My teammates and I knew we were gonna be beasted at the five-hour Fitness Gone Rogue bootcamp last weekend so prepared well in food (apart from Bella's deranged mix of pasta, prawn and egg, which smelt like a closet full of dirty pads).
The session was hosted by Devon Clotted Screamers and led by Rogue Runner, one of Team England and London Brawling's star jammers.
I'd just seen her in action against Tiger Bay at Defend the Palace and was blown away by how she cut through the pack, owned the edges and practically threw big blockers over her shoulder with her strength. All despite being so tiny...
Rogue divided the day into three parts:
1. Off skates fitness and skills training.
2. Jamming footwork and aggressive jamming.
3. Blocking tactics and offensive blocking.
No space to go through all the drills here, so I’m gonna list some useful takeaways in each section...
This section included a series of ladder drills to encourage fast feet; followed by circuits, which were designed to up stamina and flexibility/hurt so bad.
This was preaching to the converted as I’ve been doing ladder drills outside training for about a month now and the impact on my game is already noticeable, especially in balancing the strength and flexibility in each leg.
Rogue talked here about the importance of derby-specific off-skates training, which has very different requirements to other sports, not least that blockers need to be really good at putting weight in their heels, rather than on the balls of their feet, like jammers.
She also emphasised that ladder drills are about control over where you place your foot to build strength, and that they need to be adapted to the movements of derby. Eg. Two-in-the hole forward four spaces, followed by a leap-lean back three spaces, is ideal for training jammers to pull off the wall and attack another spot.
It occurred to me during these drills that adapting some of my ladder and cross drills to one-footed ones would help me generate more force in each leg, so I’m gonna be doing that in the coming weeks and assessing the impact.
Jamming footwork & aggressive jamming:
We started with toestop circuit training, during which I elegantly faceplanted at Rogue’s feet. She gracefully told me to get lower, which was the key to it all. The lower I was, the more stability and leg power I had to drive and change direction quickly.
Here’s Rogue’s tips for getting lower: hips behind shoulders, shoulders behind knees, hips square and drop your bum. This avoids the bending over form of getting low that loads of us do and isn’t low at all. She also emphasised building up core strength as a means to hold your body weight up and keep you light on your toes.
Next up were footwork drills using wheels only. If you used a toestop, you had to hit yourself in the head. There was a lot of that going on. The best tip was not to worry about it looking pretty. I finally did a left-footed hockey stop, so felt like a winner.
This was building on Rogue’s brilliant blog about mental toughness: http://www.fitnessgonerogue.com/mental-toughness/. She shared a lot of her wisdom from this blog and then zeroed in on how to turn your negative critic into a positive coach.
She discussed the importance of the words you use to frame your training and attitude to a game. She talked about a turning a jammer ‘fear of getting penalties’ into a positive challenge: ‘how can I get through without committing penalties?’ This translated into becoming an aggressive jammer. YEAH!
I liked this a lot, as fear of getting penalties usually makes you tentative, which is not the head space you need to be in to get through a hefty wall of death.
ATTACK THE GAPS NOT THE BACKS was the main motto and Rogue shared some tactics for doing so, which included:
* Turn your body so you aren’t so wide.
* Use the power in your legs, rather than stopping and leaning into the wall (this is where the off skates circuits and weight training really helps).
* Pick off a hanging bum or rib area and lead with the hip, or shoulder.
* Cut through on diagonals to ensure legality of hit.
* Keep your feet moving forwards.
* Step back off and change direction.
DEFENSIVE BLOCKING was up first. There were some really great drills here involving communication, controlling the speed of the jammer and moving between flat and sweeper walls.
Especially useful was learning tactics to avoid the multiplayer blocks the new rule changes have focused attention on. This involved stepping over your fellow blockers to bolster the wall (rather than turning sideways and bolstering with your arms), recycling in at the opposite side of the wall from the OJ when you lose her, and clearly communicating to your team when you do, and don't, have the OJ under control.
We did a lot of work on small footprint plows on both sides and scrubbing with your feet to keep the speed down but avoid stop blocks.
Rogue emphasised putting your weight in your heels and dropping your centre of gravity as key for blockers, keeping your hips square to offer the largest surface area to pass and avoiding the bunching that opens up inside and outside line channels for jammers to zoom through.
The thing I love about bootcamps the most is that they demonstrate how quickly the game is evolving in the UK. The work Rogue did with us on offensive blocking came directly out of London’s experience at Champs last year. She said they realised after the Atlanta game that their defensive blocking was awesome, but so was Atlanta’s, and so jammers were getting stuck for laps and laps and needed offence.
This is something PCRG has experienced more and more as we’ve played higher ranking teams. We’ve recently been working on our offence and lifting weights to get hench, so I’m looking forward to drilling what Rogue taught us at training. That included C-cut blocking and two-person offences, where two blockers piggy-back on each other to take out opposing blockers. It was very effective and loads of fun.
It’s not just Rogue’s weight training that enables her to move a blocker much bigger than her out of the way, it’s also the philosophy of using your whole body to ‘steal space’ rather than ‘hit a person’. It was obvious again how the off skates training to get low and coil the power in your legs, and the weight training to get the muscle fibres moving faster, had a major impact on how effectively the block was delivered.
Thanks to Rogue and the Screamers for a great day. I think all the south west leagues were represented on Saturday, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the new skills and tactics play out in the upcoming South West Season.
Favourite gem of knowledge from Rogue: Focusing on keeping weight in heels as a blocker.
Funniest moment: We were all gathered round in a semi-circle when my teammate Bella skated by Rogue casually asking a question and fell at her feet. It wasn’t clear what had caused the fall, but Bella jumped right back up again and started skating nonchalantly backwards, continuing to ask the question as if nothing had happened.
Chocolate count: 1 x wispa, 1 x snickers, 1 x chocolate milkshake and 1 x chocolate brownie. This was excessive for me (even in a bootcamp/bout situation); but, as I’ve mentioned, I was excited. Nb. Don’t look to me for nutritional advice.
Best food stuff: Other than my chocolate milkshake, Hot Topic’s couscous salad with roasted squash and aubergine, grated carrot, sultanas, spinach, pine nuts, tomato and garam masala. It was so good that I copied it (minus sultana, bleurgh) and had it for lunch yesterday.