Roller Derby Advice!

New to roller derby?
Have a question about where to start, what to use or how to do something? We can help! Send us an ask or Submit or tag #derbydirection in your posts.

All answers about rules are defaulted to current WFTDA/MRDA rules, but I will answer about other rulesets.
Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm in a WFTDA league, but even before we were apprentices, everyone had to pass all the skills including laps before practicing with the league or scrimmaging. If you can't pass everything you have to stay with the freshies until you can. You also have to resit the skills test if you've been away for a certain amount of time or had a serious injury. We skills test annually as well. I was surprised to learn many leagues don't skills test after long breaks (6-8 weeks+) and that worries me too.
derbydirection derbydirection Said:

I disagree about the after long breaks thing- I’ve been doing this for so long that a 6 week break isn’t going to make me forget how to do a T stop or positional block someone. But we also test 27/5 on a consistent basis and if you don’t pass it, you have to redo it the next practice until you do.

We also do team fitness every practice, and we remind people of this before a break that the first practice back will also have fitness, so its in your interest not to stop and get fat over the break! People always do, and then die the first few practices. We also retest for injuries, or if anyone has stepped away for personal reasons for long breaks, then we put them back into beginner level status, where they can’t scrimmage until we’re fully comfortable with their skating and skills level.

Other then that, we have our skills test once a year as a league for returning members, and then as often as needed for beginners (we don’t have a freshmeat team, but do usually have 2-4 newer skaters at a time). 

Asker ashlinyack Asks:
I agree with you on minimums, especially the 27/5! My team is in the middle of British Columbia, and we are small. But we expect all members to pass minimums from WFTDA in order to play. And my coaches has said it is not just for this or that, it is always for safety. If you don't know the track, your going to either hurt yourself or another player. And no one wants that.
derbydirection derbydirection Said:

Yay more people who agree! It’s so weird to me that people don’t use it as a minimum and let skaters play without it. Thanks for answering!

Asker tatihc Asks:
I just wanted to say that I read your post about minimum skills, and was shocked to know that even WFTDA leagues don't care much about 27/5. I'm from a small league in Brazil (the biggest league in the country, but still way smaller than any league in the US), and we demand minimum skills for playing other leagues, no exceptions. It's MINIMUM SKILLS, the name says it all. We had to go through some broken ankles to get to that rule, but I agree with and respect your position.
derbydirection derbydirection Said:

Thanks for the answer! Yes, it’s really strange to me too. And from what I hear, a lot of smaller leagues are forgoing some of the skills to make it easier for people to skate. Which seems so weird and wrong to me!

There’s a thing going around my area that’s really concerning to me. Now, none of the teams in our region are WFTDA, or are ever going to be WFTDA. We’re talking small town, “B level” at best teams that simply play each other because we like derby. I dont think most of the skaters know what the Hydra is. So don’t think of this as top of the world style derby. 

But after talking to all sorts of teams in the North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana that are in our level, I’ve discovered that my league is in the minority that we require all of the WFTDA Minimum skills to be passed before we allow skaters to participate in a game with another team. This includes the 27/5, which is our minimum. We don’t allow skaters to play in any sort of game or scrimmage that involves another team if they can not pass the minimum skills. Doesn’t matter about attendance, or other abilities, if you can not pass all of the skills you are not eligible for rostering outside of scrimmages in practices. No exceptions. This has meant that we have skaters who can rock all the other skills but can’t do the laps (or we even had one girl who struggled with the single timed lap but could do the 27/5), but are not game day eligible. 

In our area, even teams that are higher level then us, teams are allowing skaters who have passed everything except the 27/5 to skate in bouts. This is troubling to me. I know why this is- since none of us are WFTDA, we do not have to use the minimum skills, and while all of the teams do use the minimum skills as a base line, we don’t require them for game play with each other. We do have requirements in our contracts about each skater having passed skills to keep everyone safe, and it bothers me that people don’t see the 27/5 as an important base skill. It’s more then just endurance, it’s skating ability and knowledge of the track. 

