The Quiet Ones: How fear hushes our injury

Taking care of ourselves needs to be priority number one in Roller Derby. We believe we cannot be a good teammate if we are falling apart at the seams: physically, emotionally, or mentally. We must achieve perfection. We must not falter.

But injury happens, and there is hesitation to talk about it openly. There is a reluctance to admit it.

More openness has been happening in the social media world about what we struggle with in our daily lives; we are becoming brave enough to own our illnesses in a public forum, and discuss our injuries with our friends miles away. You’ll find more blogs, IGs, and threads happening now around how to deal with depression in the face of practice, or anxiety because of expectations placed on them, or how badly someone’s knee swelled up after a particularly hard hit. I have seen postings about imposter syndrome, dysmorphia, misophonia (me), and bipolarism most commonly.

There are several groups online dedicated to those who have gone through injury, and how they are recovering and processing the ordeal. In these groups, we can be honest about how we reinjured ourselves, or are going to the ortho for a DIFFERENT limb, or can empathize about when a recovery is not going as we had hoped in our minds. They allow us to vent our frustration and document our journey of reintegration into our sport.

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But when we walk through the door of practice, the conversation and understanding stops. Sometimes, when we are feeling things online and want to talk about them we pause.

We don’t want that THR to see that we had a panic attack. We don’t want our captain to hear that our ankle swelled up after practice. It’s not perfect, it’s not pretty. It’s not the model athletic stone statue that we have been told to be.

When we come to practice, there is a feeling that we are under a microscope. We cannot look sad. We cannot be in pain. We cannot have an off day. We cannot let the wet wool blanket weigh us down. We cannot injure anything else. We fear showing weakness …

“Unless you are the right person.”

I hate that I have had discussions with people across the world, in every level of play, who have said that members of their league are held to different standards. If they look mean, it’s ok. If they pull a muscle in their back in the gym, it’s no problem. If they de-gear early because of personal issues, no sweat. Meanwhile, other skaters fear they will be removed from charters, blacklisted from teams, or generally forgotten among the crowd if they show ‘signs of weakness’ within our world.

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Finding out something is wrong is no one’s favorite day.

[And I’m going to venture to say this stems from the “Perfect Life” that we are expected to upkeep on our SnapChats, Facebooks, and Instagrams.]

You’re not allowed to be disappointed in yourself. You’re not allowed to show that disappointment. You’re certainly not allowed to leave the track so that others aren’t affected by your disappointment. All this, unless you are one of the few granted human status because they are that good or popular.

I have seen people in leadership roles belittle others who decide not to push through injury. For years, I have thought twice about sharing my journeys and experiences because “Why would someone put you on a team if you have bad knees?” or “Maybe you wouldn’t get benched if you weren’t always talking about your injuries on Facebook” or “Well, we can’t give you feedback. You look like you’re always about to cry.”

So what happens? People hide the injuries. They don’t admit the have a high ankle sprain because there is a game coming up. They avoid bracing “to get better at a different position” but really it’s because their shoulder is searing with pain. They play off how hard they hit their head when they fell at home, because they don’t want to be concussion tested.

And how do you think this all plays out later when the weakness is tested. I know I tore my ACL because I refused to admit I was playing on a high ankle sprain. Friends have torn rotator cuffs, cracked the bones in their feet, or get Second-Impact Syndrome from falling.

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Injury has been part of my whole derby life, and even when smiling I often have Resting Sad Face™. Photo by Christopher W Weeks

 

I am tired, folks. I am writing this and I’m just mentally exhausted with trying to understand all of the rights and wrongs going on in our world right now beyond derby. There is so much hate and anger in humans, and tackling this issue seems so daunting. Usually in my blogs, I would go forth with “here are some ways we can deal with it”, but honestly …. I do not know how. This is a culture thing inside of roller derby.

How do you we make it ok for us to be human? Especially in a world where some people cannot even exist without fighting for their space. We say we’re inclusive and we say we’re forward thinking but our community is a product of the society we live in. There is so much to overcome, and to add to the classism, sexism, racism, transphobia, etc that we contend with, now there is the fear of honesty.

I bonded with a teammate when we admitted to each other last year that we downplay our pain. We don’t want “to be that player that is always hurt, or made of glass.”

