Last night was our first roller derby practice of the year. It was also the first practice for some of our new-comers. While I didn’t get much chance to talk to the new folks, it was great to see them there. As an older skater (meaning that I’ve been playing for a while AND that I’m actually older than others on the team), it makes me feel great to see new people getting involved in the sport I love. It renews my excitement in the game and makes me eager to get to know some new sisters (or brothers).
I’ve been playing roller derby since 2010. I started out being TERRIBLE. A lot of skaters will tell you that they were so bad when they started but I was SERIOUSLY BAD. As we learned some basic skills, it always took me much longer to get them than all the other skaters (actually, it still does. Me+new skill+lots of time=mediocre). When we graduated from fresh meat, it seemed like many of the other skaters started excelling at strategy quicker than I did, as well. So, from time to time this did get me down but, like derby, you can’t stay down. I kept trying, kept pushing myself, and I’ve learned a lot! I’ve been named “Most Improved Player of the Year” TWICE! I am still not the best player on the team but, I don’t feel like I’m a liability on the track (most of the time). We all have different strengths and weaknesses and that helps us be a great team and family. So, to any of our new folks (or to anyone THINKING about joining), below are my tips for you. I actually wrote most of these quite some time ago and I’ve shared it with a few people along the way.
HOW TO BE AN IMPROVED PLAYER
- Start by barely knowing how to skate. You can only improve from there. OK, if you know how to skate, you can still improve…always!!
- Get Over It! If you fall down, get back up. If you make a mistake, learn from it and move on…don’t dwell on it (I still struggle with this). If a teammate makes a mistake, get over it and keep working with him/her. If a ref makes a mistake, tough. They’re human and will miss things or will call things wrong. But, if they call it or don’t call it, live with it and do what you’re supposed to do.
- Listen to what people are actually saying (Get over it part 2). Your coaches and teammates are probably very wise. Listen to them. One of the first times that I was scrimmaging in practice, I was scared to death. I was like a deer in headlights. I skated in an oval near other skaters hoping that no one would notice that I was clueless. After the jam was over, Ninja Hurtle (I miss you) said to me, “You’re not doing anyone any good if you’re just skating out there. You’ve gotta hit someone or get in someone’s way.” What I heard was, “You’re not any good.” If I could’ve just taken the advice and had gotten my stupid bruised ego out of the way, I would’ve learned something that day instead of several weeks or months later. I also probably would’ve heard and absorbed the next thing that she said: “Don’t be afraid of her. She’s on skates just like you.” How brilliant!!! I’m sure most of my teammates are more comfortable on skates than I am but we’ve all got wheels strapped to our feet. What makes her (whoever she may be) any better than me?
- If you have a weakness or fear, don’t wait a year to address it. At my second practice ever, we were supposed to do squats on our toe stops. So, I got on my toe stops and squatted twice. My feet flew out from under me and I landed right on my tailbone. In all the times that I’ve fallen on my tail bone since, I’ve never hurt so bad as that time. So, I lived in fear of toe stops for about a year. When I finally fessed up to my derby sisters, they LITERALLY gave me support (holding me up while I took awkward baby steps on my toes) and they gave me encouragement. Chances are, your teammates want you to do better and no one will make fun of you if you’re working on your weakness. For quite some time, I spent part of the warm up time taking slightly less awkward steps on my toe stops around the track and I always got a thumbs up or a “way to go” from one of my teammates that knows that I’m working on something that has scared me before. Although I’m not super comfortable with toe stops still, I’m much better at stops and starts because I’m not as afraid anymore.
- If you’re feeling like you don’t want to go to practice, GO! I want to be clear that I’m not talking about being sick or injured. People have to miss practice sometimes for other obligations, too. I’m talking here about that general malaise where there isn’t anything wrong but you’re just not feeling it. I get this feeling a LOT. I contemplate hanging up the skates and chucking the whole thing. When I start to feeling this way, I usually go anyway and start with a bad attitude (sorry teammates). I’ve never regretted going. I always have a great time once I get going and those nights are usually my favorites. I learn something new and feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Always Always Always have fun!
Professor Plum Crazy
Do you want to join a great family that helps you improve as a person and an athlete? You still can! We have “Check It Out” nights on Tuesday, January 19th and January 26th! You need to be 19+ (with ID) and bring a mouthguard. Contact our Coach The Dread Pirate Robyn for more info