Friday, March 30, 2012

Transfer news - Gotham's Wild Cherri transfers to Atlanta

Cheri "Wild Cherri" Kresge will transfer back to the South Central Region, joining the Atlanta Rollergirls after a season playing for Gotham . 

"My love life takes me there," Kresge said. "I really wish I didn't have to leave Gotham. They were an amazing team to work with. Gotham is my N.Y. family  - the closest friends I have up here. I'm going to miss all of them."

Kresge was a part of the Gotham's 2011 Women's Flat Track Derby Association championship team, winning first place during Continental Divide and Conquer, the WFTDA's championship tournament, in Denver, Colorado.

Atlanta currently sits fourth in the WFTDA South Central standings and ranked 30th in the world on Atlanta finished fourth in the WFTDA South Central 2011 tournament Show Me Der-B-Q in Kansas City, Mo.

"With the Atlanta Rollergirls, I hope I find a happy derby home and I plan to sit put for awhile," Kresge said. "I will be trying out for the travel team and hope to help build a collection of Ws going into regionals this year." 

Atlanta is 1-1 for the WFTDA 2012 season. Atlanta defeated Maine 181 to 114 on Feb. 18, 2012, but lost to Nashville 166 to 136 on March 24, 2012.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fun with derby geometry

PROXIMITY: Ask a skater to define proximity, and you might get a strange look on her face. Ask her to stand on the pivot line on the inside of in-bounds and a partner can be on the outside line, then ask her how much distance is between the two skaters. Watch her head explode when you say zero feet.

The pivot line is 13 feet wide, the difference between the inside curve distance of 12.5 feet and the outside curve distance offset by the 1 foot variance (26.5 feet minus 1 feet = 25.5 feet) 25.5 minus 12.5 gets you the 13 feet. So between the two players, there's approximately more than 10 or 11 feet.

However when defining proximity, skaters who occupy the same 90 degree plane actually have zero distance between them. This is important to remember when defining packs, because two lines of skaters occupying the inside and outside of the playing field would essentially have no space between them.

The Red Pivot and the Green Pivot have zero distance between them in regards to proximity. As long as the Red Pivot and the Green Pivot remained the designated pack, the Red Blocker would have to maintain proximity to be considered part of the pack, or at least within 20 feet of the pack to remain in the engagement zone.

It's a fairly simple concept, but it can take a lot of work explaining to someone that there is actually zero distance between two players. You could be 11 feet apart on the 90 degree plane, but you might as well be touching each other.

This comes up more from a reffing perspective than a player perspective, because the Pack Refs are defining packs based on proximity and it doesn't take much to change the dynamic of that proximity.

This is also helpful to skaters who are using a slow, deliberate strategy to keep the pack pace slow. By maintaining proximity to another skater, you are still making an effort to maintain the pack, even if she is on the inside and you are on the outside.

FORWARD PROGRESSION: I see this happen a lot, and we've been victimized by skaters unaware that they may be crossing the jammer line during knee-down starts.

Remember knee down starts are utilized to create No Pack designation upon the Pack whistle. With the evolution of derby the persistent use of the knee down start is becoming more prevalent, and skaters are picking up Illegal Procedure penalties for lining up Out of Position.

The main explanation of this came down after Windy City's use of a strategy sometimes referred to as Spiral Staircase, Golden Spiral, etc. Essentially the Windy City blockers were trying to get their jammer through quickly, so they utilized a form of the Killbox, but lined up behind the jammer line - taking full advantage of the rule below.

Skaters who line up behind the jammer line are considered Out of Play as a result of "leaving" the front of the pack. This is because Game Play happens from the Jammer Line and progresses counter-clockwise. See the diagram at left. The Red Blocker behind the jam line is considered Out of Play - False Start upon the Pack Whistle, which is simply a minor. 

This is a good way to pick up an intentional Fourth Minor. However, if the minor is in error and it's not the fourth the skater is ruled to have left the pack from the front of the pack, not from behind. If the Red Blocker were to skate forward to rejoin the pack, she would be issued an Illegal Procedure Major for Illegal Return/Re-Entry.

Since the Spiral strategy became wildly popular, Women's Flat Track Derby Association issued a couple of rulings:
1 If at the start of the jam a Blocker is touching on or behind the Jammer line, she is considered to be out of position ahead of the pivot line and has committed an Illegal Procedure False Start minor penalty. 

2. It is required that the majority of on the track Pivot Blockers and Blockers from each team begin in this pre-jam positioning.

These two publications help illustrate why it's important to make sure skaters line up in front of the jammer line, not on the line, and also why you want to make sure most of your skaters are In Position prior the the Pack Whistle.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Learning a little more about sport psychology

We had the pleasure of hosting a Bonnie D. Stroir bootcamp at our home venue on Wednesday. Bonnie was kind enough to come in, give the Quad-City Rollers some personal pointers for an hour and then turned around and give a skills bootcamp to invited leagues for three more hours.

I definitely recommend any coach/skater to take training sessions from the big names. I learned so many little things I never would have picked up from just watching and practicing. If you get an opportunity to go to bootcamps, RollerCon or invite a guest coach in, I'd recommend doing your research on them and if they have the qualifications, then get to it.

As a coach, you have to keep an open mind about different philosophies and strategies. The last half-hour was reserved for Bonnie discussing various ways to solve emotion/mental fatigue and keeping everything positive.

I institute a quiet bench each time I coach, which helps me focus and makes it easier for the skaters on the track to hear if I have to bark some quick instructions, i.e. telling a jammer to call it. Bonnie's advice went even further: Don't shit where you eat. Essentially, your bench area should be a "safe" zone for you to come back to and be able focus your energy, not a place to come back to and bitch about calls, non-calls, whatever. One it wastes your energy, and plus it can affect other skaters. I've had this happen in the past when a skater comes back to the bench and blows up. Everyone's attitude heads south and a coach has a harder time getting everyone focused. Get it all out before you get to the bench so you can refocus.

The other philosophy that I loved and hadn't really considered was the idea of not watching the bout from a bench. Bonnie mentioned studies about athletes who actively participate in a sport and another group who just watched a film of their sport. Both groups registered muscle and mental activity in the same locations, effectively proving that you spend the same amount of energy watching as playing. By not watching the bout from the bench, a skater saves that energy for when she actually does need to skate.

Her formula went something like this: If you play every other jam and watch the jams you're not in, a skater is essentially spending twice the energy she would need to. A skater who doesn't watch the jams she is in, spends half the energy of the first skater, and has that much energy at the end of the game.

A jammer who only plays every four jams (and doesn't watch) would only use one-fourth the energy of a player who played and watched all the jams.

Last night we optimized the quiet bench and the don't watch policy and I think it went amazing. Our team was so composed throughout the game despite some pretty serious offenses from both sides.

I talked with a few of our skaters afterward, and they said they felt great - even after a very hard fought bout. It's amazing how much a few little pieces help out in the long run.