Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fight for the Front

Alternative names: --
Objective: To practice controlling the front of the pack and taking control of the front of the pack; to practice speed control; to learn basic strategy
Typical length of drill: 10-20 mins
Materials needed: A WFTDA regulation-size track (or a taped down track that's as close to the measurements as possible); pinnies/vests or two different colored shirts on your skaters for teaming purposes
Skill level required: None if you choose to make it a non-contact drill

Description: Split your skaters into two teams using pinnies, vests, or different colored shirts.  Have four blockers from each team skate around the track in a pack.  Each time you blow the whistle one of the teams of blockers fights their way to the front of the pack where they can then control the speed of the pack and/or block the opposing blockers from getting up there.  Repeat this multiple times so that both teams get many chances to try to get to the front.  If you wish to make this a bit more challenging, add a pace-setter who skates a few meters in front of the pack so that the blockers have a smaller space in which to try and take control of the front, and so that they have to use speed control and awareness.

This drill can be played in bigger groups as well, you don't neccessarily have to have just two teams of four blockers on the track playing against each other.  It can be quite fun as a 10-on-10 game as well.

Additional notes: I honestly can't remember where I learned this but I'm under the impression that it's quite a common drill among derby leagues all over and I've seen this (and many fun variations of it) practiced and mentioned in multiple different places.  This is a really fun, and a really useful drill.  It's one of those drills that you can also use as filler because the time can be conformed to whatever you have left at practice.  In addition, this is a good way to introduce new skaters to basic roller derby strategies.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dynamic stretching: Drop Lunge

Alternative names: --
Objective: "To improve flexibility in your hips, glutes, and iliotibal (IT) bands -- thick bands of tissue in either leg that extend from the thigh down over the outside of the knee and attach to the tibia (the larger lower-leg bone)." (1)
Typical length of drill: 3 mins
Materials needed: None
Skill level required: None
Description: "A proper warm-up routine is very important to the health and performance of an athlete. If the body is not adequately prepared for the demands of the upcoming sport or activity, injury is more likely to occur.  In addition, it is impossible for the body to perform to the peak of its ability without warm, flexible muscles. ... Dynamic warm-ups can increase muscular flexibility for the short-term through the neuromuscular system and potentially reduce injury though decreasing reflexive muscle contractions." (Dynamic Flexibility vs. Static Stretching for Warm Up, Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy)

Drop Lunge

Starting position: Stand balanced with your arms extended.

Procedure: Turn your hips to the left and reach back with your left foot until it's about 2 feet to the ouside of your right foot, your left toes poiting to your right heel.  Rotate your hips back so they're facing forward again and square with your shoulders and feet.  You want your chest up and tummy tight, and the majority of your weight on your right leg.  Drop into a full squat by pushing your hips back and down, keeping your right heel on the ground. Now drive hard off your right leg, stand back up, and repeat, moving to your right for the allotted number of reps.  Switch legs.  Return to the left.

Bambi CrushBone, #13. By Marko Niemelä

Coaching key(s): Turn your hips to drop your leg behind.  Keep your toes pointed straight, with the back toe to the front heel.

You should feel: A stretch in your hips, glutes, and IT bands.

Bambi CrushBone, #13. By Marko Niemelä.

Additional notes: All text from Core Performance by Mark Verstegen and Pete Williams (1) unless otherwise noted.  This is part of a series of dynamic stretches that we have been posting over the last few months.  Click on Stretching in the column on the right to see the other dynamic stretches in this series.  If dynamic stretching interests you, the most recent issue of Blood & Thunder Magazine just published a 2-page column called "Shirley's Plan" by Shirley N. Sane, covering the topic and suggesting a few different exercises as well.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Game's Behind You!

The Game's Behind You!

Alternative names: "We've Got One!"/ "Time Ticking Away"

Objective: Help your Jammer score by bringing the pack to her (aka-slow down the pack speed to the pace of a trickle so that your Jammer has less distance to skate when lapping the pack). If it is more challenging for your Lead Jammer to catch up to the pack than it is for her to get through the pack, your team is probably not scoring as many points as it could when you gain Lead Jammer status or when your team has a Power Jam in your favor.

In derby, when we say, "get a goat!" we mean trap at least one Opposing Blocker and pull her away from her team by slowing her down. One reason a team would want to get a goat (if skating under the WFTDA rule set) is so that they can then qualify as the pack- (the largest group of Blockers, skating in proximity (within 10 feet of the nearest skater), containing member from both teams). When you control the pack you essentially have control of the jam.

I remember the first time this concept showed up in games I was playing. My team was playing under a new rule set- WORD (what banked track skaters play under for tournaments) and we had never incorporated grabbing a goat because our home rules simply had a different way of defining the pack. We had our ass handed to us during that game because we simply did not know what to do when getting goated. The other team controlled the entire game. Understanding why we try to get goats and actually getting a goat are two different things. By mid-game my team understood the concept (thanks to the school of hard knocks) but we were unable to turn around and do it to our opponents simply because we had never practiced the tactic. That's why we need to practice most concepts and strategies over and over so that we can implement them on game day.

After reading the following description close your eyes and try to imagine it. It's the last jam of your Championship game and your team is down 2 points. Neither team has anymore timeouts, so this will most likely be the last jam of the game. 45 seconds into the Jam your team finally got your Jammer out of the pack. Your team is skating fast in the attempt to keep the Opposing Jammer in the pack, everyone's recycling and skating fast. Your Jammer skates and skates, but it's the end of the game and she has about 5% of her energy left.

Time is ticking away! The Jam Clock is approaching 30 seconds left until the jam ends. Your Jammer can't catch the pack. If she can't catch the pack she can't score.

