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Published on May 11th, 2012 | by Kitty DeCapitate


Kitty DeCapitate and Berzerker’s Derby Prep School: Accountability

I have been captaining the VRDL All Stars with Berzerker for the last 12 months. Our league, Victorian Roller Derby League (Melbourne, Australia), recently became full members of the WFTDA and we played our first sanctioned games at the Dust Devil Tournament in Tucson, Arizona. Having lost our last two All Star games against Texas Rollergirls’ Hotrod Honeys and Rat City, we really wanted to get some wins on the board for our team, but we honestly had no idea where we sat amongst the teams we were likely to play. Therefore we set goals for the team in terms of ”how” we wanted to play and what we wanted to get out of the experience as a team. In the end, we won 3 out of our 4 games which was a hugely unexpected success for us.

Given that our league is so far away from other WFTDA leagues and we only get a handful of competitive games per year we’ve had to train with a different method than our US counterparts. It is in the training environment that we learn the most, given our lack of games, and because of this emphasis on training we’ve developed a reflective but practical approach that we’d like to share.

This first column will specifically be about Accountability, the second about ”Mental Focus” and the third on ”Positivity” as these were three of our prime objectives.


A huge focus for our team is ”Accountability”. Originally when we decided that it was one of our team values, it referred more to accountability for your own skill progression and attending regular and additional training. We wanted a team of self sufficient, smart skaters, rather than people who expected their Captains or Coaches to be the ones to lead them up individually. We value pro-active skaters who were always seeking ways to improve, analysing their game, and generally taking responsibility for their place on the team and their development as a player. It was also about being accountable to the established values of the team.

After playing Texas’ Hotrod Honeys and Rat City’s All Stars, we really deconstructed our game and worked out that our downward spiral was, in part, due to penalties (See below regarding ”Intensity”!). When we’d have blockers off, our Jammer would feel all alone and like she had to pull out some kind of insanely out-of-this-world performance, often so insane she’d go to the box too. Then the blockers left out there would feel like their responsibility was to play harder than they ever had before. Hello Revolving Door On the Penalty Box! I guess to break it down, it was all about how we handled ”pressure”. And we realised that when faced with disadvantageous situations, that we needed to play SMARTER, not HARDER. Hello to conservative play and not taking big risks!

In training for Dust Devil, where previously our team focus at training and during games had been on ”Intensity”, we realised we had overdosed on Intensity, and now was time for some Accountability/Control of our performances. We were able to make a correlation that Intensity Without Control = Crazy a.k.a Penalties.

How we linked our physical training sessions to our value of ”Accountability” was first by being really open about the ”penalty problem”. But not in a finger-pointy, blamey way. In a really supportive way that was about looking at the HOW and WHY we were getting penalties. What were we doing/not doing as a team that meant we were getting penalties. In what situations did they happen? And most importantly, how could we support each other in a game play situation so as to prevent penalties? For example:

*Were penalties an issue with individual’s blocking style? So what do we need to do in training to help that skater clean up her technique?

*Were we getting lots of OOP calls? Could that be avoided by better acceleration of team mates in order to help re-engage or bridge our team mate? How could our walls be stronger to avoid being pushed OOP?

*A bunch of DOGP penalties when attempting to break up walls from the front? How could we get better at busting a wall without penalties?

*Jammers in the box? Why? Are they not being supported in the pack by good offense? How can we work with our jammers to gauge ”Risk vs. Reward” actions? Are they going to the box a lot when we have a Powerjam? How can we maximise powerjams and work with our jammers to stay on the track in these situations?

Saying ”Stop getting penalties!!!!” is a throw away line. We needed to get to the root of what was causing our penalties and work together to change it.

What resulted with this really focused and pragmatic approach to how we set our training goals; both physically and mentally. With a clear understanding of what ”control” looks like, our penalties dramatically decreased at practice. And a really great by-product of this, was because we all knew that everyone was being accountable for their own actions, we also became easier on each other when we did commit the odd penalty. We also noticed a big improvement on our actual game play, as by isolating certain areas that we needed to improve on in order to reduce penalties, we were also working on our general teamwork and strategy. Everyone took on the responsibility for the development of this.

We continued with our focus of ”Accountability”, which to us now meant ”control” and ”mental focus” during the Dust Devil tournament. Repetition and consistency of language really works with our team. All of our pre-game discussion, pep talks during timeouts used these words. We reminded each other on the bench by repeating this and having focussed discussions before going on the track and playing the game jam by jam.

We were able to recognize when we started to lose control or focus and were able to pull it back, because we knew what ”success” looked like and what ”crazy” looked like in a really practical way. One of our goals was to be able to recognize when/if a downward spiral was starting to occur, and to be able to bring it back from there. While at Dust Devil, in our game against ACDG, we were able to break the downward spiral of doom. Even though we lost the game in terms of points, we had achieved what we had been working on for the months leading up to Dust Devil. For our team this was a massive win which we feel really proud of.

Having established team values and clear understanding of what the values actually mean in terms of the game and training has given our team an edge that we didn’t have 12 months ago. We are able to use our time together in a supportive and focused way. We are clear of our roles within the team, both on and off the track and was at the core of our success at Dust Devil.

Stay tuned for Episode 2: Mental Focus!!
Over and Out!
Kitty Decapitate and Berzerker

Does your team need help focusing on and achieving your goals for success? You can find out more about Kitty and Berzerker’s consulting business here!

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