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It's one of the first drills many of us participate in, yet it remains as relevant to veterans as it is to newbies. I'm talking about your basic line.

People call it different things; a pace line, a draft line, or sometimes a weave line or a snake, but in its simplest form it's a group of skaters, one behind the other, each maintaining a consistent speed and distance from one another. Now, if that's all you do, it can get stale pretty quick, but there are lot of variations on the line that can help build, speed, focus, agility, endurance, blocking effectiveness, timing, pack awareness, and team cohesiveness.

Let's look at some different ways to use the line now.

The Pace Line

This is the line in it's purest form. Each skater remains a consistent distance behind the skater in front of her and the foremost skater controls the speed of the line. The skaters in the rear must all match her stride, so that they are pushing off of their left and right feet at the same time.

It's crucial that the line leader find a consistent rhythm and stick with it so the rest of the line can fall into step. If you're doing it right, it's like marching in time on skates. It's truly amazing to see one line pumping along with every skater in sync like the wheels on a train.

Once the line has been skating in unison for a bit, the front skater drops to the back and the next skater takes the lead.

This type of line forces skaters to become more aware of their stride, and also of their teammates' strides. It encourages a methodical rhythm and focus on proper form and makes each skater pay close attention to her leader.

Keep in mind, this is difficult at first, but stick with it. By adjusting the width and power of each push, even skaters of very different heights can match up their strides.

Rat City is one league that uses this skill to great advantage. Each girl knows her teammates' strides so well that collectively controlling the speed of the pack becomes intuitive for them, and they can do it without any verbal cues.

Follow the Leader

The leader of this line can skate in any direction they choose and everyone else must follow. They can slow down, speed up, veer, cut, loop-the-loop and change directions all they want. Once they've been leading for a little while, they drop back and let the next skater take the wheel. Or, put your wiliest skater in front and your least agile skaters in the back and watch the hilarity ensue.

This type of line is great for agility and awareness, since it's critical to observe the way the line is moving ahead of you in order to stay in formation. Remember, the closer a skater is to the back of the line, the quicker they have to be.

The Weave Line

Also called the snake, this variation is a staple of many practices. The rearmost skater "weaves" her way to the front, slipping between the other skaters in line as if they were cones.

This is a great drill to build agility and a sense of timing, and it can really help new girls get comfortable with the idea of skating close to others.

Any weaving line can also be a great opportunity to work on communication. Have girls look over their shoulders and tell the skater in front of them if the weaving skater is coming on her inside or outside. Get those third blockers and pivots yelling!

There are tons of variations to the weave line. Here a few:

  • Backward Weave - The foremost skates drops backward through the line, weaving as she goes. Excellent for working on veering or cutting skills, speed control, and looking over your shoulder.
  • Monkey Bar Weave - Skaters in the line present their 'monkey bars'; arms back and slightly bent, ready for the rearmost skater to grab on and whip herself through the line.
  • Blocking Snake - As the skater moves through the line, she checks each skater she passes. You can specifying whether hip or shoulder checks are to be used, or add another layer of difficulty by having each skater crouch and touch the ground before checking, so that she executes a 'swooping' or 'J' block.
  • Weaving Walls - The two rearmost skaters must weave through the line as a 'wall' and remain connected (touching at the shoulder, hip, or knee, in order of difficulty) as they weave.
  • Crossing Weave - Skaters weave through the line, but must make lateral movements only by crossing over. Great agility drill. If you're feeling particularly evil, do it backwards.
  • Hopping Weave - Same idea as the Crossing Weave, but skaters use large lateral hops to weave through the line.
Catch the Tail

Also called the Swedish Mile. The foremost skater breaks away and sprints around the track to the back of the line. Excellent for endurance. You can also split the group into two lines and have the front skater in each line 'race' one other to the back.

Try having the rearmost skater weave to the front and race the foremost skater to the back. That skater then weaves the line and races the person now in front to the back, and so on.

Another variation is to weave through the line, and upon reaching the back and sprint around for a second lap, ending at the rear once more. This variation can also be done with two parallel lines and racing pairs.

Newbie to Veteran

Brand new skaters are usually focused only on their feet, and working with lines can be a great way to get them looking up and paying attention to what's going on around them with less confusion than being in a pack might cause.

Intermediate skaters can skate without thinking about it, but may have difficulty with consistent pacing and distance, or with timing. Lines are a great way for them to focus on those skills.

Advanced skaters have skating skills, consistency, and timing but line work can be an opportunity for them to hone their awareness, break down their skills, and focus purely on form and execution.

When working lines, keep an eye on your skaters at different skill levels and give them a little coaching or a reminder of where their focus should be.

I hope you enjoyed this post and found some lines you can try out at your next practice! If you have your own favorite line drills, or you come up with your own variations, please share them in the comments!