Sunday, February 1, 2009

10 Keys to winning Roller derby!

Wanna know how teams win games consistently? I have come up with 10 keys that define winning derby. Take a look at teams at the top of WFTDA and you will discover that these teams possess most, if not all, of these keys:

1- Team Chemistry
In my opinion this is perhaps the most important thing that a team can possess. If a team has excellent chemistry they can go beyond their skill level. They can pick each other up when a bout is getting rough. They can encourage each other, give psychological energy that translates into a winning spirit on the track. Teams go very far on chemistry as their chief trait.

2- Attitude
Attitude is closely related to Team Chemistry, but is also related to veteran leadership and coaching. Rooks pick up on the general attitude of a team quickly. Is there finger-pointing? Are there little cliques on the team? Is there assigning of blame for losses? Or does everyone accept responsibility for the play of the team? Is there a "winning attitude"? A winning attitude is contagious. It is far easier to be a negative force on a team than a positive force. Skaters that have a positive attitude are a real blessing on any team. Leadership from the Coach(es) are also critical to the success of any team and Coaches and veterans must act quickly when a negative attitude begins to take root on a team.

3- Skating skill and speed
Although there are skaters who are "naturals" they are the exception. Skating skill and speed mostly comes from drills and hard practice. Speed really pays off in the upper echelons of WFTDA and it has been shown many times that the ability to simply outskate your opponent translates into wins...especially in Tournament play.

4- Endurance
Endurance also comes from practice and acclimation. Excellent conditioning has won many a close game and its value cannot be under-estimated. I cant tell you how many times I have seen quality endurance win games!! An average team skill-wise can defeat superior teams if they arent winded late in a close bout. A team with strong endurance can chip away at their opponent and simply wear them down.

5- Strategy
Really, strategy comes from the Coach(es). A game plan not only needs to take into account the traits and skills of the opponent but also must be ADJUSTABLE. At least at half-time, if not during play. One of the keys to any winning bout strategy is to always make sure that your teams strategy is not forced, but rather is custom built for the existing strengths of your team. In other words...the Original Muthas strategy is going to be radically different than Lovely Charm City's, or it had better be if you dont want to frustrate and stifle your teams personality. Every team possesses their own unique strenghts and weaknesses and strategy MUST reflect this. To attempt to "superimpose" a strategy on your team will only lead to frustration and losses.

The health of a team is oftentimes a matter of luck, but injuries should be addressed if they are beginning to pile up. Conditioning and flexability are of course key to the avoidance of injuries. There are many factors when it comes to team health but it is always important to step in when an injured player insists on playing when she has suffered a significant injury. Derby is a tuff sport and there are many, many instances when a skater can continue to play and not do further damage but ya hafta know where to draw the line. I would much rather lose my best Jammer for the rest of the game than lose her for the next 3 bouts because I let her play too hurt.

7- Depth
Bench depth is incredibly important and if ya take a look at the top teams in WFTDA you will quickly see that team depth is incredibly important to a teams success. You can only go "to the well" so many times during a bout and the trend to keep going to the same Jammer constantly will lead to burn-out at least if not injury. Burning out your 1 or 2 best Jammers is definately not a good idea. There needs to be a solid core of 3-4 Jammers even if only 2 are "featured" Jammers. This is true of the Blocking and Pivot positions also. Depth is often the cure to injury issues as well as a key to overcoming them. Any team that desires to play near the top of WFTDA is going to need to constantly develop skaters, if for no other reason than the issues of injury and retirement. The turnover for most teams is fairly significant and only through the constant recruitment and development of new skaters can depth be solid enuff to absorb the loss of players.

8- Experience
Bout experience is incredibly valuable, particularly in Tournament play. As bout experience increases so should the level of your opponent. If you want to see your team crack the top 25 in the rankings you are not going to get there if you dont consistently "step up" the level of the opponents that you are bouting against. Experience breeds confidence and calm under pressure.Experience builds team chemistry too...that ultra-important quality I already discussed.

9- Well-rounded Rosters
If all your skaters ahve a similar skill-set its going to be very difficult gaining any traction in the rankings because, frankly, your not going to win more bouts than you lose (if you take on quality opponents). Any successful Derby team has a well-rounded roster of skaters with a variety of talents and skills. A great Jammer doesnt usually make a great Blocker and vice-versa. Any quality team needs a variety of "body types" and temperaments. If every skater on your team is a hot-head youre gonna have problems. Likewise if all your players are the low-key and soft-spoken you will also have issues. Its definately preferable to have different personalities that can compliment each other both in practice and under the pressures of a heated bout.

10-Fans/ Crowd atmosphere
Last, but by no means least, are the fans of a team. A loud, energetic atmosphere can do AMAZING things to the spirit of a team. And it can also intimidate and shake up your opponents concentration and spirit. I have seen a crowd pick up a team during close bouts that lead to victories. Every team should always attempt to attract fans and participate in the community to build good rapport with fans and potential fans. A friendly, approachable team is golden when it comes to attracting new fans and creating loyal fans.



  1. So, have you submitted any articles to 5 on 5?

  2. DK... not yet. Maybe my Top 10 Keys would make a nice short submission. However, I may be a bit too...uuuhh...politically incorrect for them.