Practice

I was grateful for an easier practice session on Sunday. I took quit a heavy impact last Sunday and my neck had been quite painful for a few days. Nothing that ibuprofen didn’t take care of, but not what I wanted.

So this week we had a shorter session, 90 minutes. Some of it was spent discussing walls, what else, before we got stuck in. Gillie ran the session with big Andy. The topic this week was power jams and how to bridge. The practice started gently until Andy told Ashley, one of our monstrous jammers, to hit a bit harder. I was glad to be on Ash’s team! (An aside, I read a recent post by Jason Fried titled “You Play Like You Practice”, that was brought to mind during the session.) Andy warned us that we would face teams/players that won’t slow down when they hit the wall. That in the bout against Zom-B-Cru on 26 May we will be facing a few A-team players. We will get knocked down. It will hurt. Umm :-/

Andy then played the role of jammer. I was surprised by his style. Rather than hitting the wall at full speed he came to a dead stop just behind it. Then he pushed and pushed until he got through. I’m hoping that most jammers will be like that! :-)

The other thing that Andy said that stuck with me was that his team have been practising walls for the past three months. Just walls. So they are important.

Finally we played “Queen of the Ring” – perhaps it should have a different name when men are playing? I didn’t do particularly well, going out quite quickly. We also welcomed a new player, Adam (IIRC) who is good on quads having played hockey. He remembers me from my days at YMCA with Imogen. It’s a small world :-)

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diff mins

Here I have compared the current (version 4.10) WFTDA Minimum Skills Requirements to the previous version.

In the main the list below gives additional skills. I have omitted items that are unchanged or where the new document simply explains at length the details of the skill. An example of such is T-Stops. In the old document no definition was given, the new details which wheels should be used.

Where a skill has changed materially I include it with the change highlighted. An example being the speed requirement is now 27 laps in 5 minutes, not 25. Where a skill is no longer included I have listed it struck out; some falls for instance.

It should also be noted that the skills have changed from a requirement to being “strongly recommended”  or “recommended” at some levels of play. I would imagine that most, if not all, teams will continue to consider them a requirement before play.

Basic Skating Skills

Skating Posture

  • Demonstrates stability, with centre of gravity down and forward
  • Demonstrates ability to skate low with bent, flexible knees

Stride

  • Shifts weight completely from foot to foot without stumbling

Crossovers

  • Performs reverse crossovers, crossing over the right foot to the outside of the track

Speed and endurance

  • Skates at least 25 27 laps around regulation track within five minutes
  • Accelerates from a standstill to complete one lap within 13 seconds

Stops

  • Skater must come to a complete stop from a brisk pace within 4 seconds, using proper form and without losing balance

Other skating skills

  • Performs one-foot glides with each foot for the length of the track turn and straightaway with good balance
  • In low stance with one foot completely off the floor, able to balance weight over the other foot for at least 5 seconds
  • Maintains speed sufficient to complete the glide and does not flail limbs
  • Performs smooth, quick lateral cuts, crossing the track at least three four times on each straightaway and twice at least three times on each track turn
  • Backwards skating within track boundaries. Maintains moderate pace skating backward around the entire track

Recovery Tactics

Knee taps

  • Performs each knee tap without coming to a complete stop
  • Taps a single knee without breaking normal skating stride
  • Performs two consecutive single knee taps in stride, with low recovery

Double knee slides

  • Knees do not make contact with ground at exact same time
  • Returns to active skating within two three seconds
  • Recovers without using hands to get up
  • Momentum used to initiate the slide is continued into the recovery to normal skating motion

Figure 4/Baseball Slide

180 Degree Turn Single Knee Fall

Four point fall

Balance and Agility

Standing and stepping from a standstill, maintaining control of wheels (not rolling)

  • Grapevine
  • Shuffle
  • Quick steps
  • Ability to balance on each foot from a stationary position at least 30 seconds

Hopping

  • Hops over an object at least 3 6 inches in height without touching the object or losing balance, while skating at a moderate pace
  • Jumps with both feet simultaneously, but does not have to land with both feet simultaneously
  • Hops laterally at least 18 inches from a brick forward speed

