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.

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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.

Using the Track to Your Advantage

I don’t hear a whole lot of talk in my derby world about track layout and how to use it, which is unfortunate because there’s a lot of potential advantage in knowing the ins and outs of track layout.  It affects strategy and game play, so once you know how you can use all of the track like Garey Busey snorts all of the cocaine in any given room he’s in.  Depending on how long you’ve been skating, you might be confused as to what difference the track could make.

The issue actually came up at a roller derby practice tonight.  I shouted at my teammates to get out of the apex (I believe my exact words were ‘Not in the apex!!’, which makes the apex sound hilariously like the shunted hope of butt sex) and then things got confusing.  So while discussing where shit got fucked  up, I asked if they knew what it meant and we had a titllating discussion on the matter, complete with a visual demonstration.

As it turns out, defending in the apex sucks for a handful of reasons.  Reason number one is that the curve of the track is actually a bit wider than the straight part of the track.  Think about that for a second.  It’s enough of a pain in the ass to hold back a jammer without giving them an allowance of a few extra feet.  Reason number two is that the increased distance on the outside makes it harder to keep your wall straight while moving.  This is becausse of the outside having to move faster to keep up and the inside having to move a little slower.  Throw a little pushing behind that factor and that alone makes it way easier to break up a wall.  This also gives the jammer the opportunity to draw the blockers to the outside and then juke to the inside, thereby forcing the blockers to have to move at the speed of light to have to catch her since she has the inside of the track and they are on the outside.  In that scenario, it’s basically like the inside of the track is one of the speed boosters you drive over in Mario Kart.  If someone runs over that and you don’t, you’re going to have a hard time catching up. A third reason is that it gives a good spry jammer the opportunity to jump the apex, which fucking sucks as a blocker. If you’ve watched the WFTDA champs and seen Bonnie Thunders jump that apex, you know how that fucking goes.

Although defending in the apex sucks sweaty herpes balls, there are some ways the apex can work to your advantage.  Such as the making people defend in the apex.  If you know your shit and see an opportunity to push or draw the opposing team into the apex then do it.  You can skate forward if they’re the type to follow the pack mindlessly, you can skate forward slowly so as to destroy the pack without getting a penalty, forcing you to stop and them to come to teh apex if you’re close enough, or you can just fucking push them if they’re in front of you.  Then all of that shit I just talked about becomes your best friend, and you can smile in mischevious glee as you watch those beautiful points being added to your total.

One less ovbvious way to use the apex is when bridging.  This is another pointer brought to us by the lovely Kiki, and is also something we completely fucking forgot about five minutes after she left.  Because the circumference (or distance around the curve, for those of you who are not on good terms with geomoetry) is shorter the closer the closer you are to the inside, this causes the whole going slower on the inside and faster on the outside thing.  Ten feet on the inside covers a fuck ton more of the track than ten feet on the outside. If you’re confused about this point, do this at your next practice: Take four skaters and line them up with ten feet between them on the inside of the track.  Pause. Consider how much track that covers (spoiler alert: about half the total track).  Tell those skaters to move to the outside of the track while maintaining ten feet distance.  Be shocked by how little track that covers (about 3/4 of the apex) compared to the previous positions.

What that little four person visual or exercise just did was usd a bridge, which is exactly why I’m bothering to explain the distance thing.  When you bridge, you’re lengthening the definition of the pack so that you can bring the jammer (sometimes a blocker if you feel like being a dick) back further, thereby tiring her out.  You want to bridge as far back as possible because the farther back she goes the more tired she will be, and therefore more shitty of a player she will be.  Having each member of your bridge, with ten feet between each, stand on the inside of the track makes your bridge superhellafragilistic longer.  Depending on how you want to defend once the jammer comes in, the last person can stand in the middle and be a lone man wall, or skate forward quickly to form a two person wall with the next person.  Whatever floats your roller boat, really.

For now that’s all I have in mind for making the track your dirty bitch.  Hopefully I can add more to this at some point, but I felt compelled to churn out at least one more info post, since it’s been super long.  For that same reason I’m not proofreading tonight, so sorrynotsorry about typoss.

-Stein

Offensive Jam Starts

In my last post I mentioned the term ‘awkward salmoning’ and I realized that eventually I have to explain that.  While brainstorming for a general topic under which it would fit, I decided on the subject of starting jams.

