What you wish you knew...

As part of her prep for our next collab webinar series, Smarty Pants has started chatting to other coaches to find out what they wish they knew when they started coaching.  

What do you wish you knew when you started? 

I remember that first day, looking out at a sea of faces (or even worse, only a coupla faces) all waiting for me to blurt out something quite clever and revolutionary?  

Hindsight #1 - most of them aren't waiting for any such thing... you know that right?  They're either wishing they hadn't eaten quite so much right before training or they're waiting to be told to warm up... 

I remember the prep before hand.  Sketching out to the minute exactly how each drill was going to run.  And wondering if introducing a new concept without enough time to practice it might turn them off roller derby forever? 

Hindsight #2 - things never go to plan.  I still map my sessions out but I go with the flow of the session.  I diverge, I come back, I truncate, and I extend.  I following my conceptual running order.  I don't watch the clock; I watch the athletes.

I remember fumbling over my words and thinking I was confusing things all the more.  

Hindsight #3 - Sometimes this is true.  So now I just stop babbling and I show.  And then I ask them to explain to me what they're seeing.  And we find the words together.  

What I wish I knew when I started coaching is that coaching is a collaboration.  

The coach, the athlete, the team working together make the session successful.  Not taking all the onus for success onto yourself as coach doesn't mean that you don't have a lot of work to do.  Collaboration is so much harder than a dictatorship.  There are so many skills and pitfalls and, dear god, personalities

What makes coaching hard is never what you think will make coaching hard.  But it is what makes coaching worthwhile.

Doing the things

We're still here!  We're doing the things.  Sometimes that means we don't get a lot of time to shout about all the things that are being done.

So here's a quick run down of all the things that are being done.


We've been oh so busy trying to figure out the best way to get all the coaching info from clever people's brains out into the world.  And we've sussed it - well, almost! 

Get Smarty Coaching has been pretty much the most amazing ever and helping us test and trial all these new ways of engaging with people and doing the knowledge share.  She's put so much time into it with us prepping and planning and trying out software and ways of making virtual chatting as interactive as possible. 

We've got three more scheduled with Smarty, all at times convenient for Europe, people without day jobs in America, and really really early risers in Australia.  So if you fit into that demographic, head over to Facebook and check out the next three sessions, all taking place in June.

If you can't make it, don't wallow in the FOMO, cause we're looking to plan a whole nother series at USA- useful times.  Not to mention a couple topic additions that will be helpful not just to coaches, but all the skaters who want to be amazing. 


We also fill quite a bit of time actually coaching people.  Lots of pre-mins work, getting folks comfortable on skates and understanding edges.  Mmmmmmm edges...

We've found a home at Manningham Sports Centre in Bradford -- amazing skate surface and uber friendly people and THEY LET US PUT OUR WHEELS ON THEIR FLOOR. 


Bootcamps is to coaching what tournies are to skating...  OUR FAVORITE.  Basically non-stop roller derby action, on and off skates.  Is there a better way to spend a weekend?

First up we're pairing up with Team England's Missy Rascal and going to Orkney to do a team-focussed weekend of skills.  The Orkney ViQueens are a new league that have already seen an amazing amount of success in building their team.  From a full list of members to a full list of funders, they're totally on their way.  We're pretty impressed with their work, it's got to be said.

And then...  still in the planning phases so it's a bit on the DL, but a few clues--  think "mins", think "coaching", think "fricking amazing".  And then watch this space....


Our #56 is heading to Barcelona for Euro Derby Con in July this year and helping out as a Volunteer Manager which so far has been code for "meet cool people", "talk about roller derby things", "do a spreadsheet". We're beyond excited to go and soak up the derby, maybe play a few scrimms, and be a part of helping to make an awesome event for the derby community. 


Also, have you SEEN some of those seminars on offer about coaching? Go and have a look and then come back and tell us if that doesn't just look amazing.  And when you decide that you should come along, hit us up and volunteer for a few hours as well.  May as well do, it comes with a discounted ticket and the opportunity to be part of derby behind the scenes. 

Oh yeah, and We've been SKATING...
Cause that's the whole point.

Who coaches your newbies?


They come in droves, especially in January. They are weebly. They’ve often never had skates on before. They need attention and nurturing and development. They are the future of the club, or some of them are. The ones that hang on in there. The ones that rise to the top of the determination pile.

How does your club manage their new skaters? Are they welcomed one by one and thrown in with everyone else, left to teeter at the side with an assigned buddy who occasionally leaves their own drills to suggest trying a knee fall? Do you have set intakes where you invite them en masse, give them a good few hours of “this is how you skate” and then shuffle them through the next few weeks of skills? Do you have a set programme or a set league, with their own coaches and their own curriculum?

