I've been swept back up again in the swirling tornado called Roller Derby. Our season has started and this year I'm taking on a Captain role. The responsibility has made me reflect on what is important and try to articulate to my new team mates how they can best help.
When playing Roller Derby it is best to take things jam by jam. Make your 2 minutes on track count. Play smart, play clean and put 110% into every jam. So how can you be most effective?
Things to keep in the back of your mind at practice and on game day:
Dont take yourself out of the game.
Big blocks especially when you are new aren't effective - you usually get majors if it isn't executed correctly. Being in the penalty box is a waste! Being down or out of bounds means one less skater on track. Practice playing clean - fast recoveries, evading blocks, deflecting blocks, positional blocking & pocket blocking. They are a smart way of using your skills to keep you inbound & available to help your team. Your 2 minutes is precious make sure you are using yours wisely.
I cannot stress enough how important awareness is. Help your team by checking where the opposition Jammer is and telling team mates nearby. Is she in the box? Let your team know! Is she 1/4 of the track away from the pack? Let your team know! Is your Jammer stuck at the back? Let your team know! Jammers should be aware of the opposition Jammer Is it her first or second pass through the pack? Has she gone to the box? Knowing when to call off the jam is becoming an incredibly crucial part of Roller Derby and can be the difference between a 5 and a 35 point jam.
Learn to love her dimensions. She can be your friend or worse enemy. Coming into and out of corners is where the magic happens. If you see the inside line has been left wide open & a Jammer is approaching you make it your mission to get in front of her and hold that line. Don’t be tempted to hit the Jammer you just stay in front of her. Your team mates will find you and help you. Practice yielding when being knocked out of bounds. Never, ever skate out of bounds– block or be blocked out of bounds only.
Roller Derby teams don’t win games by the strength of their best player. Games are won by the team that works most cohesively. Look to your team mates, are they telling you something? Sometimes watching your team mate you'll notice they are blocking & holding a player. If you aren't doing anything go help them. Listen to your team mates. Did you hear them talking to you on track? Get used to hearing what they say and reacting to what they need on track. If in doubt find a buddy. Two skaters working together are more deadly than one. Imagine if all five are working together in unison?
Take out the biggest threat
Sometimes the biggest threat - that scary blocker - needs to be distracted from taking out our Jammer No-one else is stopping her as they are busy doing their own important task. In that case it’s up to you to do the dirty job. Taking on the scary blocker doesn't have to be a smashy affair you just have to be an annoying buzzing mosquito! You don’t have to take her out or knock her over (bonus points) but you do have to think about when is the best time to distract her. Put your body in between hers and our Jammer so she'll have to hit you instead of our girl. Your Jammer will love you for it & give you lots of high 5's.
Never give up
Your job is not over until the 4th whistle blows. Re-engage. Form a wall. What next? Help a buddy. Storm a path through the pack for your Jammer Take the hit so your Jammer doesn't have to. If the opposition Jammer gets past you... RE-ENGAGE. Race to the front and block her again and again to stop her passing other team mates. Protect each other’s points like they are sacred. If that scary blocker knocks our Jammer out of bounds, knock her out of bounds then give our Jammer a whip. When you hear the whistles start blowing skate as fast as you can so the opposition Jammer doesn't get your point.
No stinking thinking
The past is the past. Don't get hung up on what you did or didn't do in the last jam. We can't change it but you can learn from it. Everyone in Roller Derby is still learning. 5 year veterans are still finding new things out about the game. Don't beat yourself up on one itty bitty thing that you could have done better. Let it go. Breathe in. Breathe out. We need your head clear, calm and in control. Focus on what you are going to do next.
Stay clean. Stay in-bounds. Be aware. Practice like you play on game day. Look to your team mates. Re-engage. Never give up. If you try to always think of the above your team will love you & give you lots of high 5's and hugs.