"Any skater/athlete can learn to skate fast, have endurance, agility, awareness in the pack, skater skills, transitions, blocks, etc. These skills are teachable.
Not every skater/athlete will learn how to have dedication, desire, patience, or how to be a team player and come to practice."-Smarty Pants
So, you’ve made your team’s 20 person roster. Huzzah! Look at you go, gurl! You should be very proud of yourself, because your hard work has been paying off. Unfortunately, now the really hard work begins.
This is my seventh year in roller derby, and my derby career has had its ups and downs. One of the more disappointing downs I ever had was being on the rostered twenty for my team, but barely making it on a game roster, or getting much play time at all. I know that every member of the team helps the team train to win, but sometimes it was really depressing to know that I would be taking days off of work, paying for hotels and airfare and maybe skating in one or two jams. I know that many people experience the same situation in making the charter roster their first time, but it can be quite demoralizing if you let it get to you.
If you find yourself in this situation, there are a few things you can do to possibly increase your chance to make a game roster and get more playing time.
- Find your friends. Because twenty skaters are on the sanctioned twenty, that automatically means six people are not going to be rostered. You’re all in the same boat, so find someone you can work with and help each other get better. Share your experiences, and celebrate your victories. Root for each other, because in the end, you’re hoping to have the chance to be their teammate on the track.
- Come to every practice ever. Yes, it’s a fact that some rostered skaters will skip a practice here and there; it’s not awesome, but it happens. If you haven’t made a roster yet, or have barely played in many jams when you have, you need to get to all of the practices. Show your coaches and captains that you are dedicated and in it to win it. Practicing hard is going to get you to a higher level of skills, but it also allows you to have time for your teammates to build confidence in your abilities to understand strategy. If you’re not there enough, they can’t trust you to do your job on the track. Being familiar with how your teammates play on the track is so key to fitting into a competitive team.
- Cross train train train. You can’t do everything you need to do to develop into a competitive athlete at practice; cross training is a way to improve your endurance, strength,
This was running. I hate running.
- Go to outside training. Is Smarty Pants holding a clinic near you? How about Quadzilla? Learning from people outside of your league is so helpful! First of all, these trainers have no preconceived notions about your abilities or potential. Their feedback is based on what they see you doing now, which can be supremely helpful. Also, it gives you a list of skills and ideas to work on, which doesn’t have to be announced to your league at large. Sometimes it’s easier to hear feedback from people who are removed emotionally from what’s going on in your league than your own coaches. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't seek out feedback from your coaches either.
- Talk to your coaches and captains. Have you discussed the areas where they see room for improvement? I don’t mean harassing them right after a roster has been released, but asking them what they think you should work on? Sometimes people can’t always put into words what they’re thinking, but they should have some concrete feedback to give you other than “you’re just not ready yet.”
- Play with your B team. In fact, play all the derby you possibly can. In our league, our six non rostered allstars are encouraged to play as much as they can with our Bootleggers. Nothing replaces game experience; where else can you get a full ref crew, NSOs and crowd noise to deal with? Nowhere. Go to invitationals and open scrimmages too. The more experience you get, the better your track awareness should be.So, let's say you do all of these things, and seven Bonnie Thunders clones suddenly show up to your league and they get rostered before you. That's an exaggeration, but it can happen. You can work your tail off and never make a roster. At that point, you need to ask yourself if you are ready to keep working for possibly no pay off. Nobody can answer that question but you, and your answer may change from season to season or even roster to roster.