There were icicles, I shit you not

I’ve basically turned my life into derbygeddon this week.

I skated outside again yesterday, even though it was fricken -3′ and my fingers basically stopped functioning altogether.

Same as the last few days, some backwards stuff, weaving, but mostly more laterals. Grapevines are okay now, but still struggling to ‘gallop’ sideways.

Also yesterday evening I rocked along to a beginners training session being hosted by Bristol Roller Derby. It’s a drop in session for anyone, any ability, but it turned out to be more or less the level I needed and it was seriously good fun. Everyone was very friendly, and I had a really good time.

Interestingly, the session was split by ability. Absolute beginners learning the basics of skating/packwork were siphoned off to one end of the hall, while those happier on their skates were grouped up to do skills and contact work.

There were about 20-30 of us, including team skaters mentoring, and the skill level was quite varied amongst the group. First off we did some dynamic warm up and basic plow-stopping practice, followed by learning and practicing using plow-stopping in positional blocking, and again while in a 2 wall.

Then we did something really fun, and also scary – jammer contact drills. First we learnt about how to get a shoulder into a nice gap in the wall, and how to wriggle/twist/thrash to open up a gap to sneak through. Afterwards we stepped it up and practiced ‘seal clubbing’ – i.e. using shoulders to smash the blockers and force them to lose balance or open up a gap. I teamed up with two girls of a similar ability at first and we had a lot of fun trying, failing, and improving at our jammer tactics.

After this, we did some practice putting all of the skills together in groups of 4 blockers plus a jammer. Blockers used positional and plow-stopping, while the jammers tried to push, attack or juke around the wall.

Finally we stepped it up once more, as we had to stay within proximity to another group of 5, as in a pack situation. This meant understanding, watching, communicating and executing bridging in order to maintain the pack.

Right at the end, we played a few games including ‘My little pony’, which was new to me. I pretty much just took the opportunity to get in some fast skating around the track.

All in all, I was really impressed with the session design. It got me thinking about what makes effective coaching, and how I can bring that into my own training. From my observations, it seems like the most useful method is to take the end goal and work backwards until you’ve broken down all the requisite components. Then each of these can be practiced in isolation, adding complexity incrementally until the final product is achieved. Does that make any sense? My brain hurts…