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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Technique Analysis: Toe Stops and T Stops


Toe Stops vs. T Stops

Growing up I was extremely fortunate to have private music instruction throughout my 8 years in the school band.  I was even luckier to have the particular teacher I did, Mr. Bernie Berke, (private music instructor and Livermore middle school band director for 30+ years).  Mr. Berke was unique, in that he did not focus on traditional technique, embouchure or posture but encouraged you to find whatever position gave you the purest tone. 


This is Ian Anderson, a professional flautist known for his unusual stance. He says it is how he is most comfortable playing, (and he sounds good doing it too).

This idea has shaped how I approach almost everything in my life. I am never one to assume the most common path is the best one, and I have a strong allegiance to my gut. One way in which this has served me well in roller derby is choosing to wear the wrist guards that feel best to me, regardless of common practice. 

In addition, I have my own beliefs on stopping strategy.


I learned how to skate on roller blades. I first tried quad skates two days before I went to my first roller derby tryouts. So what I know about stopping on roller skates, I learned as a roller derby skater. The first league I skated with taught novice skaters to drag their toe stop to slow down or brake. This made sense to me and I utilized it until I quickly mastered the tomahawk stop favored by jammers and faster skaters. Although the tomahawk stop soon became, and still remains my method of choice, there are clearly times that simply do not allow a backwards skating stop. One instance in roller derby game play would be slowing down while approaching or while in the pack so as not to plow down a skater in front of you. In these situations, I usually drag a toe stop or will firmly plant a toe stop. This method has always worked pretty well for me.  As a jammer, I frequently employ the method of running on my toe stops- and dragging or planting a toe stop to slow down makes it easier when the opportunity arises to bust into a run at a moments notice.

Down the line I joined another league and noticed they taught their beginners the “T Stop”. The “T Stop” is when you drag your back skate perpendicular to the direction you are skating, forming a “T” with your skates. This method is not a fast stop. In order to perform it very quickly, one needs to apply more pressure to the skate being dragged, creating more pressure and friction between you, the direction you are going and your ankle. Not only did this league teach the T Stop, they discouraged dragging the toe stop, saying it was more likely to break or sprain an ankle. So alas, I learned the T Stop. I had a considerable amount of trouble learning the T Stop compared to learning to toe drag or even the tomahawk. While learning this stop, I felt as if my foot was constantly at risk of buckling under my whole body and braking. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m just NOT GOOD at the T Stop, or if it’s legitimately a more dangerous way of stopping, but it certainly doesn’t feel right to me. Also, their argument that dragging a toe stop is more likely to break your ankle seems preposterous. Roller Skates have been designed and manufactured with a front toe stop for more than 100 years. To teach your skaters that that is the most dangerous way to stop seems inaccurate. How could it be?

So now I will demonstrate for you the three stops I have described.

The Toe Drag
video

The Tomahawk
video


And the T Stop
video


In my opinion, the T Stop is clearly the most dangerous technique. Aside from my argument that toe stops were designed for stopping and roller skate wheels were not, toe stops are just cheaper to replace than wheels, plain and simple. Therefore if the toe drag and the T Stop are both equally easy for you to execute, I would still recommend the toe drag as it does not damage your wheels. As a roller blader, I am well acquainted with rotating my wheels, and I know that using a T Stop on roller blades certainly diminishes the quality of my wheels faster. I don’t know how it wouldn’t do the same to roller skate wheels.

As you can see in my title picture, the girl executing a T Stop is on roller blades. I found this web log called SkatesCool! Roller blading is my first love, so this is really neat for me. She explains T stops, but on roller blades, which just makes way more sense.

http://www.skatescool.com/inline-skating/learn-how-to-t-stop-on-inline-skates/



Because there is a legitimate debate out there about whether dragging the toe stop is indeed dangerous I tried to find some credible information on the matter. I did not find anything “credible” but did find some interesting discussion regarding it as well as the pros and cons of roller skates vs. roller blades on the Questionland.com website. The full discourse can be found here: http://questionland.com/questions/12105-roller-skates-or-rollerblades-or-neither but I will just include what I found relevant.

