A couple weeks ago while watching one of the playoffs I tweeted, “MAKE GOOD CHOICES” at all of the jammers playing that tourney. All weekend, jammers from some of my favorite teams were fooling around with the lines and going to the box for silly mistakes. They were coming into the pack without good judgment about where they were aiming all of that speed. They were not looking for their own offense and missing it completely.
What makes the difference between a good jammer and a great jammer is what their thinking spells out for their team. Often people refer to jamming as the “RUN AWAY!” position. Which, in its most basic terms, it is. However a highly strategic jammer can free their blockers from the box, get that lap point, run the clock down, score the points, and save their blocker’s points with a smart, fast entry to the pack and a speedy call off. What I’m trying to say is that if you’re all muscle and no brains as a jammer you’re really not living up to your full star-wearing, point-scoring-butt potential.
In this playoff season watching jammers entry into the pack on their scoring pass has really helped me adjust my own choice-making. Here’s an example:
Lots of folks like to come into the pack when it’s positioned on the apex in lane 2 and pull out to lane 4 last second using their speed to put OB’s off balance and run up the outside lane. It’s a really useful tactic. Especially when their blockers have split up the OBs to be two and two, it’s helpful in getting past the two at the back. However since you’re running up the outside lane with a lot of speed, as you pass those first two blockers you need to anticipate the blockers ahead of them are going to be moving to block you. To completely avoid them you’ll need to pull back towards lane 1 or 2 and hope their weight is already headed where your former trajectory would have put you. Even if they’re not completely fooled, they’ll need to adjust to be in front of you and to cover the inside line completely.
Another example of this is when a jammer who has had the line taken away from them more than once within that jam, continues to fuck around with the lines. Winning the fight on the line requires speed and muscle. If you’re exhausted or have been pulled back once or twice already, the blockers have that muscle memory down already. They know what your movement looks like as you’re trying to juke them away from the line. They’re going to bump you out fairly easily. Have more tricks in your tool bag. The middle is always safe.
Another thing I’ve been thinking about around choice-making is jammers who forget they can find out how much time is left in the jam anytime they want. I make a lot of my jamming and energy use choices based on the clock. If there are 20 seconds left, your job is no longer to get out of the pack. It’s to stay on the track. I can’t tell you how many exhausted jammers I see lose their heads and get a penalty when the jam was almost over! If you’ve just gotten knocked out and dragged for the 5th time in a row, while you’re skating back to reenter legally (because you’re a smart enough jammer to do that!), look up at the clock and find the jam time. If you feel like you’ve been in the pack, you might be almost done! Take your time getting back on the track, play it safe, play it slow, even back away from the pack entirely.
The thing is, no matter how tired you are, the very least you can give your team are your smart choices while on the track. You can steal some points, stay out of the penalty box, get out on your initial, keep yourself safe if you’re thinking. Even if your body is giving out in that jam, you can use your other tools to be helpful to your team while jamming by making good choices!
Gumballs were my first toe stop upgrade, they were certainly better than what came with my R3s. They’re a high quality toe stop and very popular but I didn’t spend much time on them due to the mega abrasive surface my league practiced on. I switched as they wore out within a couple months.
I switched to Bionic Supers. These lasted a long time and I liked that they were preangled. However when I changed leagues, I went to a polished concrete in deep winter (read: crazy crazy slick floor) and it was taking forever for me to stop on my toes. Not enough grip.
I wore a pair of Crazy Skate’s Bounce‘s for most of 2014 and I liked them a lot. They lasted a long time and had great grip. I didn’t like the smaller surface area the provided and that they started out rounded. Because they took so long to wear down they never got the nice flat angle I like to run and stop on.
Next I got some of Bionic BIGFOOT‘s in the Xgrip (these are no longer available in that grip) and I really grooved with these for a while. However because of the angle that the toe stop boss on the Arius has and the shape of these, I wasn’t able to get the whole toe stop on the ground and that felt like I was missing out on some of the selling points of the bigfoot, being that it’s such a large flat toe stop. However they did wear down quickly like the company says they’re prone to do.
