Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Scarecrow

Please note that this is an OFF-SKATES exercise and it is definitely NOT recommended that you do it on skates! 

Alternative names: --
Objective: To get a good and interesting muscle workout while getting up-close and personal with some of your teammates; to practice balance
Typical length of drill: 2-10 minutes depending entirely on how capable your skaters are and for how long you want them to keep trying
Materials needed: None
Skill level required: None, though it does help to be nimble and strong
Description: To begin, all the skaters should pair up with someone of their own size and weight.  All the pairs should make sure that they have plenty of space around them when doing this exercise.  Partner #1's job is to be "the scarecrow" while partner #2 acts as "the climber."  The scarecrow starts by putting their hands behind their head and taking a wide, somewhat low stance.  The scarecrow's job is to stand still during this whole exercise and act as a climbing pole.  Once the scarecrow is in place the climber begins.  The climber's job is to get up on the scarecrow and try make their way all the way around the scarecrow without touching the ground.  The climber should try to do as many revolutions around the scarecrow as possible and once s/he feels that s/he can't do any more (or once s/he touches the ground), the partners switch tasks.

Alternatively, you can pair up your smallest skaters with the largest skaters and have the large skaters act solely as the scarecrows while the smaller skaters act as the climbers.  No matter which position you hold during this exercise you will still get a workout.

Video: The Ultimate Fighter Championship Scarecrow Challenge

Additional notes: This is something that I learned in my muay thai course a little while ago and it's pretty awesome.  The exercise can be made to look so simple when done by some (i.e. the UFC competitors in the video or my muay thai instructors), but it's actually a really tough workout and it isn't easy to complete even one revolution.  Why should you do this? Because it's fun and it brings teammates closer to each other as they struggle to climb all over each other's bodies.  You shouldn't be surprised though if you have many who are unable to complete even one revolution.  If you run this drill at every practice for an extended period of time those people will have the chance to practice it over and over again and they will finally get to the point where they are able to complete at least one full revolution, and that will definitely make them feel good about themselves.  So I guess you can also file this under self-esteem boosters :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Alternative Names: Aggressive Jamming
This drill is one we use to simulate aggressive jamming, so that our jammers know both how to engage from the start, and also to deal with a jammer who targets them straight off the start line.
Typical length of drill:
10-15 Minutes
Materials needed:
Track outline, whistle
Skill level required:
Approved for contact
There's not a lot to this drill admittedly, but we've seen the benefits during scimmage ever since we started to use this one.

Very simply, the girls pair up and form a line behind the jammer line. Each pair will approach the jammer line, one pair at a time, and set themselves for a jammer start. The coach will then double whistle for them to start.

The whole idea of this drill is to engage from the offset. The jammers will be trying to knock the other down, put her out of bounds to render her ineligible for Lead Jammer, or just to gain the advantage over her so that she is in the lead.

The jammers are instructed to fight and engage with the other girl as much as possible, and the "winner" is the first girl who reaches turn 3, at which point they take a knee and return to the back of the line. The next pair will then start the drill.

When every pair has had their turn, the drill is repeated, but with the girls alternating their positions, ie if a girl was on the inside line first time around, her partner will take the inside line on the second run.

So there it is! As I said, not the most complicated of drills, but we've noticed the jammers getting more confident in throwing and taking hits for themselves ever since the day we first ran this drill. It has also forced the jammers to think about their starting stance and starting position along the line before the whistle.

Additional notes: Initially, this drill just sorta happened as a natural progression. We'd been working on toe-stop starts for a few weeks, and I wanted to spice things up with some contact and aggression! I'd noticed that with scrimmage, the girls didnt get a lot of chances to work on a startegy like this one, so the drill just sort of evolved. It's one we use quite regularly with our intermediate group and I've been delighted with the results we've seen from this one.

try it!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Handy things to know

Alternative names: WFTDA referee hand signals
Objective: For skaters and referees alike to get familiar with the hand signals
Typical length of drill: 5:45
Materials needed: N/A
Skill level required: None
Description: To make the derby referee hand signals easier for both referees and skaters to learn we have made a video demonstrating them.  We were originally going to make a video for just our own country's new refs but as we started getting into it we realized that many new referees AND skaters in other places might also find it a useful tool so we decided to make it as thorough as we could (please forgive any of our flaws) and we added some Finnish eye-candy too (and no, I'm not just talking about our immensely good looking referees here).  Although this isn't really one of ADD's typical drill -posts, I want to stress the importance of knowing and understanding all the rules, including all the hand signals, both to referees AND skaters.  Derby is a tremendously strategic game that requires a lot of thinking and in my opinion, the more you know, the more you will understand the game, and the more you understand the game the smarter you will play.  And smart players win.