As a coach, I keep telling my team members that if they’re sick, injured, or mentally unwell it is OK. It does not make them a disappointment. They are not letting anyone down, and that derby will still be here when they are healthy. As a player I fight against it daily.

Captains and coaches have to understand that we are not deities formed from clay. Our teammates have to have empathy and understand that we all suffer through different issues. Prehab programs to keep skaters physically healthy could help, and rehab options in house are great for skaters coming back or with small injuries. Sometimes, just letting folks who feel alone know that they are not can be a catalyst for mental recovery.

I just had a huge panic attack simply through the effort of trying to make a point. I deleted everything that I said. Tried to erase it, and felt like erasing myself. All I can think was, “I should stop officiating. If I cannot even make it understood that I was not on the offensive, and that I am saying the same thing as everyone else… why should I be allowed to officiate? If no one is listening to me here, why should they anywhere?” And for those of you with anxiety disorders, you can imagine the downward spiral from there.

[No, I am not lost on the irony of a writer having a panic attack as a result of stating an observation of the life surrounding.]

Stigmas are everywhere and they pervade our culture. We need to stop judging each other and start listening. We need to start understanding. We need to stop being afraid of admitting pain. We need to stop being afraid to admit trepidation. We should be allowed to be disappointed. We should be allowed to be injured, to be broken, and to need a moment to recover without guilt.

We are a family. We need to start treating each other more as such, and less as simply stepping stones to get to the next goal on the list. So hey, Roller Derby? Let’s love each other a little more and break away from expectations of perfection, shall we?

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So you wanna be a jammer….

You’ve joined roller derby. You’ve worked your butt off (or up, in the case of some of us) to pass the 27 in 5. You’re not a complete bambi on skates, and you have fallen in love with a star. That star just happens to be on a helmet cap. You don’t know if it’s the challenge of breaking a wall, the thrill of hearing “tweet tweet”, or the praise you receive from your peers when you get back to the bench, but you have decided:

You want to be a jammer.

I am here to help. Here are 10 things to help you begin a successful career of five point passes and high lead jammer percentages. It will not be easy, it will not be quick, but with diligence, you can prevail.

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Jamming isn’t easy. It takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. (Lambo R Feeties takes on Chuck Taylor during the State Wars final) Photo by Phantom Photographics
  1. Recognize your weaknesses

Chances are you have many of them, especially if you’re coming into this sport as a true Skater Tot. Don’t be afraid to make a list of the things you’re not good at. Watch the other jammers in your league (and in footage) and watch for things you can’t do that make other people successful. Write it down!

Now also make a list of things you’re good at. For those of us who are our own worst critics (guilty), you may want to ask your captains to help you. I’ve asked, “What are you good at?” To many skaters and gotten the snap back with, “NOTHING.” Remember: There is no perfection in derby. And even if you are good at roller skating, doesn’t mean you’ll be good at jamming right away. Don’t allow the frustration to overtake you.

When making your lists, think about these categories: Physical Fitness, On Skates Skills, Strategy, Mental Game. Knowing that you’re good at analyzing situations or have a background at team sports does give you a leg up. They are just as important to derby as toe stop runs.

Now that you have your list, you can start doing some goal setting.  I’d go into it here, but I talk about goal setting in another blog post (or two). Check out “Building You as a Better Skater”

  1. It is in the details

Jammer awareness is full of little details. If you don’t know where the other jammer is or how many points you’ve scored on this pass, how can you make effective decisions when you’re lead jammer (let’s face it, we can’t always refer to our bench coach) as to whether you should call it off? How can you be successful if you constantly get hyper focus in a pack, causing you to lose track of extra blockers who are out to get you?

This is something you can train at practice and in life. When I’m moving through a crowd, I will make a note of a single person (maybe they’ll have a red hat on). As I move, I work on using my periphery to understand where they are, how quickly they’re moving, and what direction they’re going. This works great in grocery stores and busy streets. When someone new walks into a room, try and notice something about them without looking directly at them. You’ll become better at looking using your periphery.

At practice, always be aware of where people are, how they are moving, and what indications they make before coming in to make a hit. Most blockers have a ‘tell’, and the most aware jammers will learn them quickly so they can move out of the way before contact.

