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Training for Roller Derby

Prepare for the Track On or Off Skates


The Philly Roller Girls skate a team intro lap before a roller derby bout
Margie Politzer/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Each derby group is unique, but it seems that the majority of today's women's roller derby leagues have the same basic philosophy regarding new skaters - physical appearance is not important, and returning skaters are welcome even if they haven't worn skates in years. The door is usually open to beginners who are willing to work hard, too. Most teams and leagues provide practice sessions as well as workshops to teach basic skating techniques and the rules of the sport. Skaters are not allowed to compete until they have enough fundamental skating skills and knowledge do so safely.

On Skate Training

Many derby skating practices or workshops begin with stretching and warm-ups to help prevent injuries. Most practices focus on roller sports basics skills, endurance and maneuvering. In addition to building endurance, many of the drills are designed to reinforce each skater's ability to do several specific things including:

  • Starting and stopping using snowplow and modified t-stop techniques
  • Falling alone or in a pack without injury
  • Skating low and wide
  • Skating at high speeds on a small oval track
  • Good rear vision
  • Good lateral movement and maneuvering around obstacles - especially the opposing team's skaters
  • Squatting, dodging and jumping while skating around a track

The majority of roller derby team or league skating practices use some combination of traditional roller derby drills, speed skating drills, modified hockey drills or other exercises that the players, managers or coaches have created for their teams.

Other roller derby activities that are used for training include scrimmage bouts between the leagues' own team members. Since coaches and managers want to make sure that no one is injured, leagues separate the new skaters from the more seasoned skaters during these practice bouts.

Other Types of Skating

In addition to organized team and league practices, most derby players also skate public rink sessions, speed classes and other workshops as often as they can to build stamina and support their roller sports training.

Skating at any indoor or outdoor location - or in any style - will help build your derby skills. Any location that is safe for recreational skating including bike trails, parking lots, tennis courts, hockey courts or driveways are great practice surfaces. Use these surfaces to practice any basics or drills that can be safely executed on them without disturbing other skaters, pedestrians, bike riders or other users. Be sure to switch to outdoor wheels, if the surface needs them.

Off Skate Training

Roller derby is designed to be played on a track with roller skates, but all roller derby training does not require a track. Skaters should do endurance, plyometric, core and strength training wherever they can, and skates are not needed for these exercises.

Use the information below to learn more about the history of roller derby, the types of derby tracks used, the equipment needs for participants, the rules and strategy behind the sport and why derby skaters love it so much.

If you want to try a quick and easy digital overview of today's derby sports, try Germaine Koh's Intro to Flat-Track Roller Derby iTunes app to get an introduction to the fast-moving sport of flat-track roller derby, including a video demonstration, explanations of the most common referee hand signals and a FAQ archive right on your iPhone.

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