Author: Stein

I am, quite obviously, a roller derby player who is currently based out of Kaiserslautern, Germany. As of now, I'm not actually in either of the photos I've put on the blog because I forgot my uniform on picture day. Not at all surprising if you know me.

Being A Great Trainer

It’s been a long ass time since I’ve written a blog post.  I know all two and a half people who read this occasionally have been anxiously waiting, so I’m sorry for the hiatus.  I’ve been spending the last year getting comfortable in my role as Head Trainer and Coach, and wanted to absorb as much knowledge as I could before pretending like I know what I’m doing in front of internet strangers.  But like everything else in my life, upcoming events have forced me to get my shit together and just get on with it.  I recently developed a training committee to help train the FM, and we have an upcoming training meeting to review the new curriculum I designed as well as go over feedback for trainers, potential new trainers, and the plan going forward.  So this blog post is for you, training committee, and whoever else on the internet might find it useful.

Before I go any further, let me explain my background a little so we can agree that there might be a tiny little bit of merit to my advice in this.  I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Child Development, with a focus on teaching adults about how kids develop.  I worked for about four years teaching toddlers and preschoolers basic life skills like writing and not biting each other, and eventually moved into a position overseeing the professional development of caregivers, particularly in regards to their lesson plans for the tiny toddler terrors.

The past year of acting as a Coach and Head Trainer has been amazing, and based on feedback, pretty successful.  Our team rating took a hit because the year I came on just to happened to be the year we had to play teams that were a LOT better than us and who had full rosters.  However I’ve seen a huge amount of improvement in the team and in individual skaters, and have gotten a fuck ton of feedback regarding my training.  My cumulative experience has given me a lot of insight into how to work with, train and motivate others, so I’m ready to put it into writing for my league and whoever else gives a shit.

There’s a fuck ton of thing that go along with being a good trainer, but for simplicity’s sake I’m going to put this in list form.

1.Basic Knowledge and Basic Resources

I really fucking hope that this point isn’t a surprise to anyone of you, because if it is you’re fucked.  In order to teach anyone about anything you have to be somewhat competent in the area you’re teaching.  You should have played roller derby for a while before stepping into a training role.  You need knowledge about rules, equipment, skills, officiating, physical fitness, NSO’ing, and so much more shit to be an effective trainer.  All of these things tie together when you’re teaching people about this incredibly complicated but amazing sport.  If you see a newbie struggling with plow stops, you have to be able to recognize that it’s because they’re wearing those bullshit hybrid wheels (I fucking hate hybrids so much) on a sticky floor, and can’t slide into the plow to save their life.  Or to save their ankles, which they will eventually break if they don’t get different wheels.  If you have a high incidence of ankle injuries in your league, you need to do appropriate off skates workouts to strengthen ankles.  If you’re working on packwork, you need to know the technical pack definitions as well as what refs are looking at when they make those calls.

I think that this is most important in the basics of skating in FM.  I’m a very technically focused trainer who will stop a drill just to point out the specifics of a plow stop, if I see multiple people struggling with it.  If you don’t understand the very basic and effective ways to do basic skills, then you’re setting your team up for failure.  When I see people plateau with their skills, it’s often because they took shortcuts with basic skills or weren’t taught the most effective and safe way to do them, so they struggle with later skills at higher levels.  If no one taught you about angling your foot in a one sided plow stop in order to use your edges, how the hell are you supposed to stop a jammer who’s pushing on you?  If no one ever noticed that you’re carrying your weight on the balls of your feet and showed you how to balance it on your heels instead, how are you supposed to correct your constant falling when someone puts pressure on you?  It’s imperative in roller derby in general, but especially in FM to know the how’s and why’s of skating.

Something I think that is underrated, though, is the fact that you have to be able to use your resources.  No one knows everything.  There might be weird situations with rules that you’re not sure about, or maybe Rogue Runner had an awesome video where she talked about muscle lines and you want to know more.  You have to be able to look up information in order to fill those gaps, which means having a working knowledge of resources available to you.  This could be internet blogs, other trainers, refs, even your local fucking library.  It’s your job to sift through all of it and build your knowledge base so that you can relay it to your players.

Also useful to having a working knowledge is having a variety of experience to pull from.  I have been lucky enough to have NSO’d bouts, officiated scrimmages, bench coached, captained and trained both large groups and small groups.  I can tell you from first hand experience how hard it is to watch feet, hips,  elbows and 10 foot lines all at once as a ref (spoiler alert: you fucking can’t).  I know what it’s like to get sassed as an official and to be sassed by a shitty, aggressive official.  I know what it’s like to be a new, lonely, isolated skater and I know what a struggle it is to balance league needs and individual needs as a leader.  I know what it’s like to teach people hard skills and what a struggle it is as a skater to get over your fears and take that apex jump.  I pull knowledge from all of these instances in order to be an effective trainer.  If you can NSO or officiate for a scrimmage, do it to get some perspective.  It helps.  I promise.

2. Build them Up, Don’t Tear them Down

Oh man, another super basic thing that somehow we all struggle with occasionally.  Some way more than others.

Look, this tends to be one of those things that everyone agrees with, but somehow so many people lack the basic insight to understand that they do the exact opposite of this.  I have a natural talent for giving good feedback, and it’s helped by having worked with kids for so long.  If you’re critical of kids, your day will be a nightmare because of the negative environment you’re creating.  You have to make it rain praise, because it creates a positive feedback loop that builds confidence and relationships.  Amazingly, we never grow out of this, because it happens the same way with adults.

The thing that a lot of people forget about feedback is that it’s more of a tool to motivate people than it is to make them perfect.  You want to recognize their successes and sympathize with their struggles.  Sure, Becky may be cutting every time she tries that Apex jump, but her form is getting better and she’s getting less afraid.  When she’s more comfortable with the form she’ll be able to focus on the cutting part, so praise her for her form getting better until she’s ready to work on a new aspect, like cutting.  Sure, Andi may be having a hard time with toe stop running, but it’s because she broker her ankle last year and is scared, so praise her for trying and tell her that it’s already getting better and is going to be great once she practices more and works through her (completely understandable) fear.   People get incredibly discouraged when you only focus on negative things, which is especially true in this demanding and physical sport.  You need to help people be positive and give them something to look forward to, and feedback is a CRITICAL part of this.

