Friday, June 27, 2008

Tips, skills and drills

Breakaway: This is a simple yet important exercise.
I. The group of skaters must be 5-striding in a line at a relatively intermediate speed
II. The leader (trainer) of the pace line blows a whistle or signals, and the lead person break’s away. Sometimes the skater at the rear of the line breaks away
III. Then, that lead skater laps the entire field and returns to the rear of the pack. This skater paces at a fast pace, with style, as if racing or Jamming.
This simulates a Jam. It allows the person on the breakaway to develop their speed, 5-stride and style. It allows the others to simulate a pack - without blocking.

Breakaway and LOOK backwards: Professional skaters can direct their consciousness to the other skaters and the audience, amateur skaters are focused on their feet, wheels and the ground directly in front of them. To begin to develop awareness beyond your own feet, practice the above breakaway exercise BUT as the lead skater speeds around, watch the pack of skaters & NOT look at where you are going.
Likewise, as the lead skater paces around the field, the rest of the (pack) skaters keep their eyes on that skater.

Duck walk exercise: This is a powerful exercise! Start with you feet at about a 45 degree angle at a stand still.
Keeping your feet at that angle you now begin to run. Move those legs fast, chop, chop, chop. Pick up speed as fast as you can from the dead stop position.
Run from one end of the rink or skating surface to the other. After a short rest repeat this until you can't go any more. This exercise will enable you to build the proper muscles and help you get restarted faster than anything else. Repositioning yourself in a game, as a Jammer or fallen skater is important. This is the drill to learn that skill!

Track walking exercise: A skater can walk up and down each square foot of the track (flat or banked track) to get accustomed to the banks, floor and balancing on skates. They can crossover walk up and down the banks trying to keep their wheels from rolling. This teaches great dexterity in their feet.

A professional skaters feet need to be so familiar with those banks, trucks and wheels that they do not think about what their feet are doing.
Loosened front trucks for quad skates - loosen those front trucks! Real loose! This will help a skaters' maneuverability on the banks.

Because part of this exercise is a balancing skill, the exercise can be done on a flat surface as well as on the banked track.

Squat exercise: Skaters need flexibility in their body movements so keeping limber and doing exercise is good for training. While a skater moves at each part of the track they can squat, then stand upright. Squat and stand, and after a while improve their balance and style as they develop their squats.

This exercise can be done on a flat track as well as the banked track. You can practice this at home or on any surface at any time.

Zigzag exercises: Roller derby requires skaters to do much more than skating around in a circle. The game is much more than speeding forward, skaters need to learn to move sideways, up a bank and then down it. The movement is a lateral move, rather than a rolling forward movement. These moves need to be developed so that a skater can withstand the body contact, blocking moves and scoring strategies in a game. There are many exercises that skaters can do on their own or with others to move up a bank, then down. After time, a skater can add to this rolling movement a small jump so that there is air between a foot and the track or floor to help the skater move up or down a bank quicker.

The zigzag motion is accompanied by the skaters body movements to develop squatting and extending their body, as if defensively blocking.

Zigzag and other footwork can be done on flat surfaces. Skaters with dance backgrounds will find this part of roller derby training easy and natural. Skaters who just skated inline outdoors will find this type of skating very challenging. Many say this is why inline skates are not the best for roller derby styles competition. Defensive skaters are experts at covering the track laterally.
Few skaters become good defensive skaters. This exercise will help.

Jump exercise: Skaters need to become used to having air between the floor or track and their skates. They need to be able to jump, take their skates off the rolling surface and then land and continue rolling.
The first time a skater jumps, they often loose their footing and crash to the floor once their skates hit the rolling surface again.

As a warm up, a skater can jump over and over again and again. They can jump as many times as possible as they simply roll around the track or floor warming up.
Eventually, these jumps can be incorporated into team skills.
You can jump at home while wearing your skates and cleaning the house! Most of the professional's have worn skates at home at one time in their career or another to help teach them important skills.
This exercise can be done on any surface. It should be done as often as possible. It will teach incredible agility.

Obstacle jumping exercise: The game of roller derby holds many unexpected situations where skaters need to think on their feet. One of the most common obstacles is a fallen skater who goes down unexpectedly in front of, or at another skater's side. A downed skater can cause injuries to other skaters.
Cones, chairs or other obstacles can be tossed onto the track or floor by a trainer. The obstacles suddenly appear in the way of unexpected skaters. The skaters, who might be in a pack formation, must learn to react to the unexpected obstacle and avoid hitting it, falling or taking other skaters down.

Sit-out and get up: It's obvious that skater's in a game can be knocked down or take a tumble; therefore a skater must learn to fall. Starting by simply rolling forward on your skates and then sit down is one way to begin to develop the falling skills needed for a game. When a skater sits down, they should use their butt and not their hands to support their sit out.
Another rule is not to go down on the knees to break the fall, but use the butt. Put those butt pads in your shorts! After a skater is down, they need to stand up and begin or continue to roll and stride again - QUICKLY - with chop chop little steps to regain speed.