Weaving

  • Manoeuvres through 10 cones, each no more than six 5 feet apart (not to exceed 50 feet), placed through the straightaways and track turns, in less than 6 seconds

Transitions

  • Turns 180 degrees without breaking stride, maintaining a moderate pace
  • Turns clockwise and counter-clockwise from front to back
  • Turns clockwise and counter-clockwise from back to front
  • Turns 360 degrees without breaking stride, from a moderate pace. Using two 180 degree turns in a row, without breaking stride, is acceptable

Pack Skills and Interactions

Whips

  • Taking and providing hip, belt and clothing whips

Weaving and moving around obstacles

  • Demonstrates weaving through a single-file line of skaters, each an arm’s length apart, at a moderate pace

Unexpected obstacles

  • Testing all skaters in a pack of at least four other 4-10 moving at a moderate pace. All skaters demonstrate the ability to perform safe knee taps and slides at unexpected times in the pack. Pack skaters must avoid the downed skater(s) without going out of bounds, falling over them or causing unnecessary hazard

Leaning

Bumping

Blocking

Positional blocking and leaning

  • Demonstrate ability to plough stop in a pack without tripping other skaters in the pack
  • Demonstrate ability to use plough stop to slow another skater

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Scrim!

Yesterday marked a week since I bust my lip at a Skateful Dead practice session. The injury is no longer apparent, though my lip is still a little numb. In ten years skating it’s the worst I’ve done, which isn’t too bad.

We got there early so had the opportunity to watch the Banditas practicing. It was odd to see Gillie skating rather than instructing. Rob and I had a relaxed chat before Sally suggested the should get our skates on :-)

A good warm up is essential and as usual the session started this way. Then we carried on with wall work; practising “three walls” initially. There are usually four blockers forming a wall but there will be situations where one is in the penalty box. It seems that we took a while to get back into the swing of things. We played various other scenarios finishing with three blockers, two acting as a wall with the third trying to take out the jammer.

The main failing was wall reformation. At times there were mixed messages on where the fall should reform and even if we should form a wall or just disrupt the opposing wall. I feel my performance was mixed. I stopped the jammer sometimes, let him through other times. More practice required!
The sessions fly by, so I don’t quite know when, but towards the end it was decided that we should scrimmage! My first!

There aren’t many of us, so we played with three blockers and a jammer each. We were short of referees too (Skating Officials in Derby parlence), so penalities in some cases were on an honesty basis :-) It was excellent. I got to jam, failing quite spectacularly with two penalties in my two minutes wearing the star! In the last jam, Rob, jamming, wiped me out when I tried to block him.

A really good practice session, lots to take in, and only minor injurys this time :-)

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Old Dog

Roller skate wheelsSo this week I got some outdoor wheels for my quads.

The Skateful Dead have bouts coming up and if I’m going to make the squad I need to  achieve my “mins”. If I’m going to stand any chance of doing that I’m going to need to get some milea

The wheels are Reckless Envy hybrid, designed to be used indoor and out. They have a hardness rating of 80a, much softer than the 95a wheel that my skates came with. I have skated outdoors on the 95a wheels – they were so noisy! The new wheels make my quads sound similar to my inlines. The wheels leave the same kind of marks on the ground where I’ve made tight turns. Very satisfying!

I was hoping for sunny dry weather today and I was not disappointed. I made a later start than I had hoped, getting to People’s Park before 11am. I spent some time just skating up and down and around getting used to the feel of the skates. There are two differences that between quads and inlines that I still need to think about whilst skating. First, turning. Inlines pivot on either a toe or heel wheel. Quads don’t. Second, braking. I don’t have brakes on my inline skates. I either use a t-stop, spin stop or slide stop. T-stop works on quads, but the toe-stops take some getting used to and they get in the way for tricks.

Minimums

The aim of today’s session was to make some advance on achieving my minimum requirements. I avoided practising stops and falls today, asphalt is not kind to pads!

