Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blockers' Alley

Alternative names: --
Objective: To practice booty blocking; to learn how to move side to side across the track in order to block another skater’s way; to practice looking over just one shoulder while positionally blocking
Typical length of drill: 10-15 minutes
Materials needed: Multiple cones to mark the alley (alternatively, you can also mark the alley with masking tape).  Optional: measuring tape to make the alley the exact width of a derby track.
Skill level required: None
Description: In the middle of your training space, set up an alley that is approximately 13-15 feet wide (ca. 4 meters) using cones or masking tape.  If you have a large group of skaters then you can set up two alleys next to each other so that you are able to split the group in half and have two alleys going at the same time.  Line up all the skaters in a row at the mouth of the alley(s).  Two at a time the skaters are going to skate down the alley and the first skater is going to booty block the second skater the whole way down.  When they get to the end of the alley, they both skate back to the end of the line and wait to go again.  Make sure that the skaters are taking turns so that everyone gets lots of practice blocking.  If you are training freshmeat remind them that this is NOT a jammer drill so the person being blocked should make it challenging for the blocker, but should not try their hardest to pass her/him.  The point here is to let the skaters work on getting the booty blocking stance and motions across the width of the track correct, and to have them practice looking over just one shoulder while blocking.  If you are running this drill with more experienced skaters you can certainly also use this as a jammer agility drill.

Additional notes: This is a really simple drill that's great for freshmeat that are learning to positionally block or booty block for the first time.  We did this very early on with New Hampshire Roller Derby and Helsinki Roller Derby made it part of the regular freshmeat training.  I don't know where the drill came from, please give me no credit for it.  What I think is most important in this drill is the part about looking over just one shoulder -- when you run this drill demonstrate to the skaters before-hand how easy it is to pass a blocker while they are turning their head, and explain that a good blocker knows to move right when s/he cannot see the jammer on the left, and vice versa.  Later of course we teach the skaters about pack awareness and looking around you at all times, but it's good practice to get them used to booty blocking from day one without turning their head so that the jammer doesn't get that split-second chance to zoom right by.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blood & Thunder

Alternative names: Queen of the Rink
Objective: For fun; to practice keeping your balance and staying within boundaries when giving and receiving hits; to practice knocking opponents down or out of bounds; to practice avoiding hits
Typical length of drill: 5-15 mins (time adaptable to how much time is available)
Materials needed: A WFTDA regulation-size track (or a taped down track that's as close to the measurements as possible)
Skill level required: Skaters must be cleared for contact
Description: This is a fun game where the primary objective is to be the last skater standing (or rather, skating).  All the skaters start by spreading themselves around the track and skating at a medium pace.  On the coach's whistle the game begins: The skaters are allowed to use any and all legal means to get the other skaters to fall or go out of bounds (i.e. pushing/leaning, hitting/blocking).  As soon as a skater goes out of bounds or falls she is out of the game and sits down on the middle of the track.  The winner of the game is the last skater left on the track.  One round of this game usually goes pretty quickly so playing 3-4 rounds is recommended (and usually requested by the skaters as well).
Additional notes: This is in my opinion definitely one of the most fun games ever.  I don't know who the originator of the drill is but I understand that this game has spread far and wide; I learned it when I played with New Hampshire Roller Derby.  It's a great game to end practice with, it usually puts everyone in a really good mood.  It's also a good one for newer referees to participate in because they can watch for the legality of the knockdowns and pushes, and keep an eye out for skaters crossing the track boundaries.  I also recommend it for skaters who have recently passed their minimum skills tests as this gets their feet wet when it comes to using contact while skating in a circle, staying in bounds, and being a target all at the same time.  Happy hitting!

If you like this drill, you may also like Queen of the Rink!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hot Dog Chase

Alternative names: Hot Dog Tag
Objective: To get warmed up; team-building; to have fun
Typical length of drill: 10 minutes
Materials needed: A big space to run in (this can be played both indoors and outdoors)
Skill level required: None
Description: This is an easy and fun variation on a regular game of tag.  Choose one person to be IT -- s/he is going to be running around trying to tag all the other skaters.  Each time a skater gets tagged, s/he becomes a sausage and has to lay down on her/his back on the floor and wait to be rescued.  For the sausage to be rescued two other skaters must act as the bread and lay down on their backs right next to the sausage.  Once the three skaters have made a complete hot dog on the floor together they can get back up and immediately continue running from IT.  The game either ends when IT has caught all but two skaters, or after a pre-determined time-limit.  Switch taggers every now and then so that everyone gets a chance to play, and if you have a large group, consider appointing 2+ taggers.  IT cannot tag skaters that are on the floor or are in the process of getting up off the floor (meaning, they must be "in bounds, upright and [running]" to be tagged legally, hehe).
Additional notes: I used to work with children and this is a game that one of my co-workers at the time taught me.  The kids *loved* playing it, if for no other reason than the chance to call themselves hot dogs for 10 minutes (try saying it a few times, it really is a funny word).  Since derby skaters typically are very much in touch with their inner children I realized that this game was something that they too would probably enjoy.  Something tells me that you could also try this on skates but I would personally be really nervous that people might get run over when they are laying on the floor (especially those fragile fingers are at risk).  Might be fun though to try using contact as the tagging method in this game though...  If you try it, let the rest of us know how it works!

