So You Wanna Be a BETTER Jammer Pt 2: On Track

Read Part 1: Off the Track

Here we are, continuing our journey through the world of jamming. I know talking about things to do at home, or without wheels on your feet is boring (but it’s important so do it anyway). So let’s talk about practice and game time and what you can do to increase your jammer prowess.

Practice on different surfaces

Sounds basic, but hear me out.

Our mental game is a huge part of our successes and failures as jammers, and one thing I have seen more skaters freak out about is the floor. If floor surfaces were not so scary to people, we would not have people buying multiple sets of various durometer wheels and frantically researching flooring before each game. I’m one of them!

It’s a bit of a dig, but when someone mentions that they do not ever change their wheels I respond with “I’m not good enough at roller skating for that”. This is both true and false. I’m pretty good at roller skating at this point, but I know that my biggest weakness is my inability to release pressure from my wheels. I’ve been working on it for nine years. I understand that I am better at asserting more pressure into my edge than I am at letting off the pressure.

This means I am better on a slicker floor when I can press into my wheels and dig than I am on a sticky floor where I must RELEASE pressure to slide. Having ‘grown up’ at Olympic Skating Center in Enola, PA, you would think it would be opposite. It has one of the most beautiful polished maple floors in the country, and it will rip through tights like nothing, and leave scars of road rash that we bear 5 years later. I never achieved a hockey stop on this floor. Hell I could barely plow stop. Some people can play on Poisons regardless of surface, regardless of game. I am not one of them. I have accepted and embraced my need to adjust my gear the last two years and the results show.

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Not everyone can be Sausarge Rolls, infamous for his varieties of his vintage Poisons. Who needs to change wheels when you’re this good? Photo by Orel Kichigai Photgraphy

How I adjust my gear is based on the surface, and I know what to do because I have sought out every kind of floor I can, and travel games have put me on everything from polished concrete, to sport court laid on springy astroturf, to what looks like a basketball court, but is actually a foam mat. While team mates panic, I have it handled.

If we can take out the scary part of floor surfaces changing, we can bolster our confidence. When we feel confident, we perform better. The easiest way to take the scary out of floor surfaces is simply by skating on all of them. Not just once, but whenever you can. I miss having an outdoor hockey rink within reach. The polished concrete was so vastly from the maple floor that I practiced on in Harrisburg, that I felt like I could practice my skills in a new way and it taught me how to control my body weight differently.

Not everyone can spend time on their own to go to other rinks, so even putting your skates on at home or encouraging your team to go scrimmage or practice somewhere else from time to time can help you break away from the barriers of “Oh s***, I can’t slide/grip/jump on this floor!” Sometimes we encounter the mental hang up, but we do not even realize it. Learning how to deal with things (whether it means changing your gear or your style) will improve your ratios pretty quick.

Speed DOESN’T kill

If there is one lesson I have learned this season is that speed is your only true ally as a jammer. If you are faster than the blockers (in physicality, awareness, and prediction of game flow) you will win [mostly] all the jams.

When I was a baby jammer, I thought speed meant “How fast can I get around the track?” But even when I hit a 6 second lap, I was not getting as many point passes as desired. Going to the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup in Calgary I started to pick up on what true QUICKNESS really is: It’s micro movements. It’s the stuff you do not see until your eyes adjust to a higher frame rate. It’s the slightly stronger push in your duck run at the last second.

It’s the difference between a juke that gets you through and one that gets you put out of bounds.

It’s the difference between cruising into a pack to get picked off and sailing through on the outside line easily.

It’s the difference between blockers keeping you locked, and you popping them open through the middle.

