Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On a Mission From the KGB

Alternative names: FBI vs. KGB, Mission From the FBI, Cold War
Objective: To practice hitting in a game-play situation; hitting hard whilst skating in a pack; following through on your chosen target and always knowing where they are; making sure that you are still paying attention to everything that is going on around you while you have a special mission
Typical length of drill: 20 mins
Materials needed:
  1. A complete track
  2. As many small pieces of paper as the number of skaters (each piece must be big enough to fit the name of a skater)
  3. Two bowls or hats or other receptacles to keep the notes in
  4. Preferably a couple of referees to keep track of legal and illegal hits
  5. Skaters should all have a black or a white shirt with their names written on the back
Skill level required: Skaters must be cleared for contact; intermediate contact skills recommended as this game tends to get a little aggressive
Description: In this game all the skaters have been recruited by the KGB to "kill" another skater.  For each successful knockdown the skaters earn 1000 rubles and the skater with the largest bank account at the end wins the game.

First, split the skaters up into two teams based on their shirt colors, white vs. black.  Hand out a small piece of paper to each skater and have each skater write her/his name (legibly) on her/his note and then fold the piece of paper twice.  All the white team's skaters place their names in one of the two bowls, and the black team's skaters place their names in the other.  Each person on the black team is going to pull the name of a white skater out of the bowl, and each white skater is going to pull the name of a black skater out of the bowl.  It's crucial that no one lets on whose name they pulled out of the bowl, your target is supposed to be a secret to everyone else (this also means no tell-tale glances or obvious sizing-up).  Then have all the skaters get into one huge pack on the pivot line.  On the whistle they will begin skating and they will have one minute to "kill" their target.  During this game the skaters are going to skate in a pack as if we they are playing regular roller derby except there will be no jammers, only a team of white blockers vs. a team of black blockers.  Each skater's mission is to knock over the person whose name they pulled out of the bowl using all manners of legal hitting (that means IN bounds, IN play, and only using legal target zones and legal blocking zones).  Any time that you get "killed" (knocked to the ground) you skate out of bounds and do 10 push-ups to recover.  Any time that you are able to legally knock your target down to the ground you earn 1000 rubels.  If you knock someone over illegally you earn no money but the fallen skater still has to do her 10 push-ups to recover.  If you knock down someone else's target instead of your own, you earn no money but the killed skater still has to do her time in the hospital: 10 push-ups out of bounds.  At the end of each 60-second jam both the teams pull out new names for the next jam.  This way the targets are constantly rotating, the skaters learn that they can't always be watching out for the same person from the opposing team, and everyone gets a chance to try to knock over many different types of skaters.  The person who has earned the most money by the very end of the game, wins.  Skaters should keep track of their own earnings.
OPTIONS: Depending on the number of skaters you have at practice you may want to split the skaters into smaller groups so that you don't have 30 of them skating in a pack all hitting each other at the same time.  Also, if you want to make the game more team-oriented, you can change it to FBI vs. KGB where the black team has been recruited by the FBI to kill KGB agents and the white team has been recruited by the KGB to take out FBI agents.  All the skaters still have a specific target to knock out from the other team but the money at the end of each jam is pooled together and the team with the most money at the end of the game wins the Cold War.  In this version some of the skaters may want to help their teammates in taking out their target by using positional blocking.  In a much simpler version of the game, you don't even need to split the skaters into two different teams, you can just have everyone put their names in one big bowl and let the hit-fest begin!  This however does not train your skaters to be on the lookout for people from the opposing team as they will have to be looking out for people of all shirt colors.  IMO it can be even more chaotic than the original version.

Additional notes: Although I prefer strategic play over hit-n-run games, I still think that knowing how and when to give big hits is an important part of playing roller derby well.  I came up with the idea for this game when a league asked me to coach them specifically on contact.  Their problem was that although they knew how to hit and they were able to do it in contact -drills, they were not applying their skills well in scrimmages or during games.  They needed to get used to hitting within the pack and during jams when there is a lot going on at once.  This drill forces the skaters to use contact while they are skating in a pack for about the length of one jam and there is a lot going on at once.  The skaters also have to pay attention and keep looking around them while they are out on their missions (a WFTDA minimum skills requirement: 3.4 Focus), otherwise they risk getting knocked out of the park.   The addition of a game -winner in this drill drives some people to perform better, and the addition of a "punishment" if you get knocked down gets people to control themselves more, not just throw their weight around without thought to consequences, and they pay better attention to their surroundings.  If you like this game you might also like Sniper Frogger.

IMPORTANT: This drill can get a little aggressive so it's really good to remind your skaters over and over again that the hits should be legal and that they should not be out to hurt their teammates, just knock them off-balance.  This is also why I really do not recommend this drill for skaters who have just been cleared for contact.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010


Alternative names: Shopping Carts
Objective: To build up endurance and strengthen the derby muscles; to practice proper derby stance; to support each other
Typical length of drill: 10 mins
Materials needed: A full track or just four cones to mark the inside track line
Skill level required: None
Description: This is an endurance drill where skaters take turns pushing and pulling three other skaters for 60 seconds at a time.  Divide all of your skaters into groups of four (if your skaters don't evenly divide into groups of four you can have one or two groups of five, or involve the referees!) and then have all the groups spread themselves out around the track so that everyone isn't starting from the same exact place.  The groups should form lines where everyone but the first person is holding on to the hips of another skater, essentially building a train (see image below). On the whistle the person in the back begins pushing the three skaters in front of her/him while the three skaters stay in proper derby stance doing nothing but being dead-weight.  The skater in the back pushes her/his teammates for 60 seconds and then the coach blows the whistle again signaling for the pusher to let go and skate up to the front of the line and become dead-weight.  The person now in the back begins pushing.  This continues until all the skaters in line have gotten the chance to push for 60 seconds, then the pulling begins.  Each skater pulls the line of three dead-weight skaters behind her for 60 seconds and then drops back and grabs onto the skater in the back becoming dead-weight herself/himself.