This literary conquest didn’t seem too terrible when I started, but holy shit guise, lemme tell you what.  There is not an abundance of accurate information on the interwebs concerning jam starts, and a lot of this is because of the ever evolving nature of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association rules.  Shit used to be a lot different from what we know it currently, so the majority of jam start tips and tricks don’t make any god damned sense.  Someone needs to message google and tell them to update their search algorithms to account for this.  But in the mean time, I’ve done you the solid of wading through the ocean of bullshit jam start articles and picking out the succulent relevant bits.  So enjoy, my friends, and derby accordingly.

Whether you’re a jammer or a blocker, waiting the last few seconds before the jam whistle as you’re crouched in derby position can be nerve wracking. If you’re smart, which I assume you are because you’re making the effort to read this, you can mitigate the stress by reading up a bit and planning out some strategy with your team.  Hopefully this humble blog poost can help you on that way.  There are a lot of aspects to offensively starting a power jam, but hopefully I’ll do an alright job of breaking it down.

The first thing to remember is that unlike power jams, regular jams are both offensive and defensive.  Although I’m focusing on the offensive aspect of it for now, it’s not entirely offensive.  When both teams have a jammer on the track it’s a constant switch between offensive and defensive, so you have to be able to adjust depending on what happens on the track.  If you have an offensive plan that’s contigent on your strongest blocker and the opposing jammer happens to line up right behind your strongest blocker, that plan needs to be flexible enough to adjust for that.

If you you and your team are big on defense and don’t want to compromise your defensive line at the whistle, then don’t worry, I have some shenanigans for you, too.  There are some mischevious offensive tactics that you can employ before the whistle. They involve a certain simile about a salmon that I’ve been referencing.  And alliteration, apparently.

Before  get into how fantastic awkward salmons are I must give due credit to Truckstop Trixie.  This wee wild cat came to us from a bank track league in Texas.  She brought with her the hilarious technique called awkward salmoning, so any and all credit for the move goes towards her.

The excitement of the awkward salmon was brought up during a team discussion of rules, and whether or not certain tactics were legal.  The specific tactic being talked about is also one worth trying out for offensive strategies before the whistle, and was brought ot us by Kiki Urhaz.  She mentioned that sometimes when she jams, she’ll wait until about three seconds before the whistle and poke an opposing blocker square in the asshole.

Do you need to reread that? Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Now that we’re clear on what I typed, I’ll explain.  If you don’t have your imagination pants on still from last time, go ahead and put them on again.  Imagine being a blocker in front of the jammer line, waiting for the whistle.  You’re in derby position, as you should be, watching the jam timer, and you feel a surprising but definite poke that’s centered on your asshole.  You’re probably going to straighten up a lilttle bit and look behind you to try and figure out what the fuck is happening that apparently involves your asshole.  Can you see how that’s ideal as a jammer?  The blocker is temporarily distracted and puts herself in the ideal position to be knocked the fuck over.  Even if she doesnt stand up, that momentary distraction will break her focus on maintaining the wall and give you an opportunity to bust through that shit like the kool-aid guy high on crack.

The team discussion centered around whether or not that’s a legal move, the conclusion of which being unclear in Europe.  Although we play by the same rules as the States, European refs call shit weird sometimes, so starting a power jam with a poke to the brownie maker is a risky move.  Nekromancer, the head ref for the Pikes Peak Derby Dames, Castle Rock n’ Rollers and Team Bionic (basically someone who really knows his shit) said that stateside it’s completely legal as long as the engagement doesn’t last more than three seconds and doesn’t better relative position.  While it may seem like the move betters relative position, it’s not the move itself but rather the skater’s reaction that gives you th e advantage, and that’s what makes it legal.

During one of these discussions Truckstop likened the move to something that the bank track does called awkward salmoning.  You wait until a few seconds before the whistle, shove your hand between the thighs of the blocker in front of you and violently wiggle your hand like a salmon out of water.  Like an awkward salmon.  It has the same effect, and can be used by either a jammer or a blocker who’s trying to make a hole for their jammer.  Or as a hilarious way to get someone to jump up and shriek a little bit.  Or as an awkward way to say hello. I’ve done both, both to people at roller derby and work. No regrets.

If you’re not done yet with creatively innapropriate names for jam start tactics yet then I have one more.  This one is called a ‘dick arm’, and it is not related to the porn remake of Edward Scissorhands (surprisingly).  The core of this tactic is to put your forearms together, lightly clasping your fists (but not interlocking your fingers) and wiggling your way between two blockers enough to drop your shoulder and get your body through.  If you don’t get why that’s called dick arming, then I feel bad for you.  One effective way to start a dick arm is to start at the thighs.  Blockers can mash their hips together all they want, but there will always be space a little above their knees.  You can start there, ram your dick arm in, and wiggle your way up. Alternately, you can start by standing on the line until a few seconds before the whistle and drop your wheels back while keeping some of your body and your dick arm in that spot.  Unless the blockers move forward, they can’t push you back and close the space without getting a penalty.