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Winters uses her speed and quickness to split open opponents and find gaps you wouldn’t see otherwise. She does not fear hitting a seam with aggression. Photo by Phantom Photographics

But it’s more than just having speed on your wheels. It’s about how fast you can transition from skating to duck run, or duck run to hockey stop, or wheels to toe stops. Transitioning from wheels to stoppers gives you an added edge over your opponent, because of the change in acceleration it causes and your ability to maneuver in different ways. Being able to drop, at speed, onto your toe stops can let you hop, spin, jump, and high step. It can also give you a chance to run an angle to outpace blockers when they’re not expecting it.

If you are not comfortable skating fast and transitioning to your toe stops: Get going. Start practicing it.

Do speed work. On skates, off skates. Do it in your office. Do it before dinner. Do it when you wake up in the morning. Integrate it into your life. That might sound extreme, but it’s not as hard (or as ridiculous) as it sounds.

Training your muscles to twitch is the greatest tool a jammer can have. You have heard people yell “Pick up your feet”. If you can’t twitch, you won’t be able to fake out your opponents, juke, or change direction suddenly. Picking up your feet means you can generate speed and mobility. Picking up your feet means you are generating momentum, not losing it. It means you are faster than you were when you were planted and coasting into a pack. Picking up your feet while approaching a stopped tripod is absolutely terrifying, but it lets you hit with momentum. It gives you a chance to explode a wall. It gives you more options: Do you hit with speed or do you redirect at the last second. Maybe you aim for the middle and drop the toe stops to run the inside line. Maybe you hit a seam and slide through the blockers.

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A new strength for me is hitting my toe stop run while at full speed. It lets me take advantage of angles, throw off the timing of blockers, and access more tools. Photo by Derby Pics by Phil

Side note: You may have to spend time practicing what to do after you hit a seam and burst through it. Moving your feet will keep your momentum moving forward. It has happened where a jammer (hi) was so surprised that they did the thing and it WORKED, that they stopped moving their feet and immediately fell. So don’t be surprised if that happens.

Talk to your blockers

Some people think that being a jammer means floating out in the ether by yourself, getting to control your own destiny. The best jammers will never think of themselves as an autonomous unit, but rather a part of the pack they are matched with. Success of the team depends on the ability for jammers and blockers to communicate, adapt, and work together.

As a jammer you need to understand how your team fields blockers and the strategies preferred by each. Many teams will do packs one on, one off. Some teams set up blocking pairs and rotate through pairs. Some teams use blocking lines that seem random, but [hopefully] have an underlying method. Every pack is going to prefer different tactics and be good at different things.

For example, we have two packs that primarily play for my team. One pack is very good at stopped derby, the other team is very good at rotation and movement. If my team is playing a ‘long game’ strategy and I am going out with my pack that prefers a stopped pack, I need to understand that I have a different responsibility as a jammer. Not only am I playing for points, but I am part of the defense.

Hold up, I don’t mean that I’m responsible for blocking the jammer, I mean that I am responsible for 1) doing as many laps as possible while the jammer is being held by the blockers, 2) not breaking up the defense for selfish point gain, and 3) whenever I enter the back of the pack, I need to create forward movement so that my own blockers are not forced to bridge or get drawn out of play. By me forcing the other pod forward, I help my own blockers maintain a pack.

Before I go out for a jam, I check in with my blockers. If it’s scrimmage, I’ll ask “What are you working on?”, if it’s a game I ask “What are we doing?” In practice, you get a chance to learn your habits, what works for you, and more importantly what DOESN’T work well for you. I like using practice time to work on different goals. Often that includes my improv ability, which is why I like letting my blockers work on their goals, and then I can adjust my plan accordingly.

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Talking enough should help your blockers recognize your voice in the mayhem of a moment. Rat Pack may have her stuck, but she’s calling for reinforcements. Photo by Phantom Photographics

When we go into a game situation, I work with the blockers to analyze what has or has not been working against our opponent and how to incorporate that into our own game strategy while also helping me to get the f*ck through for lead jammer. It’s all about getting lead.

