Running a Bootcamp: A Q&A with Crazylegs

This May, Auld Reekie Roller Girls travelled with a team of ten to Finland to play  Helsinki Roller Derby and host a day long bootcamp for skaters and officials across the league. It was a challenging but incredibly rewarding experience and one I don’t think any of our skaters are going to forget for a while..

We caught up with Captain Crazylegs to find out a little bit more about the ARRG’s first ever bootcamp and find out some exciting news for skaters closer to home!

ARRG's Twisted Thistles in Helsinki. Courtesy of Marko Niemela

What made you decide to hold a bootcamp in Helsinki?

Tigre Force from Helskini suggested it to me – we were really keen to go over and play them in a sanctioned bout to assist them on their WFTDA Apprentice journey, and because they looked like a really fun team to play.  When we started discussing the possibility of visiting them, they suggested we stay an extra day and hold a boot camp there too; there are some up and coming newer skaters in Finland and Helsinki thought this would be a good opportunity to use some of our experience to pass on some training tips.

How did you go about planning the bootcamp?

Oh so many emails!!   Helsinki put together a basic outline schedule (luckily for us!), we just had to come up with coaches & drills to fill them… we had 9 hours to fill, two tracks, one classroom and lunch provided, which was fab!  Ella (Ella Bella Bang Bang – bench coach), Bronx (Bronx Betty – vice captain) and I did lots of planning together and really thought about what people would want from a boot camp and what we could provide – then we just needed to fit it all together so that each participant had a good full day of sessions.  We’re entirely skater coached in ARRG which means most of our A-team skaters regularly coach and all have key areas they do best.  We also had the benefit of Cherry Fury’s extensive reffing experience to run officials sessions alongside the skater sessions.

 How did you travel to Helsinki?

With the usual giddy hilarity – we all booked flights seperately because of work committments etc…so we ended up flying out in pairs or individually – like the wacky races…. it’s impossible to fly direct from Edinburgh so we ended up having this mad dash across Europe – with everyone going via a different country – it was funny seeing Facebook updates from everyone – a few slept in Amsterdam airport, some went via Germany, or London, 3 of us got delayed in Paris for a few hours, had a fight with Air France Customer Service and then arrived with no luggage!

Do you have any favourite memories from the trip?  

Panic texting Tigre from Helsinki on the morning of our bout and asking for 2 complete sets of pads and a pair of size 6 skates for us to borrow otherwise we’d be down to 8 skaters in the bout!  Within 5 minutes I had a lovely “all sorted, we have what you need” text back. The Helsinki girls are truly, truly wonderful.

Was Helsinki different from other away games?

I think this was my most enjoyable ARRG trip ever – and that’s saying something because there have been many good ones! It was just a bit special…maybe because we sent such a small skeleton team on this trip, faced some setbacks, stayed with lovely hosts instead of in hostels, Ella, our bench coach, was pregnant, everyone was looking out for each other, it was just a lovely bonding time through the ups and downs with a lot of laughter.

How do you think the Finnish girls experienced the bootcamp? Did they have fun?

I really hope so – we had so much fun running it – the feedback we got straight afterwards was all very positive; one skater even asked us how long we had been running our boot camp for – that made our day!  Everyone was keen and enthusiastic – the scrimmage at the end was so much fun.  I loved that everyone asked lots of questions too.

 How different was training another league? (Were there any language problems?)

No language problems at all – not even with some of our Scottish accents;  we were all a bit shy about coaching a bunch of strangers who had all paid money for it, but I was so proud of all of my team mates, everyone really put their heart and soul into delivering the best most fun boot camp we could.

What is your favourite drill? 

I learned it courtesy of the Toronto Roller Derby Head Coach and it’s all about re-forming your wall as fast as you can – you work within 20ft and have jammers coming at you from both directions so you have to develop super lightning fast reactions to wall up and hold back the jammers as long as you can within a 20ft space.

What is your advice for any coaches starting out?

I think there are probably much better people to ask advice from! But I always try to have a plan that I’ve thought through properly, with a purpose or tactic to build up to incrementally, like stepping stones. I guess you also need to be adaptable – have spare drills up your sleeves just in case you get more or less skaters than you expect.  I love spending time thinking about a ‘problem’, something that makes things difficult for us as a team, then inventing a drill to solve that problem – my team mates Cider and Zillah are also good at this 🙂


Ciderella dodges around a Helsinki player. Courtesy of Marko Niemela.

What did you learn from leading the bootcamp? 

I learned how team work can translate into other parts of roller derby; I absolutely loved seeing our whole team getting involved in running the boot camp, everyone looked so industrious and smiley on the day!  I also learned that we do have a wealth of skills and knowledge within ARRG that we should probably share more.
Were you nervous?

Of course!!  I felt really responsible for trying to give a huge number of skaters and officials value for money and the feeling that they had learned something new and useful.  No pressure there then!

Your three personal highlights from the Helsinki trip

The amazing Finnish hospitality – I’m still amazed by them putting us all up, feeding us, making us amazing breakfasts, being so generally lovely.

Winning with a team of ten skaters – hardcore, tiring, but very rewarding!

The afterparty – as Cider summed it up “Wow, that escalated quickly, I mean it really got out of hand”.

Is there going to be a bootcamp closer to home in the near future? 

YEAH!! We have been fairly insular in ARRG this past year or so – our league grew and exploded so very fast and unexpectedly that we had to have some huge re-shuffles to give everyone a place and a happy home.   I think that by running this boot camp in Helsinki, we brought back a bit of the old ARRG pioneering, spirit and the feedback from skaters who attended couldn’t have been more positive, which led us to think this might be something skaters in Scotland and ‘up North’  might also enjoy – an intensive day of intermediate training drills with skaters who have years of bouting experience, and tactics talks and even old fashioned league structure chats, refs / officials training and of course a mammoth crazy scrimmage at the end.

ARRG are very excited to announce that we will be hosting a skating and referees bootcamp, ‘The School of ARRG Knocks’ on the 6th October 2012. Stay tuned for more details but get the date in your diary now!

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