Two simple ways to accomplish a good balance are the sandwich method and the two-to-one method.  The sandwich method is simply sandwiching negative feedback in between positive feedback.  An example would be ‘You guys are doing a really good job noticing what’s going on in the pack, but you’re not reacting to it quickly enough.  I see you guys looking, which it actually the hardest part, so if you can  get your body to react quicker you’re going to be a lot more effective and have a longer time to block.’  Do you see how that’s a sandwich?  Your pack awareness is good-Your reactions are too slow- You’ve got the hardest part down already.  Positive-Negative-Positive.  The two to one method is just giving two compliments to every one criticism.  Super simple stuff, it’s just a matter of counting and self-awareness.

It’s also worth noting that the way you word things is important.  ‘Becky, stop looking down when you plow stop.’ is way more negative and less supportive than ‘Becky, I see you focusing on your plow stop, but I’m telling you that it’s pretty good.  You have the muscle memory down, and looking at your foot is just bringing your weight forward.  Take it slow and try to focus on a spot on the wall while you plow stop.’  There’s not an easy way to teach talking to people like you’re not a raging asshole, so it’s largely a matter of self-awareness.  I’ve had really good trainers before who I hated training with because they never realized how condescending they were, and that’s a shame.

3. Have a Plan

My team practice is very structured, but I think best example I can use for this is in the newly re-done FM training plan that I made and just started implementing.  I ask at the end of every practice, FM and team, for feedback regarding drills and the overall practice, and the overwhelming theme I’ve gotten from feedback is that the skaters love having a plan.  The team loves having training goals, drill goals and set intensity levels, so they know what to expect, and the FM love having a training plan that builds on itself. My experiences in my former league support this, too.  When we didn’t have training goals practice was kind of all over the place, and we never worked on anyone skill long enough for it to be useful.

I’ve found that identifying a theme to work on for a few weeks (which is dictated by team goals that everyone decides on) works for the team, and having a set progression of skills for FM to work on is really motivating for people.  On a smaller scale, having a few goals for each practice and each drill also give players something to work on.  Your drills should tie into each other and build on each other, and each drill should have a clearly defined goal.  Are you focusing on edges in this juking drill, or maybe octopus hands in the juke?  Is this apex jump drill building up to using it in a scrimmage drill, or is it more for working on explosive power and balance?  You should have a plan for what to work on and be able to identify the goals, whether it’s for a season, a week, a practice or one specific drill.  When players know what to work on they tend to be more motivated and work harder.  It’s your job as a trainer to foster that, and having a plan is a key part of it.

4. Be Flexible

I’m putting this point right after having a plan, because no matter how well planned out something is you have to be flexible about it.  You can plan an amazing practice with amazing skills, but if your players are struggling with your drills you have to be flexible enough to break it down to basics and work back up.  If you don’t have enough players to run your drill, you have to be prepared to do another drill or change something about it so you don’t need as many players.  If you have a player who’s not comfortable with a drill then you have to be able to simplify the drill for that player so they can still participate.  It can be as simple as instructing your players to not go 100% so they don’t kill the newly assessed skater, or making your players hold socks during a drill because their multiplayer blocks are fucking everything up.

You can also leave some room in your plan for players to choose drills.  I like to leave ten minutes at the end of practices during medium or low intensity weeks and have players choose a game to play, or a skill to work on that they haven’t in a while.  It gives me an idea of what they want and gives them a sense of control and fun over practice.

A really important aspect of being flexible is being able to adapt to the learning styles of different people.  Some people are audio learners, some are visual, some are kinesthetic, and still others learn in different ways.  If someone isn’t getting what you’re teaching, you have to find a different way to explain it or show it, or maybe give them some individual attention for a few minutes after training, if they’re up for it.  Be patient and be flexible, because no matter how they learn, they’re still your responsibility to grow and nurture so you have to find some way to teach them.

5. Be Aware

OH MY GOD THIS IS IMPORTANT.  You need a lot of awareness to be a trainer, and that awareness breaks down into awareness of others and self-awareness.

Awareness of others is important because it allows you to be a responsive trainer.  If you don’t see that your players are getting bored with your stop on the whistle drill, people are going to stop coming to practice because your trainings suck.  If you don’t see that a player is getting frustrated with a skill that you keep pushing, that player might just get frustrated enough to quit.  If you don’t see that players are getting tired before you do a transition during a jump drill, someone is going to get hurt.  To be completely honest with you, this is a skill that is incredibly hard to learn, but it can be learned.  You just have to really focus on the environment around you.  It also helps to have someone who is maybe better at it to help you along and point things out until you can start doing it on your own, if it’s something you struggle with.

And self-awareness.  Man, the important of self-awareness cannot be overstated.  I’ve seen some trainers who had the potential to be great but weren’t solely because they didn’t have any self-awareness.  A really really key part of this is to be able to reflect.  I’m not making that up, there’s a shit ton of literature that explores the idea of self-reflection in teaching, and it is far too much for me to cover a fucking wordpress blog.  For your convenience, here’s a short article on reflection in teaching that explains it in terms way better than I can shit out for you:

https://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwjZgcuflfXSAhWpDMAKHc1XDQ4QFggsMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.qu.edu.qa%2Foffices%2Fofid%2Feducational_materials_e%2FThe_Role_of_Reflection_in_Teaching.pdf&usg=AFQjCNGa4kLns7LaRm6Y8f_DztojA06iFQ&sig2=F0FFwqJdUrdQL0osHdvwPA&bvm=bv.150729734,d.ZGg

