|Name:||Lynn Klas (Juke Boxx)|
|Sport:||Women's Flat Track Roller Derby|
|Role:||Coach and Player|
Lynn Klas, skater for London Rollergirls and 3rd time skater for the Team USA squad, is an athlete turned coach. In addition to training with one of the top five teams in the world and her national team, she is also a coach for hire. She was lovely enough to take some time and sit down with us after a running a full day roller derby coaching session (“boot camp”) in Wakefield (UK).
An America living in the UK, Klas (also known by the roller derby name Juke Boxx), grew up roller skating. She started roller derby when she lived in Madison, Wisconsin (USA), before transferring to the Minnesota Roller Girls, and then again to the London Rollergirls.
Like many roller derby coaches, Klas hasn’t had the opportunity to get formal coaching qualifications or training, but is well respected as a coach for her ability and years of experience. When we spoke, I got a better understanding of how she, as one of the leading roller derby coaches, developed her skills without a clear framework and what she valued most about the lessons that she taught herself.
Well, I have a long background in skating. I grew up working at a roller rink and so even then I taught lessons at the rink. It was part of what I did.
And, then, on two of my teams, I’ve held leadership roles. I guess with captaining a lot of what you do with that is helping plan sessions and looking at what your team needs, especially on track. It helps that I have a very analytical brain So it really just kind of started there, doing a lot of coaching in my league.
After the first World Cup (2011) where I played on Team USA, a team from Sweden (Crime City in Malmo) asked me to come out and coach and that was when my travelling coaching started. That was back in early 2012.
From then I have done a lot of travelling coaching and really ramping it up in the last few years since I moved to London.
I guess. It’s a lot of self-learning. When I taught people at the rink, I taught them the way that I learned it.
Really, I’ve learned to coach from coaching the same concepts to different people. So if you take a particular skill, like hockey stops, I get to see how that group reacts to the way that I present that information. I can see where there is consistency in things like how they make mistakes. And so then I take that away and think “so the next time I teach this, I’m going to try and present this information differently”.
Beyond that, Ballistic Whistle (Head Coach for London Rollergirls) has taken the BRSF (British Roller Sports Federation) Level 2 in skating. I learned a lot from him. Things like use of whistles and where you’re positioning yourself in relation to the skaters. Things you might not think about but can help make a session run better.
I think, in general, paying attention to how much you’re changing so that you can predict exactly how your group is going to react to those changes.
When I make a change in a drill, say from Step 1 to Step 2, I need to think about how many changes I’m really making.
So for example if you’re doing a skill as individuals and then you all of a sudden use that skill as a blocker versus a jammer, it’s really important how you set those roles up. Take using a footwork skill as a blocker against a jammer, if the drills is set up to let that jammer go wherever they want without limitation, you’re adding decision-making in addition to the other changes that come with adding a person, things like weight shift and pressure. Even just adding the element of proximity is a change, before adding the contact.
I learned to break down drills to really understand each of the change. This is not just in technical sense but in a decision-making sense, in communication and response to communication, in proximity to other people, in speed, in having to go from point A to point B. These things are all really critical to recognise when you switch from one step of a drill to another step of a drill.
Let’s say for example that I have you doing something like stopping to a line. And then, all of a sudden, I add a cone. A raised barrier. That changes things for people. That’s a mental barrier for people. And so, if I know exactly how many things I’ve changed, I can know which factor is making this response come from the group.
It serves me very well as a coach because then I can understand “Oh wow, cones really mess with certain people”. Like it might not mess with me, but it really messes with other people. So now I can be a lot smarter about, like when I introduce cones and when I don’t. Or when I use whistles which changes the sense of urgency.
I find that some coaches have a tendency when they’re building drills to break it down really well but when they bridge it into anything that’s a bit more game-like that’s where things fall apart really quickly. You get people starting to play roller derby instead of training the specific skills. And really, you don’t want that from a drill. You want them to be training with an objective and a purpose.