Power Jam Playlist – Vol. 3

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It’s been far too long, but the season is upon us. Here’s another game day playlist!

Warning: Explicit lyrics, always. 

✪ Kendrick Lamar – DNA.

✪ Trap Beckham – Lil Booties Matter

✪ Gucci Mane – I Get The Bag

✪ Kevin Gates – Really Really

✪ Famous Dex – Pick It Up

✪ Young M.A – OOOUUU

✪ Migos – Beast

✪ Ski Mask the Slump God – Achoo

✪ G-Eazy – Gotdamn

✪ ScHoolboy Q – Collard Greens

✪ Nipsey Hussle – Last Time That I Checc’d

✪ Cardi B – I Do

Posted by Jax in playlist

Roller Derby Stopped Saving Me, Pt. 2.5

Photo © David Oliver

It’s been a while. My apologies. While writing this is extremely cathartic, it is also extremely emotionally taxing.

I have had a lot of people reach out and for that I’m grateful. I probably didn’t respond to everyone. I appreciate it so much, but I don’t always have words for my feelings and can get overwhelmed pretty easily.

Many people who are struggling with their own similar feelings having been reaching out with questions. Before I keep drudging through my personal story and personal feelings, I need to say what I think is the fundamental error in the way I was approaching derby.

Being in a sport cannot be your only way of managing your mental health.

A lot of us tend to treat it that way, but it will not solve your problems. It can help, but it can also add to your feelings down the road. For a long time I considered going to practice as a means of escape. Here’s the thing though, roller derby is a SPORT. Your team needs you there and they would probably prefer you focused. Roller derby was not a replacement for actual therapy and medication for me, as much as I wanted it to be.

Your friends also shouldn’t be your only means of managing mental health. They can certainly help! One of my best friends is a social worker and she definitely uses counseling techniques when I come to her with my anxieties, but it still isn’t the solution for me.

Roller derby is a great supplement in managing mental health, but it is in no way the answer.

If you have diabetes, diet and exercise is incredibly important. Here’s the thing, so is insulin.

This sport probably WON’T save you, at least not forever and that’s OKAY.

Therapy and medication aren’t always the answer either. It wasn’t the complete answer for me.
I was still really unhappy at practice even with those life changes. There are other options to explore as well: time spent on other hobbies, changes in your diet or habits, and non-competitive sporting or time at the gym (endorphins!).

My PERSONAL solution has involved a great mixture of things, and even today everything is not 100% perfect. I do have a lot more perspective. My process won’t work for everyone, or even the great majority of skaters who may feel similarly. I am sorry about that, but please know you are not alone.

Some resources:
Psychology Today (a great way to explore therapists and psychiatrists)
Depression in Elite Sport
Depression in Athletes
Roller derby did not save my soul
I Got Here, Now What? Practical Tools for Managing Mental Health and Derby, Part I: Getting There

Posted by Jax

2018: Resolve to be Versatile

Photo © DeFord Designs

“I’ll take the stripe, but don’t pass it to me.”
I hear this a lot at mixed scrimmages. People willing to take one hat, but not the other.

“You won’t need me, but I GOT you.”
That’s what I want to hear. That’s what I tell the jammer every time I take the stripe.

The stripe isn’t for the “line leader” or “pack momma” any more. It also shouldn’t be reserved for your best blocker. If you still have that mindset, throw it away. It’s garbage. You’re not garbage. You deserve better than garbage!

Anyone on the track can communicate, and you’re probably a better team if you all do some sort of talking or mind reading with each other. The stripe is a jammer. Yes, they are a back up jammer, but they should still be a willing and capable jammer! If your initial star is struggling, it’s time for the stripe to take over.

It kills me inside to watch a jammer who did not get lead keep the star on and struggle, fight, and slowly die for two minutes. It kills me more when I know it’s because their pivot is not conditioned to do as good of a job as their jammer.

One of the biggest downfalls a team can have is not being versatile.
If you’re looking to make your team better as a whole, there are a few ways you can do this.

The Basic Plan:
Make a list of your jammers. Make a list of your pivots. Each week have 2 jammers and pivots switch roles for drills at practice and for scrimmage. Your pivots need to be able to jam. I don’t mean just practice jamming twice on scrimmage night. I mean put them in the rotation and force them to jam consistently that night. Also, your jammers need to be able to block! If and when they pass the star, you will want them to be able to immediately switch to blocking and be an equal partner in the line, rather than a weak spot.

The Advanced Plan:
Everyone jams! Everyone blocks! Train everyone to do EVERY. THING. The most terrifying and powerful teams can count on their roster to go where they are needed. This means you are able to pull out all the stops and keep your opponents guessing. Maybe they know how your main rotation jams and they can adjust, but can they keep up the momentum when you swap that rotation out?

Resolve to be versatile next season. If you aren’t passing the star when you aren’t lead, or at the very least taking it off to divide the blockers’ attention… start there. Build on that– train your pivots in the art of truly jamming. Train your jammers to be aware and ready to swap roles if need be. Be prepared.

Posted by Jax

Roller Derby Stopped Saving Me, Pt. 2

Photo © Tom Klubens
Dead Eyes © My Miserable Feelings

I reached out. I took the right steps, or what I felt was probably the right steps.

