Ups and Downs

This morning as I eased myself out of bed I wondered if I could manage without ibuprofen. After about half an hour I gave in and took one.

Following injury during the bout on Sunday I find my mind in turmoil. Do I want to carry on an activity that, in just two months, has led to three injuries, two of which has left me taking painkillers for days. I’ve skated on in-lines for around nine years without such injury.

The injuries come from the contact aspect of the sport. As with any sport there are rules. The rules include details of target impact zones between players. There are penalties for players who contravene the rules.

During a scrimmage an opponent fell in front of me. I rested my hand on his back to avoid falling on top of him. I got sent to the box for “back blocking”. It was an easy penalty to call. In the melee that is the pack it’s not easy to avoid striking outside of those contact zones and it’s not easy to see and penalise such strikes. The stated primary concern of referees is safety, yet 5 days after a bout I’m writing about an injury sustained during play.

I also wonder if there is a difference between the way that females and males play. (Yes, very much a generalisation.) I have heard fellow players saying that in a mixed scrimmage the men would have to play differently. Perhaps the male game is more about causing impact trauma on the opposition than the ability to block and jam with style?

In the bout I was playing as a blocker. I’m not built like a blocker. At the Midweek Masterclass on Wednesday I got to practice with Andy “Slam C Nesbitt”. He’s a legend and willing to take the time to help anyone who asks. I practised trying to steer him off track. This is what blockers do, but I found that a combination of lack of skill on my part and weight on his made this impossible.

So what about jamming. Well, I’d need to improve my skating. Speed I can do, but stopping and turning on a dime would need to be improved. But then you still have big blokes trying to knock you down.

Protection then? We wear pads to prevent injuries from falls. Maybe I should consider further protective clothing? Some players wear padded shorts and shin guards. Padded shoulder and torso protection is likely available; something to investigate.

Evening

I wrote the first part of this blog on the way to work this morning. During the day I have at last started to feel better. I’ve already excused myself from contact drills/scrimmage on Sunday so I don’t have that to worry about. Brian’s post to our Facebook group made a difference. A chat with Andy over a pint this evening has also helped. I feel good again! :-)

If you’re a skinny (like me) and need inspiration watch this:

http://youtu.be/rXMJvA8VhC0

(Thank you Sue Perman for sharing this. Watch closely, Slam is blocking later in the video)

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Battle of the Dead

Yesterday saw The Skateful Dead play their debut bout.

The event was a double header hosted by Halifax Bruising Banditas at North Bridge Leisure Centre. The first bout was Banditas versus Hulls Angels Roller Dames.

Halifax Bruising Banditas blocking the Hulls Angels Roller Dames jammerI have seen the Banditas scrimmage, I have met some of them, I have even practised with some of them. It was great to see them play. They have both amazing jammers and amazing blockers. Faye Tality did some textbook chest blocking – something that The Dead had been practising just last week – very effective. At half time it was time to get changed into our skate gear. There was lots of banter in the changing rooms – Captain Malice is a funny guy!

The change from spectator to participant felt very odd. As a spectator you blend into the crowd. But rolling out into the hall as part of a team everyone can see you. You suddenly have an identity. It’s amazing! (and a bit scary)

We team sat and watched the end of the second half. I was sat next to Adam, our youngest(?) and newest member. We were both very quiet. I checked with him; we were both very nervous.

The bout ended, the Banditas winning comfortably by 249 to 111. It was our turn…

It’s worth giving you some idea of who The Skateful Dead are and who we were up against. For The Dead this was a true début bout. The team was formed, I believe, around November 2012. None of us regulars had skated in a bout before this one. We had a few guest skaters, Captain Malice and Sir Kit, from MRD who had bouted before.

Zom.B.Cru are the B team of The Inhuman League. I saw them play against Panam Squad – they play hard. No doubt the B team train with their A team brethren. I expected this to be a tough bout!

The bench was managed by Mandy and Gillie. Orderly rotation of players moving from the bench, to the line-up chairs before skating out. It worked really well, ensuring that we had the right players on track. (I felt rather like B1 battle droid :-)

The third jam and I was on. The whistle blew, the jammer struck. I don’t recall who it was, but he hit me hard and low in the back. I didn’t fall, but it hurt like hell. The jam was over in no time and I returned to the bench. I had two jams to sort myself out. I put the thought of retirement out of my head, there was no way I was going to quit this.