How can you slow down the speed of the pack? Is there a weaker skater in the back of the pack? Can you pull her away from her team and slow her down to a trickle? What can you do to contain her? Your Jammer only needs to score 3 points for your team to win the game. Once you get a goat from the other team, if you can put more than 20 feet between the foremost pack skater and the Opposing Blockers the goat you have is worth not only 1 point, but is also worth all of her teammates points who are skating out of the Engagement Zone. What

Read rule 8.5. It discusses ghost points. You probably know that as soon as a Jammer passes an Opposing Blocker, she gets a point for each Opponent that is sitting in the box (rule 8.5.1). Did you know that if a Blocker chooses to skate further than 20 feet in front of the foremost pack skater that she too relinquishes her point (rule 8.5.3, If a Jammer is on a scoring pass and her most fierce opponents are in the jam, wouldn't it be great if she could get their points without having to pass them? If you grab a goat, and contain your goat so well that her teammates keep skating and skating and eventually leave the legal Engagement Zone putting themselves out of play- your Jammer can score their points as soon as she passes their teammate who is in the pack and calls it off while they are still outside of the the Engagement Zone/ Out of Play. That's pretty awesome if you ask me.

Below you will find a combination of two drills:"The Game's Behind You" and "Time Ticking Away," a timed drill that encourages intensity and urgency. TTA can be used in so many ways and in combination with many different drills. Basically take a concept and time the amount of time that it takes to put it into effect or to carry it out. For example, if you're practicing gaining Lead Jammer Status, only give the Jammer 30 seconds to achieve Lead Jammer. Once your Jammers are able to gain LJS in 30 seconds, shave off 5 seconds and only give them 25 seconds. Keep shaving off time so that finally they can get Lead in 5 seconds.

The scenario above that I asked you to imagine happens often, so why not prepare for it? The better prepared team is usually the team that comes out on the good side of rule 2.2.2. Wouldn't you like to be that team?

Typical length of drill: However long you want to practice the concept.
Materials needed: 2 timers, jammer helmet covers, an engaged group of skaters
Skill level required: anyone who is cleared to scrimmage
Description: Get 5 v. 5 on the track at one time and follow the variations listed below.
This drill is set up as if you were doing regular jams in a scrimmage.

Version I- "The Game's Behind You" - set it up like a Power Jam or determine before you start which Jammer is going to get Lead (for the first go, just have one Jammer get out of the pack on the initial pass so that you simplify the focus). The team that has the Power Jam or Lead Jammer must grab one of their Opposing Blockers ASAP and start to contain her, slow her down, goat her, etc. The first Blocker to start grabbing a goat needs to yell either, "I've got one!" or "The game's behind you!" to her teammates to let them know that they are going to start getting a goat. Once they get a goat and their Jammer laps the pack reset and repeat with the next set of skaters. Have each team take turns getting Lead and grabbing goats. Feel free to use an expression that better suits your team. If "get a goat!" means nothing but "she's trapped!" makes it happen with in seconds, use that wording instead.

Version II- "The Game's Behind You" + "Time Ticking Away" -the same as Version I, but this time give the Blockers a limited amount of time to grab a goat. At first give them 30 seconds once their Jammer has left the pack, then 25 seconds, 20 seconds, 15, 10, 5. If you are on 30 seconds and they are unable to grab a goat in that time, end the drill and go to the next group. Make sure teams keep communicating with one another by shouting, "We've got one!" "The game's behind you!" or what ever other expression is just right for your team.

Version III- " The Games's Behind You" - similar to Version I, but now the Jammers have to get through the pack normally so it's not predetermined. Which ever Jammer gets out first, her team then needs to get a goat ASAP. If both Jammers get out at once restart the drill with the same group. (If your team is more advanced you can have Jammers go into Jammer on Jammer defense or better yet, which ever Jammer gets Lead have her try to suck her Opposing Jammer back into the pack- I have a drill of this, if you need one).

Version IV- "The Game's Behind You" + "Kill Their Jammer!"- similar to Version III, but with a combination of "Time Ticking Away"- The team whose Jammer gets out first has to A) get a goat and B) keep the Opposing Jammer from leaving the pack. At first the team only has to hold onto their Opposing Jammer for 5 seconds, then 10, then 15, 20, 25 and 30. If you are on the 15 second interval and the Blockers let their Opposing Jammer out at 10 seconds, the jam is called off immediately and you start a new jam.

Version V- "The Game's Behind You" + "Kill Their Jammer!" - you need two stopwatches for this Version. This is a combination of Version III and IV. Split Blockers on the track into two groups: A and B. 2 from each team are in each group so you will have a total of 4 As and 4 Bs on the track at one time. Jammers are still vying to get out of the pack first. As soon as a Jammer gets Lead her 2 Blocker As need to get a goat and her 2 Blocker Bs need to keep their Opposing Jammer in the pack. Blockers A and B are both being timed and competing to see who can carry out their objectives longer. After the Jam is over point out how much longer either A or B was able to carry out their objective. Discuss how their success impacted the Jam. This could help you decide future line-ups based on their success.

Additional notes: If you can, do all the variations of this drill at the same practice. If modifying the drills will better suit the needs of your team, modify away! The above scenarios are simply one reason for when grabbing a goat could be a good strategy for your team. There are so many more what-ifs, buts, ands, alsos, etc. involved in this concept. What is your favorite?

I'll be running these drills at the Blood and Thunder Camp in Florida in August 2011. Go to for more information.

If your league is looking for a guest trainer, I'm for hire. Email me and I'll send you my rates and availabilities.