I marked out a line of cones at 120cm to form a slalom. Because of the width of the skates I found I kept clipping the cones. Rather annoying, 120cm on inline skates feels too big, I generally set them at 80cm. After a few goes I managed it, but not, I’m sure, in the manner that is expected – leading with my right foot on heel wheels only :-) I found 160cm spacing doable, the requirement is for no more than 150cm from memory.

They I moved on to gliding on one foot. Right foot is easy. Left foot I’m not comfortable with. Then 180 degree rotations – jumping during travel so that your facing the opposite direction. Backwards to forwards I can do, forwards to backwards I can’t. Again I found I hit the “one sided” wall. Very frustrating. Backward cross-overs? Nah!

I have a frustrating time ahead…

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Twenty Seven

Yesterday we had a two hour training session at Whitcliffe Mount Sports Centre near Cleckheaton.

We followed on from the session on Wednesday evening, practicing walls and blocking. We played various scenarios, wall of three, walls of four, jammer and assist. Our walls are improving I think, we just need to co-ordinate better.

About half way through the session I was at the back of the pack. I don’t know if I caught another skater or tripped up over my own feet, but I took a fall, face-planting the floor! If I hadn’t have been wearing a gum shield I would have lost some teeth. As it was I just bust up my bottom lip. It’s nothing too bad, more damage inside than out. My top front teeth know that they’ve taken an impact too. Staff cleaned up my blood from the track and the training continued. I sat out for ten minutes then gingerly rejoined. I practised stops out of the main action for a bit, but then got stuck back in.

The rest of the session went really well. Big Tony got us organised into a decent wall and we held the jammer back quite well. I fear my poor blocking allowed him through on the inside a few times :-)

Then we did “25 in 5”. This is one of the minimum skills that is required recommended before skaters take part in scrimmages or bouts. The rules have just changed, so now it’s “27 in 5”. Gillie counted me round and I managed it!

We cooled down then took team photos in preparation for our first bout coming up on 26 May.

I was out for dinner in the evening, wine helped sooth any aches and pains. Today? I ache! The sign of a good workout :-)

Thanks to Gillie and Mark for another good session. Tony for the lift there, Lawrence and Carly for the lift back. Carly for organising a birthday card and a cake with a candle.

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Win Some, Lose Some

A long day today travelling to the Futsal arena in Cottingley to watch two roller derby bouts. It seems that Cottingley isn’t convenient by train at the weekend! I had to travel to Leeds then out again. I was out for 9 hours, 5 of which were at the Futsal. Fortunately I had food and drink with me, so it was all good.

On to the bouts. It ended up being a very mixed day for Leeds Roller Dolls as you’ll see…

LRD Whip-Its vs. SSRG Crucibelles

The Crucibelles jammer being pushed out of play by a pair of Whip-Its blockers
Road block

It quickly became apparent that the teams were mis-matched. The Whip-Its led from the start. It was half way through the first period before the Crucibelles managed to score. At half time it was Whip-Its 154 to Crucibelles 27. They continued to play with spirit, but the second half was no kinder for them. A final score of 304 to 62 painted an accurate picture of the bout.

LRD Rebel Roses vs. LRG Brawl Saints

The muscular Saints jammer running past a pair of Roses blockers
Muscles

It was obvious from the warm up that this bout was going to be played at a faster pace than the first. Both teams ran through what were obviously very well practised routines, synchronised by whistle from the bench. It was quite impressive IMHO.

Rebel Roses were first to score with 3 but then the Brawl Saints took control and locked them out. The Roses managed a further 29 points in the first half but the Saints had steamed ahead. Half time score was Roses 32, Saints 178.

The Leeds Roller Dolls were on home ground. Every time their jammer managed to lead there was an enormous cheer. But the support of the audience wasn’t enough to stem the tidal wave that was the Saints. By close of play Roses had more than doubled their half time score, but the Saints easily won with a final score of Roses 74 to Saints 338.

This bout went the way that I expected the bouts against the Parisian teams to go last week at North Bridge. My reasoning being that capital cities have large populations. The pool from which to draw roller derby players is therefore bigger than say Sheffield or Leeds.

