Sunday, April 13, 2014

Derby is not for Everyone and not at Every Time.

I know that everyone always says that derby is the most accepting of sports, but I absolutely disagree. This sport is not for everyone, at least not at the levels that it seems to be reaching for. Even casual teams who don't aspire to play on the level of Gotham, probably shouldn't take everyone who is interested in derby. I know this sounds counter to the whole DIY philosophy of derby, but hear me out. Derby, is not really for everyone, and certainly not for everyone at every time in her or his life. If you are actively recruiting for your league, maybe you should consider some of these reasons not to play derby before you get all gung ho and rabidly recruit people.

Reasons not to encourage someone to play derby

1. They are the sole provider of income for your household. Look, derby is dangerous. Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. Yes, I know you can hurt yourself pretty terribly in real life, but you're upping your chances when you play derby. Not only have I seen people screw themselves up learning to skate, but I've seen just about every other kind of injury during derby. Spiral fractures, popped ACLs, shoulder injuries, elbow injuries and the ever sneaky concussions are just a few of the possible injuries waiting for you in this sport. It's hard to support your family when you can't do the basic requirements of your job. Some people have amazingly understanding bosses, some people do not, and some people are self employed. It kind of sucks when you're taken off of your feet by an injury, and you're self employed. I understand that people have to make their own decisions, but sometimes people don't really understand just how hurt you can get in derby.

2. They don't have a lot of money to dedicate to the sport. As derby has developed, it's gotten way way more expensive. A good set of skates can cost $500, and wheels can be up to $120 per full set. Now, pile on top of the "start up fees" league dues, travel money, gas money and jersey costs. Derby ain't cheap, and it's just getting more expensive as teams are forced to travel further and further in search of ranked games. Maybe derby isn't the best idea for them at this time. Does that mean forever? No, but it might be something to think about.

3.  They don't have a lot of time for the sport. How long does it take to create a good derby player? I'd guess, even the most talented of skaters take a while to marinate in derby juices until they're at their peak of flavor. Ok, that was gross, but that's how I think about the developing of the derby skater. If your potential recruit is playing another demanding sport, working 40+ hours a week, and has a lot of familial obligations, derby might not fit into her or his very busy schedule at this point. People don't necessarily comprehend the time drain that is derby, and they just can't really dedicate themselves when they do figure it out. Nothing sucks worse than training someone, seeing that spark, and then having them realize that they can't actually commit themselves to the sport.

4. Their fitness level is low or non-existent.  I can hear it now, "But Q! Derby loves all body types!" Of course it does. Who am I to describe what a successful skater looks like? What I'm saying is that if a person who hasn't worked out ever in life wants to join derby might have a long haul ahead of him or herself. I have always said in my blog that you don't play derby to get into shape, you get into shape to play derby. Derby, at any level, is physically demanding. Ankles need to be strong, cores need to be tight, and the leg muscles need to be ferocious. Derby demands a certain level of physical fitness, cardio and endurance, and if there isn't a couch to derby app, someone needs to make one.

5. They don't take criticism well. If your potential recruit is a delicate flower when it comes to feedback, then derby is really not a great place for him or her. Many times derby either gives you too much criticism in unpleasant tones, or none at all. People have to be self directed and self aware to strap on the skates. If the recruit you're talking to is in a delicate and vulnerable place in his or her life, maybe derby can wait for less tempestuous times.

Yes, I know, everyone is a "grown ass adult" but sometimes people who haven't had much experience with derby don't necessarily know everything that goes into it. Be a good guide, and be honest with your recruits.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

More people you might not want to meet in derby

Sometimes people forget that derby is a sampling of humanity; we all love our leagues, or try to love our leagues, but let's just face it, not every person is lovable. It's ok to admit it; all leagues have a few people in them that don't add to the positivity of the group dynamic. Sometimes you just have to identify them and try not to get sucked into their negative orbit.

And you're old if you recognize this.

1. The Anti "Little Ray of Sunshine" This skater hates everything new, everything old, or anything that changes the status quo, even if she hates the status quo. I've actually seen people like this finally make it on a roster, and then complain about the game's location or time. Can you make this person happy? Probably not, or she's completely happy when she's complaining about everything under the sun. The best way to deal with her is say "ok" and skate out of her complaint zone.

2. The Control Freak I am firmly convinced that all derby skaters have a little control freak in them; most derby skaters are Type A personalities. We have to be, because without that drive, we wouldn't get very far in this sport. Unfortunately, there are people who take it a little too far and try to control EVERYTHING in the league, including you. The best way to deal with her is to smile and say ok, and then skate out of her control zone.

