Back in 2013, when I had just failed my first attempt at roller derby fresh meat, I wrote this post about what the 10 week training program had taught me. In a move strangely contrary to how I normally respond to failure, I stuck with it – mostly because of the things I wrote about in that post. We’re coming to the tail end of my second season playing roller derby and a LOT has happened, including some achievements that I am really proud of. Amongst them: co-captaining my team, playing interstate, playing in the Great Southern Slam, being on my league’s Board, PR Crew and Event Committee. It’s been hard work and oftentimes it has also been confronting and humbling. It’s driven me to tears, made me laugh hysterically, and sometimes made me more exhausted than it seems reasonable for a regular human to be.
I’ve read a lot of those ‘roller derby saved my soul’ posts. This is not one of those posts. Don’t be so over dramatic. Roller derby did not save my soul, even though it came into my life during a somewhat apocalyptic time. My soul didn’t need saving. Derby, actually, can be a tough mistress. It’s built me up, it’s knocked me down. Rinse, repeat. But regardless, roller derby has taught me some stuff and some of that is stuff about myself. Some of those lessons have been hard, some less so. It seems a good time then, with the 2015 grand final looming, to revisit my list. So here are 5 things (almost) two years of roller derby has taught me…
Everything IS cool when you’re part of a team
No, seriously. I’ve never played team sports before and I can’t tell you how much I value being part of my team. My team is awesome – we support each other, we challenge each other, we make each other laugh. We’re there with a kind word, some strong advice, a lame joke and a pat on the back at the end of the day. All of this makes us a strong unit on the track. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we know how to work together, how to communicate to get the derby done. As someone who struggles with confidence on the track I really appreciate my team mates across the league whether they are in my home team or one of our travel teams. They are all different in their skill level, style and approach but they have one thing in common when we play: they each make me feel like a stronger skater.
Photo courtesy of Erin Green.
You DO have to work on your mental game
I’m such a jerk – to me. I get inside my head and I focus on the things I do wrong rather than the things I do right. Or what I think I can’t do rather than what I can do. Mental toughness is under-trained or, more often, completely ignored and we tend to forget that activities that are taxing on the body can also be taxing on the mind. I have a habit, which is well known in my league, of shaking my head aggressively when someone hands me a jammer panty and – usually mid jam – declaring “but I’m not a jammer” which is exactly what not to do. So I’ve been working hard on some strategies in this regard – it’s been a big goal for the last half of the year. It’s really easy to forget how far we’ve come. Naomi ‘Sweetart” Weitz nails it in her book The Ultimate Mental Toughness Guide: Roller Derby. I can’t recommend this book enough, particularly for its derby relevant examples. You can buy it on Amazon here.
Also, these peeps have some great tips around improving your mental game and probably say it more eloquently than me:
Leagues take A LOT of effort to make them work
Take a minute to think about how much time and effort might go into coordinating a whole year of training sessions and bouts: booking venues around availability, assigning trainers, assessing potential clashes, working out a logical season structure. Now think about all the other parts of a running a business that you might not instantly associate with your league when you rock up with your skate gear and get on with your fun skatey times. Managing the legalities of things like insurance and memberships, finances and accounts, promotion and marketing. And that’s just the beginning. I had little to no idea how much work goes into making my league all that it is and all it can be. Do your bit, give someone a hand with organising something, take a hands on role – ‘by the skaters, for the skaters’ isn’t just a catchy slogan. It’s what derby is about and it’s why we get to come along to training and have a blast.
You CAN be tough, even when you don’t want to be
This is the one thing I am including on the list that runs the risk of straying dangerously close to ‘soul saving’ territory, but bear with me. Derby has proven to me time and time again that I am strong and capable even when it would be far easier to hide under a blanket and hibernate my way through the tough stuff. And maybe it was true all the time, but derby is a constant reminder that I can handle shit and that, actually, I can be brave too. It’s a powerful lesson to learn that you can tap into those inner reserves and manage difficult challenges on skates or off.
Photo courtesy of Erin Green.
Roller derby is a special community
Roller derby blows me away with its inclusive spirit. It’s fascinating to see such diverse types of people come together and build such a strong community around this sport. I think one of my league mates captured exactly what I want to say when she recently told me: “there’s a shift happening – the sport is becoming less about the public spectacle, and more about skills and health and fitness and strength and community. Our community is built on the positive relationships we’ve built between our intraleague teams as well as with other leagues (because those are our fans – plus our mums), plus a sense of support and growth between leagues both here and interstate.”
Thumbs up, roller derby. You get me.
Human pyramid. Because what else are you going to do when you stumble upon Derby Street?
Incidentally, if you are in the area, you should definitely come along to the Light City Derby Grand Final on 31 October (Halloween!) which will see the Regimental Rollers battle the Galactic Guardians for the coveted (and sparkly!) LCD season trophy. Saturday 31 October at St Clair Recreation Centre, Woodville SA. Doors at 6pm, $5 entry.
‘Til next time,