Fresh meat viewpoint: “Did someone say Bootcamp?”

For new skaters entering the world of Roller Derby, it can be pretty terrifying not to mention just a little overwhelming. The same can be said about the concept of bootcamps. What happens when the two come together? Rachel Abbot, a recent CCR recruit gives us the lowdown.

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Boot Camps usually describe a group fitness class that push people a little bit further than they would normally push themselves. The idea is that everyone involved works at their own pace but they team up to work towards shared goals. They can provide social support for those taking part and provide a slightly different environment in which to train.

As a Fresh Meat skater with CCR (roughly 4 months into minimum skills), a Boot Camp seemed like a good opportunity to do some intensive work and try to make some substantial improvements. Although I attend practice twice a week (general life stuff allowing), sometimes after a long stressful day at work it can be difficult to focus. I hoped that a Boot Camp would allow me to allocate some time purely for Derby and to really get my head down with things.

A fellow skater sent me a link to Roller Derby Leicester’s “Train To Win” Boot Camp running on 28/29th June, and in haze of pre-holiday excitement at the airport and lack of concern for my bank account, I clicked the “Buy Now” button for my paypal account and committed myself to a 2 day Roller Derby Boot Camp. I tend to suffer from buyer’s remorse (Sorry Topshop)  and this was no different, although now I was committed. I started worrying; what if I wasn’t good enough to keep up? What if it was too intense? What if it was a waste of time and money? What if, in fact, it was a weird cult initiation and I’d be required to bring along a dead crow and the sweat of a virgin to gain access to the secrets of Derby?

This is actually what happened.

Saturday:

  • 9.30am-10am Registration
  • 10.30am-11.30am Track 2 Strength and conditioning (off skates)
  • 11.45am-12.45pm Track 2 Team work (on skates)
  • 12.45pm-1.15pm Lunch
  • 1.15pm-2.15 pm Track 2 Nutrition (off skates)
  • 2.30pm-3.30 pm Track 1 Power skating (on skates)
  • 3.30pm-4pm Cool down

After being met at the carpark by an RDL member and navigating the short walk to the impressive Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Sports Hall (RDL’s home turf) I started to get a little jittery as more girls (and a guy) turned up. We were given stickers based on our current ability (as Fresh Meat I’d gone for a Level 1 package – blue sticker). We also had to have a black top and a white top for drills. In my group there were skaters from RDL, Wolverhampton, Croydon (I remembered watching my first CCR game where they played Croydon), Dolly Rockits and even one skater who had come all the way from Jersey in the Channel Islands.

We had a talk on strength and conditioning and the importance of doing exercise outside of derby and the types of exercises that will be most beneficial because of the movements we do in Derby. The importance of strength and core training was highlighted, as well as interval training for building fitness and endurance.
After this we did some team work – learning to make different kinds of walls (such as the “web wall” from Gotham), Fat Controller walls and reactive walls. This involved a lot of contact with a lot of girls I didn’t know which was definitely useful!

After lunch we had a talk on nutrition and I had the inevitable guilt trip due to the leftover take away pizza I brought with me for lunch. Discussed choosing right food types for pre/mid/post session/games and importance of healthy lifestyles for Derby.

We then had another skate session before cooling off.

Sunday

  • 10am-10.30am Registration
  • 10.30am-11.30am Track 2 Mental training (off skates)
  • 11.45am-12.45pm Track 2 Blocking (on skates)
  • 12.45pm-1.15pm lunch
  • 1.15pm-2.15pm Tactics Track 1 (on skates)
  • 2.30pm-3pm Feedback and discussion
  • 3pm-4pm Skills practice

Sunday started us with a talk on mental training, which I think is key for all skaters, but feels especially relevant to us as Fresh Meat skaters. I am still amazed that many of us new skaters have stressful, important real life jobs that call for us to be confident, leaders, organised and quick thinkers, yet the amount of worry and self-criticism and lack of confidence in ourselves as new skaters is huge, and everyone there was reporting similar feelings. In my small discussion group there was myself (A project Manager for a drugs charity), a Police Sergeant and a Teacher – but we all felt that our mental blocks were often a bigger issue than our physical abilities. I think that it’s really important we recognise that we all have these feelings, and bad practices and that as skaters and team mates we can support each other.

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We then did some more blocking skills where we practiced using the “edge” of our skates, both forwards and backwards, and glides and also skating backwards on two feet and then changing to one. This was quite hard going backwards but I did find that being able to do it over and over did help it sink in. I was asked to demonstrate the forward inside glides in front of everyone which was really motivating to have something like that recognised!

Later we looked at tactics, which was quite fun as sometimes as min skills skaters we can get a little overly obsessed with getting things “ticked” off and working our way through a list rather than trying to understand the game we’re eventually hoping to play. We looked at when a jammer would call off a jam for a tactical benefit and where blockers need to be depending on who gets lead jammer. Quite basic, but it was quite thrilling to wear a jammer star cover for the first time and to do the “hips” to call off the jam, even if we weren’t properly blocking at this stage!

The end of the day saw some free time to practice skills and get feedback and help from other coaches and advanced skaters.

It was clear that RDL put a lot of emphasis on other types of training such as the “mental game” as opposed to just physical training. They had also organised the day well and were sensitive of individual needs as even in Level 1 we had a big spectrum of abilities and length of time skating. I personally found it a challenge to skate with people I was unfamiliar with, but I think this is something I need to get used to. However it was reassuring to hear same stories from other skaters. I also got some different perspectives on some skills and that can be very useful, because sometimes it will just “click” if you hear a different suggestion from someone else. Even after just 2 days, there did seem to feel like a “team” atmosphere within the newbies, even though I could only name about 3 out of the 15 people in the group. It just shows how inclusive Roller Derby can be. I would definitely recommend a Boot Camp to other Fresh Meat skaters and I’ll be looking out for more in the future.

With Thanks to, and photo’s courtesy of, Roller Derby Leicester.

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