Monday, January 24, 2011

Not All Blocks are Created Equal

Alternative names: Which Block to Use When
Objective: There are many things to remember while playing derby… look around you, give a whip, assist your teammates, strategy, play clean, watch the clock, listen to the refs, and on and on. Perhaps this is why good Blockers get passed all the time. Studies have shown that the average human can only think about 3-5 things at one time. Thus, on game day, when it’s down to the wire and you need to make or break a deal, you should focus on what’s most important. What do I think is most important on game day? Well, if you’re a Blocker it’s keeping the opposing Jammer from passing your hips after the 1st pass. Why? Read on…

There are two ways to win a bout:
  •  Your Jammers gain more points than the opposing team’s Jammers.
  • Your Blockers get passed less than the opposing team’s Blockers.
There are two ways to lose a derby bout:
  • Your Jammers gain fewer points than the opposing team’s Jammers.
  • Your Blockers get passed more times than the opposing team’s Blockers.
When it comes down to it if you want to win the bout, you need to keep their Jammers from scoring. It’s that simple. This drill was created to bring focus to the most basic fundamental goal behind any block used on game day: ultimately the Blocker wants to keep her hips in front of the Jammer’s hips so that she holds on to her point. Read on to see how we apply this point and use it to compliment another.

Point No. 1: Not all Blocks are Created Equal.

There are certain blocks that are more risky then others. Basically any block in which the Blocker gambles with allowing her hips to be passed by the Jammer is a risky. Thus, positional/ body blocking could be considered one of the least risky blocks because the initiating Blocker starts with her hips in front of the opposing Jammer, as opposed to blocking her from the side.

Point No. 2: Game day is chaotic.

As many of us have experienced, game day can be confusing, exciting and mind-blowing. For fresh meat it is a day of taking direction, listening, failing, trying, repeating. For experienced skaters it is a day of experimentation, giving direction, and focus. Often times we practice scrimmaging in a very controlled environment. This drill seeks to take away any sense of control a skater may have when preparing for game day. How is this done? Read on…

Typical length of drill: 15- 30 minutes
Materials needed: Skaters. Helmet covers. Stop watch and whistle would be useful. Teams should be easily recognizable, in different colored shirts.
Skill level required: Skaters who have started to scrimmage and bout including beginner, intermediate, advanced, aka: freshies, crusties, oldies but goodies, etc.
Description: The set up is one long jam that will last for 15-30 minutes and that should be run through twice. Have skaters form 5 lines, one for Pivot, Blocker 1, Blocker 2, Blocker 3 and Jammer- lining up every other color/team. Start with 10 skaters on the track (5 from each team). Start the drill like you would start a jam.

During the first run through you will address Point No. 1: Not all Blocks are Created Equal. Once the jam has started, make up scenarios and start to call out which pass the jammers are on and if blockers have been passed or not. For example you can yell out, “3rd pass” or “White Pivot, you’re dead.” This will help them think about how they would approach that situation and which block they would use. If it were the 3rd pass, the pivot should be conservative with the block she chooses, except that she is informed that she has already lost her point, which gives her more options of where she wants to be on the track or what sort of blocks she would like to use. You might call out, “2nd pass, everyone’s dead except the Black Blocker 3.” See what the team does in that situation. Would it be an effective move on game day?

The second run through of the Drill will allow skaters to address Point No. 2: Game day is chaotic. Continue to have one person* call out which pass they are on and if they have been passed or not, but in addition start to call skaters off the track at random. For example, “White Blocker 1, you’re out,” “Black Jammer, you’re out.” As skaters leave the track at random, the skaters left on the track will have to reconfigure what they’re doing to stay competitive. As skaters are called off the track, other skaters will be called on. For example, “White pivot, you’re in, but you’re dead,” “Black Jammer, you’re in.” There should be no more then one player covering each position at a time. In other words, you should never have 2 black jammers, etc.

*One person should be assigned the task of calling out so that there aren’t a lot of voices talking over each other.

Additional notes: Important concepts that should be kept in mind while doing this drill/ practicing this solution:

If Blockers are going to try big "come out of now-where" type blocks during which they will risk getting passed by the Jammer, the first pass is one of the appropriate times to do this as they do not have to worry about loosing a point- although there are many reasons for why you should never gamble with allowing the opposing Jammer to pass your hips.

