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Roller Derby Blog | August 2014

8 Week Coaching Challenge - Week 5

26th August 2014

An unfortunate side effect of playing and training for sports is that injuries do occur.

Sure, we are improving our abilities to minimise the occurrence and reduce the rehabilitation time but the fact of the matter is that you’re going to have injured athletes.

From the athlete’s mental-health point of view, with a few short-term exceptions, it is best to keep them involved in training.

The worst thing a coach can do is to forget about, or even discard, the injured athlete.

In fact, the only thing worse than seeing the Sick, Lame & Lazy (SLL) standing around doing nothing is to not see them at training at all.

This leads us to this week’s challenge.

Coaching Challenge 5: The SLL returns to play as a better people, athletes and players than they were before they were injured.

To do this Coach Challenge properly, it will soon be evident that the SLL are going to be the busiest athletes in your squad. This is undoubtably a very good side effect.

Step 1: Work out what planned activities the athlete can do: where can they slot into training as per normal?

For example, can they do the warm up with the squad? What about the tactical or technical sections (where play might be slower and more controlled)? What about the pure skill components of training?

Step 2: See what weaknesses they can address while out injured.

Think of the injury-period as a mini-preseason where some extra work can be done that would otherwise be impossible to fit in.

For example, does the athlete need extra muscle added on? More speed work? Time to rehab some other injuries? What about some individual skill work?

Step 3: Organise for your S&C coach and athlete to meet and discuss a return to play plan that includes improving the physical fitness of the athlete.

(I can almost guarantee your S&C coach will relish the opportunity to have the athlete return fitter than before the injury).

Step 4: Create times in training for the SLL to drive the skills, drills & games.

They must plan, implement and review sections of training that contribute to the development of the squad.

Step 5: Connect each of the SLL with a younger athlete or team they can mentor or coach.

We’ve seen it over and over – a sure way for someone to feel good about themselves is for them to help someone else.

And think how much the youngsters will benefit?

Step 6: Include every one of the SLL on game day.

This is possibly the day that they may feel the greatest sense of loss so make sure they are well appreciated and involved.

Possible roles for the SLL:

  • Recovery and Hydration Manager (e.g. filling water bottles, handing out snacks, etc.)
  • Director of Statistics & Data (e.g. record tackles, or splits, or serve percentage, etc.)
  • Chief Video Officer (includes filming, reviewing & feedback)

These steps are not static. As the athlete recovers so more time will be spent at Step 1, so ensure you re-evaluate the plan regularly.

Shoutout to the guys at Propelperform for putting this challenge together!

Featured Skater - Team Australia's Blue Wrenegade

22nd August 2014

Derby Name:  Blue Wrenegade

Derby Number: 2880

Age: 31

League: Adelaide Roller Derby

Position: Jammer/blocker

How did you get into derby and how long have you been playing?

I've always been a competitive, sporty person and derby really appealed to me. I have been playing for 4 years.

Highlight of your derby career?

Being selected for the 2014 Team Australia Training Squad of course!

What is your personal derby goal?

To always push myself, continue learning from all around me. Play in the 2014 World Cup team. Increase my skills in all areas.

Who is your Derby Idol?

Barrelhouse Bessy- an ex-Adelady who started up our league. She played with so much passion and talent, inspiring all around her.

What is the best piece of advice you could give and up and coming derby player?

Work on your fitness. Wear your skates as often as possible. Watch a lot of derby. Always give it your all.

A big shout out to Roaringstorm Photography for the use of this photo taken at The Great Southern Slam 2014 See More 

Road to Playoffs - National Officiating Scholarship Part 6

20th August 2014

Just a short one today. It's been a bit quiet on the scholarship front lately - but for *very* good reason. Since TGSS, I've been knuckling down and practicing hard, because today (Wednesday) I am off to PLAYOFFS!

At 10am, I take off from Brisbane, and... on Wednesday, at 6am, I land in LA. The international date line is weird.

From LA I jump straight onto a flight to Kitchener, Ontario (that's in Canada, folks!), and I've got one day to adjust my internal clock before I start refereeing on Friday 22nd August.

My overall schedule will be:

22-24 August - Outside Pack Referee - Division 2 Kitchener-Waterloo
5-7 September - Penalty Wrangler - Division 1 Sacramento

I can also reveal right now (you saw it here first, folks) that you can watch me right there on your computer (or tv, if you've got the right cable) on - my scheduled games so far, in Brisbane time, will be at 4am (I'm sorry) and 10am (muuuuuch better) on Saturday 23rd August. A watch pass for the whole weekend is only $7!

