So You Wanna Be a BETTER Jammer Pt 1: Off the Track

Jamming is really hard. I am in season number 9, in constant identity crisis about what position I am best at. I have never had a jamming coach, so I’ve had to learn the hard lessons in real time, and before this season I had not been in a serious jammer rotation since 2013, when I played for the Dutchland Derby Rollers. This season I decided to give it a go again. Almost made it onto the All Star charter a couple times (somehow), but have been a starting jammer for our Top 15 B Team, the Bruise Crew all year with moderate success (when you average it all out).

So I’ve had some ups and downs this season. Some highs, lows, and in between. A few panic attacks, a few moments of mental fortitude. A little over a year ago I wrote the blog, So You Wanna Be a Jammer, all about getting your feet under you as a point scorer. I stand by all of those lessons. Now, let’s turn it up to 11 and talk about the last 6 months where I have learned what separates the GOOD jammers from the BEST jammers.

There is so much to talk about, in fact, that I have decided to split this blog into two.

Part 1: OFF THE TRACK

Surround yourself with Positivity

I could be wrong, but I feel like every jammer in the world has a healthy dose of internal self-loathing or a deeply hidden masochism that comes out when they put on skates. Chance are you are going to be fighting with your own demons along this windy path, so do not give others permission to sow seeds of doubt and hate.

‘A positive circle’ looks different for everyone. You have to understand that what it is for you might not be what it is for the person next to you. The first thing that I figured out with jamming this year, is that I do a lot better in practice in games when I:

  • Have fun with my friends
  • Do not dwell on the pressure of what it means to win
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The Sea Sirens always strike out to have fun during their games. Photo by Keith Ridge

As soon as I started thinking about how close I was to breaking onto the All-Star team, I stopped performing well at practice. I was getting stuck, I was not using my tools. When I would come in laughing, making sound effects when I tried to jump the apex, and got to cheer on my teammates, the difference was undeniable. It’s hard to have no expectations when you have all the wants and feels.  You do not have to endure the mental pressure of “OH GOD IF I DON’T DO GOOD I AM OFF THE TEAM” / “IF I DON’T MAKE THE TEAM RIGHT NOW I AM SO TERRIBLE”.

Yes, I understand that this is easier said than done. I had a lot of trouble letting go mid-season. Every practice felt like skating through mud with my demons throwing sticks at me. I had panic attacks, cried after every practice for two weeks, and considered retiring from playing. Right before Tiny Tourney I was able to find my “MEH! Whatever” Happy Place that I had lost. The result was two of the best games I’ve ever skated (and my first successful in game apex jump)!

Part of that happy place (for me) is being around my friends. I have noticed a DIRECT correlation between the happiness I have with playing roller derby to my proximity to my jammer pod, The Caviteez. The six of us (and the previous incarnation of five earlier this season), are supportive of each other. We offer feedback, high fives, and sometimes just eye contact and a nod to remind us that we are not alone on the track. When my jammer friends spread out on the sidelines, I start to feel alienated. That leads to me feeling like I need to do amazing things on the track otherwise I am not good enough. It’s a pretty terrible downward mind spiral. I am glad I picked up on it early.

Recognize your patterns. Recognize when you are doing your best and when you are feeling stressed, panicked, overworked, or mentally drained. Journaling at the end of a practice can be super helpful in connecting the dots. If you do nothing else, you can even just write down: Your goals going in, names of drills you did, how you felt going in, how you felt during drills, how you felt at the end, and any instances that happened during practice that made your emotions change.

NOTE: If you don’t track your nutrition, you probably should. Sometimes not eating properly the day of a practice, or not having enough water the day before a game will also adversely effect emotions and performance. You have to be able to look at ALL the factors to understand the full picture.

And do not think that my version of a happy place is your version. Some people like being by themselves when they jam. Some people want all the input from their peers, while others like to be left alone. Some people like to be thrown into new situations without warning or instructions, others like when things are laid out for them and they know what to expect. There is no wrong version of what makes you happy.

