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Welcome once again to the Frisky Power Rankings, where I rank women’s flat track roller derby according to my whims/in-depth knowledge.

  1. Gotham. They might be even better than last year? This does not seem fair.
  2. Rose City Rollers. Invited BAD, Denver, and Terminal to town, made them bout in 90-100 degree heat, and beat them all by a lot of points. That’s borderline rude, Rose. (j/k ilu)
  3. Victoria. Slip from first due to impressive months by Gotham and Rose. Also, they beat Denver and BAD by slimmer margins than Portland did. So there.
  4. London. Hahahahahaaha London, you are clearly a WFTDA Playoff #1 seed. Sorry about last month. We won’t talk about it again.
  5. Ice cream. Now more than ever.
  6. Texas. Losing to Rose by 26 points is not looking so bad these days.
  7. Denver. How about that Bucsek, huh?
  8. Bay Area Derby. Not able to get much offense going against Rose. This could be a problem.
  9. Angel City. Furrowing my brow and copying and pasting above and below Philly. Remembering that I’ve underestimated them in the past. Control-v right here.
  10. Philly. Comported themselves well at ECDX, with a big loss to Gotham (hey, you know?) and a big win over Detroit.
  11. Arch Rival. Not a bad showing in June. Not bad at all.
  12. Jacksonville. A joke about “blowing out Windy City.”
  13. Minnesota. Flat Track Stats dropped them this month, but those results look just fine to me.
  14. Montreal. Geez, the Mick Swagger effect is pretty strong. Just ask Victoria and Montreal what happens when she coaches.
  15. Sun State. It’s so hard to tell with you Australians. They beat the VRDL B-team, though, and that is something.

    fluffy kitty pile

    Sun State (of cats). Photo by lovecatz via flickr

  16. Stockholm. Hi, I’m a little Swedish. Let’s be friends.
  17. Terminal City. Terminal City, you’ve been working on some things up there, haven’t you? We noticed!
  18. Team United. Still on the radar.
  19. Atlanta and/or Tampa. I can’t figure either of you out, so, tie!
  20. Rocky Mountain. They keep taking on really good teams and losing, but sometimes that pays off at playoff time… if you don’t get a nasty matchup due to seeding.

Not listed: Windy City. They dropped out of the top 40 on FTS (!), and lost Dr. Josie. It’s looking like a rebuilding year.

What do you think? Who has power?  Let us know in the comments. Please feel free to dish freely, or send me anonymous tips at @littleanecdote so I feel cool. (It doesn’t hurt to ask.)

I posted something about livetweeting games and roller derby social media in 2012 (where does that time go, that’s bananas), so I’ve had three years to get annoyed and think about this more. TL;DR—stop live tweeting on your main handle. -Frisky

Are you on Twitter? Me, too! I like it! I tweet all the time, and enjoy the tweets of others. Like me, you probably follow a few roller derby leagues, and maybe have muted and unfollowed a few in your time, too.

I’m certainly no expert on this, but I have some opinions on what works well and what doesn’t for roller derby leagues using social media, especially when it comes to Twitter.

Know your audience.

Why is your league tweeting in the first place? Is there a plan in place, a strategy? Are you trying to entertain, engage, or both? Who are you talking to?

Take a deep breath, because this might hurt a little: No one cares about your tweets. At least, not that much.

In my estimation you have a few different kinds of followers: mildly interested (sounds cool I might check out a game sometime), roller derby collectors (gotta follow ’em all!) or die hards.

Very few of these people are die hards. And even of those, they probably don’t want 308 boring tweets all up in their timeline when they’re just trying to check in with their twitter world.

You can’t keep everyone happy and endlessly entertained with every single one of your tweets, but you can annoy people less by not flooding their feed with tweets that they don’t care about. Speaking of which…

Don’t flood the feed.

Guess what? If you tweet every day, or a couple of times a day, with stuff that no one cares about? No big deal. It’s easy to tune out. If you tweet 43 times within two hours with stuff that no one cares about? You’re gonna get muted or unfollowed. Either way, your message is not getting out there.

someone did a bad job at twitter

Hm, cool, good to know, thanks.

A huge increase in tweets in any given time period is going to lose you followers. This goes for one-time events, live tweeting, technical glitches, and really excitable additions to your social media team.

Live tweeting = roller derby social media danger.

