“Normal” practice, week 2

Training was cancelled yesterday due to the hall being used for something else so I could only make today’s training session this week.

My team has a British Champs game on the 11th Feb, so a lot of time was spent on walls + reforming and starts/strategies with the skaters who are rostered going in one group so they could practise playing/blocking together before the game.

For some reason, I’m a little…sad? Bitter? Annoyed? Frustrated? about practice today. We tried a drill where the wall had 10 seconds to do offence/defence and then we’d reset and start again. It got a little messy as everyone was moving quickly and I fell over a few times – the skater taking the session also sort of injured herself and everyone freaked out a little since she’s playing in the game and is one of the better blockers that we have. We then took some time out to calm down and reset but I don’t know if that worked well or not because when they moved to scrims it was better and less crazy but still a little crazy? Maybe less due to having more than 10 seconds and scrimming like usual.

I think the main reason I’m a little annoyed is that I couldn’t join in with the scrims. I’m not scrim passed (but am close) so I ended up being a jammer ref and also jam timer (which I had just about enough hands for omg). My other fellow pre mins (Crusher) watched from the middle and I think talked rules/strategy with the skaters who were sitting out? I for some reason was a little keen with my willingness to do everything and whilst I did enjoy being the jam ref, I also kinda wanted to watch so I could compare it to the all the games I’ve been watching on Youtube (thank you WFTDA for putting them all there).

Throughout the entire session it felt a little like Crusher and I were sort of being ignored so that the team skaters could practise. Which is fine. They have a game and I get that it’s important and I probably should’ve asked if I could go into the corner and do some skills on my own but I didn’t. I guess I got too used to being split into pre mins and team skaters but now that there are only 2 of us it’s not quite as important (I know it probably is but it didn’t feel that way today). It almost makes me wonder if I should go to training next Wednesday when I know that they’ll probably do the same thing again. I could be doing something else, or I could leave early when they scrim (although that’s not really in the spirit of things) but I don’t know if the team skaters always realise what they’re doing.

There was one drill with 3 jammers and we rotated for 2 minutes each but had the same blockers (who had to do 6 minutes) so Crusher, Fire and me all said we’d jam. I don’t know if it was just me but it felt like they weren’t really watching us/paying attention that much. To be fair, the 4 blockers in the wall did say I did well afterwards and gave me some tips but I don’t know if anyone else saw me (or maybe it was because I jammed last and everyone was bored, who knows?) but it’s not inspiring or encouraging at all. I guess I felt like the trainer should’ve said something (even if she was timing too but I was jam timer and a sort of jam ref so…) but any feedback would’ve been great – even ‘you’re bad at x, y and z and need to do a, b and c’ would’ve been better than a blank face.

The league isn’t very big right now and in my opinion they need all the skaters they can pass/find. Sure, train for the game but don’t forget that if skaters like me get annoyed/fed up (I realise I’m whining because I do really enjoy going to practice with my team and they’re all lovely) and if it goes too far…I could always find another league, whether they have the same problem or not, who knows? I just know that we don’t have a great retention rate of skaters at the moment but that might change as older skaters leave and newer ones come in to change the rules and shake up the league a little bit.

We (hopefully) will have a fresh meat intake starting soon and I think that’ll help me a little because I can really practise the basics (grapevines, anyone?) and get them ticked off so I can be scrim passed and join in with full contact scrims. When they finish fresh meat it’ll mean more pre mins too so training will have to alter accordingly – at one point last year we had more pre mins turning up to training than team skaters if that says anything about the league. I think they know that they sometimes forget about that kind of thing, but if they never get new skaters and retain them…then the league will go down.

