Roller Derby Coaching – Part.2 When the Plan isn’t working

Your plan is written and then it happens – for some reason something doesn’t seem to be working out, you have an ‘oh my god’ moment….

I used to genuinely panic at this point – I’ve been known to actually skate out of the hall in a flat spin, shout at myself in the toilets and come back after giving myself a little internal shake. Now however I have developed strategies to help me deal with this.

When a plan isn’t working, it means generally one of a few things is happening, there are probably more examples, but these are ones that I have ‘plans’ for:

    1. You escalated things too soon
      Woops, you got the ability level of the people you are coaching wrong. I still have days like this when I coach certain drills and go ‘oh wow’, or when the team’s energy is (for whatever reason) ‘low’.

      It can be internally super frustrating when you overestimate the level – but it happens, we’re all just humans at the end of the day.

      Remember in my last post about building to something, this is where it’s also super useful to overplan – look at your basic point, and take it back a few extra steps and make a note of it either mentally, or in your coaching book. This won’t be the drill/skill you’ll run unless you need to, but by overplanning it means you are more prepared for the situation if it occurs.

      The best way to avoid this, know your skaters, know your team, and talk to the other coaches – regular feedback sessions can really help with this. Coach more, learn more, and experience more – you can only be more prepared by having more experiences as a coach/player/official.
    2. You didn’t end up with the right number of humans at practice
      Don’t react negatively to low attendance, accept it, and move on. Highlighting your frustrations in a low attended session doesn’t solve anything. Be there for the people who did turn up and coach them – they deserve your focus and attention.

      Micro Packs – sounds daft yeah, but it totally works! I think because we’ve always been a smaller sized team – until recently – we had to work in micro packs all the time. Drills would be 2/3 walls and a Jammer forever, and if you had the extra bodies chuck some offence in.

      They are a useful tool and also allow the drills to occur in an adapted variant – there is also a very real event in roller derby which would mean you won’t have a full cohort on track, penalties anyone? So use it to your advantage, get your team nailing working in pairs – because let’s be real, who even uses a four wall defence anymore?!
    3. Injury (minor or major)
      We’ve all been to that session, you know the one, where you have two injuries in 10 minutes, panic is on everyone’s faces and it’s the week before your first game of the season.


      Allocate the appropriate people to care for the injured party, call for an ambulance (if required), or get another coach to step in and get everyone doing something to take their minds off what’s just happened. Stops on the whistle anyone?

      I have been the injured person in this situation, and there is something quite calming about seeing the world carry on around you while you’re dealing with a fracture.

      I’ve been to boot camps where there have been serious injuries, and by the coaches remaining calm and moving everyone on to the next thing (whilst ensuring medical care is in place for the downed skater) it helps refocus and stabilize any fear.

      We play a contact sport, bad shit happens on occasion – and as a side remember to make use of the WFTDA concussion resources at practice too, they’re super useful and should be in every leagues kitbag!

It may sound daft, but generally over-planning is your friend. I actually have an entire back-up plan in my coaching book which contains six drills that I know are easy to turn to, that players get confidence when doing and are my grounding drills when things aren’t working.

And remember – your players (unless you share your session plan in advance?) don’t know what you had planned, they literally just want to skate, play roller derby and improve. As long as you don’t panic or show that things aren’t working they will never know!

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