(Scheduled games are subject to change, but are unlikely to).

Wish me luck!

Huge thanks to Steven Craddock for allowing the use of this image!

8 Week Coaching Challenge - Week 4

19th August 2014

Attend any coaching course, or most conferences, and chances are you’ll learn plenty about the Technical and Tactical aspects of your sport.

There will probably be information on how to improve the Physical traits, and the Mental qualities might be addressed too – usually something along the lines of ‘goal setting’.

These four elements are often referred to as the ‘4 Pillars of Sports’: Technical, Tactical, Physical & Mental.

Wayne Goldsmith, one of the most interesting people in the sports world and speaker at the Junior Sport Science Symposium IV, argues that we should add ‘Culture’ to this list.

I believe there should be a 6th pillar – the ‘Emotional’ element of coaching.

This is how coaches build connections and strong, healthy relationships with their athletes.

Speak to any good coach and there is no doubt they will value the relationships with their athlete very highly. There is a good chance you’ll eventually hear them say a form of the following mantra:

Athletes don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

The irony of this is that every underperforming team, club or National Sports Organisation (NSO) focuses on their facilities or ‘structures’ or ‘pathways’ when they should be fostering the coach:athlete relationship.

This leads us to Coaching Challenge 4.

Coaching Challenge 4: At the end of every training week ask 3 athletes what their plans are for their time off. At the beginning of the following training week enquire about their activities.

That’s it.

Well, that’s the starting point.

Take an interest in their interests.

Show your athletes that they mean more to you than just X’s and O’s, set ‘n reps; that you actually care about them as a person.

Some Tips:

  • Make the conversations casual, not forced.
  • Write notes if you have to, store them on your phone.
  • Chat in an environment that makes the athlete comfortable – e.g. ask the shy athletes away from the group.
  • If there is no opportunity at the first training session no worries, just ask later.
  • Start with the athletes you have the least rapport with, those relationships are going to need the most work.

Who knows, these conversations might be the beginning of some of your favourite coaching moments.

Thanks again to propelperform for providing us with Week 4 of the 12 Week Coaches Challenge.

Featured Skater - Team Australia's Tui Lyon

15th August 2014

Derby Name: Tui Lyon

Derby Number: 88

Age: 26

League: Victorian Roller Derby League

Position: Blocker

How did you get into derby and how long have you been playing?
I have been playing derby since June 2008. So I am pushing the 6 year mark!! My body feels the strongest it's ever been, I love derby more than anything and I started I figure I have another 10 years in me yet!

Highlight of your derby career?
2013 Playoffs with my team VRDL All Stars was a pretty special experience but I think the best I've ever felt while playing derby was when we beat WASATCH at The Big O earlier in 2013. We had played 8 games in 9 days and it was our second last of the tour, we were all totally exhausted, injured and emotionally burnt out. We came back from over an 80 point deficit to take the victory. I cried the biggest ugliest cry I've ever done, it was an incredible feeling of relief, joy and utmost respect for my teammates.

What is your personal derby goal?
I update my goals reasonably regularly depending on what I feel I need to improve on. I don't tend to set ones like "win the Hydra" for myself because its not S.M.A.R.T. I watch a lot of footage of myself and critically analyse my performance and set them from that. My start of the season goals for this year are to penalise 50% less, be more precise with my backwards blocking, improve my ability to drive from a positional block, and to have more success with last ditch hits when sprinting out the front of the pack. So far I am doing really well with them, after the tour in June I'll pick new things to polish.

Who is your Derby Idol
I don't have one single person that I idolise but I do admire lots of different things about different players.
Smarty Pants coaching style, Serelson's backwards blocking, Polygone's shoulder checks, Hockey Honey's speed control, Mick Swaggers devastating hits and probably most of all....pretty much everything Sexy Slaydie does!

What is the best piece of advice you could give and up and coming derby player?
-Set goals and actually remain accountable to them
-Spend plenty of time working on your strength and fitness
-Take every single opportunity to learn and never say no, you can ALWAYS get better and you are never above any learning experience no matter who is teaching.
Everything is better down there, I promise.

A super shoutout to S.L Dixon for providing us with this image. For more click here.


Team Australia's July Training Session

13th August 2014

Words by Cherry

It was another beautiful weekend in Brisbane, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and Team Australia was about to get its butt kicked.  With coach Flamin’ Galah abroad following another successful international campaign with VRDL, the reigns had been handed to bench coach Slawta Dawta.  Slawta brought with her a strong support crew to ensure the squad received the same high level of coaching and training that they have come to expect when attending Team Australia training.

