Roller derby drills are hard … all of them … always

Oh hey. I’ve had a lot of big changes in my life, but thanks for the encouraging comments and emails asking me to blog more/again. I want to. I plan to. As a way to ease back in, here’s what I recently posted to our own fresh meat’s page. I think it’s always, always true:

Roller derby drills are hard. All of them. Even things like stepping side to side, which could seem rudimentary. Plow stopping is also rudimentary, but our travel team (and top-ranked travel teams across the world) practice them every week. It’s important to find goals, fun and fulfillment from even basic drills because that’s a lot of what roller derby is – getting the “easy” stuff down (muscle memory) so we can do it flawlessly in combination with lots of other cool shit when we play the game.

Here’s some things you should consider before ever thinking, “this is boring” — and not just next week or next month, but four years from now :

  • Am I doing it in perfect form?
  • Can I do it faster in perfect form?
  • Could ANY of the veteran skaters do this drill better than I’m doing it right now? If they could, what would they do differently? (then try it).
  • How would (insert skater hero here) do this drill? (then try their unique style)
  • Can I do this backward?
  • Can I do this on one leg?
  • Can I do this backward on one leg?

If you can do the drill backward on one leg in perfect form better than any other skater, then you can be bored 🙂

p.s. stepping side-to-side on one leg in perfect form is flippin hard.

People in the North East: Go to this

Last year I heard about a new derby convention, the Northeast Derby Convention. My friends and I decided to go because it was near us and pretty cheap, but had some amazing skaters as instructors.

It was game-changing. For our entire league. (NE Derby Con doesn’t pay me. I get no swag or anything for writing this.) Ten players on my league in Maine decided to go. It cost about $150 a pop for a three-day pass. The training we got there was undoubtedly the reason that same little, newly-founded league won our New England B-team tournament a few months later.

Photo by Northeast Derby Convention. (I was paying attention to something awesome.)
Photo by Northeast Derby Convention.
(I was paying attention to something awesome.)

You need to go. It’s again $150 and it’s three days. Not many more details are available on the website yet, but let me tell you what I got last year: 21 hours on skates training. Yeah. 21. I took one off skates session too, so I think it was 22 hours total. For $150. A little math says that’s about $7 to learn jam tips from Suzy, $7 to learn to be a badass from Demanda, $7 to learn new pack strategy from Quadzilla, $7 for Teflon Donna to show you how to mohawk around people, $7 for Bonnie D Stoir to give you the puppy talk (look it up), $7 for Smarty Pants to hit you backward. I mean. Come on. You paid more for the leggings in your closet when you made fresh meat.

That doesn’t include the parties, the hang out time between sessions, the scrimmages, etc etc etc. It’s the best money I’ve spent in a while and elevated my play and my leaguemates play.

Last year the convention was set up as one-hour blocks of sessions with 30 minute breaks in between. That’s 30 minutes to digest, take notes and practice the skills you learned. Oh and rest, right. Those one-hour sessions aren’t going to be the time you need to perfect skills, but I found that my notes from last year still come in handy — because 21 hours is a lot to digest.

The other awesome thing about the sessions on-skates was that they were divided into levels: basic, home team, intermediate, elite. That meant the stars of the Boston Massacre weren’t intimidating the fresh meat from the new Vermont league and let everyone play comfortably and get what they needed from their skate time.

For the nonskaters (and skaters) they also had classes on league structure, how to evaluate skaters, etc. Super helpful for the little leagues trying to figure out the basics of derby business.

So that’s my ringing endorsement. If I were still on the East Coast, I’d be there in a heartbeat. It’s the most one-on-one time you’re going to get and it’s with the best skaters in the world today.


5 common roller skate problems — and how to fix them

I’ve had some interesting skate dilemmas today, so I made a list of common skate problems and how to solve them cheaply.

Problem: My skate inserts ball up and are so uncomfortable.
Solution: Don’t tell your roommates I told you to do this. But if you don’t want to dish out the $10-30 to get new inserts, you can try ironing it. I don’t own an iron, those cost money, so here is what I do: First, I try to smooth the crinkles out a bit by putting the bad creases under a leg of furniture. Then, and this is truly disgusting, then I take a flat-bottomed stove-top pan and I boil half an inch of water. I first try to “iron” the foot cushion by pressing the bottom of the hot pan of boiling water on top of it and smushing it. When that does not work (and it probably won’t), I dip the affected area of the insert into the boiling water for 3-5 seconds. Take it out and then smush the bottom of the hot pan over the insert on a cool, dry surface. Repeat until flat. It works. Don’t tell your roommate you put your nasty-ass sweat-soaked shoe insert into one of his/her pans.

Problem: My waxed hockey laces (recommended here) don’t fit through my skate lace eyelets. 
Solution: I know! What a pain! Those things cost $4! You have to broil the mo-fos. Turn your oven to high broil and then hold the tips of the laces under the broiler for about 30 seconds. Quickly put them through your skates. This will shape them into an eyelet size.

Problem: My feet go numb in my skates.
Solution: If it’s not cold, this is because your skates are tied too tight. When I break in skates, I like them loose by the toe, then when you lace them, skip a eyelet halfway up (don’t cross, just move the lace through the next same-side hole) and then keep lacing. This lets you have looseness in the front, but keeps it tight around the ankle. That said, you want to eventually be able to lace your skates tightly and break them in, so, at some point, you’re going to have to suck it up and gradually begin tightening them until the leather stretches around your foot in a hug. If it’s because it’s cold, try a light wool sock and warming your feet up with some off-skates agility before practice. Get your feet sweaty before you put them in your skates.

Problem: I need to adjust my trucks and wheels before every practice.
Solution: ARE YOU LEAVING YOUR GEAR IN YOUR CAR? ARE YOU LEAVING IT ZIPPED UP IN YOUR BAG BETWEEN PRACTICES? Don’t do that! Leather and metal need to dry. This means you pack up your gear after practice, put it with you in your car, then when you get out of your car you bring it with you. Inside your warm house (your skates need a warm home too) you unzip your stinky gear bag and make sure all the gear is separated and able to touch air. One day your roommates won’t care as much. Start getting them used to it.

Problem: I break my laces every practice.
Solution: I addressed this in “The Cost of Roller Derby,” but the quick answer is to get toe caps that snap on (not the ones you put laces through, they will just break), get waxed hockey laces and to try to stop dragging your feet. If the $3-4 laces and $7-14 snap-ons are too much, my friend Vegemighty Slamwitch made her own toe-covers by cutting a bike tire in half, attaching it to her toe stop and then high up on her skate.

Those are some common issues. Feel free to comment below with any skate issues.

And one last thing: Oh MAN! If you didn’t spend the $20 to get WFTDA TV this weekend, you are missing out! Naptown v. Atlanta was CRAY CRAY! Many lead changes and it all came down to the last couple jams. As I said in “how to play watching roller derby” I usually aim for 10 minutes planks, 50 pushups. But this game had so many jams and got me so excited I did 11 minutes planks, 100 pushups and 100 leg lifts. SO CRAZY GOOD.

Proud of: Pushing through extra crosstraining work today. Grateful: Friends who get my obsession, to live close to so many resources, for great neighbors.