By Elle Loco
I want to be a jammer… Well, that didn’t used to be true in the slightest. When I started playing Roller Derby, I wanted to be a blocker. The thought of being a jammer terrified me. I would be the target that everyone was out to get. I would need to battle my way through a pack of skaters and then muster up the energy to skate round the track and try to do it again.
Could I handle the pressure of being the person responsible for scoring the points for my team? If we lost, would that be on my shoulders as I should have scored more points? Would I tell myself that I should have fought more when my legs wanted to give way, and that I should have battled through to ensure that we were the team clocking up the points on the board.
Now I know a lot of players out there will be saying that the above statements are not quite true (after all, it is a TEAM game), but those were the thoughts that would go through my head when I was first learning to play the game.
So, during training and scrimmages, I would be a blocker. I’m not a small player by any means – I’m 5’ 10” off skates, a size 14 and I have a large presence on the track. Don’t get me wrong, I like to think I’m quite fit; as well as Roller Derby I train 3 times a week at the gym and recently started on daily circuit training for strength (but that’s an entirely different story from the one I am trying to tell). My size in both height and stature makes me feel confident as a blocker on the track. I can hit hard, I can get in the way. The more I have skated, the more agile I have become and I’m also quick so I can chase the players out of the pack and generally be a pain in the behind! I found my comfort zone as a blocker. I liked pairing up with my team mates to build our walls of doom, and I liked that blockers were the ones responsible for stopping the opposing jammer from getting points!
At some point though – and I can’t for the life of me remember why – I tried jamming during scrimmage one week. I can’t remember if I scored any points, I can’t remember if I went to the penalty box that day, I can’t really remember how it happened at all. What I do know is that these days I regularly don the jammer panty at training. I don’t fear it any more. I actively encourage others that are fearful of the star to try it, those that may have the same concerns I had when I first started out and are worried about the pressures of being a jammer. So what changed in me?
I can’t remember what made me try jamming. But I do know that I have gained a hell of a lot from doing it! Trying to be a jammer meant I looked at the pack in a new light. I was looking for holes to get through as I approached the pack rather than looking at the players themselves. I would be actively planning my approach to the pack and looking to my team mates for their assistance. Yes – I realised that as a jammer it’s not my sole responsibility to score points – my team help me to do this.
A couple of weeks ago at scrimmage I had the easiest high scoring jam I’d ever had because my team mates would clear me a path every time I came round the track. It seems like an obvious thing to say this now, but being the jammer opened my eyes to things that a blocker can do to help the jammer.
Playing from both sides made me realise what each player needs – as a blocker I know when to help the jammer (and how), and as a blocker I started to have more of an idea about what my jammer would do, the path they would take, holes they would look for etc.
If you currently like to play as one position and one position only, I’d highly recommend trying out something new at your practices. Yes, it throws you out of your comfort zone and you probably will mess up when you try to do it, but it will make you a better player. If I look back to when I started I’d never have thought I’d be a jammer. But now I am more than happy to wear the star and get on the track, knowing that it will help me to improve my game.
Elle Loco, x