With fitness and strength and conditioning being of the upmost importance in ensuring the squad is prepared for the World Cup, Slawta brought in trainer Zac Buckley (who works with SSRG) to run off skates warm up and cool downs.  Zac’s focus on correct form, warming up and stretching correctly for what the squad was preparing to do meant that the squad had an injury free and focused 12 hours (not to mention the 7:30am Sunday morning start) of intense derby training.

For 2 days Slawta had the team focusing on team work. From tabatta chest pushes to communication drills, offence drills, plants drills, fan drills to scrimmage the focus was on bringing together the squad as a strong and formidable team. Over the course of the weekend the squad went from being some of the most talented skaters in the country to being a team. 

Communication grew from tentative to loud and confident; strong partnerships were formed between skaters who have only ever previously skated against each other; skaters were not only working together but pre-empting and fluidly transitioning with their team mates into each play.  It was impressive, it was inspiring and it was smart derby.  It was everything we could hope for in a national team preparing for the world cup.

Thank you to Steven Craddock for providing the images for this story.

8 Week Coaching Challenge - Week 3

12th August 2014

A well-known swimming coach was having a regular catch up with one of his athletes. During this meeting he absent-mindedly wrote down three areas the swimmer could improve.

A few months later, at a team gathering hosted by that swimmer, the coach noticed the scrap piece of paper he wrote on was stuck on the athlete’s fridge.

When the coach enquired about the piece of paper, the athlete replied ‘Coach, that is the only thing you have ever written down for me and now I can be reminded of what I need to do daily’.

Coach Challenge 3: Give written feedback for each athlete in your squad.

The process of writing the ‘report cards’, taking the time to reflect on the progress of the athlete will be good for you.

The process of reading the ‘report cards’ and discussing it with you will be invaluable for the athlete.

MORE: Why ‘Fast Tracking’ isn’t good.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, nor time consuming. But there are few requirements.

  • The report card should be simple and easy to read
  • As a guideline, think of addressing the technical, tactical, physical, mental and cultural aspects of your sport.
  • You should also think about the softer, but arguably the more important, skills, e.g. leadership, competitiveness, attention to detail, etc.
  • Aim to give your younger athletes two positive comments for every one aspect they need to improve.
  • Feel free to show the athlete where they are in ability, but it is probably more important (especially at the developmental space) to show them where they are with regards to effort and attitude.
  • Have a ‘rating scale’ (perhaps A to E?) with demonstrable and measurable actions associated with each letter. For example, an ‘A’ in ‘Professionalism’ might include having spare equipment available. If they achieve this action they get the ‘A’.
  • A rating scale is a good start, but the athlete also needs a pathway to improve. Therefore the report card should contain an area with some prescription on what they can do to move forward.
  • Simply giving your athlete the report card may be adequate, but you’ll see a significant boost in engagement if you make time to sit with them and use it as a starting point for some in-depth discussions.
  • Be open to change some of your ratings, especially with regards to effort and attitude, if the athlete provides evidence.
  • Don’t do this just as a one-off.

Thanks to Propelperform for providing us with the opportunity to share such an awesome resource!

Featured Skater - Team Australia's ShortStop

8th August 2014

Derby Name: ShortStop

Derby Number: 6

Age: 28

League: Canberra Roller Derby League

Position: Jammer/Blocker

How did you get into derby and how long have you been playing?
I started in July 2009 via a work friend. I was invited to her first friends and family game.

Highlight of your derby career?
Skating for Team Australia in the 2011 Blood & Thunder Roller Derby World Cup and being named MVP for my country.

What is your personal derby goal?
To always challenge myself to learn new things and push my boundaries to become better.

Who is your Derby Idol?
Bonnie Thunders. Her drive and commitment to the sport, not to mention her amazing skills are beyond words and she makes me want to work harder to become better.

What is the best piece of advice you could give and up and coming derby player?
Practice, practice, practice.. And then practice some more..

Thanks to Roaringstorm Photography for this action shot of Shorty at TGSS, for more click here!

8 Week Coaching Challenge - Week 2

5th August 2014

So great to see and hear coaches taking this on around the country!

Now you have started, you will need to keep up the momentum, so here is week 2.

Week 2

Challenge: Everything is written down and displayed.

In my experience, swimming coaches are great at this. Strength and Conditioning coaches too. It is also a strong point for those who train powerlifters and weightlifters.

The challenge is for your program to be written up, perhaps on a white board, so that every athlete can see what is in store for them in the upcoming session.

The best implementation of this challenge I have seen was with Craig McRae, as he transitioned from triple-premiership winning athlete to coach.

The whiteboard was in the change-rooms for the players to see as they got changed, strapped and prepped.

