To me, Halloween is like a holiday for children. I try to make it special for my neighbourhood kids but also for our skaters. So every year, we invite them to wear a costume they can safely skate in and we put together a bunch of festive games that also sneakily teach and reinforce skills.
Pumpkin Roll has the skaters down super low, rolling a pumpkin from one end of the room to the other. Pumpkins aren’t perfectly round so this will challenge them to stay low for longer than they think. I usually have teams break in half, with one half of the team on one end of the room and the other at the other end. This way, the pumpkin is rolled up by one group and rolled down by another. This maximizes the number of kids playing. Another way to ensure kids aren’t waiting around is to have them do the rolling in pairs or in threes. Balance and core engagement will be key, as well as a little strength because pumpkins can be heavy!
To have them sticky skating or toe-walking or just generally going slowly, the Ghost Walk game uses paper plates and balloons. Every skater has a paper plate with a balloon on top. They’re to take that from one end to the other with the balloon staying on the plate. Skating fast and dragging the balloon through the air is cheating. We encourage two hands on the plate with the arms extended so they can’t use their chests or face or whatever to propel the balloons forward. Why is it called Ghost Walk? Ghosts move slowly.
Zombie Tag is a tough one. Choose your fastest skater who will be the zombie virus. She’ll skate around and try to tag others. If they are tagged, they become zombies. They will now have a paper plate on the floor that they must drag around with their skate – they’ll look like they’re shuffling zombies! The zombies, too, can tag someone. Game ends when everyone is infected or you run out of paper plates.
Tell your skaters you’re going to play Duck Duck Goose and you could be met with more eye rolls than cheers.
But if you lead in to it saying, “This isn’t some baby Duck Duck Goose. This is EXTREME Duck Duck Goose,” you might pique their attention.
The rules are the same. Have a skater skate around, gently tapping the top of the other skaters’ helmets and saying, “Duck” for each one you tap. They choose one and say, “Goose” and that person is to skate around and get back to their spot, trying not to be caught by the person who chose them. If they do get caught, they get to call “Duck Duck Goose.”
But what makes it extreme? And what good is this to teach your juniors skating skills?
Speed is part of it, as well as precision. I might encourage the very new to just try their best to skate around the circle of their derby sisters, others to only sticky skate around the circle. Skaters that handle it can weave around the circle and advanced skaters can skate backwards or even weave backwards.
But it can also reinforce some of those off-skates drills you’re doing. Have the skaters in the circle stay in derby stance or have them do squats. In time, their legs will be screaming at them and they might be pleading, “Pick me as goose! Pick me!”
One of the first things taught is how to stop, for very good reasons. Especially in junior derby where some leagues keep skaters of all levels together, one could be on the track with a baby deer on wheels. If she flails or falls, for her safety and yours, you should know how to stop.
After a while, our skaters were hungry to learn stops beyond the plow, T, tomahawk, etc. So enter the hockey stop!
When we teach it, we break it down as seen on this video: https://youtu.be/km1dNyqA-AU
We have the skaters line up. They skate forward while the coach yells “Airplane!” The skaters repeat in their recess voice “AIRPLANE!” While they yell, they skate with their arms out to the side.
Then the coach yells “Twist!” and the girls repeat “TWIST!” while they twist their torsos, arms still extended. It has to be a quick snap. Their bodies are in great alignment for the next step.
This is when the coach yells “Stop!” and they swing their leg out and apply pressure on on the outer foot’s heel. Don’t overthink it!
Often, the kids are so small, their wheels are pretty hard for their weight. Totally cool in this instance because it gets that slide needed for the hockey stop.
Yeah, yeah, their arms are out. Once they’re introduced to the hockey stop and feel they can successfully execute it, encourage them to not use their arms. “Airplane” can then become just “Skate” or whatever you fancy.