As a part of the work on the MSRs, our task team is looking at existing successful approaches to introducing contact.
This is a call to share, if you haven't already, any best practices that you have developed in your league. We'd also love to hear about other leagues you know of that have a great beginners training program so we can reach out to them.
The questions below should give you a sense of what we're looking for. Feel free to add anything else you think is important, and we'll follow up if there's something we'd like to hear more about!
If you have an approach that you feel has been successful and want to share, or a suggestion for who we should talk to, comment here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golden City Rollers uses a 3 level approach to teaching new skaters their basic skating skills, contact, and (ultimately) the rules and strategies of Roller Derby. These 3 levels are based on the skills and requirements of the current MSR programme but break the test down into manageable chunks that also help us (as coaches and examiners) to discern a new skater's readiness to move on to more difficult skills. These levels are: Level 1, Level 2, and Rookies.In terms of the 27 laps in 5 mins requirement, we use a ramped approach to this. We look for skaters to achieve at least 22 in 5 by the end of Level 2; 25 in 5 by the end of Rookies; and 27 in 5 before Chartered gameplay.Level 1 (Basic Skating Skills):This is the first level in our training programme where new skaters learn basic skating skills (stops, knee slides and safe falls, strides, crossovers, transitions, etc) which essentially covers sections 1 to 3 of the WFTDA MSRs. We also focus heavily on effective balance and weight shifting and accompany our Level 1 programme with an off-skates fitness programme that helps build strength, stability, and endurance.At the end of this programme, Level 1 skaters do an exam to test their confidence and ability (based on sections 1 to 3 of the current MSRs). Should they comfortably pass all necessary skills (barring 27 in 5), they move on to Level 2.Level 2 (Basic Contact Skills):In our Level 2 programme, we teach skaters the basics of skating safely in close proximity to others (packwork, "falling small", avoiding downed skaters, etc); using others' assistance (whips, pushes, and pulls); and effective basic contact skills (tracking, leans, hits, etc) and the corresponding rules and penalties involved in contact. This level covers skills in sections 4 and 5 of the WFTDA MSRs. There is also an accompanying off-skates fitness programme which continues to focus on strength, endurance, and recovery.At the end of this programme, Level 2 skaters do an exam to test their confidence and ability (based on sections 4 and 5 of the current MSRs). Should they comfortably pass all necessary skills (including 22 laps in 5 mins), they move on to our Rookie programme.Rookie Programme (Derby 101):Our Rookie programme aims to teach skaters the basics of Roller Derby (rules, positions, and strategies) and, ultimately, assist in bridging the skill gap between MSRs and full gameplay. We focus on walling and packwork; effective blocking and jamming; and offence and other strategies. We also try to match each lesson with a corresponding rules section, so that we can visually explain the rules of Roller Derby to help our skaters better absorb them. Our Rookie skaters also join our A-Level skaters in off-skates fitness sessions.We slowly introduce more and more scrimmage time as the Rookie programme progresses with it culminating in a full-length Rookie Graduation Bout at the end of the programme. This bout marks the graduation of our Rookie skaters into full A-level status.Each of these levels run for approximately 12 weeks long. This can seem like an extensive amount of time but, between limited availability of practice times and the desire to give each skill the necessary time and care it takes to effectively learn it, this is what we believe is the best timeframe to train safe and confident skaters. It should also be mentioned that South Africa does not have a big skating culture in general which means that a large majority of new members have either never skated before or have not put on skates since they were a child.After having adapted our training programme into these 3 distinct levels, we noticed a significant decrease in injuries to newer skaters. This adaptation also affords us the ability to focus on individual skater needs more effectively and ensure that skaters who are not ready for contact yet are not rushed into it.We are still working on improving our Rookie programme to better help these skaters acclimatise to the chaos of scrimmages and gameplay but we are also hindered by smaller numbers which makes sessions on packwork and strategy more difficult to teach thoroughly.