Structuring a Roller Derby Season
Solid preparation is the key to a successful roller derby bout season. Having been there, I know that the, "What should we do today?," approach to coaching, although less time consuming, doesn't necessarily get the best results. In the long run, it will be less frustrating for both skaters and coaches if the training season is scheduled—at least somewhat. Rather than coaching day-to-day, breaking the season into blocks of time, with each block having focused objectives, will be more organized. The progression of activities will feel logical as basic skills will be taught, honed, and then built upon. Skaters will feel more confident trying advanced skills when they have the confidence that mastering basic skills will give them.
To develop this type of schedule, it is helpful to know specifically when the season will start, when down/recovery time will occur, and how often your team will be having practice. Here is an example generic practice format (working backwards from in-season/the first bout):
Time: 1st to last bout of season
Objective: Bout specific fitness, improvement of positional and derby specific skills (weaknesses identified in bouts), pack work, and scrimmage
Time: 6 weeks before 1st bout
Objective: Bout specific fitness, improvement of positional and basic and intermediate derby skills (correcting technique and adding speed and power to movements), advanced derby skills, scrimmage (can start with 50% and work up to 100% for technique development, strategy, and rule adherence)
Time: 10 weeks before 1st bout
Objective: Longer fitness intervals (max to 2x bout), derby specific (falls with recovery, whips, skating in a squat) strength development, intermediate derby skills, intro to advanced derby skills
Time: 10 weeks+ before 1st bout
Objective: Longer fitness intervals (2 – 4x bout), general (pushups, squats, planks) and derby specific (falls with recovery, skating in a squat) strength developing exercises, basic derby skills, intro to intermediate derby skills
Within these blocks you can have practices that touch on only one or two skills. The following practice would have a short refresher and practice of those skills, and then move onto the next skills. As far as roller derby skills, here is a real quick and basic breakdown:
Basic derby skills: Skating, derby posture, 1-foot gliding, crossovers, propelling, weaving, toe and t-stops, walking on toe stops, falls
Intermediate derby skills: Snowplows, pushing/pulling, 1-foot carving, pacing, pack skating, hitting/blocking, pushing an opposing skater (sustained block), booty blocking, whips (regular, cross-body, underhand, whipping yourself), running toe starts
Advanced derby skills: Turn-around toe stops, lateral stepping, jumping, skating backwards, going from forwards to backwards and back again, 360 and leg whips, double hits, hip checks, forming walls, sacrificing your teammates (pushing one or more of your skaters into contact), strategy
These are just suggestions, of course. You may disagree with the categorization, or know of more skills you feel should be added. That is fine. Make it yours. The point is that putting the skills into categories of progressing difficulty will be helpful when you start to think about structuring your or your team's training. Good luck and get skating.
On the track, Aurora Gory Alice is a one-woman roller derby massacre. By the power of Grayskull, she reduces puny derby dreams to roller rubble. Rugby player turned rollergirl, Aurora has skated with the Hudson Valley Horrors, skated with and coached the Albany All Stars, and now, she is a full-contact, no-rules skatin' member of the Arizona Renegade Rollergirls. Off the track, Aurora is beers, brawn, brains, and, still, a little temperamental. Although she is a certified personal trainer, she scrapped the gym for a professional life inspired by the hardcore nature and uncompromising attitude of the roller derby lifestyle. Aurora owns Lust & Gore Hardwear with her girlfriend and teammate, Lusty Crush. Lust & Gore Hardwear customizes cowboy hats, military caps, and makes original jewelry designs with industrial strength hardware. Retail meets rollergirl. Heavy metal meets totally hot.