During the second pass Blockers are worth a point. Games are won when hips are passed. Thus Blockers should be playing with the goal of not allowing the opposing Jammer to pass their hips. If they do get passed they can then start to gamble with which blocks they use as they have already given away their point for that pass (Coach Pauly calls them Dead Points). In other words, if they want to start off conservative during the 2nd+ pass, hoping to not get passed, it is recommended that they use blocks in which they keep their hips in front of the opposing Jammer's hips. If they should loose their point, that is when they can go to the big, "risk-having-your-hips-get-passed" type blocks.

I love this drill. As a coach it is fun to watch the skaters go in and out at random and have to change their game plan on a seconds notice. I generally have to stop laughing just so I can call people in and out. As we're all different, if the description above is confusing to understand, please email me so that I can give you a different explanation. My email is Email me with your skate name and league name and I'll add you to my mailing list.

Have fun with this drill and remember derby is serious. Seriously fun!

Coach Smarty Pants

Come to the next Blood and Thunder Camp in Texas so that you can do this drill with me in person. The first day is on Wednesday February 23rd in Austin, Texas on the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirl’s banked track. The B&T Camp goes until Sunday and features a coach camp, skater camp, ref camp and junior camp. There will also be a full length game for the All-Scar skaters who come to camp. For more information about camp or to fill out an application to apply for a partial scholarship check out the Blood & Thunder website:

Great Wall of China 1

Alternative names: --
Objective: Endurance, sprinting, and to practice maintaining a tight wall with a partner
Typical length of drill: 15 mins
Materials needed: A full track or just four cones to mark the inside track line
Skill level required: None
Description: In this drill the skaters race against each other around a line of other skaters.  Start with a double pace-line* of skaters going around the track; everyone is paired up with someone of the opposite speed, the faster skater is on the outside and the slower skater is on the inside.  The line should stay in the very middle of the track, leaving a path open on both the inside and outside.  The skaters are all working on staying as a tight wall with their partner while keeping a medium pace the whole time, and staying one arm’s distance from the pair in front of and behind them.  Once the pace-line is going at a comfortable speed the pair in the back begins the drill: On the whistle the two skaters let go of their wall and they begin to race to the front of the pace-line.  The outside skater is racing on the outside of the pace-line and the inside skater is racing on the inside of the pace-line.  When both the skaters get to the front they pair back up and make a tight wall.  The next pair in the back of the line begin to race each other to the front and this cycle repeats for 15 minutes or however long you choose to run this drill.  To spice it up you can slowly but surely increase the pace-line's speed during this drill so that it starts out easy and ends much more difficult.

*A pace-line is a simple line of skaters following each other around the track in one straight line; the skaters are to always maintain a one arm's length -distance from each other (or sometimes less).  A pace-line can have many different speeds, depending on what the drill requires but no matter if it's fast or slow, the skaters should always be able to touch the person in front of them at the coach's call.  A double pace-line is exactly the same as a regular pace-line except that the skaters are skating in the line in pairs, standing next to one another and thus making the line twice as fat as usual.

Additional notes: This drill can be really good for large leagues in smallish spaces because it uses the double pace-line.  It's also a great drill for freshmeat because it gives them endurance training while they also get to practice walling and skating really close to another skater.  In addition, because this drill pairs up skaters of the opposite speed it gives skaters who might not normally pair up during drills a chance to get to know each other and work together.  I'd also like to add that this is a good drill to do in the opposite direction.

Lire cet exercice en fran├žais!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Secret Service

Alternative names: --
Objective: Primarily to practice giving and receiving hard hits in a game-play situation; to practice staying up while giving and receiving hard hits in the pack; to get used to hitting whilst in the pack; to practice planned-out jobs/missions in each jam of the game and thinking about each jam as its own game; to practice communication and using your outdoor voice
Typical length of drill: 20-30 mins (depending on how experienced you skaters are with this drill, and for how long you want to play)
Materials needed: A complete track; 8 pre-made notes in a bowl, marked with the symbols described below; a time-keeper; preferably some referees to make sure the hits are legal
Skill level required: Skaters must be cleared for contact
Description: In this drill all the skaters all have specific jobs in the pack in each jam, making each jam a game, or an entity, of its own.  It's supposed to teach skaters several things: To practice focusing on one particular job at a time (good for new skaters who find the pack is very chaotic), to practice effective hitting within the pack, to practice communication, and to practice being present (worry about only one jam at a time, always know what's going on around you).  It's played just like a real scrimmage.

