I was at practice again last night, making it three days in a row. Just five of us blokes, plus Gillie, Carly and Imogen. No, we didn’t scrimmage!
We practised bridging, wall reformation, more bridging and more wall reformation. As I’m not playing on Saturday it made sense (to me) to jam as much as possible. We want a wall that is effective, where the blockers to work fluidly together. The more we practice the better we’ll get.
I used to be a bit of a jammer wall flower, but I’ve found recently that it’s quite addictive. Last night, whenever I could, I grabbed the jammer panty :-)
Roller derby is really hard work. Sweat builds up in your helmet and runs down your face and neck. Many of the guys wear bandanas to absorb it. By the end of the session everything you’re wearing is soaked. During the session you hardly notice though – your mind is engaged in the game. (I’m also quietly pleased with my work rate. I was by far the oldest person there last night, but I pretty much kept up with the youngsters :-))
Now I have a break from derby for a week and a bit. Saturday is our bout against Super Smash Brollers in Nottingham. We’re skipping practice on Sunday, so the next time I’ll be on track is 8 December.
Another excellent training session this evening.
It started out with a massage! Cathy, who if I was listening, works with Phil, is learning to be a masseuse and needs to get in loads of practice. Hell yeah! So I started the session this evening with a back massage. She kept updating me on what the rest of the team were doing – “they’re starting to kit up”, “they’re out on the the track” and I was “it’s fine, carry on” :-)
Once that was done I kitted up and got warmed up. The focus of the evening was blocking, specifically chest blocks. Again it was a session that really suits me – small groups focusing on a single element. Straight away I donned the star and tried to get through a three wall. Jamming is so exhausting, but so much fun. I have always been nervous about jamming, but I’m starting to feel more confident now – with practice I suppose.
At some point we also did one on one chest blocking and I didn’t totally suck at it – which surprised me. We paired up and I chose Chris. (Unless you know Chris this means nothing. He’s big – probably two of me or something close to that. He also hits like a steam train.) So I started as the jammer, that way I’d be doing the hitting and it would be easy for both of us – I wouldn’t be getting hit and he probably wouldn’t notice me bouncing off him :-)
It turns out though, that my boney shoulders are just the ticket – yeah! It didn’t enable me to push him out (I think he was being rather charitable TBH) but I felt I had a useful super-power at my disposal.
Next was a bridging drill I think. Again I jammed. It was about pushing the bridge then dashing around the track. Really hard work! Finally we brought the skills together with a moving wall, bridging and assists.
All in all an exhausting session but very enjoyable. I certainly feel I am progressing and I know that the rest of the team is – some really good work this evening.
We have another session tomorrow evening. Can’t wait!
Sunday is training day and yesterday was no exception.
Chris led the warm up, as usual, followed by some contact practice. Everyone forms the pack then one player is called as the jammer. They need to try to get through the pack. Not easy. So then an assist is called, and another. This continues until the jammer gets through, at which point the pack is reset. Well, during this Tony fell and landed badly injuring his leg. He’s as tough and old boots (and as old ;-) but that was it, accident form and ice pack for him.
We also did 27 in 5. Well done on passing your mins Baker! This was good for us all, I questioned whether my leg would complain but it was fine. The track was busy, I was 20 feet short of 28 laps.
We then practiced the drills that Ballistic had shared with us last Thursday. Working in fours, a three wall and jammer, changing formations fluidly. Good stuff.
Finally it was time to scrimmage. I started on the “not red” team but then someone else got injured leaving the teams unbalanced. I swapped back to red. I think, in the end, ‘not reds’ scored way more points. I jammed a few times, three I think. I’m getting less nervous at doing so, I want my side to do well and with me as jammer that rarely happens. (Though thinking about it as I type this, practice is the place to make mistakes and improve.) Often I fail to get through the wall or cut track and spend time in the penalty box. This is never good as the team can’t possible score with their jammer in the box. Yesterday was slightly different though. I got lead jammer in one of the jammers, got pushed off the track on my scoring pass, but not before scoring 2 points. I was so pleased! Then to top that I jammed again and it turned into a power jam. Team ‘not red’ suffered some penalties leaving them with one blocker on track. Red team did a lovely job of keeping the track clear and I scored 15 points. Amazing!
With the bout against Nottingham just next week we have extra practice sessions this week, one tonight and one tomorrow. I’m not playing in the bout, but of course the team needs players to practice, so I’m hoping to make it to both of these sessions.
Ballistic Whistle is a coach for the London Rollergirls and Team England (women’s roller derby). He also plays for the men’s England Team. So he is a top coach and player. Well, yesterday evening The Skateful Dead had a coaching session with him!
He started with a half hour chat explaining what he’d be covering and laying down a few rules. The key one was “don’t be a dick”!
We kitted up and hit the track. The hall floor at 3 Ways is quite slippery for skating, but after a little time you get used to it.
Ballistic had a very clear lesson plan and continually referred to it. All of the work was either as individuals or most often in pairs or small groups. As I must have mentioned in previous posts, I only started with this derby thing back in April. I’ve also had pretty much five months off skates due to injury. So I’m an absolute beginner to the sport. This style of learning is precisely what I need.
We covered plough stops (argh!) and then asymmetric plough stops, then in pairs the idea of overlapping plough stops. This reminded me of the stuff that Feral Fairy had The Banditas (and Adam and I) doing back in June, though her focus was on stopping an opposing blocker rather than forming a stronger wall.
