Using all dimensions of skating

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January 10, 2015 by alinedecat

Ever wondered why your right hockey stop was better than the left one? Why your mohawks weren’t fully effective? Why your cuts were more powerful to the inside than to the outside? Or why that pain at the end of practice is always on the same side?

European Roller Derby Tournament – Photo: Peter Troest (have a look at his amazing images by clicking the picture)

Roller derby is played counterclockwise. But is this the only way we should practice it? Definitely no. Here is why in my opinion. There are 3 dimensions in a game. Two of them are completely capitalized:

  • the width: the track is virtually divided in 4 zones (lines 1, 2, 3, 4) or general areas (inside, middle, outside). The necessity to be able to move and thus cover from one zone in particular to all four of them as fast as possible (and vice versa) seems obvious.
  • the height: Sometimes, being super low, sometimes jumping, sometimes falling, and then getting back up… also pretty obvious

But then there is the other dimension of the track. And that one is highly untapped. Let me explain. First of all, try this: ask a bunch of skaters to warm up without any further instruction. What happens? Everybody skates counterclockwise, and except for a few laps for some skaters, mainly forward. And here is my point: this particular dimension has four possibilities, both in game and in practice. But unfortunately, only one is used mainly. Or almost. Games, scrimmages, and often practices, are almost exclusively counterclockwise, and mainly forward. Which means skaters mainly work on skating counterclockwise and turning to the left. But hey, a skater has a front, a back, a left, and a right, that should be equally mastered and muscled. Here is why.

  • First of all, movement on the track, depending on numerous factors, ask skaters to react as fact as possible. Forward, backward, counterclockwise and clockwise. As ablocker, for example, you may chase the jammer, then bridge backwards, then chase again, then sprint clockwise, etc… Even if this only means a few steps, it is still something that should never be undervalued; there are no such thing as “jammer skills” and “blocker skills”, there are just “skater skills”.
  • Second, practicing backward skating helps you work on everything that is not skating forward. Like plows, or lean blocks, truck and trailing, or any other positionnal blocking move. Indeed, it helps feeling comfortable with aiming with your spine, especially the bottom, it improves the rear visibility, and also works on all the muscle groups used in braking. Need proof? Here is it:

mirror    See how similar the positions are, even in details?

  • Also, mastering backward skating will probably open your frame of blocking possibilities. Sitting on a skater is a powerful move, but facing the jammer allows more braking precision, better use of shoulder checks, and full track-vision. Having a hard time visualizing that? Let Shaina Serelson demonstrate my point here.
  • And finally, practicing forward, and backward, clockwise and counterclockwise will balance the muscles you gain, and the pressure on your joints, between front, back, left and right. I know it might not sound like an absolute urge and necessity at first, but after a while, it might become a problem. Just imagine what an asymmetrically bolstered spine could lead to.

I will never stop asking skaters to practice counterclockwise AND clockwise, forward AND backward, I hope now you understand how important this can be, and how beneficial it can be to do so. It’s a long-term effort, because it asks to pass beyond the will to just practice and play the closest to real game-situations, but remember it is definitely worth it.   Feel free to ask if you have any question 😉

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One thought on “Using all dimensions of skating

  1. […] “Ever wondered why your right hockey stop was better than the left one? Why your mohawks weren’t fully effective?” Um, yes, yes and yes: Using all dimensions of skating for a better game. […]

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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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