Roxy Rockett

Basic skating for the basic skater

Starting out on skates after being off of them for some years is a confusing and humbling process. You have this mindset that you were a kick-ass skater back in middle school and it’s going to be really easy for you to strap your skates on and start playing derby in a matter of days. WRONG!

Unless you come from a speed skating background (and even that is outdated), a figure skating background (which has different balance priorities), or even a hockey background (flailing arms galore!), you were never really taught how to skate. You have self-taught tendencies that will have to be erased in order to learn the derby style of skating.

Coming from a speed skating background, I had the basic skating form. I know how to get low and my legs are thicker than Russian bread during the cold war era. However, when on the speed team, my coach never focused too much on my basic skating form (crossovers, power glides, arm control, timing), all he was concerned with was that I could skate fast. Coming back to skating, I had to relearn these basic skating skills:

Getting low

Getting low is key for leg strengthening, which in turn, becomes the main source of power for sprints, power glides, blocking and dodging.

When getting low, be sure to bend at the knees (not the waist) and keep your weight balanced on both skates. Be sure not to lean too far forward and keep your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your arms in. Don’t get used to holding your arms out for balance, as it could cause problems in the future with penalties and general imbalance. I would suggest your league do some type of ongoing squatting exercises, on or off skates.


Sprints come from the balls of your feet, your inner thigh muscles and your stomach muscles. Think of running up a wet, grassy hill. You use the ball of your feet and dig down into the earth and push down and out using your thighs. Your arms are positioned in a runner’s stance, close to your sides.

The first six or so steps are very short and powerful. Your glides shouldn’t be long and drawn out but rather quick, run-like pushes. There shouldn’t be a lot of noise coming from your skates. If it sounds like you’re busting holes in the rink, then you’re more than likely going in an up and down motion rather than pushing down and out.

Once your sprint speed has surpassed the short quick steps you will progress into power glides. Again, keep your arms in and stay low while doing sprints.

Power gliding/pushes

When getting speed from power glides (mainly used on straight-aways) be sure you’re pushing from the balls of your feet. You want to push down and out while bending at the knees for power. Your arms are going to be close to your body and in a runner’s stance. You do not want to have your arms going side to side, rather you need to have them going back and forth. This will help pull in power from your arms rather than having your arms work against you. Not to mention, swinging your arms may cause penalties in the future and exhaustion due to the fact that you’re literally working against yourself. To incorporate derby into all this, be sure you’re looking behind you while gliding.


Crossovers are essential in derby. Well-balanced crossovers are even more essential. The power in crossovers comes from the top, inside wheel of your right skate and the top, outside wheel of your left skate. Those are the wheels you push from. It should be an equal push from both feet, meaning the strides should be evenly timed and powered from stroke to stroke.

Some ladies have a weaker left leg, resulting in a “plopping” motion when doing crossovers. You can fix this by doing one foot glides on the corners. Simply push off at the beginning of the turn and hold that position for the whole corner. Make sure your arms are in and you are in a squat position, keeping your torso turned into the corner.

When pushing off with the right skate (top inside wheel), be aware of how you’re pushing. Feel through the skate and understand where that power needs to come from in order for you to get the most out of your strides. When pushing off with the left skate (top outside wheel), make sure your left leg is placed behind your right knee and you hold it there for the whole corner. Again, be aware of how you’re pushing and recognize the power points on the skates, as well as the muscles in your legs. Understand what doing a full crossover looks and feels like.

Categorised as: Rollergirl Maintenance

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