You noticing the pattern yet?

3. The Ghost  She's in your league, but she's barely at practice or any group mandatory events. She shows up once in a while, probably just to remind you that she exists, and then...poof. Gone for another month or so. Just when you think she's gone for good, poof! She's back! Don't blink though, she'll disappear again. The best way to deal with her is to ask "Where have you been for the last X amount of time?" It won't help her actually show up more, but it will give you a chance to release some of your frustrations.

4. The Emotional Mess Whoo hoo! Did you get tickets for the show? It's on for almost every practice! Seriously, she has a melt down in her personal life every practice. Her car didn't start, her boyfriend cheated on her with her girlfriend, or her boss has given her a bad review. Every day there is a new crisis! Every. Single. Day. New. Drama. The best way to deal with her is give her a hug and skate out of her meltdown zone....unless you like to watch the meltdown.

5. The Snowflake Every try to give a skater some feedback, and have that skater utterly and completely have a melt down because you're being mean? If you have been in derby for more than a year, then you know the pain of trying to give someone feedback and have them melt and get bent out of shape. The best way to deal with her is once bitten twice shy. Don't give her feedback again unless she asks for it....and then skate away.

6. The Chameleon The chameleon isn't easy to pick out, but she's one of those people who follows and blends in with whatever group happens to be dominant. If she's sitting next to someone who likes passive offense, she likes passive offense. If she's standing near someone who likes Antik skates, she's the world's biggest fan; if she's eating lunch with someone who loves Bonts, she loves them too. Once you figure out that this skater doesn't have any of her own thoughts and opinions, you'll never be fooled by her again. Always take her opinions with a grain of salt and you'll be fine.

I'm sure there are more personality types I could add to this list, but Game of Thrones was on and I got distracted.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How to be a crappy teammate part two.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post on how to be a bad teammate, but I thin some of it bears repeating and I've come up with a few more traits you should be on the lookout for in your own behavior.

Photo by Joshua R. Craig
1.  You are always in competition with you teammates. Yes, we have to compete for a spot on the roster, but it's more important to be able to learn to work with people, especially when you're working for a common goal. When you join a team sport, you have to be willing to make some sacrifices for the good of the team. If not, please go play tennis or golf or something else that doesn't involve someone else being your teammate. At one point, I was expressing sadness about someone retiring from derby and our league, and the leaguemate I was talking to said "Good. More of a chance for me of getting on a roster." Owtch.

2. You are self focused to the detriment of the other people on your team and in your league. Number one covers this too, but it goes further than that. You don't see other people improving, or if you do, you see them as a threat. You don't celebrate your teammate's victories, or worse, you resent them. Don't be that teammate. Acknowledge when your teammates do something great! Don't always focus on yourself!

3. You don't think other people are important. Why do so many people want to do a team sport when they have no idea how to be a teammate? Of course your teammates are just as important as you are. Without them, you wouldn't have a team. People often accuse jammers of thinking they're more important than the blockers; if they actually feel that way, then I'd like to point out how difficult it would be the jam without a blocking line to keep the other jammer at bay. Most blockers know how sucky it is to be on the track without a jammer already, so at least people get to experience that in reality. The team needs everyone to be doing his or her best.

4. You don't stand with your convictions. Some people are big talkers, but not very good at the follow through. Sometimes people think that giving in to peer pressure means you're being a good teammate. It doesn't. Being able to express your opinions in a non confrontational but firm way means you are being a good teammate. Part of being on a team is sharing your ideas, and being open to hearing other people's ideas.

5. You're unreliable but yet you rely on others. You can't be bothered to show up on time, but you expect other people to pick up your slack at practice, or at meetings. That, my friends, is super duper lame. Get your butt to practice, do your volunteer hours, and don't be a burden on your teammates. I know that sometimes life gets hectic and you can't get everything done; it happens, but if it's a constant issue with you, then you need to reexamine your commitment to sparkle motion.

6.  You don't listen. In the end, listening is the most difficult skill to develop, but it's the most worthwhile in a team situation. Really listening is really hard, and it is a skill you need to practice; practice it as much as you can. Eventually you will be better at it, and that will make you a better teammate. Is it a skating skill? No, but it might be the most important skill you ever develop in derby.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to be a better leader.

Yes we can.
Derby, much like any other activity, needs leaders; I have dabbled in leadership during my tie in derby. I've captained here and there, coached when needed, but this year I've stepped up to be on our league's board. It's a whole, different world. Being in a leadership position isn't always easy, but it's a lot easier if you can follow some simple guidelines.