Coaches during this drill should consistently be correcting skaters on their form because after a while this drill gets really heavy on the legs and skaters begin standing up more.  It's good to remind skaters that they can make it easier for the pusher/puller by being low -- the taller a skater stands, the more difficult it is for the pusher/puller.  If you look at the image below the skaters being pushed should be told to get lower, and particularly the skater in the pink shorts second from the front should be told to bend her knees more as her stance is not quite proper.

Additional notes: This is another one of those drills I learned while skating with New Hampshire Roller Derby :)  I think that this drill is great for freshmeat because they can practice the proper stance and form without having to worry about falling since they are all attached.  Also, this drill gives all the skaters a good chance to show each other some love -- during the drill they should be helping each other out by encouraging their teammates to push themselves and keep going hard and not give up.  Finally I'd also like to add that this is a great drill to do in the clockwise direction, in fact, we often change direction in the middle, when we switch from pushing to pulling.

Minnie Gun BangBang pushing a group of three at a Helsinki Roller Derby practice. Photo by Mick Dagger.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Follow the Douchebag

Alternative names: Follow the DB, Douchebag -drill
Objective: Paying attention, speed control and pack skills
Typical length of drill: 10-15 mins
Materials needed: A full track or just four cones to mark the inside track line
Skill level required: None
Description: First off you need a very good skater to be the leader.  All the skaters pack up in a huge pack behind the leader on the track. Their goal is to stay in pack proximity to each other and as close as possible to the leader.  The leader's job is to be a douchebag: vary their speed, stop suddenly, race around the track, etc.

The rules are if any member of the pack:

  • bumps into another girl (even no impact bump)
  • touches the ground with anything but her skates
  • skates out of bounds at all
  • is lapped by the leader
  • or is unable to stop before her hips pass the leaders hips
...they jump off the track and do 10 push-ups. Then they rejoin the pack as quickly as possible.  Keep it up until everyone is getting really annoyed at you or is getting tired and sloppy.

Additional notes: This can be an excellent warm-up drill to get a practice started and I personally really like it and think of it as a fun game to break up endurance or skills practices.  The drill has been posted multiple times on the roller derby coaches Yahoo group by many different people and with a variety of names (all usually referring to "douchebag" at some point) and after some research I have found that the name Follow the Douchebag was given by Doc Holiday of the Rose City Rollers.  Though it is not completely clear who the originator of the drill was, Cupples Skate of the Rose City Rollers used to run this drill as a warm-up before the league's weekly scrimmages four years ago so it may have started there.  Because I like to know the history and stories behind drills I'd love to know if anyone has any additional background information about this one!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Angel 'n' Asshole

Alternative names: --
Objective: To learn how to avoid sudden obstacles; to practice good communication, closing up holes in the pack, and assisting your jammer; to practice jamming
Typical length of drill: 15 minutes
Materials needed: A full track or just four cones to mark the inside track line
Skill level required: None
Description: This is a variation on the drill called Asshole.  Get all your skaters together into one gianormous pack.  Designate an asshole and give her/him the pivot panty.  Designate a jammer (or angel) and give her/him the jammer panty.  On the whistle the pack begins skating around the track.  The pack's job is to:
  • sustain a steady medium pace
  • maintain a tight-knit pack where everyone can easily touch several people on command
  • make holes for and assist the jammer through the pack
  • close holes immediately after the jammer has gotten through so as to keep the asshole from being able to easily disrupt the pack
  • loudly communicate with each other about what is happening in the pack, most specifically about the positions and movements of the angel and the asshole
Once the pack is skating around the track at a steady pace the asshole begins to do the dirty work.  Her/his mission is to make the other skaters' jobs much more complicated by:
  • falling down in front of the pack
  • bumping wheels with skaters
  • slowing down in the middle of the pack
  • forcing her/his way to the inside line and stopping there
  • turning around and skating clockwise through the pack, etc. etc.
S/he creates obstacles for the pack so that they have to work hard to keep holes from forming for anyone but the jammer, and work hard to communicate.  The skaters are not to block the asshole in this drill.  At the same time that the asshole is wreaking havoc in the pack, the jammer is trying to get through as swiftly as possible.  The jammer's job in this drill is to just jam through the pack without incurring any penalties, and to communicate her/his needs to the pack (i.e. "Open up the inside line for me!" "Give me a push out of the pack!").  Every jammer goes for one pass through the pack and then hands off the panty to someone else.  This part is easiest if the jammer (once s/he's gotten through the pack) skates 20 feet in front of the pack and stays at that distance from the pack until the coach has yelled out the name of the next jammer and that skater has come to grab the panty from the former jammer.  Then it's easy for the new jammer to just take off from in front of the pack and start skating towards the back of it, and for the old jammer to just drop back to become part of the pack. 

