Some jammers (and blockers) jump the apex all of the time. However, for me (as for many other skaters), it took me years before I could get myself to jump the apex. It was scary, seemed impossible, and I could never get myself to do it. But now, especially when I know the opportunity is there, apex jumping is great tool to get around all of the blockers without getting hit.
So how did I overcome my fear (and inability) to jump the apex?
Rule #1: COMMIT to the jump. Once you doubt yourself, it won’t work. That means you have to approach the pack with speed, even when you feel that strong urge to slow down. I’ve come to learn that it never really hurts that much when you get hit while in the air, and if you take a big spill, it’s usually pretty fun (see Do You Have to Be Crazy to Play Derby?)
Rule #2: Keep your eyes on the blockers – which way are they looking? Is an apex jump a good idea? Although you don’t want to be completely obvious about preparing to jump the apex, blockers won’t be able to stop a good jump even if they know it is coming. And if the blocker steps out of bounds to block you, she will get a penalty.
HOWEVER – watch out for the opposing brace blocker. Usually this person is turned around, in the front of her pack. She has a great visual on you when you jump the apex and can hit you hard the moment you land. Be prepared!
Rule #3: Keep an eye on your own blockers. Which way is my offense likely to hit? Are my blockers in my way? The worst situation is when your blockers make a hole for you on the track, but they subsequently push an opposing blocker into you while you apex jump. Know what your blockers are doing for you!
Rule #4: Apex jumps are great, but not always the best option. If you know you can get through the blockers, it is sometimes better to stay on the track and fight through instead of attempting (and failing) an apex jump.
Besides knowing WHEN to attempt an apex jump, many jammers (and blockers) are still unsure HOW to jump the apex. Here are a few physical tips:
(1) Lift your RIGHT leg first and launch off of your LEFT leg. This gives the blockers slightly less hip to hit, and gives you a slightly better chance of landing the jump.
(2) Lift your knees!!! Imagine you are leaping over something super tall, not just gingerly frolicking across the corner of the track.
(3) Launch yourself off of your toe stops. They are a great platform to get a little extra momentum.
Once you’ve got the physical action down, you just have to practice it!
AND – in case you weren’t aware – you don’t need to LAND an apex jump to get the points, you just need to get one skate in bounds in front of the opposing blockers BEFORE you totally wipe out.
Q&A from WFTDA:
Q: In order to score points while airborne, does a Jammer need to “stick” the landing?
A: In order to score points while airborne, the Jammer must establish contact feet-first and in-bounds at the moment of landing. A Jammer satisfies this requirement if any part of her foot or skate is the first point of contact upon landing, with no part of her body touching out of bounds at the point of initial contact with the track. Thus, if any part of her foot/skate has touched in-bounds at the moment of initial contact upon landing, she has immediately satisfied this requirement. Anything that happens after this point (falling, stepping out of bounds, etc.) is irrelevant to scoring, but will be taken into account for other rules purposes (such as cutting the track, low blocking, etc.).
Jammer is completely in-bounds and ceases contact with the track as part of an apex jump. The first part of her body to contact the floor is her right foot, which makes contact in-bounds. Her left foot then lands out of bounds. This jammer will be eligible to receive points for all opposing skaters passed while airborne, but will also be eligible for a cut track should she re-enter play in front of opposing skaters passed while airborne.
Even when I attempt an apex jump and fail, I hardly ever regret it. It definitely takes guts, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. So muster up the courage, and give it a try!