A Few Thoughts
I bought Naomi Grigg's book "The Art of Falling", as an intro to Freestyle Slalom skating, last month. I've been working through some of the simpler exercises and drills.
After a couple of weeks regular effort, I noticed a big improvement in my balance and posture. As with most people I have a strong side and a weak side when skating. Slalom throws your weak side in your face, everyday. You can't miss it. As you work between the cones, your weight shifts from side to side and back again. Slalom highlights your dependence on your strong side, which cannot be used as a crutch if you mirror a maneuver.
Doing the forward snake through the cones, leading right foot, no problem. Not a single cone displaced. Try left foot. As I weave through the line of cones and kick first one, then two, then three, its obvious my weight shift is wrong. It also highlights weakness in my ankles, which are used extensively, to weave through obstacles.
Slalom improves edge usage and control. The space from one cone to next is fixed and restrictive. You must use those edges correctly to get the tight turns you need. That means, bending those ankles low, first to the left, then to the right.
It may produce frustration initially, as you can't get the maneuver right, analyze where it went wrong. You kicked the third cone. Why? Too much weight on the back foot. You need more forward weight on the front foot, to whip it left then right, then left again. The weight needs to be correct. Too much weight on the back and the rear skate will drag all those cones off the white line. Where was the weight distribution in the skate? Was it ball of foot? Was it back at the heel? Was it mid-foot? The leading foot needs enough weight to guide and to lean the edges.
As you kick the cone off the line, observe where your weight is. Make a mental note and compare where it should be. Do the same maneuver again, this time concentrate on getting the weight right. When you do the maneuver correctly, observe where your weight was at each point. Notice the weight transfer.
I used this method when I first started, as I had real difficulty with fast left turns. I couldn't get my weight in the right place. Right turn, no problem. I kept doing the right turn and noticed where my weight was at each point in the turn. then I mimicked it on the left side. Eventually, I got it.
In Slalom, as your weight shifts from leg to leg, with control, it works muscles hard. After a couple of days rest, I got back to the park, lined up the cones and blasted through a forward snake with left foot leading. No errors.
I found I had difficulty with forward cross left foot leading. It again showed my weakness on that side particularly when its the leading foot. I persisted by working it every day. No matter how many times I kicked those cones. Today, I finished the criss-cross left foot leading, without an error.
When you skate normally, if your balance is a little off, you can rectify by adjusting your stride, your speed or lean. You can conceal it. With Slalom if your balance is off, you can't hide it, you'll kick the cones.
It may feel unpleasant, it may frustrate, it may irritate, but Slalom works. Slalom will improve your skating. Even if you only do a simple weave through a line of cones, it will help. Trust me.
Go buy 10x cheap bright green / yellow / orange / blue cones and get down the park or somewhere quiet, you can practice and mess up without worry.
I use the white line on a basketball pitch to get a straight line. Its a useful guide. Cone spacing is normally set at 50cm, 80cm, or 120cm. As a beginner, I don't bother with a measure tape. I just eye them up. Once I'm more proficient, I'll ensure distance is accurate.
Don't fret if you kick cones more often than not. Keep pitching. You will improve along with your balance.