Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learned... For The Second Time

Skating backward while blocking seems to be getting more and more popular in modern roller derby. Skaters often confuse the language in WFTDA rules (about many things) it's legality. Years ago, I'd seen a few dozen attempts of blocking while skating backwards (in derby direction)... they were all pretty ineffective, in my opinion. But skaters are now skating backwards while blocking, and some are VERY effective.

The first time I noticed anyone blocking effectively while skating backward was watching Powder of Magic City Misfits... I think it was at Spring Roll 2011. Powder was easily one of the most effective or affecting blockers of the tournament. A lot of times it looked like the opposition didn't know what to do when they approached him and he was starting then down. Powder was guiding opposing blockers away from his jammers, being an extra set of eyes for his blockers, picking off jammers by sending them out of bounds and/or to the floor, and significantly affecting the game play like very few others I've every seen.

Up until that time, I had been putting in a lot of time improving my ability to skate backwards and practicing backwards blocking technique, but never thought that I'd be able to apply it blocking effectively. Powder changed all that. I was in awe. I watched the footage over and over to watch his footwork and body mechanics. Then I went to work practicing everything I picked up. Once I understood the body mechanics, I got the ladies I trained to practice being more mobile while skating backwards to prepare them to block while skating backwards.

I was exposed to other players who are phenomenal at blocking while skating backwards. I am totally convinced that skaters can be effective blockers while skating backwards. I practice every chance I get and have found that hip checks are extremely powerful while skating backwards. With little effort, one can send skaters flying off their skates!

Besides some obvious weaknesses to blocking while skating backward (most of which can be compensated for), I recently discovered a weakness while blocking backwards... twice. I attempting to play defense while skating backward in the pack, when I felt someone check my hips. Of course, both times I was unaware of the blocker who was coming for me, so there is that. But I realized how devastating it was to my skating posture... completely! Just as powerful as my backward hip checks are to opponents, I'm just as susceptible to hip checks while skating backward if I'm not counter blocking. Changing the position of my hips, in effect, changed my direction. When the change is sudden and unexpected, it's difficult to adjust quickly enough to stay on my skates.My momentum would continue to travel in the direction I was expecting but my skates would be pointed in another direction... resulting in my conference with the floor. What was peculiar to me, is that it didn't seem like it took much effort to topple me... I could be wrong. Maybe my teammates will chime in to let us know.

I took note the first time it happened. I was surprised at how swiftly I was on the floor. I didn't know who had hit me because I wasn't looking. The last time it happened, I was surprised again, but the person who did it apologized while skating away, so I knew who did it. I doubt she was really sorry, as I'm sure it was satisfying to drop the show off. No apologies necessary... Zootown Throwdown ;)

Now I know, more so than I did, that I'm vulnerable while skating backward in the middle if the pack. No wonder Powder and Quadzilla are skating backward predominantly while at the front if the pack. Lesson learned... twice. I'm not gonna stop skating backward as a blocker, but I will be more aware while skating in the middle of the pack. For those of you who picked up on it... I might have just revealed a counter tactic versus a backward skating blocker. Or it might only work against me. Uh oh.


  1. I used to hate being Pivot because I would totally stress out by my lack of visual awareness...until I started doing it backwards. I'm effective with moving my teammates into position and watching the pack/jammers, but I haven't really tried much blocking yet so I am totally going to give it shot...tonight at scrimmage! Thanks for the info. (I love your blog!)

  2. Thanks for reading Scarlet Samurai! here's a tip... point your butt toward your target when blocking while skating backward... might help, might not. lol. good luck!

  3. Another effective way to counter this is to charge the guy skating backward and nail him in the chest before they have an opportunity to block you... the effectiveness of this I learned the hard way while bouting a team that was obviously prepared for this scenario. As soon as they saw me skating backward they would charge which more than once sent me sliding across the floor butt first.

  4. thanks for your input, Marco! it's true, skating straight toward a blocker skating backward is the common response. i've found if i counter balance the contact properly, the opposing blocker will propel me and i'll keep my feet. since a backwards skating blocker can usually see someone skating into the front of their body, they can also respond by simply avoiding the contact, kinda like a swinging door... usually sending the blocker barreling forward as they were expecting to make contact but totally whiff. of course, if it's a jammer barreling at you, swinging open like a door will have ill effects. if you can, respond to a skater barreling at you with a "bean dip" while skating backward so as to not give your chest as a target, and leaving you in a position to counter block or evade.