Now, I'm going to admit, I really can't remember what happened last practice on Saturday. I know there was pack work, and whips, but I can't remember it in great detail. However, a new weekly session was also introduced this week. Level 2's now have a Tuesday practice dedicated purely to game play tactics and pack work.
On the drive there, it occurred to me how nervous I still get about derby. Last week, I talked about how I'd got over my fear of skating in a pack, but I don't think I actually have. I worry about standing on people's feet, wheel locking, falling over, someone running over my fingers, tripping someone up. And then I worry about my own derby stance, my stability, how I look at my feet all the time, how I'm not particularly loud or confident. This was all going through my mind on the way to practice. Furthermore, it was at another new venue, so this also meant another new floor to get used to.
After a knackering warm up (knee taps on the straights, crossovers on the corners, plough stops on the whistle), we went through some basic pack work for the skaters who had never done it before. We practised recycling, pack avoidance, stopping in a pack, working through a pack, and falling in a pack. One of my derby wives is an excellent pack communicator. She will tell you where she's going, where you're going to go, what gaps need filling, what the pack needs to do, etc. She is just brilliant at it. However, she wasn't there tonight, so I took it upon myself to give it a go. I'd like to say I was a good communicator. I definitely told people where I was going (even if it was a little - "Coming round the inside...I mean outside!", "Someone take the inside, front line...I mean front, inside line!", etc) and I'd like to think I kept the pack in check with "Pack is long!", "Fill these gaps!", "Pack it up!", "We have no pack!!" and more.
After pack work, we moved onto 4 walls. This is where you have 4 people in a line, creating a wall. We went through the basics, starting at just skating in a line. Learning how to keep in line with the person on the inside, how the person on the outside will need to skate faster, etc. We even practised how to stop in a wall without it breaking up. After that, we learnt the roles of the 4 wall. How the person onside the inside (#1) guards that inside line with their life. How #2 has the one of the hardest jobs as they have to be able to move from the inside to the outside and help the skaters on either side to protect their side. How #3 moves with #4 to protect the outside if necessary and how they can leave the wall to go take out a player or help their own jammer but will return back to the wall as if on a bungee cord. #4 is the pack communicator and it is their job to keep an eye on the track and to tell the wall where to go and what they need to be doing.
We also practised with another skater being the jammer and we had to move as a wall to prevent them from getting through and we had to communicate where the jammer was (Lane 1, 2, 3 or 4.) It was actually really good fun, and I found I liked being in position #2 the most. I liked communicating where the jammer was and being able to move from one side of the track to the other.
The second position was "The Diamond". This is when the zig-zag moves into each other more and one skater moves to the front, one to the back, and two in the middle, creating a diamond shape. This is the most efficient shape to form when picking up speed as a pack.
As a pack, we were awesome as moving from one shape to another. A fellow skater said "We're just like the Red Arrows!" until someone tripped over a skate!
The session ended with a bit of pack racing. I decided to be the skater at the back of the diamond, which was fine, and it turns out I skate a lot faster and more confidently as a pack than I do by myself! I don't know whether it's because I instinctively get lower in a pack, or if I just feel more safe with people around me. Who knows? I do know, though, that I skated much faster in pack racing than I thought I could!