Monday, September 19, 2011


Alternative names: None, but this is a waterfall or cycling drill
Objective: To practice waterfalling and communication while programming a sense of track space.
Typical length of drill: 5 minutes
Materials needed: One derby track. A clear inside line is critical while the outside could be cones. This makes this an excellent spatial drill for teams that practice in spaces smaller than a full size track like a gymnasium.
Skill level required: None
I like to use this waterfall drill as a warm up, then expand on it later in the practice session and use drills which emphasize the motions of the Squeezebox.

I'll describe the motions of this drill, but here's a small Flash video to demonstrate how it works.

Divide your skaters into groups of three (3). You can have as many groups of 3 doing this on the track at the same time as you require. If your group is not divisible by 3, then a group of 4 or a group of 2 may happen and that's fine - the fundamentals are the same. I've seen this work with over 60 people on the track at once, so use this for your mixed skills practice or to warm up for travel team - it's all the same.

The key of this drill is that each member of the group of three needs to know and practice what they should be doing at each key point on the track.

On the Straightaways:
The inside skater needs to be covering the inside line
The other two skaters are spreading wide over the track covering as much width as possible and using eyes and finger tips to keep in communication, ready to move as needed (pretending a bout situation)

Approaching the odd corner:
The wall begins to contract. The middle skater communicates with the inside skater they will have the inside line covered by the apex. The outside skater comes in closer to the middle skater. The inside skater begins to move ahead of the pack.

The inside skater moving faster is a natural occurrence with skating a smaller circle. It is also going to be easier to cover that tight inside corner with a 12.5' radius with two different skaters - one that leaves it and one that pulls in from outside, effectively making it a wider circle to defend.

At the apex:
The inside skater has now fully moved ahead of her teammates. She may receive a small whip or push from the previously middle skater to move straight toward the outside on the even corner. The middle skater has moved to the inside and the outside skater stays tight in that corner moving to the middle and being prepared to defend anywhere on the track coming out of the corner.

Leaving the even corner:
Skaters have shuffled now and should come out of the corner nearly together. All skaters will make minor adjustments in their speed and may assist each other to even up and remember to begin the expansion over the straight away.

If you watch the video or do this drill, you'll find this is the most efficient use of the track distance by a group of three skaters. Over the course of every lap and a half, each skater has traveled the same distance. Speed is not critical here. Skaters should skate in their walls at a comfortable pace. Movement, positioning, and communication are more important than "keeping up".

Adding a few "jammers" to the mix to try to get around the Squeezebox walls while following the Squeezebox pattern will emphasize how it is okay to move off the line so long as it's covered and will reinforce the need for constant communication. Encourage Squeezebox skaters to block while keeping with the Squeezebox pattern. The inside skater leaving the inside line does not have to go in front, she may go in back with blocking a jammer, but must end up in the outside position.

Additional notes:
Purpose and Intent:
This is a drill I developed with Ballistic Miss L of Pioneer Valley Roller Derby. We combined a cycling drill she had learned from another league with a wall drill I had learned from another league. At first we called this the Accordion Drill, based on the expanding and contracting nature of the wall. After our first attempt, with it being a successful drill, we renamed it Squeezebox for notoriety. What I love about this drill is it is a strategy drill disguised as a warm-up drill.

I use this drill whenever I'm teaching teamwork and strategy as a guest coach. For me this is fundamental use of track space with a wall. It encompasses all wall components:

  • Cover the inside line
  • Communicate between skaters
  • Learn communication styles as a skater and coach
  • Effectively and efficiently cover the width of the track
  • Helps build muscle memory and awareness of the playing space
  • Creates multi-skater defense opportunities on all areas of the track
  • Focuses the mind and energy to the competition space
Coaching notes:
Frequently the straightaways are where skaters get lazy. Skaters often need to be reminded to keep the inside covered and to expand wide across the track in this section. Remind skaters to not throw away this 35' of track in anticipation of the upcoming corner.

Encourage strong, positive communication as the middle skater covers the inside line and the inside skater leaves it. This can be physical or verbal, but in real bout situations, we need to know someone will be there before we leave that line. Do not let the repetitive nature of this drill get comfortable and shortcut the communication.

Inside skaters moving to outside from the apex generally should skate straight to the outside of the track. Ultimately they want the shortest distance around this modified oval and to spill the speed they had from inside. If skaters aren't understanding this move, encourage them to envision that jammer who has chosen an outside path around the corner and picking them off at the widest point where they have to convert from turning to straight is the easiest spot to cut them off or hit them.

Assists to move off the inside line and to keep the wall tight between all skaters coming out of the corner are encouraged. Keep in mind, however, this is not a drill focused on assists! Plus, the middle-becoming-inside skater might push the inside-becoming-outside skater as much slow her self down to stay on the line as to help the skater move out. It's okay for the inside-now-outside skater to reach back and assist the outside-now-middle skater to come up with the wall. Assists given should be gentle adjustments and tactile communication, not huge transfers of energy. The natural speed of a skater on the track should take care of most positioning.

For Referees:
Referees who choose not to participate in this drill in the walls, should be encouraged to follow some of the walls from an inside pack or outside pack POV and watch for multi-player blocks and skates going over the boundaries. I would encourage referees to participate in referee groups. The communication of moving around and switching places in tight corners is something I use when I referee on the inside (jam, head, pack). But if they're not comfortable doing so, taking on the challenge of observing as a referee is acceptable as well.


  1. great post, great drill and even greater visual aid with the flash video!

  2. Visual aids rule!!! Very cool post, BB. <3

  3. Holler at me if you ever want some Flash stuff made up for your stuff, Bonnie. Because, you know, you rule too! <3