout bandwagon. She was doing P90X, I hitting weight machines and cardio at the gym.
Myself and Trixie Twelvegauge were the first at HARD to hit the workout bandwagon. She was doing P90X, I hitting weight machines and cardio at the gym.

This brings up my first point:

We need to stop training for fitness

Most of the derby skaters I meet do their ‘cross training’ in the form of high fitness workouts (CrossFit WoDs 4x a week, P90X, elliptical training, Zumba, hours of yoga). Ok, before you get angry let me explain where I’m coming from:

If you are skating 3 times a week at practice, and then going to the gym and doing 2-4 days a week of high cardio work, you are really just burning muscle (and some fat) and [if you’re eating right] getting cut muscles. To look cut is rad, but does not help your explosive power or your recovery from one burst of power in a jam to the next (and it certainly does not help when you get slammed by that 200# blocker looking to take your legs out). Elliptical training does not help prevent bone injury. P90X won’t help you break a wall.

Training like you’re trying to lose the Freshman Forty is not the way you should train for roller derby to be successful in the long term. Training in a way that is purely fun or aligns with your social conventions does not make you better at any sport. These workouts that we’re talking about should be done as secondary conditioning and accessory work. They should not be your primary source of training off skates.

From my instagram in 2012: "Woke up early. Was slightly dehydrated from drinking last night. Went running anyway. Goal: Patrick Aitforce Base. There and back: 9.67 mi. One hour, 55 minutes. No one thought I'd do it." Though impressive .. WHY DID I FEEL THE NEED TO RUN 10 MI FOR DERBY TRAINING?
From my instagram in 2012:
“Woke up early. Was slightly dehydrated from drinking last night. Went running anyway. Goal: Patrick Aitforce Base. There and back: 9.67 mi. One hour, 55 minutes. No one thought I’d do it.”
Though impressive .. WHY DID I FEEL THE NEED TO RUN 10 MI FOR DERBY TRAINING?

 

We need to redefine ‘beauty’ within our sport

Oh yea, roller derby loves say that “every shape is beautiful.” Our at home ‘lose weight’ training mentality shows that we are more generally more concerned with 6 pack abs and long, lean limbs than any of us realize. We are fighting the conventions of beauty, especially those of us over 30; we get easily concerned with the myth of a slowing metabolism and how our younger team mates, or the folks at the pool of ECDX will view us. We are more concerned with society’s vision of beauty than we are with what it means to be strong and at low risk for injury in a contact sport (ie having some cushion and mass).

And it’s not just women. Men are not safe from these social norms of beauty and sex, and I have many friends that end up questioning themselves over it, regardless of their strength or abilities.

At RollerCon, there was a very short challenge bout with shirtless men: Magic Mike v Chippendales. On social media sites, admittedly, I was part of the sexist storm of commenters. (One, it’s fun. Two, men in our sport is still pretty new. As a derby-obsessed, straight, single woman of not as many years – it’s nice to be able to turn the male gaze away from the sexy derby girls in fishnets and pigtails and put the female gaze on the shirtless men sweating and hitting each other.)

 Side note: I was just excited to see an all-male challenge bout. The shirt off thing was just an added bonus.

The men of Magic Mike and Chippendales (and there was about $1000 raised for charity too!) Photo by Jill "Jilljitsu" Dickens 2014
The men of Magic Mike and Chippendales (and there was about $1000 raised for charity too!)
Photo by Jill “Jilljitsu” Dickens 2014

Leading up to it, I had several men contact me asking if there was any way to adjust their fitness or nutrition to get better abs in the couple weeks leading up to RC. (I had to disappoint them and say, “unless you want to do some drastic changes and not drink before the bout, there’s no magic pill to shed all the fat in a week”) After the bout, I was asked a question by a skater who is arguably one of the top 5 male skaters in the world: “Did I look gross out there? You know, with my shirt off.”

**Mouth Gaping Open**

First of all – do you know who you are? Are you sure? Secondly, yes, you look great! (I was trying NOT to look too much, actually. I know many women who did NOT restrain themselves.) I wanted to yell at him: “You may not have the photoshop-crafted abs of an Ambercrombie ad, but that’s ok. Know why? DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?” Seriously! That bout was sexy in every way, but mostly because highly skilled men were playing roller derby. They could have been playing in parkas and it would have been an amazing bout (though you’d probably have to burn the parkas afterwards due to all the sweat).