Those are a few offensive tactics that don’t involve team coordination as much as how close you’re willing to get to someone’s no-no parts. It’s worth trying out, either in a scrimmage or a match where you’re at an unbelievable point deficit and don’t give a fuck.  If you dig it ask your captains to bring it up with the refs at the captain’s meeting to establish the legality and go for it.  It being assholes and thighs.

While we’re on the topic of things that jammers can do to kick off the jam offensively, it’s worth noting that distance from the jam line is something worth playing around with.  Some jammers like starting right up in there, while other prefer to start a meter or more back,  This gives them more space to jump around and confuse the other blockers with where she’s going.  If you’re not sure what your preference is then play around with it during scrimmages, and see what style floats your boat.

There are of course other strategies that involve a more thorough understanding of WFTDA rules.  One of the more common tactics that you might have seen in some of the many WFTDA matches you’ve been watching is the no pack situation.  Just before the whistle the foremost team might skate forward.  When they do this it destroys the pack and the other team is either forced to bridge the gap thus losing a blocker, or skate forward as fast as possible to reform the pack.  Both of these scenarios assume that the rearmose team knows what the hell is happening, because if they aren’t paying attention or aren’t familiar with the strategy they’ll probably continue to block and get a penalty.  All of these situations benefit your jammer.  If they lose a blocker to a penalty or bridging then that’s one less blocker.  If they skate forward to catch up to the foremost blockers a quick jammer can outskate them and get past with minimal effort.

That tactic is one of the more straightforward ones, but if you’re creative you can come  up with others.  One strategy I came across while wading through that ocean of outdated strategy bullshit was the collective false start tactic, dreamed up by some michevious little peice of shit on a forum.  I say peice of shit endearingly because although this strategy is shady as fuck, I like shady as fuck.  This person brought up the idea of every blocker on the team doing a false start.  False start if when you’re on the track but you’re not in the right position.  When you’re lined up waiting for a jam whistle and your teammate tells you to  watch your wheels, they’re probably politely telling you to not get a fucking false start penalty by letting your wheel wander behind the jam line.

I posted this on our league forum to try and verify whether or not it’s in fact legal, and I found out it is not. Sorry/not sorry to get your panties wet prematurely, guys.  Our beloved referee, John E Crash, hit us with some sweet sweet knowledge by pointing out some clarifications WFTDA had made that would result in this scenario reulting in the jamn not starting and your captain getting a delay of game.  Woops.

Our head NSO, though, brought up another strategy that is sneaky and therefore appeals to me.  If you have enough jammer helmet panties, have everyoine line up in front of the jammer line wearing a jammer panty.  Right before the whistle, everyoine but the actualk jammer can take off the panty and the jammer drops back. This takes time away from the oppposing team to figure out where and who the jammer is.  If it’s done quickly and not clumsily like that time I fell down the stairs last week, it can be effective.

A much more simple way to kick off a jam offensively is to just have one of your outer blockers push in.  Once you get good at it, it can be devastating to their wall.  Have the inside or outside blocker (preferably the one farthest from the opposing jammer’s start position) line up just a little to the side of the blocker in front of them.  When the whistle blows that blocker immediately starts pushing the opposing blocker to the inside, making a hole for your jammer while your fellow blockers are (hopefully) busy holding back the opposing jammer.  It takes a bit of practice to be ale to effectively lock someone and push them.  It also helps if you can throw your ass out and stop them should they get ahead of you a bit and try and get a hit in as the jammer’s passing through.  But again, practice, and a huge amount of awareness about where everyone is.  You have to be able to switch from offense to defense in a heartbeat.

If you want to go with the above strategy of pushing someone in it helps your jammer to let her in the know.  An easy way to do this is to have a code.  You can do it with hand signals, like your offensive blocker making an O with their hands so the jammer can see (and behind her back so everyone else and their mother can’t see), or you can do it with code words, like asking ‘Who’s going to the afterparty?’ and whoever answers is the blocker about to make a hole for the jammer.

You can also experiment with the positions of the blockers as a way to increase your effectiveness, both offensively and defensively.  You can start as truck and trailer or in the London wall, for example.  If you watch WFTDA matches on WFTDA.tv, you’ll notice that not a lot of professional teams start in a four wall.  They’re fond of London walls.