1. Do what you say, say what you do. In other words, be a role model for the league. If you want skaters to have better attendance, then you need to have great attendance yourself. Want skaters to cross train? You'd better be out there cross training and inviting people to do it with you. Show up to the fund raisers, and do everything you can to improve your league. Lead by example.

2. Communicate. Be sure you are communicating your goals to the league effectively. Sometimes this means through email, which can be its own pitfall, or in meetings. Make sure your communication is a two way street too, you have to be a good listener if you're going to be in leadership.

3.  Motivate others. If you can't motivate others to rise to roles of leadership in your league, you shouldn't be in a leadership position. Train leaders to replace you, because remember, derby is all about making stronger women and men.....right? If I can motivate others to become leaders, I know my league will be in good shape when I step down from my position.

4. Take responsibility. Sometimes you're going to hate being in a leadership position, because you're ultimately responsible for shit slipping through the cracks, missed deadlines, or just general discomfort or unhappiness in the league. You're also going to have to step up and make big decisions too; if you're on the Board of Directors, sometimes you have to deal with a last minute crisis, or as a captain, you have to pick a difficult roster. If you aren't willing to own your decision in the light of public scrutiny, then you shouldn't be making that decision.

5. Be consistent. It's harder than you think. People are watching you, and they're seeing if you handle everything with the same care. Don't cut corners, don't burn bridges, and don't play favorites.

6. Delegate. Being in a leadership position comes with a hell of a lot of responsibilities, and there's only one of you. Delegate and spread the wealth. This not only makes your job easier, but it also helps people take on responsibility, which once again helps form leaders.

7. Be organized. This one is hard for a chaotic individual like myself, but being organized certainly pays off. As training director this year, I've set up calendars in Google so I won't let deadlines fall through the cracks. As a regular skater, I often lived in the land of clueless person. I can't afford to do that anymore....which cramps my personal style btw.

8. Be passionate. If you aren't passionate about the job you're doing for the league, don't do it. I love training; I love talking about drills, and where the league is going. It's my passion. If you don't feel this strongly about doing the job you've been elected to do, then don't run for it.

9. Recognize people's contributions. Make sure people know what they do is important. Also, cookies are good for saying "Thank you!"

10. Have integrity. This guideline pretty much reinforces all the of the others so far.

11. Be courageous. Sometimes being in a leadership position means you have to make difficult calls and sometimes you have to take risks. If you're too cautious you might miss out on some great opportunities.

12. Don't take it personally, even when it's meant to be personal. When you step into a position of leadership, you have to put you personal feelings into a jar and put them away while you're doing your leadership stuff. Sometimes people will attack you on a personal level, and as a leader, you have to ignore it; you have to rise above it and keep your personal feelings out of it. Go home and curse them under your breath....but don't allow your emotions to overrun your logic and your good judgement.

Well, the guidelines are simple to write and read, but sometimes they're hard to follow. You're going to screw up, but keep on fighting the good fight!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Being Older in Derby

I started my derby career when I was ending my 39th year. Honestly, I've never been one of those people that has a bucket list, but I felt that my fortieth birthday should be momentous.  I was either going to jump out of a plane or join derby. Derby seemed to be so much less of a risk to life and limb; obviously I didn't know much about derby when I joined. I believe I actually used the words "should I audition?" please don't hate me too much, I was ignorant in the ways of derby. I no longer am, and have the scars to prove it.  In spite of being on the older end of the spectrum when it came to my league (most of my league was in their late twenties or early thirties) I can still keep up with the youngsters physically on the track, but sometimes it's hard to find common ground with the younger skaters.
Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami

I'm older than a lot of people in my league; I have learned that there is a bit of an age gap at times. It's totally bridgeable, but sometimes I'm too cranky to cross that bridge.

If you're an older skater in your league, and I know they're are a lot of you out there; see if these statements ring true for you.

1. Sometimes you're going to feel like the adult chaperone on the field trip bus. At times, I have to resist the urge not to roll my eyes when I see someone's world go crazy from drama. I have to remind myself of the old saying "In your twenties, you make big mistakes. In your thirties, you spend your time making up for the dumb things you did in your twenties. In your forties, you're too tired for drama." I added that last part, but seriously, things that seem so life and death when you're younger seem less agonizing when you get older.