Additional notes: This is a fun way for greenhorns to get to try jamming for the first time -- no one is blocking, everyone is helping, it really takes the pressure off.  When I've run this drill I've tried to give everyone at least one chance to jam, and we'll pass the asshole -panty around so that at least a few people get to try that as well (plus it's quite tiring to be the asshole for a really long period of time).  It's a fun drill that feels more like a game but at the same time it's really good for practicing communication and alertness.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jammer Relay Race

Alternative names: --
Objective: To give the derby muscles (aka quads) a good workout; to practice passing the star
Typical length of drill: 10 mins
Materials needed: A full track or just four cones to mark the inside track line
Skill level required: None
Description: This drill pins the skaters against each other in a race around the track, one skater and one lap at a time, while all of the skaters' teammates are holding a squat.

First, set up two cones next to the track -- they should be about 5 feet apart and about 5 feet from the track to avoid any skaters running into each other as they enter and exit the track.  I usually set up the cones between turns 3 and 4 because most practice spaces I've been in have allowed for more leeway on the outside of the turns than the outside of the straightaways.  Then split the skaters into two equal-sized teams (if one team has one more skater than the other team, make sure you tell the team skating one player short that the first person will have to skate twice).  Have each team line up behind one of the cones and give the first person in each line a jammer panty with which to cover their helmets.  On the whistle the first person in each line should immediately take off and race each other around the track for one lap, and all the skaters left in the lines should immediately pop down into squat positions.  Once a racing skater has completed her/his one lap and s/he comes back to the cone, s/he hands off the jammer panty to the next person in line and then skates to the back of the line and assumes the squat position.  The new "jammer" now races someone from the other team around the track and once s/he's completed her/his one lap s/he hands off the jammer panty to the next person on her/his team and gets back into line to squat.  The relay race continues like this until all skaters on the team have sprinted one lap around the track, and only then are the skaters allowed to get up out of their squat.  The winning team gets to un-squat sooner so there's the reason to push hard in the race.  Usually I repeat this game three times in a row, with about a 60-second reset time in-between each game (I allow the teams to strategically rearrange their skaters during that time if they want to), and finally the team that lost the most games does 10 or 15 push-ups as "punishment" (and sometimes the winning team wants to do 10-15 sympathy push-ups together with the losers, which I think is pretty damn cool!).

Note: I usually tell the skaters that they do not have to wait until the jammer panty is completely covering their helmet, that they are allowed to begin skating as soon as they are in the process of placing the jammer panty onto their helmets.  No one is allowed to skate with the panty in just their hand.

Additional notes: This is one of my favorite drills ever!  Doing this at practice usually lifts everyone's spirits because everyone is always cheering for each other and skaters even forget that they are in pain from squatting because they are so excited about the racing.  It's a really simple drill that doesn't require much skill or many materials, but it's an effective muscle workout and it's great at lightening the mood at practice.  I'm proud of this one!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

One Ring to Rule Them All

Alternative names: The One Ring
Objective: To get a serious quad workout; to work together as a team and to support each other through a hard workout
Typical length of drill: 10 mins
Materials needed: None
Skill level required: None
Description: In this drill all the skaters are going to work together as a team to do multiple sets of slow squats.  Get all your skaters to stand next to each other in a circle with their arms across each others' shoulders.  With their arms around each other the skaters all begin to lower themselves into a squat, getting down to a 90-degree angle at their knees, and then without letting go of each other they all slowly stand back up again.  Repeat this squatting motion 9 more times, take a 30-second breather, and then begin another set of 10 squats.  Depending on what level your skaters are at in their training (and what level of competitive play your skaters are trying to reach) you may want to stop after two sets of 10 repetitions, or keep going with three, four, or even five sets.  This is also a team building activity since the skaters must do the squats together and support each other to get through it.
Additional notes: The credit for this drill goes to my BFF who doesn't play derby but is an honorary rollergirl and a slight exercise addict.  She did this exercise in a bodycombat course and thought it might apply itself well to derby training.  I think it sounds *great* but I must add the disclaimer here stating that we have NOT tried this on skates ourselves so we're not sure how big the chance is of skaters losing their balance and falling during this exercise.  I have a feeling that the chances of losing balance and falling are pretty small since everyone is holding on to each other and thus have a great deal of physical support, but, there is also the small probability that since everyone is on skates if one heavier person begins to fall s/he may take all the other skaters down with her.  I would really like to hear comments from someone who has tried this (or something similar to it) on skates before!

