Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fire Drill

Alternative names: None (weaving / pace line variant)
Objective: Learn the basics of a pace line while using some basic upper body movement
Typical length of drill: 5 minutes
Materials needed: One passable object per approximately 8 skaters (Nerf balls recommended)
Skill level required: none
Description: This is a very basic weaving line or, as some might call it, pace line.

I use this drill with the freshest of fresh meat as soon as they are able to skate well enough to keep up with a line, pass someone, and weave between two people.

All skaters line up in a single pace line about two arm lengths apart. The activity of the drill will enforce this.

Distribute Nerf balls through the line about one for every eight skaters. You can use other objects as well. For advanced skaters, weighted medicine balls work. Other objects could be stuffed animals, shoes, swim noodles, cones, other balls. I prefer Nerf balls with new skaters because they are easy to see and they are easy to grab with wrist guards - something new skaters are just getting used to.

As the pace line starts, the balls are passed backward. This stimulates the activity of turning and looking backward while skating forward. It also enforces the pace line spacing without skaters having to think about it too much. Once a ball reaches the back of the line, the skater takes the ball and weaves forward to the front of the line. On reaching the front of the line, they pass their ball back and the drill repeats from there.

Additional notes:
The name, Fire Drill, should be fairly obvious since it is basically a bucket brigade. I believe this was a Pioneer Valley invention because I brought our coaching kit that I made with the Hellions to PVRD and we were looking for something to do with the Nerf balls on a skills practice night. I had bought the Nerf balls to play Dodge Ball on skates (will write that up as a drill soon). If memory serves, it was Pink Panzer who came up with the idea to do this.

While this is a drill designed to help brand new derby skaters grasp the pacing concepts of a weaving line without barking orders at them, this can be used for more advanced skaters as a part of a dynamic warm up routine. Add other dynamic stretches to this for a nice, easy warm up that keeps the mind active and alert while skating as a team.

Coaching Notes
Encourage skaters to pass the balls back in both the right and left directions.

Make sure skaters are making eye contact with the person behind them as they pass the ball. Encourage skaters to turn at the waist and to pass the ball, not throw it.

Especially when working with new skaters, encourage them to be in the right position at the right time. If they've fallen behind when the person in front of them is trying to pass the ball back and now they have to catch up, use this as a learning opportunity of illustrating the need to be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there.

Brand new skaters will get a bit nervous when weaving through the same space as a ball passing backward. They'll get over it.

This drill works in both the derby direction and non-derby direction. I usually run it through in one direction for half the time, then have the line follow a figure 8 to reverse direction and repeat it in the reverse direction.

Side Note
While you have balls out on the track, an added benefit we have at our practices is we throw the balls around while doing warm up or cool down laps. This is not a pace line thing and is helpful for all levels of skaters.

  • Develops hand eye coordination
  • Develops a sense of learning to aim for where someone will be (especially with slow Nerf balls) not where they are
  • Takes attention away from the activity of skating and helps skaters gain comfort on their feet
  • Encourages sub-conscious speeding up and slowing down to catch the ball
  • Encourages full track awareness (Where are the balls? Is one being thrown to me?)
  • Helps skaters learn to get low to pick up dropped balls at speed

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