Saturday, February 5, 2011

Coach's corner: Post-bout day

That was the definition of a nail-biter.

The Quad-City Rollers Rock Island Line handed the Rockford Rag Dolls a decent loss on their home floor back in December. So this game, the Dolls were looking for some revenge.

It wouldn't come easy tonight in what seemed like back-and-forth action the teams traded the point lead as quickly as they exchanged crowd-pleasing, sometimes gruesome-looking, hits.

At the half the score was tied 63-63 and we were starting to rotate players into the box. Luckily our veteran skaters were able to avoid lots of minutes in penalties. That needed to continue, something that has plagued us in the past.

One of our primary jammers, the Taco, had already amassed four trips to the box (the maximum allotment is seven before fouling out), which cut our ability to effectively score points in half.

We've always been lucky to have a few good jammers to rely on, but I would recommend to any team to have multiple people ready to jam at any given moment. We have some utility jammers, players we can often count on to don the star if we need them. But that's about it.

With Taco on the penalty-watch list, we would be relying on Lady Gotcha and some of our other players to try and score points.

Our primary headaches was star Rockford jammer, Meeso Thorny, and the heavy-duty hitters of the Rag Dolls. The Rockford skaters did a lot of things right and one of those was hitting. They were able to connect on a higher percentage of hits and had a great impact on our scoring.

 We started to pull a little ahead in the second half thanks to Meeso sitting in the box, but the Dolls would answer right back.

Once Rockford used up their last timeout and we still had two left I knew we would have a considerable edge in controlling the clock. We only had about six minutes left in the game and we were starting to rely on our veteran skaters to hold onto the game.

What came next, I won't know just how important it was until i get the stat sheets back and maybe watch the video if we shot any. Gotcha had lead and I had her call the jam before her opponent could score any more points.

I wasn't watching the clock however and only after I told her to call it, I realized that there were still 40 seconds on the clock.

If we had any point advantage and we had waited until after 29 seconds were remaining in the game, we would have sealed it.

If we didn't have the advantage, we needed time to get one more jam in and score some points.

Trouble is that I couldn't tell you what the point totals were at that time. 

I don't get nervous the night before a bout any more. I haven't for quite sometime. However, not knowing the certainties of tonight, the decision I made in that split second could have cost us the game or it could have provided us one more opportunity to earn more points.

I probably won't get to sleep very well. Replaying those decisions over and over in my mind.

It came down to one more jam, and unfortunately we didn't get lead. Thankfully the Dolls jammer sat in the bench, but she would be released before the jam ended without us being able to call it.

Then the point totals came in 119-119 with no more time on the clock.

We were going into overtime -- a first for our league and most of the refs at the bout.

The rules state that if a game ends in a tie, a new jam will be started. Jammers start scoring on the first pass and no lead jammer is designated, so the jam goes to a full two minutes, with the winner being the team with the most points at the end.

Gotcha was spent. She was tired and she didn't want to skate anymore. We tried to calm her down as the refs sorted out the point totals and we looked for someone to replace her, but no one wanted to step up. We finally coaxed her out there and we set up a team of blockers to help her.

Gotcha and Meeso would make a couple of scoring passes around before Gotcha would take a nasty hit, slamming her head on the floor and shaking her up pretty badly. She would tap out -- tapping her helmet repeatedly -- and thus ending the jam. Meeso scored three more points than Gotcha had before the jam ended. Unless we had gotten three miracle points the game would be concluded in one of the hardest fought games I've seen in awhile.

Roller derby is a game of seconds, every second is a valuable commodity. The decisions we coaches make can make or break a game and have a tremendous influence on the game. We have to make split decisions and we have to live with the consequences. It can be pretty hard, but you have to take each game as a learning experience. Next time I'll know to keep a better eye on the clock and know what the point totals are.

The Rag Dolls won 125-128 in overtime. As I told Gotcha and some of our other girls, I'll take a loss like that any day.