The Crossover Technique on Roller Skates
Crossovers done correctly make speed look effortless. Mastering the technique will get you skating smarter and deriving more power from every stride. It's the No. 1 skill you need in roller derby to achieve 27 laps in five minutes or hold tight to the inside line all the way around the apex. Perfect your crossover performance by understanding the objective of each of the technique's components.
If you've had speed skating lessons or roller derby training, you already know the skater's mantra: Get low! Bend your knees to bring your butt closer to the ground. Don't bend over at the waist; keep your torso upright. Pretend to sit in an invisible chair while exercising impeccable posture. A proper skating stance lowers your center of gravity, giving you more stability. It also permits a broader leg span, allowing you to perform wider, more powerful crossovers.
Crossovers might be more accurately called "cross-unders," because most of your momentum comes from pushing outward with the inside foot as it crosses behind the outside foot. If you're skating counter-clockwise laps, your left foot will cross behind, or under, your right. Don't push your skate backward; that only wastes your energy by spinning your wheels to no good effect. Instead, push outward, almost perpendicular to your direction of travel. Pretend to grab the ground with all four wheels and shove it away from you with all your might. As you perform this motion, you'll push your center of gravity leftward, into the center of your turn. Cross your right foot over your left to catch yourself from falling. Notice that your hips are now tilted downward toward the left.
The next step is to uncross your feet. Don't worry about retrieving your left foot from behind your right. Instead, concentrate on pushing out with the right. Again, grip the floor with all four wheels of your right skate and shove it away from you. Deepen the bend in your left knee so that you can push your right foot out even further. Keep your left skate stable and pointed in the direction of travel. Maintain your weight over the left leg.
Tips for Improvement
Practice each component of the crossover technique individually. Perform a slow, wide cross-under that ends in a right-foot glide; balance on your right skate while holding your left foot as far out to the right as you can. Feel the leftward tilt in your hips as you do so. Then perform a slow, powerful stroke with your right skate, ending in a left-foot glide with your right foot held out to the side.
Perform grapevines with or without your skates on, moving laterally to your left by crossing your right foot over your left and then stepping out with your left. Keep your butt low so you can make this movement as wide as possible. Reverse direction, crossing your left foot over your right then stepping out with the right.
Naomi Grigg, roller derby skater with the Rat City Rollergirls, suggests towing another skater on your outside arm while you practice skating crossovers. This counterweight will give you confidence to lean further into the turn without worrying about falling over.
Nicole LeBoeuf-Little is a freelancer from New Orleans, writing professionally since 1994. Recent short stories appear on Ideomancer.com and in Ellen Datlow's anthology "Blood and Other Cravings." She has published articles in "Pangaia Magazine" and eGuides at StyleCareer.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from University of Washington and attended the professional SF/F workshop Viable Paradise.