In terms of reflection and self awareness, the most important advice I can give you is to accept feedback.  You know how Meghan Trainer is all about that Bass?  Well, I’m all about that feedback, and it’s helped me tremendously in growing as a trainer.  I have a pretty good idea of what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I’m able to capitalize on my strengths and help develop my weaknesses so they’re not a continuous issue.  This is largely because I seek feedback in what I do, and reflect on what I can do better.  Regardless of how much I may want to write someone’s feedback off because I hate their fucking face, I confront the idea that maybe there’s a bit of truth in what they’re saying.  Or that maybe how fucking stupid that person’s face is could be irrelevant to my  responsibility to them as a trainer, so I need to adjust my approach to this person regardless of whether or not I think they’re right.  If you want to be a great trainer you need to use every tool you have, and whether or not it’s comfortable for you, negative and positive feedback are a tool for you.  Use them.  Be better.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Have Fun

Finally, my favorite.  I am a fun person, and my practices reflect that.  Even if you’re not someone who is always making hilarious and outdated movie references like me, you can still make practice fun.  I just went to a conference in Berlin where Rhonda Housekick of the Rhein-Necker Delta Quads talked about this, and it echoed a lot of what I believe or had already been doing.  You can be creative and fun about the way you learn skills, no matter your skills level.  In fact, you actually need to in order to retain players and keep people’s enthusiasm for derby intact.  One of my favorites is to play dodgeball.  We bastardized it so we play it on a roller derby track, with the balls for one team lined up behind the other, and you have to race around the track to get them.  Being behind people is the most advantageous, so it ends up being an endurance drill.  You can play human tic tac toe, freeze tag, or whatever else.  You can have people hit each other off skates or sing karaoke while they do one on one blocking.  Be creative and have fun, because at the end of the day this is a sport.  We play for fun, so have fun and help others have fun.

Those are the basic points, and I’m not re-reading this to edit it because I have to do homework and sleep and other responsible adult things.  So I hope it helps you, minor grammatical errors and all.  As always, if you want to know anything else, let me know.

-Stein

Nutrition and Derby

This is a blog post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but have put off because it is such a dauntingly huge subject.  Recently in my coaching and training endeavors, however, the need to discuss nutrition has come up.  First one of my players threw up after a bout because she had not eaten carbs before the bout.  Then, after people saying their muscles were still sore from last week’s off skates workout, I found out that almost no one was eating protein after our workouts.

As a disclaimer, I am not a nutritionist.  Thankfully though there a lot of nutritionists in the world willing to lecture us via the internet and books and shit, so the information is not hard to come by.  Thank you, you pedantic health food bastards, for sharing your knowledge.

I really hope most of you know this, but what you eat is incredibly important to how you perform as an athlete.  Binge drinking coca cola will not prepare your body for endurance exercises.  Starbucks, even though I binge drink that shit like a crack addict, is a terrible choice for pre-workout food.  Your body is an amazingly complex biological machine, and if you feed it junk, your performance will be junk.  It’s best to consistently not eat like shit, but you at least need to plan some nutrition around your practices and workouts if you want to get the most out of them.  Bonnie Thunders’ thighs did not get that way because of Coca Cola.

To keep it simple I’ll go over what you should eat in chronological order, relative to your workout, and then include a few recipes as examples.  For my Germans, I can get you the peanut butter if you can’t find it in the foreign food section.

Before you workout:

Before you workout you need to eat carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates act as the fuel for your body.  When you’re doing exercise that’s more explosive and endurance orientated and it makes you breathe heavily, your body isn’t getting enough oxygen to fuel itself.  This is when it starts breaking down carbohydrates to use as energy.  If you have not eaten any carbohydrates within an hour of working out your body cannot produce enough energy for you, and makes you feel tired and shitty and awful.  It’s important to have both simple and complex carbohydrates so that they are broken down at a steady pace and you have sustained energy.  If you eat sparsely or skip meals before working out, try planning a few days that include a sandwich about 30 minute before your workout so you can feel the different it makes.  Your body needs fuel to perform, and making sure you have that fuel makes a huge difference in your performance.  If you don’t have a lot of time between derby and work, make a sandwich in the morning and bring it with you to eat quickly while you gear up.

It’s also important to eat a banana or something high in potassium.  When your body sweats a lot you lose a lot of potassium, and low potassium could cause general weakness.

If you want to eat protein before because it makes more sense for your schedule, that’s an option too.  What’s most important about nutrition isn’t the exact timing but that you at least get adequate nutrition around the time you workout.  A lot of recipes you’ll see, one of which I’ll include, packs in both the carbohydrates and the protein pre-workout.

Foods:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1897711/peanut-butter-and-banana-on-toast

http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Low-Calorie-Peanut-Butter-Snack-Made-Apples-Greek-Yogurt-22181698

http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Vegan-Protein-Balls-35238685

http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Low-Calorie-Protein-Smoothie-Workouts-23891574

 

During your workout:

Unless you’re workout for a really long time, you shouldn’t have to worry about eating or drinking anything but water.  It’s a good idea to eat a banana or something light during half time of a bout, especially double headers, but as long as you’ve eaten carbohydrates before beginning your workout you should be fine.  If you have a late practice like my Monsters on Monday and don’t have time to eat afterwards, you can always have a protein shake during practice alongside your water, like the one included above.  More on protein in a bit, but creatine is something to think about adding to protein shakes you’ll drink during workouts.  Creatine is a powder supplement that helps to deliver energy to your muscles, so you’ll end up getting more out of your workout with it.

After your workout:

Either during or within an hour of your workout you need to eat protein, because protein helps you to rebuild your muscle.  When you get a good workout and you feel that soreness afterwards, that’s the feeling of micro-tears in your muscle.  The school of thought used to be that it was a lactic acid buildup, but that’s stupid and was found to be wrong.  It’s micro-tears in your muscle, which your body repairs with more muscle using protein.  I’d like to point out that, despite marketing by the dairy industry, my opinion is that there’s no real evidence to support that it needs to be whey protein.  I think it can be any protein.  If you do not eat protein immediately before, during or immediately after your workout then your body starts breaking down lean body mass to repair those micro-tears.  Lean muscle is basically everything but fat.  Muscle, organs, in some cases bone.  Those are not thing you want to be broken down.  If you are not getting enough protein then you are essentially robbing your body of muscle mass because it doesn’t have the materials to repair and build muscle.  I suggest making a fruit smoothie with protein powder, because you can make it ahead of time.  I sometimes drink something called muscle milk, which is just like a pre-made protein drink.  I usually grab one alongside my water on the way to a workout and finish what I haven’t drank already while taking off my gear.  Some nutritionists suggest eating protein no more than fifteen minutes after your workout if you want to build muscle, since blood is circulating more during that time.  My opinion is that eating protein soon after your workout is better, but if you have to wait until you get home then that’s better than nothing.