If you like this drill, you may also like Cat & Rat.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wild Rumpus

Alternative names: --
Objective: Pack awareness; communication between teammates; track awareness; avoiding penalties
Typical length of drill: Depends on how long you and your skaters wish to play, but you should probably reserve a minimum of 20 minutes for this drill
Materials needed: A stuffed animal or other toy; a WFTDA regulation-size track (or a taped down track that's as close to the measurements as possible); pinnies/vests for the skaters OR ask them to bring both a black and a white shirt to practice
Skill level required: None if you keep it non-contact
Description: This is more like a fun game than a drill; your skaters are going to be fighting over possession of a stuffed toy.  Split all of your skaters into two teams using pinnies or different colored shirts.  One team starts with the stuffed animal.  As long as the team in possession can pass the toy amongst themselves, they remain in possession.  The other team can take the toy by hitting/pushing the person who has it out of bounds or if it drops to the floor.  The toy must be visible and in a skater's hands at all times, skaters may not hide the toy under their shirts or in their shorts.

To make this competitive you can play this game in 2-minute jams and always give a point to the team that has possession of the toy at the end of each jam.  If you do it this way, take turns giving the toy to each team at the beginning of each jam so that both teams have an equal chance.  Another way to make it competitive, if you have the luxury of two time keepers, is counting how many minutes each team has possession of the toy.  At the end of the pre-determined number of game-minutes the team with the most possession -time wins.  If you do it this way, you can determine which team starts with the toy by placing it somewhere on the track and letting two skaters from opposing teams race to it, Dodgeball -style.

Please note that you can play this game full contact or non-contact.

Additional notes: This was originally posted by Vexine of the Emerald City Roller Girls on the roller derby coaches Yahoo group here.  Re-posted on A.D.D. with permission.  Only the competitive suggestions were added by me.  Vexine does not want to take credit for inventing the drill as she feels like she "got the idea somewhere and adapted it" but I do love the name that the Emerald City Roller Girls came up with -- apparently they play with a little Where the Wild Things Are -stuffed animal :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Look Ma! No hands!

Alternative names: Hands-free scrimmage
Objective: To get your skaters to focus on strategy and positional blocking
Typical length of drill: 20-60 mins (depends on how long you and your skaters wish to go for)
Materials needed: A WFTDA regulation-size track (or a taped down track that's as close to the measurements as possible); pinnies/vests for the skaters OR ask them to bring both a black and a white shirt to practice
Skill level required: None

Description: This is a very simple "drill" -- all you do is play the game of roller derby like you normally would EXCEPT your skaters are not allowed to use their hands.  All the skaters should put their hands behind their backs and keep them there for the entire duration of each jam.  They can hold their own hands, put them in the backs of their pants, or just keep them loosely on their back so that there isn't a big injury risk in case they fall.

HRD plays without use of hands. Photo by Marko Niemelä.
Skaters should rely on VERBAL communication and should focus on moving their bodies to the right place at the right time (aka strategic places).  They should find ways of working with a partner (or partners) in the pack without having to rely on the use of hands.  Blockers should be able to build effective walls without the use of hands.  Jammers should work on their footwork/agility and moving through the pack without the help of traditional assists.  Playing roller derby without the use of your hands makes the game much more difficult but you will notice that it at the same time involves your brain a lot more (or rather, makes skaters use their brain a lot more than they normal might; derby is naturally a very brainy sport).

For the purpose of this drill there should be minimal hitting.  I also find that people don't rely on hitting as much during this drill and the few times that they DO hit, they are doing it for a purpose (which is, in my opinion, what effective hitting is all about).

If you so choose, you can give penalties to skaters who use their hands during this game, i.e. 10 push-ups or 15 crunches in the penalty box.

Using your hands gives you an advantage over the other players. Photo Marko Niemelä

Additional notes: This "drill" rules if I may say so myself.  It can really clear the skaters' minds.  Whenever I've done this drill the skaters have actually skated slower and put a lot more thought into everything they do as a result of having the use of hands taken away.  The skaters have really enjoyed it, felt that they were focusing more and they've felt better about their performance.  The drill forces them to think more about the importance of vocal communication and footwork, and since they can't constantly touch their partner with their hands it makes them have to use more creative ways of partnerwork.

I'm sure I didn't come up with this idea by myself but I can't for the life of me remember where I got it from so I apologize if I'm not giving credit where credit is due.  This is not really a difficult activity to come up with though so I'm sure many leagues out there already practice it.  Please comment on your own experiences with this drill and tell the rest of us what you think it's good for!