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Getting #SecondStarbucks with Disaster Chief and Cookie Jarrd. Our happy places don’t look identical, but we’re always at our best with wheels on our feet and friends by our side.

The hardest thing to contend with are outside sources of input. The parents who keep telling you to quit derby. The blocker who always gives you guff about not taking their offense. The circle of people gearing up in the corner who are complaining about practice. It is easy to be drawn into the bad. (Trust me, I know) Breathe, smile, and keep going.

If you’re around toxic conversation, help to change the topic. Before that blocker gets a chance to say something snotty, high five them for a great jam. If your family won’t ease up about your dangerous hobby, smile and thank them for caring about you so much.

And then, if you need to, do some yoga or do a round at the punching bag when you get home.

Evaluate & then Focus

In other blogs I’ve talked about the importance of self-awareness. Once you hit a certain point beyond “hey you’re pretty good”, self-evaluation and feedback from peers is going to be the only way you really can ratchet down and improve your skills. How do you know what you need if you don’t know what you have?

I like the idea of doing a series of tests to see where your weaknesses and strengths are. I admit that I have yet to do this myself, since I just came up with the idea while writing this blog. As I sit here and consider all the aspects I think that I would break my test for individuals into:

Individual Footwork — Toe stop line work, stopping on edges, mobility around a stationary object, balance on front wheels while moving

Power/Driving — Time it takes to move a blocker 10 ft, 100m sprint off skates, 10 lap PR, big lift PRs

In-Pack Mobility — Quickness through obstacle course that involves ducking / squeezing through spaces / hopping, also looking at game footage to rate mobility inside of packs

In-Game Mentality — Penalties per game & when those penalties occur (in sequence, or unrelated to each other), points & lead percentage out of the box, call off decision making

Awareness — Frequency of recognizing offense (regardless of ability to take it), visual periphery tests, call off decision making

Blocking — Plow stop, one on one blocking, recycle ability, tripod work, communication within a pack, pack awareness/bridging ability

molly rogers jammer
We don’t always recognize our own mobility, so external feedback is important. Slaytoven knows the value of feedback. Photo by Phantom Photographics

Within each area, I gave some examples of skills or habits you could evaluate, but the possibilities are endless. These are not things you can evaluate the way you do minimum skills. They must be looked at over the course of games, scrimmages, and practices. This is something you sit down with footage to do as a jammer pod.

I’m a nut for information, data, and comparisons. I like knowing what I’m doing, where I’m going, and where I’ve come from. Knowing where I am weak gives me a focal point. Every piece of data is just one fragment of the whole picture. If you can compile all the individual pieces into one consumable story, you can set your training plan up to compliment those needs.

Talk to a friend you trust, or your coaches and ask them to help rate you in each area. In fact, it’s better to get different people to evaluate you. Make up a rubric ahead of time, maybe with your team leadership, so that other people can take advantage of feedback.

It might be good to do a self eval as well to compare against the others. You can also write down what you think your strengths and weaknesses are. Ask your friends to identify those too.

Think about how you feel during a game. Are you best at racing through a pack (as long as you’re untouched) over and over again but get stuck in tripods? Can you get through a pack fast and hard, but you can only do it once or twice? Can you do a longer jam, but then have to sit the next six? Are you kind of ok at everything? Do you have power but not speed? Speed but not power? Power but not endurance? Speed but not recovery? Yea. It’s a lot I know. I believe in you though, you can figure it out.

Now what? Now is the time where you build a program.

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Myself, Pete in the Pool, Foxxy, and NoMad have been in an accountability group since December helping each other through clusters of Tactical Barbell

There are a thousand different kinds of programs you can build. Starting with something made for general fitness might not be a bad place to start for the first 6-8 weeks of training, assuming you have not been regimented in your training before. If you have been regularly going to the gym and feeling stuck or you just do not have a plan, it’s time to sit down and get one. I’ve been using the Tactical Barbell template since late December, along with my boyfriend and friends from Alaska. I like this particular program because you break your program into clusters.

