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Inline secrets from the world's top skaters and coaches

This week's tip:

Getting Up To Speed In Derby

By Debbie Rice

Debbie Rice out on a jam.

"Two jammers, one for each team, have to make it through the pack without a penalty. Then after lapping the pack, you score one point for each person on the opposing team that you pass on the second go around." — Debbie Rice

photo: Telisa Miller

Most of you know me only as an inline speed skater. But in fact, I’ve been a roller girl for years, skating all types of derby.

I love the fun and excitement of roller derby, which is a real sport that requires much more than a derby name and a hot uniform.

Successful derby skaters need nimble feet, aerobic conditioning, tactical know-how and speed. In fact, the question I’m most often asked by derby skaters is how can I learn to go faster? Here’s what I’ve found: the same principles that apply to inline speed apply to quads.


You must learn to crawl before you can walk. Same goes for skating. You have to learn the basics before you can go fast. You may be an Olympic track runner in the best shape of your life, but unless you learn proper technique, you’ll never go fast.

Practice makes perfect. And the more time you spend on your skates, the better. Just make sure you are paying attention to your form:

Lower your center of gravity. Bend at the knees, not at the waist. (It's almost like sitting in a chair.)

Pay attention to your stride. Find a straight line and skate it. Make sure your wheels touch the center line at the beginning of each stroke. If they don’t, your feet are too far apart and you are losing pushing power.

Make your push straight out to the side, not straight back. And push with your heels, not your toes. (In order to do this, you must bend at the knees!)

Keep your core — belly and the mid and lower back — tight. Use your glutes (butt muscles) to generate power in your stride.

And swing those arms when you want to get moving.


Endurance is a must in the ever-evolving sport of derby as athleticism grows and training programs gain steam. Bouts (derby matches) are exhausting, and when you get tired, you lose your edge.

That’s when it’s time to push through the pain. There are two types of pain, physical and mental. The pain experienced while training is usually mental. And it’s important to push through it. If you are not feeling uncomfortable, you’re probably wasting your time.

When you train, keep a consistent cadence. Don’t let fatigue slow you down. It’s important to push yourself to the next level.

If you want to learn specific drills to build endurance, attend a derby boot camp. You can find them all over the country. Or attend an inline speed practice at your local roller rink.

Another way to build endurance is to invest in some outdoor wheels and skate some laps around the neighborhood or along the boardwalk. Any extra time you spend on skates will build endurance. But remember to make the most of it by pushing yourself.


Teach your feet to move quickly. One way to do this is to skate in and out of a line of cones. Another way to train your fast twitch muscles is to run up and down bleachers.


Strengthening your leg and core muscles is key to improving skating skills. And one of the best ways to do this is with offskate or dryland exercises. For a primer on these strength builders, read my tip on plyometrics.

Follow these tips and you’ll go faster whether you like to roll on quads or inlines — or, like me, both.


Debbie RiceDebbie Rice skated quads before inlines and became a master of both. She has won numerous titles, indoor and out, including the 2009 Master World Marathon Championship. She also holds the Guinness record for fastest woman on skates — 61 mph. A former cast member of the Roller Jam television series, she now jams for the Bont's Quadstar Derby Team. She is a Bont sales representative and team manager of Bont USA and Bont Quadstars Derby Team. A Houston native, she currently lives in Tampa.

Debbie's Facebook page




Related reading:

Skate Tip of the Week Archive
Beginners Guide to Outdoor Racing
Beginners Guide to Inline Skating




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