I hate that people write the skill off as “too hard” or “not an accurate example of skill”. It bothers me that people write it off and laugh at it, and yet it’s a requirement for a reason. And I hate knowing that I am on the track with people who have not passed minimum skills. Because that’s what it is- you are unable to do a skill, which means you have not passed them. It’s not a scale or grading system, it’s a pass/fail. Passing basic skills is a minimum for a reason, for your safety and for the safety of everyone on the track. And the laps are a safety requirement as much as hitting or stopping properly. 

I feel like my league and my thoughts are in the minority when it comes to teams who are not WFTDA but use the minimum skills as our baseline and use them as an actual cut off line. And i don’t think it’s right. 

Anyone else, who is not WFTDA, and never will be, what is your leagues policy on minimum skills and players playing in games? What kind of standard do you have for everyone to be safe on the track?


The most valuable and consistent suggestions are:

Through the corners, turn your shoulders and head to the opposite side of the track.
Rhythm: use slow, steady, rhythmic strides; count your strides per lap and try to stay consistent; avoid fast choppy strides.
Pursue good cross-overs, or as I like to call them, “cross-unders”; use BOTH feet to stride (yes, your inside foot too). This takes leg strength and practice!!
“Skate the diamond” – in other words, the most efficient path around the track.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. There are other versions of this diagram that indicate exactly where on this path you should execute a cross-over, but this is a starting point that will work for skaters at all levels.

Mental tricks:
Focus on improving a little bit each time you try. Set interim goals. If you’re at 22 laps now, shoot for 23.5 laps on your next attempt. Keep building.
Set a goal of laps per minute to keep yourself on pace (27/5 = 11 seconds per lap, = 5.4 laps per minute – feel free to re-do the math according to your current personal goal).
Follow a ‘pace bunny’ – someone who’s a little faster than you, and try to keep up.
Count strides, count breaths, or use other mental imagery to move your focus away from physical discomfort.
Use positive thinking (“you’ve got this!) – more in this post about imagining yourself to greatness or this one on being more awesome.
Get into a rhythm (as listed in technique) – try skating with headphones if music would help you!
Control your lungs by breathing rhythmically if you tend to get winded: in through the nose for one stride, out through the mouth for two.

Well, as you might imagine, I have a LOT to say about this particular topic. I could fill a few posts with this subject (and I have… and I will…). For the sake of brevity though, I am focussing here on the key aspects of conditioning that I find lacking in skaters who are struggling with their laps.
In general as far as conditioning goes, you can probably place yourself in one of three categories for what you feel is your limiting factor in your laps:
Mostly my legs are jell-o
Mostly my lungs are on fire
Both :-)

For category 1 – work on improving leg strength and muscle endurance.
Try squats, lunges, wall sits, and one-leg squats. If you struggle to get deep crossovers (cross-unders), sideways step-ups onto a chair or bench are an excellent move to target the full chain of motion including inner thighs. Sumo squats will also help here.

Add two or three high-rep strength training sessions (these can be at home, body-weight only), incorporating the above exercises, to your weekly routine to build your muscle capacity more quickly than skating alone. Add cycling workouts to the mix for excellent power and endurance training.

For category 2 – focus more on your cardio endurance.
Go for HIIT workouts (find dozens in the workouts area on this site), jogging, and cycling. Get your heart rate up and keep it up for 25-30 minutes (or more).

For fastest cardio gains, I like to advise a mix of longer, “steady-state” workouts where your heart rate remains in the lower end of your aerobic range the entire time (30 minutes or more), and shorter interval workouts with bursts of more intense activity (12-30 minutes total).

For steady state, your “Rate of Perceived Exertion” should be about a 6 on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is eating a bag of chips on the couch, and 10 is maximum output – say, piggybacking two teammates in the 100m dash. For intervals, shoot for an 8-9 in your work periods and a 4-5 in your recoveries.

For category 3 – you know what to do!
Incorporate a mix of strength and cardio work into your cross-training.