I do 8 week clusters. My first focused on building stability and capacity for strength, the second moved into long muscle endurance and recovery, the third focused heavy on quick twitch, and now I am in a power cluster since I’m in a bit of a mid-season off-season. Eight weeks seems to be enough time to improve on your focused goal, but not so long that you lose sight of other weaknesses.

Oh, here’s something else: If you’re not working in interval sprints at some point – you are hurting your progress. If you are not lifting heavy weights at some point – you are hurting your progress. Can you be a great jammer and never deadlift a day in your life? Of course! For most of us, it’s going to be a much harder route if you chose to do it that way.

I hate sprinting. I hate it. My knees don’t trust it. I have one rehabbed ACL that still flinches at the thought, and half another ACL that wants to stay in tact and doesn’t trust my stopping ability. I don’t usually run sprint, but will do row sprints or bike sprints. My heart rate monitor has been tremendous in helping me with my training too. Now I don’t have to rely on a machine’s reading, or my own counting. I can just look down to see whether my sprint is actually pushing me or not.

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Planning plus the proper tools = having success!

When in doubt, hire a trainer and/or nutritionist to help you. Can that be expensive? Sometimes. Is it better than continually plateauing out, wondering what you should be doing next? Is it better than saying “I need to go the gym” and then getting there to make it up as you go?

Fail to plan, plan to fail. No one who is successful just wings it. They know when they are doing things and why. Including resting. “Resting?” You say, “#NOREST, Khaos!! IT’S THE DERBZ!”

The Deload is real

WE DON’T REST ENOUGH IN ROLLER DERBY.

We are in a year-round sport. Some of us are lucky to have November and December off. Some of us are lucky enough to have schedules that lighten in July and August. We need to spend more time looking at what our goals are and planning our clusters of cross training accordingly. That includes resting.

Scrimmaging three times before a game weekend does not help you learn, it simply wears out your muscles, central nervous system, and your cognitive processing (which is why you feel mushy brained and jelly-like after hard training session). If you want to know ALL the things this is a great piece. The concept of deloading has been popular in the lifting scene for a long time now, I couldn’t pin down who first introduced it. It is slowly working its way into popularity in sport-specific training and also real life.

Have you ever had to take a couple weeks off from derby or another sport and when you came back you could do a skill you had struggled with before? That’s a result of deloading. The first time I recognized it was when I was rock climbing. I was going three to four times a week when I was in my early twenties, but I was not particularly strong, I relied on my flexibility. I took about 3 weeks off due to life, and when I came back I was expecting to back at the start. What happened was that my strength had improved, my technique had sharpened, and my on-sighting ability (reading a route as you move through it the first time) jumped significantly. I immediately knew there was something up with it.

Rock climbing
Sometimes taking a break from something will actually help you increase skill ability. Weird, I know.

When it came to derby, I spent the first couple years always on my skates. I took a month off to rest my knee, I came back and suddenly had more control over my edges. Down the road I would take of randomly for injury, and while the injury itself was not strong, my abilities to complete skills and tasks had sharpened. The deload is real. It’s ok to take a step back from derby for a couple weeks to let your body heal and process what you’ve been working on.

Note: this is very important for officials as well as skaters. Sometimes you need to stop thinking about the rules and just let it all marinade. Come back to it fresh and new and you’ll see more and understand clarifications better. What does officiating have to do with jamming? As a good official you have to be as good of a skater as any player on that track!!

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Even officials need to have fun and take breaks. RollerCon is a great place to learn things AND deload the brain on different rules stuff. Photo by Tristan King

Now a word of caution, if you take a break for too long, that’s no longer a deload. That’s just a break. Deloads are typically a week to 10 days. During this time you work out but at a much lower weight, rep, or speed. You work the neurons and muscle memory without pushing to to hypertrophy. Do your lifts, but do them at 50% 1RM. Do you Tuesday run, but don’t push as hard. On deload weeks, you can also replace your typical workouts with stabilization and recovery work. When I say “Do extra yoga”, I’m talking recovery yoga, not Bikram Power Yoga. Instead of your sprint day, do a light bike ride. Spend extra time stretching. That sort of thing.