Also, keep in mind that this drill can totally be done off-skates at any off-skates practice that your league might have!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Tail Tag

Alternative names: --
Objective: Having fun; getting some light agility practice; practice paying attention to those around you whilst paying attention to your own position and body
Typical length of drill: 5-10 mins
Materials needed: As many pieces of approximately 50 cm x 3 cm ribbon as there are skaters (the lengths of ribbon don't have to be store-bought, they can be made of cut-up t-shirts, cut-up plastic bags, or really anything that you can cut or craft into the approximate right length and width).  If you wish to play this game on the track then you will obviously also need a track, it is not a requirement though.
Skill level required: None really, though basic weaving and stopping skills are a definite plus
Description: Hand out a length of ribbon to each skater.  Each skater puts her/his ribbon into the back of her/his pants so that most of it is hanging out as a tail but so that it doesn't fall out on its own while the skater is going fast.  On the whistle everyone begins skating (and the coach should decide before starting the game whether everyone is going to be allowed to skate around in every which way they please like in a regular game of tag, or if everyone should be skating on the track in a particular direction).  The object of the game is to try and collect the tails of other skaters and not lose your own.  Every time you catch the tail of another skater you get to keep it in your hand.  You are not allowed to take tails from other skaters' hands, only pull them from the backs of their pants.  When you lose your tail to another skater you replace it with one of the collected tails in your hand.  Once you are out of collected tails and you lose the last tail out of your pants, you are out of the game.  The last skater (or last two skaters) left standing with all the tails, wins.
Additional notes: Yes, it's another drill based on a children's game, in case you couldn't tell :)  This one is also really fun to do off-skates during a league retreat or as a warm-up on an off-skates training day!

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Stuck in the Mud

Alternative names: --
Objective: To practice being mindful of what’s going on around you; to practice skating in chaotic situations.
Typical length of drill: 5-10 minutes
Materials needed: --
Skill level required: This is a non contact game, open to all levels.
Description: This game is a variation of the original tag game.

This game is played for a set period of time. A tagger (could be more than one depending on the number of skaters) is elected at the start of the game. The skaters can skate in any direction. When a skater is tagged they are now “Stuck”. They come to a halt and place their hands on their head. Any non tagged skater can free a stuck skater by skating around the stuck skater twice.
A skater can still be tagged while trying to free a stuck skater.
The game ends at the end of the time, or when all skaters have been tagged bar one. The last non tagged skater is the winner. If more time allows elect new tagger(s) and re-start game.
A single whistle will start the game. Four short whistle blasts will stop the game.
Additional notes: --

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Train Game

Alternative names: --
Objective: To build teamwork / co-ordination.
Typical length of drill: 5-10 minutes
Materials needed: None
Skill level required: This is a non contact game, open to all levels.
Description: This is a team race game. Or just a team building exercise.

The skaters are split into approximately into 6 skaters per team.
Each team should have the same number of experienced skaters / inexperienced skaters.
Each team must build a train. This consists of three types of skaters. These are:
1.     The engine (one only)
2.     Rear Carriage (Skater stands, one only)
3.     Front Carriages (Skater sits, four in a six team train)
First the train is built from the rear carriage working forwards. The Rear carriage stands and the front carriage sits in front placing their hand on the skates on the rear carriage. All other front carriages build in the same manor. They sit in front of the carriage behind them and place their hands on their skates.
Once the train is built the engine pushes from behind the rear carriage. A designated practice time must be used to adjust the skaters positions for best results, and to get the skaters used to being pushed and going around corners. Once all teams have had enough practice then the races can begin.
Depending on the size of hall, you must decide how long the race will last, perhaps just one lap of the hall, may be two. Depending on the number of teams you may have a knockout, or perhaps the best of three races.
Once you have decided the above the teams race against each other.
This does not have to be a race, It could just be one team building exercise where you build just one very long train and try to complete a circuit without the train falling apart. You may need 2 engines if the train is very long. It really is a free format event this one.

Video: Train Game 

Additional notes: --

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Chocolate Game

Alternative names: --
Objective: To practice being mindful of what’s going on around you; to practice skating smoothly and in control in chaotic situations.
Typical length of drill: 5-10 minutes
Materials needed: Each skater must have a paper plate. There should be about 5 chocolates per skater (chocolates must be individually wrapped as they can end up on the floor, they could also get run over, so try to avoid ones with very soft centers that will create a mess).
Skill level required: This is a non contact game, open to all levels.
Description: The idea of this game is to acquire/steal as many chocolates from other skaters as possible. This game is played for a set period of time. The skaters skate in a determined direction around the hall with 5 chocolates on their plate. The skaters are allowed to take/steal chocolates from the other skaters.

Each skater must:
1. Hold the plate flat and in front of them, exposing the chocolates to others at all times.
Each skater must NOT:
1. Conceal chocolates on their person.
2. Eat chocolates during the game
3. Hold plate against their body, so concealing the chocolates
4. Fold the plate in half, so concealing the chocolates
5. Cover the chocolates with the spare hand.
6. Conceal the chocolates in any other way.
Any chocolates that get knocked onto the floor can be picked up by anyone. It is legal to knock an opponent’s plate, spilling their chocolates onto the floor.

A single whistle will start the game. Four short whistle blasts will stop the game. If there are any chocolates on the ground they can still be picked up by the skaters. The skater with the most chocolates on their plate at the end is the winner.

