About naming things (and the time you will save by doing it)


November 19, 2013 by alinedecat

There are elements of roller derby, or rollerskating, or even skating in general that are identifiable by all skaters quite easily. For instance, a plow-stop, a T-stop, crossovers or a slalom, are words most skaters understand immediately.

Then you have derby-specific terms, like cuts, hipchecks, or whips. Also quite basic vocabulary, even for freshmeats. Actually, derby skaters are used to skating vocabulary to a certain point. And that point would probably be the WFTDA minimum skills list, or just a little beyond.

Oh really? Well, in my experience, yes. You can try it, ask skaters the name of advanced skating skills, or even better, capture it on a derby video, and you’ll see that beside the hockey stop, they can barely name what they see.


A funny thing that I observed in roller derby, is how little focus is given on skills people can not name. Let me explain. As I said before, there are way more skills to learn than just the Minimum Skills, and eventhough this is not figure skating, when I watch derby, I see a lot of similar moves going on on the track, if not exactly the same. Things like 3-steps, brackets, mohawks, choktaws, pivot-turns, or rockers are figures often used in derby too.

But why is that? Well it’s agility, my dear.

And if you can’t name it, then you can’t define it, you can’t explain it and you can’t talk about it. And that is absolutely not a nice start to practice something.

Of course, as a former figure skater, it was easy to me to name things, and I’m pretty sure some of the things I said must have a derby-specific name that I don’t even know, nor use of course. But the point here, is not about giving the right name to the right thing. I’ve heard people call what I call “skating lemons” so many other names, like “snake skating”, “funky towns”, “fish skating”, every league has a name for it, but that is fine.

So if you want to practice a move and could not find the exact term for it, that is really not a big deal, but you have to find a name for it. Give it any name, it may be a color, a number, the name of the skater who came up with it, the day you practiced it, the name of the skater you saw doing it, whatever, but find a word to define the move entirely. That will help your skaters so much, because when they hear that word, it will immediately ring a bell and they will think of one specific move, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And all of the skaters will be on the same page. You know you can’t name everything “that thing we did last week”.

But this is not it. Naming things is not only interesting in skills, but in everything. Entire exercises should all have names too. Think about the Suicide, or the Black Widow, which are both endurance drills. If you invent an exercise, well that is great for you, just take a few more seconds to title it. Can you imagine how much practice time you will save if you just have to say one word to explain a 30-minutes exercise?

And then strategies, of course. Ever heard about a sausage? That is one of the numerous names of the “passive offense” strategy, often used in powerjams. You may like it or not, support it or loath it, but we all know how it’s called.

Once again, these names won’t end up in the dictionnary. So let your imagination do the job. As long as it is easy to shout and to understand, it’s perfect.

In my league, our strategy book really looks like a menu in a restaurant, because most names are dishes, or food specialities, but everyone knows what to do on the track when they hear someone yell “lasagna!”, and I swear it has nothing to do with taking a lunch break. It surely sounds weird and funny, but, believe me, it is effective!

Now go write you own menu, ladies and gents 😉


4 thoughts on “About naming things (and the time you will save by doing it)

  1. Enjoyed reading this 🙂 a great way to even boost our creativity 😀

  2. Nitro Netty says:

    I believe it was Pia Mess that told me once that their strategy book consists mainly (only?) of names that usually describe sex techniques.

    During the last training of the national team we compared code words from the different leagues. That was fun. We had of course to come up with something new for the team because there was no common ground. But I agree: It’s absolutely necessary to be able to communicate a complex strategy quick and to a point.

    • alinedecat says:

      Hahaha Pia naughty Pia!
      How could you resist a blocker shouting “Doggy-style!!!” out loud on the track 🙂
      I’d love to know what weird(est) names people come up with for their strategies and skills 🙂

  3. […] The 3-step, or walz-step, is a figure from figure skating, and also a key-element in agility. We call it a 3-step because of the shape the skate draws on the floor, but of course there are numerous other denominations. […]

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I'm Aline Decat #61, skater for Gotham Girls Roller Derby and Team Belgium Roller Derby. I am also coach for Track Advantage - coaching company and I founded the Blackland Rockin'K-Rollers and Europe's first junior league, the Blackland Teenage Terrors.

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