First, before the skaters line up on the pivot line, all the blockers (NOT the jammers) take a little note out of a bowl telling them of their mission for the jam.  Out of the 8 notes in the bowl there are:

  • 2 notes marked with a star – the blocker is assigned to be the tank (to take out the opposing jammer)
  • 2 notes marked with an X – the blocker is the designated hitter and must make legal contact with an opposing blocker a minimum of three times during the time that the her/his own jammer is not in the pack
  • 1 note marked with a megaphone – the blocker is the designated communicator (s/he communicates EVERYTHING that s/he sees happening, whether it benefits her/his team or the other)
  • 3 blank notes – the blocker has no special mission, s/he is simply positionally blocking and providing her butt for the jammer to take hip whips off of (for the purpose of this drill you're not actively giving any assists to the jammer)
No one tells each other what their mission is, it should become apparent as the jam is in progress (or else the skaters aren't doing their job correctly).  Only the designated communicator should be talking once the whistle has been blown, the other skaters should be practicing their silent communication.

SO, when the jammers are IN the pack, the tanks should be using full contact to take them out.  All other blockers are using positional blocking at approx. 70% of their ability.  When the jammers are OUT of the pack only the designated hitters should be making contact with everyone else.  The other blockers are still allowed to use positional blocking at 70% ability.  You ARE allowed to hit the designated communicator.  The jammers will not always be in the pack at the same time so everyone should be paying attention to everything going on around them because a hit might come out of nowhere.  Also remind your jammers before-hand that the two tanks might be on the same team so they might get twice as many hits.

To up the ante (optional): The tank owes 10 crunches after the jam is over for all the jammer’s passes through the pack in which the tank makes no contact.  The designated hitters owe 10 crunches after the jam is over for any no-jammer time in which they do not make contact a minimum of 3 times.
This drill can be confusing at first but once you've run trough it a few times the skaters will know what to do and can in the future help other skaters understand what they are supposed to do when they play it for the first time.  You should either plan on taking some time to explain the drill in detail at practice, or send out the directions to your skaters before-hand so that they have a chance to understand it before it starts.  It's also good to just get the drill started and let the first few jams be testers. 

Additional notes: This is one of my favorite drills that I've come up with, and the skaters I've run it with seem to really enjoy it and get really into it (crossing themselves before picking out the notes, wishing for the X or star, or just a blank note if they're brand new hitters :).  Whenever I do this drill I like to pow-wow with the skaters after each jam to talk about what worked, what didn't work, and ask those on the sidelines if they could tell who was supposed to do what.  If it's really unclear to me and/or those on the sidelines whom was the designated communicator, or who was supposed to be a tank or a designated hitter, I have them do five push-ups after the jam.

Please note: Those blockers that don't get a mission should not think that there's nothing they can do.  Yes, we always teach in roller derby to work in partners and in teams on the track, and "if you're alone you're a loser", and this drill might seem like it's practicing the opposite, how to work by yourself, BUT, here's what you can answer to those blockers who bring this up:
  • No matter how much we teach teamwork, there will inevitably always be moments where you have to work by yourself so you have to prepare yourself for those situations. For instance, your regular partner might be in the penalty box and you have to think of other ways of being useful. Is the inside line open? Cover it. Is the front of the pack being dominated by opposing skaters? Go fix it. Is your jammer having a hard time speeding away from the pack? Go give her a push. Is there a wall of two that could benefit from becoming a wall of three? Add yourself to it. There are a million little things you can do.
  • Some times there are skaters who forget that they should be working with a partner, or who simply aren't great at partner-work and communication, so what you can do is sort of "force help" them (i.e. by walling with them), or make yourself their secret partner and simply follow them in whatever they do and help however you can (i.e. if you know they are the tank, set up the jammer for them, if you know they are a designated hitter, keep all the opposing blockers away from them at all costs, etc. etc.).
If you like this drill, you might also like On a Mission From the KGB.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why off-skates strength training and fitness?