I recently tried a friend’s Sure-Grip Shock Stop‘s, fell in love and bought some for myself at the North East Derby Convention. First off, it’s is so big that the funny angle on the Arius doesn’t seem to effect it and allows the whole surface of the toe stop to grip the floor. There’s tons of grip so the power in my running, pushing and juking on my toes actually seems better, which I never expected from a toe stop. I like these so much that they’re the whole reason I decided to write a toe stop general review. They feel rubbery, not plastic-y. I can’t speak for the lasting power but I’ll update as I go. I tend to be able to wear toe stops for almost a whole season as I’m a pretty edge heavy skater. I’m curious to see how they perform in the winter on our slick floor, hopefully they have plenty of grip. They come with a precut flat bottom, but no angle which is ideal since you don’t want to have to fight the angle as you wear your stops down. In general I just feel a much stronger power transfer than I have ever experienced from a toe stop. Go get yourself some!
If you’re the kind of skater who loves to adjust her trucks per the floor (loose trucks give you more grip, tight trucks give you more slide) or per your main position on the track during any given game, the Arius isn’t the plate for you. But if you haven’t touched your trucks in years, first off, you probably should, most high quality plates require maintenance… second, you should probably get an Arius. I’m a gear head, I love to mess with my stuff. But I don’t want to HAVE to adjust my trucks constantly. It was an irritating part of my Avengers. The pivots constantly needed to be adjusted.
My biggest discovery of the Arius is that it translates all my power. Every push feels efficient while skating laps. When doing one on one blocking, I tend to move my feet a lot to stay on top of the person I’m blocking, I try to mimic the way that Smarty Pants blocks. I feel like this plate gives me the exact same amount of agility, reaction and lightness I got from the Avenger with far more stability at high speeds. I often felt like I had to slow down to stay on upright when chasing opposing jammers on my Avengers. When I first got on this plate, I definitely felt like it was a little harder to control them. They seemed to need more energy than I was used to putting in to get a reaction. But Nathan at Derbysmack told me to be patient and that there were a couple things in play here: The cushions take a few hours to break in, I think they took around 4-5 hours for mine to do so. They also take time to warm up every practice. The first few laps I skate things always feel a little stiff and overly reactive. Once we get into it it seems to loosen up.
Now that I’m used to them, I feel like the plates have a bounce back to “neutral” power I never got from anything else I’ve tried (Powerdyne Thrust, Suregrip Magnum SA45, Sure Grip Avenger DA45, then while I was waiting for my Arius to be mounted I skated a Thrust again, as well as a Powerdyne Revenge). It feels like the cushions stretch out when I ask them to stop or to juke and then immediately reset for my next movement. Instead of continuing to stretch out or dissipate the way that round cushions do, they have limited movement in directions you don’t need cushions to go in. They primarily only move side to side so there’s no where for them to go but out or in. They are also a little wider than most plates and sit a little lower, so you have something similar to the support and stability you get from wide wheels without having to ride actual wide wheels.
I have to say the most frustrating issue I’ve had with these is that I immediately stripped the toestop bolt. The size of this bolt is different from every other plate with bolts instead of a nut. You absolutely cannot use the tool used for other plates as the one that comes with the plates is just a touch bigger, a smaller one will strip it. They are definitely harder to secure too, I used all my strength to tighten mine and the first practice after, my toe stop moved sideways. I also don’t like the angle of the toestop boss. It’s too steep and it doesn’t allow any toestops, no matter the brand, to sit all the way on the floor. I assume powerdyne will fix this eventually. The other thing that’s annoying is switching out the cushions, it’s not a short process and you have to use lots of force to get everything back in place which is a little scary to do on $400 plates.
I highly recommend these plates. They certainly are expensive but I think they’re worth it. I think they are a great match for every kind of skater, jukey, pushy, strength based, agility based, blocker, jammer….and with the array of cushions, no matter what you need far more or far less resistance from a cushion, you can get it.
Do you have the Arius? What do you think of it?