Craig would then run the players through the time-sheet and the expectations, emphasising the key points.

A coach would bring the whiteboard to the side of the field, holding each coach accountable to goals, expectations and time allocations and the players accountable to their goals and expectations.

The national championship was won that year.

Depending on the space available, consider displaying:

  • The activities/drills/games that are planned (including warm up, cool down, drinks/nutrition, etc.)
  • The duration of the activities (e.g. 0900-0915 Warm up, etc.)
  • The goals of each activity (e.g. technique, calmness under pressure, execution, etc.)
  • Name the coaches/players driving the session (initials work well)
  • Specific equipment to bring (e.g. mouth guard, sweat towel, special shoes, etc.)

The Rationale: There are many advantages to accept this challenge.

Firstly, there has to be communication and planning before this can be done. Each member of the coaching team has to understand what their role is, what their expectations are and how long they have to achieve these expectations.

No more ‘So, um, what you wanna do now?’

Secondly, the athletes will be more prepared for the session. They will have the correct equipment, a clearer idea on what they need to focus on and might even be able to contribute more to the session itself.

The third benefit is time efficiency.

Too often we have a number of coaches having input during a game/drill/activity, each with their own ideas on what needs to be attained.

This means the activity is stopped too often for explanations and corrections.

With this Challenge, there is one coach in charge of each activity and all information goes through them. They are empowered to make the decision on whether to relay that information or not.

The flip side of this is that the other coaches don’t feel the need to stand and watch but can set up their activities, again minimising set up time.

Thanks to Propelperform for providing us with the opportunity to share such an awesome resource!

Keep up the good work everyone and stay tuned for next week!

Introducing Swish Cariboom

4th August 2014

We have been working with our friends over at DerbyFest to sponsor an Australian coach as part of the event. It was recently announced that VRDL’s Swish Cariboom would be filling these shoes, and we are pretty excited! As one of our favourite jammers right now, we can’t wait to learn some of her secrets. Off the back of her recent US trip we posed some questions to Swish so we can all get to know her a little better in the lead up to her classes in January. 

How does it feel to be a part of a team that is top 5 in the world?

Surreal, and so, so impressive. The number 5 itself means little to me since rankings and reality are strange bedfellows, but it’s a pretty damn fine fist bump to years of work. I realised a little while ago that from our first TGSS win in 2010 there’s only 3 original skaters left on the charter, never mind the changes we’ve seen since last year. That we’ve been on this trajectory for so long regardless is a testament to the longevity and sustainability that we dedicate to our team and league, and frankly it’s a lovely attitude to have towards this sport.

What is your proudest achievement this year as a player?

I’ve overcome some grossly negative mental barriers this year, something that was never an issue for me before. It’s a massive and painful hurdle to get over. It was only in June that I had a game where I finally found that zen and calm again, it was rewarding as all hell and not something I could have done without the support of my team.

Who are the hardest team you have had to play?

Training and scrimmaging against the VRDL All Stars is way more difficult than playing even top tier teams, probably because we’re just so familiar. Even if we take a pounding it’s easier when we take it together and aren’t lashing it out on each other. That being said, Angel City gave me a jolly good run for my moolah.

How are you preparing for your next trip to Divisionals?

Physically I’m just getting back into training after a wee break. I’m back on my bike a lot for endurance, but otherwise just getting my skate back on, nothing too hardcore planned. To be perhaps unfortunately honest, the financial and logistical preparation is more of a priority right now.

Who are some of your favourite skaters at the moment?

I’ll be that guy who admits to not being a huge footage viewer, most of what I know of other teams and skaters comes from either playing them myself or fellow coaches regaling their wisdom at training. That being said, my captains Calamity Maim and Tui Lyon are two of my favourite skaters and overall human beings that I know, so them!

As Captain of the VRDL All Stars last year, what kind of leadership style did you have?

When I was captain last year, I saw myself as more of a facilitator and administrator than a leader. I consider ownership over a team by every member to be incredibly important. I think (hope) I helped instil this and just used ‘leadership’ to drive and shape what the team was already wanting to do by itself.

Any advice for other captains out there?

We’ve been doing this for a while now, but I highly recommend establishing a leadership group of sorts. For us, this includes the captains, bench and 3-4 skaters voted in by the team. Affectionately known as the CLAG (Charter Leadership Group), it’s out of control how handy it is to have a reliable sounding board for all your decisions. Ultimately you make the call, but harder moves can be confidently made because that trust is there.

What do you think is the biggest priority for Roller Derby in Australia at the moment?

