Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From Freshmeat to Team Mate: Falling Down and Getting Back Up Again

Great illustration by Dusty Melling
So, one of the best known things about Derby is Falling.  Whether it's because you lost your own balance or because someone else hit you, you will fall down. A lot.  When I joined the team, one of the first things anyone ever said to me is "Mentally prepare yourself. You will be falling a lot. A lot.  Most of the time, though, it's okay and doesn't even hurt."  At first I was skeptical, but outside of a really bad hit, they were

In Derby, you fall down.  You fall down a lot.  BUT... you also learn how to fall and with your pads and the right technique, nine times out of ten, you really don't feel it!

You may be skeptical, but those pads really do make a HUGE difference.  I had no idea, having never seen any up close before gearing up from the freshmeat bag, but derby knee pads about three inches thick with a hard shell on the front.  When you fall properly on to these pads, landing on the shell, not only do you get a really good cushion, but you should theoretically slide a little on the floor, which also helps to distribute the impact.

The 187 Killer Pads Pro Derby knee  pads
that I bought at Bruised Boutique
Now, coupling these nice, thick pads with a proper falling technique is the ultimate goal.  In Derby, we now refer to learning the art of falling down and getting up again as learning RECOVERY.  The focus is on acknowledging that you will fall and learning the best ways to control it and then to get up again as quickly as possible.  You do not want to make yourself a target for other players (or even refs) to fall over on the track!

Though there are several different types of "recoveries" that you learn and get tested on in Derby, the one thing they all have in common is that they involve falling forward.  While as I mentioned in a previous post, that all players are required to wear helmets, mouthguards, elbow pads, knee pads, and wristguards, there are no rules about any other equipment.  There are players that wear padded shorts to protect their tailbones in accidental backwards falls, but the general practice is to learn to fall forward so that you will be protected by the required gear.  Thus, as a freshmeat skater, you will spend at LEAST one practice on learning the three basic fall "recoveries." (I know I did. This practice WIPED ME OUT!) You will learn:

*Single Knee Taps - These are honestly my least favorite, though probably the most useful in a game situation. The idea here is to recognize when you are losing your balance, and to just tap your knee, one or the other, on the floor long enough to help stabilize you then pop back up to full skating, without touching the floor with your hands (Fingers make excellent targets for other skaters' wheels...).  Easier said than done, LOL. Originally we practiced these by skating back and forth up and down the rink just alternating knees on the floor.  My quads were screaming! I also could only do about three or four before I'd lose my balance completely and need to reset before doing any more.  Having practiced these for months now, though, I can say that doing one for the purpose it's truly intended is both useful and much easier than it was when I first started.

One of POD's skaters landing in a double knee slide
during a bout with Elm City.  
*Double Knee Slide - This is sometimes referred to as the "rock star slide." Here, again, you should
Here's a pic from a game we had with the Elm City team.
See how the Elm City player on the left has positioned
her legs to recover to standing? *We just try not to use
our hands like this...
recognize that you are on your way to the floor..Then the best practice is to squat so that you are already halfway to the floor and then allow yourself to land on both knees and slide forward.  Ideally, you should land on your knees in a staggered motion, not at the same time, which helps to lesson the direct impact on your knee joints.  You also should keep your arms up and close to your chest to avoid either landing on your own hands/fingers or potentially creating a smooshed finger situation if someone else rolls over your fingers on the track.  To recover from this type of slide, you then bring one knee up, creating a 90 degree angle with the track and use the leverage pushing on that skate (and your quad muscles in that leg) to propel you up again to regular skating position.

*Four Point Fall - This final fall and recovery is both the easiest in a way and the toughest.  This is a full fledged fall to the ground.  It is called a four point fall because four parts of your body should land on the floor if you do it properly.  Again you should be able to recognize that you will fall. Then, the goal is to first fall on to the knees as if you are doing a double knee slide (points one and two) and then to continue falling onto your forearms (points three and four). Hands should be fisted and arms bent at a ninety degree angle so that you land on the flat of your forearms with your thumbs on the top of your fists.  Your head should be tucked down near the forearms, but not between them, so that you are both protecting your head if another player trips on you, but you are not smashing your face on the ground. Recovery builds on the same principles as the earlier falls - bring upper torso upright, then bring up one knee, brace and lift to skating

A POD player lands in a four point fall during a game,
tucking in to avoid injury. 
The best principles for Recovery in Derby, no matter how you fall, are to FALL SMALL and to RECOVER, RECOVER, RECOVER (ie. get up quick!) The less time you spend down on the track, the better for all players involved.  You are much less likely to get accidentally run over and if you're like me, you want to be back in the action! So, falling safely, making yourself a small target, and then getting up and back in the game as quickly as possible are things that we actually practice because you know that you'll be doing them in a game.  Even the best Derby players fall.  They just fall better than the rest of us. *grins*

Now that we've talked about falling and recovery, I suppose I should go a little more in depth about my safety gear!  Next time, I'll talk all about how I picked out my skates and such up at the Bruised Boutique in New Hampshire. It's an awesome derby gear store.

Until next time...
Nikki Tesla #134 

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