I STRONGLY recommend getting a separate twitter account that’s used for live tweeting games, for all the reasons above. If you want to live tweet games at all. It isn’t even required.

Once you do…

Have you ever read a play-by-play that was just a play-by-play? It’s pretty dry stuff.

not-so-good tweets

These tweets are not my favorite tweets.

This is why we have play-by-play and color announcers in sports. One person tells you what’s going on, and the other person gives it context. Give some context.

Think about what you would want to know about if you weren’t able to watch the game—big takeouts, injuries, ejections, anything especially cool that happens (pegassists?), high-scoring jams, and most lead changes. A 4-0 jam might be noteworthy at the end of a game, but you don’t necessarily need to note each and every one. A 30-0 jam is always noteworthy. You want to have pack some information into your tweets, people. There should be a narrative. Who’s blocking well? Who did a sweet spin move? What will people chat about in the 30 seconds before the next jam starts?

Update the score frequently, along with the time remaining in the period.

MNRG tweets good

Here are some nice tweets.

If you’re not using a secondary live tweeting account, you can update the score with 2-3 tweets per period and leave a tweet or two for editorializing, jokes, and commentary on the dance moves being performed during official timeouts. Any more than that is pushing your followers’ patience.

Link social accounts with care.

You can make it so all your Instagram and Facebook posts go straight to Twitter. Should you? Maybe. There used to be a general feeling that one shouldn’t duplicate posts, but hey. People are busy. They’re not going to spend all day tracking down your stuff. Give fans a few little Easter eggs here and there—content that’s only available on their social media account of choice. They’re following you because they feel postitive about your brand. Make a connection, and then give them something to deepen that connection.

Also, Facebook. (Sigh.) They want you to pay for ads, so they don’t show all of your messages to your followers. You can send all of your Facebook posts to Twitter, and it won’t be a duplication for most people. HOWEVER. Let’s avoid situations like the above, with the “I posted a photo to Facebook” nonsense. Please.

Tweet back.

If you have a Twitter account, you should have a dedicated person or team of persons making sure that questions are being answered, and mentions are being attended to. A personal touch is really what brings people into your next bout, whether that’s tabling at your local sports expo, or a personal invitation sent by your twitter account. Make sure your league has standards and training, then bring some friendly faces aboard.

 

Do you follow live roller derby coverage on Twitter? If so, how do you use it? What’s lacking? What works well for you?

Also, follow me @littleanecdote, please, hi.

I moved a couple of weeks ago. We’re still living out of boxes, between the toddler and the heat and the lack of time and the fact that we can’t use our stove anyway due to electrical issues. You want to hear all about it? Do you know anything about grout?

Fine, we’ll skip the New Homeowner chat and get to roller derby. Let’s talk about moving leagues: transferring.

I’ve only made a move from a small league (my class doubled its size to maybe 30 skaters) to a large one (Rose City, which was once and may be still the biggest WFTDA league there is). And I’ve seen all kinds of transfers come in from all kinds of leagues to Rose City, with varying degrees of success.

Let me tell you about my experience moving from a small league to a big one, then you can tell me all about what you learned when you transferred. Cool? Cool.

Remember, when you’re transferring, your new league might know next to nothing about you. They might ask for proof that you left your previous league in good standing. They might ask you to try out with all the other newbies. They might not. Just like I tell all new skaters: Find out as early as possible. If your new league has a strict tryout policy and they only take skaters twice a year, you don’t want to find that out a week after the cutoff.

Pupster buddies

Time to make new friends! Photo by Marcus Peaston via flickr.

Prepare to adjust the volume of your voice.

One of the strangest things about moving from a small league to a big one was that no one cared what I thought anymore. That’s overstating it, but when you’re one of 40, you’re expected to have an opinion on just about everything. You have league meetings where everyone can express an opinion. When you’re one of 100, 200+, you need to trust more in representational democracy.

Expect an adjustment period.

Your new league will probably have a different culture, and a different organizational chart. What you might think of as “the way roller derby is” might be completely different across town or across the country. I’m going to age myself here, but when I started, a lot of terms, moves, and strategies were very regional. We learned things in Indiana a different way… and sometimes, I found out later, in a really weird way. The internet is the great equalizer these days, of course, but people in different leagues still use different terminology and slang.

Beware big fish, small pond syndrome.

