Sunday, June 15, 2014

Toe-stopless Tuesdays

This year, our league has tried something new with our training. Every first Tuesday of the month, we hold a "Toe stopless Tuesday" practice, and yes the name is supposed to be provocative.  All league members who come to practice have to take their toe stops out, or put them up as high as possible, and explore the world of edges! Since I've been getting some questions about it from other leagues, I thought I'd share our new experiment.

So, why did we start messing around with asking our players to take out their toe stops? Well, to explain why we did, I'd have to go back to about 2009, when I joined derby. At the time, my league didn't encourage people to use toe stops in derby. All of our freshmeat skills were based on edges, including sprinting and stops. You could have toe stops, but they were definitely seen as a crutch; I actually had teensy tiny ones after I passed my assessments, but only used them to get up quicker from a fall.  Eventually, our entire league embraced toe stops. But as the years progressed it seemed like our toe stop training overtook our edges training, and everyone who came through our freshmeat program was prodigious at toe stopping all over the place, but their edges were sorely lacking. Hey, we did the best we could with our training, and sometimes you have to sit back and reevaluate what your plan actually is.

The funny thing about practicing your edges is that it's kind of hard to break people away from their
You'll need some of these.
old habits. Team members who relied on their toe stoppers for just about everything were reluctant to take chances during drills or scrimmages on learning their edges. So, we came up with a low-risk method of easing people into "making friends" with their edges.

One of the things we noticed when we started Toe Stopless Tuesdays, getting on the rink might be the most dangerous part of the whole evening. Even if you're constantly reminding yourself not to use your non existent toe stops, people still seem to blank out and fall flat on their faces. Seriously, like two steps and wham! Wipe out central! Another issue with no toe stops is skating bakwards; well, it's more like stopping while skating backwards. That one takes two or three falls to get it into your head. Trust me. You try not forget, but sometimes habit wins. We kind of had a running joke about who would be the first to wipe out; it became a point of honor if you were the first.

When we do toestopless Tuesday, we usually don't do any contact; mostly we work on transitions, and stopping. In fact, almost every drill we use tends to come from hockey sites I go creeping on, like this one. Hockey has some perfect drills for edges; I'm sure some of you know this already, but I'm just offering some info. Hockey drills are tough to master, but they're really fantastic for derby.

Has this training paid off? Honestly, I see that people in our league are more aware of their edges than they've been before, and that's a great first step.


  1. I have been using them since I started Roller Derby..!!!

  2. Interesting concept. I'm 45 years old and was a quad speed skater. I always had plugs, never toe stops and that's how I learned to skate. As a matter of fact my hubby and I both resisted toe stops until we found what useful little tools they are. But after reading this post, I think it definitely would be great for a newbie skater to learn without them and not rely on them so much

  3. I definitely want to practice without them. I very rarely use my toe-stops, mainly for stopping while skating backwards, but I duck-run to pick up speed, I always use a flat foot rather than my toe-stops when getting up from a fall, I just can't seem to put my faith in that bit of rubber at the end of my toes, so I have been toying with the idea of not having any. This was a really interesting read. Thanks! :)