Why off-skates is more Important than ever

I don’t know about you guys, but playing Roller Derby is getting harder – not as in the rule book (that’s another post in itself) – but as in just physically playing the sport…

I’ve been involved in Roller Derby for around 6/7 years, which compared to some folks makes me a novice, but can you remember when you first started and it was hard, but not quite like it is now. Now when I hit a wall of blockers, I feel like I actually hit a frikkin’ wall! And I don’t believe it’s just down to the ability of the teams that we’re up against now, I think it’s because as a sport we’ve turned a huge corner over the last few years in developing our athletes,and cementing ourselves as a sport.

With rules and strategy changes came new formations, and with that came a whole new level of required strength and fitness – and along came the off-skates training. I’m a HUGE off-skates convert. I avoided it like the plague for a long time, but I honestly don’t know why, because it is a total game changer.

Many people take up Roller Derby as a fun way to keep fit (hands-up right here, a sprightly 27 y/old me waving manically), but, and I may get lynched for this, that is soooooo very, very wrong! The level of fitness you need to even pass minimum skills has gone up, the expectation on our newer skaters is higher, we’re more ruthless with what we expect as a pass/fail. Which can only be a good thing – but you can’t simply use Roller Derby as a fitness regime, it’s a sport, and I believe (on a personal level) that you can’t do it without some basic level of physical fitness.

It’s not a ‘sport’ for everybody anymore, it’s a sport, and not everybody can sustain, maintain or achieve the basic fitness requirements to play 2 x 30 minute halves by simply turning up to two hours of drills and scrim 2-3 times a week… or is it just me, am I the anomaly? That’s a genuine out-there question – responses in the comments please!

I considered myself to have some level of fitness before I started but nothing compared to now, my regime now is very different.

I train with the team 3 times a week and then do at least 3 Crossfit sessions a week. That’s 6 days of training a week, and I still don’t feel fit enough sometimes, and I’m from a small team in British Championships Tier 3 – we’re not WFTDA top level!!? So what those guys do on top of all that I have no idea! Because that is some next level sh*t

Another thing that I’ve found is that off-skates training is working muscle groups I don’t work in my skating, even though I need them and use them, the focus in training is on drills and strategy and you can’t focus a two hour session on one muscle group or movement. So doing basic training is fine, but to really work the muscle you need to ‘work the damn muscle’ by doing focused movements and lifting some weights specifically for it for more than 30 minutes a week.

I broke my ankle and I think this made me more conscious of just how important it is to work every muscle, and strengthen the entire body. In fact the timeline for me starting my off-skates fitness journey was shortly after finishing physio, getting back on skates and wanting to be game ready faster, but it evolved into something else and has become the habit that it is now.

So what’s the take away from this? Yes, you probably can pass mins and play Roller Derby without any off-skates training, but will you be building a long lasting derby career, and will you be able to sustain the physical endurance that is required to play the sport for a full game, probably not…?

But that’s based on my honest opinion of the direction the sport is heading – and I can only see that as a good thing for the sport. Whether that’s controversial opinion or not is for the world to decide.

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