Have I mentioned that I teach at the school of smashy-smashy? I am our league's fresh meat coordinator and as such our newest skaters, poor souls, are subject weekly to my idea of derby. Or at least my idea of who should be teaching derby. I am eternally grateful to our guest coaches who have ventured into our fresh meat class and shared what they know. You make the fresh meat, and their coordinator, very happy.
I'm just putting the final touches on a practice for our fresh meat that will introduce hip and shoulder hits. It will be the first time this group of fresh meat will be hitting each other and I feel about as nervous as someone who has just washed and shined their brand new truck and is about to drive it home down a dusty, loose gravel road.
I hope they don't get chipped and dented. It would seriously reduce their resale value.
I have written about some of my proto-hitting during my fresh meat time and I can say with all honesty, learning how to hit is funny as fucking hell. I think the humour value of contact sports is greatly under appreciated. There is accidental boob jabs, ass punches, and, of course, the couldn't-hit-the-side-of-the-barn misses that send the failed hitter three feet past their intended target with a clattery bounce off the floor while a gleeful hittee waves their arms and nyah-nyahs while casual bystanders point and laugh. And that's just what your coaches will do while demonstrating. Wait until you get your turn. Good times!
Of course, even with all the giggles, the first hits are a little nerve wracking. For everybody. For those of us who do not have athletic backgrounds but do possess a well imprinted sense of personal space, those first tentative bumps with the hips is as much of a psychological break through as a physical action. It takes awhile to be comfortable with it. Even longer to start hitting like you mean it.
While planning this fresh meat practice, the various bits about hitting and hitters I have figured out over the past couple of years has been floating through my helmet holder. Beyond the actual technique, there are couple of themes have jumped out at me and I wish that someone might of told me or some of the rookies I've met before we've gone and hurt or embarrassed ourselves.
To my freshies, who are about to chip their paint jobs and put a couple of dings in their fenders this Tuesday, hitting is about effective game play, not beating the crap out of somebody. When you hit, you are attempting to control an opposing player. There are several ways to move somebody to where you want them to be - either out of your way, off the track entirely or to someplace where you can control their speed and movements - and hitting is only one option from many. Learn to use hitting as a tool to further your team's goals and game play, not as a show stopper.
Hitting comes from your belly. It's not about throwing everything you've got at someone else shoulder first. It's not throwing at all. Aggression is awesome, but throwing yourself means either getting an elbows' penalty when you try to right yourself, biffing it when you make contact (or, worse, fail to) and maybe even hurting yourself as well. Control should be maintained, your balance in check, and that comes from a strong core and being able to shift your weight in ways to effectively counter your leaning motion. I know this because I seriously need to work on it. We'll figure this one out together.
Most of all, do not believe, that as a big tough derby girl, your job is to take a hit. I've heard it said so many times by new players, that the most important thing is not making the big hit but being able to get up after someone hits you.
No, no, no!
Yes, it's important to know what to do when someone checks you, but if you are getting knocked down over and over again during a scrimmage or game, you need to work on your track awareness, number one, and two, omg, move your ass! Do not stand there and 'take a hit'. You are not an effective player if you constantly tensing yourself into a ball, absorbing impacts, or rolling around on the ground. Get out of the way and do your goddamn job! Blockers, block! Either counter check and get yourself to where you need to be or avoid the hit entirely and get yourself to where you need to be. If you are a jammer, being hit and knocked down slows you down and wears you out. Don't take the hit! Run!
As for the actual hitting part of hitting, we'll go through that on Tuesday. Just keep in mind, as with all derby skills, those we teach in fresh meat and beyond seem to exist in isolation and it's easy to lose track of why we are learning a particular skill or movement, forgetting that there is a grand scheme. All these falls and stops, pushing, leaning, and getting low (stance!) are skills that you are going to use in a game one day. Keep that overall goal in mind and aim to develop safe and effective skills and not worry about whether you are doing things picture perfect or exactly the same way one of your derby heros do.
It's going to be fun and maybe a bit messy. Hopefully no one will have to visit the body shop after. I know you are all ready for it. I just hope I am.