I focused on play. Our jammers were scoring points! Not just one’s and two’s, but lots of points! They were awesome! I had no idea of the score, but it felt close. We certainly weren’t making it easy for the Zombies. Then, all of a sudden it was half time. There was a jam running, I was sat behind Ash and he took off his jammer party. “Half time” he said. What the hell! Where had the time gone?!

The score at half time was Skateful 109 to Zombies 122. I was no longer nervous. Those that needed took a “comfort break”. We skated around a little and even chatted to a few of the Zom.B.Cru. Then swapped corners and we were off again.

There was one jam where, for a short period, I was the only Skateful player on track. We had a jammer and two blockers in the box. A third blocker got a penalty and went off to skate through. So there I was, slightly clueless, stood in front of the four wall of Zombies with their jammer whizzing around. He came through their wall and I blocked him, I knocked him down and out. I also fell, oh well, so he was up and on his way in no time. He came through a second time – I missed him. Damn! That was my moment of fame :-)

The second half was relentless. The jams were short and sharp, both teams grabbing a few points then calling it off. Zom.b.cru kept pushing out Omar Gherd, their hard-hitting jammer and he kept on scoring! Before I knew it the second half was over and that was it. Final score was Skateful 199 to Zombies 284. Omar Gherd earned MVP and best Jammer for Zom.B.Cru, Bri-O-Warfare best blocker. For Skateful it was Scooby Zoom who earned best jammer, Peter Park’ed Her was MVP and Ray Fury best blocker.

Hat tip to Zom.B.Cru for providing cake in the changing room :-) I’m sure I speak for the whole of The Skateful Dead team in saying that we really enjoyed playing against you.

So many people to thank, apologies for any I miss! First, Gillie for training us (not an easy task!) and running around organising us and our kit. Tony and Mandy for sponsoring the kit and Mandy for looking after us on the bench. The rest of the team for being awesome, especially our jammers – 199 points is absolutely amazing. Bandita’s for hosting us, inviting us to drills and practising with us. Phil, Carly and Sally for their help and refereeing our (often dodgy) scrimmages :-)

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Open Session

So yesterday a few of us guys from The Skateful Dead and a few of those gals from Halifax Bruising Banditas had an open practice session at Whitcliffe Mount Sports Centre.

Only 9 of us there, but I really enjoyed it. We started off warming up – of course – then I got chatting to Mark about sprint starts on toe-stops. It feels horrible, as though I’m going to take a step and fall flat on my face. Mark adjusted by toe stops and toe guards and I tried some more. Over the evening I talked to Tony O about it. I was impressed by his determination practicing them over and over. By the end of the evening I had improved a little, though I still launch off one foot then immediately land on wheels and start rolling.

I also spent some time on transitions. On a forward to backward transition I scissor my left foot forward, pivot my right foot clockwise on toe wheels, pivot my left foot clockwise on back wheels and then (traveling backwards) reverse the scissor so that I lead with my right foot. Because this is what I always do I can do it at speed and it feels comfortable. So I worked on rotating anti-clockwise for the transition. I’ve been working on this for a while and it was definitely better. I strongly believe that for physical things it is impossible to learn movements instantly. They need to be performed repeatedly so that you can remember how they feel.

The other skill I worked on was plough stops. Again I’m pleased to report that I can detect an improvement. I’m getting lower and digging my skate in and actually coming to a stop. I still have a way to go – t-stop with left foot trailing continues to be my standard way of slowing down/stopping – though single knee falls are quite good fun too :-)

I had a good chat with Helen “Ava Noir”. We comparing notes on side skating. Mark gave me help with one-on-one blocking. Emma shared an “improve your derby stance/leg strength” drill. Chris shared tips on lateral blocking. Towards the end of the session we decided we’d all go for 27 in 5. Emma managed 28. I lost count.

We finished with clockwise crossovers as a bit of a cool down. And that was our last practice before our debut bout on Sunday, Thanks to all for your help and again to Tony for the taxi service.

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Man down

So yesterday was the last Skateful Dead practice before our debut bout. Our captain had banned us from scrimmaging with other teams this week – he didn’t want us getting injured.

The Halifax Bruising Banditas had their practice just before us. A few of them stayed back to our session. This is great as they have so much more experience than us.