Alternative names: --
Objective: Learn about the importance of off-skates strength training for roller derby.
Typical length of drill: --
Materials needed: --
Skill level required: None
First of all I want to welcome you all to my guest blog on Estro's All Derby Drills. My part is obviously to show you all how important off-skates strength training and fitness is for roller derby.

Roller Derby is a really intense and multifaceted team sport. We all know that besides a great understanding of rules and tactics, passion for the sport, motivation and team spirtit we need agility, endurance, speed and strength to play roller derby. Tactic, passion, team spirit and motivation are kind of psychological elements of a player. But beside that, we need the ability to move and react very fast. Within a jam or a bout we have a repetition of very fast movements, stops, lateral movements, we need to be able to sprint out and react quickly and repeat those fast and quick movements in the short amount of time during a jam over and over again PLUS we maybe have to recover sometimes within 30 sec until the next jam is on.
But to develop THAT - which is agility, endurance, speed and strength - we NEED our muscles to be trained. The following abilities are the base of a good muscle work:

a.) the connection between muscules, muscle parts, nervous system and brain:
- intramuscular coordination
- intermuscular coordination

b.) the different types of strengths:
- strength endurance
- maximal strength
- fast strength
- explosive strength

Here are some examples which make it easier to understand... You will see that all parts and facts of strength and muscles relate to each other and/or are part of each other.

1.) If we try to sprint out as fast as we can from the jammer start position, all parts of our hamstring muscle have to react as soon as we hear the whistle blow. We not only want to start as quickly as possible we also want to be faster than the opposing jammer and we want to maximize our speed in an adequate amount of time. What we here need is a fast connection between our brain, nervous system and muscle - we want to have control over our legs and tell them to start with max power, a high stride frequency and gain speed as quickly as possible. Therefore we need a good intra/intermuscular coordination, which is the ability of coordinating all parts within the front part of our hamstring muscle at the same time AND also be able to relaxe the back part at the same time. If you are good in coordinating your muscles your getting better with explosive strength and fast strenght which is also of importance for a fast jammer start.

2.) As a jammer we need to have a good endurance and be fast. So the link between endurance and speed are fast strenght and strength endurance plus speed endurance. A jammer doesn't have the same speed during one jam. That would be easy to train. But she mostly switches beetwin stopping, falling, sprinting out, moving around quickly - sometimes up to 2 mins. Also, if she's done, she needs to recover sometimes within 30 secs to get on the track again. Without the ability of the muscle to repeat movements a lot you can't go fast over 2 mins and recover quickly.

The two examples have been random. Basically, it doesn't matter if you're a jammer or a blocker, you need to move your feet all the time and be in control of your body and muscles whenever you are on the track PLUS recover quickly between jams.

As you all know, you can train endurance, speed, agility and strength on skates. But hey, to be honest... who has the time to work out 5 times a week or the halls/ venues to have an additional on-skates practice for endurance and strength? Who hast the money for that? And, most of the roller girls never played a sport before. So it is hard enough to skate and train agility. But practice speed and strength at the same time? Not possible. Also,
as soon as we start with roller derby we have start practicing strength and fitness - so we need to give our newbies the possibility to practice that, too.

I think, it's better to break it down into an extra session of off-skates strength and endurance training. There are many more arguments for off-skates training and after all you can see that at the end we need to develop our ability "strenght and fitness" fo becoming the roller girl we want to be. Within the next weeks I'll prioritize my posts and give you drills so you can all start to practice your strenght and fitness level.

Additional notes: My idea is teach you easy ways of strenght and fitness training and clincic as well as drills. I really want to prioritize the topic off-skates strength and fitness and break it down on simple drills step by step with each new post.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

More guest blogging: Coach Smarty Pants

Recently added to our register of guest bloggers is Coach Nadia Kean, aka Smarty Pants, of the Texas Rollergirls.