The men of Magic Mike v Chippendales - all shapes, sizes, but all beautiful and skilled. Photo by Jill "Jilljitsu" Dickens
The men of Magic Mike v Chippendales – all shapes, sizes, but all beautiful and skilled.
Photo by Jill “Jilljitsu” Dickens

We need to release the ideals of Western beauty and embrace the awesome of each of us. If you’re skinny: fantastic! If you’re not: fantastic! If you’re jacked naturally: great! If you have skinny arms: that’s cool! Now let’s lift some heavy shit, flip some tires, put on our skates, and hit each other without worrying about being judged by our team mates about our body.

I have written about this before. It’s a struggle for me big time. I’m single in a growingly co-ed sport. I also powerlift. I am trying to be highly competitive at roller derby. I had the internal conflict months before RollerCon: do I want to look awesome in my bathing suit, or do I want to be able to get past Tink on the track?

There was a moment where I thought to myself, “Oh wait.. it is hella sexy to be able to get past Tink on the track. So, in theory, if I accomplish THAT, I will look AMAZING in my two piece, because it’ll be ME.” (At least that’s what I keep telling myself)

When I really think about it, beauty conventions vs training modes may be our biggest adversary.

 

Also, friends don't care what friends look like in bathing suits. Right, Icewolf?
Also, friends don’t care what friends look like in bathing suits. Right, Icewolf?

 

We need to start training for a contact sport

No football player is doing 5000 burpees to prep for the season. No rugby player is only doing yoga to prepare for the pitch. No hockey player is trying to cut to a ridiculous body fat percentage mid-season. Roller derby is a brutal, physical sport. We need our training to reflect that physicality and hardness.

A Conditioning day at CrossFit is awesome. Remember that time the smallest team kicked everyone's ass in tire flips? I do. Joc and I did 115 of the 154 on our own. BOOM.
A CONDITIONING day at CrossFit is awesome. Remember that time the smallest team kicked everyone’s ass in tire flips? I do. Joc and I did 115 of the 154 on our own. BOOM.

Like any other sport, there are a variety of pieces to the training puzzle. I am not implying that anyone should cut their WoDs, or their yoga, or their P90X completely. To be successful, the incorporation of weight training and conditioning must be included in our system of norms as the primary ‘cross training’ piece, with the other stuff as accessory work. We need to train for strength, not weight loss.

Side note: Many skaters come in, as I had said, with no athletic background. Many come in overweight and out of shape. For many skaters, fat loss does need to be a part of their training consideration. Too much weight in a roller sport means extra strain on knees and hips, and the higher probability of injury. However, let’s not get obsessed with getting from 23% body fat to 19% body fat [like I was].

 

Was I proud of my 135# runner body? Yes! Could I survive a hit? NO.
Was I proud of my 135# runner body? Yes! Could I survive a hit? NO.

“The improvement of performance in athletics over the past few years has been phenomenal. For example, twenty years ago the average football lineman weighed 250 pounds and ran a 5.2-second 40-yard dash. This was considered to be nearing the genetic limit for a player. Now running backs that weigh what the lineman used to weigh are running 4.4-second 40-yard dashes! Strength training has made the single, most positive contribution to this type of improvement. Today strength training influences every athletic program in the country, no matter what the sport – male or female. Athletes now find it necessary to lift weights and participate in conditioning programs to better prepare themselves for the competitive rigors of the athletic season.

Just a short time ago, most coaches thought that strength training would cause athletes to become muscle-bound and would be counterproductive to good technique. Now it has been proven that athletic performance depends either directly or indirectly on qualities of muscular strength. We must remember that strength builds the foundation for ALL other athletic qualities. For example, if you do not possess great relative body strength (strength in relation to your body weight), you will never be able to run fast. This is due to the fact that all aspects of proper running technique require high levels of muscular strength. In other words, if you can’t achieve the proper knee drive, arm swing, posture and push-off, you can’t be fast.” (DeFranco)

 You call it extreme, I call it "what it feels like 185# on my back"

You call it extreme, I call it “what it feels like 185# on my back”

Let’s be real honest here: Weight training isn’t fun. It’s fun when it’s over. It’s fun when you successfully lock out twice your body weight on deadlift the first time. It is fun when your friends tell you that your arms are awesome (Your derby friends will say this, of course. Your lifter friends will comment about the improvement, but will never imply that you are at the pinnacle of your journey). Not every hockey player likes to lift weights, but they do it because it is necessary for improvement. Every player of every competitive sport lifts weights because it is necessary.

