Sloppy Boggins at Ted Reeve Arena


Preamble: In two previous installments, Sloppy Boggins has detailed his adaptation into the world of Stockholm Roller Derby. Originally from the the Austin Rollergirls where Derby was reborn, Sloppy nestled as a coach amongst the GTA Rollergirls in Toronto. After lending his patient guiding hand and smiles to GTAR, Sloppy left the country to continue coaching in Sweden. Everybody in GTAR still misses him to this day.

In his first installment Sloppy wrote about his introduction to coaching Derby in Stockholm Roller Derby (STRD). The second chapter GAME TIME! detailed the STRD travels to play in Malmö, then came the birth of a great day in Swedish Roller Derby, “the birth of Swedish rollerderby”, the first Derby bout in Sweden itself ever. Now comes this next chapter. Over to you, Sloppy.

Those of you who had read the previous two installments and might be looking for more “meat and potatoes” of how I see things as a trainer/coach may get what you are looking for in this installment. That being said, there are always games to be played and with two coming up I’m not going to give the whole circus away.  This one is about the development of rookies or as they are known in Rollerderby as “Fresh Meat”.

After the bouts, our focus was to test the rookies and get them into regular practice with the rest of the league. A minimum skills test always seems to put a little fear into those who take the test.  Personally, I think it’s good because it not only suggests the interest that they have in getting better at this sport, but it helps prepare them mentally for playing Rollerderby. Mental toughness is required for so many elements.

There are the obvious elements like performing in front of an audience and dealing with adversity, but there are smaller elements that, if not dealt with, can be huge. The one I think most common is the desire to do too much. A player can have great position on an opposing player and yet, because it doesn’t feel like they are doing much, they go for a hit or make a move that pulls them out of such a good position. Trying to do too much often leads to the conclusion that there is something wrong with their own conditioning. Let’s face it, we can all get better at that, but it isn’t the whole story.

When we are anxious we tense up. This requires more energy for us to do anything. There are pro hockey goalies who pass out due to this tension almost exclusively as they feel the need to be ready even when the puck is in the other end. Establishing a sense of calm is essential. And like everything else in derby you need to practice that, too.

"Rookies" left to right: Cheetah Chrome, (trainer) Lil Chazza (in behind), Abba, Crack-Her, Cou Cou Kahn, Jazz Ass

"Rookies" left to right: Cheetah Chrome, (trainer) Lil Chazza (in behind), Abba, Crack-Her, Cou Cou Kahn, Jazz Ass

(photo: Carlos Montecinos)

Another contributor is that newer players can get frustrated by their own progress. They want skills immediately. They want to get there yesterday and play their first bout tomorrow. Even the best skaters who know all the rules and have watched enough games to know how it is played still have to see it from the driver seat. They need to get familiar with actually playing the game so that what you learn can be applied to something you know rather than an abstract concept. It’s not like other sports that you grew up playing. Well, not just yet.

There are also those players that see others pass them by and feel as though they are letting their teammates down. They seem to feel that developing slower than most others is somehow a hindrance to the team/league. Everyone else knows that isn’t at all the case and yet are often too busy trying to keep up their own skills to be there for moral support when it is most required. This is where the more veteran players and coaches need to step in and explain that players develop at their own speed. To be able to see what developing skills the Freshies have when they themselves cannot can be very valuable.

Often those who excel at first are not the ones that shine a year later. There are many reasons why that may be, but simply put, some hit a wall. Support for that player by everyone is essential to help get them past whatever it may be. When they do make it past their own wall, those players seem to rapidly progress as other elements were not holding them back.

Rookies 2 Birdy and Lil Chazza

"Rookie" Birdy with trainer Lil Chazza / photo: Carlos Montecinos

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espite what some may feel at the time I don’t sugarcoat anything. That being said, remember that these are not professional athletes. So beware of all that bullshit you see coaches use in pro sports to motivate players who already know how to play and are paid exceptionally well to do so. Pros are paid to perform. Derbygirls pay to learn to get better amongst all their own personal reasons for being there. They have a life outside the sport that needs to be nurtured, too. Children, partners, jobs, bills etc. Is it ever appropriate to give them a Bobby Knight-like speech?

Being positive doesn’t mean lying. It also doesn’t mean ignoring the problems. Being positive is handling an issue in a way that is constructive. For example, a player has good position on the opposing jammer but when the jammer moves to the outside, so does your blocker, thusly losing her position by opening the inside. What do you say? “Don’t do that!!!” Ok, but consider every time you say “don’t” that you need to give the player a “do”. What do you want the player to do. In that case I want her to understand when she is in good position, when it is necessary to make a move and when not to. The player may respond with the fact that it feels like she isn’t doing anything. That’s because she is getting good position without having to consider it. The less a player needs to consider, the more has become natural to them and the more thought they can devote to where the jammer is or point differential or the team’s strategy at that time, etc. Simply put, it’s a sign of progress.

As for practicing with the more experienced players, I find it good to have the rookies scrimmage together against the more experienced players as well as against each other. The more experienced players can try new plays, work with different players and try different positions while the rookies can see what it is, in a practical way, to be good at this sport. I try to stay away from integrated teams as players see only team colours and safety can become an issue.

A second generation always seems to progress so much faster than the original group simply because of having experienced players to practice with and scrimmage against.

As for the Fresh Meat here at STRD, the trainers have certainly done a great job with them and the rookies themselves have obviously worked hard. The opportunity to play a real bout for the first time is just around the corner. Thanks to our experienced players and even more experienced occasional visitors our rookies will shine. They certainly won’t be fearful of any competitors they might face as practice has been a baptism of fire that they have embraced all the way.

With three very different bouts upcoming, preparation is underway. Hopes of a little revenge, the birth of a new team, and another battle with recently made friends.

Read all about that next time.

Thanks to Carlos Montecinos for the photos! And thank you, Sloppy!

Feel free to comment or email as always.

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