Monday, March 1, 2010

Stop In The Name of Shove

In the few short months of our existence, the staff here at Derby Helper has been earning a reputation. (Kinda like your mom did, except that in our case it's a good thing.) When people have an urge to find answers to unusual roller derby questions, they send them to us because they know that we can satisfy that urge (like we do for your mom). Today's unusual roller derby question comes to us from from the beautiful nation of Belgium (like your mom did, if she's Belgian):

Subject: toe stops

Dear Derby Helper,

We're currently founding a new league in the City of Antwerp, Belgium. We haven't got experienced derby players amongst us - so we study everything ourselves.

We do have a question about toe stops. Some of the derby girls play with them, some without them. One of the ex-coaches told us that is was dangerous to play with them but we don't know why.

What is your perspective about toe stops?

Thank you so much,
(name withheld)
One Love Roller Dolls

Hi Lolli and thanks for bringing it to our attention that there are people in the world playing roller derby without toe stops. This seems like it would make roller derby better in exactly the same way that removing first gear and the front brake shoes off of a car would make auto racing better. In other words, it doesn't. When you're a jammer standing at the line, the best way to accelerate quickly is to push off on your toe stops and actually run a couple of steps on them before switching to a skating motion. As far as stopping goes, there are plenty of ways to stop without the use of toe stops (t-stops, hitting someone, falling on your butt) but none of those have the stylistic flare of the swooping backwards turn followed by digging your stops in. You DO want to be stylistic, don't you? Thought so.

The only way I could see toe stops being dangerous is if they aren't screwed in far enough, causing you to trip on them. And even then, you're only really in "danger" of looking silly in front of onlookers since you'll be wearing a full set of pads and can't really get hurt unless you happen to trip really close to the edge of the cliff you're skating on, which reminds me, WHY ARE YOU SKATING ON A CLIFF?!?! But seriously, do a Google image search for roller derby and see how many player pictures you can find with no toe stops. I'm going to guess zero other than maybe your team members. Every player I've ever seen on every team I have refereed for used toe stops. So leave 'em in and learn to love 'em.


  1. All I'm gonna say is Duck Run. Some of the best derby jammers do it and have no toe stops. Not my personal choice, but there you go.

  2. You didn't answer the question which was why could it be dangerous? I have always been told that stopping with help from your toestop (i.e. dragging one toestop to stop) in a bouting or full-contact situation can lead to serioous ankle injuries so it is better to not get into the bad habit of using them for that purpose. Starting on them is a different matter altogether of course.

  3. i'd have to agree with the Duck Run comment. i began to train as a speed skater when i was a teenager, and speed skates are made with no place to screw in stoppers. the general comment from the top skaters and coaches was that if you're accellerating properly then stoppers will only get in the way.

    as a derby player in a small country (new zealand) - all the big skaters from the US that have come over to train us have sworn against stoppers.

    and imho, swooping in sideways with a big screech (ie a powerslide) seems much more impressive than stopping backwards on my stoppers.

    stopping or slowing by dragging your stopper behind you is such a no-no!! it totally puts your ankle and achilles tendon out there to be skated into and tripped over.

    but at the end of the day, like so much skating technique, it's a matter of personal choice.

  4. Oh, wow. There is nothing that you can do w/ toe stops that you couldn't accomplish with just wheels--stopping, accelerating, or fancy footwork--it just requires better balance and control. In addition to speed, neither dance nor figure roller skating require toe stops.

    WRT danger, if someone is comfortable skating without toe stops, they could get tripped up on them if they put them back in. Dragging toe stops could be a tripping hazard if done in the middle of the pack. There's nothing inherently dangerous about toe stops though.

    Here's a video of quad speed skaters.

  5. If you stop by dropping your toestop while skating forward, you could hurt a small footbone. That shiz is crazy & sort of like bending your ankle for a t-stop.

    I do like them for sliding backwards on, however. Nice quick way to get back on the track after a big hit.

    I just got big ol' toe stops & I think I'm going to swap back to my little ones, because I keep trippin' on the fatties., story of my LIFE....

  6. I've been skating on and off for 27 years and I now coach the Coastal Assassin Roller Derby (CARD) league on the Sunshine Coast in QLD, Australia. I will be highly recommending all of my girls remove their stoppers and use jam plugs or get tough speed skates. The only two reasons to keep stoppers are to 'derby stop' (which is for show-off anyway) and stoppers can make it a little easier to get up after you are knocked over - Stoppers are dangeours because if the skater is skating correctly, perfect execution of the push-off, the stopper catches on the floor (no matter how far they are screwed in), they are also very dangerous when a skater is knocked sideways in an abscure manner (which happens ALL teh time) they tend to rely on their stopper instead of dropping to their pads. Try jumping sideways on your stoppers adn see what happens (Figure of speach - do not actually do this, you're likely to break your ankle) - stoppers also make your skate weigh more and balance differntly - Removing your stopper is like upgrading from an 79 automatic Carolla to a 2011 Ferrari manual shiftt, you'll gain more control of your vehicle, you'll accelerate quicker, you'll become more confident, you'll have more maneuverability on the track and you'll never want to go back to a stupid lasy-man's automatic OR having stoppers which are for little girls and figure skaters - and you are NOT girls and you are NOT there to look pretty, you are hard-knox roller derby skaters! Peace from your mate in Oz - Gangster O'Derby

  7. My whole league minus two new girls we haven't weaned skate without toe stops. Doesn't hinder us a bit. Like everyone else, we duck "walk" (more like run) to get up to speed. We are coached by an speed/jam/derby male skater and he is the bomb diggity. All of his mens league [arguably the best in the nation - Magic City Misfits (.com)] skate with no toe stops too.