“But Khaos! We’re on roller skates. Look at how successful all the speed skaters are in our game. They don’t lift weights. If we just spend more time on our skates, we’ll be successful.”

speeed

Weight training for speed skaters is not all that different from what you see in other athlete strength programs. The key for skaters is to build up strong legs and core. They also put quite a bit of emphasis on balance. As for the legs, squats of several varieties are important, as are leg extensions and hamstring curls (and so much more). The upper body work is also important and typically includes a tremendous amount of midline work. It is typical to see these athletes utilize some basic strength programming including supersets and dropsets in different capacities and arrangements.”  Read the whole article here (it’s got a lot of good training tips in it!!) (Chasey)

Also, can I make a note that the top men’s team in the world, Your Mom, does not spend all THAT much time on their skates? They don’t have to train their skaters how to do crossovers, they can do that on their own time (and I’m talking the none speed skaters too, folks). And Gotham? They have weights in their warehouse so they can make weight training part of the weekly program. The focus is more on the strategy, the training, the understanding of the game than it is on using practice time to go over 360 turns.

 

We need to properly warm-up and cool down for practice time

A 2 minute dynamic stretch is not enough to get our bodies primed for the hell we put it through on roller skates. We are not teaching our new skaters how properly warm up before activity and subjecting all of us to the probability of injury. On the other side, it is rare that I have been a part of a practice of any league that has a proper cool down.

Full Commando is disappointed at your lack of cool down.
Full Commando is disappointed at your lack of cool down.

When I was with Harrisburg Area Roller Derby, we had an amazing volunteer who was dubbed Full Commando. He was our Yogi. At the end of each practice, we would spend 15 minutes doing yoga designed to bring down our heart rate, stretch us out, prep us for bed (Harrisburg practices ended at 11:30p), and prevented future injury. When our sister-in-arms, Stella Stitc’Her broke just above her ankle, she had minimal ligament damage. She told us that the doctor had attributed to the flexibility developed through skating and yoga at the end of practice.

 

We need to understand that sometimes, less is more

I came from the P90X-obsessed mentality of “If I’m not wasted at the end of my workout than it wasn’t a good workout”. I have come to learn that you can put in excellent work, and an appropriate amount of excellent, hard, teeth-grinding work … and sometimes you feel like you have more to give at the end of the workout. And that’s ok. In theory, everyone should be running a specific program (do what the numbers on the sheet tell you – don’t make it up as you go). Programs are designed for certain things on certain days. Deload weeks in weight training may be boring, but they allow your body to rest so that you can perform stronger the following week.

This also touches on the subject of CrossFit. Those of us who have done work in a CF box may have the thought ingrained that you have to go until failure. True progress does not [always] require that. Look, imam just leave this editorial (written by a certified CrossFit coach) RIGHT HERE about the “keep going” culture created in CF gyms. There should be pain and struggle and a question as to whether you’ll finish your rep, but having been lifting for a while now – that last set of 10 pause squats feels SIGNIFICANTLY different than that last 5 minutes of “Super” Angie.

The CF mentality. While kind of funny, and kind of motivational, when you look at the core: it's scary. You're EXPECTED to pass out. There is a difference between pushing to limits and pushing to unsafe measures.
The CF mentality. While kind of funny, and kind of motivational, when you look at the core: it’s scary. You’re EXPECTED to pass out. There is a difference between pushing to limits and pushing to unsafe measures. PS I know not all CFs encourage that culture. But a lot do.

If I didn’t get enough people riled with that section, let’s see if I can stir the pot with:

 

We need to restructure our season

And in turn, how our rankings are created. Have you ever encountered any sport where athletes train 11 months out of the year?

Roller derby athletes do not have the benefit of the pre-season/season/post-season/off-season structure that other sports have firmly in place, that determine their intensity and type of training. Derby is forced to ignore the season and mash all of their training, as best as possible, into each week of the year.

Strictly home team players are the only ones that [seem] to get any kind of break from gameplay, but it is the travel team skaters that you want to be fresh. January through June is when most travel teams smush most of their game play into, right?

But now with the new WFTDA rankings, more all-star teams are pushing their seasons later into the fall to be sure they maximize the equation in place currently. Plus, if you do make a divisional tournament, your now have an extra 3 game week of intense play put onto the end of your season [a month or two later]. If you make champs, you again have another intense weekend ahead. If you play on a home team (which most leagues require of their travel teams), then you have extra competitions layered into your already intense season.

