Toronto, Ontario — Imagine being surrounded by some of Toronto’s toughest women. Their exposed skin reveals fresh bruises and wild tattoos, accompanied by exhausted faces covered in sweat. Their eyes stare at you with a look of judgemental criticism; these ladies mean business and are not here to joke around.
The entire group seeks direction and you must provide it. If you do not answer them quickly and effectively they become frustrated. If you do not provide the direction they seek you will not get another chance to impress them. This is the setting for managers who train and run roller derby practices.
Although the job is as tough as it sounds, you can earn a sense of accomplishment by turning these ladies into ferocious, tactical, hitting machines on the flat track by properly organizing and running an effective roller derby practice.
Here are some tips for running a roller derby practice.
You should have a plan. Winging a practice is not going to get it done. Sit down and come up with a practice plan that suits the needs of the skaters you are about to train. Talk to some of the skaters ahead of time and find out what level they are training at. If the group are beginners then make sure you put together a plan of drills that are at their level. Yes, it is nice to push your players past their limits, but doing so for an entire practice can lead to chaos, frustration and eventual confidence issues.
Make a timeline. A timeline will help you stay organized and on-track. Schedule time for warm-up, stretching and cool down and divide the remaining practice time evenly among all scheduled drills. This will give players the necessary time needed to learn and practice the skills being taught over and over again.
Do not talk too much. Some managers are notorious for talking too much. This can be a big waste of time. Teach and demonstrate the drill. Ask the players if they understand it and answer any questions they may have then immediately send them out on the track to practice. You can talk to specific players if you see something that needs adjusting or if they ask for your help. Let them practice, this is their time to learn, not your time to yap.
Make the practice fun. Incorporating fun drills into the practice will keep spirits high. A fun drill will remind the skaters why they are playing this sport. Smile and joke with your players when it is necessary. Create a fun atmosphere, but do not go overboard, otherwise your players will not take you seriously as a manager.
Finally, you should be confident and knowledgeable. Speak and teach with confidence and know what you are teaching. This shows them that you are prepared and that the drills you are running are worth teaching. If you act nervous your skaters may be nervous about your drills or ability as a manager.
Bryan Mcwilliam manages Toronto Roller Derby’s Chicks Ahoy! under his alter-ego Flyin’ Bryan Killman and also trains as part of Toronto Roller Derby’s Training Committee.
Written for: Writing for Magazines course at George Brown College in Toronto
Instructor: Steve Veale