Mid-jam, my favorite things to say to the blockers include “Keep them moving!” “Sweep” “POINTS” and “I need the pivot!” Talking to your blockers when you can, and them talking back (I like when they call for me before offense or when they remind me to drive a pack forward), makes a huge difference in game play. We all have to trust each other on the track, and the key to trust in any relationship is communication.

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Blaque Jac knows the importance of communication on the track. Photo by Phantom Photographics

Consider shapes and angles

Roller derby is math and science. You always hear your coaches say move your feet and get lower. Hopefully, as you improve, you start hearing them say “run the angles” and “turn your shoulder”. Why? Geometry and physics.

Moving your feet (the basic advice to make any starter jammer better as stated above) simply takes advantage of Newton’s 1st law: An object in motion tends to stay in motion. With inertia on your side, it is easier to get past more stationary objects. I just talked about this but I feel it bears mentioning again! Get lower? The lower your center of mass and gravity, the harder it is for you to fall (this also gives you more leg to gather up potential energy from the floor to transfer to kinetic energy and inertia).

Running the angles means that you are not picking straight lines on the floor, so can take advantage of vectors easier. You are a moving object, with magnitude, and can put that force into something else if necessary. Think of it this way: If you run in a straight line to go between a flat two wall, you have to time your hit, speed, and body movement very precisely to avoid getting sandwiched or stuffed completely. If you come at that same wall at an angle, your timing does not have to be as precise. The angle assists your momentum, and you can take the space of a blocker in a wall to either bounce off of them and through the wall, or to move them completely and keep on your path of momentum.

When I talk about angles, I’m also talking about BODY angles. Think of the shapes bodies take when we play derby. We can be squares, rectangles, triangles, stars, lines, strange quadrilaterals… If we look at what the blockers are doing with their bodies we can be proactive with our own. While warming practice the different ways you can contort. One on one and hurricane blocking (where you can spin around each other) is a handy way to learn how your body can move and contort. The more time you can spend getting out of your comfort zone with body positioning, the better. Why think about shapes?

When coming up against a square, you probably don’t want to be a square. Squares have a harder time getting through because they have generally have more target area for blockers to hit. Dropping a shoulder to make yourself a triangle will allow you the mobility of being square, while letting yourself either duck underneath OR into the blocker coming at you.

“WHAT? INTO THE BLOCKER? I THOUGHT THE IDEA WAS TO NOT BE HIT.”

Something I learned long ago is the Bazooka Method: If someone is pointing a bazooka at you, do you run away? No. You run towards them. Often, this works very well for derby. If you run at a blocker, you take away the angle and momentum they were just planning on having to hit you effectively. I don’t want to give blockers wind up space. I tend to run right at solo blockers and use their bodies to get around safely. They can’t hit me as well, and their team mates often back off a bit because if they don’t time their own hit right, they’ll take out their team mate instead of me.

Back to the shape thing: I have always thought about moving my body differently but never could words as to why things worked. I was chatting at the jammers I coach, and I had the epiphany that our jammers were coming in as rectangles to the pack (we usually say square, but that implies that they are compact). I explained that sometimes we need to make ourselves triangles, lines, or half-moons. Looking at how blockers are set, and how we can shape our bodies to slide through seams at angles or move past blockers while not taking too hard of a blow.

Next time you’re on the jam line, look at the blockers and look at how they are shaped, and how you can counter the shape with your own. Triangles to lean against triangles, half-moons help against parallelograms, lines are effective between to squares, circles can go under triangles.

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Making a triangle to leverage against a rectangle. Photo by Phantom Photographics
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Circle to get under the triangle. Photo by NSP 189
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Half moon to get around a triangle. Photo by Phantom Photographics

Move your body in different ways and practice with intent to do something different than normal.

Look at the world around you

Look at the scoreboard, the penalty box, the other jammer before and throughout the jam. Do a quick rundown of your ideal jam in your head. Keep tabs the whole time.