Hopefully next week I won’t feel so whiny but I guess that depends on me and what happens at training :/

 

Skills, skills, skills

Fresh meat started just under a year ago (if I don’t count the first taster session where I didn’t even try a pair of skates on) and out of my cohort there are about 9 of us who’ve continued until now. Two of them (Mercy and Damage) have just become full skills passed and one other pre mins who was in the fresh meat intake before us (Fire) has also passed. There’s another skater (Bigbird) who only has to do her 27/5 and then she’s passed too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy that they’re passed and can play and scrim and that I can cheer them on at bouts (but not when I’m NSOing…) but it’s just…a bit sad? I know I’m nowhere near as good as they are at skating – I can’t step forwards and backwards or glide and even though I’m not too far away from being skills passed it still sucks a little. I know I’ve come a long way since I started fresh meat where I couldn’t even stand up on my skates without holding onto someone else (and in one case, two people had to hold onto me) but I still feel like I haven’t progressed as much as everyone else. Thistle even said that she remembered the first time I came and couldn’t make it to the hall without falling over (I actually did that at Tuesday’s practice, guess who’s gonna be showing fresh meat that we all fall over and it’s okay?) I suppose in terms of how far we’ve come I might be the winner for that since the others could actually move from the start and have just needed to learn the skills to play derby.

We’ve just come back from the off season and it was honestly one of my favourite things (Red, you were totally right). Two months of unstructured training was awesome. I got to take my headphones and skate with music (to the annoyance of my teammates who had to yell very loudly at me to get my attention) but it really helped. I need music in my life and being able to skate to it helped me cut out a lot of distractions and noise and just do things. I got quite a lot of skills ticked off too, including my contact ones and transitions (finally!). I’d been practising transitions for ages by myself in the corner and then gradually moved to trying them on the track. There was one practice where I’d spent every second of a break practising transitions on the track which irritated Bigbird when I said that I wasn’t ready to test as she’d seen me “jumping around like a ninja all morning”. She asked someone to test me and what did I do? I tripped and landed on my face. Real smooth.

Some of the skills I passed were things that I didn’t think I could do but apparently I can (the team skaters are incredibly encouraging in that respect, they’re the ones who’ve said that I can and then they test me and I pass to my surprise but not theirs). Bigbird especially is super encouraging/terrifying because she just yells at me that we’re testing something and then I pass and she yells a bit more before moving onto the next skill. I wouldn’t have passed my contact skills without her yelling at skaters to get in a pack and start hitting me.

I guess I was nervous about being tested. I hate being watched when I’m doing something despite the fact that I and everyone else know that I can do it. I’ve mucked up a few times where we all know I can do something but as soon as someone watches/looks at me I fall over and bam. No passing for me. I did that with my double knee slides too – which are now my favourite thing to do besides transitions (oh the irony) because they’re so fun and I’m actually not terrible at double knee slides. Who knew? I hadn’t tried them before but got Red to show me how to do it and then watch me. Even some of the team skaters hate them but I don’t?

I just need to tick off 6 more things and then I’m scrim passed and can join in with the scrims we have at training. Red marked 6 things that she thinks are easy to do and I can do but I’m pretty sure I can only do 3 of those. Oh well. I’ll have to practise more off skates to get those skills down (damn left ankle with no strength) and see how it goes from there!

Pre mins skills so far

To be able to actually scrim at full contact/eventually be considered for a spot on the team, I have to pass the minimum skills that the WFDTA dictate (hence being called pre mins since I’m ‘pre minimum skills’).

Each league does the testing differently, mine does testing twice a month on Saturdays with the possibility of getting more ticked off at a different session depending on the number of pre mins at that session/if there’s something you’ve wanted to tick off for awhile but haven’t had the chance to.

I’ve only passed a handful so far (the super easy ones, like skullcrushers and skating with ‘good form’) but am working my way up to some of the harder ones and the pack section too (which requires other people to participate).

At training last night I learnt how to do a T stop (required but I’d never had it broken down before) and then we were also taught how to derby stop (not required but useful to know) and then at the end the pre mins had to show off their derby stop to the team skaters (I fell, by the way) but one of them said they liked my jump and I don’t really know how I jumped but it must have been when I was transitioning round. Anyway, it made me feel a bit better, even if I did fall over because I’d been afraid to use my toe stops up until then and I’m still not 100% confident at using them (toe stop run, anyone?).

