I designed this class for beginners and intermediates (though advanced skaters could possibly get some tips and tricks out of it). Often, as you learn the sport of roller derby, there are little pieces that are missed. I’m talking about finesse pieces of the game; so you may be told “become a wall”, but you’re not told to “become a wall pretending there is a skewer through the four of you”. Little details make a skater great, and when you don’t have the little details [that no one told you about], you may be the one on the track getting yelled at by vets.
Before we got into anything we did a review of EDGING. Get into your proper derby form. Feel where the pressure is. Chances are it’s straight down through the middle of the wheel. We want to think about our wheels like the edge of an ice blade. Pushing through your EDGES, instead of the middle of your wheels, are how you get better at carving, stopping, and juking (and derby in general). Move around on your skates and feel where the weight goes when you’re on your edges.
General rules for roller derby that everyone should know and practice:
– DON’T LOOK AT YOUR FEET
– BEND YOUR KNEES
– YOUR ARMS ARE UNNECESSARY FOR ROLLER SKATING. Practice “Bonnie-Thunders-Floppy-Arms”
– GET NATURAL AT TRANSITIONS. Do them and do them and do them. Every chance, for hours, both directions
– DON’T SAY YOU CAN’T DO IT. You can do it, you just haven’t YET
Often when we say “Drop into good derby stance”, people bend their knees, or lean over, and stick their butt very far out. For your form, you want to work on your legs being at 90 degrees, your tail bone TUCKED under your spine, and your back flat and strong. No, you will not be able to maintain this at every moment during skating, but we want you to develop that tucked tailbone and strong back. The legs at 90 degrees will build strength for you to use in skating.
Crossovers are critical to the ability to play roller derby because they are the basis of roller SKATING. You don’t just do crossovers when you are making a lap or going fast, you need to be able to do crossovers within packs, and have the confidence to keep your balance and make the moves during game play. Crossovers are two parts:
STEP WITH YOUR RIGHT FOOT
PUSH WITH YOUR BACK FOOT
If you are bad at crossovers right now, here are things to practice:
– Getting lower: The more leg you have to use, the more strength you can put into your push.
– Balance: Get a big push and then pick up a foot. The one foot glides we do for certifications are there for a reason
– Confidence: Do Drunken Sailor steps. In this drill, you bring your leg as far and big off of the floor as possible, in order to crossover to the ground as far as possible. Then you do it with the opposite leg. When you get good at it, your legs will be making HUGE arches and you will continue in a straight line, despite veering off from side to side as you do your crossovers.
– Back foot push: We have all done the ‘eggshells’ (when you keep all 8 wheels on the ground, and your feet go in an hourglass shape on the floor to propel). With the back foot push, it’s the same idea. All 8 wheels stay on the floor. Your front foot does ZERO work, it simply guides you. The BACK foot makes an S shape behind your front foot in order to propel you forward. Notes on this: Your back foot should not come next to you front foot at any point. If you can’t do it, bend your knees. You have to wiggle your hips a bit to make this happen and it is A VERY DIFFICULT DRILL – especially if your hips are tight.
Side note: here is what a basic ‘eggshell’ or ‘swizzle’ looks like: http://rdjunkies.tumblr.com/post/77807703036/blocking-backwards-balance-edges-and-swizzles
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 faced 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, in order to 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.
Start Low, End High
When jamming against a wall or individual that you are trying to get around on the edge, it is helpful to start low and end high. This was the best gif I could find, and though she trips at the end, she got all of her points and you can see she was starting to stand up into the block:
The idea is to hug the blocker with your body as you come through. You want to be as close to them as possible so that way they have no space to wind of for a hit. This is not a hit from the jammer, you are curving yourself around the blocker to get by them.
Pair up and take turns being the ‘jammer’. Do this slow at first; have the jammer start an arm length from the blocker. The blocker should be in a defensive position. When contact is made, the blocker should lean into the jammer. The jammer needs to make contact on the blocker low, leading with the shoulder (NOT THE HEAD), and try to curve around the body of the blocker. It is difficult to do at low speeds, but we are looking for form and the feeling first. You can increase the speed as you go, so that as the blocker is leading in, the jammer has something to hit against. As the jammer makes contact with the blocker, they press into their legs to stand up, leveraging themselves against the blocker, and establishing themselves in front of the other person.
Getting By the Swing
When an opponent is telegraphing that they’re coming in for a hit you have two options: burst past them, or hit the breaks.
Burst past: In your pairs, have one skater take small swings at the ‘jammer’. The jammer’s job is to change their speed the moment before they are hit by hopping forward. It is a burst of acceleration to get them past. I couldn’t find a gif. But watch Quadzilla of Puget Sound skate, he does it often.
Hit the Breaks: The swings will continue here, but this time, instead of the jammer bursting past the blocker, this time you will practice coming out of your derby stance, and (essentially) standing straight up in order to let the blocker swing by you. The goal is not necessarily to hit your toe stops, you are just putting all your weight into your toes to slow your momentum.
DISCLAIMER: Even when you’re good at this, sometimes you misjudge and you end up with an ass in your quadriceps and it hurts like hell. Often, even if they hit you, they will continue to move past you, however, so you can then begin running like hell again and escape them.
Hit the Breaks and Hop: This time, instead of the jammer just stopping dead in order to let the blocker swing by, they are going to hop the other direction, parallel to the blocker’s motion. So if the blocker is swinging from outside to inside, the jammer will hop from outside to inside. The jammer wants to be as close to the blocker as possible when they do this. These are last ditch moves.
Roll Off of Hits
This is something you see often in derby now, but no one tells you how to do it. Look at Mace as she rolls off of the hit by Akers:
In your pairs, start with a ‘jammer’ who will be moving around the blocker. Do this first at a standstill so skaters understand the physics behind it. The jammer will be tight to the blocker, the jammers’ shoulder against the blocker’s shoulder. The blocker needs to offer resistance, and the jammer is to snap their hips perpendicular to the blocker and push through their outside edges of the back foot to propel around the blocker.
Jammers want to keep contact through the push. This is a way to use the leverage of another skater to get them through on an edge of the track OR if a blocker has caught the jammer, and the jammer is trying to move around them. After both players have practiced this in slow mo, have them do it moving.
GETTING THROUGH WALLS
Shoulders as Jack Hammers
Blockers will use their shoulders to put a player down, or knock them to the side or out of bounds. Jammers can use them to break walls. Please note that if the blockers you’re coming up against are bent over (that is to say, there is no back to nail), than this is not a useful technique.
To practice using your shoulders independently of your arms, start by grouping into three skaters. Have two skaters sit on the floor back to back, tight. Then, the third skater should sit down, their spine in the gap between the other skater’s arms. Their legs out, it should look like a T. The third person should then practice her can opener hit by throwing her shoulder backwards (one side at a time) into her partners. After some time, have them rotate. This will help skaters learn how to JUST use their shoulders and if they can do it backwards, they can do it forwards.
To practice breaking through a wall, have two skaters form a wall and the third is playing the role of jammer.
NOTE: When doing drills like this, the walls should be tight, but not ridiculous; especially when a skater is just learning the skill. We want everyone to get reps in and know what a successful rep is like. As they improve, the wall can get tighter and more challenging. This falls under Rule #1 kids.
Jammers will hit the LEGAL piece of the wall with their shoulders to break open a gap and stop through. Blockers need to be engaging their core, tucking their tailbone and giving their jammer a strong back to hit!
See Through the Hole
Have a wall of two blockers, and one jammer, for this. The goal is for the jammer to make as LITTLE contact with the wall as possible. Start this drill at a standstill, with the jammer tight to the wall to replicate a jam start. Jammers should focus THROUGH the wall, not looking at either of the blockers. They should then work making their bodies perpendicular to the blockers, and side step through the wall. It’s most effective (I have found) by focusing on edges, but utilizing toe stops to push out and away from the wall.
Once you do this for a bit and become successful at it, have the wall roll, and let the jammer get a little bit of speed to try this. Again, at first, the wall should be tight but not impossible. As people get better at this, the wall can become tighter. Remember, this is NOT A HIT.
CREATING SPACE WITH BLOCKING
That two wall is now going to get hit by the jammer. Just like with the last drill, you will do this first at a standstill, then moving. Up the intensity as you see fit for your own team. For all of these, you want to start close to the walls. When you do them rolling, the jammer can get a little space.
Hit in the Ribs
Have the jammer aim for the “notch” that exists in every body. It’s approxiametly where the natural waistline is/the bottom of the rib cage. The jammer should be starting low, and completing this sharp, strong hit by pushing downwards into the floor as hard as they can, in order to launch into the ‘notch’, as they move their feet to get through the small gap created.
Hit in the Hips
This time, jammers will not be starting super high. Sometimes when blockers line up, there is a bottom that is sticking out of the wall a little bit. You want to aim for that with your hips. Jammers should practice stepping forward and into the wall in order to hip check the exposed ass out of the way. You are essentially stepping through the wall and assisting yourself through with one sharp, well placed hit. When the blocker is moved, the jammer should then quickly finish stepping through the hole.
Goosing the Line
Disclaimer: Not for every jam!! Not for most jams, actually. If you do this moving, do it slow at first.
Here is your target zone:
If you are having a hard time breaking through a wall, or you know that you are coming up against defenders who have beaten you and you need to play the ace in your sleeve, this is it. You use the boniest part of your shoulder, as you are in a deep squat, and then aim to the fleshy part of the SIDE of the blockers ass. This only works if there is a significant piece exposed. There are a bunch of nerves in the ass, and if you strike it sharply, you’ll get a reaction from the blocker. Yes, it’s legal, as long as you hit where the Xs are (not the tailbone!). Make sure to keep your head out of the way. If you’re using your right shoulder, tilt your head to the left as you strike.
PHEW. I think that’s it!!! If you took this class at RollerCon and you know that I missed something, please comment on the blog so I know and so that others can see it too! I’m sorry that it was so wordy, but I wanted to make sure I explained thoroughly for anyone who didn’t get to come to the class. I hope you enjoyed it, and make sure you tell RollerCon in the feedback form that you want to see more classes with me next year, and make sure you like my athlete page on Facebook. Also, DNA Coaching is booking boot camps all the time! Contact me at DerbyAmerica@yahoo.com if your league would be interested in hosting us.