Roller Derby is a fast-paced sport. Being able to maintain your spot in the pack, or catch back up quickly after being hit out or knocked down is incredibly important. Its just as important to be able to dodge those blocks, turn around quickly and head back in the right direction.
|Sunnylands own Shod N Froyda|
Photo Credit: Canonball
I personally am not very good at turning around. This affects not only my game play (I'm less likely to go for a hit that involves me turning around and skating backwards and its more difficult for me to recover when knocked out of bounds) but it limits what I can do during training. Since I'm taking the next two months off of derby (I'm starting up with school again and I have to pass my next to classes or lose my financial aid. boo.) I've decided to take advantage of my time and work on some of the basics. This will hopefully help when I start back up in November and have to re-take my minimum skills test (a WFTDA requirement and all around good idea).
|Serial Thrillers Ludwig Von Slaytoven backwards blocking against a Rolling Valkyrie|
The first thing that I wanted to work on was my transitions. Skating backwards, doing tomahawk and hockey stops are vital parts to the game today, but they are also daunting skills to tackle. The very basic skill needed for each one of those moves is the ability to go from skating forwards to skating backwards (and sometimes back again) smoothly and at a high speed (most of the time). This got me to thinking about deliberate practice. I did a class with Mack the Mouth (coach of a team in Vancouver and one of the organizers for Camp PivotStar) while at Rollercon this year, and he discussed the benefits of using deliberate practice. Breaking down a skill into smaller, easier skills, than working on those skills relentlessly until they become automatic is the definition of deliberate practice.
With that in mind, I decided that when I do my daily walks (at work, I do a lap around the buildings once an hour. This gets me up and moving and I get some sunshine to boot) I would work on my off-skates transitions. When it boils down to it, if I cant turn around and WALK backwards, how the hell am I supposed to do it on skates?!
I started out at a regular paced walk, then turned backwards (towards the left, the direction which I'm more inclines. Much like Derek Zoolander, I am not an ambi-turner). Then after walking a few paces backwards, I turned around again (again to the left). Not so bad. Then after a few more paces, I did the same thing, but turned to the right. I immediately noticed that I got dizzy when turning. I realized I wasnt spotting (this is a trick used by ballerinas who do lots of turns at once. Pick one spot in the distance, just above eye level and focus on it as you turn. Face it until you are forced to move by your turn, and immediately pick a spot in the opposite direction. Continue until done turning. It will reduce the dizziness and help keep you in a straight line).
The next time I walked, I practiced just on spotting and worried less about my pace or what my feet were doing. This made a dramatic difference in my right hand (derby girls, read: outside) turns. I did this a few more times, and threw in some 360 degree turns as well, working on spotting in both directions. I've been very conscious of doing my turns in both directions, as working both legs is not only good for derby, but it can help prevent injury (what you do to one side, you do to the other side. cha cha cha).
My third time out, I picked up the pace, just a little. I was going at a brisk walking pace, just enough to get the heart rate up a bit. Doing the transitions at this pace made me a touch nervous, just because I'm super clumsy, didnt have any gear on, and asphalt is hard. I was able to make it through the entire walk, turning like a whirling dervish without killing myself, so I consider it a success. Next time, I'm going to try it at a brisk jog.
I know all of this may sound superfluous, but being able to master a skill off skates, and then use that information and muscle memory on skates can mean the difference between mastering a skill, and just skating through (pun intended).
Stay tuned for part 2- on skates transitions!