Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Meatloaf and Skater Tots

It’s nights like last night that make you remember why you do all the extra work in derby – why I spend 30 hours a week outside of my regular job working on sponsorship for my league and WFTDA: it’s for the kids.

Okay, okay, they’re not exactly “kids,” but they are new to derby. I’m talking about skater tots – those new skaters who so desperately want to become rollergirls. Here in Charm City, we’ve been at this for nearly four years, and we still had over 20 ladies come out last night for a skills workshop that would help them train for October try-outs.

The practice itself was easy – a good one for me to join back in on. Then there was the added factor of us vets having to “lead by example” for the skater tots. This means staying quiet and listening to the coach when we’re being instructed on the next drill, doing the drills correct and not showing off like an asshole, and offering advice to the tots, like where to shift your weight during a plow-stop or what exercises to do at home to train yourself to no longer skate knock-kneed.

By the end of the night, the skaters who walked into the rink “scared shitless,” as one put it to me when I asked her if she was here to practice for try-outs (“can’t you tell by the scared shitless look on my face?”), walked out of there not only stinky and sweaty, but also encouraged and hopefully proud of themselves (I’m amazed at how skilled each new group who comes in actually is).

That’s why we’re here – to keep this sport moving forward, to welcome new women, to help them enrich their own lives, and to have fun.

For me, the pen ultimate part of the night was my having to lead a small group in a drill that was my own personal version of hell until just recently. The drill consists of practicing the isolated movements associated with crossovers. Everyone does fine with the first part – placing your inside (left) foot on the line of a 15’ circle and pushing off to propel yourself with your right foot. It’s the second part that’s a bitch: only using your inside foot to push without lifting your outside foot. This part of the drill is actually harder than using crossovers in practice, because the 15’ circle forces you to perform this isolated movement to an extreme – you’re going in a tighter circle than you ever would when playing a bout, and your right leg never leaves the floor, making this especially hard for those of us with thicker thighs. When I found out we had to do this drill, I panicked for half a second, because I’ve never been able to do it 100% successfully. And now I’m going to have to teach 3 ladies how to do it?! Crap.

I skated away from the instruction and over to my circle as soon as the coaches had finished talking. I wanted to try this before people were watching me. Unfortunately, no time for that! As I started off on the circle, my mind said “I can do this,” but the words that started to come out of my mouth were, “I’m not too good…” and then low and behold I was fucking doing it! Perfect! For the 1st time ever!

One girl was a natural, another needed help with leg positioning but got it eventually, and the third was like I had been early in my derby career – she kept saying it was physically impossible for her to do, and she got frustrated. I felt for her. If only I could impart to her what I now know – that nothing is actually physically impossible, you just have to train your body to do it (even if it takes you more effort and a longer amount of time than the other girls).

We ended the practice with timed laps, training the tots for the WFTDA requirement of all skaters needing to be able to do 20 laps in 5 minutes. I was tired and had the beginnings of blisters from the circle drills, so I half considered not participating, because we had so many people there. As I was dreaming about my water bottle, I skated over and got on the starting line. I wound up completing 30 laps – never once coasting or resting my arms on my knees. That’s pretty damn good for someone who’s been completely off skates for over a month and hasn’t been able to attend practices “regularly” for the better part of the last 4 months (due to injury)!

The night came to a close with several of the ladies telling us how much fun they had. As I was getting ready to walk out, the skater who had gotten frustrated at the end of the circle drill came up to me and thanked me for all my advice. I was glad to talk to her, because I was worried the frustration may have taken the wind out of her sails, regarding derby. Thankfully, that was not the case. She seemed determined, which is possibly the best quality a rollergirl can have. Determination will get you wherever you want to go, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if this skater tot keeps that attitude up, she’ll make one hell of a blocker someday soon.

In all, it was a great night. Not only was I happy to be back in skates, but I just may have met the next derby superstar – the girl who is an amazing skater, the girl who becomes a coach and winds up helping others, or the girl who will take a leadership role and help propel derby further into the sports arena than it already is. Who ever said a legacy wasn’t exciting?


Ashley DC said...

As one of the tots you gave great advice to on stops/falls, thanks for doing so! Last night was really fun.

Midlife Crashes said...

That drill was my nemesis too! For months I took off my knee pads (shh, don't tell, I still had gaskets on) just to get an inch or two more clearance for my "sturdy" legs to cross over. But, when I started doing specific exercises to relax my hip muscles, the "speedskater drill" became so much easier for me!
Very inspirational blog, btw. Reminds everyone that they can contribute, injury or skill level notwithstanding. Mad Derby Luv to ya!

Ruth of All Evil said...

Our league never did that drill - we're pretty much expected to know or figure out crossovers on our own, and 6+months in I still don't think I'm doing it right.
Do you have a diagram or a more thorough explanation of the drill? It sounds like it might help me finally figure out wtf my feet are supposed to be doing.

Cindy Lop-her said...

A quick search didn't reveal the drill specifics, so here it goes to the best of my ability (BTW, we as rollergirls should TOTALLY be posting drills and instruction on You Tube IMO - if you ever hear about this, let me know):

The premise of this drill is to teach skaters to "push" equally with both feet (and legs) while skating and not simply "stepping over" your inside leg to do a cross-over.

Some things to keep in mind while doing this drill: when one leg is bent, the other should be fully entending and vice versa, theoretically, and your torso should NOT be bobbing up and down - it should remain constant and you should always be in derby position.

1. mark off 15' diameter circles
2. start with the initial motion: keep your iside foot planted on the circle outline and push with your outside foot (stay low and keep contact with the floor as long as possible with the pushing foot, extending your leg until it is straight - the more your knees are bent, the more contact with the floor that foot will get, thus proelling you faster and with less general effort)
3. motion 2: plant your outside foot on the circle outline and skate to get up some speed (it's easier this way). Place your inside foot at 10:00 (upper l), and in one continuous sweeping motion, pull that skate in an arcing "c" motion until your left knee passes behind your right knee, and then fully extend your left eg so it is straight, thus giving you the most contact with the floor and the biggest push. Repeat. When you start this motion, you should be low and in derby stance. When you end, you may be more upright. Think: squat, arc, extend.
4. When you put these two motions together, you are working smarter instead of harder to propel yourself forward. Although our tracks or ovals, if you skate using these two motions (as if you're jamming or doing timed laps), you should actually be skating in a circle - hugging the inside turns, and maybe even going slightly out of bounds on the outside at the center of the straight-aways. You will never NOT be crossing over.

Another tip when pulling it all together is that only one leg should theoretically be on the floor at any given time. As soon as your outside foot hits the floor to push out, your inside foot is lifted to prepare for it to be placed to push out (and then your outside foot is lifted).

I try and do as full of leg extensions as I can and can sometimes make it all the way around the track with only 4 complete cross overs - and I'm 5'1" with fat thighs.

If anyone happens to record this drill and post it, send me the link!



Ruth of All Evil said...

Thanks! I'm going to try it at practice tomorrow. I predict lots of frustration.

Kill Billie said...

I hate this drill. I don't even think it's my fat legs, I think it's my flexibility. But you've given me hope that maybe, SOME day, I can practice this with our babydolls and not feel like a complete dumbass.

Big In Day-town said...

Thanks for touching on some of the unique frustrations us bigger dames face in the ring. Coming back (from two years off skates), I'm getting really discouraged, because of sciatica (in my left hip) and weak knees. Your blog is encouraging. Keep it up!

Eating Dust said...

From a brand new league full of skater-tots (being one myself), thank you for the awesome blog.