(sorry this is a little long)
In the past few months I have gotten several private lessons from some amazing skaters. I got a few private lessons/small group lessons with White Flight, Mel Mangles, Blood Clotia, Mercy, and Smack Ya Sideways.
Each had similar things to teach yet all in different ways. The best part about Roller Derby is that every body type and style bring something amazing to the sport. Each of these people were wonderful teachers, perhaps without realizing it. Each gave me a new insight on how to try different moves and how to use my body. If you are in a large league ask your star players if they do lessons. It never hurts to ask and they can show you so much.
My first lessons were from Mel Mangles. Who was one of the first players I thought was amazing on our league. I was also horribly nervous to take lessons from not only a team player but one of our Travel Team skaters. There were only a few of us so we got very personalized attention. I was still pretty crappy at most things and I can easily say she helped me move up at least 2 levels. She showed me how to change my cross overs so that they were more effective.
She told me to really over exaggerate my moves. Really lift the right leg over the left knee when crossing over. It was incredibly ocword at first, threw my balance and was a little odd. After practicing that for a day it got better and made more sense. She told me that by lifting your right leg in this way it 1. helps you in a tight pace line, especially when the person in front of you tends to kick back. 2. It gives you more reach with your right foot which leads to more power.
The other part of cross overs she helped me with was the under push. Really pushing out with your left foot. Most of your power is coming from that under push. The further out you can push it the more power you can get.
Mel taught us how to do a beautiful pace line. Stay low and try to match your stride with the person in front. Count your strides and try to keep them the same when doing your laps. This keeps you going the same speed which helps you not get worn out. We also did laps in the reverse direction! Yes do your laps in the reverse direction regardless of how much it sucks.
She also taught me a better way to do my T-stops. Instead of putting your foot behind you using all 4 wheels you keep it under you and can use just the front 2 wheels. It was more stable for me and I was able to stop quicker. It also helped in packs and kept me from tripping anyone with a clumsy T-Stop.
I then took lessons with White Flight. She set up a series with a few of us three times a week. Mondays and Fridays we would have a on skates practice. Wednesday we had an hour to discuss strategy. This to me was an incredible experience and probably one of the best things I’ve done in derby.
Our lessons were great and I again feel these helped me move up in skill. My first lesson with Whitey ended up being a private lesson due to miscommunication on start date. That first lesson was a bit free form as she wasn’t prepared to have a lesson for just 1 person. We worked on my form doing laps. Worked on my stops. Best of all we worked on my toe starts! I think I did a good half hour of just toe starts, at least it felt like it. At first she just had me run on my toe stops off the line. Each time asking me to do 1 more step then the time before or to try and reach the pivot line. Once I could get several steps in we worked on going into the cross over from the start at the apex. I never thought about where to go off the jam line. The goal should be to get around as fast as possible, the best way to do that is to head for that apex.
Once I mostly got this down she then stood at the apex and held her arm out fairly low. I was to get to her and keep low the entire time. She also began to time it. My goal was to cut the time to 4 seconds then 3. I got 3 maybe 2 times. I did stay low and though it was hard and I thought I’d fall over I kept doing it and loved every bit of it. It was one of the best lessons.
From then on we worked as a small group. We worked on form, stops, tight turns, timing and hitting. For the several weeks we got together we built on what we had already learned. The tight turns is something that i have been fighting with but learned a lot from Whitey on how to improve. Its about weight distribution and form. I got it in my head but not fully in my body at the time.
Our hitting drills were really great and one of the first places we were told to go all out. One of the key things I got from these lessons where that when going in for a hit you will be more successful if you are in front. Step into them or quickly turn in front of them. The transfer of weight from the back leg to the side you are going to hit with makes a huge difference. At the end of these lessons we would place “last woman standing” and each get 3 lives. I find that I can actually pull off a hit when I’m not thinking about it. Playing that game removes all thought of how to do it and just makes me do it.
Once we got better with hits we started working on timing of our hits. When is the best time to go in for a hit. What part of the track is more advantageous to pull of a hit on a jammer or a blocker. This of course leads into strategy.
One of my favorite things was getting together to talk about strategy. I could listen and talk about strategy for hours. I think in fact I’ll leave this subject for a different post.
Smackya was the other person, not surprisingly, who helped me with my hits. I had one class with her all on hitting. Again its about form and distribution and transfer of weight. I found that the lower I get the more umf my hits have. One of the great tips she gave was when going for say a sternum buster on the right, take your right arm and reach down to your left skate like you’re trying to grab it. Then pop up back to the right. It gives you way more power and control. I’m still working on my hits but she helped a few things click in my body.
Blood Clotia put on a boot camp for some of us wanting to get onto Fresh Meat. It was 3 times a week and kicked our butts. She worked us while making it really fun. We did a lot of off skate work which I think many people don’t emphasize. She also had us work on endurance. We were working outside on a decent basketball court that had a slope in it and a largish crack we had to avoid. We worked on our laps and endurance every practice. We would start off with 9 laps in 9 minutes. Then 8 in 8 until we got down to 6 laps in 6 minutes. Then we would work back up to 9. When we first started not all of us could do them all. By the last practice we were all in. It was great. It made the 50 lap killer at tryouts seem like nothing.
Each one of these Skaters gave me a piece to work on, helped something click. But the key thing that all of them would say is that YOU are the driving force in your training. YOU have to go to the people who can help you. YOU have to skate the extra mile sort to speak.
There are some people who seem to get made that a practice isn’t as hard as they need it to be. But it is YOU who makes the lessons harder. If it’s easy make it harder, increase your intensity, find a way to learn something new.
Take control of what and where you want your derby career to be.