Additional notes: Contest closed! The winner was Farmer Geddon of the Boston Derby Dames!  Cross my heart and hope to die, there was no bias in this winner being chosen, despite the fact that she is from my stated favorite league!  My dog picks the winners of the A.D.D. contests :)

After you've watched the video, take a guess at which one of our talented referees performed in -20°C weather and you can WIN A FINLAND -THEMED CARE PACKAGE sent straight to your home! To enter, send an e-mail to titled "This ref was coooold" and enter the name of the referee who you think it was as the first line of text in the e-mail. If you're not sure what the the refs' names are you are welcome to use a short description instead of the name.  All those who guess correctly will be entered into a drawing to win the prize. Please make sure you add your name and mailing address to the bottom of the e-mail so we know who you are and where to send the package! Entries can be submitted through February 25th.  The winner will be notified personally and announced on the website. Limit one entry per person. Derbies in Finland are ineligible to enter this particular contest (you'll get your chance later :). We promise not to use anyone's address for anything other than this contest.

UPDATE 18.7.2011: If you like this post and the video, you might also like the post Make a Call and the accompanying downloadable program.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Four Corners

Alternative name: --
Objective: This is another one of those drills that has multiple objectives, from jammer smarts to positional blocking, clearing lanes for a team mate, communication, walls... and most importantly, doing it all in a short time!
Typical length of drill: This can vary as it depends on the number of skaters, we like to give every girl a chance in each position. Generally this takes us about 15-20 minutes.
Materials needed: Track Outline, Helmet Covers, Whistle
Skill level required: Approved for contact
Description: For this, you need to divide the girls randomly into 4 groups. Each group will go off the track (into what would be the outside referee lane) and into the four corners of the hall. The groups in the corners by turns 1 and 2 will be groups of blockers and play as teammates. The group at turn 3 will take the Pivot panties (they won't be playing as a pivot per se, but by having the helmet cover, they are easily recognisable for the duration of the drill), and the group at turn 4 will take the Jammer panties. The girls with the panties will play as teammates.

On the whistle, a Jammer will begin. As she comes down the straightaway and approaches turn 1, an opponent blocker will enter the track from a standing start, timing her entrance so as to impede the jammer.

As these 2 girls continue around the track, another blocker from the group at turn 2 will time her entrance and join her "teammate" (the blocker from turn 1) in forming a wall and impeding the jammer.

Finally, as they approach turn 3, a girl with a Pivot panty will enter the fray, as a teammate for the jammer.

The entire group then skates one lap.

The blockers will strive to stay in the jammer's way and resist all attempts from the "pivot" to clear her path. The jammer and pivot need to communicate with one another, with the pivot trying to break the wall and release her jammer.

We've found the drill to work on several levels. First and foremost it tests everyone's timing, judging the speed and matching it. The first blocker who enters will have to gauge the jammer, and get a positional block on her. The 2nd blocker must do likewise, and both then have to work quickly to form a wall and stay in her way. The "pivot" should gauge the situation, and attempt to take out the blockers, communicating with the jammer as to where the jammer wants to go etc.

Finally, by setting a limit of one lap, it ensures that the girls work together fast. They only have a short space of time to achieve their goal, and we've found that it replicates game situations very well.

Once every jammer has gone twice, we rotate the groups counter-clockwise around the hall, until every group has tried every position.

Additional notes:
As much as I wish I could claim this as my own, as it is a truly ingenious drill and the team loves it, all credit goes to Lord Seitan of the Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls.

This one is a lot of fun - and on a separate note, we've found it to be useful for our new referees as well. They have a small number of girls to watch for a small period of time in a controlled situation, and we've found it has helped their confidence in spotting penalties and making calls.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Objective: This is a drill we use for our jammers to help them switch quickly between flat-out skating, and quick feet for moving and juking through a pack. 
Typical length of drill: 15 minutes or so. 
Materials needed: Track outline, whistle 
Skill level required: Intermediate 
Description: The entire team will skate out as a pack at moderate speed. Two volunteers will be chosen, and they drop 10 feet behind the pack.  On the whistle, the pack will take a knee and remain on one knee. The jammers will then race one another. They attack the pack, slowing their speed, and without rolling, they must use quick steps, hops, jumps, toe-stop steps and footwork to step their way cleanly through the kneeling pack without bumping or back-blocking.  When they emerge at the front of the pack, they will then accelerate, skate a lap, and approach the pack again, repeating the above drill by stepping through the kneeling pack. The first jammer through the pack for a 2nd time is declared the winner.  2 new volunteers are then chosen, and the drill is repeated until everyone has had a chance to jam.