In the Whip-Its/Crucibelles bout LRD had some blockers who stood their ground; the Crucibelle jammers just couldn’t push through them. In the second bout the Saints blockers used each other really effectively. None only that, their jammers got up on their stops and ran through the walls.

An important lesson that I hope I keep in mind is that The Skateful Dead will get beaten at some point. Soundly beaten. Neither of the losing teams today seemed to lose spirit which is great.

Thanks to (famous) Claire for letting me sit on her pillow for a bit and for answering my dumb questions :-)

And finally, a lovely gesture from the Brawl Saints. They made a tunnel for the Rebel Roses to skate through on the high-five lab. Nice one!

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Skateful Dead

Wednesday this week was full of Skateful Dead!

I’d asked those in the know if we had a Twitter account. It was thought that we might do, but I couldn’t find it, so I set one up. Follow @TheSkatefulDead  on Twitter :-)

I also managed to get some stickers done. Rick, a friend discovered through ThinkVisibility, turned them round in lightening quick time. He has WallGlamour, a company that does decorative room stickers (take a look, he does some very cool stuff!). He can also do stickers and skins. I was lucky that @TheHodge was calling to see him and that he was willing to drop the stickers back with me. So just 4 hours after confirming the artwork I had them.

Wednesday is one of our training days. I handed out stickers, obviously; happy skaters! The session this week was run by Gillie; we practised walls, bridging and recycling. I fell on my backside a few times trying to stop the jammer. I still need to find my feet in quads. My plough stop just doesn’t. I also find that the good skaters forget how good they are, which can be quite frustrating :-)

We have a two hour training session on Sunday which I’m really looking forward to. A new friend Claire, who has been skating for a few years, invited me over to MRD training on Sunday. Will definitely be taking her up on that, but not this Sunday as it’s my birthday! :-)

Hoping to make it to watch the Leeds Roller Dolls bout on Saturday at Cottingley. Useful to try and pick up on game play and rules.

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Monsters

Yesterday some of The Skateful Dead team travelled over to Sporting Edge community sports centre near Manchester. Some of us were there for the beginner training, including me, others to scrimmage.

There was a lesson running when we got there, it looked like skaters attempting their “25 in 5”. There were probably around 30 in our session – I was a little nervous.

The session was supervised by Sausage Roller and he and the others (Pinky Fingaz I recall was amongst them) made the session very enjoyable.

Most of the session covered walls; how they should work, roles of the blockers and recycling. There were two games though that I felt worked really well because of the number of skaters.

The first game was one which involved falling and avoiding the fallen. To understand this it’s useful to be aware that before skaters can take part in a bout they have to achieve a set of minimum skills. Amongst these is the ability to fall and make yourself small and the ability to avoid fallen skaters.

In this game the leader called out the number of people you had to touch. This had the effect of bunching up the skaters. Then the insructors would bump people randomly. On this signal the skater had to hit the deck with a four point fall (AKA pornstar) and make themselves small. With the skaters bunched up there was then plenty of opportunity to practice avoiding those that had fallen.

The second game towards the end of the session was “Monster of the Track”. Everyone started by skating around, including instructors. Phase one of the game was to make the instructors fall or push them off the track. Phase two involved the learners turning on each other to do the same. Last person standing becoming Monster of the Track. I don’t recall who that was, though the last instructor standing was #0 – sorry, don’t recall her name, but a damn good skater.

Also in the session was 5 minutes of skating backwards. That really does work your legs. I also found that I got out of breath a little chasing round in Monster of the Track. Obviously need to step up the aerobic exercise regime!

I big thank you to Manchester Roller Derby for making us so welcome – I forgot about feeling nervous almost straight away :-)

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Les Français

Yesterday, as part of my education in learning how to play roller derby, I went to watch a few bouts at North Bridge Leisure Centre in Halifax. Two local British teams were playing against two French teams from Paris. Having watched way too many YouTube videos of the French on inline skates I imagined that they would be just as crazy on quads. I was surprised!