This all sounds easier than what it is. Because the track is designed with varying angles every foot or so, a skater will find their ability to get up different at each few feet of the track. For instance, if a skater falls at the highest part of the bank, near the kick rail, and try to get up; the incline will be greatest to pull them down into the infield as they try to roll again. They must learn to overcome the natural tendency to roll down the bank as they pick up speed.

If a skater falls near the lowest part of the high bank, near the infield, then they must get up and quickly pick up speed. The tendency will be to fight the banks to get up high and roll smoothly again. Skaters look very awkward and unprofessional when they fall in these areas of the track. Even the best skaters stumble and wobble as they try to fight the bank and pick up speed again.

On a flat track: Taking a sit out on a flat track is not the best way to learn to fall and get up quickly. Instead practice slide-outs or one or two knee stops and baseball slide stops.

On a flat track: A skaters skidding out on their knee(s), should practice getting erect and falling back into stride again. It's important to stay in the pack, and not get scored upon.

Falls: Sit outs, knee and baseball slide outs, when practiced over and over will become part of the skaters natural body movements. A skater may, add their own style to the move that fits their body type. Once skaters begin to understand how their body works as they learn to sit-out and get up; they need to develop their falls beyond the basic sit-out.
Falls are more than just sitting down or sliding on a knee. They also need to be able to learn how to balance themselves as a 200 lb skater comes around and blocks their body to the track. Which is fine during a training period, but when in a game, skaters can be knocked down without any warning and you will feel your body going down.

Be sure to keep the hands away from trying to break the fall. That's how broken, cracked and hurt wrists and arms occur, a common injury in derby.
Skater must become aware of all the other skaters on the track and reposition themselves appropriately to the other skaters. You don't want to trip someone do you?

Body contact: The game of roller derby is one of body contact.

Skaters must learn to touch and be touched as they roll with one another. This contact is not striking one another with jabbing elbows. Rather is it simply using the elbows to reach out, hook and push off one another. It actually is a graceful move of taking another skaters momentum.

This is not trying to knock them down, but is a exercise that teaches the balance and body movements to become a great blocker.

Roller derby is NOT about trying to really hurt or trip someone. If you injure another skater, and they end up on disability, how do you think you'd feel?


BRAIN DEAD: While on the track skaters need to fall over and over again and again.
The falls will hurt, but by getting up right away after the fall and forcing the body to go back into a stride the brain will become conditioned to avoid thinking of any pain.

This is great conditioning and is exhausting. A skater should practice this about three times a week. Doing more each time than they were able to do the day before.
Skaters need to be in condition. The sport is very rough on the cardio-vascular system, leg muscles and the body. It's important that skaters take their effort seriously and get their body into tip-top condition. All those muscles must be conditioned.

Almost all skaters use running and dancing exercises to help improve their leg muscle coordination and endurance. Remember, nothing conditions the body for skating as much as putting the skates on and skating!

Today's athletes augment their skate training with weight training. Most skaters do not weight train to build mass, but to strengthen and condition their muscles. Exercises such as squats and torso and upper arm workouts seem to improve skaters overall abilities greatly.
Many skaters wear ankle weights through out the day. This helps their legs adapt to the heavy skates on their feet so they can pick their skates up and put them down FAST while in competition.
Most importantly, weight training keeps a skater fit and helps to limit the number of sprains, twisted muscles and injuries they may suffer.


AWARENESS: New skaters focus on their feet and how their body is out of balance. New skaters generally only look in front of them and their eyes prepare their mind for what their feet or skate are about to encounter. This is a stage of mental awareness that all skaters go through. It is an awareness that occupies almost all of a new skaters brain activity. This means a new skater cannot really think about the game. Their brain cannot worry about where they are, where an opponent is, or what the play is because their mind is preoccupied. At this stage, a skater is simply mentally focused on their skating and balance. There is no ability to move their mental thoughts or awareness to any other thought patterns.
To look professional, skaters need to break this amateur focus on ones feet and the road in front of them!

Skaters need to skate in order to start to break this intense focus on their wheels, skates and feet. Skaters need to skate a lot and do every imaginable thing in order to break their awareness from the simple minded focus of balance and wheels.
Sounds simple. SKATE! Then skaters need to learn to look around and behind them. Everything happens behind you in a roller derby game. A skater who cannot learn to glance behind them, and get a picture of the skaters moves and plays that are forming behind them, just is not ready for the actual game.

Professional skaters are so comfortable on skates that they do not think about their feet or balance. This means that they can use their mental awareness to perform other things. How do you become comfortable on your skates?

It's simple you just skate as often as possible, skate in any rink, club or activity that helps you to become comfortable. Put your skates on at home & putter around in the driveway.

Now that you have a full plate of exercises it's up to you to get going and keep the sport growing onto its new approach towards speed and professionalism.

These are JUST skating skills. There are many documented offensive and defensive plays in the game. Each of these plays, takes practice.

Once you've accomplished the basics, you can move on to the excitement of the team strategies involved in the game.

Learn the strategies that make the fans cheer and return for more!

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