Footage analysis is one hell of a beast and I could probably write a 10,000 word thesis on it (ahem, maybe)… however, this particular piece is written from the point of view of an individual who wants to improve their personal game by studying high level roller derby. When it comes to watching footage from a team minded point of view (as a strategist, coach or captain) there is of course a whole lot more to focus on (which may indeed be another blog post).
So how can we start to analyse high level roller derby footage in order to make ourselves more awesome?
1) Align who you watch with your current personal goals.
E.g. if your current goal is to stop going in for big hits and instead focus on positional control – look to players who are the epitome of that which you are trying to achieve. In this example you could study Kitty Decapitate (LRG), Mick Swagger (Gotham), or Smarty Pants (Texas). If you’re unsure of who to watch, ask around – find your local derby nerd or someone you trust who watches lots of footage and see who they recommend.
2) It helps to study somebody with a similar body type or skating style to you (especially if you are an extreme body type, e.g. massively tall like me.)
I tend to study taller/bigger players such as Sexy Slaydie (Gotham), Fifinomenon (Texas), V-Diva (Philly), Stefanie Mainey (LRG) and often players who both block and jam so that I can really see the moves and skills I could be utilising. I know everybody’s different, and what one individual can do another may/will not do. However, if you know you are watching somebody of a similar build it really allows you to imagine/visualise yourself carrying out the same moves as it is definitely within the realm of possibility. This is not to say I don’t watch smaller skaters, of course I do – you can totally learn from everybody, but I find my highest success rate comes from watching footage in this way.
3) Once you have decided who to watch, ensure you watch key elements of their game and make notes – tons of notes!
Blockers: jam starts – where do they position themselves? (does it change or are they set up in the same lane every jam – if so, why do you think this is?). How do they block at the start of a jam? Forward facing/backwards? When in a wall, what role do they play? Positional control/backwards controller/hitter/recycler/all these things? What kind of player does their team rely on them to be? Why? How do they achieve this? When they are blocking alone, how are they most successful? Forwards/backwards/drives/hits?
Jammers: jam starts – what do they favour off the line? When are they most successful? Do they use offence? If so, what kind of offence? How do they approach a moving pack to grab their points? Rely on offence? Fight through themselves? How? A strong push forwards and out of play? Lateral movement on track to create holes within walls? Spinning around players/walls? A mix of everything? What works best for them as individuals?
4) Align what you have discovered with some skills goals that you should set for yourself.
If you do not have the current skill set to carry out what these players are achieving, you need to do the hard work before you can expect results. So make some goals and get them ticked off, e.g. perfect a killer plow (in order to improve your positional speed control), learn to transition both ways (in order to instinctively spin through a pack as a jammer), be comfortable skating backwards with sharp lateral movement (in order to be a successful backwards controller in a wall) etc. If you are not 100% sure which skills you need to improve upon to simulate these awesome things, then ask a smart trusted derby buddy or a coach.
5) Make sure you are watching high level roller derby!
Let’s learn from the absolute best yes? Always strive to be the greatest that you can be. Anything is possible if you work hard enough!
How much should you be watching? This will vary from person to person… I try and watch something every day – even if it’s just 15 minutes or so.
Hopefully after some solid footage watching, note taking and skills perfecting you will really start to feel the benefits on track. You should get to the point where you study some footage and actually feel the difference within a training session that same day (cue – “OMG I just felt exactly like Bonnie Thunders!!” moments).
Like everything though – practice makes perfect, and this applies to watching footage also – the more you watch the better you’ll get at the analysis of it and the more likely you are to see the results on track.
Any comments or questions – let me know, i’d love to hear them (firstname.lastname@example.org or at my Facebook page.)
Good luck and happy viewing!