I might take a long time to pass my minimum skills, but learning new things and being able to tick off a few at a time is enough for now (until I have more time and can practise more).

NSOing

Today I was an NSO for the first time (it was also the first time I’d ever been to a bout and watched the team, and since it was a home game, who was I to pass up this awesome opportunity?)

I was a penalty box timer and the head NSO had gone through everything with me a few days before and given me some things to read through but I still only felt mildly prepared on the day. A penalty box timer times a penalty for one particular team, but not for the jammers, the penalty box manager times the jammers but I had to write down the number and team/position of that skater. A penalty is 30 seconds long and after 20 seconds they stand up and then wait until we tell them to leave. If a jam stops whilst they’re in the box, they serve the remaining time once the next jam has started (unless it’s half time in which case they do it after the break). They can’t talk to the team but their bench knows that they have a person in the box so they send in one less skater (or however many are in the box) for the next jam.

First I had to help set up the venue though, setting up tables/chairs/merchandise/signs which was about an hour before doors opened. My friend who got me into derby was setting up the track and what I didn’t know until near the end of the day was that they put rope underneath the tape so the skaters know when they go off track which I thought was neat. (There’s also more merch being sold there than I thought!)

The NSOs then had a meeting about who was doing what and to get the paperwork and go over any questions we had, we then had about half an hour to look at merch/get ourselves ready for the rookie game.

I’d been told beforehand about there being more penalties in a rookie game than a normal one but I still underestimated a little how many that actually was. There was one point where we must’ve had 5 out of 6 chairs full and at one point someone got sent around because we didn’t have enough chairs for her. Two skaters got 6 penalties and were classed as ‘hot’ (7 penalties counts as fouling out and they can no longer skate as part of the team). Some were also given a warning for crashing into the chairs (it happened twice and one time I very nearly got squished) but there’s usually a ref there who gives them the warning. One time the skater got an extra penalty (the time I nearly got squished) as she didn’t do it on purpose but it was kinda dangerous. It was a little confusing then as we had both jammers in the box and when this happens, they serve 10s each but since it was the end of a jam and the 2nd jammer had a 2nd penalty, the 1st jammer got to go on the whistle and then the 2nd jammer just had to serve her usual 30 seconds (took me a few minutes to get my head around that).

We swapped teams (there are two timers) at half time but we don’t always need to do that, next time I might not as it got a little confusing. I kept calling out the wrong colours but the skaters understood me although I felt bad for messing up :/

There was a break between the rookie game and the next one so everyone counted up penalties and made sure we had the same numbers before going off for a break.

The second game was a lot less hectic than the first one, I only had about a dozen (well, a baker’s dozen) penalties in the first half and they were less likely to crash into the chairs (not sure if it’s a control/toe stop thing or just because they’ve had more experience?) This meant I got to watch a bit more of the game though, and it was really cool to see the team in action (even if we lost 😦 but let’s not dwell on that). There was one jammer on the other team who was amazing, she was almost always the lead jammer and I don’t know how, but she always made it through the wall. Everyone else put it down to her being small (there’s a small skater in our team but she was even smaller) and could fit through the tiny gaps the wall had. Every time she was on, she’d zip past, score some points then call it off, sometimes before our jammer had a chance to get around to score points. There was one instance where there were 4 people in the penalty box but it wasn’t my team so I didn’t pay much attention to it (but the other timer and penalty box manager had a bit of a hassle with them).

Overall I think it was a really good day out (it was almost the whole day) and I learnt a lot about the rules/penalties/how a game is actually played. It was really cool to see the team in action too as it’s not quite the same when they’re scrimming in practice.

Hopefully we’ll have another home game soon and I can NSO again and learn even more 😀

Fresh meat block 3 (final block)

The final block of fresh meat involved more blocking and learning more about the rules of roller derby, as the scrims are so fast that we don’t really have time to process what happened and the skaters are too busy switching roles to explain it to us (sometimes they can but that depends on how many people there are).