Smarty Pants and Krissy Krash (LADD) at Battle on the Bank
Smarty Pants started skating with the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls of Austin, Texas in May of 2003. While a skater for TXRD, she had over seven great years with the Holy Rollers and gave it all she had for TXRD's travel team, the All Scar Army, while going pants-off for the fantastic Vagine Regime. In January 2011, Smarty tried out for another bad-ass league and is happy to say that she still skates in plaid, this time for the Hell Marys of the Texas Rollergirls. When not coaching or skating derby, Smarty coaches rowing, (a similar yet very different sport), in Austin. She started coaching derby in 2004 when she traveled to NYC to train the newly formed Gotham Girls. She has since trained various leagues across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Smarty uses sport theory and common sense to teach derby strategy. When training skater skills she prefers to focus on the intricacies of each skater's unique style. As a trainer she is sensitive to the needs of the athlete and well aware of the process of learning. Although she takes the sport of derby very seriously, because she holds much respect for its growth, she tries to create a relaxed and humorous learning environment. Because derby is serious. Seriously fun.

Over the next couple of weeks Smarty Pants will be blogging about a variety of different things, from banked track roller derby 101 to agility and strategy.  Welcome Coach Smarty Pants!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Push-n-Pull Pyramids

Alternative names: Shopping Carts
Objective: To practice proper stance and form; to get a good endurance workout; to practice using your outdoor voice
Typical length of drill: 15-20 mins
Materials needed: A full track or just four cones to mark the inside track line
Skill level required: None
Description: In this drill all the skaters take turns pushing and pulling a partner around the track.  To begin, have all of your skaters pair up with another skater.  It's good for them to pair up with someone their own speed and size but it's not crucial.  Each pair decides who is going to be skater A and who is going to be skater B and then all the pairs line up on the pivot line with skater A standing behind skater B, her/his hands ready on skater B's lower back/butt (basically on that sweet spot in-between the two).  On the whistle all skater A's begin pushing their partner around the track and the skater B's are simply staying in a nice, low derby stance and acting as dead weight.  After skater A has pushed skater B for one lap s/he speeds up past skater B and then becomes dead weight for skater B to push.  Once skater B has pushed skater A for one lap s/he speeds up past skater A and becomes dead weight. Then A pushes B for two laps, they switch, B pushes A for two laps, switch, A pushes for three laps, switch, B pushes for three laps, etc. (this is called "going up the pyramid").  They keep going like this until both have pushed each other for five laps, and then they switch to pulling each other while they are coming down the pyramid, starting with pulling each other for four laps each, then three laps each, two laps each, and finally, one lap each.  In the end both skaters are going to have acted as dead weight for 25 laps, have pushed another skater for 15 laps, and pulled another skater for 10 laps.  During this drill it is the dead weight skater's job to loudly yell out the number of laps that the pair is completing.  This helps skaters practice communication and using their outdoor voice (important when there are hundreds of screaming fans drowning out all the communication within the pack).

It's good to remind skaters during this drill that the lower they are when they're acting as dead weight, the easier it is for their partner to push and pull them.  Also, if you have a large group of skaters at practice, instead of having everyone pack up tightly on the pivot line at the beginning of the drill you can just have all the pairs spread out around the track and simply ask them to remember their point of origin for the sake of switching.

If you find that your skaters aren't pushing themselves during this drill, what you can do is add an element of competition to it.  Instead of having everyone go up the 5-lap pyramid and come back down, choose a number of minutes for which to do this (i.e. 5 minutes) and then challenge your skaters to see just how many steps up the pyramid they can go with their partner.  The pair who gets the furthest wins and maybe as a prize they get to skip the next five push-ups or something (or if you want to be really sinister, make the prize 10 push-ups and don't tell the skaters before-hand.  I mean hey, we're athletes and it's rewarding to get exercise and feel strong, right?).  If you use this alternative at practice, make sure that your skaters are partnering up with skaters of opposite speed so that the fastest and strongest skaters don't push and pull each other and automatically win.  Since yelling out the number of laps is a key part of this drill you have an opportunity to keep an eye on the skaters and make sure that they're not making up any laps or steps up the pyramid.

Additional notes: The original version of this drill is one that we did with New Hampshire Roller Derby (and again I don't know who the originator is so I apologize for not being able to give appropriate credit!), but the competitive variation is my own creation.  I'm a really competitive person so it should be no surprise that I like to participate in and make up competitive drills :)

This drill can work for warm-up, just make it timed or cut down the number of laps to skate so that it's not so endurancy.  I'd also like to mention that this is a good drill to do in the opposite direction.  If you like this drill you might also like Push-n-Pull and Pyramids.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New guest blogger: Titty-Twista

Our next guest blogger is someone who I've personally had the pleasure of playing roller derby with and learning a great deal from, and someone who I truly admire: Titty-Twista of the Stuttgart Valley Rollergirlz.

