This isn’t a post about coping with failure. For starters this comic already did it better, and secondly I realised I’ve actually been confusing failure with ‘failure to constantly achieve’.
I’m talking about The Derby Lull. Specifically, the unquantifiable skill wilderness (skillderness?) that exists between passing-minimum-skills and being Suzy Hotrod. How one minute you’re acing your minimums, learning a skill a week and feeling hella cool, and then suddenly BAM you’ve passed and there’s no standardised measure for success any more. Just a whole load of complicated rules and gameplay and LEFT TRANSITIONS.
It’s February now and I still can’t transition left at speed. Or hockey stop. Or do any of the things I’ve been practising my arse off at for months, with REALLY GODDAMN SLOW progression. Only it occurred to me today that I have absolutely no excuse to feel crap about these things. Of course the learning curve is going to plateau, at least until you do something about it.
So what can we do, short of hiring the derby Pegasus to bring back the glittery, shimmering awesomeness we felt when we learnt (and re-learnt) to plow stop?
The trick, apparently, is learning to appreciate the art of consolidation. Everyone needs time to collect what they’ve learnt, assess it, and analyze where to go from here. After lots of talking to skaters and coaches at bootcamps, online forums, and reading a whooole load, here is my selection of people’s bestest tips that have been helping me with the lull:
- Get feedback. Talk to your coaches – and your teammates – about ways you can improve as a skater. This doesn’t just have to be skills feedback either; this can be based on attitude, gameplay, teamwork for example.
- Set goals. Achievable, measurable goals for every single training session, scrim or bout. Want to learn to juke like that awesome jammer who always gets past you? Set yourself the goal to copy how she jukes. Practise it, a lot. Then try to work a juke in each time you scrim.
- Get your head in the game. Really in the game. Read up on tactics in your spare time. Don’t just rely on coaches to give you strategies, work things out for yourself and look into new ways of walling, recycling, jamming. Your input will be greatly welcomed, and is important for building a stronger team!
- Watch derby! Go to bouts, use WFTDA.tv and watch in your lunch break. Watch one skater at a time. Or watch for strategies – try to take one thing away from every bout you watch (even if it’s just ‘holy shit, that’s how to psych out a jammer.’)
- Find a bootcamp and go to it – with team mates, or even alone if you like. Sounds weird but I tend to focus much better – and learn quicker – when I’m desperately trying to be accepted by peers I don’t know.
- Be critical. Think back to when you learnt a hard skill, and work out what made that learning experience a success. Work out how you can apply that to a technique you’re struggling with. Even if it’s just recognising that you need to practise it 100 more times. Knowing that it’s achievable with practise will give you the push you need to keep going at it.
- Write a list of what you want to achieve with roller derby. What skills you want to learn, in order of achievability. What goals you want to set yourself. Then work your way through that list – skip any that you like; this is your list. Keep adding to it.
- Sweat every session. You will know when your body is pushing you to learn something new, or do something better. Remember the first time you attempted 25 in 5 and nearly coughed up a lung? Give it your all: try to get that feeling back for at least one drill every session. Effort in = results out.
- Focus. If you’re finding something easy, get lower, go faster, do it on the other leg, do it backwards. Don’t just chat to your mate because you find this drill easy.
- Challenge somebody else. We are derby girls, we like a bit of competition. Set each other goals – when you sprint laps, try to overtake each other, jump higher, push and encourage your teammates too!
Don’t wait for the Pegasus, BE THE PEGASUS.
(I realise Pegasus is a specific winged horse, but no-one knows what an alicorn or a pterippus is (including me before I Googled it). So let’s hear it for generic Pegasi! *tiny cheer*)