I don’t mean to scare you, but if you’re moving from a smaller or less-competitive league to a bigger or more competitive one, you might get a bit shocked at first. Unless you’re a superstar with a reputation that proceeds you, you’ll have to work to prove yourself as soon as you arrive. A superstar jammer in a small league might show up to scrimmage at a top-ranked WFTDA league and find themselves very frustrated, very quickly. If you want to play in the big leagues, it’s going to be a steep learning curve, but if you’re into the challenge, it’s a great opportunity.

On the other hand, if you’re going from a competitive program to one that’s less so, you can’t go around yelling at everyone because they’re not executing a strategy the way your old teammates would have. You’ll need a bit of patience, but your new buddies will appreciate your experience.

 

Have you transferred? What was your experience? Let’s chat in the comments.

 

 

Hi everyone! We have a lovely guest post today from Meryl, my twitter buddy who’s a roller derby beginner. Just about anyone who wants to play roller derby can do so, no matter how well they can hear. Tell ’em gurl!

What It’s Like To Be a Hard of Hearing Roller Derby Skater

I only started skating a mere six months ago with Derby Lite, here in Chicago. I’m new, but now like so many others who skate, I can’t imagine my life without it. I also wear hearing aids, and have since I was 14. I’ve been hard of hearing my whole life. After a series of short-term fix ear surgeries and a couple of bouts of cholesteatoma, hearing aids finally proved to be the long-term solution my family and I were looking for. It’s not great having to rely on hearing aids, but it’s also not so different from having to rely on wearing glasses or contacts every day.

Not being able to hear well by no means rules out skating for me, or anyone else. There are tons of deaf and hard of hearing skaters, and they kick ass.

Because I am still learning the basics of roller derby, I haven’t come across as many scenarios where calls are being shouted. When that time comes, I plan on following the guidelines suggested by the Deaf and HoH Roller Derby Skaters Worldwide, an excellent resource for all Deaf, deaf and Hard of Hearing* skaters, NSOs, and refs. Their mantra is that skating should be inclusive, and I completely agree. This group provides several documents, including tips for leagues, players, skaters and fans. Some tips offered to players like me include things like finding a buddy who knows what’s up and can make sure information is being communicated to you on the track. You might also choose to wear a sweet sticker bearing the International Deaf and Hard of Hearing symbol – or maybe not. That’s totally up to you and how you feel about identifying or not identifying.

logo for Deaf and HoH Roller Derby Skaters Worldwide

Logo courtesy of Deaf and HoH Roller Derby Skaters Worldwide

 

Here are some other tips they suggest, specifically for use during bouts:

  • Watch your Bench Manager, particularly if you are jamming.
  • When your line-up is getting ready to go out on the track focus more on your pack and less on what is happening on the track. You need to know what your pack needs from you when you skate out. This is true for all Skaters – Deaf, HoH or Hearing.
  • Be alert to your Jammer or Pivot – whoever is making the calls for your pack.

Some tips down the road might mean telling my league about my situation and possibly asking my teammates to learn a few signs. In recent years I have taken American Sign Language classes, and luckily the Deaf and HoH Roller Derby Skaters Worldwide page offers a ton of resources for learning derby-specific signs in a range of sign languages. In case you didn’t know, not all nations’ signing languages translate to ASL. Signs even vary across regions within the United States — like accents!

I personally have not made my hearing loss public to my league because I am still just learning to play. Sometimes I have trouble hearing at practice, but my skate buddy Lisa is great about making sure I am up to speed.

At this point in my skating career, my main concern is protecting my hearing aids. They are like very tiny, expensive computers, except way less fun than my Macbook. But whether I like it or not, they’re crucial part of my life, and I need to keep them safe. My helmet does a pretty good job of covering them, and mine are luckily pretty water-resistant (aka, sweat-resistant). My next helmet, however, will probably be a hockey one – those often come with ear guards, which can offer them an additional level of protection.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re a hearing skater. Thanks for reading! Here are some tips for you and other hearing folks:

  • If you skate with a Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing person, I would suggest you do whatever you can to treat them the way you would any skater.
  • You should also note that being deaf, Deaf, or hard of hearing are all different things – it’s a lot to learn, but the difference is pretty important in the culture. You can read more about these differences here.*
  • I personally have zero qualms about letting people know what’s up and answering questions, but know that not everyone feels that way and that’s their right.

