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:

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