For the first link in recipes, I suggest including a scoop of protein powder in each shake.  To me those recipes look like enough protein for jogging on the treadmill, not for doing roller derby.

http://www.prevention.com/food/healthy-recipes/post-workout-smoothie-recipes

http://www.muscleandfitness.com/nutrition/meal-plans/6-perfect-post-workout-meals/slide/6

 

Controlling Your Hits

Hitting the shit out of people is not only essential to playing roller derby, but also one of the funnest aspects of the sport.  To this day one of the most exhilarating moments I’ve had in this sport is the feeling I got when I hit someone so hard that, over the din and chaos of the track, I heard the entire audience go ‘OOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH’.  Because we’re apparently violent sociopaths, when you land a hit right and knock a bitch down like a sack of potatoes it’s a rewarding and wonderful feeling.

Quite often  I see hits that are desperate looking and over committing to the hit.  Skaters who hit like this approach hitting in an all or nothing way, doing everything they can to get a hit in.  As a jammer I love those kinds of hits because they’re easy to see coming, easy to avoid and easy to counter-block.  If I get into a solid position and counter block just a little then the opposing blocker’s weight takes her down for me, and I’m free to go on my point scoring way.  Good hits are not doing whatever you can to hopefully land a hit.  Good hits are practiced and calculated movements that take out specific skaters in neat, penalty free ways.  A good hit compared to an all or nothing hit would be like a surgeon excising a titty tumour with a scalpel versus a fucking food mixer.  The first is precise and calculated, the second is making a mess and just kind of hoping shit will work out (it won’t).

It’s worth noting, also, that hitting with that all or nothing style is fucking dangerous.  Falling in a pack is fucking dangerous to you and everyone around you.  Hitting someone sloppily is extremely dangerous to that person.  We want to win the bout not cripple opposing skaters for life, so be conscientious of how your skating can potentially affect other players and practice good form.

I’ve seen drills aimed towards teaching the proper form of hitting, but I don’t think it’s something that gets the explanation and attention it deserves.  I think that understanding the importance of WHY we need good form is important enough that it should be explained early on before fresh meat are cleared for contact.  Bad habits die hard, so it’s best to stop them before they get started.

If you’re doing any of the following, then odds are you’re blocking like a reckless idiot:

  1. When you hit your outside foot comes off of the ground and you’re balancing on one foot
  2. You’re pawing at the ground like a god damned horse with one of your feet
  3. If you fall after you’ve landed your hit
  4. If you fall when you don’t land your hit
  5. You usually get penalties when you hit
  6. The jammer is in front of you when you hit her out
  7. Your hits kind of annoyingly push her forward instead of hitting her out
  8. She doesn’t fall down because you hit like a weakling who has somehow not died yet despite Darwinian principles.

If those things don’t happen when you hit, good job on hitting effectively.

For me there are multiple aspects of an effective hit, so here are what I consider the most important:

Timing:

Timing is hard to get right.  If you hit too late the jammer just slides past you.  If you hit too early you end up pushing the jammer forward, which is the opposite of what you want.  This is a matter of practice.  For this there are a few drills I like to do to help people practice their timing.  I’m including some drills to help with this and the other basic aspects down below.

Keeping your fucking arms in:

Sometimes during drills I make my players plank every time they commit a penalty, so you better believe there are some washboard abs on my team.  Despite how much planking sucks I still see these bitches push their elbows out like they’re doing the fucking chicken dance on skates.  Elbows. Forearms everywhere.  It’s craziness.  When people hit they instinctively throw their elbows out and get a penalty for it.  When people fall they instinctively reach out and grab other people as they go down.

Here’s a tip: Hold your hands when you hit.  I saw one of the players on my team do it without even realizing it, and it was really effective.  It keeps you from grabbing, and makes it a little harder to throw elbows out.  Another thing you can do is swing your arms the opposite direction of where you’re hitting. It gets your elbow and arm out of the way.  In my head I tend to think of it as a whimsical ‘whooop there it is’ as I swing my arms and hips.  Like I’m busting a sweet dance move that has the ulterior motive of hurting someone.

Keeping your weight centered because you’re not a god damned wrecking ball:

Oh my god you guys.  So often I see people, especially newer people, throw the entirety of their body weight into a hit like they’re cosplaying as a shitty wrecking ball.  Stop doing that.  You fall like a hot mess regardless of whether or not you land the hit.  The area on the floor between your skates is your base.  If your center of gravity goes past your base you will fall.  If you take one foot off the floor then your base is reduced to the space between the wheels on the skate still on the floor.  That means that you’ll fall as soon as you lean to hit someone.  It’s basic physics, guys.  Do not throw your body weight over your skates.  Do not depend on their body being there to keep you from falling over.  Similarly, since you want to have a wide base you want to keep both feet on the floor.  If someone solidly counter-blocks you while you have one foot off the floor you will go down, because you can’t compensate with only one foot.  Even though the majority of your weight will be on the foot closest to the opposing player, you need to keep your other foot flat on the floor to brace for counter-blocks and maintain a wide base.  Don’t paw your foot like you’re an impatient fucking horse.  Keep it on the floor.  If your foot is pawing at the floor then you’re not controlling your foot.  If you’re not controlling your foot you’re more likely to low block someone with your sloppy epileptic looking foot or fall and then low block someone with your awkward giraffe legs.

Hitting with your entire body:

I wish I could count how many times I’ve had my skaters do the dreaded banana because they go in and hit with their shoulder, and only their shoulder.  It seems like newer skaters and even some veteran skaters default to only hitting with shoulders or only with hips.  You should be hitting with your entire body.  Tuck your arm out of the way and make contact with the entire area from your hips to the top of your ribs.  If you only hit with your shoulder or your hips then you leave the rest of their body to adjust and absorb your hit.  You remember how we talked about keeping your center of gravity over your base?  That’s what you’re allowing them to do.  If you hit with your entire body you literally leave no room for them to physically adjust and absorb your hit.