Video: Chocolate game

Additional notes: This game was created by Tim Wheals of Sk8shool, Eastbourne, Great Britain: http://www.sk8school.co.uk/index.html

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Upcoming guest blogger: Reckless Rowly

It's time to welcome our next guest blogger: Say 'Hello' to Reckless Rowly of Helsinki Roller Derby! Reckless will be bogging on the topic of Fun and Games and as an added bonus you will all get to see some one-of-a-kind helmet-cam video of some of the drills :)  Reckless has had a long and complicated relationship with roller skating so I am introducing him in his own words:

Reckles Rowly, Ref
"Ever since I was very young I always wanted a pair of roller skates. Unfortunately my parents were over protective and thought they were too dangerous. So it was not until I was eighteen that I purchased my first pair of quad skates (this was back in 1979 – Inlines had not been perfected then). I loved them and lived in them, hardly took them off for the next three years. I think I took them off for a shower – Ah, so that’s why my bearings kept on going rusty so quickly.

Unfortunately I’m English, and England is not a good place to skate. The typical attitude to roller skating in the UK is 'It’s something you do as a kid and grow out of.' There are pockets of skating communities in the UK, and they do thrive. However if you are not living near one of these pockets then skating is pretty grim.  And I was not living near one of these pockets, and to do any sensible skating had to drive several miles. Alas by 1982 I’d hung my skates up.

In 1997 the inline skate craze was at its peak. And I decided to purchase a pair of inlines. This coincided with me moving to Germany where they have very good cycle tracks (almost as good as the Finnish ones). I spent 5 years there skating along the cycle tracks knocking out several kilometers at a time.

In 2003 I returned to England and stopped skating, again because I had no where local to skate.
In mid 2009 I moved to Eastbourne. I did not know this at the time but Eastbourne may well be the best place to skate in England. There are 2 very big skating clubs there. There’s a 5K promenade (along the seafront) that’s perfectly skatable with other routes as well. The two clubs also run regular roller discos. During the last year I was there I shared my time between my inlines and quads about 50/50.

It was in the Roller Discos in England I learned these games that I’m writing about.

Since August this year I have been working in Helsinki. When I first arrived I eagerly looked for skating clubs. Needles to say I found Helsinki Roller Derby.  I donned some quads and attended the crash course in September. I instantly decided to become a referee for the league.

So over the last 30 years I have been skating for 9 of them, been reffing for just over 2 months.

The quads I use today I bought 30 years ago. They’re not derby skates, and at 4.5 Kilos they are not the lightest either, but I love them.

If anyone asks me which skates do I prefer, that’s easy it’s the quads.

If I have any regrets, it’s the periods when I did not skate. I wish I’d kept the skating up throughout the 30 year period. I’d be so much better if I had."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jam Ref Basics

Alternative names: --
Objective: This drill teaches a series of drills and patterns already used by many top jammer refs. These drills will help jam refs of all levels to do their jobs more easily and more accurately.
Typical length of drill: Time to study the drill before starting, then 15 min off skates, plus 30 minutes on skates. These need not be back-to-back on the same day.
Materials needed: For part 2 (off-skates): A track drawn on paper (at least 4 sheets) or on a dry-erase/chalk board. Markers with team colours and numbers representing skaters. Two markers have jammer stars.
For part 3 (on skates): finger whistle and lanyard whistle for each ref, 3-10+ Skaters on the track, with readable numbers on their arms/back. If there are more than 4, it would help if they’re in light and dark colours. These skaters can do their own training and ignore the refs, provided they are skating on the track and in a pack most of the time. If you talk to the head trainer well in advance, this should be possible without interrupting their training. This can also be done during scrimmages.
Skill level required: Skating skills, rules knowledge, and they should all review the section on Scoring. Solid proficiency with skills from Pack Refs Part 1 (Call it NOW!) and some familiarity with the pack ref drills learned in Pack Refs Part 2 (Where’s the pack?).

Description: This drill has 3 parts: homework, off skates, on skates.

Part 1 – Homework – Jam reffing is best learned and done as a series of “drills”. This makes many of the small tasks easier to learn and perform, and allows the jam ref to concentrate more of his mental energy on watching his jammer. If you watch the jammer refs during regionals or nationals, you’ll see them going through these drills. “Wait a sec, don’t I study enough just learning the rules?” Trust me, time spent learning this will greatly accelerate your development as a highly skilled jammer ref. You will learn this more quickly if you go through the physical motions and think about what’s happening on the track as you read through the steps.

