General balance: agility vs stability

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July 3, 2013 by alinedecat

For all of us, since the very first day we barely approached a track, the one word we probably heard the most must have been “low”, closely followed by “lower!!!”. Now, in my experience, you might find an advantage in getting up for a moment.

There you go, yes, I totally just said that.

But before you give me your evil puzzled look, let me explain a bit.

First of all, let’s make a difference between established position and transient position. To make it simple, “established” is a position you want to settle and keep going just like that for a moment, while “transient” means you’re moving, not from a place to another, but from a position to another. “Transient” may thus be a position you have without even being skating.

By definition, the established position is very stable, to be stable it is as low and wide as can be. If you want to give a hit, take a hit, or just sprint straight on, you will have to be as low as possible, because you don’t want anything to interrupt your action.

Now, imagine, for instance, that for some reason, you need to turn around at some point. Transitions of any kind are by definition positions that cannot be settled, and thus moments of weakness in derby skating. To avoid any bad surprise, transitions need to be fast, you don’t want to stay in a position that doesn’t wear a label saying “I’m good, I’m doing good, and nothing can stop me from doing this”.

But transitions also need to be clear-cut. And this is by the way the main characteristic of good agility: being precise.

So what we’re looking for in transient positions: a fast execution and precision. And for both elements, the skater needs to be as narrow as possible. Also since a transition is a succession of positions (think “stop-motion”), you don’t want to stay in any of them, you want to switch to the next one until you reach your next established position. So, until your final position, you don’t need to be low (you won’t be able to take a hit while turning around anyway), you need to do everything you can to make this weak position at least be fast and not last. And getting up is an easy way to make yourself even more narrow, in other words: even more quickly movable. If you don’t get the link between being narrow and being agile, try to jump 180° the next time you come back from the supermarket with 2 ready-to-burst plastic bags in each hand.

But I’m not saying you can play it one style or another, nor do I believe there is one position more for blockers and the other one more for jammers. What I’m saying actually, is that you don’t need to be low all the time, the most important is to be able to go up and back down really quickly, so you don’t get stuck either in a stable position that you can’t leave nor in an agile (but unstable) position that is too risky.

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