For all –
Regardless of which area you find needs the most work, long outdoor skate sessions are a great tool to build your skate-specific muscle and cardio endurance. Just watch for overtraining issues: if you have nagging pains from practice, or you grow some new ones the day after a long skate, then think about cross-training instead of skate training. Bike/spin, run, swim, etc.

On skate conditioning
Supposedly it was Einstein who suggested that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. He was a pretty smart guy, but he forgot that PRACTICE is a really effective tool and can produce great results in skating. But he’s right that we have to change the way we practice, to get results.

Instead of only practicing skating 5 minutes at pace, try some variations to your endurance lap training:
Skate until you’ve done 27 laps (or 30) – this will help your muscles train for the full distance, not just the time. If practicing with your team, you can all continue to skate until the last person has reached the distance. This allows everyone to continue improving and pushing themselves together. Skaters can move to lane 4 when they’ve finished 27 laps.

Skate intervals for 6 or 7 minutes (or more) – start with a 1:1 ratio of work to rest (say 30 seconds each) and work towards a 4:1 or 5:1 ratio. “Work” should be faster than your current 5 minute pace (you can target exactly the minimum five and a half laps per minute pace required by the WFTDA test if that’s what you’re working toward); “rest” should be an active recovery pace, still working on an efficient, quality stride technique.

A variation on the above is to run intervals ‘by lap’: Skate 3 laps hard and 2 easy, and work your way up to 5 and 1 or 6 and 1. You can even do this during your actual laps test if it helps you to break down the test into more manageable chunks.

Putting it in perspective…
Let’s remember that, like all the minimum skills, the Endurance skill is something roller derby athletes need in real game play situations on the track – and not just jammers! It’s not just a test for testing’s sake, it is a meaningful evaluation of your ability. Efficient skaters with good strides make better derby players. So once you’ve made your 27 lap mark, it’s not time to stop working on your stride and fitness…

…You’re just getting started.

This is from Roller Derby Athletics, and you should ALL go look at her website because she has amazing tips on everything. 

I started two different long series, and then never finished them after I hurt my arm and couldn’t type.

Im gonna restart them! Ill at least get the next up in my Gear series, and maybe the Skate based one too. 

And as always, if you have any sort of question about roller derby, or any gear, skills or anything related to it, let me know!


Hi friends, can you go like this photo for me? Snowball really really wants to win. 

All you have to do is like the photo! And no one elses lol And if you like the photo and share this so more people like the photo, that’d be awesome


My skates give me blisters :( I need new ones.

I skate in R3 Riedells, any recommendations?

Pretty much everthing is better then R3’s.

My suggestion is to try on skates. Some people like leather skates, some like man made materials, some like padding some like no padding.

I personally love my Bonts. I’ve owned two different models of them, and adore the fit, the price and the zero break in time (I’ve never gotten a blister from either of my Bonts). But a lot of people also talk about their Luingo, and Vanilla skates similar, no break in period.

A good fitting skate will not give you blisters, regardless of which brand it is.

How do you train that side step??? I'm a blocker "jammer wannabe" and I trying to have more jammer footwork!! Give me your jammer wisdom!! :)
derbydirection derbydirection Said:


it’s been a few months of focusing on it. Most of it is a spread eagle** just done in a small spaces and around people. I started by putting cones on the inside and outside line, about a foot and a half away. This is my really bad drawing lol


Anyways, the goal is to basically spread eagle all the way through the cones, between the cones and the line, and then hopping right out of it. I started by doing it on my front foot only, and just dragging my back foot behind me, and then working on putting my back foot down. It’s a really really tight, quick move. You should be doing it both ways, back facing the cones and then front facing the cones. 

Once you’ve got getting into the spread eagle and out of it quickly down (which took me again, a few weeks of working on this directly), add a person on the first cone you come to. Your goal is to spread eagle around them. The timing is everything about this move. You need to basically put your front foot down, and use it to pull your spread eagle and your back foot through. I use my hands a bit on the person Im doing around, just to balance myself. 