To keep yourself calm, practice breathing during your jamming. Make a conscious effort of breathing in and out when you’re in a pack, and steadying your breaths while making your lap. Sometimes I’ll count my strides to keep me calm. Practice this during endurance drills. Find a place of Zen where it’s just you in the track. If you can do it during endurance practice, it’ll translate into your laps and gameplay.

For all the other little details? Well, refer back to your list of what you’re good at and not good at, and fine tune. You’re not good at getting through walls: Is it because of power, body positioning, or foot work? And go on from there!

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Details. A fraction of an inch further to the in, and Sully of Lincolnshire Rolling Thunder would be out of bounds. Manneken Beasts’s R.A.T.T. know it too. Photo by NSP189

3. Walk the [imaginary] line

Jammers need to know how to navigate small spaces and squeeze through spaces on the inside and outside line that mere mortals cannot even detect. When you’re practicing your footwork, you should always be imagining a balance beam next to your opponent, you don’t want your feet straying away (and over the boundary line).

To practice narrow spaces, use a partner whenever possible. If you don’t have a buddy to work with, grab some cones, and make two rows of them to create a narrow lane (I like using short cones for this). Ideally, the cones should be no wider than the length of your hand, but when first practicing it’s ok to make the gap wider.

Footwork you should practice include running on your skates, a step through 180 turn (you have to pick up your feet), a foot to foot transition, a shuffle step (on toe stops), a crossover step (on toe stops), and stepping over the leg of an opponent to keep going. These basic pieces can be used in different combinations to get you through and around anything a pack can throw at you. Check out some things to start with: BEGINNER JAMMER FOOTWORK VIDEO

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BEGINNER JAMMER FOOTWORK YOUTUBE VIDEO
  1. Colors and space

When you look at jamming from a very rudimentary standpoint, it is a navigation of space through packs of various colors. One color is friendly the other is foe. The brains of jammers must be able to react quickly to changes in space as well as recognize friendly colors near the space. Weaknesses in depth perception or color recognition can be the difference between a four point pass and being nailed out of the air on an apex jump.

When recognizing your color for offense, remember that you want to go where that skater is about to NOT be, not where they’re going to be when playing offense. You want to occupy space that they no longer occupy. So ‘following offense’ really means follow their movements – don’t run into them, go where they JUST were.

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The white blocker is clearing the way for the white jammer (who is just behind). White jammer takes the inside line, seeing what her blocker is doing. This is a screenshot from the AMAZING RDJunkies.tumblr.com SEE THE FULL VIDEO!!

A drill that I love for recognizing space and moving through it quickly involves the whole team (this is great for blockers too). Divide your team into three groups. Denote the active part of the track with cones (it shouldn’t be too big of an area, maybe one corner or half the straightaway). Group 1 will ‘jam’ first, starting from the opposite corner. Groups 2 and 3 are told to pick a spot within the boundary. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Group 1, in a line, begins to sprint towards the group standing still. The jammers must navigate the spaces at a sprint. The goal is to get through the pack without slowing momentum, unless it is to redirect their energy, or toe pick past an opponent. This continues for 2 minutes. Then, Group 1 switches with Group 2, and so on.

The next level is to let the obstacles take one step in either direction from their original spot. THERE IS NO INTENTIONAL BLOCKING ALLOWED. The next level is to allow one of the two groups to move laterally across the track. The final stage is to ‘split’ the groups by handing out colored coins to wear, so that each group has both black and white. Now, the obstacles are allowed to make one move to either side of their original spot, AND are allowed to make contact. Obviously, they are only supposed to hit those of the opposing color.

You can also make this more interesting by spreading out the obstacles, and adding in color cones that the jammers are supposed to make contact with throughout the course. You know, just for more fun and challenge.

On your own, you can practice color and vision challenges to sharpen your senses. I’ve found a good memory game and article about improving vision here. Anything you can do at home to improve your periphery is great. Have a friend grab some small colored balls, and sit in a chair looking forward. Have them toss the balls from behind to in front (along the side of your head). Work on catching the balls of specific colors. You must keep your eyes forward! Use your periphery!