Hot Wheel Roller Derby vs. Paris Rollergirls

Kozmic Bruise jamming for Paris Rollergirls
Kozmic Bruise

Chatting before the bout I found out that Hot Wheel Roller Derby take the game seriously. Their coach (Jerry Attric) is apparently damn good. They don’t use toe stops so they all learn to t-stop/plough stop. HWRD took an early lead and by the end of the first period they’d extended that to quite a margin. At the start of the second period Paris Rollergirls drew level, due, I think (I wasn’t keep score) to very speedy Kozmic Bruise.

I had read the rule book over the past few days, now I was seeing it in action. Understanding why a lead jammer would want to call off a jam, seeing blockers clear the way for their jammer to pass through. It starts to make sense.

It also changed my perception of the sport. It was a rough and tumble clash of girls beating each other up. One girl got caught in the face by an opponents hand, quite by accident. That was it. The game was really quite civilised. Would the mens bout be the same?

The Inhuman League vs. Panam Squad

After a short break the men’s bout started. I had been told that these are generally a faster pace than women’s bouts. I expected teeth and blood. It was perhaps a little faster, and some of the hits looked harder. I also got the impression that the men fell more, during and after blocks there seemed to be at least one person lose balance and fall.

In both bouts I struggled to follow all of the penalties, something that I suppose I’ll pick up with experience. One of Panam Squad had a major hissy fit at being given a penalty. A timeout followed and then, I think, he got sent out of the bout.

Poupa Test jamming for Panam Squad
Poupa Test

Beat Monkey seemed to be the main jammer for The Inhuman League. Quite pleased with that ’cause he looked skinnier than me – there may be hope for me in the sport :-)

Poupa Test was a popular player for Panam Squad – the audience chanting every time he came on.

The bout was owned by The Inhuman League, they lead from the start and finished with a lead of about 100 points. It might have been expected that the audience would have sided with the local teams. Not so. Every time Panam Squad had the lead jammer there was a cheer. A really good atmosphere, both off and on the rink.

A Panam Squad player with his arm around an Inhuman League player

I really enjoyed the event. There were stalls selling skate gear, jewellery, stickers and badges. The announcers (El Toupee and King Crazy) were entertaining and explained what was going on. Looking forward to being on the rink in future :-)

 

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Deep end

This evening was my second practise session with The Skateful Dead.

Sally was running the session. There were more people there this time, probably about 12 of us. We started with warm up exercises whilst skating round. I’m still a little unbalanced in quads and I very much felt like the new kid as others whizzed past me.

Then we practised “walls”. I still know hardly any of the rules, but what I do know it this. There are five players from each team on the rink during play. Four are blockers, the fifth is the jammer. The jammer has to try and get past the blockers. There are quite strict rules about grabbing other players, use of elbows and generally foul play. The blockers can either play defensively – by stopping the other teams jammer – or offensively – blocking the other teams blockers thus allowing their jammer through.

After some practice with three person walls and “cyclops” walls we moved on to something more like a proper game. The blockers form two rows some distance ahead of the jammers. Then all hell breaks loose as you try to block the opponents jammer, stay within the track, avoid falling over, resist getting pushed too quickly, only push with shoulders and hips and listen for penalty calls! It’s crazy!

I felt I did okay. I fell over quite a few times, made it past the blockers a few times, though apparently with various penalties – I suppose I had better make a start on that 65 page rule book! Very grateful to those that explained what I’d done wrong. It seems that they are a very friendly bunch :-)

I also thought I was quite fit, what with regular running and some training. I was glad that I took water – you get really warm really quickly – and I found that the gum shield made my mouth dry. I also discovered that I need heavier duty pads – elbow, backside and knee have all sustained impacts. My arms, shoulders and legs are already starting to ache. Best of all I have a couple of minor grazes on my arm – my first roller derby medals! :-)

After the session most of us called in at the Dusty Miller to replace lost fluids. We talked about training. I also found out that our first bout is in six weeks time – against a team that gets away with manslaughter on a regular basis by the sound of it. By then I need to have passed all my basic skills. Oh, and then in July we’re entered in the European championships down in Birmingham. Holy sh**!

 

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