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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