  1. Bursts and balance

I f**king love science, and physics is the reason derby does what it does. The sport is a constant transfer of potential to kinetic energy, of friction coefficients, of balance, and of trajectory. To be a successful jammer there are two things you must master:

BURSTS OF POWER (which will cause both acceleration and deceleration)
BALANCE

While I could not find any articles directly related to roller skating, I did do a fair bit of reading just now about bicycles, and why it’s easier to stay on them when they’re moving rather than standing still. It has to do with torque, center of gravity, angular momentum, and the experience of the rider in controlling all of them. This is why newb skaters look wobbly while balancing on one foot, but vets can coast around ‘shooting the duck’ no problem.

CONFESSION: I can’t shoot ducks. Ever. If there is ever a skill that I will not be able to do – it will be that one.

ANYWAY!!!

To practice balance, not only do you just have to spend time on your roller skates doing goofy things, but you have to train all your stabilizer muscles, strengthen those ligaments and challenge your body to do new and interesting (and sometimes very scary things).

Incorporating heavy lifting, plyometrics, and yoga into your cross training program will help you erase instability and build your bursts of power.

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Training your muscles and edges so that you can burst past blocks is critical for jammer survival. Giles (Victorian) hustles past Bittercup (Texas) using this technique of running on her skates. Photos by Phantom Photographics

6. Levels and Leverage

Along the lines of speed, balance, and understanding your body is the concept of understanding your levels and leverage. Being able to duck under a block, under stray arms flailing, or past a wall is excellent.

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Ana Cheng dips underneath a block. Her attention to her body allows complete control over her movements and levels. Photo by Phantom Photographics

Knowing how to leverage your weight and body against opponents is super handy. Can you press your chest into a blocker and use that energy they put into you to bring your hips and feet around them? Can you bounce into a blocker and use the energy to move you forward? Can you put the levels and leverage together?

Practice (slowly) leaning onto a buddy who’s blocking you. Now see if you can create movement in your skates to move around them with this energy. Do it again, but this time, when you’re almost around them, press harder into them, duck, and snap your hips to get past them. The pressure and ducking will create momentum. You can use this momentum to steal points, or to get yourself out of a pack. After you get your hips around, practice planting your toe stop to spin out of the contact. If you practice right on the edge of the track, you can work on spinning out of the contact and avoiding the cut track at the same time.

7. It is not all about you

You are one of five players on the track from your team. You cannot play as an individual. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen teams make over the years is to give jammers the idea that they’re by themselves on the track.

As a jammer, it is your job to understand what your pack is planning for their defense, offense, and what formations they prefer to run. You are not just offense, but you are defense. For example: If your pack is blocking a jammer who is pushing them into bridging, it’s YOUR job to get your ass back to the pack as part of defense. You will hit the line of blockers, and either break through and they will chase you up OR you will push the wall up, far enough (hopefully) that team’s bridge will be ‘pack is all’.

If you don’t know how your team skates and strategizes, you will not be as effective at reading holes. How many times have you run into your own blockers? Yea. You should probably skate with them more often and learn how to communicate your own plan. Some teams use hand signals or code words to communicate between jammers and blockers, but the best way to use offense is to observe your team mates and know their tendencies.

As Smarty Pants once said, “Blockers make the points, jammers collect them.” So what this comes down to is LEAVE YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR. No one wants it, no one appreciates it, and even Bonnie Thunders practices. You are not Derby Jesus so lace up and leave it at the door.

8. See the game, be the game

All the derby will help you. I know that not everyone can dedicate hours each day to watching the sport, but if you want to get better at the mental side of roller derby – you must watch it. You must understand how those better than you move and succeed and fail. You must be able to think critically about aspects of the game that you have not encountered. Watching footage, even one game a week split up into four 15 minute chunks will help you.

And don’t just watch the kind of derby that you play. There is WFTDA (of ALL levels), MRDA, JRDA, USARS, UKRDA, RDCL, MADE, and Renegade. Go to bouts, watch streaming tournaments, participate in open scrimmages – both flat and tilty. See the games, analyze the games, be the games.

When you’re at your home league, don’t be afraid to step out of the jammer box.

Practicing as a blocker will dramatically improve your jamming game, because you’ll understand the blocker psychology. You will have first-hand experience of how a blocker reads incoming movement, and how a good blocker will deal with different styles of jammer – because you will be doing it yourself! Then when you jam, you can use this insider information to your advantage when it comes to jukes, deceleration, and avoidance measures.