Each skill was first defined (eg hockey stop) then practiced alone before being put into action in pair work. I’ve never had any explain how to do a hockey stop. The geek in me likes a detailed breakdown of weight distribution between feet, edges etc. (This is the kind of thing that Asha and Mark did when I did the ICP qualification all those years ago.)
The two hours track time flew by and we’ve come away with so many things to practice. Lots of the drills could be practised at informal meets, like the Wednesday skate at Futsal.
I got in, grabbed a shower, beans on toast then slept really well :-)
Yesterday’s training session was an extended one of two and a half hours.
Tony and I arrived early and first, checked which hall we were in and got ready. A few others started to arrived and then I who wondered in but Omer Gherd. (Omer, for those that don’t know, plays for Inhuman League but also for England!) Brian was back, a guy Baker who I’d not met before, and many of the regulars – a good turn out.
We started with some confusing games. A zombie/human one for which the rules seemed overly confusing. It consisted of skating randomly around the hall whilst trying to avoid being hit by others doing the same. No one hit me and I hit no one, so I didn’t get much out of that game.
This was followed by some one on one work, which was really good. Half of us were blockers, skating around the track at the inside edge. The other half were jammers trying to get past each in turn. It meant that each of us got to do both roles against a range of others. I tried to get past Omer – it was impossible as even if I got a foot out infront of him he steered me off the track. Some useful feedback though – I’m tall, and therefore very easy to see. Confusing in a way, I’m not built like a blocker and I’m too tall to be a jammer :-/
We then changed this up to jammer versus two blockers – more impossible, but good stuff. Good for the blockers to practice moving as a unit rather than leaving a gap between them.
We finished with a scrimmage – obviously. I was going to sit out (still nervious about injuring my back) but Chris had taken some hits during the session so he had taken his skates off and was helping to referee. This left an even number including me so I played.
It was a good scrim. No idea what the score was, but I jammed once – getting sent to the box twice for cutting track. Idiot!
I was very pleased to skate for the full session. Only minor injuries this week too; little finger on my left hand when I got pushed into the wall (the brick wall, not the line of blockers) and right calf from falling and twisting my leg.
Another excellent training session with The Dead yesterday.
We didn’t do indurance this week, instead practising skating clockwise. Then we moved on to positional blocking, working in pairs. I was working with Richard. It was the first time I’ve skated with him. The blocker had to control the speed and hold back the jammer. Very tempted, as the jammer, to skip around the blocker, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise.
Next (from memory) was a fun game which had one person start as one ‘team’ and everyone else as blockers, though not assisting each other. The single skater had to get through the pack and then select another skater and try to hold them back for 5 seconds. Once this was done successfully that skater became part of the team. The pair then selected another victim. So it continued until the situation was reversed, leaving all but one skater trying to block him.
Then my favourite bit – hitting practice. I was paired with Matt. We took it in turns to hit each other across the track and off. I felt that this was a really useful exercise for me. I’ve never been one for contact sports (why am I playing derby you might ask – I don’t know) so hitting/crashing/pushing other people is not something that I’m terribly good at. In this one on one situation I didn’t have to worry about game play/strategy or opposing players trying to hit me. Nice and simple. Really very tiring too, and I imagine my shoulders/arms will have some lovely bruises in the next few days.
Then another exercise that suited me very well. Again working in pairs we put down a diamond of cones around the other player. We then had to skate around/in and out of the cones/player whilst facing the player, who was stood in the middle of cones, all of the time. The aim is to have awareness of where the cones are and what your feet are doing without having to look down at them. This was like playing in the park! I just needed my blades – quads don’t pivot so well :-)
Next up? Queen of the track. I didn’t last long at this. Rob got a good hit on me straight away. I fell and jarred my back, so I called it a day then, better safe than sorry. After five minutes I felt fine and it didn’t give me any pain all evening. It feels normal today, so no further damage done :-)
We finished of with a scrim, five-a-side. I did jam timing again. Carly and Gillie reffed – which is quite a feat with a group of competitive blokes – thank you, and well done!
Yesterday, after a break of over three months, I returned to Skateful Dead practice.
I was quite apprehensive. The instruction from the physiotherapist, and the medical staff that I’ve seen has been to avoid “impact”. I have done so. I asked about skating, even in the park, and was told that if I fell then I might aggrevate the injury. I haven’t had skates on my feet for ages!
We have a bout at the end of November – I’m not playing; this time I’m the official photographer. We needed head shots of a few of our guest players, so I rocked up with my camera. I took my skate gear along too, just to have a bit of a roll around the hall.
Those that needed their photos taking couldn’t make it, so no photos. We were quite thin on numbers too. It felt so good to be be rolling again, and the “roll around the hall” quickly became “I’ll join in with the endurance exercise”. I agreed with Gillie that I’d stop if I felt I needed to. The endurance bit was great. I skipped the star jumps, I know that they still cause me some pain, but I kept going with everything else.
Then it was walling/bridging practice. Well, what could go wrong. I joined in with that. I took a few hits, and handed out a few too. The guys were great. Ash blocked me and took me off track, with force, but not going silly. During the exercise I only jammed once but I was knackered. It’s surprisingly demanding. Towards the end of that exercise I took two falls. I felt then that it would be wise to stop – two sessions in a row would be good ;-)
At the end of the session there was a scrimmage. I did jam timing, allowed loose with a whistle! One of the big improvements that I notice since I was last at practice is the lack of penalties. This is something that I consider very important – any fool can win by playing dirty and getting away with it.
Thanks for the welcome back! I’m proud to be one of The Skateful Dead :-)