(photo: Michael East)

*Training post from Luludemon*

Recently, I had the honour of coaching the Terminal City Rollergirls’ Bad Reputations in a bout. I don’t have a lot of previous bench coaching experience, but I have been coached by many different people with many different coaching styles. While standing on the the other side of the bench that night, I was inspired to write my Top Ten Tips for Bench Coaching Roller Derby.

  1. You do not own the team. You are not the boss, the mommy, nor the supreme emperor. You are another member of the team, and you’re there to support the skaters. Avoid calling them “your skaters” or even worse, “your girls.” It’s condescending and sends the wrong message. Instead, you should empower them, inspire them and encourage them to be strong, athletic women.
  2. Use timeouts as rest time for the team. If your team is having trouble focusing, break up each quarter with a time out. Use this time to breathe and reset if things are getting hectic.
  3. Do not take a timeout if everyone is calm and you are winning. Positive momentum is a valuable commodity in roller derby; ride that wave of good mojo all the way to the shore.
  4. Official Reviews are only worthwhile if you get the opposing team’s jammer or biggest threat blocker off the track. Otherwise it’s just a game of Who Wants to Be a Rules Nerd, also known as “mine is bigger than yours.”
  5. Having said that, if you run out of timeouts and the team needs a break to reset, this is when an Official Review can be beneficial.
  6. Do your job!If you’ve decided with the team that your job is to tell the jammers when to call it off, then make sure you are there when they need you. Don’t get distracted by watching the action. Be the support they can rely on – their beacon in the night, their life preserver in the storm.
  7. Let the skaters do their jobs. You can’t be everywhere all the time, so empower the skaters to make the decisions they need in the moment. Don’t be a helicopter coach.
  8. The skaters skate and the coach coaches. Period. While it’s important for skaters to talk to each other on the bench to evaluate what is working and what isn’t, it is not the skater’s job to coach from the bench. Skaters yelling at their teammates on the track just adds to the noise and creates chaos for everyone. Your bench time is your rest, reset and refocus time. Use it wisely.
  9. Calling off the jam.This subject really deserves its own blog post, but here are some quick things to think about when you’re deciding whether your team’s jammer should call it off:
  • What is the score differential? Is it large or tight?
  • How much time is left on the clock? If we are winning and there is not much time left, maybe we want to hold on to lead and run down the clock. If we’re losing, we could call it off quickly to fit in more jams and potentially score more points.
  • Do WE have players in the box? We may want to run the time to release them.
  • Do THEY have players in the box? We may want to call it quickly and start the next jam with a pack advantage or a power jam.

(These are by no means all of the questions to consider when calling off the jam, but hopefully this starts the conversation. Don’t just follow the herd – keep people guessing!)

  1. You matter! Remember that your energy will affect the energy of the team. Everyone has a different style of coaching, but no matter your style, the team will always look to you for guidance. If you are asking them to be calm and composed on the track but you are stressed out and shouty, you are setting a double standard, and adding to what can already be a stressful situation.

Remember, being asked to bench coach a team is a big responsibility. The team is putting their trust in you to represent them to the referees, to the other team and to their fans. Do your homework and, as always, don’t be a douchebag!

Now get out there and have some fun! Later Skaters – Lulu


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