You’ve been to the recruitment meeting. You’ve convinced your significant other/family/friends that you really aren’t joking and you are serious about giving this “derby thing” a try. You’ve even ponied up the money to buy the skate gear. Recruitment practices start next week but you haven’t skated since you were hugging the wall as an 8 year-old at that rink your parents used to take you so your sister could have a birthday party with her friends (which they conveniently forgot to offer as a birthday venue when your birthday came around….parents can be so mean). So what should you focus on besides not trying to fall down?
#1 - Form over speed
Form is critical to becoming a good and especially, a great derby player. Start with bad form, and it can lead to bad habits that can take months or even years to break and set you back in terms of your development. Bad form can lead to an inefficient stride and make you much slower than you would be if you had proper form. Bad form can make the next progression of skills that much harder to “get.” Pay attention to everything your instructor says. From derby stance to weight distribution to shoulder plane, soak up every bit you can and try to implement it into what you are doing. If you have a question on form, ASK! Instructors may leave out details that are key to your understanding. Get the idea of what you are supposed to be doing the first time, and it will give you a great foundation going forward. There will be times when you want to go fast. Like Ricky Bobby fast. But, at the beginning, really try to concentrate on form over speed.
#2 - Go To Practice
The skaters who make the most progress are the ones who come to as many practices (and open skates) as possible. No one is ever good at a sport the first time. It can take months if not years to complete some skills. The more you work on that skill, the faster you will speed up your development. Want to be a great player? Spend more time on skates!
#3 - Push your Limits
Once you start to get the hang of the form, it’s time to push your limits. That cut you just made around the cone? Try to cut it closer and make a harder cut. That shoulder block you just threw? Try getting your hips involved. That 20 lap time you just did? Push yourself to cut off 15 seconds. You are going to fall down – like, a lot – if you are truly pushing the boundaries of your skill. The instructors and seasoned vets will know only too well that falling means you are learning. But if you are keeping good form, or at least trying to, you will start to make advances in your skills.
#4 - Try new things
You will see skaters who do some pretty awesome moves if you are around derby for any length of time. You will envy them. Want to be like them. Want to collect their sweaty jersey after practice. No? Too far? However far your derby crush goes, there is nothing stopping you from trying that move. Seriously. Courage is a big part of derby. Being willing to try new things, fall time after time only to get up and try it again can take you to another level. You are covered in pads; use them to your benefit.
Trying new things also means doing something perhaps contrary to what you already know on skates. For example, derby skaters do not drag their toestops to stop. This can actually be dangerous in game play. Really try to break the habit of using your toestops and make yourself use a derby stop every time you need to stop or slow down so that you will master them quicker. Are you an expert skater who has been skating in rinks all your life? You may be surprised at some of the things that you might have to “unlearn” in order to be a successful derby skater. Don’t fight the change; challenge yourself!
Some day you will fall at practice and a veteran skater will casually glide by, smile, and call out to you in their most cheery voice, “Falling is learning”.
They aren't saying it to be mean or to tease you.