Passing your minimum skills can be tough! Most new roller derby players come to the sport having never really skated before and some without having been involved in a sport for a number of years. Although we are all keen to get on and learn how to play the game, if we don’t manage to nail that one-foot glide or get stuck on the cone weave or the 27 laps in five minutes, it can be really frustrating.
Passing your 27 laps in five minutes is perhaps the biggest obstacle for a lot of skaters so here at Kent Roller Girls we decided to reach out to some of our own personal skating heroes to pick up some of their best tips for nailing those laps and acing the minimum skills test in general. They replied with some incredible nuggets of skating wisdom.
We hope that you find something here that makes the difference for you!
Our first tip comes from Abi Crowe (Muscle Crowe) a KRG fresh meat success story who went on to play for London Brawling (LRG) and Windsor’s A Team after learning the basics with us and passing her minimum skills.
1. My tip for improving your 27 in 5 is get low. Lower. LOWER!!! You’ll get so much more power from bent legs than when you’re stood upright. BONUS, it brings your centre of gravity lower making it easier to stay on your feet! This goes for roller derby in general too – everyone can always get lower!
Adrian Wordsworth is a 21 times individual and 5 times team British Champion speed skater, with over 40 years of skating experience. He very kindly came to pass on his knowledge to KRG at a training session last year and has given us some great tips. The first of which is all about preparation.
2. Do a proper warm up including a skate and stretch, so you’re ready to give it your best shot. Select your wheels to give you the most roll without compromising your cornering grip. This will depend on the track surface of your venue but if your wheels are too hard they’ll slip in the corners and if they’re too soft they’ll drag (each of which will slow you down). Make sure your bearings are clean, lubed and spinning freely to get the most out of them too – every little extra bit of help will make a difference!
Dirty Deborah Harry grew up at her family’s roller rink. She has been a competitive figure skater, derby skater with the OC Roller Girls, coach and ‘all around rink rat’ in her own words! She also agrees about perfecting your skate set up in your preparation to take on the dreaded laps!
3. Make sure your skates are set-up properly. Do you have the proper boot fit? The boot needs to fit snug to your foot with no forward/back movement. Do you have the right cushions for your body weight and skill level? Do you even know what cushions are?! Are you skating on the right wheel that compliments both your body weight/skill level and the composition of the skating floor? Are your bearings all fully functioning? Have you removed all the hair/gunk/dirt etc. from your truck/wheels … (not even kidding about hair! hahhaha!) Are your trucks properly adjusted to enable you to hold an edge and then switch edges?
To find out what works for you, we always recommend trial and error; borrowing wheels, trying on skates and chatting to your more experienced league members about what they prefer. Our next tip is from another of our KRG alumni (and qualified personal trainer) Molly (Lady Killer) who took her KRG training all the way to the USA to expand her blammer knowledge with Sac City Rollers:
4. It’s 5.4 laps a minute so tell yourself you’re going to do 6 or even 7. Make sure the person timing/counting for you is communicating what you need and you’re zoning into that one voice. Just like in the game, you’re never doing something alone – utilise that team mate. In the first and last 30 seconds (no matter how many laps you have left) do 3 minimum.
Jess (Lipstick Librarian) was a coach and skater also from Sac City Rollers (now Sacramento Roller Derby) and just happens to be Molly’s awesome wife! Together they’re both passionate about exercise, functional movement and utilising the power your body has:
5. Use your arms to build momentum, deep crossovers that allow you to fall into a stride all the way around the track, and matching breath to steps to keep a steady pace.
Jenna (Jennapocalypse/Sharpe) has found that maintaining a steady pace is the best way for her to complete 27 laps too. Jenna has been with KRG for seven years, two of which as captain, and has also been involved in coaching skaters from recreational league to A Team level.
6. My lungs are terrible. I know if i’m going to make it round that track then I need to regulate my breathing and keep it nice and slow. The best way I’ve found to avoid those panicked and ineffective breaths is to count. I count my crossovers and make sure I get the same number and same rhythm each time; 1… 2… 3… Glide… 1… 2… 3… Glide… Tapping the rhythm with my fingers on my wrist guards can help too. This way I know there is always a rest coming after the 3rd crossover and I can get ready to really pack as much power as possible into my next 3.
Jamie Campbell (Sparky) from Teeside Skate Invaders and Team England Men’s Roller Derby remembers what it was like to be a new skater trying to master those minimum skills.
