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.

1 comment:

  1. I like this idea! Maybe other secret jobs could be Goat (trap opposing blocker at the back), Rocket (get the pack to run).. I'm sure there's more you could swap in for Tank and X!