The drills to be memorized and performed are:
1. At the start of the jam, check how many minors your jammer has. Put your lanyard whistle in your mouth. Put your right hand behind your back, and show the number of minors to your jammer with the fingers of the left hand. In training, we ask another ref how many minors, just to develop the habit. Your right hand is a physical reminder that she’s on her initial pass. If she gets called for a penalty during this pass, you’ll return your right hand behind your back after the call so that when she gets out of the box, you’re reminded that she’s still on her initial pass.
2. Identify the numbers or distinctive features of all opposing blockers (see
3. When your jammer starts, watch her go through the pack. If she passes anyone illegally or while out of bounds, note which skater that was, as your jammer could potentially re-pass and still gain lead jammer. Skaters don’t often deliberately drop back to re-pass, but sometimes they are knocked down and come through the pack again.
4. If the other jammer is called lead at any point, spit out your lanyard whistle. This is a reminder that she cannot achieve lead jammer.
5. When your jammer passes the lead opposing in-play blocker and meets all other criteria, call her lead jammer immediately (whistle, hand signal). You will now keep your lanyard whistle in your mouth as a reminder that she is lead jammer. If she has not met the criteria and the other jammer is not yet lead, wait until she’s 20’ ahead of the pack to signal “not lead”. (she could still re-pass and get lead until then)
After the initial pass...
6. Remove your right hand from behind your back once she clears the front of the engagement zone. This is a physical reminder that she is no longer on an initial pass. As soon as she reaches the back of the engagement zone on her first scoring pass, put your left hand behind your back to count points on your fingers.
7. As you jammer approaches the first opposing skater, look for NOTT points or penalized skaters that she will also score for. When she scores her first point, award these points, and start thinking in terms of “who’s left”.
WHO’S LEFT is a mental list of the skaters who she doesn’t yet have points for. You can do this by number “33, 543, I4I” or by description “red helm, pivot, and blue skates” or anything that works for you. The purpose is to track who exactly has not been scored on. It is possible, for example, to never get past more than one skater at a time, and still score 4 (or more) points on a given pass.
8. If your jammer goes into the penalty box, IMMEDIATELY remind yourself “who’s left” to ensure you know who she can still score on once she gets out of the box. When her penalty is almost done, or if the other jammer gets a penalty, quickly identify where these skaters are.
9. When her pass is complete (beyond the engagement zone), call her points and indicate them with your left hand.
When the jam ends...
10. Look for OOP points for opposing blockers ahead of the pack. Then immediately indicate any points the jammer has earned since your last point indication. Even if that score is Zero. And even you just indicated a completed pass score 3 seconds before.

Part 2 – OFF Skates – Using the “tiny track” and markers, the refs demonstrate situations and practice their homework “drills” with one another. This is easier with paper models and no real skaters present, and allows the refs to generate a degree of practice before practicing in front of skaters. After 15 minutes or so of this, we’ll take it to the track...

Part 3 – ON skates – If planned well, this part can be done simultaneously with your team's regular skating drills. Or you can recruit skaters specifically to play the blockers in this drill. One ref will play the role of “jam ref”, while another plays the role of “jammer” (naturally a willing skater could also do this, but that interrupts her training). The “jammer” can skate around the outside of the pack instead of blocking his way “through” the pack, but at first he should pass the pack slowly so that each point and skater passed is distinct. If the jammer scores all 4 points within a split second of one another, the jammer ref won't have time to practice keeping his mental "who's left" list in order. The Jam Ref practices his drills and calls lead jammer / not lead as appropriate. After each round, the Jam Ref gets feedback from the referee trainer. This should be repeated until it’s as automatic as skating.

Additional notes: Credit for inspiring this drill goes to Johnny Zebra, who shared a lot of valuable information with the European referee community during Roll Britannia. Obviously, there are a lot of complications and rules details not covered here. This drill doesn’t teach the rules or every possible complication (penalties, for example).

If you find a way to improve on this drill (or any of the drills in this series), please add your input in the comments section.

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Ready to Ref? - Pack Ref basics part 3/3

Alternative names: --
Objective: This drill combines the skills practiced in the first two pack ref drills, bringing all types of penalties together with calling pack location.
Typical length of drill: 20 min at a time. This drill is very taxing for new refs, so short sessions are the key.
Materials needed: Required: At least 6 skaters (ideally 8) who are willing to help, divided into 2 teams (dark/light shirts). Track or markers simulating a regulation-sized track. Penalty cards from Part 1.
Skill level required: Solid proficiency with skills from Part 1 (Call it NOW!) and Part 2 (Where’s the pack?).

Description: The skaters and refs are briefed together as a group, as follows:
“The skaters are going to randomly select one penalty card each without showing the refs. They will then form a pack and skate at 50% of normal pack speed. This is a no-contact drill with 2 goals: (1) To force the refs to repeatedly track a changing pack, and (2) to simultaneously get them calling penalties clearly and accurately. The skaters are not going to destroy the pack, but they can feel free to change the location (front-back) by changing speeds, stopping suddenly, skating clockwise, or even taking a knee. Once the pack has been moving for 30 seconds or so, ONE skater shows a penalty card and waits for the ref to call that penalty. There is no attempt to physically simulate a penalty other than showing the card, but penalties such as Out of Play should be shown well in front of or behind the pack, CTT should be shown near the track boundary, and contact penalties should be shown while near other skaters. Refs will practice their communication as skaters get near the outer limits of the engagement zone. It is VERY important that only one skater show her card at a time, so the skaters have to communicate. A common error is for multiple skaters to simultaneously show penalties, undermining the goal of learning to make correct penalty calls under stress.”

Advanced Version – Add jammers (no jam refs), who can also carry penalty cards (majors only, since pack refs don’t call minors on jammers). As the refs get really good, skater speed can be increased to 75%, and eventually to 100%.

Additional notes: I don’t know where to start giving credits for this drill or some of the others in this series. They come from inspiration and feedback from many of the awesome zebras I’ve worked with. Special thanks goes out to Ballistic Whistle and his team in London, England http://www.londonrollergirls.com/referees.

Problem #1: (most common) The skaters all want to show their penalty cards simultaneously or too quickly one after another. Slow them down, have them communicate with one another.
If the refs are struggling with any other aspect, simply slow the skaters down, or go back and build a more solid foundation by reviewing “Where’s the Pack” or “Call it NOW!”.
See “Where’s the Pack” for tips on recruiting skaters to assist.

