Ask Jam Slanders Jam Slanders

Published on April 2nd, 2013 | by Jam Slanders

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Jam Slanders

Ask Jam Slanders: Getting Back on the Horse

Hi Jam,
I’m trying to cope with dashed derby dreams. Do you have any advice about how to make peace with your place as a permanent NSO?
–Permanent NSO

I’m not sure what your situation is that has you perma-NSOing. Injury? Lack of time? Not good enough to make your league’s team? All of these have different implications for your potential derby career.

Let’s consider the situation where your skills aren’t up to par for your league. What is your geographical flexibility? Are there nearby leagues that you could commute to? Even if there’s not a viable league, recreational leagues are becoming more common, and a nearby league might host one. The ones I’m familiar with only require you to pass WFTDA skills and then you’re free to play.

If commuting is not a possibility, what can you get out of your current situation? Have you asked your league if you’re able to participate in drills or practices? I’ve skated with leagues that allow refs and NSOs to participate in drills as long as they have passed WFTDA skills.

If it’s an injury, is it so bad you can’t skate? If you are too mangled for derby, but okay with skating, you might want to look into reffing rather than NSOing. Reffing will allow you to be on skates and get a bit more of a workout.

If it’s the time…well, there’s that.

Even though you’re not playing, you’re getting a lot of the same things out of derby as an NSO: the camaraderie, the travel, and the contribution to something greater than yourself. And, on the plus side, you can stop saving money for your dual knee replacement surgery.

I need advice!
I’m rehabbing my first derby injury (a broken ankle). I’ve read up on what to expect (emotionally/mentally/physically), but am having trouble figuring out how/when to return fully. I’m about 4 months post-break and am definitely back on skates. I’m at the rinks during open session and I even skated warm-ups at a handful of practices before we hit off season a couple weeks ago. So I guess my question is this: Broken down, what does the transition from rehabbing to returning to contact look like? Am I doing it right? What ELSE can a skater do with the extra time she has between a semi-return and a full-on-return?
–Let Me Back on That Horse!

Every injury is different. Your return should be up to you and your doctors first, and your team’s coaches/captains/trainers second.

First, do everything you can outside of practice. The best thing you can do is work on your physical fitness. You can build strength and work on your endurance and agility with regular workouts. Make sure you are keeping up with your PT.

You can also start mentally preparing for contact by doing dry land (off-skates) contact. Find a teammate and practice hitting lightly, focusing on your form. Over time you’ll feel more comfortable and can step up the aggression in the hits. This will also help when you get back to hitting on skates because it won’t feel like such a shock to the system when you’re trying to manage your form, your stability, and your timing all at once.

Spending time on skates is also good, of course, so keep hitting the rink. You may or may not be sporting an ankle brace, and skating with one can take some getting used to. Try skating at different speeds (both directions) and using a variety of stops to get used to the feel.

When you’re back to practice, make sure you talk to your coaches, captains, trainers, etc. to let them know you’ll be easing back into drills. First, start participating in skating drills and falling drills. Once you’re comfortable with those, work your way into positional blocking and herding drills. Then, get comfortable taking and giving light hits. Finally, work your way into full contact drills and then scrimmage. If you skated at a higher level in your league, you may consider starting with a lower level scrimmage, but consult your team leadership about that.

Finally, get steely. I don’t know about you, but I get itchier than a case o’ crabs watching other people play derby. Mentally rehearsing what you’re going to do on the track is also a great exercise to get you back in the mindset.

Good luck with the return!


I’m Jam Slanders and I’m here to tell you what to do with your life. I consult with a broad range of skaters, liquors, and knowledgeable media sources (“Always bet on black!”—Wesley Snipes, Passenger 57) to bring you the answers to all of your derby-related questions. I’m here to answer your questions about psychological, interpersonal, and social questions and issues related to playing derby, training questions, and other fun stuff (just not how you can get rid of that itchy rash you picked up at your last afterparty). You can reach me at advice@derbylife.com.


All questions you pose will be completely anonymous, so feel free to come up with your own fun pseudonym or we’ll make one for you.

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Jam Slanders

Jam Slanders is here to tell you what to do with your life. She's here to answer your questions about psychological, interpersonal, and social questions and issues related to playing derby, training questions, and other fun stuff (just not how you can get rid of that itchy rash you picked up at your last afterparty). She consults with a broad range of skaters, liquors, and knowledgeable media sources (“Always bet on black!”—Wesley Snipes, Passenger 57) to bring you the answers to all of your derby-related questions. All questions you pose will be completely anonymous, so feel free to come up with your own fun pseudonym or Jam will make one for you. Send your questions to advice@derbylife.com.


About the Author

Jam Slanders is here to tell you what to do with your life. She's here to answer your questions about psychological, interpersonal, and social questions and issues related to playing derby, training questions, and other fun stuff (just not how you can get rid of that itchy rash you picked up at your last afterparty). She consults with a broad range of skaters, liquors, and knowledgeable media sources (“Always bet on black!”—Wesley Snipes, Passenger 57) to bring you the answers to all of your derby-related questions. All questions you pose will be completely anonymous, so feel free to come up with your own fun pseudonym or Jam will make one for you. Send your questions to advice@derbylife.com.



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