  8. I've been skating for 10 years, mainly as a recreational skater both indoors and out, but in the last 7 months I have been a Roller Derby Referee.

    In my own experience I used my toe stops a lot during the first couple of years, and then I learnt better ways to skate without using toe stops, and have hardly used them since.

    The only advantage I can see in having toe stops is the ability to pick yourself back up in the pack without having to duck walk (duck walking may not be an option if the space is tight). Other than that they are a disadvantage to use, as there is always a better alternative without.

    However I recognize that you have to be a competent skater in order to skate without them. So my feelings are to start with by all means use toe stops if you desire. However a dragging toe stop should always be discouraged.

    My main concern here is that in the Derby leagues I have seen a lot of emphasis is put on the use of toe stops and in some leagues they actually teach the use of dragging toe stops. This is the last thing you would ever want to do in a pack as it can trip people up and also someone might fall on your leg causing you an injury. I also see a lot of drills that use turning toe stops. This does concern me as it’s drilling into peoples heads that using toe stops are the better way to skate, when a hockey stop will always be faster and more efficient than a turning toe stop.
    Why teach people 2nd best is ok?

    Take a look at the skates that the professional Derby skaters used prior to it’s demise in 1973. I have not seen any of these skates with toe stops. But then again these were professional skaters.

    Todays Derby skaters are amateurs and many have not skated prior to joining a league. This creates a very different standard of derby skater. I know there are some very good Derby skaters out there, but I’ll bet most of them knew how to skate before they took up Derby.

    Simply put skating is an evolutionary process. It may be necessary for people to use the turning toe stop during the initial phase, I know I did, but one should always strive to improve, and once you reach past the state where you don’t need toe stops any longer, they’ll be no turing back. You’ll wonder why you ever needed them.

  9. From what I've heard toe stops are a hinderance on the banked track. On the flat track though, besides helping with starts, one often seens girls on the nationally ranked WTFDA teams hit someone out, then mohawk (go up on their toestops) right on the line, to avoid going out of bounds. Additionally, there are some jammers, such as Bonnie Thunders, that actually will run on their toestops through the pack.

  10. Here's my take.. I so sick and tired of hearing that I should wear toe stops. Seems as if every skater I meet or see feels the need to have to tell me to put toe tops in. Then they feel the need demonstrate how they can tomahawk stop, and that it can't be done in plugs. Yep they are right, I can't stop a tomahawk as fast. However I can do it. I should also note it's always me that as jammer or as a pack player is considered dangerous and draws the attention of double teams or the enforcers. Yeah I'm 5'7" 150 lbs - not a bruiser. Toe stops suck. I'm faster laterally and jump side to side or diagnally better without stops. I can get up on the balls of my skates higher without hindrance. I duck walk faster than most can run start. I am able to dig deeper and cross over deeper into the corners as well. I'm also an accomplished Jamskater and my foot work is impossible to perform with stops. That foot work is incredibly valuable in derby. I hate getting tripped up by someone's skate or getting a frickin wheel caught between mine and going down, for it never fails that someone has to state "if you had toe stops you wouldn't have fell" really!? Yep.. That toe stop would have totally saved my ass by magically stopping someones foot! I believe that as more jamskaters transition over to derby you will see more highly skilled skaters executing without toe stops. Right now 90% of derby skaters came into the sport without competitive skating back ground, thus all they know is stoppers. So it makes sense as to why there are so many derby skaters using stops vrs. Plugs. All I know for my style of play stops are a hinderance not an asset. And for all the jamskaters out there moving to derby. If someone wants impart their knowledge about the necessity of stops, just do what we do best.... Battle them! 99% of them won't know what to do.. It's that 1% that know what's up and just like my boy Diamond Walker would say "What's the deal!?" lol ps... riedell sucks.. Give Vanilla a try. Trust me their boots are quality and stand up to abuse. Mine are beat to hell and steal holding up! They should -cause they are made for/by jamskaters who don't use toe tops!
    Jeff aka.. LaMar Idlewild

  11. Toe stops are like training wheels for beginning skaters. Once you learn to actually skate properly you will realize what a hindrance they are. Only use I have seen is for artistic skaters to enable them to do some of the advanced jumps, but that ain't derby which is much closer related to speed skating (jammer). Speed skaters don't use toe stops.

    salute a Speedskater

  12. An awful lot of our (flat track) derby training is involving toe stops. Blocking, running through the pack, running from the start line and so on all on toe stops. I don't use toe stops to stop but I do use them to force my way through the pack and/or block.