Just as it is for anyone, it can be tough to admit you need a hand. Respect that, always be sensitive, and try to support your fellow skaters however you can. Roll on!

Meryl in her gear

Meryl!

About Meryl:

Meryl Williams is a Chicagoan who’s moving to Portand, Oregon in July. She can’t wait to transfer to the Rose City Rollers, but for now she loves her Chicago girls. She blogs at The Sleeper Hit and writes regularly for HelloGiggles and the Addison Recorder. For more of her writing, subscribe to her TinyLetter.

roller derby for beginners

 

Welcome once again to the Frisky Power Rankings, where I rank women’s flat track roller derby according to my whims/in-depth knowledge.

Sorry sorry sorry, these are totally late this month. We bought a house and moved last week, so all my actual paid work was getting done at 11pm instead of power rankings. My comeuppance is that I have to take the Midwest Brewhaha results into consideration now, too. My poor aching brain.

  1. Victoria. I wouldn’t bet on them against say, Gotham, but they sure have the momentum right now. POWER.
  2. Gotham. Finally, they played a few games. And they beat Denver by more points than the last time they met in the fall, so we’ll say they’re probably still preeeetty good, despite big personnel changes.
  3. Rose City Rollers. Lookin’ good, lookin’ good. You’re still number one in the power rankings of my heart, but other teams are rolling in power this month like whoa.
  4. Ice cream. In a waffle coooooooone.

    frisky acting like a nerd again

    Waffle cooooooone

  5. Denver. Strong and shiny. Denver vs. BAD is coming up in Portland. That would be a fun game to attend in person. It really would.*
  6. Bay Area Derby. Very good at The Big O, but maybe not as dominant as one might have suspected.
  7. Texas. Stumbled a bit at The Big O, but I trust that they’ll find their way.
  8. Philly. Oh snap, they’re looking good this year with a big win over Minnesota in May.
  9. Angel City. “What’s up, Angel City?” “Oh, you know, beating Atlanta, Jacksonville, and Tampa.” “Pretty chill, pretty chill.” I do not know what people actually talk like in LA.
  10. Arch Rival. Zipping up the rankings, making waves, gettin’ paid*. (*Probably not getting paid much, if anything.)
  11. London. I KNOW. This seems low. It’s just that everyone else is so good. This happens every month to some awesome team. It hurts me as much as it hurts you. Unless you’re really sensitive.
  12. Sun State. Holding pretty steady due to a win over Paradise City. Apparently that team is pretty good, too.
  13. Jacksonville. FTS has them at number 7, people. I put less stock in blowouts, but we’ll just see. Math is sometimes smarter than me.
  14. Minnesota. Performed maybe a smidge below expectations lately, but we’re keeping a watchful eye on the aqua and army.
  15. Relaxing near bodies of water. Chips and beer encouraged, but not required.floating in frog lake
  16. Windy City. Still hangin’ in there with a bit of power, despite a rough start to the year.
  17. Rocky Mountain. Some decent wins and respectable losses in May. 
  18. Team United. Last thing they did was have a fairly close loss against Arch Rival, a team that’s since gone on a bit of a tear.
  19. Tampa. Beat Atlanta!
  20. Atlanta. You heard me!
  21. Rat. Oh, hi, Rat. Nice to see you back here and playing games and stuff.
  22. Santa Cruz. Putting together a string of respectable victories…

Not listed:

*Realizing that you can’t go to any games at Hometown Throwdown because your husband is working again, Damn you, successful in-demand husband! I love you! Wait, are we mad? Why do I feel like smooching now?

 

What do you think? Who has power? What did I miss in my new homeowner haze? Let us know in the comments. Please feel free to dish freely, or send me anonymous tips at @littleanecdote so I feel cool.

 

 

 

I usually have power rankings for you on the first of the month, if not sooner, but look. I’m moving today. And Besterns happened this weekend, with no time for me to ponder those results. SO. You’re getting power rankings later in the week instead, okay? Until then, please enjoy some pictures from Manatee Mondays past.

Sneaky!

Sneaking a drink of my iced coffee, huh?

manatee with otter

Remember that day at the zoo? All you wanted to do was eat the kelp in the exhibits.

Manatee skipping rocks

Ahh, carefree days skipping rocks…

Manatee flower crown

…and making flower crowns at the park…

Manatee guitar

…and jamming out some tunes.