It will all depend on the size of your club, how much resource you’ve got, how much money you’ve got, how desperate you are for new skaters to fill in the ranks. Different systems work for different clubs and they all have their merits and disbenefits. At the end of the day though, all clubs produce skaters.

But who coaches these skaters?

In a lot of the clubs I have worked with, it tends to be the next level up on the hierarchy. The not quite as new skaters and the B- or C- teamers that take responsibility for coaching and cultivating the incoming. A-team skaters coach the A-team and sometimes the B-team. B-team coaches the C-team. C-team does the fresh meat wrangling with the occasional guest star appearance from an A-team jammer when there’s a shout out for session cover.

The typical coaching development trajectory puts the newest coaches with the newest skaters.

But does that make sense?

Shouldn’t your best coaches be teaching the new skaters? Wouldn’t you expect that new skaters need the most support and the most expertise?

Yes, we need good coaches all around, but when you’ve only got a few and you need to apportion them out, remember experienced skaters have already learned to understand their body and to assess and make their own adjustments. They need reminders and observations and tips. They need strategic direction and packwork. A lot of this can be provided by the team. And, let’s be honest, your best coaches are probably skating for that team and providing feedback in different ways.

I’m not saying that the best skaters are always the best coaches, but the best coaches tend to be folks that have been around awhile, have seen successes and failures and understand how skating works. They have confidence in what they know and they have experience to draw on. Often new coaches are still in the “figuring things out” phase. Figuring out how to explain something. Figuring out how to put a plan together. Figuring out why on earth that skater just won’t point her toes in and not realising it’s because she’s not got enough flexibility in her hip. New skaters need someone who’s got it figured out (well, at least a bit…).

New skater coaching should not be a “throw away” or ad hoc. It should be just as structured and supported as your team coaching. It might mean that you put a lot of resource into skaters that don’t stay, but actually, if you make learning to skate easier for them, likelihood is they’ll stick around a bit longer.


Originally published on the Female Coaching Network (09 May 2016)

Building momentum

You may have heard the murmurings (thanks mostly to Scottish Roller Derby) of our Digital Coaching Series.  Oh yes.  You heard correctly.  




We're talking about insane amounts of coaching information, coming to you, wherever you are.  Not once.  Not twice.  But loads.  However much you want.  We'll make it happen.  

Nadia Kean (Get Smarty Coaching) is joining us as part of her mission to ensure the best experience for athletes by developing excellent coaches.  

Coaching 101 - Digital Pilot.     Come and join us! 

We're kicking off with a pilot because this is the first time we've tried something like this

 (think: beta...  think: it might all go tits up... think: let's give it a whirl and see where it takes us).  

If it works out, we have so many ideas for what comes next we're having trouble sitting still.  

So if you can't make it to the pilot, you are not missing out.  We want to reach out and get the information flowing and helping to support confident roller derby coaches everywhere.  And we will.  Just watch this space!

Strong coaches = strong athletes = strong community.  
#wearerollerderby #coaches


We did a thing...

It happened! That odd little conversation in a coffee shop in Leeds about half a year ago... it became a thing.  A big thing.  A Summit thing.  And it was good. 

Folks came from all over the UK to sit in our hipster, recording studio locale and listened to so many amazing speakers about topics that we've been waiting for someone to talk to us about for, like, ever.  

We were surrounded by other people who loved coaching and who got it.  People who had the same questions we did and wanted to know the same stuff and maybe were able to help us with some of the things we didn't know.  

Thanks for an incredible weekend. Am too full of information and long drives to go into any more detail but just brilliant all round.

It was a weekend of positive learning, BIG conversations, and a little bit of queuing for pizza.  

So we did the thing and we're collating outputs and trying to process all the information and the videos and the comments and the slides and share it all back out in the hopes that whatever enthusiasm and progress that was made over the weekend doesn't get pushed into the background of daily life.  

Thank you so much and thanks to all the friendly folks I met who shared their knowledge!

Derby Stance achieved exactly what we wanted it to - it put the word "coach" on everyone's lips.    

We want there to be more conversations about coaching, more sharing in coaching, more thinking about how we can support and develop our coaches.  We want to increase the visibility of coaches in our sport and bring more coaches into our sport. 

Thanks so much for a fab idea and a brilliant first conference.

So now the conversation has started... up to you all to take it forward.  #wearerollerderby #coaches






I learned so much this weekend. Thank you all speakers and organisers, it was excellent
Brilliant first day with some great guest speakers! Certainly gave me lots to think about going forward.
it sparked some big ideas for us that we’re keen to take forward with in our league