The fine art of skating

(Auto publish for Friday 31st so please bear with the blog whilst it does it’s funky auto update thing!)

I feel skating skills are of great importance.

I have noticed lately, more leagues are talking about a higher focus on general drills rather than skating ability, and I have over the years observed and heard complaints that some leagues were undertaking higher level/ability drills with a mixture of skating abilities involved. My main issue with this… is the lack of thought for skater safety. To be able to safely and effectively take part in these drills, skaters must first have the ability and confidence in their own skating skills. Without this – leagues are endangering not just the less skilled skater but also the skaters around them. As my own league has seen, it does not take much for a skater being taken down by those in the pack around her to cause a serious injury.

Part of my feelings surrounding skating ability stems from my many years on skates and the styles of skating I have done. From figure skating, to ice hockey, to roller hockey and to roller derby. All require the same key element, a sturdy skating ability and confidence in your ability. These two parts combined contribute so much to a skater to the point I now feel that you cannot really have one without the other to be an effective and able skater. A low confidence level can greatly impact on a skaters ability and I guess again this refers back to my post on mental wellbeing and the walls we put up in our own minds. Take for instance the skater I mentioned earlier who broke a few bones in her lower leg, whilst she initially wanted to come back, her mind changed once she had thought about life outside of derby and the impacts derby can have on that – which is a brave and hard decision to make. Many of our skaters saw this particular incident and the first couple of sessions following that night some of our girls skating abilities visibly decreased.. why? They said they were scared. Suddenly they are faced with the brutal reality of derby and the consequences it can have. And whilst confidence is pretty damn easy to take down, it can take a while to rebuild.

Infact. I would probably go as far to say that skating is 50-60% ability and the rest is confidence. I believe this is backed up by watching teams with poor morale and confidence at certain points in bouts and the difference between skating skills at this point and at more positive points. With skating lessons, I feel 2-3 are sufficient for the understanding of movement on skates and how/why you do things and they work/don’t work… it’s kind of like with driving. When you learn to drive for your test that is all well and good, but only when you pass your test do you actually learn how to drive.

 

So ok… problem is sort of established. But.. how do you work with this?

There is no real solution which is straightforward and an easy fix for everyone on the planet. Everyone is different and this is something we must accept and learn from.

I feel trust between team members plays a strong role in skating education. To be able skate side by side and learn from someone without the fear of being tripped up or injured even though you know really that you will fall over again and again, is so important. As is taking a few seconds just to say well done to someone who needs to hear it. Yes, sometimes you will bump wheels and fall over doing the silliest little things, but having that trust in the person you are working with is imperative – especially as a team on track. This trust allows a skater to have a better comfort level when skating and practicing drills, going at a pace to suit themselves. Yes – at the end of the day it is nigh on impossible to teach to all standards/levels of skaters in your league, and differentation can be hard because you do not want team skaters to lose out on practicing key drills yet at the same time you do not want to throw the weaker/newer skaters in over their heads. But you can try to take measures which aids the development of all skaters on the team by simply taking 30-45 minutes every other month or so just to go over the basics of skating and understanding how your body/skates react to movement. Even if just to get some feedback, who knows – that fresh meat skater may be able to impart some knowledge on your team skaters on how she learned to skate a particular move. Just time working on being comfortable on your feet, this allows higher level skaters to further improve on their skills and lower level skaters time to get comfortable and start to make headway. When you feel comfortable, move onto stepping through movements, going through the motions and allow people to understand why this is useful and how it will help them in the future. For instance, a few simple things that do not take long to go over:

  • Stepping and stepping cross overs – this motion gets you used to the crossover movement, but can also be used to move from a slow speed/standing stop to get a small boost in initial speed.
  • Gliding crossovers – more for jam work rather than pack work. Having skaters understand how the long gliding crossover holds so much potential power for pushing and for speed is pretty crucial if they feel they would like to put that jammer pantie on.
  • Edges – Have skaters work on their edges, getting used to transitioning the weight onto each side of your feet, on both feet and one foot. Starting by going to the left/right seperately then merging the two edges. Skaters need to understand how the ball of their foot/pivot point really allows them a larger range of movement than they realise.
  • Derby stance – Teach them to get into derby stance but whilst keeping their feet firmly in one place, have them move their upper body then move hips without losing that balance on their feet. This teaches them about their core strength and how if they are in the correct stance they should have a full range of movement without losing their balance.
  • “Crazy feet” – just the general ability to pick their feet up off the floor and an ideal way to move into juking once skaters are comfortable with moving their feet. The ability to transition from gliding to crossovers to crazy feet and back again will be of great use on track.
  • Pushing home the point that skating is part ability, part confidence. The reason I skate and move the way I do is because I have been skating for so many years, but I am confident in my skates/on my feet. I know from playing around and trying different things on skates that if I move my hips slightly too far into an edge that I will go over. It is comfort and confidence that plays a large role.
Wrexham Rejects crossover

Wrexham Rejects crossovers page

Of course the trust I talk about does not happen straight away, the time on the fresh meat journey is important for them to bond with other fresh meat but also team skaters who they will hopefully join one day. Infact one skater made my day, after one night in which I simply offered to help and partner with her to let her go at her own pace and tried my best to make her feel comfortable, I recieved a thank you for simply caring about her. And I was already proud of how well she was doing that night and the little jumps she was making in her ability. And this thank you took me by surprise, because I do not want or expect to be thanked, I simply do what I do because I want to help my girls any way I can in the derbyverse. Yes we are friends/family but let’s face it, the derbyverse can be a tough world at times with you being your own worst enemy.

The relationships on and off the track can play a factor, it can increase or decrease the level of trust but even though I have struggled with things like this I am a strong believer in leaving it at the door when you come into practice. If you let anything outside of derby into derby, it will cloud your vision on the track and will not be healthy.

Keep Calm – Trust each other!

 

 

 

So I guess my main message with this really is that no matter what you are doing – be comfortable. Push yourself to work harder and toy with your comfort zone, but do not at any point do anything which you are not comfortable or fully confident with. Work up to it, build on it and talk to those around you. Skating requires 2-3 lessons to teach you how/why you do things, but real track experience to actually learn how to skate – and do not forget that confidence is key so keep your heads up and skate your little hearts out. We are all in this together!

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A note to the more experienced skater – Remember when you were fresh meat and you craved so badly for someone to teach you the ways of skating and derby? Now is your chance to be that person for someone else. Take everything you know and have learnt throughout and use that to help someone else in the derbyverse. Derby is about sharing and caring too you know!

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