I talked to friends that weren’t on my team. My team had shit to do, playoffs to prepare for, their own feelings to take care of. I tried to keep most of them out of it and away from it. I don’t know if I did a very good job of that, but I think they know I was trying my best.

“Oh that’s normal. That’s just burn out.” Burn out. It’s just burn out? I guess it’s just burn out. If my life were a television series, this is where the narrator would say, “But it wasn’t just burn out.” I’m sorry if you are here reading this, hoping I would say, “It’s just burn out! Here’s some tips!”

Look, burn out is real! I am not denying that. If my feelings were a lot milder I would agree that I was experiencing the ever so common burn out.

I was doing the things to salvage my relationship with roller derby. I checked in with myself, I took time off, I dabbled in my past hobbies, I stepped back from my roles within the league. I practiced self care like it was my last saving grace.

No. This was more like… the heartbreak you experience after your first serious relationship. Your partner suddenly doesn’t love you. You’ve given them every stupid piece of your stupid self and they don’t want any of it any more. You start to wonder what’s wrong with you, how to put everything that’s broken back together. They can’t tell you what’s changed, but nothing is the same and it blindsides you. Why aren’t you good enough? Why is everyone else happy and having fun? Why can’t everyone see your stupid aching heart and your dumb empty eyes?

I did what I do when I don’t know what to do. I made a list of pros and cons. I would recommend this to anyone who struggles making any large decisions. Or small decisions. I hate making decisions!

My list may have looked like this:

Teammates = Family
Hard work

Feels like work
Scared to try the new, fun things
Even when things go well, it feels empty
Self loathing
Working hard doesn’t necessarily translate to being or feeling good

I don’t know. I don’t exactly remember. I just felt like the cons list was always growing and my pros didn’t outweigh the shit storm in my heart and in my head.

I reached out to my parents. If you’ve seen me skate or coach, you may have met them. If you weren’t introduced, you probably heard these two cheering over literally everyone else in the venue. They come to ALL of my games. They recognized this thing that lights me up and they’ve supported it a million percent since day one. I am really incredibly lucky.

“I don’t think I’m going to skate any more. I hate it.” “What?!” “I hate it. I hate being on my skates. It makes me miserable. I’m tired of trying and I’m tired of being sad and I just want to be done.” “Are you still going to coach?”




Hey! If you do think it’s burn out, or are curious, there are a lot of very helpful blogs on the topic. Here’s a few:
Roller Derby and Burnout
Ask Jam Slanders: Derby Burnout Help!
Avoiding Burnout
Avoid Burnout – Keep Derby Fun!
The Unintended Blowback of Roller Derby Burnout, and Why Roller Skating Will Always Rock My World

Posted by Jax in mental game, roller derby

Roller Derby Stopped Saving Me, Pt. 1

Photo © Purple Turtle Photography

Ever since I joined roller derby, it has been the overwhelming focus of my life. Fuck everything else, I found this sport and these humans and I finally feel whole for the first time in my entire life. I have always wanted to go to every practice, play in every scrimmage and every game, and put in all of the work I could. My passion for roller derby was this huge fire consuming me.

Imagine my surprise years later, for the first time, when the fire inside me started to dim and flicker. I blamed the amount of changes in my life. I started a full time desk job, my best friend moved, we were suddenly playing D1 level roller derby even though we had only skated against D2 teams. Those were a few of the changes. I tried to fight back. I finally started therapy and medication for my anxiety and depression (something I should have done long ago). I joined Crossfit to start more difficult strength training. I wanted to feel like myself again. I wanted that passion back. It worked, for a little bit, but not forever. Unfortunately, those things weren’t a magical fix.

2017 was a rough year for me. Everything felt so bad, so heavy, all the time. It was not what I remembered. My mental state deteriorated. Practice was no longer something I looked forward to. It felt like a second job that I HAD to go to, so I wouldn’t let my team down. There was always the question of: Would it be better if I went to practice, or would I be a fucking mess there? A lot of the times I pushed through it and broke in front of the people who made me feel whole. I wanted to show, despite what it often looked like, that I belonged, that I was working, and that this was what I wanted.

One scrimmage night I took a high block at the start of the jam. While this usually makes me snap for a few moments and then rage jam (“I’m gonna take your points, your momma’s points, your grandma’s points! You will regret besmirching my face!”), it didn’t this time. I immediately started sobbing, took myself off of the track, geared down, and went and sat in the parking lot and cried for a long time. This little thing, this relatively normal thing that happens to me, started an avalanche of emotions. I was constantly swallowing my feelings and just pushing them down into the void, hoping they would go away. Then things like this would briefly open that void and I would momentarily explode.

I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to feel like this any more. I am giving every bit of myself and nothing good is happening. This is too much. Why am I here? I feel so alone.

That would be the filtered, gentle version of the things that regularly ran through my mind. I still took myself to practice, determined to finish the season. Nothing felt good or right. I either felt overwhelmingly sad or completely dead inside. Most of the time I aimed for dead inside. When I was dead inside I could still show up and go through the motions and give the appearance like I was functioning alright. I could get lead jammer when I was dead inside, I was slightly more fearless when I was dead inside, I didn’t have melt downs at practice when I was dead inside. Dead inside is never the long term answer, friends.

I think I want to quit. I think I’m going to quit.

Posted by Jax in mental game, roller derby