Pop it lock it bitches!

One of my favorite techniques to have people practice with hitting form is popping it.  What I mean by that is getting low and popping up into your hit.  If you do this right then when you make contact you force the opposing skater up a little bit, which means they are less balanced and fall over more easily. I like to think of this in terms of very flamboyantly starting an imaginary lawnmower.  While skating I get low enough to touch the floor on the opposite side of the player they are about to hit.  Then, as if jerking up to start a lawnmower, I pop up with my shoulder, but keeping my hands off to the side.  Starting gas powered lawnmowers is a quick motion, so the desired effect is that I pop up quickly with my arm out of the way, ribs open and making contact with my entire side, pushing the opposing skater up and over.

Here are some drills to help:

Paceline hitting: Basically exactly what it sounds like.  Have skaters skate around in a paceline and hit each player as they weave through.  They can do this backwards or forwards.  If your players are having a hard time grasping whatever concept you’re focusing on (don’t hit with just your shoulder, get low and pop it, keep both feet on the ground, ect) then you can have them plank if they do the focus skill wrong until the next person has made it through the line.  When I added that the number of shoulder-only hits reduced dramatically.

Four square blocking: Credit to allderbydrills.com for this one and Sumo Payne. I’m literally just going to copy and paste it for you guys.

Objective: To learn how to skate forward, to the sides, backwards by moving your feet quickly without turning around
Typical length of drill: 15 mins
Materials needed: 4-8 cones (or more if you have a lot of skaters)
Skill level required: Basic skills (skaters need to be cleared for contact to participate in step 2)
Description: Four cones are set up in a square formation, as shown in the illustration that follows.  Depending on how many skaters you have, you may want to put two or more sets of cones around the track/ floor so that as many skaters as possible can practice at the same time.  The distance between the cones does not have to be too big, the idea is to keep on moving your feet all the time, not to Sunday skate.

There are two steps in this drill:

Step 1
For one minute each skater moves around the set of four cones at a rapid pace.  The purpose is to keep your eyes in one direction, to not look at your feet, and to always go through the middle in order to maximize the agility practice (as shown through the blue line in the illustration).  Skaters are to use their hips to move around but should always keep their torsos and eyes facing forward.  Skaters should use their feet while moving around the cones in a random order (back to front to left to front to right to left to back to front etc.).  They should make sure that they pass the cones from all sides and not always from the same side, and to switch direction and choose randomly which cone they are about to pass next.

Illustration of SumMo Payne’s Quick Feet Drill

Step 2
Another skater stands in the middle of the four cones, in a proper derby stance.  As the first skater is moving around the cones s/he gives a hit to the person standing in the middle every time s/he passes her/him.  Skaters should make sure not to hit this person while skating backwards (that’s a direction of gameplay penalty).  Also, skaters should do their best with the hits in a tight space.  Try to make the person in the middle fall.  If there are many new skaters doing the drill, the hits don’t have to be that hard.  Switch the person standing and the person skating around the cones every 1 minute.

Queen of the rink:  You can do this drill in teams or individually.  Basically everyone hits each other or the opposing team until there is one person or team left on the track, and they win.  Players can hit each other down or out of bounds in order to get each other out. In teams this drill focuses more on communication and team work, while individually it’s more about for and counter-blocking.  If you’re having trouble with penalties you can also add the rule of if you commit a penalty, you’re out.

Those are a few easy ones.  Maybe if I go to Thursday night skate (I probably won’t) I’ll take video of what a solid hit looks like and share it with you all.  Maybe.

Don’t Sass the Refs

Recently I decided to make a switch from being a roller derby player to a coach.  And by decided I mean I was kind of forced to because I broke my foot a little bit.  Since my former league, the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse, was not in need of a coach I switched to the Maniac Monsters Mainz.  Long story short, it’s working out well and I fucking love it.  Also I’m getting paid for it, so that’s pretty cool.  I am, by definition, a professional trainer now, and the bragging rights are pretty awesome.

One of the issues that I’ve encountered as a coach is dealing with a little saltiness with the players in regards to the referees.  We had a bout wherein we disagreed with the calls the refs were making, some of us more than others.  Some of those players decided to get salty with the refs.

In case the title didn’t give it away, that is not ok.  Most of us, as derby players, don’t try out reffing, so most of us don’t know how hard it is.  In the first month of me having broken my foot, and a little before then, I was reffing scrimmages (I was on crutches while trying to whistle at people and it was like if Mr. Bean tried reffing a derby game).

You guys, I need you to pay attention to this.  Like really, guys.  Being a referee is hard as fuck.   As a roller derby player it doesn’t seem that hard.  I mean Jesus Christ there’s like eight referees watching the pack, amirite?  No, you’re not right, it’s still hard as fuck.  Referees have to watch our entire bodies for penalties in addition to whatever their referee assignment is.  If they’re watching our hips to try and see who was in front of who when going out they might miss a low block.  If they’re watching our hands for elbow or forearm penalties they might miss a cut.  If they’re watching our feet for cuts they might miss a low-block.  When I was the front pack ref I called so many out of plays wrong, because in the time I looked to see how far they were from the pack and then watched their feet, someone made a bridge and fucked up how much distance I thought they had.  As players we get frustrated by wrong or missed calls and focus on that, instead of being conscientious of how hard it is for refs to accurately call all penalties.  I strongly encourage everyone to referee as least a few scrimmages so you can understand more fully just how hard it is.

You guys, we cannot sass our officials.  They are doing the best they can.  Even if you have a ref or NSO who is a legitimate asshole and is actually calling penalties wrong there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.  Think about that.  As a team we can call official reviews and maybe talk to the head ref at halftime, but if they don’t agree then we have no recourse.  All we can do is our damndest to not get penalties.  I realize that’s frustrating, and I realize that refs sometimes do shit that makes you want to choke them out.  I’ve been there.  But don’t take it out on the refs.  Complain amongst yourselves, and talk to your captain or bench coach if you feel the need to.  They will handle it if they see fit.  It is their job, not yours, to address the refs.