To make the drill extra challenging, the kneeling skaters can be instructed to "sway" from side to side to make the pass a little harder for the jammers.

It's a simple drill, but it's one we've found to be particularly effective in teaching our skaters how to go from a sprint, to a stop, to depending solely on their agility, and then back to sprinting again. It has also really helped our newer skaters to understand the importance of the stepping drills we do during their freshmeat training!

-Violent Bob-

Black Widow

Alternative names: --
Objective: To build up endurance
Typical length of drill: 20 mins
Materials needed: A full track or just four cones to mark the inside track line
Skill level required: None

Description: In this simple, classic roller derby drill your skaters will be alternating between one minute of sprinting and one minute of a skill.  On your first whistle, start the timer and start your skaters sprinting.  The skaters sprint for one minute, then you blow the whistle to signal to the skaters to change to a skill, and after one minute of a skill you blow the whistle again to signal to the skaters to sprint.  This will continue for 20 minutes.  Switch up the skill each time; the skaters should have done a total of 10 different skills during this drill, and a total of 10 minutes of sprinting.  Skills can include (but are not limited to): Figure eights, small weaves, big weaves, squats on the turns, squats on the straightaways, gliding on one foot on the turns, gliding on one foot on the straightaways, walking on your toe stops, running, big steps, skating backwards, hopping side to side, jumping, scissors, windmills, etc. Make sure that you yell out the skill before the one minute of sprinting is up so that the skaters know what to do on the whistle -- for this drill to be most effective endurance-wise there should be no down-time where the skaters are just hanging out and listening to you explain what they are doing next.

Additional notes: I originally got to do this when skating with New Hampshire Roller Derby but I understand that this is a drill that a lot of leagues like to do (and I'm sorry to say that I don't know who came up with it so I can't give appropriate credit).  It's an easy one to run because you don't need any supplies or special skills, but it's also a tough endurance drill for the skaters.  I've heard more than one skater ask why it's called the Black Widow and the answer has always been "because it kills you" :)

Please note: To help save your skaters' precious knees and bodies, about half way through this drill you should turn around and skate in the other direction (in fact, I like to place the skate backwards -skill in the very middle so that once the skaters go back to sprinting they can easily just continue in the way that they are facing).

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sliding Doors

Alternative names: Elevator Doors 
Objective: We've found this drill to work on a few levels, and we have a few variations on it that change the objective and the focus up. We start simple, and then step up the difficulty for all skaters as we go along.  This drill was originally run by Quadzilla at a Blood and Thunder Bootcamp in the UK last year, and once I felt the girls had a good grasp of his version, we changed the drill up a little bit to make it extra challenging and make everyone think fast!
Typical length of drill: We usually run this for about 15-20 minutes, depending on how many girls we have, as we like to give everyone a turn in each position.
Materials needed: Jammer covers (multiple), whistle, track outline. 
Skill level required: Approved for contact
Description: As I mentioned, there are 4 variations of this drill that we run, so in the order in which we run them:

Sliding Doors V.1 
3 skaters - 2 blockers who form a 2 wall, and a jammer (their teammate) floating a few feet behind them. The group skates out.
On the whistle, the 2-wall separates for a count of three seconds, then slams shut again. During this 3-second window the jammer must up her speed and sprint through the hole before the space is closed again.
I usually run 5 reps each with a 3-second window, then drop it to 2 seconds for 5 reps, then 1 second for 5 reps. It really makes the jammers more reactive, spotting a hole for even the shortest length of time and attacking it.

Sliding Doors V. 2 
So, once the skaters have grasped the idea of the drill with a teammate behind them, we up the pressure.
For Version 2, we put 2 jammers in single file behind the 2-wall. The girl closest to them is their teammate, the girl at the very back acts as an opposing jammer.
On the whistle, the wall will split apart for long enough to allow their teammate through, but then come together again fast enough to block the opposing player.
This does 2 things - it forces the blockers to focus and watch what's happening behind them, ensuring that their teammate is lined up and ready to go, and also puts their positional blocking to the test as they have to lateral back in and block out the opposing blocker cleanly. It also helps the jammers practice that explosive burst of speed that can make all the difference, as soon as that whistle goes, both of them really have to attack the space. And finally, especially for the opposing jammer, it puts her plow stop to the test to avoid back blocking.