PS Your brain remembers better when we’re sleeping properly at night too, so mark that down on your daily ‘to do’ list.

PPS Want to read something about deloading in life? Here’s a great blog I found in my searches.

Take time to evaluate, look around, and do some planning it. You deserve it and your routine deserves it!! And after all this processes, move on to So You Wanna be a BETTER Jammer Pt 2: Game Play

Did you enjoy this blog? Consider buying me a coffee to say thanks and so I keep doing the thing! I write everything myself and want to keep covering all things derby for this world. 

Please visit our Photographers!! Phantom Photographics , Tristan King, and Keith Ridge Derby Photography.

And keep an eye out for me at ROLLERCON!!! I’m teaching 2 classes: Stuck in the Middle with You and FANCY FEET (where we’ll work on some of the stuff from these blogs)

 

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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!!

New Skater Survival 101: Rollercon on skates 2013

This could also be called: “How to look like you know what you’re doing in scrimmage when the vets are watching” but I thought that name would be too long.

Teaching new skaters is one of my true passions. I love seeing the ah ha moments of men and women when they finally understand how someone accomplishes a feat they see on the floor. We often overlook telling our new skaters these skills for several reasons: 1) We flat out forget! It’s been a while since we were learning! 2) We tell ourselves that they’re not ready. This is BS everyone can do these skills and they will help EVERYONE be a stronger skater. 3) We don’t do them ourselves.

Training is much different now than it was in 2009, and new skaters have the advantage of not having to go through the learning curves of training that the rest of us did. So, enjoy. I’m sorry that there aren’t more photos. I did my best!! If you have any questions, or want to increase your level of awesome on the floor by upping your nutrition, drop me a line at DerbyAmerica@yahoo.com.

 

Skill 1: Back Foot Push. Start by doing a regular “eggshell” push (keep all 8 on the floor and bring your feet in and out in an egg shape). To practice the back foot push, your right foot goes in front of your body, and (keeping all 8 wheels on the floor) you push with the left foot, which is behind your right foot. It is easier the lower you get, and I bob up and down when I do it to gain momentum. The back foot should be making figure 8s behind your front foot. Your front foot is just guiding, the back foot is doing all the work. Imagine a line running directly under your body, like a tightrope: your front foot should be centered on that line, your back foot should be curving back and forth over it. This will strengthen all the small muscles and stabilizers in your legs and hips so that you can develop a strong push. Remember: when you’re doing your crossovers you must STEP with your right foot and push with your left. YOU MUST BEND YOUR KNEES MORE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS.

 

Step with the right, push with the left. Copyright 2013 by Bob Dunnell. Please do not remove watermarks from this photo. To purchase prints of this photo, please visit the following link: http://store.mrmcwheely.com/p41986587/e60cd2f99
Step with the right, push with the left.
Copyright 2013 by Bob Dunnell. Please do not remove watermarks from this photo.
To purchase prints of this photo, please visit the following link:
http://store.mrmcwheely.com/p41986587/e60cd2f99

Skill 2: Derby Position the better way – B in V. When squatting and practicing derby position, over arch your back to keep your head upward: the desired effect will make you look like a chair, and your behind will be approximately the height of your opponent’s no-no area. Practice hip motion & laterals from this position, particularly when ‘sitting’ on someone. Feel their motion under you. Now control THEIR motion.

The first step to being able to do this position successfully is not cheating your squats. When you bend your knees, don’t lean over, push your butt back. If you lift weights, or do CrossFit, it is that active hip positioning that you want for your behind – like you’re about to deadlift. If you don’t lift weights, time to start and get some instruction on it! Not only will it teach you the proper body form, but it will strengthen what you need to consistently and strongly execute your skates and positional blocking.

 

Skill 3: One Spot Blocking. Get in your good B in V position. Look over one shoulder at a spot on the floor where you can see hips and legs of your approaching, opposing jammer. I do my best not to focus on the spot so much as look at it and use my periphery while I have my head turned. Practice watching that spot and moving laterally. When an opponent is behind you, move laterally to keep her behind you. If she bursts, burst over and up a little. “But if my head is one way, how will I see where she goes?” If the opponent disappears from your sight over your right shoulder, she can only be one place: to your left. I have a tendency to look over my right shoulder when guarding the inside line, and over my left when in the middle or outside line. The lines are a barrier so you don’t need to worry about that extra space, so focus on the larger area of the track.