2. You get cranky if you don't get enough sleep on a trip. Ah twenty-somethings are amazing; they can get two hours of sleep and bounce back the next day after coffee and a "quick three mile run." I lost that ability when I hit my thirties, and I'm ok with admitting that I need to sleep 6-8 hours to be functional the next day. Also, I'm not going to lie, I'm picky about who I room with on derby trips. If you're a night owl that wants to stay up giggling all night, you ain't gonna be in my room.

3. You take longer to warm up, but when you get there, you're able to skate longer than younger skaters. Don't ask me to run as a warm up; for my muscles to warm up properly, I need a little more time and gradual warm up. I'll run after I warm up, but reluctantly, and complaining most of the time, because running sucks. Yes it does. Yes it does. Yes it does.

4. Having life experience can help out with derby experience. We older skaters are better at handling our money, and planning our time. We know how to get things done, because we have had more practice at juggling all the things on the busiest of schedules. Seriously, when you're busy as hell, you tend to get your tasks done, because you have to be organized to do them all and not drown under a pile of crap.

5. Although nobody is rich, older skaters tend to be more financial solvent than younger skaters. I am NOT a moneybags, and I can't afford everything I want, but I do have some money that I can toss towards gear and travel if I make smart decisions. I'm not going to have to eat Ramen noodle soup for a month to do it either.

6. We're a focused bunch. Endurance isn't just physical attribute. Mentally, older people tend to be able to focus on long term goals. We can see the forest for the trees, so to speak. I personally would have never made it this long in derby at a younger age. I was pretty impatient about reaching goals. Age has mellowed me a little bit. (Just a bit though)

7. Afterparty objectives become food rather than boozing it up all night.  Want me to come out to an after party? Make sure there's food there, otherwise I'll find some place else to graze and then MAYBE drag my butt to the after party.

8. You get to call out twenty somethings that complain about feeling old. Look people, you have no idea what it feels like to feel old at twenty something. Talk to me when you're in your mid thirties and your knees pop when you're just walking up the stairs. Also, talk to me after your doctor sets up certain medical tests for you because you're a "lady of a certain age." Talk to me after you find your first grey pubic hair. Yes, I said it. Read that sentence again if you must.

9. Even though sometimes it's hard to bridge the age gap, I'm glad that I have the chance to skate with younger folk. Younger people have a different energy, and being around them let's me remember how to be optimistic, and sometimes just be giddy. Viva la diference!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Annoying Injuries

Last week I wrote about derby injuries, and how so many of worry about an injury that can end your career, or really impact your personal life permanently. But, what about the super annoying and inconvenient injuries that just mess up your week, or even just a practice. They aren't serious, but nobody wants to experience them.  I've had several minor injuries that have just annoyed or pissed me off, and I thought I would share my list of the MOST annoying ones I've experienced.

1. Blisters.  Blisters suck no matter who you are. When I first started skating, I had a pair of cheap Carrerras that gave me every blister known to mankind. I had a blister form over an existing blister, and it became infected; yea! The doctors thought it might be MRSA, and I had to take a million antibiotics. Thank goodness it wasn't MRSA, and thank goodness I shelled out the money for a pair of all leather boots that next week. Also, SMART WOOL is the best invention ever. Look into it if you're not allergic to wool.

2. Tailbone bruises.  I just got one the other week by sitting on my own damned wheels. No, you may not see the bruise as it is inside of my buttcheeks. Tailbone bruises affect your daily life in weird and unexpected ways, such as sneezing....ow....coughing...ow....pooping...ow...sitting wrong....ow....trying to sleep on your back...ow.  Just when I think it's safe to sit down somewhere, I'm immediately reminded of why that should never happen without copious butt padding.

3. Broken fingers. You'd think fingers wouldn't get messed up in derby; well, you'd be wrong. I've had my fingers broken several times; usually it's just a hairline fracture, or a jammed joint, but damn, they can really cramp your style, especially if your job calls for using your hands for writing with a opening a door.

4. Broken noses. If you haven't had the pleasure of breaking your nose in derby yet, let me tell you that everyone should experience it once. I'm kidding, but seriously, it's one of the most painful and immediate injuries I've ever had. I don't know how people who get punched directly in the nose keep fighting in movies or on tv; I guess I'm a wuss, because one good shot to the honker, and I would give up and tap out. The first time someone broke my nose, the blood poured out all over the track, and I knew exactly what had happened. All the fight rained out of me with the puddle of my blood. I had to sit on the bench with a tampon up my nose; trust me, that's a real buzz kill. Worse yet, I had to go to work the next day and when I tried to put my glasses on, my nose said "Nuh-hunh." It was weeks before I was able to comfortably wear glasses again, and the cold I ever had caused sneezing, pain and crazy nosebleeds. It really is the injury that keeps on giving.