Where you are in the game, the score, how many timeouts you have left, and who is in the penalty box should all factor into your call off strategy. Make sure you talk to your coaches before the game to know whether you are playing a long game or a hit & quit strategy. There are going to be times that you don’t immediately call it off if the other jammer escapes and you will not always be to see your bench coach (or have a bench coach to look at). You should also know what the plan is as far as springing people from the box.

Note: Your blockers should be aware of goals too (go back to the whole “talk to the blockers” thing).

When you are in a jam it is easy to get tunnel vision, it is easy to forget that the rest of the world exists. I joke that I am best when my FoF (Fight or Flight) kicks in, which usually happens around the end of the first period from cardio exhaustion. When FoF hits, our bodies no longer think about the tools, we just utilize them to get the hell out of a stressful situation (the pack). Without practice, this can mean our field of vision narrows instead of widens, and we may go into ‘default’ mode which often means your oldest tricks and not always your best moves.

“Head up” is said almost as often as “get lower” in roller derby, and for good reason. If you’re in the Sad Place and looking at your feet as you grind away, you’re not going to see your offense coming in to disrupt the tripod. If you’re so focused on that gap that currently exists in lane three as you approach the pack, you won’t notice that your friends are holding a SWEET pick on the inside line to let you jump the apex. If we default to our old habits, we become predictable.

How do we practice widening our view? Do it in your every day life. When you’re walking through the grocery store, use your periphery vision to calculate the rate of speed of other shoppers, and how to maneuver safely through the little old ladies navigating the spice aisle. Take note of shoes people are wearing without looking at their feet, or how many kids are running past you without looking directly to count. When you are at practice doing drills, be mentally active throughout. If you’re waiting for your next turn to go, watch the movement of your blockers to understand their speeds and accelerations. If you are in a paceline, do check ins with everyone’s pace, how everyone is standing, and how players move when their endurance is lower.

Always be looking around you. Always be making note. Always be calculating. At first it will be a conscious decision, but after a while it will become second nature. Then when you’re on the track, you won’t have to pull your head out of a tripod, you’ll already know that your offense is coming on the outside line, so you can disengage and dart to safety.

How do practice incorporating more tools? Repetition repetition. Do the footwork drills. Do them again. Do them faster. Do them slower. Do them on shoes. Do them whenever you can. Eventually your body will just incorporate the footwork into your regular movements and you’ll find yourself popping out of packs in ways you didn’t know possible.

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Dziubinski just can’t help smiling sometimes. Photo by Ken LeBleu

Jamming is hard. If you’re a week into playing or 10 years, it never really gets easier. We are in a constant state of flux. Jammers improve so blockers change tactics. Jammers learn how to deal with the tactics, and new shapes and strategies emerge. The biggest lesson I learned this year is that I will always have to work to be stronger, faster, and braver. I also learned that the only constant in derby: is change. Go with it, don’t resist it. Always be learning, always be listening, always be adapting, but mostly: always be loving it.

Did you like this blog? How about the others? Consider buying me a coffee from afar so I can keep writing! 

 

And don’t forget to visit the wonderful photographers featured:
Phantom Photographics
Derby Pics by Phil
Ken LeBleu
Orel Kichigai
NSP189

 

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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

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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.

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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)

 

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 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!

East Coast Outlaws form to take on some Hooligans

Thank you to Pixel 33 Media for the logo!
Thank you to Pixel 33 Media for the logo!

Who are the East Coast Outlaws?

They are a ‘super team’ of flat track women and men from the East Coast who are coming together to play the Penn Jersey Hooligans on the bank track on Saturday, September 28. Check out more information about the double header on FACEBOOK or on the flyer at the bottom of the article. The Outlaws face off against the Hooligans at 3:30p and then the PA All Stars take the track against the She Devils afterwards.

