By Kristen Lee. Captain of London Brawling. Co-Owner of Double Threat Skates
As preparation for WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs London Brawling have a single month (August) where all our training for the year comes together to be distilled down into its purest, most perfect form. Brawlgust is the month where the rest of our league have their summer break, and when Brawling spend the summer breaking eachother. Brawlgust starts off fun and exciting because it’s literally just our charter of 20 attending. In our regular training structure, we usually only have 1 of these sessions every 3 weeks. With so much extra training time you can really delve into the detail and hone very specific areas, which is so valuable. On the flip side, one full month of team training 8 hours each week plus a tournament on the horizon is gruelling. This is because when you are training with and against your own team, a team of strong, fierce and talented players, nothing is easy. We basically spend a month kicking each others arses and pushing eachother to our limits. Often you end sessions feeling like you don’t even know how to rollerskate anymore. One constant beacon of light throughout Brawlgust is the knowledge that we would get to unleash this on our opponents come September.
We know that no game is going to be harder than playing ourselves, because we all know eachother’s strengths and weaknesses and how to exploit and play off those. Because of this, one of the ideas we had for Brawlgust was to invite ‘guest jammers’ to jam against our packs at training in order to push us out of our comfort zone and test our ability to adapt to new challenges. It’s no good to only know how to block against your own jammers, because come game day, you may be faced with a totally different style (this rang very true with some of the opponents that we faced at the Evansville playoffs). Same goes for our jammers. Getting our jammers to practice jamming against different body types or styles of blocking is really valuable.
Brawlgust is the cruelest month. from London Rollergirls on Vimeo.
Another addition to our training was to start filming it. I found this incredibly helpful for a number of reasons. First, part of my job as captain to select rosters and blocking combinations (with the other members of our leadership team) but if I am skating all the time, I often can’t see what the other pack is doing, or even what my pack is doing from a 3rd person perspective. Footage from training really helped with this process. We also posted this footage for the team to see, which enabled the team to analyse their own performance from an outside perspective and recognise elements of their game play that they can adjust or improve on, that they may not notice when playing. A few times we looked at the playback of the footage straight away. That sort of instant visual feedback enabled me to quickly identify areas I could improve on and make those quick changes there and then.
Captaining and being a skater at the same time has its challenges. You need to find the balance between being able to make good decisions when analysing the state of the team, while also juggling your feelings about your own performance. You really have to be able to separate yourself and look at things objectively and without ego. Brawlgust really highlights this because of the intensity of the training. The terms ‘resilience’ and ‘trust’ are words which got me through. In sport, no matter the level you are playing at, there will be hardships. That is a given. It is how you respond to these and how you come out the other end that matters. ‘Trust’ meant having faith in the team’s abilities and training, trusting in others within the leadership team (Vice Captains, Bench and Assistant Bench Coach), as well as trusting in my own critical thinking thought processes.
Brawlgust is incredible. You are in this tiny bubble with a small group of people all striving to be the best we can be as individuals and as a team. However, we all know that looming in the distance is also the roster selection for the tournament (due to how far we have to travel, we only take 14 skaters) as well as the tournament itself. Because of this, the pressure, the fight, the heart and the commitment of the skaters is unbelievable. All the hard work we have put in throughout the year is building to this crescendo of The Big 5 Tournament Season.
Here's a compilation clip of our Playoffs Adventure made by Lexi Lightspeed
Evansville adventures 2014 from Lexi_Lightspeed on Vimeo.
And so we all come out of Brawlgust battered and bruised, but with steely determination. We are ready for battle. Nothing can be as tough as Brawlgust.
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