We started, in groups of three, with “chest blocking”. This was new to me. When the jammer engages, the blockers, one rotates and pushes shoulder to shoulder. With legs scissored the blocker then uses a toe stop to slow the jammer down. It’s important not to completely stop the blocker as this results in a penalty against the blocker. (Also keep in mind that a canny jammer will try to trick the blocker into stopping.)

We then developed this further. Once the blocker and jammer were engaged in the chest block, the second blocker runs round to support the first. This sounds simple, but care must be taken to keep an eye on the jammer. I was practising with Captain Malice and Claire, with Claire jamming. She was being kind I’m sure as occasionally she’d just skip past me. I have so much to learn! Next we tried this with walls. I found that my arm kept getting trapped. We didn’t do this for long before it was time to scrimmage!

This was to be a “non-contact” scrimmage. Well, gentle contact. Well, we’re not terribly good at “gentle” to be honest :-)

The first half went quite well. I jammed and didn’t get a penalty! A quick break to feedback on how we felt we were doing; it was felt that walling was better than in previous weeks. A vote on drills or more scrimmage. Scrimmage won out – it usually does!

Just into the second half Adam, one of our new players, fell and landed heavily. He was jamming at the time and it seems that he just tangled his skates and fell. He didn’t get up. We cleared the floor and waited. A first aider was called, then after a bit paramedics arrived and then he was stretchered off! We carried on with some drills, but I felt that our hearts weren’t really in it. No one likes to see others get hurt. During the quiet period, whilst we were waiting for the ambulance, Mark showed me how to steer a jammer off track. Very useful thank you!

The initial prognosis was that Adam had fractured his hip! By evening though he was back on Facebook and said that it was deep muscle spasms. He needs to rest it well and will be wearing padded shorts in future. Phew!

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Mins

On Sunday I managed to get in 5 hours of skating!

The first 3 hours were spent at North Bridge Leisure Centre with The Bruising Banditas. They had invited The Skateful Dead to practice drills with them. This kind of practice is one of the elements that we are missing from our training. Not through fault, but just because of time constraints. The first two hours were run by Sue. We did work on maintaining a correct “derby position”, crossovers and stops. Working on skills this way is so important because it forces you to work on your “weak side”. Every time I skate I try to make myself work on skills that I can do one way round, but not the other. Every time I’m half-arsed about it. I revert to going faster and just being comfortable.

We also did some work on lateral cutting of the track in pairs – working as though we were joined at the hip, cutting left and right. This then became trying to hip-flick the partner out of bounds. Really good stuff – I really hope that we get invited to future drill sessions, and I have things to practice next time I find myself on track, perhaps at Futsal on a Wednesday.
Sue had to leave after 2 hours. For the final hour we did a positional scrimmage with the remaining Banditas – so no heavy hitting. I really enjoyed it – I fell a few times, got rather too many penalties and scored some points. I find scrimmages help with my understanding of the game – though I have so much to learn – I find I’m often not quite sure what I should be doing as a blocker. Anyway, our team won, which is always a bonus :-)

After that we had an hour to scoot over to Whitcliffe Mount Sports Centre – once again I have Tone Death to thank for driving. We took on snacks and caffeine, put on fresh t-shirts and clammy pads and going for a further 2 hours rolling.

Adam and I had to get through our mins, and the rest of the team joined in and helped. We worked down the list, covering anything that we’d not already done. Adam plays roller hockey so he just flew through them. I was okay on most of them, but failed on standing still for 30 seconds on one skate. Not a particularly useful skill IMHO. We skipped over that one, I said I’d retry it at the end of the session. That all took about an hour. The last hour was scrimmage – what else! Ida Tackett from Banditas had come over and joined in with the session. She was a little nervous I think but enjoyed it – she’s a damn good jammer! There were a few falls during the session – more than normal. Adam landed on a skate with his thigh, that will be a lovely bruise. Dylan got wiped out one time too I think. I fell quite heavily, landing on my backside. I’m expecting – I can’t find a chair soft enough just now ;-) Then Mandy declared that we needed to calm things down, we can’t afford to be injuring each other. At the end of the game we discussed how we’d played. Walls need to be improved, players need to not query referee calls. Standard!

I still had to stand still for two lots of 30 seconds. Phil and I found a quite corner and I DID IT!

I’VE PASSED MY MINS!

More fluids and then the rules test for four of us. The requirement is 80% or better from 45 questions (36 correct answers). I’d spent some time playing on Sausage Roller’s handy Android app and got 41/45.