Like I said, ALL THE DERBY.

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Grim D Mise balances on a foot to get around the apex. Many flat trackers join Penn Jersey for their scrimmages & BBQs. I know I always feel stronger after spending time on a banked track. Photo by JPaden Photography

9. It’s not your gear

No matter how long you’ve been in the game, we’ve all fallen into the trap of “Well if I just had ______”. While, yes, having better/different plates, boots, wheels, etc  etc can dramatically change aspects of your game, upgrading gear in the soul hoping of becoming a better skater is silly. Improving your skills will help you pass your 27 in 5, not faster bearings. Working on lateral motion will help you avoid an oncoming block, not different wheels. Strengthening your ankles will help you power through your crossovers, not a more expensive boot.

You must work on your craft and know how to manipulate your tools before gear changes will truly mean anything to you. Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference between a wheel with an overhang and a wheel with a square edge until about a year ago. I didn’t know why I couldn’t control my 45 degree plates until I had switched to my 10 degree plates and understood what my body needed to do to plow and edge appropriately. I didn’t know why I had trouble with my 10 degree plates, until I put on 15 degree plates and could feel the movement and control in the trucks in comparison. It’s more than equipment – it’s about your self-awareness in the equipment.

I know skaters who have certified and bouted in rental skates. Sometimes, it’s not your gear, it is user error. Admitting that to yourself can be one of the harder realizations one can come to in derby.

10. You can’t climb Everest in a day

There is so much to improve at, and it is easy to become impatient in this sport. What goals do you have? All the goals? Well you can’t meet them all at once. That’s just the nature of training and sport. Do not look at the peak of the mountain and think “WHY AREN’T I THERE YET?” Rather, focus on the little steps on the way up the mountain. You can’t reach the summit until you reach 1000ft, right? This is the same with training and learning.

You won’t be a D1 level jammer overnight. Sometimes you won’t over a year, or two years. Do not get frustrated, do not quit. Set goals, work hard, and then drill, drill, drill. Challenge yourself against new opponents, and challenge yourself to think outside your safety zone. We all want to be the greatest, but diligence is the key.

Didn’t do so well at practice today? It’s ok. You have to fail a whole bunch in order to start succeeding. You’re not going to be perfect (or even good) at all the skills you try right off the bat. You’re going to run into things that hang you up. Do not let that frustration eat you alive. Recognize where you’re having trouble, break down the movement into smaller chunks, and then drill, drill, drill.

And enjoy the journey along the way! You’ll meet some of your greatest friends in the sport, and through struggling with a thing together.

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Keep working and you will see it pay off! Photo by Mr McWheely

Now go do some laps!

Thank you to Phantom Photographics, JPaden Photography, NSP 189, and Mr. McWheely for the photos used in this blog. Please visit and support these photogs and more.

Kristie Grey (Merry Khaos) has been playing roller derby since 2009 and has coached almost as long. She has worked with over 20 leagues in 11 states (and Canada). She has coached on and off skates at Beat Me Halfway 2014 & RollerCon (2012-2015). Active in health and wellness, she is an active Herbalife Health Coach and [when the knees allow] rock climber and power lifter. For questions, booking, requests of topic, or help with a nutrition plan, message Khaos at DerbyAmerica@gmail.com

Big Bear Clarity

Big Bear, California.

I have to be honest, until I booked the plane ticket I didn’t even know where Big Bear was. I had associated with (don’t laugh Next Wave people) COLORADO. There was snowboarding and big mountains in the photos … it had to be in Colorado, right? California doesn’t have mountains like that! (Geography student FAIL)

Last February Kristen Adolfi qualified for Big Bear and I saw all these photos of one hundred Herbalifers on the same team in these amazing mansions in the mountains – they were drinking healthy cocoa and becoming friends and getting a boost for their business. All I kept hearing was “This is awesome. This is so amazing.” And I made the choice that I would be there in February 2014.

So I qualified.

I found out I qualified only about a month or so before I had to be there. So the plane ticket was booked, I realized my geographical mistake and I realized that 2 major goals of 2014 was going to be checked off the list: Visit California. Qualify for something huge.

