Communication Drills (Spit it Out!)

FINALLY.

Here is a collection of drills and strategies that I covered in my Spit It Out! class at Rollercon 2013. Since then, I have become increasingly interested in gesturing, establishing clear channels of communication, and combo drills that work on speed control and communication. I have added more drills as well. Please feel free to email me if you need clarification on anything.

Chatty Cathy (Warm up drill, focuses on speaking up and speed control).

  • Skater get one partner, and skate in a wall formation, matching each others speed. Not touching, but skating hips in a row.
  • For one minute Skater 1 will be chatting to her partner non-stop, telling her a story or about her day or whatever. If unable to think of something to say, “Blah Blah Blah” is ok.
  • While Skater 1 is talking, Skater 2 is doing sharp speed changes (accelerating, decelerating, stopping abruptly)
  • Object of drill is for Skater 1 to keep up with Skater 2’s changes in speed (tight wall, hips in a row) while still talking.
  • After 1 minute, allow skaters to rest for 15 seconds, then have them switch roles.
  • For best results, partners should be looking at each other to help stay in a tight formation.
  • The skater doing speed changes should not be talking or indicating to the chatter of what she’ll do next.
  • There should be NO coasting, only active acceleration and slowing or stopping

Sentry (New drill, pace line, focuses on signaling/gesturing and speed control)

  • Skaters form a pace line, at whistle the skater in the back weaves through pace line at full speed.
  • Each skater in the line formation is a sentry, and is practicing their awareness of the weaving skaters by frequently looking behind them. As the weaving skater approaches, each sentry will decide whether or not that skater can pass.
  • If the sentry does not want the skater to pass, she holds her hand up in a firm “Stop” signal (palm out, fingers aimed to ceiling) and makes eye contact with the weaving skater.
  • Upon being signaled, the weaving skater comes to an abrupt, complete stop (snow plow or hockey stop, NO toestops)
  • Pace line continues at normal speed – no slowing
  • Weaving skater hustles to get back to the sentry who stopped her
  • When she arrives, the sentry signals jammer to proceed past her (using clear gestures)
  • Ideally, each weaving skater get’s stopped 4-5 times during their trip through the line
  • Strong emphasis on sentry awareness of who is coming through the line, and if the weaving skater has been stopped enough times to get to his/her 4-5 stops.

Numbers Pace Line (communication pathways, urgency)

This is a basic drill that can be modified in a dozen different ways.

The base model of the drill is a double pace line. Start with the coach skating on the infield, calling different sequences of numbers, such as 2, 3, 1. Skaters need to immediately arrange the pace line in a 2, 3, 1 formation, repeating the sequence down the line.

Once they are in the formation, call a new sequence, such as 4, 1, 3.

Modifications:

  • Coach calls numbers from the front of the pace line
  • Coach calls numbers from the back of the pace line (note: sequences must always be formed from the front of the line)
  • Coach assigns a skater to call the sequences from wherever she is in line
  • Coach can approach a skater and tell them to get the attention of another skater at the front of the line and make her/him join them, thus destroying the sequence and requiring everyone to reform accordingly
  • You can also send skaters to weave through the pace line while the pace line is making their formations. To make this extra challenging, once weaving skaters arrive at the front, the whole line must re-form according to the sequence, resulting in a chaotic situation requiring constant communication
  • You can also time how long it takes the line to switch from one sequence to another, encouraging fast acting teamwork

This drill helps a team find out:

1.) Who the natural pivots are (meaning they are effective at directing skaters, rather than just having a loud voice)

2.) Which are the fast reacting skaters who quickly act on changing scenarios

3.) Which skaters pause to observe what others do first before filling in where needed

4.) Where communication breaks down. Is it front to back verbal communication? Back to front?

Communication styles/roles:

Pivot – Can quickly assess and direct skaters into appropriate action

Bullhorn – Skaters who are comfortable speaking loudly and clearly, so they have the range to reach skaters who are far away. They don’t necessarily call the plays, but are capable of echoing the pivots directions to help wrangle the pack.

Advisor – Soft spoken skaters have an important role in communication, as they tend to be observant, and tend to prefer talking to their partner, who can then bullhorn to the rest of the pack if needed

Workhorse – These are the skaters who follow direction without hesitation or question

(Over)Thinker – They pause to assess before springing to action, are often best paired with a good pivot. Once they fully “get” a play, they are likely to act quickly when they see familiar scenarios, and with practice, can develop into solid workhorses.

Knowing your teams communication and styles can help you set up packs, pair people up to make the most out of their strengths, and teach each other how to sharpen their pack communication so they can win jams and games. Your set up may vary depending on the team needs.

Inside Pivot: 

Disclaimer: This is an advanced communications drill that is not terribly popular with skaters, because it can be very challenging and sometimes ego bruising. It’s important to stress that it’s ok to make mistakes, and to try to push through moments of feeling flustered in order to sharpen their communication skills. Celebrate small victories.

Drill Setup: 2 packs and 2 jammers, ready for a lightning round. One pack has their pivot directing them from the infield. The skaters with the “inside pivot” cannot act without verbal instruction from their pivot, who is not actually skating the jam.

Something that helps this drill go more smoothly is to encourage the inside pivot to “tell a story” rather than give a GPS style turn-by-turn description of what to do.

For example:

“Skate up to front. Inside. Hit Jammer! Chase her. Stop. Back up. Join Pack. Help our jammer. Hit someone!” is a play-by-play, and it’s easy to fall behind of the action.

“Defense, I need you up front and walled up before jammer is 20 feet from hitting pack. Good. Ready for defense. You got her, now SLOW. So-n-so, hit her out and back up. Player2, our jammer is 20 feet away, clear the inside for her.”

While the second example may seem more wordy, and truthfully may not reflect how a pivot will talk while in a pack, it exercises their ability to describe whats happening and give pro-active instructions in the pack, which will allow skaters time to act on it. It also gets people familiar with what words skaters use when they give directions.

Thanks for reading, I’ll try to get my next post up before March!

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