If we get salty with refs and volunteers then what ends up happening is that we alienate the officials we have.  I don’t know what the referee situation is like in Stateside, but here in Europe we have a shortage of officials.  When leagues host bouts they sometimes have to skate with fewer referees than usual because there’s just not enough referees to go around.  If we get attitude with our referees then exacerbate that problem because referees will avoid our leagues.  My official friends tend to be my news outlets for the roller derby world, because they talk a lot amongst themselves, so you better believe that if you’re an asshole then word will get around in the officials world.

So, with all that being said, the takeaway for players is to not address the referees of officials unless it’s to say thank you.  Do not argue with them about anything.  Take your penalty and then talk to your captain, and trust your captain to do what is best for the team.

Captains and coaches, I have some advice for you as well.  I realize that for some players, you can tell them all of this until you’re blue in the face and they still lose their temper and sass the referees.  To help remedy this I’ve come up with a drill that acts as both a learning opportunity and a punishment for those sassy players.  Here it is:

 

Drill:  Your bitch ass is not the Dead Sea so stop being salty

What it is:  Before the drill starts, bring some of the players to the side and tell them to get sloppy with their penalties.  Encourage them to safely throw some elbows, forearms, ect, with some of them being no impact/no penalty and some of them being hella impact/penalty.  Also encourage them to do some of those to the outside of the pack.  Have all of the players except the salty one form a pack.  While the pack skates around call out players within the pack to be the jammer and fight through that giant pack, not taking the edges.  The salty player, who is on the inside of the track, calls penalties.  You shadow the salty player and watch over her shoulder.  For every penalty she calls wrong she has to go into the middle and banana for 15 seconds.  For every penalty she misses she has to go into the middle and banana for 15 seconds.

The takeaway: It is really hard to catch all penalties correctly, especially when there are other players blocking your field of vision.  Have sympathy for the referees and stop being an asshole.

Sidenote:  The banana, for those of you who don’t know, is a core exercise wherein skaters sit on the floor and raise their arms and legs off of the floor for as long as they can.  Only their butt can touch  the floor, and their body ends up making roughly the shape of a banana, hence the name.  I make my players do it when they’re late to practice, and they hate it.  No one is late to practice anymore.

The After Math of A Broken Ankle

Let me just start this post off with saying that if you haven’t read it already go back and read my post ‘Save the Ankles’ about preventing ankle sprains and breaks.  This post is specifically for what happens after, not how to prevent.  For some information on how to avoid ankle catastrophes that post is your best bet, not this one.

With that out of the way, I decided to dedicate a post to what we as roller derby players can do in the event on an ankle sprain or break. Unsurprisingly, this is because I broke my ankle recently.  Or my foot, or something down there. Not sure on the details, but I know it’s a minor break so I don’t get a cast. Which is stupid, but whatever.  I wasted five minutes of my life on pinterest looking at sweet ass ways I could decorate the cast I was anticipating I would get, all for naught.

In talking about ankle sprains and breaks, please understand that everyone is different.  Some breaks are horrible.  If you’ve read my post on preventing ankle breaks then you’ll know about Cole Izzion, the unfortunate skater who tore her shit up so bad that the x-ray looked like Bob the builder had sex with her ankle.  If that analogy is unclear, I mean that there were screws and hardware galore.  Her foot took forever to heal, and then another eternity to be able to get on skates.  I don’t have hardware in my foot.  There is a huge range of possibilities when it comes to fucking your feet up, so don’t feel frustrated because you have to be out longer than someone else.

The obvious thing to do is follow your doctor’s advice.  This sounds like common sense, but we’re roller derby players whose passion for violent roller skating shenanigans is a lot more influential than common sense. Sadly.  It took me a few ankle sprains to figure out that in the long run I was fucking myself over by coming back too soon or not stepping out when I should have. I was constantly defying doctor’s orders and figuring it’d be ok if I didn’t skate too hard or did no contact.  Skating in circles is a surprisingly taxing activity for our feet, so that was terrible thinking on my part, but you’ll see it over and over again in this sport. If your doctor says to stay off skates for a month, fucking stay off skates for a month.  Don’t cross your fingers and strap on skates after two or three weeks, because then you’ll add three more weeks onto your recovery.  Don’t fuck yourself over, don’t fuck your team over. Take care of yourself.

Another thing to do is to listen to your body.  If you strained your foot then go home and ice it.  A strain that could be fixed by a night’s rest and a few skipped practices is better than a sprain that makes you miss two weeks of practice.  If your foot is feeling tingly and weird because you took a hard fall on your foot, just step out for the rest of the practice.

That all being said there are two things I want to address. I want to talk about how to stay involved in the sport despite an injury and how to help rebuild muscle.  With the disclaimer that I’m not a doctor, so this is not medical advice or instruction.  I’m just a chick with skates and a computer googling shit.

I want to premise the discussion of team involvement by saying that it’s still going to be hard to watch your team skate without you.  Bouting is ultimately our goal. It’s what we practice for, so being forced to sit out of that is going to suck no matter what you do.  I’m sorry for how hard it will be to watch people skate without you.

When I broke my foot my husband was gone for work.  For at least another month.  My beloved derby friend, Knox YaOva, was kind enough to take me to the hospital and the babysit me for the month until my husband got back.  She changed out my ice pack, made me food, took me to my doctor’s appointments, the works.  Because of how awesome she is she also took me to roller derby scrimmages and practices.  For practices I video taped or wrote down drills from visiting trainers.  For scrimmages I was an inside pack ref on crutches (which was every bit as hilariously awkward as it sounds).  What I’m trying to say is that there are ways for you to stay involved in your league.  You can NSO or referee scrimmages.  You can write shit down.  You can record new drills.  You can make bout awards.  You can bench coach.  You can be a timer for drills.  You can ask about the possibility of studying bout footage and reporting to your trainer with insights and trends you’ve noticed.  Contact a board person, a trainer or a coach and ask what you can help with.  Communicate that you want to stay involved in the league and ask for something to do.  They should be able to find something.

