I Am Not A Natural, Pt. 2

 Photo © Bernie Laframboise

Photo © Bernie Laframboise

This was originally written and posted here on March 25, 2015.

Roller derby is just as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. Your attitude can make or break your momentum and progress.

Negative self-talk will slow you down. Comparing yourself to others will cripple you.

These are easy habits to get into. Especially when you are starting. Especially when you are skating practices with people of various skill levels. These habits are something you need to throw in the garbage disposal and annihilate as soon as possible.

Stop telling yourself that you cannot, or you will not.

For the longest time I thought I “would never” learn a skill or ability. Specific to my own skating abilities, transitions and mohawking were my nemesis for what seemed like the longest time. Months after my fellow skaters in boot camp had learned and executed these abilities just fine I was still struggling. I was convinced it just wouldn’t happen for me. I couldn’t and didn’t give up, though. If I wanted to continue to progress I had to set goals and avidly work towards them. I spent my down time at practice trying the skills I was struggling with. I went to open skates. I spent some nights in my driveway practicing. I stretched more. I researched. Eventually at practice it happened. Not once, but many times. Today these are two of my favorite skills and the foundation in my jamming arsenal. If you catch yourself saying that you cannot, correct yourself and if you have to say something… say that you are working on it.

Never, never, never give up. — Winston Churchill

It’s hard when you feel like your progress isn’t happening as quickly as it should. It’s hard to watch people learn at different rates. But, it happens and it will continue to happen your entire derby career. It’s not just happening to you though. Everyone has felt this way about people in their lives at some point. Some people can watch a drill once and flawlessly execute it on their first try. Most can’t. Even those people you idolize mess. things. up. Those skaters do struggle and have struggled just like you!

No good will come from comparing yourself to others.

It will not help you accomplish your goals. In fact, it can damage your self worth and your progression. Look to yourself instead. Compare this practice to the last. Compare this month to the previous. Look at how far you’ve come! Remember when you could barely cross over? Remember when you couldn’t pick your leg up during stretches, or else you would fall? Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how big or small. Did you increase your 27 in 5 time by a few seconds? Great! Did you not fall when one of the hardest hitters on your team tried to knock you down? Heck yeah! Did you ALMOST land an apex jump? Awesome! You tried something a lot of people wouldn’t have the guts to do. (My first attempted apex jump went horribly awry, but NO ONE cared it went wrong except ME. Every time I do happen to land one my league mates cheer and it feels great and I wouldn’t get those amazing feelings if I didn’t try it despite past failures.) Celebrate it all.

My favorite way to stay on the positivity track is to keep a notebook.

When another person compliments you, ACCEPT THE COMPLIMENT (very important), and write it down. Try to keep the exact phrasing if you can remember. You can date it too, if you’d like. I actually kept mine dated so I could see the progress and changes I was making through other’s eyes. When you accomplish something big or small, write it down too. This will serve as proof when you feel like things are too difficult or like you are unaccomplished. Celebrate yourself frequently and all the things you’ve done and will continue to do.

Positivity has such a huge impact that I think a lot of people fail to notice, or don’t notice quickly enough. When you are in a positive mental space, it’s easier to learn and it’s easier to achieve. If you start to feel yourself get frustrated and slip, give yourself a moment, shake it off (if you practice with me, you will see me literally stop during a drill, shake my head, my arms, my legs, take a deep breath, and then try again) and start anew.

If you decide to keep a notebook, you don’t have to use it JUST for compliments. You can use it for goals as well! We can talk more about that next week, friends.

Posted by Jax in roller derby

Tapping Into Your Best Mental Game

I want to first say every athlete has different needs. Some people need to be alone before a game, some people need to be laughing with their friends, and some need a combination of many things. There is no wrong way to tap into your mental game. Remember that along with your needs you should be respectful of your teammate’s needs. Let them do what they need to do to truly get into the zone before and during a game as well.

This season I have been really working on cleaning up and fine-tuning my mental game. This is an all-too-common struggle in the athlete community. I feel like after some trial and error, I found what works best for me. I want to share with you some tips and tricks I’ve picked up or witnessed along the way:

Before the game, I personally need to get out some of my anxiety through being silly. I recognize my teammates who have their headphones in and are chilling and I do my best to avoid them so not to mess up their zen. I find the people who also thrive in the laughter and share it. This used to be me on the jam line a few years back:

I have moved to doing these shenanigans BEFORE the game now.

