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:

Pros
Teammates = Family
Hard work
……..?

Cons
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

How to CRUSH the Off Season

Fix and/or Upgrade Your Gear

If you’re like me your toe stops are pretty tiny once the end of the season hits. Maybe you haven’t cleaned your bearings at all (I know too many of you guilty of this). You might need a new skate boot all together! It’s scary to make some of these changes mid-season when you don’t necessarily have the time to adjust between games. I’m here to tell you now is the perfect time. If you don’t have any practices, you can still go to an open skate or even an empty parking lot to adjust to any subtle or large changes you may make.

Recommended Reading:
How to Clean Your Bearings and Wheels
Off Season Cleanin
Tips for Upgrading Your Skate Boots

 

Rehab Your Nagging Injury

We have a tendency to ignore whatever issue is happening with our body when there are games we have to prepare for. Just put some KT Tape on it! Take some time away from working out, away from skating, and see if the problem is still there. Go see a physical therapist, a chiropractor, whatever you’ve been putting off! Get your body put back together and then start some prehab to avoid having a repeat next season.

Recommended Reading:
Roller Derby Athletics – Lots of Prehab and Rehab Resources!
Balance To Build Bullet Proof Ankles For Roller Derby
Returning From Injury

 

Reflect and Reset

What were your goals this past season? How many did you meet? Were you realistic with yourself?  Take some time to reflect on this year and what went well. All the good stuff. Then, look ahead to where you want to go this next season. Don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed! Write some long term goals and break them down into smaller, bite size goals.

Recommended Reading:
Tips for Goal Setting
Goals Setting Pyramid
Using the GROW Model to Set Roller Derby Goals
What (In The Hell) Are You Cross Training For Anyway?

 

Watch Roller Derby

Watch footage of yourself if you have it. Take notes. Make more goals. Then, watch the WFTDA.tv archives. Take MORE notes. Make EVEN MORE goals. Watch specific jammers or blockers, find skaters that are similar to you. Rewind, watch the same jam or moment multiple times. Watch it in slow motion. Reaaaaaaally let it sink in. Be inspired.

Recommended Reading:
Tips for Personal Footage Review
8 Keys to Watching Bout Footage Like a Champ
WFTDA Archives, Duh

 

Work Your Ass Off

Starting strength training in the middle of a season is scary and can lead to fatigue during practices. I’m not saying DON’T train during the season, you certainly should! But, the off season is for the bulk of your heavy training. Take the time to reflect on your weaknesses and attack them. Think of it as you are putting in the ground work setting the foundation for next season.

Recommended Reading:
Structuring Your Season to Hit Your Peak When it Counts, Pt. 1
Structuring Your Season to Hit Your Peak When it Counts, Pt. 2
Strength Training for Roller Derby
Your Roller Derby Training Happens Around A SEASON

 

Do Shit That Is Not Roller Derby!

This is a small window of time where you aren’t saying, “I can’t, I have roller derby.” to all of your loved ones. Take some time to enjoy things you don’t get much time for during the season. The world will not end if you don’t skate for a little bit. I can promise you will not completely forget how to skate. You will likely miss it (like a lot), but distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Go forth and enjoy your time off!

Posted by Jax in roller derby

Be a Better Coach, Pt. 4

Photo © Down’N’Out Photography

Coaching has made me better. It’s made me a better human and it’s made me a better athlete.

What are the benefits that can come from taking on the role of Coach?

It keeps you hip and trendy!
Roller derby is constantly evolving. It seems like almost every month there’s a hot new strategy, trick, drill, or important blog post. As a coach, you owe it to your team to submerge yourself in everything new and improved. Even if it’s a strategy or trick you don’t want to teach your team… knowing about it can benefit the team. For example: Just because your team doesn’t block in a cube, doesn’t mean your opponents won’t. Just because you avoid being a flat wall, doesn’t mean your opponents won’t. Grow your knowledge and you’ll become a better skater and coach for it.

You will learn, constantly.
Can you tell me, immediately, off the top of your head, what foot you jump from when you jump the apex? Do you REALLY know what “use your edges” means? Can you explain that when someone asks? What does engaging your core actually mean? Where should your weight be when you are doing a specific drill? Just because you have a set of skills and can demo a drill… doesn’t mean you actively know what you are doing with your body. A lot of the time we are in auto-derby mode, completing the action without dissecting it. Being a good coach means finding the answers, even if you don’t have them immediately. Sometimes all you have to do is slow down the action as you demo it and you’ll figure it out. Other times, someone you are coaching will already have the answer! Remember, you have unlimited resources to help you and those you coach grow.

You stay grounded.
Don’t forget where you came from, no matter how far you’ve climbed the skill ladder. It is incredibly encouraging and heartwarming to hear from a skater you admire that they too struggled with a particular skill. Stay in touch with your roots. Be open about what your past and present challenges are. When you aren’t afraid to talk about failure, struggle, and the grind it takes to achieve success… those you teach won’t be afraid to consistently try and work towards their goals.

Family.
I imagine being a coach can feel similar to being a parent. These 20+ skaters are my family. It is my responsibility to help them grow and find success. When they’re happy, I want to celebrate. When they’re having a hard time, I want to show them it will be okay. When they’re being an asshole, I want them to cut that shit out.

