The end of our 1st bouting season, open letter from our coach to the team [11.07.2012, by Sir SkateAlot]

What a great bouting season 2011-2012 we had!
Same time last year we only had played 2 unofficial scrimmages, we had not played any official bout, organized only parties and friends and family days and were still learning the basics on how to play roller derby.

© Ian Roofthooft

© Ian Roofthooft

After one season, we hosted tree home bouts, against the Ruhrpott Rollergirls, Roller Derby Metz Club and the Romsey Town Rollerbillies, we played in two away bouts against Les Quedalles, Paris Rollergirls’ B-Team and our rematch vs. the Ruhrpott Rollergirls, played scrimmages against the Gent Go-Go Rollergirls, Rotterdam Death Row Honeys, the Brussels Derby Pixies, Rockcity Rollers and Eastside RocknRollers and participated in several other unofficial scrimmages and bootcamps. One way or the other some consider us to be an experienced team already.

© Nele Van Schoor

When one looks at the first bout of the season and at the last bout (both against Ruhrpott Rollergirls), it’s obvious how much progress we made. We skate faster, with a lot more agility, we play smarter, we are more focused and don’t panic any more when things go wrong. Yes, we lost that last bout, but that tells us that Ruhrpott made a lot of progress as well. And also that there is still a long way to go, no matter how much we improved already.

© Ian Roofthooft

It’s a good thing to look back and see what we accomplished, and to be proud. But we also must look forward. One thing we learned last Saturday is that the other teams are working hard as well, and they’re improving just the same. We shouldn’t think that since we worked hard to get where we are we can now relax. When we come to a stand-still, the competition will take over. So let’s look forward. Where should we improve?

© SkullCrusherLottie

There are so many aspects to consider in a roller derby training plan, there is roller skating agility and contact skills, there is strategy, there is athleticism (power, flexibility, speed, endurance) and there is teamwork and mental skills.
The team’s roller skating skills have improved dramatically this year. We can see that when we have to teach new skaters to play with the more advanced ones. It will be a big challenge next year to bring every skater at the same very high level. Sometimes the differences are so big, we will have to adapt our training plans at those different levels. On the other hand, everyone learned a lot of new moves at Derby Revolution. This means that everyone, even the best skater, has to maintain her skills level and that we should always be on the lookout for new effective moves. And we should keep working on the basics, if the basics are not right, new fancy moves won’t help us at all.

© Ian Roofthooft

We have learned to implement strategy this year. This may sound strange from a team that has the reputation playing very strategic. But the last weeks I finally got the idea that we got our powerplay strategy right. And that was the first time I had that feeling with a specific play. What we learned from getting this one strategy right is that learning strategy is much more complicated than it looks at first sight. First of all you have to notice there is something going on in the derby world. That’s not our biggest problem, we have always been on the lookout for such things. But then the work only starts. Next you have to understand completely the how and the why of this strategy. Everyone on the team has to master the skills involved in that strategy. And finally you have to learn how to play the strategy as a team in such a way everyone blindly knows exactly what to do. We finally learned how to do that. Now we can start working on more and better.

© Ian Roofthooft

When you get involved into a new sport, you learn a lot of new stuff. You learn the skills, the rules, the basic strategies, … But after a while, learning the new things is no longer the only thing you do. You start training for your sport. You work on power, speed and endurance. You repeat those things you learned in the past, so your body keeps remembering them. That’s a next step we have to take. It is great to come home after practice and to count the new things you’ve learned. But training is also repeating those things you already master. When you are in the learning stage, you’ll see result after only one practice. When you are training, you see the results in the long term. When you want to go from apprentice to athlete, that’s a step you have to take, a step we all have to take.

© Ian Roofthooft

When you take the step from apprentice to athlete, you should also support this by changing your lifestyle to a more athletic lifestyle. What you do outside roller derby, influences what you can do on the track. Learn how to eat and drink more healthy, make sure you have enough rest, limit drinking of alcohol, not only the amount but also the occasions, take care of those little illnesses and injuries that are no problem for normal people but are big issues for athletes, and stop smoking (com’on, you’re athletes, you can do that).

© Ian Roofthooft

You took a very time consuming hobby. It takes time to come to practices at least two times a week (don’t tell any other top athlete you’re working hard by training two times a week, none of them will take you serious any more), it takes time to be at the bouts, to take up other responsibilities, you must have the discipline to prepare proper food and have enough rest, and later on you’ll want to take on other practices, working on endurance an strength. You will need to do some good planning and a lot of discipline to give all this a part in your life.

© Ian Roofthooft

This season we learned so much about the mental game roller derby is. I am so proud about the way we stayed focused last Saturday. We never panicked, and despite the fact we were behind all the time, we kept fighting, maintaining the discipline and the good spirit all the time. That’s also something we learned this season, losing isn’t that bad as long as you put on a good fight and lose with honor.

We have the reputation of being really strong at playing as a team. But I have to admit we met our masters last Saturday. We will have to work even more on that. But working on team play, team strategy, and working on your athletic skills needs practice time with your team. I can’t repeat this enough, plan your life in such a way that practice is (one of the) first priority(s). Being a roller derby athlete needs commitment.

© Ian Roofthooft

We came a long way this season, and next season there are some great challenges. We have bouts against the The Pirates Brides, from Wuppertal, Stuttgart Valley Rollergirlz, Roller Derby Metz Club, Dolly Rockit Rollers, Royal Windsor Rollergirls & there is the 1st Benlux Roller Derby Tournament called ‘Skates of Glory’. We want to set up a real, fully operational second team. Our Zebra team will be developed further. And there is so much more in the pipeline. All those great events definitely make all the hard work and the effort we put in our team worthwhile.
Have a great time during the summer break. And prepare for all the wonderful things we’ll do next season. I’m so looking forward to take those next steps with you all.

What a great bouting season 2012-2013 will be.

© Ian Roofthooft

Your coach,
Sir SkateAlot

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