During the game I become hyperfocused. Hyperfocus is an intense form of mental concentration or visualization that focuses consciousness on a subject, topic, or task. In some individuals, various subjects or topics may also include daydreams, concepts, fiction, the imagination, and other objects of the mind. You can read more about different versions of hyperfocus here.

I don’t watch the game. As a jammer, I used to watch and try and pick apart the blockers weaknesses to try and come up with a plan of attack. It’s not a bad idea. But in the end, I found out that it didn’t matter. The blockers would be different, the situation would be different, and my skating style is different… All these things can be similar to previous jams, but it’s still going to be different in the end!

I don’t need to watch the game. Our team talks about what is working and what isn’t working. We share our knowledge after good jams and after bad jams. My team is also incredibly lucky in that our bench coach watches like a hawk and can give us pointers on how to be more successful.

For some athletes watching the game can become really stressful. Maybe a jam goes poorly before you take the track. This often leads to riskier behavior with lower awareness the following jam. You may be in the mindset that you HAVE to have an absolutely perfect jam to try and “make up” for something that went poorly. No. You need to do the absolute best you can and not morph into a loose cannon.

So what can you do instead of watch the game? Look at your teammates. Some of our blockers will touch everyone in their line before they take the track. They make deliberate eye contact and discuss what they can do.

Photo © T.I. Stills Photography

Photo © T.I. Stills Photography

You can also try what I specifically do. Look at your skates. Maybe close your eyes. Visualize. Tune out absolutely everything and imagine performing in a great jam. As my captain says before every game, “picture yourself being challenged, but overcoming those obstacles.” Focus on deep breathing. Think about what you can do and how you are going to do it.

Okay—so now that you’re doing all the right things for you… everything should be going perfect, right? NOPE. You will have bad jams. You might even have horrible jams! Maybe you went to the box more than once in a span of a jam or two. You just want to scream and yell– but you can’t. Or at least you shouldn’t. Don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy.

First off, don’t yell at your coach. All too often we get riled up when things go wrong and we stand too close to our coach while we word vomit what has upset us. While I am sure they probably care, they have another job to do and it isn’t handling your emotions.

Find a teammate. One teammate. Your safe space on the team. Vent to them (IF it doesn’t mess up their zen bench) once and then let it go. Get it out of your mouth and body and then completely refocus. Don’t go back to that place.

Alternatively, work it out on your own. A lot of times when I am upset about how things are going I need to be alone. I need to breathe and rage for a moment. I will move to the end of the bench, alone, so I’m not letting my bad feelings seep on to my teammates whom I love and care about. Don’t rain on their parade. Drizzle by yourself for a moment and then join your friends in the sunshine.

If you have the mental capacity during the game, be a safe space for others. If I’m in a good brain space, I try to take notice of reactions each of my teammates have. Sometimes they come off the track looking frazzled. I offer myself as an ear or a comforting pat on the leg. Sometimes they are watching the game and getting wound up. I offer myself as a distraction and as a partner in some guided visualization. If you can be there without ruining your zen, it is always appreciated.

Lastly, celebrate your teammates. High five after every jam! If you are watching the game, tell them something good you saw. A lot of the time they might not have even noticed. I can’t tell you how many times I have told a blocker, “that thing you did was AWESOME!” and they look at me confused.

Tap into your best self before, during, and after the game. You and your team will be better for it.

Photo © Derby Pics by Phil

Photo © Derby Pics by Phil

Posted by Jax in mental game, roller derby

I Am Not A Natural, Pt. 1

 Photo © Randy Pace

Photo © Randy Pace

This was originally written and posted here on March 18, 2015.

Athleticism was never really my forte. I ran cross country and track in high school because it was something to do to get me off of the computer. It got my body moving and required minimal teamwork and social interaction. Those were also two sports that I could participate in without pressure. Yeah, I can jog 3.1 miles. Slowly enough that I will not be a deciding factor in my team doing well, too. The only person I had to complete with was my own personal records and myself.

I did NOT join roller derby to become athletic. I joined roller derby for the camaraderie. After watching roller derby just once I felt a sense of, “These are my people. This is where I belong.”

Morphing into an athletic person has been a result of the combined desire, as well as effort, to improve and accomplish goals to further my derby career.