Since my doctor did not give me a cast despite my persuasive pinterest argument, I had a removable boot that I was able to take off.  Hence, this bit is applicable to people who have removable casts, like me.  And of course, whatever I say absolutely does not supersede your doctor’s orders.  Don’t start any workout regime without consulting with a doctor first.

When you start working your foot out after a break never ever do impact.  Running and skating are the two last things you’re working up to.  Both are incredibly high impact and will crush whatever progress your foot has made in healing.  Good no-impact workouts include:

-Swimming.  But take it slow, kicking gently with your feet in a controlled manner.  Flopping it around like a teenage boy discovering his penis will not help you.  Swimming is an exercise that easily keeps weight off of your feet and is recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

-At home reps:  There are a couple of types of reps you can do at home that are no impact.  The best one to start with, because it’s completely non-weight bearing, is just sitting on couch and spelling out the alphabet with your toes.  You can repeat the alphabet as many times as you feel comfortable doing.  When you’re able to do that with no discomfort (and you’re doctor gives you the go ahead) then you can start doing exercises that put some weight on your foot.  Just balancing on your foot for as long as you can is one.  Another is standing on your one foot and then lifting your body on the ball of your feet slowly, doing as many reps as you feel comfortable with.

-Cycling: Cycling is an exercise that puts some weight on your foot but is not impact intensive, so while it shouldn’t be the first exercise you do it’s something you should do before running.

Make sure that you include plenty of rest time between workouts so you don’t push yourself too hard too fast.  Make sure you wear supportive, appropriate footwear.

If you’re looking for a cardio workout, you have a ton of options despite your disappointment of a foot.  Here’s a good example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=LtrciwU4Fbo

Hope that helps.  I’m bored of writing, so I’m going to go now.

Passing the Panty

I know it’s taken me a while to write a new blog post, but in my defense I lost the draft of this that was super awesome and included youtube links and everything. I had to do ten whole minutes of research in finding those links to copy and paste.  I could have jerked off to a video of Dominic Cooper in the time it took me to write that.  But since I think passing panties outside of the context of Japanese vending machines is important, I’ll suck it up and do this again for you all.

Passing the panty refers to the act of a jammer taking off her star panty and giving it to the pivot, thus making the pivot the jammer.  To those of you familiar with this, it’s old news. To those of you who are not, it probably sounds really weird. But get ready because it’s becoming more and more popular.  As an example, I found a youtube video that includes a panty pass. For some reason when I wrote the first, long lost draft of this, I found a panty pass from the Rose City Rollers after about ten minutes of watching a bout.  I cannot find it to save my life, so here’s a link to a bout between the Amsterdam Derby Dames and the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse.  The panty pass is initiated by the Roller Girls of the Apocalypse, which is the green/grey team, at about 50 minutes in.  Milf Shakes, the girl being held back by the black team, takes off her panty while the camera is focused on the Amsterdam chick in the obnoxious skirt.  When the camera comes back around you can see her get close enough to the pivot to pass it, thus completing the star pass.

I hope you actually watched that because GOD DAMN that took forever to find.  I might make a slower youtube tutorial on panty passes and include live action examples of ‘do this not that because that shit’s totes illegal’, but that would require use of the warehouse where we practice in between hockey guys, so we’ll see.  For now a discussion with a few youtube examples will have to suffice.

Some of you may be reading this and wondering what the point of a panty pass is.  Basically it just means people are tired.  If a wall is doing a fantastic job holding back a jammer who maaaaybe skipped too many morning jogs, she gets winded and is basically useless.  It’s kind of like how your legs stop wanting to cooperate during your 27 in 5. Being a jammer is an incredibly intense physical experience and requires and lot of off skates work to be good at due to the physicality of it.  So if you can’t handle the physicality of it and it’s affecting your ability to get through a wall, pass that shit.

Now that you know what a star pass is, or already knew and are irritated with me on how much time I spent explaining it, here are things to know about the panty pass:

-The panty must be passed by hand from the jammer to the pivot upright and in bounds in the engagement zone.  This means you can’t throw it, or use other blockers to help pass it, or skate to the other side of the track to do it.

-Once the pivot becomes a jammer the jammer cannot take the panty back.  By completing the pass the jammer becomes another blocker, and non-pivot blockers cannot engage in a star pass.

-You can block the shit out of people while they’re trying to complete a star pass.  In that same bout I linked above you can see Amsterdam throwing a ‘fuck no’ at a star pass by Roller Girls of the Apocalypse at 53:20.  Take a look at how tired Knox YaOva looks.  That’s why you do a star pass.  She tried and got blocked out of bounds. At that point she put the star back on (which she can because she never completed the pass).

-When a jammer does not have her star panty on she is considered an inactive jammer and cannot score points or get lead jammer status.  When a jammer takes her star panty off she can no longer obtain lead jammer for the rest of the jam. However, when the panty is back on she can score points.

-The star panty can only be passed to the pivot.

-If the panty falls during the pass either the jammer or pivot can pick it up. No one else. However, if the pivot picks it up she must give it back to the jammer by handing it or throwing it, and the jammer must HAND it back to her in order to complete the pass.

-The panty doesn’t have to be visible during a pass.  You can stuff that shit in your bra and hide it if you want. If you’re going to be shenanigous in this way, though, do it carefully since you forfeit point scoring if the panty is in your bra and not on your brain saver.

-Don’t go out of bounds during the pass, even accidentally. That’s not a legal pass and you will get a penalty.

-Don’t try to complete the pass while one of the partied is being whistled for a penalty. If a jammer isn’t paying attention and is handing the panty off while getting whistled for a penalty, more penalties will be had.