Manatee bout watching

Yes, yes, we’ll get to power rankings soon, Comcast and unpacking willing.

Yesterday, USARS announced that they’re going to form a US national roller derby team. From what I’ve seen in my social feeds, the news was not especially well-received. Most of the people I know play WFTDA, and a few of those people are/were on Team USA. You know, the national team of the best adult roller derby athletes in the country that’s been established for five years or so.

The biggest reaction to the USARS announcement: THERE’S ALREADY A TEAM USA, YOU JERKS.

Then:

  • Um, who are they going to play?
  • There’s an international governing body for roller derby, and that is WFTDA.
  • USARS doesn’t mean anything to me, because I don’t skate in the US.
  • USARS never helped us before, why should we support this effort now?
  • They tried to make things as hard as possible for roller derby ten years ago.
  • No one wants to watch USARS derby (ouch, people).
  • Hey, sounds cool!

Now, I don’t necessarily think USARS is a paragon of evil, but I do think they’re trying to make money off roller derby. Plenty of people have, with, we can say, varying levels of success.

My first reaction is that if USARS skaters are happy, that’s great. Let ’em skate and have their fun. No skin off my hide. I don’t think it hurts WFTDA (or any other roller derby organization or rule set, because there are more than two) to have a bit of competition. Personally, I’d prefer not to skate against or with 14-year-olds, but I’m glad they get the opportunity to skate if they’re physically and mentally ready.

In fact, it might be pretty fun to have a Team USA that’s all kickass 17-year-olds. Then we can stop saying crap like “junior roller derby is actually fun to watch” because where have you been, people, of course it is.

Here’s the thing, though. The day before this was announced, I was hearing that USARS was in financial trouble with declining membership, and derby was a major part of that.

So, in short, my two cents: this seems like an effort by an organization to save something that was not well-conceived in the first place. They don’t seem to have a deep understanding of modern roller derby and its culture, and that’s not going to serve them well. But if people want to try out and play for this new national team, I won’t hold anything against them. Unless I already hold something against them. Hey, I’m a sports fan, I hold grudges. It’s only natural.

Can we all get along? Ideally, yes. But you wonder, when USARS does things like schedules their national tournament during WFTDA D2 playoffs.

What do you think? Does this news make you mad? Annoyed? Totally thrilled? Kinda sleepy? Is a roller derby national team any kind of national team at all without Bonnie Thunders?

If you’ve played roller derby, or expressed more than a passing interest in it at any point, it tends to come up in conversation. Something about playing this kind of subversive, contact sport is interesting to people. Go figure. Your co-workers want chat about it, and your friends, and family, and that’s all fine. Then, you have to go out in a roller derby uniform at some point to talk with the public. That has…mixed results.

They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but that’s debatable. Now, to be clear, I love talking about roller derby, answering basic questions, helping newbies, filling in new fans: all of that stuff. But that doesn’t mean I love every person on the planet all the time and all of their stupid questions.

Ask me about derby

Photo by Andy Ciordia via flickr creative commons

“Roller derby, huh? Eh eh?” *elbow jabbing motion*

The most common question, hands down, is always asked with the elbows out. Proper response: If you wanted to knock someone down, would you use your elbow? That’s not very efficient. Try delivering this cooly, looking the target straight in the eye.

“Do they all look like you?”

DEFLECT, DEFLECT. Why, no, there are all kinds of people from different backgrounds, and we all have features that help us on the track, please leave me alone, oh look, a wedding ring, on my left ring finger.

“Aren’t they all lesbians?”

I’m married to a dude, but I’m not speaking to everyone’s sexuality. Strictly, no. Also, please leave me alone.

“Are you sure they’re all women? Some of them looked a little burly!”

Thank you for coming today, have a great one now, bye. (If you would like to chat with this person about gender politics, I wish you luck.)

“But you seem so nice!”

Interesting take, co-worker.

“Why should I pay to watch you if you don’t get paid to play?”

This one took me off guard. Can you imagine someone getting all huffy about paying their $7 to get into a high school football game? (This price is a total guess. You’ll be surprised to learn that I haven’t attended a high school football game since my mom made me go because my brother was in the band.)

“That was cool, but how do they score points?”

Totally fair question, but it’s very strange to be asked this after the game is over. You sat there for an hour and didn’t catch the whole thing with some skaters going around more than others? Not an inkling? Well, glad you had fun! That’s what counts.

