Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From Freshmeat to Team Mate: Where Your Balance Can Take You

So, in previous posts I've talked about how the Derby Stance is important because the lower a skater can stay, the lower they can keep their center of gravity, the easier it is to maintain their balance. Derby girls work out a ton to get their legs in shape, not just so that we can all rock a skirt whenever we choose, but to become better, tougher skaters.  So many things that you do while playing not only involve hitting or blocking or skating at high speed, but being able to maneuver yourself into the proper positions on the track so that you can DO those things! If you have poor balance, (and even at six months in, I know I STILL need to work harder to improve my leg strength and balance) you won't be able to turn, avoid a block, or weave between players effectively.

As a freshmeat player, how do you start to learn proper balance and the skills that build on it?  One step a time.

Consistently and constantly trying to deepen and strengthen your Derby Stance is step one.

Photo from Livestrong.com
Learning to be able to balance on one skate at a time is step two.  As part of the Level One test, I had to be able to Balance on One Foot for thirty seconds on each side.  Now, trust me, you don't have to be able to do what that skater on the left pictured is doing, but you do have to keep one foot off the floor for that half a minute.  It's funny, I've done yoga - sometimes I can hold a mean tree pose - and I felt as if I had decent enough balance, until you put wheels under my feet.  I had to work really hard to engage my core and focus on an unmoving point at a decent distance away from me in order to maintain the strength to keep that one foot off the floor, for what should be a relatively short period of time. Especially on my weaker leg.

Fresh meat skaters at Chinook City Roller Derby
working on their balance.
Step three is taking that one foot balance and moving.  You'll see a lot of more veteran Derby skaters using a One Foot Glide to stay on the track after taking a hit from another player, to maneuver around a fallen player, or to sneak past the pack really quickly.  During Freshmeat training, though, the object is just to be able to glide for a decent distance (usually about 1/4 - 1/2 of the track) solely on either foot.  Starting out, it was disconcerting to have to pick one foot up and pray as I rolled along. Soon, though, I found myself remembering how much I had loved to do just that skill as a kid, skating through my neighborhood.  I discovered that not only do I feel confident rolling along a straight path on one skate, but that with enough oomph and the proper lean (again like on a motorcycle - leaning so that your shoulders and hips point in the direction you want to turn) that I even feel great doing a One Foot Glide on a Turn! Slowly over the last few months, I've embraced this as one of my favorite warm up activities.

Once you've developed the strength and honed your balance so that you can effectively tackle these beginning steps, these become the building blocks for so many other skating skills used in Derby. Even some of the more difficult Level One skills like stationary stepping, turning 180 degrees while skating, and developing good crossover strides require the basics of being able to balance and skate on only one foot for at least a few seconds.  Next time, I'll talk about how these helped me to do some of the more advanced skills and little tricks I picked up along the way.

Until next time...
Nikki Tesla #134

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