Riding the wave of love


One of our big things (like raison d’etre type big) is getting folks to love roller derby and keep playing roller derby.   This is why I focus on quality beginners coaching, new skater programming, and why we are all about pushing for coherent, consistent development pathways. 

What I’ve noticed from coaching straight up beginners is that enthusiasm comes in predictable waves. 

First wave: Holy shit!  I’m on wheels!  It’s hard.  Why is it hard? Oh my god I did a step.  I have got this.  I am a super star.  I want to do this forever.

(*runs off and buys ALL the kit*)

Second wave: Holy shit!  I’m scrimmaging!  This is scary.  Why are all those other people so fast?  Oh my god, I did a block!  I have got this.  I am a super star.  Derby is my life.

Follow-on waves include :

  • first game against people not in the league (this is actually my all time favorite wave because of the silly grin plastered across their faces, even if they’re 100 points down and sat in the bin),

  • winning games they don’t expect to win,

  • have a move they’ve been practicing work in a game,

  • winning Champs,

  • etc etc….

Those follow-on waves tend to cement a love for the game rather than be an integral part of the creation of that love.  They tend to be shadowed by quite a lot of focus on getting better and being a great player.  They also come with concerns about track time, the concentration on which tends to kill the euphoria.

Where we get people to stick around are the first two waves.

That first wave is surprisingly short-lived.  Eventually being on wheels is totally old hat.  They want to play the game.  Otherwise, why not just do roller dance?  (Not dissing on roller dance; it is also cool, it’s just a different sport…)  

The second wave lasts a really really long time.  Mostly ‘cause scrimmaging is flipping fun and that’s why they’re training in the first place. 

My goal as a coach is to draw out the first wave of joy as long as possible and segue it into the second wave by creating a new skater programme that is as much like the game as possible. While they’re learning the skills they need to stay safe, they’re also preparing for the game as soon as they put wheels on the ground.

Derby Skills are Min Skills.png

Minimum Skills are Derby Skills… it’s just we just don’t always seem to teach them that way. 

How do we move from the back-to-back skill-after-skill approach to training the game at the same time?


We reckon there are 4 key principles for getting skaters flying high on derby:

-          Frequent Milestones for Achievement

-          Early contact

-          Wall formation as skill development

-          Peer level scrimmage

 As part of ALL IN: Community Roller Derby, we’ve been developing a new skater programme that uses these principles to bring new skaters into the game quickly and safely. 

For ALL IN, the goals are simple:

-          get them to a safe place to play derby with their peers in the community

-          set them on a good path to pass the WFTDA Minimum Skills AND have a whole bunch of game savvy when they get there

For roller derby leagues that are home-growing their skaters, looking at the different principles in this programme in relation to your programmes and consider how it can promote stronger skaters and higher retention in your new skater intakes.

 Our next few blog posts will break down these principles and put them out there into the derbyverse for discussion, challenge, and consideration.

In the meantime, if you’re interested to talk more about this – just contact us here or on Facebook.  We love to chat about coaching and hoover up the thinking of our fellow coaches.