TL;DR Really like the boot, there are issues I’m having with them even after break in but I will be keeping them. You can find these boots here: derbysmack.com/skate-boots/luigino-boots/
I’ve been skating on Bont Hybrid boot (their lowest priced model) for the last 2 years. I customized them with gold leather paint over the white trim. I loved the lightweight and slipper-like fit of the boot. It hugged my foot exactly. I always point new skaters to bonts because I don’t believe in wearing a boot that you have to break in for weeks at a time. I think that in 2015 that is totally uncalled for and there are tons of heat moldable boots out there with more than just the heat moldable counters that most riedell boots offer. I did struggle with heel lift in my bonts as many do. The main frustration I came up against with them was that they were very soft, they had a lot of give. When I came around the corner, leaning into my boot there was nothing to resist my lean and push. I wanted a boot to give resistance and give me something to rebound off. In short, I wanted a stiff boot. I got my hands on some Q4s through Roller Derby Recyclables they were a size 6 (luigino is women’s sizing and I typically wear a womens 6-7.5) they were quite a bit too small. But I loved how the boot felt in hand. Very solidly built, definitely a good bit heavier than what I was used to but I liked how it was difficult to push the side of the boot anywhere with my hands. My bonts you can practically fold over with your hands. So I invested and had my arius remounted to a pair of the Q6 boots by Nathan over at derbySMACK.com (I highly reccomend him for any of your needs or questions he’s been infinitely helpful). I got them and immediately went to heat mold them with the Aquatech bag that was included with my boots. On the luigino website under the instructions for aquatech molding it says to use 2 bags; but I was only sent one and on the bag itself it said one bag was fine. I followed all the instructions listed on the bag exactly and the second I put the lid down over the bag it melted, getting my boot wet and sealing plastic to my pot. I contracted a couple of Luigino reps and they had two bags sent to me. In the meantime, I used 3 zip lock bags sealed around the boot and brought the water to a boil and let it sit before placing the bag in the water for a few minutes. This worked just fine and I laced up and sat as instructed while the boot cooled around my foot. After skating them that night and losing track of one of my pinky toes (it just disappeared!) due to pressure on the top of my foot, and getting some heavy bruising on the front of my ankle I did a couple more sessions of spot molding with a blow dryer around my toes and ankle. It’s worth noting that I had not had much skate time on the arius before getting this boot and that has definitely had an affect on my being able to get a real sense for JUST the boot and not the boot/plate combo. I can say these things about the boot alone though:
- The weight is noticeably quite heavier than my bonts even though these are marketed as a lighter weight boot, and even though I’m on a significantly lighter plate (avenger mag to arius).
- The stiffness of the boot does exactly what I wanted it to do and the pushback I get when going at high speeds is ideal.
- I love the look of the boot with the lace cover even though they make my feet look huge and even though I had been planning on custom colored bonts or crazy skates, I’m very happy with the look of the boot. I think the Q4 model without the lace cover is slick looking too.
- I still have the heel lift. These are supposedly designed and listed (as are bonts) to eliminate heel lift. It’s LESS than before but it still calls for a special lacing technique. I can’t help but wonder if this and my ankle rub issues are why I see so many atom sponsored skaters wearing their version of the Ez fit bootie.
- There’s tons of room for my toes to spread out in the front of this boot and I really love that. Makes my toestop pushes more powerful and far more comfortable.
- Overall the boot hugs my foot very well and I like that it’s built on a smaller width wise last than most skate boots.
- The way that the outside of the boot is built is designed to take scuffs and drags and all kinds of derby crap and it still looks good. No innards of the boot wearing through. I hate toe covers, they’re ugly, inconvenient, uncomfortable and don’t always work right so this is a super plus.
I’ve had them almost 3 weeks and skated them a total of approximately 20 hours on them. I am still having some to numbness in both of my pinky toes though it’s pretty minor. Last night was the first night the bruises on my ankles had a chance to go away since it had been 4 days since I skated. The discomfort was minor and didn’t affect my performance but I do have a mark on my ankle this morning and I definitely noticed it rubbing on my ankles while skating. I am beginning to wonder if this will go away….there doesn’t seem to be a way to heatmold them without changing the whole shape of the tongue. Plus, you need it to hold your foot in there! I can’t imagine I’ll build up some lovely ankle calluses, but maybe that’s a thing and I just don’t know about it?
It’s not that actual workouts are that hard, I mean, they are but that’s not really my issue. It’s getting into them that’s hard. It’s not for lack of motivation, I have tons of stuff that makes me want to workout. It’s just that something happens between being at work during the day and when I’m on my own time where the couch and my sweats and hot dinner call my name. Combine that with a good netflix series going and art project? Ruined.