This year we only had 24 people qualify and what you had to accomplish was different (though still challenging) and what it did is that it really brought the NEXT WAVE of leaders in the Addy Organization together (Jill and Mark Addy are my AMAZING upline). So instead of being overwhelmed by 100 people I’ve never met, which may have caused me to hide in a corner and not talk to anyone, there were only 20 people I didn’t know and we all got to be friends.

Hiking. Pool. Table Tennis. Food. Shakes. Even some wine. Lumberjack Fit Club. Hot Tub. Team call from the hot tub. Olympics.

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I ended up being the Fire-Tenderer because for some reason this weekend, my fear of flames subsided and my excessive need for warmth took over. I also did Warrior Pose on the edge of a drop off this weekend with Krissy Krash- and for anyone who knows me, you know I have a pretty crippling FEAR of heights. I felt it start to go away now. Maybe before it just came from my complete lack of balance…

This weekend really solidified why I work with Herbalife. It’s not just for the energy I get from my nutrition plan. Not just for the amazing way I feel after I drink my shake. It’s not just because I can set my own hours, make full time money with part-time hours or because it’s a great excuse to be fit.

No.

It’s because of the relationships I get to build and the friendships I get to create. I get to work with my best friends and I get to have best friends from every part of the world and I love it. I get to help people change their lives. I get to help people live stronger and longer. I get to help people be healthy and independent. And through doing that, I get to live stronger and longer. I get to be financially independent. I get to teach and I get to be taught. BY MY FRIENDS. I get to dream  about all the things that I can accomplish with my friends.

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And I can’t wait to meet my new friends in the upcoming years. Who don’t I know yet who will be like Andrea Wright? Teri Bossard? Amber Butyn? These are ladies who I didn’t meet in person before they began their nutrition plan and now I can’t imagine not having them influence my life. They are the reasons I push on and I keep doing what I’m doing.

I’m going to continue my dream of coaching and training roller derby leagues (I’m booking now, actually). I’m going to start inviting people to work out with me when I’m in Baltimore (and when I’m anywhere else). This weekend in Big Bear with new friends who are all starting out their dreams like me – it made me realize that affirmations are amazing and useful. But only if you start doing the work. So now is the time to stop making excuses and start doing the work. Keep your eyes peeled! It’s time to DO stuff and BE awesome.

 

NEXT WAVE!!
NEXT WAVE!!

 

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

The Darlings of Derby Ink

You would think the students of Penn State would be used to my ice packs by now.

My small, polka-dotted cooler (which is usually filled with Herbalife goodies and greek yogurt) is stocked today with ice packs which I am rotating between my two knees as I blog in the coffee shop before my Advanced PR meeting. You know my mood is killer when I’m swinging my shoulders to a disco tune that’s playing on the radio.

My team mates and I have dubbed this the “Rogue High”. It is the inexplicable joy that is radiating through 16 women who got to be part of Team Rogue at the Derby Ink Invitational tournament this past weekend.

Derby Ink

The weekend was highly anticipated by the entire derby world. Could a small MADE league out of Philadelphia transport a bank track to Harrisburg, coordinate a men’s AND women’s tournament while also juggling merchants, a tattoo convention, an indoor skate park, bands and more?

Rogue was a mish mash team that took on many incarnations since this past January. Meeting up at Love City’s track, we learned the rules of the Modern Athletic Derby Endeavor (MADE) while fighting the physics of a bank track and conquering the fear of the rail, slope and edge of the track. You may have seen previous posts about this!

The first breakthrough of team work and awareness came Easter weekend when Rogue invaded Penn Jersey’s warehouse in a sketchy part of Philadelphia to test our mettle against some MADE all stars as well as the Penn Jersey Hooligan’s.

We were skating together for fun. All of us would have these huge smiles on our faces as we went up and down on the bank track – even when the boys were kicking our butts.

Team rogueee

So we arrive at Derby Ink. Here is our roster:

Renegade Raven (retired) & Skate Edge (HARD) – Bench Coaching
Russian Bayou – Dutchland
Treasure Chest – Dutchland
Jocelyn Bassler – Dutchland
Merry Khaos – Dutchland
Bam Bam Brawler – Rocktown
Rainbow’s Revenge – Harrisburg
Neve Cannibal – Harrisburg
Buster Skull – Salisbury
Raven Darkhold –River City
Spry Icicle – Maine
Grim D Mise – Maine
Damage Dahl – Philly
Ally McKill – Steel City
Nash Villain – Retired

We knew we had a strong line-up. We knew we had a team that could get things done on a bank track. We didn’t realize that we were going to all click during the first half of the first game. This was the first time we had all been on the track together. This was some kind of magic. We were all happy, excited to be there and our first bout was against the MADE All-Stars … a great place to really test what we were made of.