2014 WFTDA Divisional Post-Season Photo by the WFTDA
2014 WFTDA Divisional Post-Season
Photo by the WFTDA

Men are running into this too. The MRDA ranking system is still shaking out its bugs, and as of right now the majority of rankings come from the January – June season. However, July and August are the months where you get your final shot to break that Top 8 for champs. There are teams playing tournaments into these months for a shot to increase their rank. Then? They won’t play until October.

From what I understand, USARS has a similar schedule for their championships. Oh, which some flat track teams have been participating in. Add one more piece of your season in. Then there are also the extra tournaments…

The last couple years we have another element to think about:  mash-up teams. All-Star mash-up games and tournaments are being placed in the only off season that organizers can find: the winter. This means that players on your top tier are never resting. Their only chance for a recovery period is if they actually injure themselves.

Battle of the All-Stars. State Wars. World Cup. All extra tournaments played by top tier athletes on non-ranked teams.
Battle of the All-Stars. State Wars. World Cup. All extra tournaments played by top tier athletes on non-ranked teams.

This is a real problem. This is seriously going to hinder our sport from achieving maximum levels of top competition. We are destroying our athletes. This needs to seriously be taken into consideration. We are the only sport I have found where ranking competition can (and does) take place in any month of the year.

Recently, I took a couple weeks off to start to heal up my ankle. I skated a scrimmage here or there, but really nothing major. I was concerned about getting to RollerCon and having no idea what I was doing. They say you lose it a bit as you stay away from the sport. You know what actually happened? 7 out 9 bouts I felt on top of my game like never before. Coincidence? Maybe. Rested? Definitely.

SUBTOPIC: Rest is cool

In general, derby doesn’t like to rest. #NoRest. But recovery in your weekly routine is critical for healing, progress, and injury prevention. Teams that play a 4 game event on Saturday/Sunday and then turn up for practice on Monday BECAUSE IT’S REQUIRED are at a greater risk for injury. Your muscles need to a chance to rebuild after a game. Teams really need to look at their practice schedule and include ‘deload’ time before a game (like not scrimmaging), and recovery time right after a game (like canceling practice or doing a couple days of non-contact, lighter skills, and team work basics).

 

We need to stop encouraging a culture where unhealthy eating is cool

That’s great that you got cheese fries and a beer after practice. It won’t help you recover. That’s awesome that you’re taunting your friend who is drinking her shake for the first time that you’re eating a burger while they’re trying to limit saturated fat. You’re making her feel bad for a healthy decision just because you don’t want to make it.

Not everyone is going to be into eating like an athlete, and I understand that. But can we please stop this culture of “Doesn’t bending over for a cupcake count as a squat?” No. It doesn’t. It’s fine that you don’t want to be at the peak of your game, but don’t mock others for their athletic nutrition. And if you do mock? Don’t be offended when they lap you during cardio, start getting more play time on the team, or transfer to a better league because the current league has encouraged the bully culture.

The sad thing is that it’s usually our friends making the jokes. They think their being funny. It’s not funny.

One more thing to make me unpopular… our AFTER PARTIES. Can we please talk about not encouraging our athletes to drink copious amounts of alcohol, while providing fried bits of vegetable-like substances, and dinner rolls? Can we talk about an after party that is for the fans, not for the athletes so much? You can try and tell me (and yourself) all you want that beer is a fine post recovery drink, but guess what? It isn’t. Plain. Simple. It doesn’t count. Here’s a short read for you.

 

Final thoughts

Ok, this blog ended up being WAY longer than intended, but I needed to start putting these things out to the universe. I feel very strongly about starting this health and strength revolution, and I’m glad to know I do have some other people on my side. For our sport to get to the next level of athleticism, and to be one step closer to professional play, we must take a hard look at our training: How it is structured, why it is structured that way, the culture that supports/negates it, and our behavior to our fellow skaters. We need to put these things on the table within each league so that, one by one, we can revolutionize roller derby for the betterment of the sport and our athletes.

 

Strong, unafraid to have guns, eating healthy, lifting weights. Watch out WFTDA.
Strong, unafraid to have guns, eating healthy, lifting weights. Watch out WFTDA.

 

My name is Merry Khaos, I am a member of DNA Coaching and a health and wellness coach with Derbalife. We are currently booking boot camps for the next 15 months. Send me an e-mail at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com to get the ball rolling on having us come to your league. Want to incorporate a “how to train for roller derby” day? Let’s do it! I am also available to help you piece together a nutrition plan and training schedule so you can smash through your goals. Let’s work hard together!