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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I love this class. I love this class so much, and I will submit it again next year! I hope that it gets on the schedule more than once, because everyone has a blast. The point of this class is to do something OTHER than derby in order to work on fundamental skills.
Many of us get White Jacket Syndrome when we practice plows, hockey stops, edging, etc at training sessions. We have our coaches watching. We want to impress them. We want to get on that next roster. We’re worried about the skills of the people around us compared to our own. These games take that out of the equation. This is great to mix skill levels into, because you’re taking derby out of the equation – so EVERYONE is learning at the same pace. Though advanced skating skills can definitely be an advantage, there is more than pure experience on skates involved for most of these games.
Ultimate Roller Derby Props needed: 2 balls larger than a baseball
Focus skills: Teamwork, communication, awareness, multitasking, periphery vision
This is the game closest to roller derby. Only with an Ultimate Frisbee twist.
Each jam is 2 minutes. Teams field the same players as usual, and we play on the derby track. Each team on the track has a ball. Players on that team must pass the ball THREE TIMES, successfully, between themselves in order to let their jammer try to leave the pack.
The ball must always be PASSED, not handed off and opposing players are allowed to block passes. If the ball hits the floor, or is caught by an opposing team member, the 3 count is reset. After 3 passes are successful, the jammer (and to make it more advanced, the jammer OR pivot) may attempt to break the pack. Your points are counted by how many times the jammer has left the pack.
So yes, when one team completes their passes, the other team should be trying to stop that jammer from leaving the pack!
Duck Duck GOOSE No props needed
Focus skills: Speed, agility, endurance, speed control
While you can play this game in the classic “everyone sit on the floor” way, I like it better when it’s moving.
Get your team into a pace line. I recommend doing this at a moderate speed for YOUR team (obviously London Roller Girls’ All Stars would be able to do this faster than a start-up league). The person at the back of the line goes first to make it easiest. As the advance up the pace line, they call out “duck” for those who are not chosen. When they decide that someone is the “goose” they complete a legal hit on that individual. That begins the race around the track back to the goose’s position in the line.
Beginner version: It does not matter who makes it back to the goose’s place first. The GOOSE is now IT, regardless. They drop to the back of the line and begin playing.
Advanced version: Whoever reaches the goose’s place in line successfully first (as in, they’re in the line and matching the line’s pace), are safe. The other person is now IT and drops to the back of the line to start playing.
I will run this until everyone has been chosen at least once.
Props needed: As many balls as you desire. I like to do 4-6 of varying sizes.
Skills: Footwork, avoidance, awareness
Level 1 –
Split your players into two teams. Place the balls in a line directly between the two groups. Blow a whistle to release them and let the dodgeball commence!
Note: I had an interesting thing happen this year during this game. One team hung at the very back of the ‘engagement zone’ because they realized the balls wouldn’t fly that far. If you have players not participating in this way, don’t be afraid to shorten the boundaries they must stay within.
Level 2 –
No one is on a team. Every person is on their own team. Have all the skaters line up at one end (or you can split them into two ends). Those on the sideline each take a ball. The players are told that when the first ball hits the ground, they are released!
You can either play this to the end, or do it until there are 3-5 players left. These players step to the side and then you play another round. Eventually you do a “championship” round!
SOCCER Props needed: A net, or other boundary marker for the two goals. An empty water gallon jug (you may want to have multiples for back-ups).
Skills: Footwork, edging, stops, avoidance, awareness, teamwork, short endurance
This is exactly what it sounds like: you play soccer on roller skates, but you use a gallon jug instead of a soccer ball (the jug does not roll the same way, so it makes the game actually playable).
Level 1 – NON CONTACT!
Level 2 – Legal contact
Feel free to have refs around to regulate things like low blocks, back blocks, illegal contact, and hand balls (it is soccer after all).
I play 5 v 5 and let the rounds go for 4 minutes OR until a team has scored 2 goals in that period. Then you switch out.
Blood and Thunder. King of the Mountain. Queen of the Rink. Last Man Standing. There are a ton of names for it, but in derby most of us have played the game where we all get on the track and hit the snot out of each other until one person remains. This is a version of that.
Everyone starts skating, and when told to go, the carnage begins. When a skater is knocked down or goes out of bounds – they are out. In this version, do NOT have them stay on the track unless you have advanced skaters. You can also have refs calling penalties, and if anyone commits a penalty, they are also out.
With this version, when two skaters connect, if NEITHER skater goes out or down, than BOTH of them must flip to begin skating the opposite direction. Every skater will always skate DERBY direction, it’s just a matter of whether they are forward or backward. You should have people on the outside reminding skaters to spin around when contacted. There’s always one that just doesn’t understand/remember that they have to flip around whenever someone touches them.
This is another game that I like stopping each round when there are 3 people left, so that you can do several rounds, ending in a Championship.
MUSICAL CONES Props Needed: As many cones (minus one) as you have people playing.
Skills: Stops, speed, awareness
Every person playing gets a cone, except for one person. Each person should place the cone on the inside or outside edge of the track. The person in charge decides what stop the round will focus on. You can do an entire game of ONE stop, if you want.
Everyone starts skating at pack speed. When the person in charge decides, they blow the whistle and everyone must get to a cone and use the stop APPROPRIATELY and without falling or advancing past the cone. If they are unsuccessful, a ref or wrangler should call them out and they must go to the NEXT cone and try it again.
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And if your league is looking for coaches and trainers, drop me a message at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com – DNA Coaching is currently booking boot camps and sessions and we’d love to talk to your league!