One skater had stated: “In skates, you can stop by putting your toe to the ground; in blades, you drag your heel.” Rickibot from Questionland.com

Another blogger contested:

“I agree that you should wear what you are most comfortable with. However "In skates, you can stop by putting your toe to the ground; in blades, you drag your heel" isn't strictly true -- dragging your toe to stop is a weak, unstable way to stop and experienced quad skaters don't usually do it. (If you're skating BACKWARDS, then the toe stop is a great way to stop. I usually stop by flipping around really fast to backwards and then using the toe. When going forwards, a T-stop is better than dragging the toe stop.)” Wendi Dunlap from Quesntionland.com

I am willing to hear this person out, but I am not willing to accept what she says on faith just because she threw in the phrase “experienced quad skaters don’t usually do it”. Says who? I want a trained professional to tell me why dragging a toe stop is weak and unstable, and if she is a trained professional her explanation was not adequate. She is right that if you are skating backwards using the toe stop is an ideal way to stop, but I don’t believe that skate designers intended for all skaters to be skating backwards when braking. I maintain that toe stops are meant to be dragged and that is why skates are manufactured with them. If experienced quad skaters did not use the toe drag technique to stop, top of the line skate models would not have a toe stop. Or at the very least, they would only have one. My recommendation is to stay true to what feels comfortable and right for you, but always challenge yourself to learn different skills. I gave T Stops a try, and they weren't right for me. Be willing to try new styles and techniques, but don't be afraid to trust your gut if it does not feel right to you.

5 comments:

  1. The risk in breaking your ankle is if someone falls on your leg while you're dragging a toe stop, which is a situation that hasn't been all that common until a few years ago, because before that point there were at most 50 or so professional roller derby skaters at any given time. And what about top of the line plates with no toe stop mounting? They're certainly popular among some set of "experienced quad skaters".

    As for T-stops, they definitely take time to master, and the proper technique is to use two outside wheels on the skate that you're dragging, which I find to be more effective than using a toe stop.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was discussing this with my past coach this week and she thinks that planting a toe stop is necessary to execute a good block. I don't think that is what I do, but when I think about it- it does seem like a fairly effective way to get a solid stance before giving a hit. I personally find using a toe stop more natural and easier for stopping, but like I said, I think that I honestly am just not that great at performing the T Stop. I encourage people to do what feels best.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Auntie Social,

    I liked the above article, but would like to add my own experience. I Started skating over 30 years ago on Quads, However I've only been skating close to 10 years. 50% on Quads and 50% on inlines.
    For the the first three years I lived on my quads. At first I did some kind on circle stop and then progressed to turning toe stops and T Stops. I didn't do dragging toe stops as I was self taught and that did not occour to me. Anyway for the first 2 years I used my toe stops a lot. I then progressed onto hockey stops and found I stoped using my toe stops. Well other than sprinting from a start and walking up and down stairs.

    Skating is an evolution, people will always use what they are comfortable with, but should always strive to learn / perfect something better. There are much better ways to stop or slow down than dragging a toe stop, but at the same time that probably the first way a novice skater learns to stop. So they may have there place in the skating evolution but should not be the only method a skater uses to stop. and when the skater does learn a better way, there is no reason to use them at all.

    There are several high end plates that do not have provisions for toe stops at all. And as far as I'm aware all Derby skates come with adjustable toe stops. These plates allow the toe stops to be removed completely and replaced with Jam plugs. Funnily enough Jam skaters do not use toe stops either (or very few).

    I use T stops a lot to reduce speed or stop from a slow speed, I had never been aware that they are dangerous and have never had any problems executing them.

    When I learnt to inline skate I learnt to power slide. I have since learnt to power slide on quads (I only do them in places where I can predict the amount of slide). On quads power sliding puts quite a stress on one ankle, however as yet I have not had problems, But this could be dangerous, do them at your own risk! I do not believe they stop you faster than a hockey stop either. But they do look cool.

    Well that's my experience on stopping, some may agree and some disagree. Either way I'd be interested to hear.

