Sunday, December 28, 2014

Why you should go to basic skills practices in the "off season"

I'm heading into my seventh year of derby, and sometimes, I'm just tired. Yeah, I know; some people are going in their tenth or eleventh year, but seriously folks, derby can be super draining. I love it, but sometimes I want to hit the pause button and not think about it as much as I do.

This year, during the off season, we offered our newer skaters a solid month of basic skills practices. Everyone in the league was encouraged to come, but not required. These practices were non contact to let people in our league heal and not keep beating themselves up, and quite a few of us took advantage of them. Even though I wanted to work on my basic skills, I still was kind of reluctant to give up any free time to drag my butt to practice during the off season.

But I went, and I'm very glad I did.

Because of our new practice schedule,  we've had to divide our practices up, so our two travel teams practice separately and the come together for a league practice once a week. Our freshmeat have their own practices where anyone can attend, but they focus on basic skills the entire time. Last year, I could only make it out to a few of these practices, so I didn't really spend a lot of time with our freshmeat, but during December, the only practices available were freshmeat practices. At first I thought they would be tedious and boring, sort of like eating broccoli or kale instead of a good cheeseburger, but they weren't. And here's why.

My Little Sister showing her classy side.
1.  Freshmeat is super enthusiastic about skating and derby. Way back in the day, I couldn't understand why anyone wouldn't want to skate all of the time! Any opportunity I could, I was on skates and working on something derby related. Parade? Hell yes! Open skate? Uh, double hell yes! Over time, I didn't answer extra skating's siren call nearly as often because I was getting bogged down with training, volunteer duties, BOD responsibilities, and allstar duties.  I forget sometimes that skating can just be fun!  Beth Row and I were running a Saturday morning basic skills practice a couple of weeks ago; we were pretty sure nobody was going to show up because it was the day of our end of the year party. We were both ready to just bail on the whole practice, when a group of freshies showed up. They were amazingly excited and pumped to be at a ten am practice. That kind of enthusiasm is contagious, and it's the good kind of contagious in derby. Sometimes, vets have to have a reminder of why they joined the sport in the first place. Oh yeah, I like to skate!

Also, we've had more time to bond after practices at crappy restaurants; I might even venture to try karaoke at some point. 

2. Everyone needs to review the basics. Yep, everyone. Even if you've been skating forever, you probably have some weaknesses that you don't have time to work on during your team practices or your league practices. Sometimes people feel like they're supposed to be able to do everything perfectly when they're on the travel team, and admitting that they aren't able to perform every little skill is just not possible. They don't want to look weak. Basic skills practices can be a safe place to work on that left plow stop, or your weak turning side, or a power slide. I've been working on my opposite hockey stop, because I have never had the luxury of time to do so.  Going to basic skills lets me work on my stance, strengthen some rusty skills and enjoy the feeling of success without being under tons of pressure to do things in a contact practice. This month of basic skills practices have given me the opportunity to train my muscles to get lower and retain my derby stance; hopefully, I'll be able to stay low when I'm on the track and blocking!

3.  It's the off season, but that doesn't mean not staying in shape.  Some people take off their skates for the off season and don't even look at them until league practices start up again. Rest is good, and I completely endorse resting from contact and intensity, but keeping your basic skills polished and your ability to skate without huffing and puffing is also something I endorse.  It's a balancing act; you want to take a bit of a break, pay attention to your personal life and rest, but you don't want to become a slug either. Also, I like to eat well during the holidays, so burning some of that off while skating helps me from growing out of my pants.

4. Your experience will help others when you show up. Being a seasoned skater means you've been around the track more than once. It also means you might be able to give a newer skater feedback that could help her master a skill she's struggling with. Having someone with a different perspective watch you work on a skill can jog that "ah ha" moment loose in your brain. Without the seasoned skaters that helped you become a better skater, you would have had a harder struggle, so go out there and share the knowledge with a newer skater!

Oh yeah, and have some fun.  

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