.

What are your best/worst questions about roller derby from friends, acquaintances, enemies, and randos? Let’s commiserate in the comments.

(Ed note: Spocker stepped up to write this guest post about braced blocking after I tried doing it at Wreckers practice and felt a million years old. “In my day, skating backwards at all was fancy!” I’ll keep working on it. Thanks  Spocker!)

With The Big O now behind us, a lot of top-tier teams have shown us their stuff, and I’m more than a little excited to see how this season unfolds. And, whether you were glued to the live feed or watching in-person, you probably saw quite a few backwards-skating blockers in those bouts, as teams like VRDL and Rose City used tripod walls or “diamond defense” to shut down even the most wily of jammers.

When backwards blocking first started to show up in higher-level play, it was interesting, but mostly felt like more of a confusion or intimidation tactic than an actually-effective technique. Now, the braced wall is becoming a go-to tactic and giving us proof that, as with so many things in derby, blocking backwards is better when you do it together!

So, why should my team use a braced wall for blocking?

Getting (and staying) slow. Containing a jammer is easier when the jammer is slow. Keeping a wall together is worlds easier when you’re slow than when you’re racing. Slow derby is smart derby. Keeping your wall slow, however? That’s hard, y’all, and keeping that wall slow when a jammer is pushing on you is even harder. Then, next thing you know, you’re 20 feet from the pack and you’re out of play and everything is terrible.

When you have a blocker buddy facing backwards and bracing your wall, they can dig into their toe stops and edges, and help your wall keep control and stay slow. Your wall stays tighter, the opposing jammer stays slower, and your life gets much easier.

Seeing what’s happening. Most every blocker knows that in roller derby, the action’s usually happening behind you, and that means looking behind you to keep track of things. Thing is, we’re not owls, and we can’t turn our heads far enough to see every single thing that’s behind us. When your wall has a backwards-facing blocker to brace you, that backwards-facing blocker also has a great view of what’s coming from behind, and can help your wall adjust for it.

Adding depth to your wall and protecting points. Your flat wall feels ready to catch a jammer, but they might bust through a seam, or spin their hips around you on the line, and now they’ve snagged all of your points and are gaily skating away scot-free. That’s no fun for you. With a braced wall, however, if that jammer breaks through your forward-facing line, your bracing blockers still have a chance to catch and contain them. Granted, it’s not ideal (we’ll get into that in a bit), but it’s a chance. And, your brace blocker also has their hips ahead of the rest of your wall, so their point is protected.

Okay, I’m convinced. How do I make braced walls work for me?

There are a few key points to remember, if you want to be a good brace for your wall:

  • Communicate constantly! When you’re the brace, you have that super-sweet view of the action, so you should be telling your forward-facing blockers what’s happening. Keep talking!
  • Keep your arms firm and strong. Your teammates will be leaning on you for support and slowing, and wet-noodle arms are not supportive! I don’t personally recommend locking your elbows, but you do want to keep your arms mostly-straight and strong.
  • Keep space between you and your forward-facing blockers. Make sure they have plenty of room to plow stop, move laterally, and do whatever they need to do to contain the jammer.
  • Give support where the action is. If the jammer is pushing on an outside gap, you won’t help anything by bracing your inside blockers. Pay attention to where the action is, and be ready to move your brace from one gap to another.
  • Control your speed. I don’t just mean slowing the wall down, either–you don’t want your blocker friends to get stop-block or clockwise-blocking penalties, so you’ll need to adjust your slowing power to keep that wall from completely stopping.

What if I’m the forward blocker being braced?

You’ll have more support to adjust your position in your wall. You’ll find that you’re able to do things with your hips and torso that you couldn’t do as easily without a brace. I’ve had success with dipping my shoulder in front of a jammer to regain position in front of them, but different tactics work for different people. Try a few things, and see what works best for your body type!

Talk with your teammates about how you like to be braced. Some people are fine with being braced on their shoulders, other folks prefer bracing by the forearms or hands. Others like to grab their brace, rather than having the brace grab them. Again, it’s going to be different for each skater, so try different methods, see what works best for you, and let your teammates know it.

How do we get into a braced wall position?