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Monday, November 8, 2010


Alternative names: --
Objective: Basic agility training; to practice jumping
Typical length of drill: 7 mins timed
Materials needed: None, though preferably at least a couple of cones to mark the inside track line for the skaters to skate around
Skill level required: None
Description: All of the skaters spread out around the track and start skating at a moderate pace.  The coach stands in the middle of the track and yells out the following commands at different intervals: Left, Right, Jump, Hop, Ten-One.  The frequency of the commands can vary during the drill, i.e. "Left!" ...10 seconds... "Ten-One!" ...5 seconds... "Jump!" ...15 seconds... "Jump!" ...3 seconds... "Jump!" ...3 seconds... "Right!"...3 seconds... etc.  Each command is a different jump for the skaters:

Left -- The skaters are to hop or jump to the left
Right -- The skaters are to hop or jump to the right
Jump -- The skaters are to jump up into the air with both feet leaving the ground at the same time
Hop -- The skaters are to hop up into the air staggering their feet slightly (like a leap of sorts, one foot leaves the ground a little bit before the other and when you land you make the sound "Ba-Dum")
Ten-One -- The skaters are to do a jumping jack (well, more like an upside-down V; since your objective is to practice jumps here there is no need to get the arms up into it, in fact, you might hit someone in the face if you do)

You can also add your own jump commands to this drill, such as "Air!" to command the skaters to focus their jump on getting as much air as possible, or "Distance!" for the skaters to focus their jump on covering as much distance as possible, or "Two hops right!" to tell the skaters to take two hops to the right.  The possibilities are endless!

Additional notes: I learned the original simple version of this drill from someone at some point in my derby career but I can't for the life of me remember from whom and when so I apologize for not being able to give appropriate credit here!  Make yourself known if you so wish :)
This drill may seem easy on paper but it is actually a good workout!  Picking those skates up off the ground over and over again will make the skaters tired.  Also, because of the drills simplicity it's great for teaching some basic agility to freshmeat who are just learning how to hop and how to get comfortable jumping.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bouncy Blockers

Alternative names: Bouncy Knockers
Objective: To practice blocking a jammer while being part of a still-standing pack; to practice moving your feet to cover track width without propelling yourself forward or backward
Typical length of drill: Depends on how much time you wish to put down on practicing this maneuver, but I would say you should plan on at least 15 mins
Materials needed: A full track
Skill level required: An understanding of basic strategy and rules
Description: Divide the skaters into groups of four.  All the groups spread out equidistant on the track.  Each group of four stands next to each other in a line, covering as much of the track width as possible while maintaining as tight of a wall-of-four as possible.  A jammer begins to skate around the track while the walls stand still.  Each time the jammer gets to one of these walls the walls' job is to block the jammer while staying in place.  This means that the skaters have to: 1) Keep moving their feet so as not to receive a penalty for standing still while blocking (but trying NOT to move their feet in a way that propels them forward or backward), 2) Stay as a tight wall and not open any doors for the jammer, 3) Consistently move side to side and up and down to cover any spaces that the jammer may try to use to get through the wall.  Once the jammer gets through one wall, s/he moves on to the next.  If your skaters are really good at containing the jammer then add another jammer into the mix (or two or three) so that there is minimal down-time.  Please note that if you have more than 3 or 4 groups of four then you may want to have the jammer gathering some speed by skating outside the track before approaching each of the walls so as to more closely mimic a real-life situation where a jammer arrives at the back of the still-standing pack at a high speed.  OR, have the groups of four take turns being on the track.

Additional notes: Inspired by what seemed to be an effective way to defend during power jams in the 2010 WFTDA Regionals and Championships.  Ever so often there was power jam situation in which the offending team would stop the pack entirely making it extremely difficult for the defending team to block the jammer when she approached the pack at a high speed.  It can be near impossible to block a fast skater when you are going slowly, not to mention, it is illegal to block while standing still.  What to do?  I observed many teams employing this bouncy blockers -technique, where they would put all their available blockers into one wide line at the back of the pack (or sometimes at the front) and they would move their feet and sway side to side in order to keep the jammer from getting by.  With the moving of the feet they were still in motion while blocking, and by standing all in a row in a tight and wide wall, swaying to each side the jammer was attempting to go, they were able to contain the jammer for at least a while (and definitely longer than if they were trying to chase because you will get the 20 ft penalty called on you *extremely* quickly if you're trying to chase a fast jammer out of a still-standing pack).  Although I'm explaining this as moving feet and swaying side to side I would like to point out that the motions of these walls were very bouncy, the blockers were definitely fluid in their movements and using squats and stands where appropriate.  It is obvious that the best teams had practice doing this.

I have not tried this drill myself so please comment and rate when you've tried it yourself, and feel free to suggest variations and additions or subtractions!

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Where's the Pack? – Pack Ref Basics Part 2/3

Alternative names: --
Objective: This drill teaches observation and communication skills related to defining the pack and correctly identifying whether skaters are withing the engagement zone or out of play.
Typical length of drill: 20-30 min at a time. These skills will take multiple short sessions to master. I wouldn’t rush the skaters or refs through all three versions. Running this drill until the skills of all refs are solid before progressing through to the next version.
Materials needed: Required: Pre-measured 20’ rope, pre-measured 10’ rope. At least 6 skaters who are willing to help, divided into 2 teams (dark/light shirts). Track or markers simulating a regulation-sized track.
Skill level required: Ability to look at and concentrate on nearby skaters while starting, changing speeds and stopping. Knowledge of rules including referee hand signals and penalty procedures.