So that and the mins means that I’m now allowed to take part in bouts!

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Bank Holiday

Over the May Day bank holiday I had full weekend of skating.

On Saturday the weather allowed me to get out to People’s Park for 4 hours. Much of this was spent messing around. I also helped a young disabled lad with his skating. I used to see Zed in a wheelchair with his carers and always said hello. Over time his mobility improved – he still needs support but he can walk and just recently he turned up wearing roller blades. With help he is very happy to roll around the park. We don’t have any formal arrangement, but his dad is keen for me to help. I’m told that skating has helped with the circulation in his legs. He tires quickly, so  rest breaks for him are frequent – so it’s really not much work to hold his hand while he skates a little. I did do some practice; slalom in my quads – they are so clunky compared to inline skates when it comes to cornering!

Sunday was practice at Whitcliffe. We practiced walls for an hour then scrimmaged. The scrimmage, to start with, felt very one sided. A change in the mix of players fixed that. Mandy makes a lovely bench/line up manager – telling those that are confident to take care of us newbies. It was a good session – one without injury!

Then on Monday I made it to People’s Park again for a couple of hours. Imogen and Ash came too. Mo did a little skating. Ash helped me with my plough stop – it is getting better, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

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Plough Roll

Yesterday the weather was good enough to get some time skating in the park – People’s Park. In the end I managed just about 4 hours, which made me very happy.

In amongst messing around with cone slaloms I kind of practised transitions and plough stops. I also stopped and chatted with loads of people. First there was Rafiq. He has a disabled son who is showing an interest skating. So I helped him for a bit. I also chatted to a Polish couple – their son enjoyed cycling though my cones. A bloke, 37, who used to play Rugby but is now into downhill mountain biking. Finally a bloke from down south who, I think, felt I must be mad. He made his escape when I started talking about wheel hardness.

So, on a technical level, I confirmed that I lead *everything* with my right foot. My clockwise transition from front to back feels smooth. When I broke it down I found that I go from my usual slight right foot lead to a scissor with left foot leading. Then I rotate, but immediately switch to a scissor with my right foot leading (going backwards). I spent some time forcing myself to roll backwards with my left foot leading. I got to a point where I could rotate, but it seems very clunky.

Next I worked on my plough stop. I frankly got nowehere with it and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Everytime it took me about 10 metres to come to an almost stop. So that’s something to work on!

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Midweek

Last night I made it over to Midweek Masterclass, an informal practice session that is organised by Leeds Roller Dolls.

It takes place at the Futsal Stadium in Cottingley near Leeds. At practice we’d been told that the surface at Futsal stadia is odd and that we should get some experience of it. The European Championships in July are taking place at the Futsal stadium in Birmingham.

The surface is made up of what seem to be plastic tiles perhaps 25cm square. I started off a little gingerly. As you roll across the surface you feel the tile joins and they make a very plasticy sound. I imagined it to be the real world equivalent of skating on Lego, except that the surface was smooth and grippy. I gradually built up speed around the track, expecting to slide out on the curves, but I didn’t.

I’d seen from Facebook that Dempsey Hammer was over from Belfast Roller Derby. She was looking for somewhere to skate and would be there. We had a chat during warm up. She was very kind about my transitions, which in truth are okay on my good side and a bit shonky on my bad.

Then Andy got Tony and me practising side steps. My “not enough knee bend” bad habit didn’t help. We did that for a bit, but quite frankly it’s not very interesting. The aim of side stepping is to keep your back to the jammer and to keep the wall tight and level. It needs to be done at speed. I found my skates wanted to escape forwards/backwards. Something to practice little and often I feel.

After more whizzing around, mixed in with occasional attempts at various minimum skills, I got chatting to Andy again. He found out that I had my skate cones with me and that was that. He set up a slalom down one side of the arena with a jump at the end. More cones formed another slalom so he could show off his grapevine/barrel roll skills. The slalom/jump was great. I can strike “jump over a 6 inch tall object” from my mins.

Then Dempsey, Andy, Tony and I set up “10 cones spaced no more than 150cm apart” around the track and slalomed through those “in under 6 seconds”. Strike another min off the list.

We finished with a little 3 wall/jammer practice – yeah, I fell on my arse – but no practice session would be complete without that.

Thanks to Tone Death for the lift there and back, Andy Slam C Nesbitt for the training and Dempsey for jamming with us :-)

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