I would like to make a note that everyone I know loves roller derby differently. I happen to love roller derby in an all-consuming matter. This sport and this community have given me so much more than I could have ever imagined. That being said, the recipe I use for improvement probably won’t be the exact recipe that works for you. We will likely use some of the same or similar ingredients, but what we are cooking is a bit different.

So, how does one improve when they feel like they are struggling, not catching on, or just regularly beating themselves up about not seeing instant results? Or maybe you feel like– taking an excerpt from my fresh meat journal– “sometimes it is sink or swim and I feel like I’m sinking rather quickly.”

My personal list of ingredients includes:

  • Positivity
  • Goals
  • Drive
  • Cross Training

Each ingredient is more complicated than just a word. They are all full of many layers; like an onion, lasagna, or ice cream cake… You get my drift (I really like food). So I would like to take time to focus and elaborate on each and every ingredient within its own post.

See you next week to focus on some delicious positivity!

Posted by Jax in mental game, roller derby

Power Jam Playlist – Vol. 1

Listen to on Spotify | Listen to on Youtube

Not a lot feels better than killin’ it on a power jam. Unfortunately, you can’t listen to your headphones while that’s happening… but you can envision yourself killing it pre-game while listening to this playlist.

Warning: This playlist is primarily explicit rap. Proceed with caution and ass shaking. If that’s your thing.

✪ Roy Jones – Can’t Be Touched

✪ DELAX – Drop You Like

✪ DeJ Loaf – Back Up


✪ O.T. Genasis – The Flyest

✪ Meek Mill – Ima Boss

✪ Kstylis – Booty Me Down

✪ Tyga – Dope

✪ Kanye West – The New Workout Plan

✪ Migos – Fight Night

✪ Missy Elliott – WTF

✪ Kanye West – POWER

✪ Rob $tone – Chill Bill

Posted by Jax in playlist, roller derby

Reviewing Personal Footage Without Bumming Yourself Out

Practice footage of yourself is kinda like an oncoming jammer. You can pretend it doesn’t exist, but facing it head on can make you a better athlete.

I’m my own worst critic, and if I don’t pull off what I think I wanted to do in my head, then I won’t be a happy girl. – Amy Winehouse

I recently had a leaguemate ask how to review footage of oneself without getting bummed out focusing on the things they SHOULD HAVE done. We have all been there. On one hand, it is good to know things you should work on! On the other, you also need to be able to use that review as a time to celebrate your victories, no matter how small.

Here are some tips that my leaguemates and I have found to be helpful when reviewing footage of ourselves:

  • The first time you review the footage, try and review it with a close derby friend. You will spend most of that time cheering for each other and pointing out what cool things happened. Your friends will likely find things to celebrate when you are struggling to see them. Enjoy watching the footage without being too critical. Try to laugh when something goes wrong, if you can.
  • Pay attention to the circumstances when things go your way, and also when things don’t go your way. Were you jamming against your league’s charter team? Were you one of two blockers on the track trying to slow the bleeding? Was there some great offense happening for you? Don’t chalk your performance up to these situations completely, but do not let them go unnoticed.
  • Watch the footage in slow motion. One of the most amazing tools on YouTube is being able to watch a video at .5 speed or even .25 speed. You can pick apart what went wrong or what was the cause of your success. This is extremely helpful when looking to break down and recreate a scenario!
  • Take notes! Write down the timestamp of something that went great. Revisit it later to remind yourself that you did something wonderful! Studies have shown it is incredibly important to have a mental highlight reel. If you have footage at your disposal to review, then you can have an actual highlight reel to pull up when you need a boost.

  • GIFs are your best friend! Use giphy.com or makeagif.com as a learning tool. Cut up clips of yourself, or those who inspire you. This way you can watch one movement again and again and again…
  • Ask for a friend to review footage of you in exchange for reviewing footage of them! It’s SO helpful to have an outsider’s perspective, and even better from someone who has no feelings attached to the event.

In summary, take everything with a grain of salt. Ask for your friends’ help. Take notes. Use all the tools at your disposal. Reviewing footage is something that can really help a skater’s growth, and if you have the opportunity, seize it!

If you do not have footage to review, record drills when you can! Set up your phone and hit record during practice. Ask your friends to record you and offer to return the favor. If you are learning something new or trying to fix a habit, being able to SEE it immediately after DOING it is incredibly useful.

Happy viewing!


This blog can be found cross posted here.

Posted by Jax in mental game, roller derby