We did more pace line drills, but making the gap between each person smaller so you had to really focus on actually weaving around the people and not just blindly skating through. We usually had two pace lines (one for fresh meat and one for team skaters) and we also had to avoid crashing into the other pace line which was harder than we all expected. We did pace line races too (who could get through the line the fastest).

Our final fresh meat session included transitions which we hadn’t done much of before. I’m okay going one way around but going the other way is almost impossible at the moment as I end up just falling over for some reason but it’s mostly likely due to me not being balanced. We did a jump transition which I wasn’t good at on either side but again I think that’s due to my lack of balance as I can’t land on my skates very well (I recently lowered my toe stops so I’ll see how that goes with stopping as I’ve not been using them that much so far).

We had a few practice scrims too, where the team skaters would mix in with the fresh meat and guide us through strategy and how to block better (stay low, hips and shoulders together…) and a few times we got to watch the team skaters do an actual scrim and they’re so fast it’s amazing (and they also know what they’re doing too).

That’s it for fresh meat! It felt like it wasn’t that long but my house mates kept saying that it’s 12 weeks which is a long time. I think it did give me the foundations though, I still can’t do crossovers but it gave me an idea of what it’ll be like if I carried on (I’m still skating so that’s a good sign :D)

Scrimmage drills and 27/5

One of the sessions last week had a scrimmage drill where pre-mins only were involved in a scrim, there were ten of us which meant we had enough for two full teams (the week before we’d done the same drill but with just two pre-mins per team which was hard).

It was very similar to an actual scrim but with less contact (partly because we unintentionally miss hitting the other person and partly because we’re still a bit afraid of hitting each other too hard and mostly because we’re not supposed to hit each other too hard). We did learn a lot about rules and we were given actual penalties if we did something wrong (and to the sin bin we went, well, not me but my team mates). It was all very crazy and chaotic but we all had our first taste of what a scrim could be like (two minutes is a long time! We didn’t make it to two minutes because the lead jammer would usually call it off but it still felt like ages)

We’ve also been trying out the 27 in 5 (27/5 is how I like to abbreviate it and it makes my maths geek self happy). The first time we did it I got 13.5 laps which I was okay with, but I thought I would be able to do more. I still can’t do crossovers and I know that slows you down a lot as one of the other pre-mins can and she’s getting around 20 or 21 laps. The second time we did it, I got 17 laps which I was happier about considering it was only a week or two later (3.5 laps doesn’t sound like a lot but to me it was). I recently got new skates (yay!) so I’m wondering how well I’ll do in them as I still need to break them in a little (I’ve relaced them about a dozen times already).

I might also have a derby name soon too! Every practice I get asked if I have one and it’s been over a month since we graduated fresh meat and I’m the only one that doesn’t have a name. It all feels a lot more real now, I suppose it just took me longer than everyone else to fully immerse myself in derby. Here’s hoping I can keep improving!

 

 

Fresh Meat Block 2

I had to miss the fifth session due to a work trip but I was told it was about introducing blocking and some contact drills.

The sixth session was more of that, and incorporating it into our pace line drills. There was one named the ‘toilet’ drill because you kind of wipe your ass across the person as you slide past. I kept missing the people and just weaving as if it was a normal pace line whereas some of the others got super close without crashing into anyone.

I don’t remember much of the seventh session (or rather, I don’t remember what I did in which week) but we had more blocking as walls with a jammer who came up to test how strong the block was. We could be stable by ourselves but when we had to wall up we were pretty bad at the beginning, mostly because we didn’t have enough points of contact (shoulders, hips) so we weren’t very stable as a whole and the jammer knocked us over quite easily.

I was ill for the eighth session (I drove for 3 hours back to where I live and then went straight to sleep until work the next day) but I was told more blocking happened, especially with jammers who were actually trying to get through as opposed to just testing how strong the wall was.

Throughout all the sessions, whenever there were enough team skaters they would scrim for the last five minutes to show us how everything works and to give us an idea of what we could (hopefully) be doing in the future. Then we’d all ask questions (a lot) about what just happened and the rules as there was usually one ref around who also tried to introduce some hand signals too.