Sliding Doors V.3 
Without doubt, my favourite variation of the drill. It really puts everyone to the test.
Version 3 is a simple change to Version 2 - switch the jammers.
Set up the skaters as in Version 2, but this time, the opposing jammer is the one closest to the wall, and therefore the teammate jammer is now furthest from the wall.
This is to teach your jammers that sometimes they'll have to get aggressive and do their own dirty work!
There is no whistle used for this drill. It is the jammer's responsibility to get to her teammates - she must attack the opposing jammer to take her place, and once the blockers see that their teammate is now closest to them, they can separate, letting their teammate through, and then slamming together again, closing the path for the opponent and blocking her out.
This variation of the drill is the one where everyone really needs to focus their attention in several places. The blockers must successfully keep the other jammer at bay while their teammate attacks. Jammer "1" must use her skills to gain the advantage over her opponent, communicate to her teammates, and then use a burst of speed to break through the hole. The opposing jammer should be resisting all attempts from the other players to restrain her, and should attempt to hit the hole when it opens.

Sliding Doors V.4 
This version incorporates every skater.
Take one volunteer and give her the jammer star. Pair everyone else up and have them skate in 2 parallel pacelines, arms length behind one another, and forming a wall with the girl beside her (for example, if you have 11 girls, you've set up five 2-walls plus one jammer). The jammer skates at the back of the 2 lines.
The pacelines will set a moderate speed, skating the centre of the track (lanes 2 & 3 as we call them), and on every whistle, the lines will separate, so the girl on the inside of each pair goes to the inside line, the other goes to the outside line.
Once the lines split, the jammer attacks. With quick acceleration, she makes her way through the gap. The coach will blow another whistle at random, and the lines will close up again - this forces the jammer to make a quick decision as to whether or not she should stop and avoid a back block, or try to squeeze past one more wall. When the whistle blows again, the walls separate, she attacks again, whistle blows, walls close... and so on until she makes it to the front of the lines.
We've only tried this variation a couple of times, and I want to give credit to Loco Lena and Hazed & Contused of Arizona for the idea. This version really forces a jammer to think and evaluate on the spot - should I slow down? Should I attack? Is that space big enough? Am I in danger of a back blocking penalty? It works really nicely.

Give these a try - they're a favourite not only of mine, but the DRG really enjoy this one!
-Violent Bob-

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Guest blogging: Violent Bob

Our next guest blogger is a man I've had the pleasure of sharing many a pint with and a coach who I really look forward to going head-to-head with: Violent Bob.

Violent Bob has been Head Coach of the Dublin Roller Girls since January 2010. 2011 is set to be a big year for the DRG, as they face their first bouting season beginning this month, and also for Violent Bob personally, as he has recently been named the Head Coach for Team Ireland in the upcoming Blood and Thunder Roller Derby World Cup.

Violent Bob, Head Coach of the Dublin Roller Girls
Violent Bob comments: "As a young league, we've been so lucky to have some amazing skaters and coaches join us for training sessions, and so for me it's an honour to be asked to pass on to A.D.D. what we've learned in the last year, and particularly the drills we've tweaked to suit our own needs."

When not coaching, he is also working on improving his reffing (he refs as Cheat-Seeking Whistle -- "will travel for beer!"), he is the resident whiskey nerd for Jameson Irish Whiskey at their visitor centre, he plays bass, and he is a huge American Football fan ("Go Packers!").

During the next couple of weeks Violent Bob will be sharing a few of the Dublin Roller Girls' favorite drills with us here on A.D.D.! We're really looking forward to reading about some of this World Cup Head Coach's training secrets :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Great Wall of China 2

Alternative names: --
Objective: Endurance, sprinting, and to practice maintaining a tight wall with a partner; agility practice for your faster skaters
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: This is a variation on the drill Great Wall of China 1.  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 INside and the slower skater is on the OUTside.  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 is going to start 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 inside skater (so, the faster skater) is weaving through the pace-line while the outside skater is racing the pace-line along the outside.  When both the skaters get to the front they pair back up and make a tight wall again.  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.  Because this is supposed to be a race you can add a competitive edge to it and say that the skater who gets to the front last has to do five push-ups in the in-field before getting back into a wall with her partner.  Because the inside person is weaving and the outside person is skating along the outside it should (hopefully) naturally be a pretty close race between the two.
Additional notes: This is a drill that I came up with as a result of having to frequently run practices with people of multiple different skill levels (not uncommon in roller derby) and it's good for leagues that have similar situations (i.e. use it at the first few practices after your freshmeat training camp is over and you are mixing the newbies with the veterans for the first time).  Your veteran skaters get to practice their agility skills by doing sharp weaves around broad walls, while the new skaters get to practice endurance and learn the hard way why jammers should never take the outside (aka. "take the cookie" as I believe Olive Spankins of Maine Roller Derby once called it).  And if you are indeed having the more experienced skaters pair up with newer skaters then you can also rely a little on the experienced skaters helping the fresh ones with their walling skills.  This drill can also be really good for large leagues in smallish spaces because it uses the double pace-line.