Today, I'm putting my helmet on to talk about ways in which you can improve playing Roller Derby.
Lately I have been asked often by team mates for feedback. Roller Derby is a DIY Community run sport so sometimes it can be hard to get honest & constructive feedback on how you are travelling from your team mates. A lot of people who are involved in the sport haven't come from traditional sporting backgrounds and find it hard to articulate more than 'You are great!'. Which lets be honest, isn't really helping anyone. If you haven't found yourself a Derby Sister who will help you on your Derby journey or you are finding you aren't getting any decent constructive feedback then I'm afraid its up to to figure it out for yourself. It can be tricky to do so here are some ideas on how you can improve.
This is really important. Don't compare yourself with anyone else. Our bodies and minds are all different. Some skaters are really quick to understand a skill whilst others could take years to figure out that same skill. It might take a few skaters explaining a skill in a new way then suddenly you will have that 'Aha!' moment where you realise that is all you've been waiting for. Or it might take a whole year practicing that particular move before it finally sinks in. Please be patient with yourself. We all can't be superstars overnight. It unfortunately does take a lot of work and practice to get there.
To be a a well rounded Roller Derby player you need the following components: fitness, skills, derby brains & a determined positive attitude.
Lets talk fitness. This is the easy one to talk about. Roller Derby requires quick reflexes, a strong core & the endurance to keep you going strong until the end of the bout. I highly recommend doing additional fitness activities outside of Roller Derby training to help you improve. A combination of strength & cardio workouts is all you need and can be as simple as riding your bike to work & completing a resistance/weights session. Keeping your body flexible & limber is also really important so factor in stretching or a Yoga class (if you are that way inclined). There are lots of websites these days focusing on this topic. I highly recommend Roller Derby Athletics and BodyRock Tv if you are interested.
Derby Skills. Put on your skates & lets get started. There are a million videos and websites out there talking about skating skills so I recommend if you want to perfect that particular move you need to just get on your skates and practice. I'm not going to focus on that here. When you first start out with a league they are happy for you to understand the basics. How to skate, fall & stop. Very quickly you need to understand some Roller Derby basics like how to yield, block and build a wall. What I've noticed is the slow evolution of many young skaters from thinking solely about their own skills to figuring out that their team skills are vitally if not more important. To really advance you need to improve your communication & listening on the track, jammer awareness and the ability to use your team mates to foil the oppositions plans. As your confidence grows you should seek to challenge yourself by trying to read the game play & place not only yourself but the blockers close to you where you need to be. The more confident you become with your own abilities the more you need to start thinking of how well you integrate with your team.
Derby Brains. This is one component of Roller Derby that a lot of skaters ignore. I'd argue that for your Derby skills to increase this step is vital. Read the Rules. Think about the strategies your team mates are asking you to understand. Don't just memorise things, question everything. Watch footage online & try to figure out why a Jammer or Blocker did what they did. Ask questions of your leagues referees. Ask questions of skaters you look up to. The more you question and interpret the rules the more you will understand how to manipulate the game to your advantage.
Finally, stay positive and be persistent. You can only ever get better if you are trying so don't ever give up. Take the small victories along with the big ones. In many ways being a part of a loosing team gives you so many chances to figure out what you are doing wrong. You & your team instantly have a goal in mind. You rely so much of your learning & enjoyment on the skaters within your team and league so please be respectful, be caring and considerate. Being in a state of growth can be frustrating at times but don't take it out on the people around you. These are the wonderful people who challenge, teach and inspire you week to week so they deserve hugs, thank yous and smiles in their direction. Suddenly all of those persistent baby steps of improvement will add up and you will look back and realise that you are a kick ass Derby Girl after all.