7. As a rookie you’re finding your position in the game; searching for your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re one of those skaters that finds they struggle with 27/5 don’t worry! It’s always tempting to compare your laps with another rookie but just because another skater is progressing faster doesn’t mean you’re a weak skater. Your strengths will come through in ways you might not have even noticed yet. Don’t get hung up on getting more laps every time, the longer you play roller derby the better you’ll get, just focus on using the correct technique.
Speaking of technique, London Brawling and Team England star Kristen Lee likes to break skills down and practice each part individually.
8. My top tip is to really be disciplined in breaking down the steps to crossovers and practising each one. Just trying to skate faster isn’t going to do the job. Low body position, getting powerful pushes with both legs, really break these down to their individual movements and do them over and over. Pretend you are a speed skater with each movement – don’t cheat yourself! It’s muscle memory as much as any other skill. Those legs will and should burn. Film yourself! Chances are you are not as low as you think.
Even if you plan to spend your whole derby career as a blocker, using all your skills to slow down rather than speed up and sticking with your pack rather than lapping them like a jammer, you still need to pass your laps. JigglyTough is an incredible blocker and will take you off your feet if you try to challenge her! Her tip is to use the other skaters on track to your advantage.
9. Use the other skaters on track to challenge you to go faster/keep skating. If someone is in front try and catch up to them. If you catch them up overtake them. Similarly if there is someone coming up trying to overtake you, keep them behind, skate a bit faster use them chasing you to distract you from how long you’ve been skating, how sore your legs are etc. It’s only 5 mins then you can relax!
Treble Maker is the go-to skater for most newbies wanting to find out more about how get the most out of their training. She blogs at treblemaker909.com and you can pick up a copy of her ‘Mental Toughness for Freshies’ here. Obviously her tips for getting 27 laps are not to be missed! Here’s the first one:
10. With laps, the saying “more speed, less haste” really is true! If you panic and rush because you must get 27 laps, the worse your technique and the slower you’ll be. Concentrate on your racing line, making sure you’re taking the most efficient route around the track (the diamond or the circle), make sure you’re in a nice low, speed skater stance, think about getting the most push and pull out of each crossover… Focus less on trying to be fast and more on trying to be clean!
Demi Lition is a personal trainer and all-round derby superstar who coaches all levels of skaters at both KRG and Kent Men’s Roller Derby. One tip that she recommends is ditching the derby track completely:
11. Get outdoors on your skates as much as possible. Find somewhere nice and flat and really work on pushing out hard with each stride. After that, skating indoors will seem like a piece of cake!
Tristan Epps is a local hockey player and coach who has been skating for years and loves finding new, engaging ways to teach it to a range of different age groups. Although hockey has no equivalent to the 27 in 5 minimum skill, they do practice their speed regularly with shuttle runs.
12. My tip is to power out as many crossovers on the corners as possible. Crossovers are the the most effective way of gaining speed throughout your 27-5. Getting low and leaning right in should help in producing a good powerful cross over. If you find yourself going to wide, try and fit a few more in but with short pushes. This should take you tighter to the inside line.
Learning from other types of skating can be vital in your development as a skater, as we can see in Dirty Deborah Harry’s next tip:
13. Right away I realized that most Freshies were suffering because they did not have proper technique AND they were reluctant to spend time practicing technique preferring to rush into game play. Some skaters could overcome this but most ended up holding up their own progress.
Can you really do a kick-ass crossover? Are you really going from a right inside edge to a left outside edge or are you simply picking up your right foot and setting it down over your left? If you need help, watch ice speed skating. Their technique is easily to spot and identify. Look at their body posture from the top of their head to their toe when it leaves the surface.
Chip took a while to pass her minimum skills but once she’d decided to really commit to derby she rocketed through the ranks to become an All Stars jammer, and a very successful one at that! Chip explains that a lot of the battle with laps actually comes from your own attitude:
14. More than anything, I’d say mental attitude is important. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Worst case you don’t pass this time. So what? There’ll be another tryout. Just make sure when you are on that track, you are giving it your absolute everything… and then some! Be determined. Focus on the track and where you’re heading. So you fall over? It doesn’t mean you can’t still get 27 in 5… you already know how to get up quick! Don’t get distracted by others on the track or be afraid of overtaking. Just do it. The C in KRG’s motto H.U.C. is commit. Commit to doing your absolute best.
Next week we’ll be publishing Part 2 of our 27 tips, including advice from Lady Trample, Optimus Grime and more top tips from Treble! So for this and for more derby news from Kent Roller Girls click through here to follow our Facebook or Instagram pages.