 

Holly Go Hardly doesn't need to snap her head back & forth to know where her opponent is. She keeps her head steady, and sits on her opponent to feel her movement. Notice how the inside & outside line blockers are looking? Wonderful! Photo by Tyler Shaw - Prints Charming Derby Photography
Holly Go Hardly doesn’t need to snap her head back & forth to know where her opponent is. She keeps her head steady, and sits on her opponent to feel her movement.
Notice how the inside & outside line blockers are looking? Wonderful!
Photo by Tyler Shaw – Prints Charming Derby Photography

Skill 4: Football Tackle. To break a wall, think about starting low and driving up, as if attacking a tackling dummy in football. Turn your shoulder to break any tension between the wall (and to avoid back block calls). It is ok if you don’t hit the opponent, but I will often aim for any weak spots in the wall (if an opponent has a butt sticking out a little bit or if someone’s ribs are a little exposed). Hitting that weak spot will temporarily open a spot in the wall that you can then burst through. KEEP YOUR FEET MOVING.

 

Skill 5: Shoulder in Glut. Still can’t break the wall? Use the pointy part of your shoulder and thrust upward into the flat part of your opponent’s glut. Even if it doesn’t move them completely, it may surprise them and open a hole. Again, your shoulder should be turned, and you should be moving your feet while you do this so that when the whole opens, you are there to take advantage.

 

Skill 6: Looking at the Hole. You go where you aim, right? Don’t look at the blockers as you approach, look at the space between them. Use your periphery vision to keep check on those coming to clean your clock. Keep your feet moving, your breathing steady and just go for the spot between the blockers (turning your shoulders). Having good, strong footwork and balance is really important for this, because you need to trust that your body is going to do the right thing at the right moment if you get hit. It’s about speed, burst and trust. Turn your brain off and just do it.

 

FOR SKILLS 4,5,6:  You can practice these in groups of three, have 2 people set up a wall and have the third person work on the appropriate wall breaking skill. You can also set up your team in pairs around the track and have one person at a time go through each pair to get practice in successively accomplishing each wall break. You can do it stationary or moving.

 

Skill 7: The 180 Hip Snap. Why use extra time to spin on wheels, when you can leave the ground? Snap your hips and leave the ground for a MILLIMETER… this should not be a hop or jump. It’s about confidence. You should land with a wide base. Start practicing this by getting on your toe stops (with one foot forward and one backwards at least ‘shoulder length’ apart) and bounce so that your hips change from forwards to backwards. You should be able to do this all day. From there, get on your wheels, and keep your base wide, practice the same motion of just snapping your hips to come off the ground.

If you’re not brave enough to commit, you may feel your front wheels staying on the ground. OR you’ll land before your skates have turned the other direction. Breathe, get your eyes off the floor, bend your knees and just snap. If it helps, try it off skates first!!

 

Skill 8: Running through a Pack. Ok, this is scary, I know. Most of us don’t believe that we can actually pick up our skates while in close proximity to other people. To practice running, first do it solo. Push on your skates as normal to get up to 50% speed, then – run! Actually pick your feet up like you are running a sprint on sneakers. I will say that having your feet turned out (in a duck run) is going to help you with stability and speed, but don’t be afraid to experiment with balance and foot position!

To practice this in a group, have skaters create a very tight double pace line. The lines should be able to touch each other easily forward and to the side. It should be a tight fit. One at a time, skaters should take turns running and picking up their feet to get through the middle of the double pace line. Hands down, eyes up, feet moving, shoulder turned.

Here are some videos that can help demonstrate a couple of these ideas at least… The quality is not the most amazing, but it gets the point across…

Skating Solo & intro to 180s

Lateral Spins and Hit/Reset

Tricks for the Toolbox