A few key seconds to improve your derby

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June 21, 2015 by alinedecat

Being fast is a good quality for a Roller Derby player, in all fields. But don’t confuse that with skipping some key stages.
Don’t underestimate the value of those seconds you’re about to give up. They might be more important than you suspect.
1. The last seconds of a move you are learning. This is about not giving up and finishing everything you start.
Why? Because these seconds matter a lot. Because you learn as much during these few seconds than the rest of the move. Why is that? Because if you want to skip it (or give it up), it means you are out of your confort zone, and THAT is where the biggest learning starts.
One typical example is probably when skaters learn plow stops and T-stops. If performed without time pressure, skaters usually take the time to complete the braking until a complete stop, but when skaters are asked to regain their skating pace as fast as possible, some might tend to start skating again before having reached a complete/effective stop. Sometimes this is not even conscious, but it definitely skips the most interesting part of it. To make sure you don’t, you might for instance want to hop back one or two steps at the end of it. How does that make a difference? Instead of trying to keep your balance at the end, you are actively hopping into the balance and momentum you are aiming for.
And of course, this applies to every situation. If you are a blocker and feeling the jammer escaping you, don’t give up, she might be as exhausted as you and if you can hold it one more second than her, you win.
So in brief, finish your moves, finish your drills, those seconds you won’t skip will make you progress the most efficiently.
2. The five seconds before the jam starts. At this point, the jam has somehow started already in everyone’s head. And all you have to focus on is your job as a player. If anything distracts you then, it will be too short to get your focus back. Don’t let anything mess with your head.
3. Those seconds you lost by not rushing to the penalty box. It might just be 5 seconds, it might just be 2 or 1, but those could be the seconds your team missed an extra blocker on the track to hold the opposing jammer long enough to award your jammer lead.
And if you are a jammer, those might be the seconds the opposing jammer needs to grab 5 more points.
So yes, you might reconsider catching your breath on your way to the penalty box, you will be sitting there for at least 30 seconds anyway.
No need to mention the time you could worthlessly loose by arguing with the refs. Just get there as fast as you can.
4. That second you held the jammer too long and turned your efficient blocking into a foul. It’s good to be relentless, but keep it legal or this single second you saved may cost you 30 more eventually.
This is how your nice positional blocking became a stop block, how your backwards facing blocking became a clockwise block, and how your missed hit became an elbow.
5. Those seconds you may want to take to consider the situation. Of course, let’s be clear about this: the faster you think, the best, but don’t rush into action regardless of what is happening on the track.
Coming back in bounds? Make sure you didn’t pass any skaters before you. Coming back from penalty box? Make sure you enter legally. Going for offense? Make sure you will actually help your jammer and not become one more obstacle to her.
So sometimes, it is worth taking a little time to save a lot more eventually. Don’t forget Roller Derby is a complete game, in this way: it requires strength, agility and stamina, but it also asks for mental strength, strategy, understanding, and good judgement and perception. Make sure you take some time for all of these aspects.
As always, please share your own experience and opinion, feel free to ask if you have any questions, and if you fancy a derby trip to sunny Lisbon, and take part in this Bronze and Silver (beginners/intermediate) bootcamp hosted by Lisbon Grrrls Roller Derby, and coached by Track Advantage coaches Master Blaster and myself? Don’t miss this bootcamp in less than 3 weeks!
Click the picture for more info and see you there!

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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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