Titty-Twista, #81
Before playing roller derby Titty-Twista used to be a track and field pro athlete -- for several years she worked out twice a day and learned everything there is to know about training (motivation, ambition, nutrition, endurance, strength, speed, set-up and planning of seasons, classes and combinations of endurance/strength/speed to gain the max peak of ability by a set date/time for tournaments within the season, etc).  As if being a pro athlete was not enough, Titty also played a great deal of other sports on the side: basketball, soccer, skiing, snowboarding, and aggressive roller blading.  In August 2008 Titty-Twista joined the Stuttgarg Valley Rollergirlz and in October of the same year she was already playing her first bout.  By December she was an official fitness trainer for SVRG and in the spring of 2009 she was voted Head Coach.  Since then she has coached at EROC in Berlin (the European Roller Derby Organizational Conference), Rally in the Valley in Stuttgart (Europe's first own boot camp), and guest coached many European leagues, including the Zurich City Rollergirlz, the Berlin Bombshells, and Stockholm Roller Derby.

Titty will be blogging about off-skates exercises and the importance of structured fitness and strength training in the sport roller derby, and its importance to our bodies in general.  With structured fitness and strength training it is much easier to control our muscles and our body as well as get a better knowledge and feel for our body.  Titty will be sharing her knowledge about exercises, workout and planning of fitness/strength clincs.  I hope you will find her posts very informative and useful!  I know I will :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back & Forth

Alternative names: B.N.F.s
Objective: To practice falling; to practice repeated quick blasts of power/sprinting; to practice getting up off the floor quickly; to get a good workout
Typical length of drill: 7 minutes timed (or more if you want to give them a really good workout)
Materials needed: Minimum four cones, and a time-keeper/whistler.  If you have a large group of skaters in a small space and you divide them in half, you will need a minimum of six cones.
Skill level required: None
Description: This is a variation on the classic sprints and there is a diagram under the description to help you visualize the set up of the room.  First, set up your four cones in the four corners of the room/space, leaving about 3 meters between the cones and the wall (or however many meters/feet you feel that your skaters need to comfortably slide without hitting the wall).  Then, have all your skaters line up next to each other along the wall, with at least one arm's distance between them.  Before you start the drill specify to the skaters what slide/fall they are expected to be doing at the cones.  On the first whistle the timer starts and all the skaters sprint to the cones at the other side of the room and do the specified slide, after which they immediately lay down on their stomachs where they stopped.  Once everyone has laid down, the time-keeper blows the whistle and all the skaters sprint to the other side where they again do the specified slide and then get on their stomachs.  Once everyone has laid down, the time-keeper blows the whistle again and the sprinting-sliding-stomaching repeats until the end of the timed minutes.  The idea is for this to be a quick drill where everyone is sprinting, sliding, getting down, getting up, sprinting, sliding, getting down, getting up, etc. etc. as quickly as possible.  The coach can remind the skaters that the quicker you get to the other side the more down-time you have to "relax" while you wait for the other skaters to finish.  This drill is different from sprints because it's not at your own pace, it's more of a team effort, where everyone waits for each other to finish before going the next round.

Normal cone set-up:

   *falling zone*
o                       o

o                       o
   *falling zone*

If you have a large number of skaters or are dealing with a really narrow or small space you may want to split the room in half and have half the skaters start in the middle of the room and the other half start at the wall.  On the whistle the skaters all skate in the same direction but they never hit each other because they only skate a half-distance before sliding, stomaching, and turning around to go in the other direction.

