Congratulations, you passed your WFTDA minimum skills! Now you find yourself skating at league practices alongside skaters who have, in some cases, been doing this for years. Some of these skaters can seemingly knock you down with the slightest flick of a hip, and now you might be wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. Don’t worry, this is totally normal. It may not feel like it just yet, but it’s only a matter of time before you, too, are effortlessly knocking people over and performing other exciting feats of agility and awesomeness on the track. Here are some things you can do to speed up your progress as a new skater.
What are your derby goals?
Passing your minimum skills is a big milestone, but it’s really just the beginning of your derby journey. You may have been so focused on getting to this point, you haven’t given much thought to what you want out of the rest of your roller derby career. Take some time to think about what’s most important to you. Do you want to meet new people and have fun? Do you want to make the travel team eventually? Your goals may change over time, but asking yourself these questions now can help you set priorities and make the most of whatever time you have available in your schedule for derby.
Go to practice.
This advice may seem obvious, but everyone has a life outside of derby, and it’s not always easy to make it to practice. Consistent attendance is the single biggest variable driving improvement in new skaters. Set an attendance goal. In my first two years of skating, my monthly attendance goal was 100%. I didn’t always make it, but setting that expectation for myself made the difference many nights between working late or getting to practice. Not everyone can commit to a goal that ambitious, but take a look at your schedule and figure out what’s realistic given your other commitments and your derby goals. Then hold yourself accountable.
It’s tempting to want to be on skates all the time when you’re new. And who has time to cross train when you’re focused on hitting that ambitious attendance goal you’ve set for yourself? You need to make time. The right cross training will help prevent injuries, build your stamina for blocking and jamming, improve your balance and agility, make you harder to knock down, and make you faster than you ever dreamed. (I shaved a full 30 seconds off my 27 in 5 time after I took up powerlifting!) Not sure how to get started? Look for more about that in a future post.
Keep working on the basics.
Even if you go to practice regularly, you’ll probably need to spend more time on your own perfecting the basics. Sure, you passed your minimum skills, but can you consistently perform all of those skills at a moderate, or even fast pace? Can you do them equally well on your weak side? You don’t need much space to work on these basic skills. Find a park, a parking lot or a hardwood floor and practice on your own time. Some of my skater friends used to brag about doing their housework on skates. Give it a try (unless you have downstairs neighbors).
Watch and listen to high level derby.
One of the best ways to develop your understanding of rules and strategy is to watch and listen to high level derby. Check out the archives on WFTDA.tv and focus not just on the skating, but also on the announcers. They know a lot about derby, and you can learn from hearing them explain what’s going on.
Study the rules.
Speaking of the rules, read them, study them, learn them. I know it’s boring, but you won’t regret it. And you’ll spend a lot less time in the penalty box.
Roller derby is a demanding sport. It takes a lot out of you physically and mentally, and it can suck up every minute of free time in your schedule if you let it. Don’t let your enthusiasm as a new skater lead you down a road to burnout. Keep your goals and priorities in mind, but always remember derby is supposed to be fun. Savor every friendship you make, every victory lap you skate, every autograph you sign—yes, it will happen. There are a lot of people who only dream about doing what you get to do out there on the track. Never forget that.