BUILD YOUR BASICS :: Be a Better Brace
The first time someone told me that it wasn’t the brace’s job to STOP THE WALL, I felt like I needed a cool compress and a fainting couch.
When they followed that up by telling me that the brace is actually just a glorified go-for in the wall, I’m pretty sure my brain exploded.
Too often in roller derby, we rely on the brace to be the boss of the wall.
It makes sense, on the one hand, that we would default to that. After all, who else can see what is happening behind the butts?
On the other hand, putting all of the pressure of stopping a jammer on a person that isn’t even touching said jammer seems…unrealistic.
So what does the brace ACTUALLY do? And how can we learn to be a better one?
Because, let’s face it, the braced wall isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
1. Get in front of the GD jammer.
In a lot of lower level teams, there are SO MANY problems that could be solved simply by following this one rule of bracing: be in front of the jammer, dammit.
I constantly think I’m doing a great job at this and then game pictures come out. Turns out I’m usually worrying about something that’s not my job instead.
Prioritize this thing. This is the best thing a brace can do. And a brace has to be able to do this thing in order to truly be an effective brace.
You probably aren’t touching the jammer. You may not even be within 5 feet of the jammer. But you need to mirror their position on the track.
If they go to the inside, GO TO THE INSIDE.
If they go to the outside, GO TO THE OUTSIDE.
If they are hell-bent on bulldozing directly through the center of your butts, THEN BE THERE.
You are Sting.
Or Hannah Jennings.
The importance of this is two-fold: (1) your position in front of the jammer allows you to block effectively should the jammer get through the first line of defense and (2) it acts as a non-verbal way to communicate to your butts where the jammer is on the track.
Which leads to point 2…
2. Be in charge…
You are the eyes of the wall. Seriously.
Every other blocker in that space is probably relying on glimpses of a certain color jersey out of the corner of their peripheral vision. Or a helmet with an opposing color scheme on it to swoop through and catch their attention.
But YOU, my dear brace, are looking directly into the jammer’s soul.
The primary direction for the wall should come from you. Communicate clearly with your wall — both verbally and non-verbally — to let them know:
- Where the jammer is
- When to put on the breaks
- When to speed up
- Where/how to position their bodies
The butts in your wall are WORKing and are most likely running on instinct. A verbal nudge of “Drop your hips” or “Plow, plow, plow” can make them more effective as they block.
As the brace, you might also find that you have a wider field of vision than the active blockers and can see sweeps/offense coming before it gets there.
Open up your bandwidth, pay attention, and communicate that to your wall.
3. …but not too much.
While your communication is a huge key in providing information to the butts of your wall, your pushy hands and overly eager toe stops might not be.
IT IS NOT YOUR JOB TO STOP THE JAMMER.
It is your job to provide the support your wall needs while THEY stop the jammer.
What you THINK the wall needs isn’t actually relevant. Learn your other blockers. Know how they prefer to be supported. Pay attention to the physical cues they give you.
Be ready to help them out. The way THEY need it.
Change your thinking from “How can I stop this jammer?” to “How can I help my wall be more successful?”
We all have our own weird idiosyncrasies as a brace that totally fuck over the wall we’re working with. Figure out what yours are. Ask your wall how you can help them. Then listen. And do it.
4. Know when to turn into a butt.
The most underrated skill of any good brace is that they know when not to be a brace any more.
Has the jammer gotten through the wall and is touching your body? CONGRATULATIONS! You’re not a brace anymore. Turn into a butt and hope to the derby deities that someone is coming to brace you.
Unless you’re Bicepsual. Then you do you.
Has the jammer escaped the pack? CONGRATULATIONS! You’re not a brace anymore. Go play some quick offense, then set up to either brace or butt again.
Are you all by yourself? CONGRATULATIONS! You’re not bracing anymore. Find a teammate and do something useful. (Or solo-block the shit out of that jammer.)
Are you better as a butt than a brace? TOO BAD. Play the position that you’re dealt and get better at it.
Braces are the ultimate administrative assistant.
Filter information and provide only the most important to your wall. Act as support for extra duties that may arise. Read the needs of the wall and react before they have to ask for it.
And maybe grab them a coffee later.
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