Improving your skills

Your learning isn’t over when you’ve finished your Fresh Meat course, in fact it’s only really beginning. In this blog Circle Jerk gives some simple suggestions on how you can improve your skate and game skills.
Pre-Minimum Skills

You’ll need to pass your minimum skills before you can start playing derby.  At Nottingham Roller Derby you may also need to pass your minimum skills to be able to join in with the more advanced drills – so you’ll want to get these passed as soon as possible.  Here’s a few tips to get you through them:


You don’t have to practice just when you’re told.  Warm ups are a great opportunity to run through skills you’re struggling with.  Better still try and get yourself some extra time on skates outside of training times.  In Nottingham there’s a roller disco every Friday at Harvey Hadden Sports Centre or there’s always Roller World in Derby for some retro-skate action.  If you invest in a set of outdoor wheels then a whole new world of training venues opens up to you.  Ultimately the more time you spend on skates then the better you will get.

It doesn’t just have to be on skates either – to improve crossovers try walking upstairs sideways and you can practice side surfing while you wait for the kettle to boil!

Tormaydo practicing her hipchecks

Tormaydo practicing her hipchecks

It’s YOUR minimum skills

Don’t expect your coaches to nurse you through all of your minimum skills. They’ll get you through most of them as a group so try and tick them off during these sessions but make sure you know what you need to pass. Then don’t be afraid to ask to be tested when you think you’re ready. Of course be mindful that there are others trying to get their skills ticked off too so don’t be in too much of a panic!


Coach Shelley’s learnt her technique from Hollywood


Ask for help

If you’re struggling with something then ask your coach or a more experienced skater how to do it.  It’s hard to take everything in during Fresh Meat while you’re just trying to stay upright so it’s not unusual to miss something.

There’s no rush

Everyone skates at a different level – it may be that some of your intake have been skating since they could walk while for some of the Fresh Meat it may be their first time on skates. Some people will learn quicker than others too.  If the rest of your intake pass and it takes you a bit longer then that’s not a problem, you’ll catch them up soon enough.  Some people will have everything ticked off within a few weeks of finishing their beginners’ course, others will take longer – it was nearly a year after starting before I passed my minimum skills.

If you’re starting from nothing then you won’t have to worry about breaking any bad habits either so you’ll be a better skater for it.


Post-Minimum Skills

So you’ve passed your minimum skills and you’re ready to play with the big boys (and girls.) I’ve got bad news for you – the minimum in minimum skills is just that – it is the least you need to do to be able to play. You’ve still got a lot more to learn before you make the team! The good news is this is definitely the fun part.

Get to scrims

There’s no better practice than playing so get stuck in! If your league has it’s own scrims then attend them whenever you can. Some leagues hold open scrims that you can go to as well.  Personal favourites are the Milton Keynes scrim on the first Friday of every month and the less regular Dolly Rockit scrims in Leicester. Everyone is super friendly and it’s a great way of meeting skaters outside your league.


NRG B at Valentine’s Cherry Popper at Leicester



You’ve still got lots to learn.  Make sure you listen to your coach, listen to the refs and listen to your team mates (in that order!) They’ll all be able to spot things that you don’t and point you in the right direction.


The fitter you are the easier your games will be.  There’s arguments for most forms of exercise and roller derby – running and swimming will improve your endurance, rowing will improve your core, ballet and martial arts will improve your balance, etc.  Ultimately any off-skates exercise will improve your skating – whether it makes you fitter or more flexible – and you’re more likely to stick with an exercise you enjoy, so do something you enjoy doing. And squats.  Make sure you do plenty of squats.

NRD trying Zumba!

NRD trying Zumba!

Watch Games

You can’t always find a game to see but fortunately YouTube is full of them!  Watching the top teams play will give you something to aspire to and you may pick up a few new tricks to try out.  Watching your own team will help you learn your strategies and find your place quicker.  And watching teams in your division will give you a good idea of what to expect when you’re up against them – it won’t be long!


Support your local team!



The rules are a very big part of the game and helping out to NSO will help you pick them up in no time.  It’s a great way of seeing all the different things that go on in a game and the importance of all the different people involved in a game.  You’ll get the best seats in the house and you also get to help out your league at the same time so everyone wins! Remember to only cheer on the inside though!


NSO’s can’t smile

I’m sure there’s lots more you can do to improve yourself – remember you don’t only improve in your weekly training session.  So get out there, push yourself and have fun and it will pay off!


Most improved skater 2015 – it really works!