OMG CAMP, part 1

I attended a Blood & Thunder camp last week in Waterloo, IA, and I’ve hardly come down from the derbyhigh (and don’t want to!), but I’m totally panicking about losing all the information I absorbed over those four intense days (well… three full days plus a morning… we did hit overload by Sunday at noon).

So here’s a sort of capsule of what I gained from the experience, a summary with a little reflection but one that will no doubt change throughout the coming months as I think and practice more:

  1. Rules should be broken, sometimes.  This goes for persistent advice as well as the rules of play. Derby stance is a contextual goal; get low when you’re racing around, when you’re in the pack as a blocker and want to be the most stable, but jammers need to fuck with elevation, be unpredictable once they hit the pack.  Sometimes derby stance is not where you should be.  Likewise, minors aren’t always to be avoided; sometimes you should take a minor intentionally, whether at the start by intentionally poodling or after a hit OOB by cutting one skater.  Knowledge is power, with the rules; the more you know, the more power you have to make split-second decisions about how to handle different situations.  And yet still, top skaters have some concerns about the ethics of pushing into the gray areas of the rules… or relying on that type of strategy too much.  So there’s a limit, somewhere, to keep an eye on.
  2. Derby is a sport, yo. Coach Pauly talks about derby girls vs. derby skaters, and the inevitable tension in new leagues as they try to figure out which they’re going to be.  The attention to hydration, nutrition and training (strength and endurance, skills, and gameplay) throughout the week should make clear to any “derby girls” (as opposed to “derby skaters”) that they’ve signed up for a sports training camp; this is work, not play.
  3. Strength and agility are king. You simply can’t be effective out there if you can’t manage quick changes of direction, can’t turn or be turned in any direction and recover quickly, sprinting to the next place you need to be.  Though more scrimmage time is the only thing that will build awareness and condition game-situation responses, you’re crippled on that track without agility. Drills that focus on the use of toestops and quick stopping (hockey stops, power slides, or tomahawks) should be built into practices as well as skaters’ on-your-own practice.
  4. Derby girls, on the whole, are EXCEPTIONALLY generous.  Four coaches with a stake in keeping secrets just opened up and shared gobs and gobs of information about strategy and plays that they could have kept to themselves.  They’re excited by new leagues, new skaters; excited to share and to listen to our perspective on derby. Skaters will help each other with drills, give tips and suggestions and encouragement.  Rockstar skaters put themselves in the middle of drills (OMG I just practiced a can opener on Shenita Stretcher!) and there’s very very little diva behavior in a camp like this (so little that it would be really noticeable if someone pulls anything like that).
  5. Yes, it’s possible to skate for 9 hours a day for three days, and not get sick of derby(!)  Sure, there were moments when I didn’t think I could get up off the track because my legs were so sore; moments when the speed got too fast for me to keep up and shoot backwards through each person in the paceline, and I had to take a break.  But never did I question my love for this sport, for skating and competing and fighting my way through a line or pack.  If anything, I think the total immersion and exhaustion and amazement only helped to shut off the part of my brain that questions my own skills, and allowed me to dig deeper and push myself to do things my brain would have questioned.  The moment of deciding not to try out for the camp bout team, after assessing the play level of the other campers, was a little heartbreaking.  But it was the right decision this time… because there is SO going to be a next time.
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