-If the jammer takes her panty off and the pivot has not acquired the panty through a legal star pass, the jammer is the inactive jammer.  If it drops during the pass the and pivot picks it up, if it’s hanging out in the jammer’s bra, the jammer is the inactive jammer. The moment the pass is completed legally the pivot becomes the inactive jammer and the former jammer becomes a regular ole blocker.  A good example of this is, again, in that same bout I already linked at about 35:25.  The Roller Girls of the Apocalypse Jammer decides she’s had enough, makes a legal star pass and before the pivot is able to put it on she gets called for a penalty.  Then the other jammer gets a penalty pretty quickly after that and goes to the box.  The Roller Girls of the Apocalypse pivot, now inactive jammer, didn’t realize she was officially the jammer now, and argues with the penalty box folks about not being a jammer when they ask her to move to the jammer spot and then leave.  She was wrong and cost her team a few seconds out of the penalty box.  Get a good grasp on it now, because I promise you there will be a day where you use it and you don’t want to make such a simple mistake.

That about covers the star pass.  I’m sure there’s shit I’m missing but I have shit to do like a responsible adult, so I should get to that.  If there’s a point I’m missing and you think it needs to be included, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll add it in and throw out props.

Until next time,

Stein

35 minutes

TLC is Wrong, You Need To Go Chasin’ Waterfalls

This is one of those terms in the derby world that has different meaning in different leagues. Some call it recycling.  Some call it waterfalling.  I call it waterfalling because it makes me want to sing like Lisa Left Eye Lopez, but if you want to be a dippy hippie and call it recycling, that’s call too.

The Silicon Valley Roller Girls define waterfalling as: when a set of two or more blockers rotate in a circular motion, sending one blocker after another to issue continuous hits to an opponent.

I think that’s kind of a weird definition (no offense ladies) and I’ll explain why. But before that, I’ll give my definition.

Stein defines waterfalling as: slipping some people and getting back into the action of the pack.

I will outline some situation that would be considered waterfalling, and then I’ll tie them together to form a more coherent definition for those of you who aren’t quite sure what my super awesome definition means.

Situation one:  You’re holding back a jammer, but this quick bitch gets past you. She also gets past a few other people. However in front of you she gets slowed down by your last lonely blocker.  Being a quick thinker, you and your team mates do a quick five step ass hauling and get back in front of this starry bitch (while not destroying the pack definition). That would be waterfalling.

Situation two: You’re getting ready to block an upcoming jammer and an opposing blocker hits you out of bounds.  You get back in bounds and in position in time to be a nuisance to the upcoming jammer.  Same thing happens to another blocker of yours.  But she gets back in and blocks.  This would be waterfalling.

Situation three: You’re in a four wall. The inside person gets knocked out by the jammer. The person next to the inside quickly steps in front of the jammer on the inside and slows her down. This gives the fourth blocker enough time to catch up and rejoin the wall.

The underlying point in those situations that ultimately defines waterfalling is that, yes, you are useless because the jammer is past you or you get knocked out or whatever.  But instead of letting that be the end of the story, you get back into the action as quick as you can and make yourself useful again.  This is why some people call it recycling.  You got used once, but you’re going to put yourself in the position where you’re useful again as many times as you possibly can.

Because some of you are visual learners, here’s a link to a video that has some sweet slow motion action during a moment of recycling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElpzuErRuf0

The end of the video is a really good illustration of a person recycling.  She was already behind the jammer as a point scored, but she came up on the inside and blocked her.  She did so by hitting the shit out her, which is also an option, but the main point is that she got back in front of the jammer after being passed by the jammer.  I’ve jammed in scrimmages enough times to know how fucking annoying that shit it when you’re getting your jam on.  Sometimes it’s a lot of work to get past a person, and it is holy fuckballs annoying when you have to do it more than once.  You pass her once, get a point, she waterfalls, you have to pass again. And again. And fucking again. And JESUS CHRIST ARE YOU KIDDING ME again.

There’s a few things that need to be emphasized when explaining the importance and effectiveness of waterfalling.  First off, just because the jammer got past you and made you a point does not mean you give up and aggressively watch.  Watching does nothing.  Instead of giving up like your thighs do during the 27 in 5, you need to get with your team mates and act as an obstacle.  Even if you’re already a point you can act as an obstacle for the opposing jammer to get past and tire her the fuck out.  Have you ever seen an opposing jammer skating around the track, legs barely lifting off the ground, trying to catch her breath?  Spoiler alert: It’s awesome.  It’d be like hunting for opportunititties at Mardi Gras and happening upon a DD.  It’s what happens when your hard work and their lack of morals/endurance coincide to give you what you wanted.

Something else to note is that waterfalling does not mean chasing the jammer all the way around the track.  It’s less chasing, and more a moment of quick judgement, trying to stay together and position.  If you’re behind the opposing jammer and she has a clear way out of the pack she’s hauling ass for, you’re too late.  If you’ve got some quickstepping blockers who can get in front of her and slow her down, catch up to her as soon as you can.

Since part of the point of this blog is to explain shit and then give drills or ways to work on the specific skills discussed, here are some drills to help with getting comfortable waterfalling.

Drill 1

Have one four wall with one opposing blocker acting as offense.  No jammer.  Have the offensive blocker hit and try to break you up.  If you get goated or fall out of bounds, waterfall back in.  If this is or gets too easy, up the number of offensive blockers to 2, then 3, then 4.  Do this for two laps, switch up the players, repeat.

Drill 2

Line up in a four wall.  Skate around the track. On the whistle, everyone rotates one position to the left, with the inside person skating past the front to the outside.  Don’t just mosey when you do it.  Sidestep quickly, make sure the inside line stays covered.

Drill 3

I’m going to say first off that I don’t like this drill, because it makes a bad habit out of your focus.  Kiki Urhaz said she liked the drill, and since I’m not an authority on roller derby like she is, I’ll include it.

Team of four positions in a square formation.  Two offensive blockers try to break them up.  You go one lap and if the four can get across the line without an opposing blocker between any of them, they win.

My issue with the focus of it is that it gets you in the habit of focusing on your little group of people.  In a bout you’re focus needs to be on the entire track, not just the little group of your team mates.

Those are a few drills off the top of my head.  I’m going through this a bit quick because it’s been a bit since I’ve posted, and I owe you all a post.  Also, to the person who asked about filming this shit: we ordered a camera. It’s on the way.