Bracing for the Win

Here’s a link to a quick game we play that might help reinforce a myriad of blocking skills like bracing, walling, and even communication.

Triangle Tag is quick and simple to set up. You need no equipment.

Three skaters form a triangle. You can have a wall of two with a bracer at the apex or have all three bracing (for some skaters, I find this brings them more success because many kids like to touch things with their hands).

You’ll then have a tagger outside of this triangle and this skater will try to tag the bracer either by getting around the base of the triangle or busting through their wall.

For sure, you can turn this triangle into a box and delineate whom should be tagged. But, perhaps you’ll have my experience that younger or beginner skaters find it clearer to be able to spot the top of a triangle to either tag or protect.

Shootin’ Dice Warm-Up Drill

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Is it possible to get youths excited about strength-training? It is when you can approach it as if it was a game, I think!

Our skaters typically can’t wait to put their skates on. After all, weekly, they only have the time during practice to be able to wear them. So we came up with this warm-up to incorporate a little bit of off-skates training in with their warm-up.

You need a set of dice (or more if you have a big group). We got our foamy sets from the dollar store. It’s a good size and of a good material. The skaters can easily toss it. It’s soft so if it rolls on someone, it won’t hurt. And it’s sturdy because, well, they’re kids.

On a separate piece of paper or bristol board, write out what exercise each roll will be. So, for example, if the skater rolls a one, she looks to the paper and reads she has to do squats. A two is push-ups. Three is a fast feet run on the spot. You get the idea. I recommend rolling just one die out of the two or more that you have. This way, others aren’t waiting too long for their turn to roll.

So while the skater who rolled is doing her exercise, her partner is skating a predetermined amount of laps (we ask for three laps). When the laps are done, they skate in the middle of the track where her partner is doing exercises and they trade positions.

We usually run this drill for 10 minutes.

 

Go Tag

Here’s a quick game you can use. It’s like off-skate training you can do on skates!

Divide your skaters into two lines. Everyone in the line will be doing squats. Meanwhile, you have a “chaser” and a “skater.” These two juniors begin skating around the two lines of squatters with the chaser trying to catch the skater.

As the chaser skates around the squatters, she can at any time tap one of the squatters and shout, “GO!” The tapped player now becomes the chaser and the original chaser takes the empty spot in line and proceeds to squat.

When the skater is finally tagged, the chaser now becomes the skater and you can pick a new chaser.

This game works best when you change the chasers frequently, which will likely happen because this gasses the kids out. Even when you think you’re getting a break by tapping a new chaser, you don’t really get a break because you then need to squat.

A terrific way to enforce agility, stopping, strength training, evasion and speed.

MVP! MVP!

I’ve been noticing a trend around awarding the MVP. To my league, it’s something we talk about at halftime. “Start thinking about skaters on the other team that are getting your number. Ask yourself why and see if you can correct that. If not, consider that player for MVP.”

Among the leagues we play, we typically have the skaters and bench coaches choose the MVP for the other team. My league strives to award the Most Valuable Player to, well, the most valuable player. And the coach has the final say. But what we often experience is our strongest skaters never see MVP.

Why is that? Is it because of sore feelings? “Let’s give it to so-and-so instead because she didn’t do much to upset us.” Is it because they’re trying to be magnanimous? “Let’s give it to so-and-so because I bet she never gets MVP.” I’m really not sure.

Either way, it’s wrong.

MVP ought to be given to the skater who the team would have done much, much worse without. Let’s face it, there’s always a standout.

You could argue that it could mean the same player gets the award many times over. But I’m okay with that. Chances are, that superstar skater you have has worked hard to get where she is. And others on her team should look up to that work ethic. Of course, if she has a bad attitude or something, then as a coach, you should have a talk about leadership with her.

Further, awarding the MVP to someone who may not have done well may only reinforce a mediocre effort or, worse, give that child a big head. It could also cause strife within the team when those who tried hard see that a weaker skater is awarded. They may understand when the more experienced skater wins but giving it to the new person who constantly got goated? That kind of reeks.

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To get around this and bring the positive mojo back to our skaters in the dressing room is the Sugar Shaker Award. It’s just a simple sugar shaker filled with candy and is given out in our dressing room after the game.

The Sugar Shaker Award goes to a skater who made the game sweeter. Maybe she pushed everyone to work harder or helped to keep morale high. Maybe she had an amazing 20 point jam. Maybe she was always the one at the right place at the right time to block. Sure, it may not be the superstar you have on your team but it usually is someone pretty close. This reinforces the value of people who play hard and bring a lot of positivity to the team dynamic. Because we go around to each skater and ask who they’d nominate and why, it lends to positive peer feedback – like a verbal hug from your derby sisters.

 

 

Halloween Games

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.

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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.

 

EXTREME Duck Duck Goose – Derby Style!

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!”iu-3