 

As I find more strategies I’ll try to add them on.  There’s probably some spelling mistakes and some shit missing from this article, but since it’s been a while since I’ve published anything you can deal with it.

If you like any of the possibilities laid out for you in this post, play around with them at freee practice or scrimmages or whatever.  It might end up being something your team loves, and could be an asset in a bout.  As always, message me or comment with questions or tips.  To the woman who asked for examples to be posted, the hubs and I are still working on the camera situation, but we’re getting there.

Until next time,

Stein

Helpful Tips I Wish I’d Known Before FM

I’m guessing if you’re looking at this article you’re either newly assessed, fresh meat, thinking about joining the glorious world of roller derby, or completely lost and unable to navigate wordpress.  Congrats to the newly assessed, congrats to the FM with the courage to lace up, congrats to the pre-FM on your stellar taste in sports, and congrats to the person who got here by accident on getting here by accident.

In brainstorming for a decent roller derby topic to write about I considered things I wish I’d known from the beginning.  In a Siddhartha lightbulb moment I then realized that ‘Thing I Wish I’d Known’ is itself a worthy topic.  So I dedicate this to the newbies and hope this will help you in your fabulous journey of kick ass derbying.  For the ease of the reader, I’ve made the important bits bold.

Probably one of the first lessons I picked up on is the quality of the gear we wear.  With how expensive the start-up cost of skates and gear is we tend to get cheap shitty gear to start.  I totally get it, because I totally did it.  But don’t.  There are a few pieces of equipment that are absolutely worth the initial high cost, because you’ll end up buying better ones after a few weeks anyway after your body starts to feel the derby hurt.  The most important on that list is, I think, is knee pads.  Anyone who’s been through a round of FM can tell you that you do a lot of shit on your knees, like giving back alley blowjobs to refs to get out of penalties. KIDDING, guys. Kidding.  We just roll our eyes and give dirty looks. (which you should know is a sportsmanship no-no if you read the previous post)  But aside from being targets of easy blowjob jokes, FM fall a lot. The degree to which FM fall is equivalent to the degree of offensiveness in my one asshole relative talking about jew bones at Auschwitz as souvenirs (I think he’s Jewish, which makes it even more fucked up.).  THAT’S A LOT GUYS.  That sweet ass 180 degree derby stop you saw someone pull off like a god damned fairy didn’t get to be glittery and fairy like overnight.  There were a lot of falls involved in getting to that point, and our knees take a lot of the brunt.  Tailbone injuries and knee injuries are really common chronic issues in derby life, and a lot of the knee pain can be avoided by buying good, sturdy pads.  I highly recommend some form of killer 187 pro pads.  They feel awkward at first because of how bulky they are, but you get used to it fast.

Another piece of equipment that’s worth a higher initial investment is the mouthguard.  In most sports mouth guards are big clunky things that make you feel like you’re cradling Zeus’ dick in your mouth.  If you’ve watched a lot of derby you might know that talking and communication are really really ridiculously good looking big things, which you cannot do with that Olympian dick your mouth.  You also need to take out that mouth guard to drink water, which you should be doing frequently at practice.  I don’t know about you guys, but our league practice arena is a gross warehouse we share with hockey dudes, who have no qualms with teabagging the benches in between underwear changing.  That’s not an environment in which I would want to risk the hygiene of my mouthguard.  I recommend the SISU mouth guard.  It’s a thinner mouth guard, but it still does a stand up job protecting your teeth. It mold to your upper set of teeth and leaves enough room that you can talk and drink water.  It’s recommended by most derby girls for good reasons.  The thing you should cheap on out to start with is your skates.  A long as they fit you, roll, and have toe stops, you’re good to go.  By the time you’re proficient in skating, your skates will be worn to shit and it will be time to get a new pair, anyway.  By that point you’ll be able to understand and appreciate a more individualized setup, so spending more later on makes way more sense.

As long as your helmet fits and doesn’t have cracks in it, it’s a decent helmet.  There’s not as much variability in the quality of helmets as there is mouthguards and knee pads.  Elbow pads and wrist pads, because they don’t take as much impact during falls, are the equipment that you’re better off cheaping out on.  I still have the shitty elbow and wrist guards from FM.  The elbow pads need to be replaced, because at this point they can’t pass safety checks without being duct taped and they give me derby burns all the time, but they held out for a solid year and some, so they put out their money’s worth.

