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Published on November 9th, 2011 | by Luludemon


Dear Luludemon: Tall Jammer Inspiration

Dear Luludemon,

One of the things I love most about derby is that everyone’s body type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Right now I am trying to find a little bit of jammer inspiration for my body type, and I was wondering if you could help me out.

I am 5’11, 145 lbs with super gangly limbs. I positionally block sometimes, but I mostly jam. Keeping my limbs in control is probably one of my big challenges as a jammer.

I would love to know if you know of any examples of similarly tall gangly jammers who I could look to for inspiration. I’ve been checking out the top jammers in North America, and haven’t come across anyone built like me. I’d love to be able to watch a great jammer with my body type and pick up some strategies for how to use my height as an asset instead of a hindrance.


Tall and Gangly (TAG)

Hey TAG,

Yay for derby! I totally agree with you that all body types have their advantages for every position in roller derby. And one of the things I stress in my jammer classes is that we shouldn’t have preconceived ideas when it comes to what a “jammer” looks like.

I tell my story of lining up on the jammer line with Rat City’s Anya Heels for the first time, looking over and thinking “perfect, this big girl is going to be eating my dust” and then she took off and blasted her way (totally legally) through the pack. That put me in my place! Often people think that to be a jammer you have to be small and really fast. There are ALL types of jammers out there with totally different techniques which, when you combine them with amazing teamwork, can all be effective.

As for your particular body type – you have SO many advantages! Your height is a huge one for derby. I am 5’4” and am always envious of taller skaters. By standing up tall, you get a great view of the pack around you and can see what is going on – where the other jammer is, what the opposing blockers are doing. Also another advantage you have is height differential – stand up and you are tall and thin, drop down and you are low and wide. Use this as a jammer to confuse the blockers – come in tall to the pack and then drop down low – one minute they see you, the next minute you are gone! Also in terms of being hit, when you are bent low you have a long body and therefore a wide target, work on your timing so that you can straighten up just as they are about to make impact and BOOM there goes their target (and hopefully they swoosh past you!)

As for gangly limbs – it depends which ones you are talking about ☺ Long legs are another big asset – your starts are going to be quicker than mine cos you can take bigger steps, your stride is going to be longer than mine, making you faster on the breakaway, and your side step covers more of the track, making it harder for those short legged blockers to catch you. Your long legs are an asset so you need to work to make them strong and powerful, not gangly and out of control. This takes time on skates and time off skates to strengthen them into rods of steel – cycling is great for building up the same muscle groups as skating. Also work on your skating technique so that you are getting push and forward momentum out of your steps, rather than just flailing your feet in the “running man.” With long legs you don’t need to take as many steps to cover a large distance – so make sure each push counts.

Now controlling your arms is another problem entirely. If you are having problems with flailing arms you need to sort this out quickly. Flailing arms means penalties and as a jammer your number one goal is to avoid penalties and stay out on the floor – no one likes a jammer who is constantly in the penalty box. I took a class by Suzy HotRod where she said that she imagines she has a large weight in each hand that pulls her arms down and sticks them to her side. Then she pretends she is an angry stick (her words!) and she uses her upper body as a battering ram to push her way through a pack. See – even the best skaters have to focus on technique! For me I find that if I relax my upper body and imagine that I have monkey arms I don’t flail as much because I am not so stiff. It’s whatever works for you.

In general though, flailing limbs can be a sign that you are uncomfortable on your skates. Work on staying calm and focused when you are jamming. Keep strong and make your body work for you, not against you. Remember that jammers come in all shapes and sizes and the more you jam, the more comfortable you will be in that role and you will figure out what your body can do in each scenario. Just relax, have fun, work with your team to score points and you will always be successful as a jammer.

Good luck TAG!


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