Pride. Overwhelming pride.

Photo © DeFord Designs

Watching others success and knowing you played a part– no matter how small or large– feels SO good. Seeing someone nail something they’ve been struggling with for months, noticing the light bulb pop on when they have a breakthrough, seeing them celebrate with themselves or others… it’s all pretty great.

Every single week, I look forward to running practice. Even if the practice isn’t what I hoped for, I can guarantee something good happened in those two hours. I played a role in that something good and that feels pretty incredible.
Posted by Jax in coaching, roller derby

Don’t Be A Dick

Roller Derby,

We need to have a talk.

Recently someone asked me why I decided to join this sport. It’s because of the camaraderie I saw within the team that extended to the opposing team. These two teams were talking, dancing, and high fiving each other when they weren’t fiercely competing on the track. That blew my mind. It felt like not only the team was a family, but they were welcoming and loving of their opponents.

Lately, a lot of feelings have been bubbling to the surface and I need to say something.

#CoachBo says Don’t Be A Dick.

“Don’t be a dick” is something I say a lot when I’m teaching a brand new drill or a drill in which one partner needs to dial it down.

Let’s be honest though, we need to apply this phrase to the community as a whole. I am pretty deep into roller derby. I am a coach, a skater, a trainer, and my partner is a referee. I have played, coached, and spectated various levels of roller derby in the past 4 years.

I have experienced uncalled behavior on the track. I have been pushing a wall and had the opposing brace look me in the eyes while repeatedly shouting, “Fuck her up! Fuck her up!”

I have experienced uncalled behavior while coaching. I have had an opposing coach shout about uncalled penalties and when I met their gaze, they screamed, “Yeah, I fucking said it.” You know what I did? I smiled. Then they broke their clipboard in a fit of rage. I am passionate about my team and fair treatment, but I know that type of behavior gets us nowhere.

I have experienced uncalled behavior directed at the team I am coaching. Just this season they have been accused of cheating, stacking the roster, and bringing biased referees. This is a problem on so many levels, the biggest I take issue with is that it is diminishing all of the hard work each athlete has put in to improve their game this season. While I don’t feel I NEED to defend them, I am frustrated with these accusations. I will say that their roster has had minimal turnover since I have begun training them. Not only that, but the only skaters who have been added to the team are newer and have worked their ass off to just make it through try outs and earn a spot on the team. Their hard work and dedication is the reason for their rapid improvements, nothing else.

I have watched my partner experience uncalled behavior as a referee. Name calling, lewd gestures, and lots and lots of shouting. You name it, it’s likely he’s experience some sort of rude behavior.

I’m not a saint, myself. I have shouted penalties at the referees as a coach. I have rolled my eyes at a referee when I disagreed with a call. I’ve even said, “How?!” while sprinting to the box. I have frustratingly repeated a referee call at a skater who is engaging with me while out of play. I once uttered, “What the fuck?” after being thrown off the track due to an intense high block.

I’m not writing this to complain. I am writing this as a call to action.

We have to do better. We have to BE BETTER.

We do this sport for fun. We actually pay out of pocket to do it! We spend countless hours and a good amount of money every month just to participate.

Yes, we are competitive. Yes, this is an aggressive sport. BUT– There is a clear difference between playing aggressive and just being an asshole. This sport is also very much a mental game. I do think there are appropriate ways to get to the opposing team, and inappropriate. I have experienced skaters saying, “We’ve got her. She’s tired. Good.” and well it felt awful, I didn’t feel even close to the way I did while someone barked, “Fuck her up!” at me. Play mind games if you so choose, but don’t be a dick.

Our volunteers are just that… volunteers. Our referees don’t get much from this sport. Sometimes I struggle with how they can possibly find enjoyment in their jobs, but I am so thankful they show up and do the work to keep us safe. There’s no reason to stop in the middle of the track and shout at them. They are (in my experience) very open to questions and feedback. You can definitely ask why you received a penalty after serving it. To your coach OR the referee! I understand in the heat of the moment, or after, that you may disagree with a call… but when has shouting at a referee every gotten you your way? I have yet to see a volunteer retract a call simply because a skater disagreed and had a tantrum about it. We have to be better.

Our Non-Skating Officials don’t even get the enjoyment of skating while they volunteer! They are dedicating their time to make sure the game, scrimmage, or practice runs as smoothly as possible. We shouldn’t be talking down to, arguing with, or mistreating these humans. Make it a habit to thank them. You wouldn’t be able to do this sport if they didn’t show up, and a lot of times it is very hard to find people to fill their role.

Choose to be better. Practice your mental game for the situations that trigger uncalled behavior. Ask your friends to keep you in check. Hold yourself and your team accountable. We are human and we make mistakes. That is fine and everyone in this sport is pretty understanding of that. We are less so understanding of the same mistakes happening again and again which are spreading toxicity. Be better in practice. Be better in scrimmage. Be better in games.

I love you, Roller Derby. I want us to have a long relationship, but it has to be healthy.

xoxo,
Jax

Posted by Jax in coaching, mental game, roller derby