Lately I’ve been finding it hard to moderate my communication on track – as games get faster and opposition seems stronger, I find myself shouting lots, and not always in the most effective way.
In the last 6 months, my internal monologue has moved from ‘don’t fall down, don’t fall down, don’t fall down, CORNER!’ to ‘lane 1, lane 3, lane 4, (don’t fall down), bridge, bridge, HUSTLE, (CORNER!)’.
But with this comes a great big new challenge: externalising the internal monologue, and filtering it appropriately for the track – being concise, correct, calm, audible, (and polite!) all in a split second is hard. ‘Please excuse me, I’m your jammer coming past in lane 1‘ comes out differently when you’re pumped full of adrenaline and need a quick reaction.
But whilst urgent communication is important on track, so is team morale. If you get frustrated and shout aggressively at a teammate, I think it’s important to take the time to say sorry after the jam, rather than ‘DON’T DO THAT NEXT TIME’. And important to accept similar apologies from your teammates as a simple lapse in voice-control in the heat of the moment. I’ve been on both sides, and both times felt shit about being a bad teammate. We all make mistakes, but I think a quick recognition of ‘oops’ after the jam can make the difference between two people having a bad 20 seconds, and a bad whole game.
On-track feedback is something else I’ve been thinking about recently, and I’m interested to know what other leagues do. As a skater who also coaches, I find it hard to switch between the two modes in scrim sessions. I catch myself calling ‘penalty warnings’ when I’m in a pack – not to alert the refs, but to get skaters to check their play and make sure we’re not developing bad habits. In my head, it’s the right process for team learning.
In reality though, it can be kinda demoralising. It’s frustrating hearing ‘Steg, watch your forearms’ from teammates when I’m scrimming. It’s frustrating because I know they’re correct, so I check myself, feel a bit butt-hurt, but am suddenly more conscious of forearms – and I know my teammates are helping me become a better player. Overall it’s positive.
It occurred to me, though, that not everyone takes criticism in the same way. And this is my quandry: is it better to develop the mental toughness to take immediate feedback on track when it’s relevant – or should we be saving all our comments until after the jam/after the scrim, when it might feel less relevant, but can be said with the right tone of voice? It seems like a small decision for a team to make, but one that can massively effect the morale – and expectations – of teammates in training.
I also think that as a team grows with newer skaters, it’s important to be clear about what ‘appropriate’ communication on track actually means, and that everybody feels confident within the team environment to know that ‘LANE 1, GET OUTTA THE WAY’, doesn’t mean your jammer hates you, it just means they’re economising their energy for skating. And if there is feedback to be done, it should be given – and taken – in a positive way. Roller derby is an emotionally and physically tough sport; let’s build each other up, keep working harder, and optimise THE HELL out of our communication with teammates.