Pass the Thingy/Hot Potato
Skill Level: Intermediate
Skills Developed: Pack skating; pack awareness; communication; looking behind (and optional blocking)
Instructions: Group skaters into tight pack and introduce an object to be passed among skaters (like a stuffed animal, wadded-up shirt, or other object that won't hurt a skater if it falls on her face).
Ask skaters to focus on visual and vocal communication, with each skater passing/throwing the object to a teammate. Skaters may not drop the object or hold it for more than three seconds. Three-second violations should be penalized immediately, by asking that offending skater to go off the track and do five pushups – or whatever you come up with for a penalty. Dropping the object is a pack penalty that is assessed at the end of a drill. Hopefully, a referee will help you track pack penalties.
Other notes: This drill can be modified in many ways. You may ask skaters to keep all wheels on the ground at all times. Large groups of skaters may form up to four separate packs on the track, each passing their own “hot potato.” Multiple-pack variations also require skaters to maintain equal distance from each pack.
Advanced variations: Especially with multiple packs, you may direct skaters to hit another skater in their pack, sprint a lap, etc. Generally, a coach or pivot for each pack should give instructions – the skaters will pass the object on their own, but they may need to be told to move around (fall back, move from inside to outside, etc.).
Penalties: At the end of the drill, assign skaters a penalty for each time the object was dropped – like, five pushups for each drop.
Relation to gameplay: This drill helps skaters – especially newer ones – understand how quickly we need to react in derby. If someone is routinely holding onto the hot potato for more than three seconds, she likely lacks the reaction time to stop a jammer. And passing an object back and forth helps teammates get used to shouting each other's names and making eye contact.
Featured Jan. 25, 2011:
Skill Level: Basic
Skills Developed: Weaving, derby form, looking behind, spacing, lateral movement
Instructions: Skaters form a paceline on the track. Skaters weave through the line, from back to front.
Other notes: Skaters should not wait for the preceding skater to weave all the way to front – each skater beings weaving as soon as the preceding skater is far enough head that she won't catch up with her.
Small groups: Skaters go through more than once, or after reaching front of the line, weaver races the front skater around the track. Skater who has just weaved becomes the back of the line. Skater who was her opponent now weaves through the line. And so on.