For fans of Team Rogue, you’ll see some familiar skaters on the roster when you come to the event. The Outlaws came together to take Rogue’s place in the double header action, and fans will not be disappointed with the power houses taking the track. I thought you would want an introduction for your team in white and blue. Thank you to photogs Juan Paden, Walter Romero, Tyler Shaw and DCRG and CTDQ for photos.

So who are the members of the East Coast Outlaws?

Raven Darkhold (River City Rollergirls)

Raven Darkhold 17

Raven is a monster blocker and a fearsome jammer on the flat track. As a member of Team Rogue, Raven was a critical blocker in the back of the pack for controlling jammers throughout the Derby Ink tournament.

Buster Skull (Salisbury Rollergirls)

Buster Skull 00

If you don’t have a derby crush on Buster now, you will by the end of the game. She won the hearts of Derby Ink when she wore the Rogue yellow & green for her quick feet and her ability to smash up opposing players. She is small, but she is mighty.

Bam Bam Brawler (Charlottesville Derby Dames)

Bam Bam Brawler 777

On the flat track, she is magnetically repelled by the lines (just try and pull a cut track on her). On the bank track, she is a leader and a powerhouse. A key Team Rogue pivot, Bam Bam used her experience to help Rogue control and pick apart teams they faced. (And she even got to use those quick feet to score some points)

Merry Khaos (Dutchland Derby Rollers)

Merry Khaos 1918

Utility is the name of the game for Khaos on the bank track. Fans know her to hold the star during flat track games, using footwork and spins. On Team Rogue she got to show off her booty blocking and lateral control, taking some of the strongest skaters to the rail, or off the track.

Pearl Jammer (CT Rollergirls)

This photo is just magic.
This photo is just magic.

Some believe she is made of solid granite. Pearl’s jamming is no joke and her blocking is some of the fiercest you’ll see. She is a true weapon of the Outlaws. This will be her first time on a bank track, or playing MADE rules, but that won’t hold her back.

Hits Happen (CT Death Quads)

I couldn't find an action shot of him skating forward so you get his head shot.
I couldn’t find an action shot of him skating forward so you get his head shot.

MRDA teams don’t like seeing Hits in the blocker rotation. He is notorious for blinding hits and never giving up on the jammer. He is a solid piece of any Death Quad front wall. This will be his first time on the bank track, we’ll see how he adjusts to skating FORWARDS for the entire bout!

Frightmare (DC Rollergirls)

Frightmare 31M

Persistent, wily and explosive are words often associated with this bank track first-timer. At DC she makes her mark with footwork and power. It will be awesome to see how she translates it to the bank track.

Dirty Frank (CT Death Quads)

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A rookie even to MRDA, Dirty Frank has shown that he is no joke. He is strong and agile and is an important blocker for the Death Quads, having picked up on the speed change aspect of the game very well. His first time dealing with a bank track should be fun to see.

Hu Dat (Charlottesville Derby Dames)

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Always a crowd favorite, Hu Dat is fearless with a jammer star. She has bursting speed and quick feet that belie her years in roller derby. Watch for Hu when blocking though, she can swing her hips better than seasoned vets. She is eager for her first bank track game.

Sharp Shredder (DC Rollergirls)

Sharp Shredder 606

Another vet of the flat track, Shredder tears up the DC Armory with the jammer star and isn’t afraid to jump an apex or two. Beware her power hits when she’s blocking. She’ll take you right off of your skates. Like teammate, Frightmare, this will be Sharp’s first time climbing onto the bank track.

Starsky (Jersey Boys Roller Derby)

Starsky 3

POWER. That’s what Starsky has to his advantage. As a member of the Vice Squad at Derby Ink, he was able to leave a mark on his opponents. At the Derby Q2’s All Star scrimmage, he was also able to speed by his opponents as jammer, impervious to their blows.

Other Outlaws that won’t be joining us this time around….

Dual Hitizen (DC Rollergirls)

Dual

 Scooter McGoot (Jersey Boys Roller Derby)

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Rollomite (Your Mom Roller Derby)

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