Cone set-up for a split space:

   *falling zone*
o                       o

o  *falling zone* o

o                       o
   *falling zone*
Additional notes: I learned this drill while skating with New Hampshire Roller Derby.  I don't know who the originator of the drill is so I apologize for not being able to give appropriate credit.  I really like this drill a lot.  It gives you a good workout, it's an easy way to practice getting up quickly and using your tripod (= using your toestop to stand up), it's a great way to build muscle memory for correct falls because you're repeating the same fall over and over again, and people often start cheering for each other during this drill, giving their teammates support like "You can do it!" and "Push yourself!"  It can be done in small practice spaces, and although I recommend having someone who is NOT participating keeping the time and whistling, it is possible to do this as a skater-coach.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Roller Basketball

Alternative names: Roller BBall
Objective: Agility; forcing yourself to pay attention to what's going on around you at all times; to have some fun on skates; to get some cross-training
Typical length of drill: 10-30 minutes (this depends entirely on how serious of a game of roller basketball you want to have at practice)
Materials needed: A basketball, at least one hoop/basket but preferably two if you want to make a real game of it. It is also recommended that all the skaters bring a white shirt and a black shirt with them to practice so that you can split them into teams, OR, that you supply half of them with vests/jerseys.
Skill level required: Basic skating, stopping, and falling skills are a necessity
Description: Know basketball?  Know roller skating?  Then this will be a breeze.  Roller basketball can be played both indoors and outdoors (so great for those summer outdoor practices at the public basketball courts), and can be played on both inline skates and roller skates (so let those referees join you!).  You can play this with as little as two skaters playing one-on-one, and up to eight skaters playing four-on-four.  A simple breakdown of the rules of basketball for those who don't know: Bounce the ball (also known as "dribbling the ball") while you run/skate.  If you stop you have to either a) keep dribbling the ball, b) shoot it into the hoop, or c) pass it to a teammate, because you can't move while holding the ball in your hands.  Other skaters are allowed to steal the ball or knock it out of your hands.  Each basket is worth two points, the team with the most points at the end wins. Any kind of illegal block/contact is a foul for which the penalty is the possession of the ball goes to the team of the player who was fouled.  Only call penalties that have an actual impact on the game, not just incidental contact.

Video: Helsinki Roller Derby plays basketball on roller skates

Additional notes: Ok, full disclosure here, I've never played roller basketball myself but MAN does it look like fun!  I've only recently learned about the sport (thanks to the National Museum of Roller Skating and Blood and Thunder Magazine) and as soon as I found out about it I just had to share it with y'all.  This is actually a sport of it's own that's been around since 1992 when Tom LaGarde, an ex-NBA player, started playing it, and believe it or not, there are (or at least used to be) world championships in roller basketball.  The sport is traditionally played on inline skates but that doesn't mean you can't try it on quads.  For more information about the sport of roller basketball read this short article!

If/when you've tried playing this, please share your experience with the rest of us through rating and/or discussing it in the comments -section below!

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Alternative names: --
Objective: To practice falling safely; to prepare for accidental falls on the track; agility practice (for those who are not falling in the pack)
Typical length of drill: Unknown
Materials needed: A full track
Skill level required: None
Description: Start with a small pack first, about 6 skaters. Number the skaters 1,2,1,2,1,2.  Get them to skate around the track at a comfortable speed.  Don't let the 1s know that 2s are going to do a double knee fall, and don't let 2s know that the 1s will do a single knee dip + recovery (not a complete stop; also known as a "knee tap").  On one whistle, the 1s fall and the 2s dodge.  On a double whistle, the 2s fall and the 1s dodge.  When you want to amp it up, change the falls, add more skaters, add more speed.  Number the skaters 1,2,3,4 if you can and have many different types of falls.  During this drill the coach should make sure that skaters aren't skating around the outer edges of the pack or just skating out of bounds to avoid others.  Skaters should be taking advantage of a gap/fallen opponent and get to the front of the pack/stay in play.  It's about independent footwork and awareness, and there shouldn't be any grabbing.
Additional notes: This drill was originally posted on the roller derby coaches Yahoo group by Bitchy N Scratchy of Sydney Roller Derbe League (re-posted here with permission).  Bitchy says that the drill is "easy enough to modify with amount of girls falling, pace and how many skate in a pack."  She also says of the skaters: "You want to see them moving around the pack to get used to it from every angle.  Maybe get them to fight for the front the whole time.  This will keep up the speed and build 'skating in a pack' skills.  It also builds awareness to skate in a pack and still hear calls from inside the track."

If you like this drill you may also like Asshole or Angel 'n' Asshole