The answer to that can vary, depending on the lineup. If your blockers are good at lateral movement and covering the lines, starting a jam with your brace already in place can work well for never letting the opposing jammer get speed. This can work really well if the opposing jammer is more of a pusher than a juker.

If you have a particularly juke-y jammer on your hands, or if you have blockers in the box, you might prefer to start as a flat wall, so you can cover more of the track. If you’re starting flat, your best bet is to let the opposing jammer make solid contact and commit to a gap, and then let one of the blockers who isn’t directly engaging the jammer become the brace.

Crap, I’m blocking in a braced wall and the jammer is breaking through! What do I do?

This usually happens in one of two ways:

The jammer sneaks around the wall on the inside or outside. The good news is, if you’re the brace, you can see this happening, and put a stop to it!

  1. Drop your brace. If you don’t drop that link with your blocker friend, you could get sent to the penalty box for a multiplayer block.
  2. Transition to face forward and fill the gap in your wall. It’s important to transition all the way forward–the jammer can hit your side as much as they want, but if you give them your back, they can’t push on you as easily.
  3. Let another blocker become the brace. Now that you’re in direct contact with the jammer, a blocker in your wall who isn’t engaging said jammer can take your spot as the brace. Voila! You’re braced and super-slow again!

The jammer breaks through the middle of your forward-facing blockers. As I mentioned above, going chest-to-chest with a powerful jammer is, um, not the most ideal situation. Most skaters aren’t as agile facing backwards as they are facing forwards, and things get especially gnarly when you realize that blocking backwards exposes a gigantic legal blocking zone, which the opposition can use to blow you to kingdom come.

Fortunately, if an opposing jammer is just breaking through part of your braced wall, they probably don’t have much speed to use against you. So, if you’re that backwards-facing brace, stay calm. It’s going to be okay. You’re still there to try and stop the jammer, right?

  1. Make contact with the jammer. This will likely be chest-to-chest contact, but that’s okay. You want to make contact first so she can’t surprise you with a huge hit to your chest, but more importantly, so you can track of where that jammer is.
  2. Keep contact with the jammer and let your blockers recycle up in front of you. You don’t have to hold the jammer forever–just long enough for your blockers to get in position and help you re-form that wall.
  3. A recycling blocker transitions to face backwards. That blocker who just recycled is now ready to brace you. Ideally, they’ll put a hand on you and let you know that it’s okay to flip.
  4. When you have support, transition to face forwards. You’re now part of the new forward-facing line, and your blocker friend is facing backwards, bracing you and keeping you slow!

Wow. That’s a lot to take in.

I know. This stuff isn’t easy, and it’s going to require a lot of practice time with your team before you’ll all feel comfortable with it. Your team can start by breaking it down into parts–backwards skating drills, stepping and agility drills while facing backwards, backwards-blocking one-on-ones, working in pairs to get used to bracing and transitioning together, and so forth. If your teammates aren’t around, you can practice your transitions, so you can easily flip backwards and forwards without thinking about it.

No matter what your situation, you can make this work for you! All it takes is time, hard work, and a little extra patience–you know, just like everything else in roller derby. 😉

Shaolin Spocker skates with Rose City Rollers, and is wrapping up her third season with her incredibly smart-and-pretty home team, the High Rollers. She likes Star Trek and pie (both baking and eating it), and actually knows kung fu, but has received decidedly more high-fives for hitting people in derby than she has anywhere else. You can read her sporadically-updated derby blog, or you can check out her web design and photography work–both of which she does better and far more often than blogging–at her creative design studio, Upswept Creative.

Photo by Regularman

Photo by Regularman

Help wanted

I’m a professional writer, in case it isn’t obvious from my stunning all-caps prose on the monthly power rankings. But Pack is Here Jesus knows I don’t know everything about everything, so I need a little help.

Right now I’m revising Roller Derby for Beginners, so the second edition (out in October, I hope), is even more awesome and helpful than the first. I’m looking for a trans* or gender nonconforming writer and skater to contribute to the second edition. We can talk more about it if you’re interested, but in short, I’d love to include your advice for new skaters. You can be named or anonymous, but I’ll pay you either way.

Any interested writers should contact me at frisky.sour at gmail. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SHARE. I’m not going to approach any skaters directly, so I need ya’ll to send out the skate signal.

Don’t forget that I also accept pitches for guests posts here.

Hooray!

photo: Richard A Patterson via flickr

 

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