Whether it's transitioning from Fresh Meat to home season, getting rostered, or trying to make your league's charter, there are always opportunities to take your derby to the next level.
Each journey towards roller derby greatness is different, and everybody improves at different rates so take these with a pinch of salt.
Here are some tips that might help you get that roster spot, nail that position, or even become the next Suzy Hotdog.
Do them. Or don't do them, I'm not a cop.
1. CHOOSE what position you want
Not all blockers and jammers are the same, and a team is made up of different skills.
What are your strengths and weaknesses and how does that affect the position you are in on the track?
Awesome at backwards skating? You would probably fit well into a brace position! But if you aren't good at communicating, you'll probably need to work on that.
Look at the skaters in your league who play that role, and ask them to break skills down for you and teach you how they do it.
2. IMITATE your idols
See someone who you wanna skate like? Check out their body mechanics and make yours do the same thing.
I place a caveat on this one though – some bodies can do some things easier than others, so make it realistic.
For example, my body is very different to nippy lil' Bonnie Thunders, so I can try to copy some footwork of hers and make it my own but I'll probably never slip through walls like her.
However, when I watch bigger blocker types like Swagger and Serelson, I'm like “hell yeah I can do that.. probably.. if I try really hard and move my body like them.. maybe”.
3. CHECK YOURSELF before you wreck yourself
There are three types of injuries in roller derby
- Actual injuries that require rehab and often time off skates
- Derby hurts, which may look like impressive bruises and sting for a second, but don't affect your skating (check out my facial bruise collage above)
- Butt hurts, where you get your ass handed to you and your ego takes a thrashing
I have had all of these things and sometimes it feels like upgrading a butt hurt to a derby hurt will make it legitimate but realistically that's not helping anyone, particularly not the first aider who is obligated to fill out the paperwork instead of training.
Listen to your body and your brain and take it easy if you need to (yes, even emotionally if you're feeling sad after a jam).
4. TELL PEOPLE you're hungry for it
As a coach and captain, I have been in team selection meetings for years and I've lost count of the number of times I have had a Michael Bluth-esque “Her?” moment when I discover a skater has opted in for a travel team.
If the people making the selections know what your goals are, we will pay more attention to monitoring performance and giving appropriate feedback, and will help keep you accountable.
This brings us to the next point:
5. IMPLEMENT feedback
Coaches, captains, senior skaters – whoever it is that is giving you tips don’t tell you things for no reason.
We want to see you improve, and we’re thinking of ways you can fit into particular walls/teams/line ups.
If we can see you at least trying to do something that was part of a feedback process, it truly warms the cockles of our cold dead hearts.
6. FOCUS on specifics
If you ask fifteen people what you should work on, chances are you'll get fifteen different answers.
You don't need to nail all the things straight away, but work on something until it feels comfortable and then move on.
Do you suck? Get better!
If you have a particular skill that has never been your friend, don't shy away from it or avoid it.
Be honest and practice, practice, practice.
Letting yourself off the hook with “I can do it well enough if someone asks me to” isn’t actually making you a better skater.
Sure, it might get you through an assessment or passing minimum skills, but put it on a “to do” list for later and come back to it.
Trust me when I say that it becomes pretty obvious when you’re in a game and can only transition in one direction!
Watch high level derby games (there's a load archived on WFTDA.tv and resources all over the internet), and watch yourself.
Guaranteed you'll find about a million things wrong with your own game play, the first of which is probably that you're standing more upright and are waaaay slower than you feel (or maybe that's just me?).
If you don't have any footage of yourself, make it – get a team mate to film you in a jam or executing something tricky and see what you can improve.
9. Set #GOALS and make yourself accountable
Setting your sights high is one thing, but what are you actually doing to make it happen?
If you always feel tired on leg day and give yourself a night off training, you're not actually sticking to the plan!
Having steps for how to achieve the goals (like extra cross-training, eating better, doing targeted workouts) is important but it's no use if you don't stick to it.
Make it achievable and if it's not working – change it up!
10. ASSESS your gear
Sometimes gear does make a difference.
Is your nylon plate too weak for your new muscular derby body, and now absorbs all of your pushes?
Are your safe-for-fresh-meat wide and sticky wheels actually holding you back now you’ve mastered speed skating?
Are your boots stuffy and unresponsive?
I would recommend getting the opinion of a coach on your form and technique before spending money on new schwag (nobody wants to be the “all gear, no idea” guy, right?), but if you've exhausted all the other options it might be time for an upgrade.