    Cheers

    Reckless Rowley

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Auntie Social,

    I liked the above article, but would like to add my own experience. I Started skating over 30 years ago on Quads, However I've only been skating close to 10 years. 50% on Quads and 50% on inlines.
    For the the first three years I lived on my quads. At first I did some kind on circle stop and then progressed to turning toe stops and T Stops. I didn't do dragging toe stops as I was self taught and that did not occour to me. Anyway for the first 2 years I used my toe stops a lot. I then progressed onto hockey stops and found I stoped using my toe stops. Well other than sprinting from a start and walking up and down stairs.

    Skating is an evolution, people will always use what they are comfortable with, but should always strive to learn / perfect something better. There are much better ways to stop or slow down than dragging a toe stop, but at the same time that probably the first way a novice skater learns to stop. So they may have there place in the skating evolution but should not be the only method a skater uses to stop. and when the skater does learn a better way, there is no reason to use them at all.

    There are several high end plates that do not have provisions for toe stops at all. And as far as I'm aware all Derby skates come with adjustable toe stops. These plates allow the toe stops to be removed completely and replaced with Jam plugs. Funnily enough Jam skaters do not use toe stops either (or very few).

    I use T stops a lot to reduce speed or stop from a slow speed, I had never been aware that they are dangerous and have never had any problems executing them.

    When I learnt to inline skate I learnt to power slide. I have since learnt to power slide on quads (I only do them in places where I can predict the amount of slide). On quads power sliding puts quite a stress on one ankle, however as yet I have not had problems, But this could be dangerous, do them at your own risk! I do not believe they stop you faster than a hockey stop either. But they do look cool.

    Well that's my experience on stopping, some may agree and some disagree. Either way I'd be interested to hear.

    Cheers

    Reckless Rowley

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, I'm the Wendi you quoted above. No time to do a proper lengthy reply -- but I should point out that my skating has never been in a derby context, and I do not doubt that derby skaters might find a use for stopping differently due to the differing needs for derby skating. I was a competitive figure skater (on ice, quads, and inline), an outdoor recreational race skater (quads), and a recreational skater (quads, ice). Would still be doing it, but knee and hip injuries put a stop to it.

    There is some historical context you are missing, though. Toe-stops are relatively recent. Until the 50s or so most skates didn't come with them. You had to buy separate toe stops to bolt on if you really wanted them. Figure skaters wanted them to be able to plant the toe for jumps, just as ice skaters do. Without a toe stop, you were much more limited in what you could do jump-wise. But most skaters didn't have them and were taught the T-stop. (Note that ice skaters do not drag their toe pick for some of the same reasons roller skaters were not taught to -- lack of control being one. But toe picks do something toe stops do not -- they chew up the skating surface.) Toe-stops, despite the name, were not intended to be used for stopping while skating forward. They were intended for figure skating moves.

    There is a patent for a toe-stop design from 1955, US Patent 2,727,749, that explains the reasons toe-stops were needed -- stopping was not one of them. It mentions: "toe stop jumps, running steps, pivots on toe point, takeoffs or landings on toe point, and other conventional ice skating steps while skating on roller skates." (I would post a link, but don't want to get caught in a spam filter.)

    To this day many skaters do not use toe stops (skaters who do dance or school figures, for example). I have had the unfortunately common experience of face-planting because I was in skates without a toe-stop and I forgot that...

    Anyway, dragging the toe tends to be unstable due to the nature of it. The foot tends to bounce around and it is slow. This doesn't mean you can't get really good at the best possible toe drag, but still... A t-stop *done correctly* is faster and solider. If it feels more dangerous, it probably means you aren't yet doing a good solid t-stop. I didn't get good at mine on quads until I learned it on ice skates and used what I learned there on my quads. You put the pressure on your *outside* edge as you move your weight onto the back leg. With practice, you get a smooth, controllable stop. It feels very stable.

    I really don't have time to keep going today... already posted too much. But perhaps this gives you a clue as to why the toe-dragging forward stop usually isn't encouraged (in the branches of the sport that I've been involved in).

    ReplyDelete