If you’re a roller derby league, charging membership dues, then your members are your customers — your lifeblood. Much like a bicycle though, if you ride ‘em hard and store ‘em wet, well quite frankly, they won’t last ya long!
On the flipside, if you take care of them, maintain them, lube their gears (haha, yes, lube), and treat them with care, then your members will be happy, healthy, productive champions of your league for years to come.
Every roller derby league should have some kind of formalized cross-training program to support and care for its members. It doesn’t have to be time consuming. It’s not meant to create ‘punishment,’ or additional time commitment from the membership. You don’t need something highly structured, you just need… *something*!
Here are my top 5 reasons why your league needs a cross-training program:
#1 – To Reduce Injuries
There are lots of simple things your league can do to reduce skater injuries with your cross-training program. You’ll see improvements just by promoting best practices for participating in a contact sport – like comprehensive warm-ups and post-practice flexibility training. If you take it a step further and mandate a few minutes of all-team off-skate exercise before or after practices, you’ll see your insurance claims go down even further. Skaters with better balance, core strength, and power in their legs are better able to arrest their own falls. Skaters with good range of motion, and a balance of left/right strength, are less likely to succumb to overuse or chronic injuries.
Here are some helpful resources that your league can start using right away for the beginning and end of practices:
- All the posts on this site tagged “Pre-Hab” << includes stretches, concussion reduction training, warm-ups, and more.
- An on-skate warm-up routine
- An off-skate dynamic warm-up routine
- A super-quick full-body warm-up routine for people who arrive late to practice
- How to stretch everything in 8 Minutes
#2 – To Reduce Penalties
Tired skaters (mentally and physically) are inadvertently lazy, sloppy skaters. Improve your skaters’ baseline fitness, and you can expect to see fewer penalties on the whiteboard. By exposing your skaters to physical challenge, you make those challenges feel more commonplace. In other words, you’ll help your teammates to adapt their bodies and minds to the experience of being tired. You’ll also increase the level of exertion required to actually be tired, and you’ll start to see your penalty count go down. More skaters on the track = fewer ghost points, more lead jammer calls, and a higher likelihood of winning the game.
#3 – To Help New Skaters Succeed
If you’re an old crusty vet like me, it’s hard to remember what it felt like ten (ten!) years ago when you first wobbled your way out onto the track, giraffe-on-skates style. Your muscles just did not fucking behave. Your legs didn’t know a bearing from a banana peel, and every practice was like running your muscles through one of those big novelty pavement rollers from the cartoons.
Those new-skater-legs are a phenomenon we’re all happy to see the far side of after our first season or two. Yet somehow, as trainers and coaches, we act like the suffering, the struggling, the wondering why they can’t do cross-overs or “get low,” is a necessary part of the roller derby experience.
Or at least, it’s not necessary to the degree that many experience these struggles! Providing your fresh meat with some simple strength training for the “skating muscles” at the outset of your intake program can make a massive difference for your new skaters. Do you want to see them suffer because you did, or do you want to see them climb like crazy, and be ready to take your own roster spot by midway through their first season? Help your noobs succeed. Give them some off-skate homework. Minimum fitness skills = faster minimum on skate skills. Here’s an easy resource you can share with them – RDA’s free BasicsBuilder program. It’s 8 minutes a day. Stick with it for a month, and your newbies will see serious improvement!
#4 – To Help Mid-Level Skaters Soar
By year two or three of a skater’s derby experience, gone are the heady days of their first season, with all their friends and family screaming their new derby name and making signs. Now it’s grit time. Here’s where retention efforts by leagues need to ramp up. That skater is starting to come into her own. Skills are building. This derby thing is starting to make sense, and her success is addictive! AS A LEAGUE, DO NOT LET THAT ENGAGED SKATER PLATEAU! Yes, that is partly reliant on the skater herself, her commitment level, etc. But if your league can do a few small things to keep that skater moving forward? Oh man. You’ve got a lifelong committed athlete on your hands! Someone who feels like everything she tries works out. Every effort can yield results. Every bout, she emerges stronger than before. You cannot bottle that feeling, right? Marketing companies would pay you big dollars if you could!
…Except you can go a long way to creating that feeling for your skaters. By providing targeted off-skate training resources, and a culture that values self-improvement, you can help your skaters continue to accelerate their on-skate skills, much faster than with on-skate practice alone.
Tell your skaters to check out the Workouts section of the Training Resources here at RDA. You can filter by intensity level, free or premium workouts, and area of focus. Adding a couple of HIIT-style workouts from this list to a skater’s weekly fitness efforts can go a long way.
#5 – To Help Advanced Skaters and Teams Perform
Are you a WFTDA charter team looking up a long rankings list to where you want to be, from where you are today? Are you having goals meetings and planning your season and trying to figure out what it’s gonna take to get you to a D2 playoff? I have the fundamental solutions for you. #1 high attendance at every practice. #2 excellent fitness. #3 deep group buy-in to #1 and #2.
So I’m here to talk about that excellent fitness part. If your team is committed to excellence, and you’ve got 20+ people pouring their heart, soul, gas money, and free time into coming together to try to be their best, then you need a fitness program to supplement your on-skates efforts. EVERY team in the top 30 has an off-skate training program. Wanna be at that level? Get yourselves on a program. At the top tier of the sport, off-skate training is NOT a differentiator. It is the basic price of entry.
My StrideBooster program is aimed at the competitive-level skater, and makes use of some gym equipment. If you’ve got a team that wants to participate, talk to me about setting up a group rate.
Just in case the ultimate reason for the Top Five Reasons Why Your League Needs a Cross-Training Program wasn’t abundantly clear: It’s so that you can win more games!! A team full of healthier, stronger players ready to lace up on game day, plus fewer penalties during the game as discussed above, equals a better shot at winning every game compared to your less-fit opponent.
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As a league, you’re responsible for supporting your athlete-members, and creating successful outcomes for individuals, teams, and leagues. In my next post, I’ll cover the simple basics of what every league cross-training program should include.
Does your league have a structured program? Is someone in charge of health and fitness for your league? Tell me about it in the comments so others can share in your experience!
xo Booty Quake