Finding a way to deal with our isolation from the rest of the WFTDA world so more teams can join the competitive party without going bankrupt in the process. I know this is already being discussed and there are some interesting proposals out there, so I’ll be keeping an ear out on that one. My thinking is that with more recognition on an international level, funding and resources will be more readily available even for leagues that have no interest in joining WFTDA competitively.

What kinds of things can people expect to learn at your Derby Fest sessions?

I’m all about playing smarter, not harder, so expect efficiency. I only jam with the All Stars and I think too often jamming is seen as an individual endeavour. I signed up for a team sport and make a point of using my offence and team mates so I can feel that unison and camaraderie that you see in the pack between blockers. I love knowing without having to think where and how my blockers will move and I love that I can make strategic calls as a jammer that my pack will understand and back me on.

Thanks to Roaringstorm Photography for the picture, for more click here

Team Australia Trains Part 2: The Trainening

1st August 2014

By Blockodile Dundee 

Watching Australian skaters play overseas is one of the very few times I’ll deign to get out of bed while it’s still dark, so I was only too happy (read: I wasn’t happy but I did it anyway) when the Wizards of Aus ventured out into the cold wilderness of Europe for the Men’s World Cup this year. I really loved watching Sausarge Rolls skate, so you can imagine my excitement when I showed up at the Team Australia TGSS practice to see Sarge on skates and ready to coach.

The Great Southern Slam in June marked only the second time Team Australia had met to train, so the novelty of seeing everyone at once was still very real. Although we had congregated in Adelaide as competitors, it felt wonderful to come together as teammates once again. As always, Flamin’ Galah and Slawta Dawta helped get the show on the road, while the tireless Cherry Axe-Wound did general badassery and TCB (taking care of business).

It can’t be overstated how much work Cherry does for the team behind the scenes - and very much in front of the scenes at times, such as her ever-presence at the Team Australia merch desk during the entirety of the Slam. If you ever see Cherry around, please do give her a very high five.

Sarge worked with the team on footwork, agility, stability and strength. There is an emphasis on edges in derby training these days that I really, really love, and Sarge’s edge work is seriously off the chain. If I can one day muster a tenth of the skill and control that man has, I’ll be pretty chuffed. We learned, too, how valuable a water bottle is in training sessions - we did precision edge stepping, toe stop agility, cutting a corner at speed (and much, much more!) using our water bottles as markers - the opportunities grow exponentially when you add your friend’s water bottle to the equation, too.

This reminded me of one of my favourite drills to do when I’m running trainings, which is to set up four cones in a diamond shape roughly a metre apart, with one cone in the middle. You then have a minute to get around the cones in any shape, direction and fashion you want, as long as you don’t use your toe stops. So there’s a lot of stepping off your inside edges, using a sharp edge stamp to stop, pivoting on front or back axles, tight crossovers, and Russian circles. Whenever you’ve got a moment to muck around by yourself, I highly recommend it.

We practiced drills to get explosive power from our pushes and maintain rock-like composure when blocking. We learned about using our whole bodies when approaching a blocker, and tried with all our might to mimic the speed and snappiness of Sarge’s movements (spoiler alert: it’s literally impossible).

It was a funny session, as we’re so grateful and want to make the most of any chance we get to train together, but with our short two-hour block - coupled with the fact that everyone had to play qualifying games the next day - this was as much a valuable team bonding opportunity as it was a physical training session. Afterwards, we geared down, took some super cheesy photos and parted ways. For the next time we met on the track, it would be as opponents! (But the time after that, we’d be teammates again. More on that to follow). 

Featured Skater - Team Australia's Brutal Deluxe

1st August 2014

Derby Name: Brutal Deluxe

Derby Number:  76

Age: 37

League: Sun State Roller Girls

Position: Blocker and Jammer

How did you get into derby and how long have you been playing?

I've been playing for about 4 years now, I was a rink rat as a kid and wanted to play in my early 20's when it first formed in Brizzy back in the day. I found a flyer for a freshmeat intake in 2010/11 and it went from there

Highlight of your derby career?

Getting to bout with and against Serelson and Akers at Derby Fest 2014

What is your personal derby goal?

To be the best skater I can be, I feel like I'm always learning and improving so I want to take it as far as I can, representing Australia would be the penultimate for me.

Who is your Derby Idol?

I admire so many skaters for so many different reasons but will always appreciate watching Bonnie Thunders jam, she just makes everything look so effortless.

What is the best piece of advice you could give and up and coming derby player?

To never doubt yourself, and your ability, as doubt is something even the best of us still struggle with.


*Thanks to Roaringstorm Photography for supplying this image, for more click here.

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