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Published on October 16th, 2011 | by Flirtin W Disaster

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Don’t Think, Just Skate!

“Stop thinking and just skate!” That was some of the first advice my coach ever gave me when I started jamming six years ago. I thought, “Hey, I can do that!” But I soon realized it’s not as easy as it seems. I would find myself on the track over-analyzing what I was doing and becoming frustrated. That is when I started making mistakes. Maybe it’s a credit to my skating skills that I have some innate talent for getting through a pack, dodging hits from all sides, and managing to stay upright. Or maybe I wasn’t smart enough in derby to use my brain yet.

I often get asked by newer derby skaters, “How do you become a better jammer?” My response? “Beats me!?!” I hardly remember any of my jams because I turn my brain off so it doesn’t get in my feet’s way. I guess I could make something up but the truth is, jamming has become instinctual for me. I don’t really think about it. Like Nike says, I just do it!

I actually have two secrets that I use to become a more skilled jammer. Visualization techniques have been one of my greatest training tools. I can pre-plan my strategy and tuck it away without having to use too much brain power while skating. Usually, I spend some time when I’m stuck at a light or while I am bored out of my mind at work. Not only does it help with my jamming skills but it makes the day go faster.

My second bit of privileged information is that I do analysis while I’m setting up on the jammer line. Everything happens so fast in the pack that it’s challenging to take all that in as you are running the gauntlet. Reading the track’s landscape while you are waiting for the whistles to blow also gives you something to do to minimize anxiety.

Some tips on what to look for while on the jammer line:
− Who is the other teams weakest blocker?
− Who is your strongest/most helpful blocker?
− Which side of the track are most of your blockers lined up on?

Although clearing your mind to be a better jammer has its benefits, it also has its pitfalls. One common casualty is great memories. The most exciting jam of my career was at South Central Regionals this year, but I have absolutely NO idea how it happened! The Tampa Tantrums were playing our arch-rivals, Nashville. We were behind for most of the bout, and a number of unfortunate penalties had thrown us off our game. This difficult bout was essential for the Tantrums to have a shot at the Championship.

It was the last jam of the bout and I was going out. At least I think it was the last jam. I honestly have no idea because my brain had already been turned off for an hour as part of my preparations for some great jamming. I don’t even remember talking to my team about a game plan or sizing up my competition on the jammer line. I just went out there with white noise in my ears.

When the final whistle blew, Tampa hadn’t won, but we had whittled our deficit down to 20 points. Which is quite an accomplishment when playing against a team that is now on their way to the Championship. In spite of not winning, because of that jam I received a lot of high fives from my teammates and generally felt pretty proud of myself. It wasn’t until we sat in the stands and someone pointed out that I had made a 24 point jam (OMG, 24 POINTS!!) that I realized how much I had helped my team.

I am not a big point scorer. I am not a star jammer. I am a work horse. I help my team nickel and dime their way to a win. So this was a big deal to me! I only wish I could remember that pivotal event in my life. I am still riding high from that jam but it would be nice to be able to know what I did right! That would considerably increase the possibility of doing it again.

I question if “Turn off your brain” is good advice for other skaters on the road to becoming rock stars. I know there is a recent trend of studying bout footage, devising new strategies, and generally trying to out-think your opponent, but maybe we all just need to think less. Like the wisdom Coach Insane imparted to me during my first season, “Don’t think, just skate!

Now all I have to do is wait for the DVDs from the South Central Playoffs so I can remember one of the best experiences of my life!

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