I also kicked my derby wife once. :(
5. Shin kicks. Who hasn't been kicked in the shins? If you read my blog with any consistency you know I advocate shin guards. I got clipped once when I was a rookie, and I had to sit out due to the focus of pain on my right shin. The next day, I stopped at Dick's sporting goods and bought shin guards. Everyone gave me crap, and yet six years later, I have never had a repeat of that injury. All it took for me was one time; hopefully you will never have to experience it, but if you do, get some shin guards!

6.  Hip bruises. Ever fall as a newbie from doing hockey stops over and over and over again? Yeah, I did. I don't think my left hip will ever be the same again. I actually have a spot on my lower hip which I call my "dead zone." I bruised the hell out of it from falling repeatedly on it. I think I could probably light a match and burn myself there, and never feel it.

And there you have it. I'm sure everyone has their own version of their annoying injury list; my hope for you is that you aren't ever bedeviled by annoying injuries in your derby career. Unfortunately, that's probably not going to be the case. Just don't let them sideline you for two long.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Some thoughts on derby injuries

My friend Ballz' injuries.
I was reading a post in Derby Over 40 on Facebook about a player who broke her leg and people were wishing her a speedy recovery. Evidently, one of the other group members felt that people weren't really acknowledging the pain and suffering the recovery; she was right. Derby players, like many many many other athletes, live in a bubble of studious reality denial. Our sport is dangerous. Most sports are dangerous. Regular skating can end with a broken wrist or ankle, but when you add in hitting, racing around and juking, the chances for injury go up. We don't want to think about the chance of being injured, and when we know someone who has been hurt due to derby, the injury smacks us in the face with our own mortality.

Like I said, every sport has possibilities for gruesome injuries. Who didn't flinch when that basketball player shattered his leg? We've all seen realllllllly bad injuries in our time in derby. I personally think spiral fractures are the most gnarly but even the invisible ones, like an ACL tear can sideline a player permanently. Let's face it, part of the appeal to our sport is the danger, and sometimes we have to pay the price to play.

When I get injured from playing derby, I immediately have guilty feelings. I know that doesn't sound rational, but with every injury I get, I feel bad. It's as if I can hear my mother saying "I told you that you'd get hurt doing that crazy derby stuff!" If it's just a bruise, I can laugh it off or ignore it, but if it's something more serious, I go through a litany of questions I ask myself.

1. How bad is it?  No seriously, how bad is it? Will I be able to skate anymore? If I have to stop, for how long? Is there blood? Should there be blood?

2. How is the going to effect my day to day life? Mr. Q puts up with a shit ton of crap from derby on a pretty regular basis (broken nose twice, ankle injuries, broken fingers, numerous bruises), and if I've just hurt myself and it will effect stuff at home, I'm going to feel so stupid and selfish. Will he have to take care of the dogs by himself, cook all the dinners, take care of daily life all by himself? Am I going to keep him up tossing and turning all night because I'm in pain?  Also, I'm pretty sure he doesn't like seeing me hobble around after an injury. Nobody likes to see loved ones hurting.

3.  How is this going to effect my job?  My prior job had be lifting heavy stuff and then sitting in front of computer for hours on end. It was the perfect storm of discomfort from sitting there, and straight up pain from back issues, arm issues, ankle issues....ugh. I was always worried about coming back from a derby event injured. I'm sure it didn't help that my ex boss was kind of a giant jerk about derby in the first place, but he is my boss no longer.

4. What if I need surgery?  Surgery is pretty much my line in the sand about quitting derby. I've seen so many of my idols and friends going through one or two major surgeries due to derby, sometimes for the exact same injury, and I don't think I could ever go back out and skate as confidently again. I admire people for going through surgery, rehab, and coming back to derby as strong as ever, but I just don't think I have it in me.

5.  Am I too old for this shit? Seriously, I'm getting up there in years and real life limitations are going to demand attention after a while. I'm holding my own against 20 somethings, but I know that I will be facing more challenges than they will soon. Osteoporosis is something I consider when witnessing a derby injury, especially if it's a bone break. "Would that have been even worse if it had been me?" Of course, then I take all of the calcium I can and lift weights to help my bone density, but it still crosses my mind.

So, when you get injured, and people wish you a speedy recovery, it's not because they don't care about your struggle; it's because they're afraid of what your derby injury represents to them.  Is that a selfish thing to think? Absolutely, but it's a natural reaction to the evidence that our favorite sport is a possible life changer, and not for the best of reasons.