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Beginning Roller Derby Practice for Balance & Stability

Skating Horse

Let me tell you a little story about what it was like for me when I first started roller derby. Years before I joined I had a couple of back surgeries that had left my body in a very weakened and obese state. I may not have looked obese but my body fat percentage was incredibly high due to a lack of muscle tone. During my surgeries I was not able to walk or move around AT ALL for weeks or months at a time. As you can imagine this leads to all types of problems including a big one – muscle atrophy (where your muscles literally waste away). Atrophy is hard to recover from – and I never really took the time to get back into shape afterwards. So roller derby hit me hard.

Getting Balanced

On my first day and the weeks that followed I was lucky if I could even stay upright on my skates – which just standing alone rose my heart rate incredibly. It was slightly absurd, not to mention all the falling. Every 2 to 5 seconds you could find me on the ground. I now know it was because I couldn’t hold my edges at all – so my feet kept rolling out from under me.

Once I got my balance down it was much easier for me to move on to actually learning skills. If you have balance you will be stable and feel much more confident on your skates. Therefore I like to think of balance (two-footed and single-footed) as the foundation of derby. Over the last couple of years I have coached probably hundreds of skaters and I have never seen even ONE have as rough a start as I did. I tell you this because it just goes to show that anyone can learn derby, period.

Practice Format for Balance & Stability

  • Skill Level

Class Overview

Skills: Balance, Stability, Basic Skating Skills
Focus: Maintain proper form during the entire practice. Stay low in derby position with “nose, knees, toes” alignment when shifting weight back and forth
Levels: All/Beginning to Advanced
Time: 1 hour
Track: Banked/Flat
Needed Equipment: Set of cones

This practice format is designed as a one hour training session to teach beginning skaters balance and beginning balance related skills. This practice is best for skaters that have done at least a couple weeks of training already or are picking things up quickly.

Balance & Stability Coaching Session

Duration (min)ActivityDescription
2:00Skate the trackHave skaters skate the track in the opposite direction at 70-90% of full skating pace.
3:00PacelineIn the normal derby direction, have skaters first do a paceline weaving from the back to the front, then weaving from the front to the back. If you have very new skaters allow them to leave 1.5 to 2 length arms distance in line and keep the line moving slowly.
5:00StretchDynamic stretching routine.
23:00TotalBalance Basics
2:00Walking side-to-sideStarting on one end of the track using it as “lanes” instead of a round track, have skaters line up in two or three lines all facing the straightaway. Have the lines slowly step to the side using medium sized steps from one side of the track to the other. Switch directions and have the skaters step back to the other end of the track leading with the opposite leg. Skaters should be focused on being low, picking a point off the ground to focus their eyes on, and not bouncing up and down.
2:00Walking double grapevinesUsing the same set up as above have skaters slowly walk from one side of the track to the other, this time using a grapevine step. Skaters should cross their legs over to the front, and then to the back, repeating all the way across. Another way to think of this is a step to the side, a step across the supporting skate, a step behind the supporting skate, repeating stepping across and behind.
3:00LateralsSet up cones as goal points for skaters about 5-10 feet apart switching from the inside to the outside of the track. Set this up on both straightaways. If you have enough skaters to develop a line, have those in line do one legged squats, switching legs back and forth. Have skaters do slow rolling laterals focusing on stepping side to side from cone to cone with eyes focused on the next goal cone.
2:00Partner one-footed glidesHave skaters “partner skate” with another skater holding hands to help each other with balance. Make sure that skaters are not leaning on each other – only holding hands. Both skaters should still be using proper form and facing forward.
3:00One-footed glidesHave skaters perform one legged laps at their own pace holding each leg out as long as they can. Then skaters will gain speed, switch legs and repeat. Beginning skaters can keep to the straightaways, but encourage them to try steering around the apex.
2:00Low lateralsSame as the laterals above, but this time have skaters touch the inside or outside line when they get there, making sure they keep their chest and eyes up.
3:00One-footed slolamsSame as one-footed glides above but this time instruct skaters to try to skate side to side while doing their glides by utilizing their edges and pointing their working-leg’s knee in the direction they would like to go. They can still keep to the straightaways for this drill but should now aim for lateral movement while maintaining a one-footed glide.
3:00One-footed lapsHave skaters now perform one-footed glides at a normal skating pace, including attempting to steer around the apex’s. The goal is to be able to hold a one-footed glide for at least half a lap including two turns.
3:00Crossover lateralsAgain, using the same set-up as both laterals above, use the cones as goals. Have the skaters utilize only a crossover step to reach each cone.
14:00TotalBalance Drills
4:00LaddersLadder drills.
5:00Balance Obstacle CourseSet up the following obstacle course with two lanes:

  1. Cone minefield – In the first half of the first straightaway, skatter cones all around and have skaters laterally step around them creating a path through.
  2. Apex glide – Set up three cones right before the first turn, outside, middle and inside of the track, creating two lanes. Mimic this set-up right before the start of the second straightaway as the ending point. Have skaters gain speed immediately after the minefield then pick a foot and start a slow controlled one foot glide around the apex trying to hold it to the second set of cones.
  3. Shifting weight – For the length of the second straightaway have skaters slowly shift their weight back and forth from left to right, focusing on “nose, knees, toes” alignment.
  4. Apex glide – Same set up, have skaters glide to the minefield using the opposite foot.

If you have enough skaters to develop a line, have those in line do slow and low squats.

2:00Standing ClocksHave skaters pick a 5-10 square foot area and stand in place in the middle. Golng around in a clock like motion, have skaters get low and put their leg out in front at “12:00”, get low and squat. Keeping leg extended, have skaters slowly swing their leg around to “3:00”, get low and squat. Repeat at 6:00. On the last position have skaters reach back in a deep cross-over position as far as they can to about 8:00. Leg should be held in the air for the entire duration of these movements if possible, maintaining a one-legged squat. To finish set leg down for a beat and have skaters repeat until the time expires. Switch legs at 1:00, half-way through.
3:00Skating ClocksGive each skater a cone and have them pick a 5-10 foot square area and place the cone in the middle (the track lines do not matter for the drill). Without rolling, have skaters make lines back and forth from the cone at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, 9:00 and around again. So skaters will be stepping forward, backward, diagonally, side to side, etc. Skaters should be low and utilize their edges to maintain stepping movement and avoid rolling.
2:00Skate the trackHave skaters skate the track in the derby direction focusing on trying crossovers at 50-70% of full skating pace.
1:00Skate the track – oppositeSame as above still focusing on trying crossovers, but in the non-derby direction.
 5:00StretchesStatic stretching routine.

Balance & Stability Tips & Tricks

  • What is low? Read all my tips and tricks for getting low here.
  • Having trouble staying balanced while stepping? Imagine that your whole body is holding a very large body pillow from your feet all the way up to your shoulders. Imagine  “holding the pillow” wrapping your whole body around it to keep it close to your body while still standing and keeping your body in proper derby position. This visualization will usually help remind you to tighten all the stabilization muscles needed to step side to side on skates with balance and stability.
  • Use “nose, knees, toes” alignment when shifting weight, especially during any one footed work.
  • Use the shoulders, knees and hips to steer. Always point them all toward the direction you want to go.
  • Keep your focus forward and up – not on the ground. “Eyes up”.

Download & Print Beginner Balance & Stability

Download an easy to read and printable PDF version of the Beginner Balance & Stability session here. Please allow the new tab up to 2 minutes to load depending on your internet connection speed – this is a high quality, print-resolution file. 🙂

Beginner Balance & Stability Download

Beginner Balance & Stability PDF Download

Categories:  CoachingTraining

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