Description: For new refs, I’d start with a quick review of the following hand signals: Out of Play (signal v. penalty call), Illegal Procedure, Pack is Here, No Pack. The skaters and refs are briefed together as a group, as follows:

“The skaters are going to form a pack and skate, and skaters of the dark team are going to carry the coiled 20’ and 10’ ropes with them. This is a no-contact drill, and the goal is to create a pack. The teams aren’t playing against each other. The goal is purely to train refs on distances and pack definition. Start with forming a pack. Start on the whistle. Then the skater with the 20’ rope is going to hand off one end to the lead skater in the pack, and take the other end up 20’ in front of the pack. Since distances are measured front of hips to back of hips, this is where they’ll hold the rope when it’s fully extended. Just skate slowly like this for 3-4 laps or so. Refs and pack skaters are to concentrate on recognizing and identifying this distance. It’s further than most think, especially in the curves, where the 10’ lines are no longer accurate. This is just as valuable for skaters to know as for the refs. In the curves, ensure the skaters stay just enough outside the curve that the ropes don’t cross the track boundary. The correct measurement is a straight line on the track without cutting the corner short. And then we’re going to blow off the jam (4 whistles).”

Repeat this drill with the skater falling behind the pack instead of in front.

Intermediate Version part A – Bridging. Instruct the skaters:

"Now we will repeat the drill with a skater bridging. In this case, the lead skater in the pack will hold one end of the 20’ rope and one end of the 10’ rope and we’ll demonstrate just how far she can extend the pack with a “bridge”. She should hold the two ropes on the front or back of her hips, as appropriate. Again, ensure the ropes don’t cross the inner track boundary on the curves."

Then run the drill exactly the same – once stretching the pack in front, once stretching it behind.

Intermediate Version part B – Pack definition. Instruct the skaters and refs:

“Now you can get rid of the 20’ rope, but keep the 10’ rope. The skaters’ objective will be to split the pack into two groups once they get going. The skaters will use the 10’ rope to monitor the distance between pack parts. Once the refs have re-defined the pack as one group or the other, re-form a single pack and break it again differently. Do this repeatedly for 2 full minutes with the rope. Skaters can also create a “no pack” situation in this way (two equal groups with blockers from both teams, or two groups each with only one team each). Important: This is a learning environment, so after changing the pack, hold the new position until the change is verbally “called” by the refs and then another couple seconds before re-forming the pack and doing it all again. Refs are calling pack definition every time the pack changes, as well as no-pack situations. No penalties will be called. After 2 minutes, we’ll blow off the jam and rest for 30 seconds.”

Repeat this multiple times.

Advanced Version – Ref communication and penalties. Now we combine it all without the ropes, but still at only 50% speed. As skaters get to between 15’ and 20’ from the pack, the closest pack ref watches them and yells “good, good, good...” continuously until the skaters leave that zone. This tells the jam ref (who isn’t as focused on pack definition as on his jammer) that the pack skater is still in play for scoring and penalty purposes. When she gets “out of play”, the closest ref gives the hand signal (no chop yet) and yells “out of play, out of play, out of....” until he either decides to call a penalty or she returns to the engagement zone. If done loudly and consistently, this is a HUGE assist for the jam ref in terms of scoring. Refs can also call illegal procedure penalties as appropriate when the pack is destroyed. For the purposes of the drill, a penalized skater will skate to the outside of the track, stop, and immediately re-enter from behind the pack. Jammers can also be added, (likely without jam refs). As the refs get really good, skater speed can be increased to 75%, and eventually to 100%.

Additional notes: My first challenge was “where do I get skaters”? Some league leaders don’t see the importance of investing track time or skater time in their league’s referee team. But with today’s strategically smarter skaters, their strategies are dependent on refs having the skills to quickly and accurately identify bridges, consistently call an accurate engagement zone even in the curves, and react to deliberate changes in the pack without under- or over-calling illegal procedure penalties. Good leaders will also see the advantage her skaters will gain by learning how to re-define or destroy a pack at will, learning the boundaries for penalties, and learning exactly how far they can chase an opposing jammer. Games are won and lost on such things. Once they see the personal value, you’ll have the cooperation of the needed skaters. In a large ref team, refs in dark/light shirts can also be used as skaters.

I have run this drill with up to 6 active refs-in-training at a time. They are position 2 at the front, two in the middle, and two at the back. Experienced refs give feedback to each group, if possible. When in the middle, they concern themselves primarily with pack definition and calling “no pack” situations. At the front and back they practice their distance estimation and communication with Jam Refs. The refs rotate positions (front-middle-back-front) regularly.

Troubleshooting: If the refs are having difficulty, blow off the jam instantly, instruct the skaters to change the pack definition more slowly or to have the lone skaters increase their distance from the pack more gradually. This is a training environment, and speed has to be built up slowly. If distance estimation is the weakness, go back to using ropes again for a couple laps before continuing. Be sure not to advance the drill too quickly through the 3 stages. Finally, if the skaters don't recover the rope as they move back together, it will become a tripping hazard. Perhaps I should have said that first :-)

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