I attended Derby Stance in Leeds (UK) with two other coaches from my league and a coach from our sister league, Basingstoke Bullets. We are currently in a temporary merger with Basingstoke, as we both have low numbers of skaters who are bout-ready, but enough between us to play competitively as a merged team. This is working out really well for us, whilst both leagues build strength in numbers through fresh meat recruitment, and allows us to maintain competitive opportunities for the skaters at the top end of our leagues.
I have been training in derby for just over three years, and started coaching our absolute beginners in April this year. I’ve coached a couple of main sessions in the last three or four months and am enjoying it. Previous to this, I ran a Taekwondo school with my husband for 12 years and used to visit schools delivering Taekwondo sessions in mainstream PE, focussing mainly on teenage girls who had become disaffected by sporting activities, yeah, they gave me the toughest groups that they didn’t know what to do with!
I have found that although Taekwondo is totally different, the body mechanic is the same, and both are full contact sports, so I have been able to transfer some of my coaching techniques into derby. The biggest difference is the team element though. Taekwondo is an individual sport, you compete solo, and for me, derby has been the first team sport I have been involved in. I remember my fresh meat training being very much about my own individual skills, and then being thrown into a team game afterwards was a massive eye opener. What, these other skaters have their own opinions, their own theories on what we should be doing, and what I do on track affects others?!?
I was particularly looking forward to Nadia Kean (Smarty Pants’s) sessions, and boy she didn’t disappoint. Literally every word that came out of her mouth was valuable, her extensive coaching background before derby has given her such a breadth of experience of coaching different types of people who learn in different ways. I had some real soul searching moments where I thought back to ways I had tried to deliver drills and just thought ‘wow, half of the people there didn’t hear most of what I was saying’. The realisation that one size doesn’t fit all. However I also found reassurance – her comments on how ‘you can give an athlete all the tools but they have to unlock it in their own way’ – essentially you can’t do it for them. I learnt so much that I can take on board for myself as a coach, but also pass on to others within the league.
Ballistic did a couple of equally brilliant sessions, ‘Explorative Coaching’ was just incredible and something that I would love to try following a game. I think it will take a bit of time to hone the skills to actually deliver this kind of session, but I’d really like to try. ‘Fostering a Team Culture’ was also really valuable. We have a good leadership structure within our league, I think we always do our best to keep the passengers on the bus, but there are always things we can do to improve this.
‘Progress This!’ from Kristen Lee was excellent. I have run a session similar to this before, but without realising it. Kristen gave us homework to do (presented with a strategy problem, break down the skills needed to fix the problem, then build up from the basic skill to a culmination drill/directed scrim that solves the problem), and has offered to provide feedback on our lesson plans. This is SO useful.
One of the best things about the weekend was the chance to network with other coaches from leagues across the country, and lots of discussion took place in the queue for pizza. ‘How do you test your minimum skills?’ ‘Just because you can’t perform an advanced skill doesn’t mean you can’t deliver it if you understand the body mechanic.’ ‘Can non skaters be effective coaches?’ ‘We’re organising a sevens tournament next year, does your league fancy getting involved?’ That plus a long drive home back to Hampshire with everybody talking the whole weekend about how and when we implement some of the new methods across the two leagues.
Such an invaluable weekend! Everybody can gain from this sort of event, no matter how long you have been coaching.
Louise Barter (aka Apex Quim) skates and coaches with the Southampton City Rollers.