Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
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• Ankle Rehab
• Plate Research
• Roller Derby Fashion
• Going Stopless
• Sports Bra Review
• Navigating RollerCon
• Plus more, including generating the most accurate WFTDA rankings, getting involved in the community, tryouts: conquering nerves and getting ahead
Serena, Royal City Roller Girls
Unless you are some sort of cyborg derby machine who doesn’t have feelings, there will always be a modicum of nerves that accompany tryouts, especially when you’re a less experienced skater. While the stress of the experience can’t be entirely removed, there are small measures that can make big differences when it comes to minimizing mid-tryout stabs of anxiety.
eat well I am a terrible, lazy eater. If I have a choice between a well-balanced meal and a bag of gummy bears, the instant gummy-bear-gratification will win out over waiting 40 minutes for real food to cook almost every time. With this sort of behaviour on my resume, it isn’t a great surprise that by halfway through the five minute skate at my first tryout, I couldn’t feel my legs.
Turns out, copious empty calories don’t do great things for one’s performance. I ended up being half a lap short and later learned that this was the issue that kept me off the team. And that should have been enough to teach me a lesson. But I have a short memory and it wasn’t.
A few months later, there was a surprise re-test, and it fell on an evening when my ‘meals’ for the day had all consisted of caffeine and Marshmallow Peeps. This story has a happy ending; I was successful in the five minute skate and I got a new shot at being a part of a team that I love, but my body fought me every step of the way. It was a stupid and reckless decision, and it really wasn’t worth the risk. Derby is hard enough on the body without adding entirely avoidable obstacles.
It’s difficult to strike a balance between too little food and too much food, but experiment and figure out what you need to eat in order to feel like you are in control of your body. Don’t let a lack of energy be the reason you miss out on opportunities to take your game to the next level.
mental preparation There’s a reason that derby is so often likened to chess. It is a mental game and without adequate mental preparation, you’re losing out. My first coach taught me to pick three obtainable goals before a game, and then stick with those same goals every game until I achieved them. My first goals were simple ones: • I will not get in the way of my own jammer. • I will not give up the inside line. • I will get lower.
The goals will evolve with your skating abilities, but one of the (many) beautiful things about derby is that there will always, always be something to work toward. Going into tryouts and advanced practices with clear goals in mind is just as important as mentally prepping yourself for a game. The next three goals are as simple on the surface as the goals that I set for myself before my very first bout, but they are the reminders I need in order to do my best.
When the drill/skill is over, it’s over. Do not spend another moment thinking about it. The car ride home can be used to think about what was done well and what needs to be done differently the next time. Any brain power spent thinking about a past skill during a tryout is brain power not being put toward succeeding in the current skill.
I am not allowed to think about how I look. A short time ago, I hit a plateau in my progress. After a few really frustrating practices, I realized that the biggest difference between the current me and me from six months ago was a fear I had developed somewhere along the way of looking ridiculous. I was worrying about stumbling and worrying about not looking like everyone else and worrying about other skaters getting less out of the drill than they should because I couldn’t keep up.
When I catch myself caught up in how I look during the skill rather than focusing on giving it everything I have, I clench my teeth and change the behaviour. I can’t say that it’s easy, but I can say that it makes a difference. Sometimes, you’re going to look ridiculous. Accept it as part of the journey to not looking ridiculous, and move on.
Your goals may differ from mine, but what is important is giving thought to what tends to hinder you and then strategizing to counter it. Your tryout will be smoother for it, and it will save you some regrets after the fact.
I made the team! Now what? Even once your rookie days are long behind you, you will have the occasional bad practice. And the subjects of attitude and goals that were touched on earlier in this article come full circle when it comes to recovering from an off night on your skates.
When one first joins Fresh Meat, the WFTDA Minimums are the recognizable end point. And once the minimum skills test is passed, there comes the realization that minimums are exactly that; a minimum set of skills required of skaters before they can go out into their league and safely begin to build their knowledge of strategy and game play on a deeper level.
It becomes increasingly difficult to be satisfied by the small victories. During Fresh Meat, every skater is, generally speaking, equally terrible at derby. The friends you initially make are all in the same boat as you: madly in love with this newly discovered sport and eager to shuffle clumsily around the track. Every small step forward – from getting wheel locked without falling over to gliding for a few brief, blissful seconds on one foot – is grounds for excitement. It takes so much concentration to do the simple things that there isn’t room to consider anything else. By the time a few months pass and you’re regularly attending league practices where vets dance around the track like they were born with wheels on their feet, it’s easy to get discouraged by the little voice inside your head whispering, “I should be able to do that.”
Once again, you have to learn to move on. It is undoubtedly discouraging to have your best not be good enough, but remember that “your best” is only your best for now. And it’s better than your best was four months ago. Players are defined by their attitude; be remembered as coachable. Ask questions. Try and fail and try and fail some more. And if you need to go home and have a frustrated cry about your performance on a particular night, that’s okay. But don’t dwell on it. Make a list of areas in need of improvement. Go to practice prepared to work on one or two of those things, and make a conscious decision to leave the memory of the last practice off the track with your street shoes.
Defeatist, negative skaters are not remembered fondly, regardless of how skilled they may become. Be the girl who comes to practices and tryouts ready to learn and ready to try, and everything else will follow. Willing skaters make for willing teammates and coaches.