Our team work: awesome. Our communication: spot on. Our awareness: top notch. Our joy: through the roof.

The advantage to not being super familiar with a rule set is that you cannot get angry when called off on a penalty, since you honestly don’t know whether you did it or not. Same with when the other team ISN’T called on a penalty!

Something magic happened during that bout….The entire crowd fell in love with us.

I do not know how or why. Maybe it was because we were a bunch of flat track skaters that seemed to exude happiness just at the opportunity to play roller derby in a new setting and with our friends. Maybe it was our adorable cluelessness as we went to the box for touching people. Maybe it was just because the talent level and moves of our jammers and pivots and blockers were undeniably entertaining.

From Thursday to Sunday, there was a lot of frustration at the Derby Ink Invitational. Scattered between the debacles, however, were wonderful games and athletic feats. All the skaters were showing off the battle wounds of the track (new Masonite and a splintered edge to the track made for a lot of scars) and talking about the amazing moves they made against some of their derby heroes.

Photo by JPaden Photography. AMAZING.
Photo by JPaden Photography. AMAZING.

I’m going to skirt over the controversy and bad feelings that came up during the weekend, but let me just say that the tournament heads were not very well equipped to deal with a team being mad about the seeding situation. Team Rogue had won both of our games in the prelims by a margin of +266 … And were seeded #1. This made the other flat track super teams (overall) very unhappy.

At the end of the argument, we got our #1 seeding.

WE WERE SEEDED OVER TEAM BIONIC. JOY. Unbelievable. A team of misfit flat trackers who are having the time of their life actually was top of the pile. What?? Amazing!!

PS I would not have made it through this weekend without my supply of Hydrate, LiftOff and protein bars. Holla.

So on Sunday we went on to beat Penn Jersey in the semi-finals. Those ladies hit HAAAARRRD….even though the score was very heavy in Rogue’s favor do not think that Penn Jersey (or any of the MADE teams) did not try. They were brutal competitors. And instead of high fives – we got hugs at the end of the bout!

We made it to the finals of this tournament. At that point we had dubbed ourselves winners. Even before playing that game, every one of us in a Rogue shirt had been approached by fans, refs and other skaters – each of them telling us that they love us and that they’re cheering for us.

Rogue had become the Darlings of the Derby Ink tournament. The group that came in as the underdogs had won the hearts of the crowd and the other teams.

Ok, so it goes without saying that we got our butts WHOOPED in the final by Team Bionic, but I’m ok with that. It was amazing seeing the smiles of my team mates as they skated the track. It was amazing to hear our friends cheer on the sidelines. We each came back to the benches with little victories and new bruises to show off.

Joc v Rangeon

Thanks to Kimberly Bassler for the Bionic photos!
Thanks to Kimberly Bassler for the Bionic photos!

For me? Successfully holding back Bonnie Thunders for half a pass. Taking Sandrine Rangeon to the rail. Pushing Stella Italiano off the track to end the jam. Outrunning Fifi Nomenon and Psychobabble to maintain control of the front of the pack. Offensively, and successfully, blocking Sexy Slaydie so that Buster Skull could break the pack. Little victories!

Other moments I won’t forget?

The look on Stella’s face when Russian Bayou broke the pack as pivot directly behind her for the third time. Jocelyn Bassler getting lead over Rangeon AND scoring three points. Damage Dahl taking out Hockey Honey.

I couldn’t ask for a more positive team to skate with in a mash up setting. For all the missteps of the tournament organization it was a blast like I can’t even describe.

So here’s to the Derby Ink! Here’s to Team Rogue! Oh, and “Fuck Cancer!!” – Team Rogue donated half of our $2000 second place prize to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Damn, we’re some classy broads.

Now pass me my 24 Restore and Rebuild Strength!! My knees are all kinds of messed up from this weekend. *limp limp limp*

{{GRIN}}

Photo by JPaden Photography
Photo by JPaden Photography