Month: September 2015

5 Mega Useful Resources to Help You Nail Crossovers

Ah crossovers, you tricksy bastards. Essential for speed and yet often baffling to skating newbies. Convincing your legs that they do, in fact, want to let you lift up one foot and cross it over the other one (on skates! while moving!) isn’t the easiest thing in the world, for most of us. While I’ve ‘mastered’ (please note quotation marks) the technique well enough to pass the minimum skills requirement, I know that my form needs much, MUCH work. So much. Luckily, there is a wealth of advice out there in the form of video tutorials, blog posts and forum threads. Here are my 5 favourites.

1. Definitely the funniest roller derby tutorial video I’ve come across – absolutely worth a watch. Key takeaways:

  • Get power from the left leg
  • It should feel like you’re climbing a mountain – sideways
  • Keep LOW and lean into the centre

2. A nice tutorial that goes into the theory of skating the diamond with bonus cute drawings. Found this really helpful for understanding why you should try to skate the track a certain way for maximum speed and efficiency. Key takeways:

  • Skating the diamond makes the best use of radial force
  • The lower you get, the more you can extend that pushing (left) leg out behind you – creating more frictional force

3. I like this video because it explains cross overs in a way I haven’t seen elsewhere.  Plus, some good moves to practice off-skates for improving cross overs. Key takeaways:

  • Make sure you’re actually sitting down into your butt to get low – not bending from the waist
  • Your toe should be the last thing that comes off the ground, giving you a final push

4. Looking for an off-skates workout to help with cross overs? Well then, skater Treble Maker #99 (of the brilliant blog by the same name) has put together this handy video just for you. GET YOUR LUNGE ON.

5. Finally, I found this reddit thread on crossovers useful. My favourite piece of advice, from rosvegas

“If you having trouble feeling what your muscles need to do during a crossover. I would suggest using the stairs. Take any common staircase and stand sideways on it. Using the crossover motion ascend the steps keeping you shoulders square to the railing. (Or perpendicular to the steps.) Do it slowly at first just to get the technique. Keep your head up and shoulders back while doing this to make sure you’re using your leg muscles to balance, instead of your back.”

(In case it isn’t obvious, this exercise should be done WITHOUT skates on!)


Come across any super useful resources for nailing cross overs? Where? Tell me! 

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On reaching the ‘WTF is going on’ stage of Fresh Meat

Speaking to rookies from other leagues, my impression is that different leagues like to approach ‘fresh meat’ training differently. Some go for scrimmaging right off the bat while others, like my league, opt for a period of building up skate skills before any contact stuff. For us, this meant a few months of drills on everything minimum-skills-related – crossovers, transitions, stops, falls – easing into contact stuff with one-on-one hits and positional blocking, followed by some wall drills. Then, a few weeks ago, we stepped it up a gear with a bit of scrimmaging (practice game play).

Now, here it maybe becomes pertinent to mention that we’ve had a lot of drop out from our rookie cohort (as tends to happen) and, as we started with a small-but-perfectly formed group anyway, now don’t have enough people to simulate a game. Since scrimmaging is so important to learning the game (I mean… duh) some of our B team have been coming along to the rookie practice to help us with numbers. Our B team are awesome – as well as being super friendly and welcoming, they are bloody good. I’m super inspired every time I watch them play. But scrimmaging with them, having never done it before… yeah, kind of terrifying. All kinds.

After that first session, I felt like a fraud. All this talk of wanting to play roller derby, wishing away the weeks of practising skate skills, dying to get to the ‘real stuff’ – and I couldn’t handle a bit of friendly scrimmaging with our own B team players! After weeks and weeks plugging away at getting better, I felt like I couldn’t remember a thing we’d been taught. Nothing could have prepared me for how fast scrimmaging would be; how many things would be happening at once, how much of shock it would be to play with much more experienced skaters. I felt like crying for the first time since I started back in March. In the moment, I was so confused by everything that was going on that I couldn’t worry about the things I’d buggered up. But lying in bed that night, trying to fall asleep, I had plenty of time to dwell on my mistakes in cringe-inducing, slow-motion detail. And I wondered more than once – am I even cut out for this?

Welcome to the ‘what the fuck is going on’ stage!

You’ll be here a while.

So, it turns out I’m not a special snowflake for feeling like this. Listening to people who know better than me (always a good idea!) made me realise that it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit overwhelmed as a freshie (er, understatement). As much of an idiot as a might feel for not being able to keep up with the B team, nobody else is expecting me to be able to match them yet. What they do expect is for me to show up, put in the effort, not whine, and get used to the fact I’m going to be playing with skaters that are more experienced than me for a long time to come. On the train home with a fellow rookie after that first session, we had a heartening realisation: this is the worst we’ll ever be. Every time we come to practice (and fall down, and pick ourselves up) we get that little bit better. Even if it’s only the tiniest bit, we’re moving forwards. We’re doing things now we didn’t have a clue how to do 6 months ago – and 6 months from now we’ll be able to do even more. Onwards and upwards.

Since that first try at scrimmaging, no other times have been quite so scary. In fact, last Friday I even caught myself having fun. Who’d have thunk it! I’m still super early in my journey with roller derby, but one lesson I feel like I can pass on to others is this: sometimes, you just have to keep showing up. For a few weeks there, my usual excitement about going to weekly practice was replaced by a mild sense of dread and feeling like I wasn’t good enough. But each week I went back and, soon enough, I started looking forward to practice again. No quick fix, no magic trick. Just showing up and trying.

As well as just sticking at it, and listening to advice from our coaches, a few blog posts have really helped me get in a more positive mindset about being a beginner at roller derby. I reckon these should be required reading for anyone new to the sport:

Have you hit the ‘what the fuck is going on’ stage? How did you deal with it?


Photo credit: Darkday, Flickr CC

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How to Change Skate Cushions: Easy Photo Step-by-Step

An early upgrade I made to my entry-level roller derby skates* was to change the cushions (sometimes called ‘bushings’, although I hear cushions is the correct term in this context). If you look at the underside of your skates, you’ll see some little rubber doughnuts (probably black in colour) between the plates and the trucks.  I’m not going to go into the anatomy of a skate, because frankly I still have a lot to learn myself, but here’s a nifty diagram showing all the various parts. Cushions are probably the cheapest part of a skate you can upgrade (I paid about £15) and they’re easy to do yourself – perfect!

Why change your cushions?  Well, the cushions that skates come with (cheapy cheap beginner skates at least) tend to be really hard, which makes side to side movement, and things like turning and transitioning, difficult. One answer to this is to loosen your trucks, which people commonly do when they start playing roller derby. However, changing your cushions out for softer ones will give you the same effect as loose trucks, but better. The difference I felt when I changed my cushions was HUGE. It took some getting used to, and some fiddling round with the tightness of my trucks, but ultimately it was a major improvement.

Changing cushions isn’t hard (in fact is so simple I wondered if a tutorial was a bit ridiculous!) but, in case someone else finds it useful, below is how I changed mine in step-by-step photos. One word of caution – make sure you get the right cushions for your skates, as there are a few kinds. If in doubt, ask the friendly staff in your local skate shop.

how to change your skate cushions
how to change your skate cushions

Do you know of any other cheap/easy skate upgrades for new skaters?

*these, if you’re interested.

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