England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales: around the world, only the best are chosen to represent their country. So how do you make the ascent from an amateur league to the upper echelons of international skating? At the Home Nations Bootcamp, five players at the very top of UK men's roller derby let us in on their secrets, sharing their hard-earned expertise ahead of the Men's Roller Derby World Cup in Calgary.
Fresh from a day of blammer bootcamping with Juke Boxx and Ballistic Whistle, four intrepid Minxters tagged along to learn the skills of the home nations' heroes – and one even walked away with a cheeky Best Jammer award.
What is the 'Home Nations Bootcamp'?
A full-day intensive course on competitive roller derby, split into jamming and blocking sessions, covering technique and strategy and culminating in a scrim.
When did it take place?
3rd July in Halifax, at the training grounds of the Bruising Banditas,10am-4pm. This was a solid day of fast-paced derby training.
Who was coaching?
Five of the best: Lt. Damn, (Ireland jammer), U-Go Boss (Welsh blocker), Don Gingovanni (England blocker), Alien Al (England jammer), and Zube (blocking for Scotland).
What did you learn?
Split into blocking and jamming skills, the bootcamp showed skaters a new way of looking at roller derby. From scoring points without breaking through a wall, to handling a jammer as a lone blocker and manipulating the pack to your advantage, skaters were taught the tips and tricks for upping their game through a heady mix of technique, skill and strategy.
Any notable points?
Despite being at the top of their game, these guys are down to earth. The combination of talent and approachability created the perfect learning environment, as skaters were comfortable to ask questions whilst exploring their own developing skills.
The post-mortem of individual jamming technique was particularly insightful, allowing each skater to appreciate their strengths and weaknesses from a world-class vantage point.
The drills were clearly explained, with a clear goal from the outset; each skill was challenging, without being overwhelming; everything was well-timed, and ran smoothly. The scrim at the end gave players a chance to test their new techniques, and even the off-the-cuff commentary gave skaters food for thought.
Not the best thing to attempt after a 4-hour blammer bootcamp and very little sleep: this was joyfully exhausting.
Beyond the skills and drills, this bootcamp offered the chance to view the sport differently, and to both play and train smarter. Jammers learned to push their boundaries by using their less honed skills as a way to facilitate drills and work on those weak spots, whilst blockers were taught to think pragmatically, using the nuance of roller derby rules to their strategic advantage. Tickets came with a nifty little hashtag-smothered t-shirt for the collection, which was a nice touch.
A great day made even better with our very own Lethal Fawce's well-deserved Best Jammer win. We'll be keeping our eyes peeled for the next one.