Between Jams: Whitney Griffin

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Anyone at the sideline during the WFTDA Championship final, in St. Paul, Minnesota, saw an offensive battle, but much more. As Rose City huddled down against five-time champs Gotham, it was Rose’s gritty blockers who made much of the difference both enabling their jammers to score, and in earning the win.

Tasked with playing offense and defense in twos, Whitney Griffin, along with Sarah Gaither,  Jessica Chestnut and others, was one of Rose City’s often unsung heroes who helped grease Wheels of Justice just enough to grab The Hydra last Sunday night.

(Photo by Whitney Griffin)

Earning the game on Sunday.
We knew going into Champs that we would face many worthy opponents. Our team knew better than to underestimate the teams we were matched up against. We had to play one game at a time and respect the process or as Lobster would say, “win the moment”. Once we earned the opportunity to play in the Championship game, we just had to stay calm, work together and win the last five minutes. We were prepared for the possibilities and we are ecstatic to have beaten the odds.

WE WON!
It’s a week later and it’s still a bit surreal. Being a support player myself, I cannot speak enough to the importance of trusting one another, constant contact and calm communication. I brace my teammates (physically and emotionally). It is my responsibility to help them absorb impact, communicate pack awareness, move laterally and finish hits to the line Rollin' News - World Wide Roller Derby News | [DC]: Cherry Blossom Bombshells 214, DC DemonCats 52

[DC]: Cherry Blossom Bombshells 214, DC DemonCats 52

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WASHINGTON, DC — In the second bout of the DC Rollergirls’ double-header, the DC DemonCats took on the Cherry Blossom Bombshells in what the DemonCats hoped would be their first win for the season. But after taking lead jammer for most of the game for a string of successful hit-and-quit jams, the Bombshells continued their winning streak with a decisive victory of 214-52 over the ‘Cats.

Coming out strong in the first jam was the DemonCats’ Jersey Jill, who scored 10 unanswered points thanks to a rash of penalties called on the Bombshells, including jammer Lucky Penny. Their early momentum was soon thwarted as the Bombshells’ Penny and Yankee Scandal grabbed lead jammer over the next four jams while putting up 34 unanswered points to make it 34-10 Bombshells.

Jill and Mini Vandal managed to eke out seven more points for the DemonCats over the next two jams, thanks in part to a skate malfunction that took out Bombshell jammer Boom-Chica-Doom and also sent her the right decisions and doesn’t inadvertently break the pack or call for another action that would get her or her teammates a penalty. Prospective pivots should know the rules inside and out.

 

Watch roller derby

Once you’ve got the rules down pat, watch as much derby as you can to see what it looks like in action. You can watch it in person or online at WFTDA.tv. Paying attention to what the pack is doing can help you hone your instincts.

 

Visualize gameplay

Once you’ve developed a sense of who does what when, and how pivots respond to common scenarios (a power jam, when the jammer escapes the pack, when you’re down to only two blockers on the track, etc.), visualize what you would tell the pack to do in each situation. You can even write it out if that helps you. This will train your brain and get you ready to take what you’ve learned to the track.

 

Awareness

In addition to knowing what to do, a pivot must be able to recognize a situation as it starts to develop. For example, if you see your last blocker losing the opposing jammer at 19 feet, you should already know that your next move is to play offense for your jammer who’s only 30 feet behind the pack. Learning to recognize these scenarios will help you be a great pivot.

 

Look around

When you’re blocking, get in the habit of looking around and figuring out what’s happening. Where is the pack (the largest number of skaters from both teams)? The jammers? Who’s in the box? Once you can always answer those questions without thinking about it, you’ll be in a great position to assess what your pack should do.

 

Study others

Pay attention to what your pivot calls for when you’re in the pack, and what your track-facing manager calls for when you’re on the bench. For example, if your team has two skaters in the box and your jammer is lead, she might try to run the jam longer to spring your blockers. But she can only do that if the two remaining blockers pick up their speed (without breaking the pack) so the other jammer doesn’t score while you’re trying to shave seconds off the penalties. By paying careful attention, you can identify the scenarios where your team’s leadership makes decisions in a certain way and sock that information away for when you’ve got the stripe.

 

Communication

It’s not enough to know what to do, you’ve got to be able to tell your teammates, too!

 

Loud and proud

The most important part of communication is very basic: be loud. VERY LOUD. No matter how loud you think you’re being, BE LOUDER. You should also be ready to repeat yourself a few times. There’s no such thing as too much communication in roller derby.

 

The name game

If you’re trying to get someone’s attention, use her name, THEN say what you want to say. There’s a lot happening on the track at any given time; this can help ensure that your message gets through.

 

Time is of the essence

It often takes a while for your teammates to hear you and act on what you’re saying, so try to call plays at least a few seconds before they need to be executed. The more time you give your teammates, the better.

 

A few last tips

 

Come Together

In general, having all the skaters doing the same thing is going to be most effective, even if it isn’t the 100% most optimal play.

 

It’s Just Practice

Pivoting is definitely a skill that takes time and experience to develop, so don’t stress about it if you don’t get it on the first try (or the fifth!). Don’t get down on yourself if you mess up, or take it to heart if your teammates get a bit snappy with you. Just think about ways you can improve for next time.

 

Any other tips for prospective pivots?

 

For more derby wisdom from Em Dash, check out her book, Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby.

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