I have coached roller derby sessions for everyone from fresh meat to travel teams, including skaters from every league in WA, and each group is different.
Here are some tips for coaches on how to improve training sessions and ensure skaters are getting the most out of their on-skates time.
1. Have A Plan
Plan the session and make the desired outcome clear to the participants: this can be at the direction of the league or the team, or could be based on observations of the skaters.
Making this objective clear means that when we’re coaching skills, skaters are making the next mental step towards the overall outcome and how this might fit into game play.
2. Use Inclusive Language
This means tailoring language to the group.
I try not to swear in front of people who won’t appreciate it (or their parents 😉), avoid gendered language (harder than it seems – right ‘guys’?), and use “we” instead of “you”.
This can make direction seem less confronting and alienating and ensures everyone in the group has a safe and comfortable place for them.
3. Include The Group
Include the group in the coaching: as coaches, we aren’t necessarily the best at demonstrating skills.
If there is someone in the group who can do something particularly well, encourage them to execute the skill to the group.
This will make them feel good, and will leave the group with a resource to refer to if they want to revisit the skill when we’re not there.
4. Break It Down
Break down drills as far as the group need: sometimes drills need adjusting up or down to meet the skill sets of diverse groups.
This might mean splitting the group based on skill, or stopping a drill to offer more clarification to the group as a whole.
This doesn’t mean we didn’t offer enough explanation the first time or that the drill is too hard for the group but can be a useful way to assess and amplify the success of the session.
5. Allow For Different Learning Styles
People learn in various ways, particularly with physical tasks.
Some people are happy to just get in and have a go until they get it right, but others need more of a step-by-step breakdown.
Neither of these methods are wrong, so try to make sure that there is space for all learners.
6. Give Feedback
Make feedback constructive and succinct: sugar-coating feedback doesn’t do skaters any favours, so make sure if there are problems they are identified and we are offering solutions to work through.
Giving and accepting feedback (especially with strangers) can be difficult and is dependent on the individual so offer it knowing that the other party can always take it or leave it – you’re not the be all and end all of coaches!
7. Check In
Revisit the structure of the session and the overall goals: check in halfway through and at the end of the session to make sure you’re taking everyone with you on the journey.
That sometimes means asking questions of the group, or checking off the different drills or skills that have been visited so far.
It helps people to remember how they have progressed and what the next steps might be after a challenging task.