Getting better at roller derby doesn’t always happen as fast as we’d like it to. We struggle with specific skills, we hit plateaus, we don’t make rosters, or we warm the bench more than we’d like. Progress can sometimes be so agonizingly slow that we start to wonder if we’ll ever be any good at this ridiculous sport.
The good news? Yes, you CAN become really good at roller derby! But, it’s going to take more than just showing up for practice and going through the motions.
Commit to your training. No, REALLY commit to it.
You might think, “I’m going to practice, I’m making attendance minimums. That should be plenty, right?” Well, not exactly. If you’re waiting in the draft pool, or wanting to climb up higher on your team’s roster, you’ll need to do more than the minimum to get there. In fact, you’d be wise to do more than the skater next to you.
Your teammates and coaches are there to support you and give you feedback, but all the advice in the world won’t magically make you a better derby player: you have to be ready to take action based on that advice, and to maintain that effort for an extended period of time. We’re talking weeks or months, depending on your goals–if you’ve got your eyes on WFTDA championships or Team USA, you can expect years of tough and consistent training to get there.
So, ask yourself: when you get training advice, are you going to say, “that’s a great idea,” and then keep doing the bare minimum? Or will you actually go to those extra skills practices, or do that off-skates training routine, or study that bout footage?
Get specific and focused with your goals.
Okay, so you’ve decided that you’re 100% amped to put in that extra training time. What are you going to work on? It seems like you need to work on everything, right?
Well, not exactly. Trying to work on all of your skills and strategies can get overwhelming fast, and you probably won’t see particularly fast progress on any of them, because you’re dividing your time and attention between so many different things.
Instead, pick out a small number of things–as in, maybe two or three–that you can focus on. Everyone has different things they’re good at, and others that they struggle with, so identify a specific part of your game that you’re struggling with, and make that your focus. Not sure what to work on? Ask someone you trust who knows derby and has seen you skate: this is where your teammates, coaches, and leaguemates can help you.
Be nice to yourself.
It’s nice to win MVP awards, get praise from your coaches, and hear compliments from other skaters, but there’s one voice that’s more powerful than any external motivation: Your Own. And, if your internal monologue is full of negative self-talk about what a terrible skater you are, then you simply aren’t going to play as well.
Giving some attention to your mental game can make the difference between zipping through that pack, or getting recycled backwards over and over. It may sound corny, but talking to yourself in a positive way actually does help you perform better. It’s science!
Be kind to yourself, and tell yourself that you can do the thing! Then after that? Do it again. After that? Keep doing it, until becomes a habit. Better yet, think about what you need to feel confident, and create a key phrase, action, or routine that helps you tap into that confidence, so it’ll be there when you need it.
Focus on the things you can control, not the things you can’t.
You can’t control everything in roller derby, no matter how much you might want to. Maybe there’s drama between different players or teams or committees, or politics that you get dragged into. Maybe there aren’t any spots open on the team you want to join. Maybe there’s a flashy new transfer who paid their dues at another league, and now they’re getting rostered ahead of you. There are a lot of things that can happen that affect your derby career, and you may not be able to do anything about them. It’s normal to feel frustrated by that.
The thing is, if you spend your energy being upset about things you can’t change, it becomes very easy to start blaming outside forces when you don’t get what you want. And, when everything starts being someone else’s fault, then you have less control, and then you get more frustrated, and it all turns into a vicious circle of crappy feelings, and you still aren’t getting better at derby as quickly as you want to.
And, energy you’re wasting on things you can’t control is energy you aren’t using on the things you CAN change. Maybe you can’t force anyone to put you onto a particular team, but you CAN train hard and improve your skills so they’ll want to draft you. Maybe you don’t get to decide how many jams you play in, but you can fine-tune your mental game and become a positive presence that your team wants to have on a game roster.
You can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it. You have the power to take negative energy and channel it into positive results, and that can make all the difference in becoming the derby player you want to be.
By Shaolin Spocker
Shaolin Spocker skates with Rose City Rollers, and is going into her fourth season with her incredibly smart-and-pretty home team, the High Rollers. She likes Star Trek and pie (both baking and eating it), and actually knows kung fu, but has received decidedly more high-fives for hitting people in derby than she has anywhere else. You can check out her web design and photography work–both of which she does better and far more often than blogging–at her creative design studio, Upswept Creative.