I’ll admit, my off season has not been what I hoped. It started off with a week off (and a hurt thumb) followed by a scrimmage (and re-injuring the thumb) then a long cold which I gave to K.O.E… And then… It had been like 2.5 weeks since we had worked out. I’ve certainly thrown in at least one a week since then but not a lot more. And I think what makes it hardest to get going consistently again is the disappointment in myself.
But here’s the thing: I’ve been doing self-care. I’ve been doing nothing. Going to bed at 9:30. Work has been bonkers at times. Having a drink after work because I don’t have to go drive an hour to practice. I’ve been doing whatever the fuck I want with my free time. I’ve been taking baths and watching Bob’s Burgers. Seriously it’s been great. And every second I waste feeling GUILTY takes away from that self care of relaxing and doing nothing. You know?
So I try to work on not guilting myself about that stuff. It’s actually on my list of 2015 Goals. What’s wrong with doing whatever I want with my free time for a month?
Here’s the other thing that is connected to that for me: If I said to my friend, “I’ll meet you at the park and we can go for a run together” And then I didn’t show, what would that friend think about me? Probably that I’m not trustworthy. So when I say to myself, “I’m going to work out tonight!” And then I get home and sit on the couch and don’t workout, I’m literally teaching myself that I’m untrustworthy. Because I told myself I’d do something and then I absolutely didn’t do it. So why should my brain believe anything I say?
So I’m trying to show up for myself and follow through with what I say I’m going to do. There’s nothing wrong with a night off if that’s what I said I’d do. But if I say I’m going to workout, I should workout. I make this goal easier to reach by asking myself not to do super lengthy workouts. Anywhere from 10-45 minutes is a success. Anything longer is a total win.
Since I began skating I have been hyper aware of my body; at 5’4″ and 115 lbs I’m one of the smallest players on the track. Derby is a place for women of all body sizes to truly use their physique to their advantage, with every body type having a home on the track. Though all of this is true, I have always secretly felt that I’m less useful because I’m skinny. As the game has progressed from focusing on speed and agility to strength, those of us who lack in size become more aware of our weaknesses.
I try to be aware of my body privilege. Because my body is what is stereotypically considered “attractive” and is “acceptable” towards society’s standards and ideas about what it means to have an body as a woman (I say “attractive” and “acceptable” to acknowledge that society’s opinions about bodies are seriously FUCKED UP, so often straight up wrong, and way too binary for my tastes) . Because my body is built and shaped the way it is, it seems to make others feel it’s okay to point out to others that I’m small for derby. Say, while discussing hitting, taking hits or basically just saying things along the lines of ”you’re small so you need to juke more, don’t bother pushing”
So I’ve focused my workouts on strength building (which everyone should do anyway). And while I believed the things the derby world said about all body types being useful, I was still pretty sure that having more mass on the track whether blocking or jamming was actually more useful than being small. Just no one wanted to say it. And I’m not really talking about high level derby. Obviously Bonnie and Mutch haven’t heard anything about size being an issue. But then again, most of the year I’ve been convinced that Scald was the better of those three.
Maybe it’s that I came into the game at a point where jammers suddenly were going to the box for what used to be minor cuts and so to be safe jammers needed going up the middle and avoiding the lines so as to avoid getting hit out. So that’s been my mindset in regards to my body type in derby. Until a couple months ago. I was practicing with our A team against a hard line up doing 4 on 1 drills. I was jamming. I faked to one side then toe stopped up the inside line, pushing my hips out and around the butt of the opposition, getting past her. After which one of them said something along the lines of, “You’re so small, I think I’ve got you and then you take up so little space along the line you get past me.” Which was the point where the whole, The smaller you are the smaller the holes you can get through thing finally sunk in. I LITERALLY have more space to work with on the track because I take up less of it. Which is very different than the thought process I was having of, I take up less space on the track so I have less space that’s MINE to work with. And these things aren’t just applicable in Jamming vs Blocking, each position has so many moments of the other in it throughout the correct application.
One of my favorite types of derby people to meet are those who acknowledge body privilege exists. And through that, work to dispel society’s– and our own internal– ideas that dictate what our bodies are capable of doing. How have you thought about your body in moving through your derby career? Have there been times when it’s felt more useful because it’s big or small? I want to hear about it.