The 12th Day of Skatemas 2019: TRACK & DRIVE

On the 12th day of Skatemas, #DerbyTwitter game to me…

For the last two years, Iron Octopus Fitness has been creating “The 12 Days of Skatemas.” It’s 12 videos designed to help you improve your overall skating. Sometimes they’re on-skates skills, sometimes they’re off-skates exercises, sometimes they’re something else entirely.

However, in the spirit of the season, the decision was made to open up “The 12 Days of Skatemes” and get more coaches, skaters, and coach/skater combos to share the drills they love to help them improve.

TODAY’S DRILL FEATURES:

Artoo Detonate of Roller Derby Junkies

Artoo lives in San Francisco and has skated for Santa Cruz, Montreal, Providence, and Boston Roller Derby. She watches far too much footage and loves breaking down derby skills online at RDJ.tv and (occasionally at Rollercon) in person.

TRACKING AND DRIVING

Great blockers know how to use space and contact to control their opponents. With a slight shift of their body and skates, they can control and move players to their advantage — or trick opponents into moving into a more advantageous space.

Today, we’re going to learn a footwork progression that incorporates core skills for both solo tracking and wall work.

It includes the following three skills:

  • Basic tracking and body positioning
  • D cuts to cut off a lane and force opponents to go elsewhere
  • Reverse tracking to a side guide and hit out

You can practice this progression solo or with a buddy, and you can incorporate all of these skills into your 1:1 blocking and wall work.

STEP 1: Find your body positioning

First: Leah Davidson made an incredible resource on Day 5 of Skatemas for practicing body contact — check this out for more on contact and positioning!

For contact while tracking, I like to think about being in an “ACTIVE” stance — a place where I’m ready to take contact and transition to a lower holding stance, but not set or locked in any way.

To get there, I ask myself the following questions:

How many points of contact do I have?

If you’re fully controlling someone, you’ll have at least two points of contact: lower body (butt or hips/side) and upper body (usually shoulders/upper arm; sometimes upper side in a reverse tracking catch). Full control is great when you’re making initial contact, trapping a jammer (as Team Osom does in the gif below), or executing a hit out.

Partial control or light tracking requires at least one point of contact, and often transitions between butt/hips and shoulders/upper back. You use one point of contact when the jammer is dancing around but not fully committing. To find this stance, I like to move as little as possible while asking my partner to do both “little” and “big” jukes behind me. This gives me a barometer for how much (or little) I‘m going to need to move to maintain a tracking contact. Challenge yourself to stay as still as possible while still maintaining one point of control — when you don’t move, you’re forcing the jammer to make a choice. If you move, you give the jammer more options.

No points of contact? You may be blocking or zoning a lane, but you’re not actively tracking a jammer and you’re less able to react to their movement.

How quickly can I switch from tracking contact to holding contact?

If you’re fully coiled — your legs are bent at 90° or you have your skates or weight all in one direction — your only option is to go the opposite direction.

Coiling is great for big movement: apex jumps, jukes, big offensive hits. It’s not as great for patient tracking or guiding.

Instead, I like to think about being at the halfway point: 45° in the knees, core active but tucked in (pelvis tilted slightly forward), arms up and bent at the elbow, loose but active. (Think a big oak tree with free flowing branches: those branches are solid, but they’re flexible when they need to be.) This way, I can make smaller adjustments: drop all the way down if I need to transition to a holding positon with plowing, easily shift my weight in small increments if I need to cover the jammer, etc.

With all blocking work, the goal is to be patient and move deliberately. If the jammer forces you to move in a way you’re not prepared to counter, they win. (Check out Tui’s very patient lane blocking below for an example of being patient and not overreacting to some Very Big Jukes from Klein.)

Are my arms or shoulders going to high block someone?

This has become much more important on my list of late, both from a penalty reduction standpoint and a safety one. Our upper arms and shoulders are fantastic resources for tracking, but they come at the expense of being occasionally gangly and accidentally flying into people’s faces. Use your solo practice time to find that perfect controlled-but-flexible stance so that even when you’re making quick movements, you know what your upper body is going to do.

STEP 2: Practice the footwork.

For this progression, we’ll be using three footwork sequences: T tracking and driving, D cuts, and reverse tracking Cs.

As with body positioning, there are a number of great resources and videos on breaking down all three skills individually; I like to combine these because it makes for a nice zig-zag practice pattern (t step from inside line to midpoint; D cut to outside line, t step to midpoint then reverse track to inside line). It also forces us to think about going at 45° angles — crucial in actual gameplay because most likely the person you’re tracking is actively pushing you forward and you’ll want to track accordingly.

T tracking and driving (and their many variations): We use these for lateral tracking and just about everything in derby. They’re a great baseline step for a progression. You can also evolve this with a friend to work on T driving, as demonstrated in the gif below with Akers:

D Cuts: I use these often if I don’t want an opponent going toward a lane. Maybe I’m cutting off someone from catching my jammer. Maybe I’m forcing a jammer back to the sad place. Maybe it’s a last-ditch top-of-pack redirect toward my wall. Whatever the case, D cuts are often emergency moves — they’re larger and they involve a partial holding stop and possible drop on your opponent. This will almost certainly result in the opponent redirecting their movement somewhere else. (Y’know, unless you’re trying to come at Freight Train with speed.)

Reverse tracking: This is a heels-first side track, often to the line and regularly practiced from butts in a wall. If done poorly (with no points of contact or at a 90° angle) you might label this a “flying buttress”. But the reverse track can be a really useful tool in your toolbox if you want the jammer to continue on their current trajectory without making forward momentum. Loki does an almost textbook transition to a reverse track and catch here in this gif:

Transitioning to reverse tracking can also set up a shoulder toss or wall drive… or, in Blackman’s case in the gif below, both.

STEP 3: Put it all together.

Once you’ve found your ideal body positioning and gotten your footwork down, it’s time to add a buddy. Ask them to do prescribed movements, random movements — whatever is going to help you find your equilibrium and balance.

Remember: It’s always better to try uncomfortable movements and fail often at practice than attempt to master these skills at high speed during a scrimmage or game scenario. Derby can be a chaotic sport — the more you can isolate and master 1:1, the easier you’ll be able to incorporate into your team’s gameplay.

Happy holidays and enjoy!

Start with “The First Day of Skatemas 2019” HERE.

If you want to get all of the tips, tricks, and videos for #Skatemas2019, you can grab a PDF housing EVERY video, EVERY trick, and EVERY skater featured here 👇👇

GRAB YOUR GIFT-WRAPPED SKATEMAS SKILLS HERE.


The 12th Day of Skatemas 2019: TRACK & DRIVE was originally published in The Apex on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The 12th Day of Skatemas 2019: TRACK & DRIVE