Plain. Honest. Simple.

Good Coach, Bad Coach & Beginning of Derby Life Phase II

Amazing coaches are, well, amazing. I’ve spent years analyzing different coaching styles (including being pissed at a handful of idiots who have the nerve to call themselves coaches) as my son has navigated his way through a childhood of individual and team sports. With years of surfing, skateboarding and hockey under his belt, we’ve also cycled through seasons of baseball and football.

The worst coaches, if you’re lucky, show you how to do something and then expect you to just magically do it. However, the best coaches, have this innate ability to break any skill into a chain of micro actions/movements then pinpoint where in the chain you’re falling short. With creativity, compassion and encouragement they’re able to convey this, re-direct you and deliver an epiphany which, in turn, begins to deliver the correct body memory.

Whenever I’ve worked with my mentor, Lem, and her derby wife, Kiki, I feel like a lucky bitch to have landed in their hands. They are both in the gifted coach category. I’ve written about them before (I Got Kiki La Screw’d and I Liked It), when I was first attempting standing crossovers, so my Lem/Kiki love is nothing new. But last night I was filled with gratitude again.

I’ve been repeatedly working on my plow stop, many times to the point of frustration. I’d watched others do it successfully many times over and it appeared to me that it was all in the ankles, specifically getting them to pivot outward with a good amount of force.


Kiki checked me out and instantly sized me up. I’d been trying to model my plows after two of our team’s most awesome plow stoppers, Semper Fatale and our coach, Dita de los Muertos. They both also happen to be about four-inches shorter than me and weigh at least 160 lbs. less than me. What they do so awesomely simply wasn’t going to work for me. Kiki helped me understand how plows have more to do with core balance and weight distribution (THE most important part of all derby skills) and less to do with pivoting the ankles.

She showed me how to lower my center of gravity, sit into my plows while taking my legs into a wide stance and how, just as a matter of physics, this will bring me to a stop.

“If I told Cherry (tall, strong, beautiful, Amazon!) to stop like Dita and Semper,” explained Kiki, “she’d fall over. It’s that simple. The same goes for you. Stopping in that way isn’t going to work for you.”

So I got it. Pivoting the ankles out is more like icing on the cake. Lowering my center of gravity with a wide leg stance is like the cake itself and is tremendously helping to control my stop.

In addition, Miss Kiki broke down the movements of doing a two-foot weave, something else that has been eluding me. Again, my problem was using my knees instead of my core. Once I started fueling the move from my core (swaying my ribs from side to side and the rest followed), I picked up both speed and rhythm.

Also, I discussed one of my major challenges with Lem – getting up from a fall without putting my hands on the ground. She’s given me a new off-skates homework assignment – practice sitting on the ground, getting on my knees and going to a standing position without using my hands on the ground. If needed in the beginning, use my hands on my thigh for leverage until I have enough strength to go hands-free.

This might seem like simple stuff but when you’re trying to integrate all these new skills, it’s easy to lose track of how to break each skill down into micro movements then paste them all back together again.

A little while back I wrote a list, my directive really, of all the derby skills I need to work on. I have a ways to go, but am making headway! The things I’m starting to accomplish, albeit in a rudimentary fashion:

  • One-Knee Falls
  • Two-Knee Falls
  • One-Knee 180s
  • Baseball Slides
  • T-Stops
  • Plow Stops
  • Two-Foot Weaves
  • Hip Whips
  • Whips
  • Blocking 

My Inventory list of where I still need a lot of work:

  • Getting up from falls – (as mentioned above) Need to develop more strength to stand up without using my hands.
  • One-foot glides – Still don’t have the balance or confidence, but I believe the strength is there. I keep practicing standing on one foot when off skates.
  • One-foot weave – See above.
  • Crossovers – I can do this in a *very* minimal fashion around a corner. It’s not full and complete. I think I’ve got the concept, just need to go bigger and also figure out how to do it on a straight-away.
  • Endurance – this is my biggest challenge. I still need to strengthen my cardio a LOT in order to go faster and go longer. I’m definitely improving, but just no where close to where I need to be.

I’ve got my work cut out for me!


6 responses

  1. Have you thought about trying the Roller Derby Workout Challenge to help you build endurance? Check it out on Facebook…it’s a great group of supportive skaters. 🙂

    January 7, 2011 at 11:07 am

    • Venus N. Vee

      Hey Emily!

      Yes, I’m a member! Just checked out our exercise and diet plan for next week and getting ready to do the homework assignement. Yeah, it looks pretty much rad. =) I haven’t figured out how to get that “I’m Doing the Roller Derby Workout Challenge” button to put on my blog though. ???

      January 7, 2011 at 11:59 am

  2. I’m glad I found your blog. I think you’re my new hero.

    Shaunta (A roller derby wanna be)

    February 5, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    • Venus N. Vee

      What a compliment. Thank you! I just clicked on your blog and read your About page – eight out of 10 items were a complete match (not to mention the gluten-free pancake mix review, quality gluten-free is something always looking for). I think you’re *my*new hero. ♥

      February 6, 2011 at 8:13 am

  3. Mutual hero worship? Sounds fun 🙂

    February 18, 2011 at 6:51 am

    • Venus N. Vee

      Like. : )

      February 18, 2011 at 10:29 pm

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