I had my extra person do nothing, and then slowly become an active blocker. having her hit me and block me has made me work on trying to give my back, which I’m obviously weaker at, simply due to the dynamics of the track, but am working on. Giving your front, while dangerous, is way easier.

I hope that’s helpful! Most of my footwork related advice is just do it over and over and over and over and over. I’ve been working on this move for a few months, but didnt think i could do it well enough to try it in a game. But obviously, because i’ve done it enough, my brain tried to pull it out anyways, as it’s become a habit!

Let me know if you have any other questions!

**The term spread eagle is sometimes called other things by other people, including mohawk or side surfing. What I mean by this is move 




PICTURED: (still) dirty bionic bearings after one wash. HOWEVER— i totally fucked up when i washed them. DERBY TUMBLRS PLZ HELP! if i forgot to take the seal off and stuck them in the washing fluid for the 5mins it says on the cleaner (and yes i used the bionic bearing wash lol) and then let them dry and all that, and they’re STILL dirty but now i cant even get the damned seal off, have i completely fucked them up??

Have you removed Bionic Bearings before? They have a ring around the bearing as well as the shield, so if you haven’t removed the ring then they wont pop off. But if you have done that, that’s ok!

Try putting them back in the cleaner, one at a time, and then shake it in the fluid. Chances are you’ve just basically created a little suction and need to release it. It should pop off.

You can clean bearings with the shields on, so as long as you did it right, they should be ok. Can you hearing the balls rattling when you shake them? Do they spin at all? 

wait wait go back to that part about the ring— you mean before i can pop the shields off theres something else i need to remove?? i re-soaked them (which i was later told was actually a bad idea, oops) and that seemed to clean most of them better….

yes, there’s a small ring around the bearing shield that stops them from just popping right off. 

See that little silver ring? it’s on your bearings as well. Take a really close look around the shield and you should see a small gap in the ring. Stick your safety pin in there, and pull it off.

That’s what’s making your shields unable to come off! 


I like starting derby controversy. Why Roller Derby Will Never be an NCAA Sport. Go read my article and tell me why im wrong (on the page)

(via derbydirection)


PICTURED: (still) dirty bionic bearings after one wash. HOWEVER— i totally fucked up when i washed them. DERBY TUMBLRS PLZ HELP! if i forgot to take the seal off and stuck them in the washing fluid for the 5mins it says on the cleaner (and yes i used the bionic bearing wash lol) and then let them dry and all that, and they’re STILL dirty but now i cant even get the damned seal off, have i completely fucked them up??

Have you removed Bionic Bearings before? They have a ring around the bearing as well as the shield, so if you haven’t removed the ring then they wont pop off. But if you have done that, that’s ok!

Try putting them back in the cleaner, one at a time, and then shake it in the fluid. Chances are you’ve just basically created a little suction and need to release it. It should pop off.

You can clean bearings with the shields on, so as long as you did it right, they should be ok. Can you hearing the balls rattling when you shake them? Do they spin at all? 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm interested in buying Crazy Nuts (skulls, crazy eight balls, bullets, etc.) for my skates but are they allowed during a bout?
derbydirection derbydirection Said:

yes they are, as long as they are fully on your skates and not going anywhere. You will probably be told to double check them in the equipment check, and I would keep an eye on them while skating on them.


And now its time to freak out because I know damn well that I can’t even do 25 in 5. I can do literally all the other skills but I can’t do that. I just don’t have the endurance. And my back and calves start cramping. I can scrimmage I can fall I can stop I can safely avoid downed skaters but I can’t do that stupid god damned 25 in 5 and if that is what keeps me from making a team I am going to lose my shit.

If you’re having cramping issues, try loosening your trucks a bit, and possibly changing out your cushions to something softer. It may help you a lot. Sometimes cramping in the feet and calves is caused by your skates not reacting to your feet because they’re too tight in the trucks and cushions.


Specifically someone willing to answer questions?

There is a pretty big derby community on here! Feel free to message me if you’d like