Speaking of derby burns, the manner of attire is something I wish I’d had a heads up on.  You’ll often see derby girls skating around in short shorts that leave little to the imagination, and no doubt at some point you’ll want to emulate that.  But before you go investing in a closet full of booty shorts, know this:  The girls who wear short shorts often pair them with tights.  This is because your thighs are prone to derby burns, which are the result of falling, sliding, and having skin scraped off as you slide.  They take eons to scab over and are incredibly uncomfortable as a result.  So when you’re stocking your derby closet, don’t skimp on leggings and tights.  My closet is overrun with black capri leggings, which I use not just for derby but for all of my workouts now.  Get yourself a few pairs of those, they will serve you well.

Speaking of things you should get, thongs.  You’re probably calling bullshit on me right now but I swear to god you will get tired of the panty lines and get thongs eventually. They have taken over my underwear drawer at this point because of how often I derby and work out.

To help you not get derby burns, it helps to of take a hard look at what kind wheels you’re on, and whether they’re appropriate for the floor you’re using.  I wrote in an earlier post about the virtues that wheels well matched to a floor can do in not breaking your ankle like David Tennant opting out of further seasons of Doctor Who broke my Whovian heart.  If you haven’t read that post and don’t know much about protecting your ankles, then you need to go read that shit.  Look in the archives of the page, and it’s titles ‘Saving Ankles’.  Following those guidelines can save you some nasty surgeries and painful physical therapy,  as well as the slipping and sliding that causes derby burns.

Derby will consume your time like my inner fat kid consumes cupcakes, but you will get out of it everything you put in.  With that being said, it’s important to maintain balance in your life.  Don’t make excuses to skip practice every week, because that’s not fair to you or your teammates, but don’t skip important shit with your family every week for derby, either.  Find a balance and stick to it.

Don’t eat like a teenager.  It’s common, almost cloyingly repeated logic that your body puts out what you put in, but it’s especially obvious when you do something as physically demanding as roller derby.  My best practices do not come after I’ve consumed a bag of cheetos and a Dr. Pepper that day.  I feel crampy and easily tired out.  When I eat healthily I can feel a difference in my body, and it reflects in my endurance and general play.  As a general rule cut out pops and sodas, and limit your intake of sugary delicious goods.  The easiest way is to just not buy them, so you don’t have that temptation in your home.

Get to know the rules.  It helps to a huge degree in your game if you study the rules early on.  You have to pass a written rules test to assess, but starting early and keeping on the rules is the way to go.  When you do assess and are cleared for scrimmages, you can do sneaky shit like tricking the opposing jammer into getting behind you when they don’t need to, or jutting your hips backwards at the last second to get them called for a cut.  It can help you form and debate strategy, like your jammer using a blocker to back block the shit out of people to make a hole through some tough defense, or the legality of awkward salmoning people before the whistle (I’ll write on article on awkward salmoning at some later point, for those curious).  More than anything, though, it helps you to not get penalties, either by making stupid mistakes or getting shit pulled on you by other rule savvy sneaky bitches.  All in all, getting to know the rules can only help you and make you look like sneaky, savvy billy rollin’ badass.

Watch derby games.  Take a chill day, night, or hour or two to relax and youtube some roller derby videos.  WFTDA has a library of WFTDA sanctioned bouts you can go through  and stream at WFTDA.tv.  There’s some matches on youtube, too.  It’s good to watch a mix of both amazing teams like Gotham and some lesser known up and coming teams, so you can see a mix of derby styles and moves in different skill levels.  I can’t emphasize enough how much you can learn in strategy, skills, rules and countless other things if you watch derby and pay attention to what the players are doing.  You can see what derby is supposed to look like, analyze your weak points, and then set goals based on that.

Last, but not least, be patient with yourself!  I’m a perfectionist, so I’m hard on myself when it comes to … well, everything.  I get frustrated when I can’t get a drill right, or have a bad day at practice.  The truth is we all have bad days, and the best players played like shit when they first put skates on.  If you’re struggling with something, ask for help, and be patient with yourself.  Hit that son of a bitch skate floor hard, with love and determination, and eventually you’ll get it.

I’m sure this list will only grow as I continue to skate, but for now I hope it serves to help someone as they start derby.  If there’s something you’d like to add to this list, feel free to comment. As always, thanks for reading.

Stein

PS. I’m not editing this as thoroughly as I edited the last few, so if there are mistakes you should probably build a bridge and deal with it.  Because you know what they say: people in glass houses sink ships (5 points if you catch that reference).