Tips from a Division 1 jammer

My name is Alyssa Pray, I am 21 years old and this is my first season with Rat City Roller Derby All-Stars. Here is a little backstory to how I got into roller derby. I was born in Sacramento, CA and I made the move to Washington in 2008. My parents separated when I was pretty young so when I moved it was to live with my dad. My father is the reason why I started skating competitively. But before he moved to Washington when I was growing up in California all I can remember as a kid was skating all the time with my parents, my mom did figure skating and my dad was a jam skater. They worked at the skating rink for the first few years of my life so my daycare was with them while they worked. I was in the sixth grade when I moved and my dad got me into inline speed skating shortly after moving here, I absolutely loved it. After a few years of inline skating I was introduced to roller derby through a friend. As I was entering my first year of high school I was balancing inline skating, roller derby and then track in the spring. After a few years of balancing all three sports, I decided to pick one and it was roller derby.

I began playing in the JRDA for the I-5 Rollergirls, starting in the fall of 2010 until the summer of 2014. The I-5 Rollergirls were last coached by Vito Ramon and K-Beezy, who helped lead us to a lot of victories. Going into the new year when I aged out I started playing for The Oly-Rollers under the USARS rule set. While playing there we won a few gold medals at the National Championships and after two seasons, I made a choice to play at an even higher level of roller derby, which would be to play for a Division one WFTDA team.

When I joined the Rat City All-Star program, I got an amazing opportunity to be coached again by Vito and Dylan Botts who is a part of the Men’s USA Team. Not only do I have an amazing coaching staff but also teammates, such as Lacey Evans who is also a part of Team USA for women’s Roller Derby. Rosiy Rickel is an I-5RG Alumni who I was lucky enough to grow up and play with for the last seven years, between I-5RG, the Oly-Rollers and now for the Rat City All-Stars. This team defiantly hits home in my heart and I am so proud to share the track with every single person who is a part of the program.

After seven years of competing in roller derby I have found that there is a lot more than just skating and working out that goes into training. Playing at such a high level in this sport requires you to pay attention to not only your nutrition but also your mental game. Being in the top two jammer rotation for a Division one team at 21, having it be your first ever WFTDA season, and making it to Champs can be a lot to take in, but a few things I make sure to remind myself on a time to time basis is to have fun, never stop learning and stay humble.

How do you train to be more agile?

One thing that I’ve learned so far playing WFTDA as a jammer, agility is your best friend when it comes to getting out of the pack successfully. The tempo of the game is so much faster as a jammer and you have to always be thinking one step ahead, or else the blockers will dictate your next move. Juking, a precise tool we can perform as long as the timing is right. When juking you can make the movements but if they aren’t quick enough, it won’t usually go in your favor. Jammers don’t typically want a tight seamed wall to fight against but throwing in a few hard jukes will help break up the opposing blockers. A thing to remember for doing these jukes is to make them believable and to time them just right. If you juke to early blockers will read the movements and if they are too late then you’ll probably get stuck in a seam.

Drills that I find extremely helpful with advancing your agility and juking skills are ones that require you do at higher speeds and to get uncomfortable. When you practice at high speeds it forces you to work harder, really focus and control your movements better. What I mean by uncomfortable is that when your practicing these jukes, you want to get the timing down. So, by getting the timing down you are bound to make mistakes in the beginning but once you get the timing down then you should see blockers unravel and create spaces that they don’t mean to make. Something that I’ve done this season that I felt I got better at while juking was doing ladder drills on and off skates. Getting more comfortable with uncomfortable situations is key.

Tips for speed

#1 Tip: Conserve your energy and know when to use it, my little background in inline skating helps me see it that way. When successfully breaking through the pack and coming back around for a scoring pass, we jammers don’t have much time to recover. So, during that time of coming back into the pack is when we need to be smart with our speed and energy. This doesn’t mean skate slow and catch a breath, it means make your steps count and conserve your bursting energy for when you get back into the pack for another round. Having good form and control, really helps and goes a long way. Having control of your technique is an addition to conserving energy because your able to manage how much energy to put out and when to do so.

This weekend The Rat City All-Stars are heading to the WFTDA Division One Championships, stay tuned to see how we do taking on Texas Roller Derby in our first game!

Alyssa Pray has been skating for 7 years and currently skates for Rat City All Stars. She started skating for a junior team for 4 years and after she aged out skated for great teams up to the division one WFTDA team.

You can see Alyssa Pray jam this weekend when Rat City plays the WFTDA Champs in Philly. Get your watch pass now at wftda.tv

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *