Friday, February 3, 2012

For the Rookie skater: advice for the "not so fresh meat"

So you've passed all of your assessments and are now wearing your big girl panties and are bout eligible!  Congrats!  That's an amazing thing you accomplished, but it's time to face some facts about derby, and all of them aren't the nicest things to learn.

First of all, you have been passed to play on a team; this doesn't mean you are the most amazing derby player ever and nobody can give you advice.  I know that a lot of rookies were sort of "clucked" over when they were learning the basic skills; many veteran skaters are very supportive.  "You can do this!" or "Great job!" is often directed towards newbies when they learn their falls or start to get the hang of a plow stop.  Yes, newbies do need positive feedback to keep them struggling through the difficult beginnings of a derby career, but often that kind of positive feedback begins to peter out when a newbie is cleared for scrimmage.  People are focused on themselves, their progress and they don't always have the time or the patience to shepherd rookies through a scrimmage.

Look!  Positive and forceful advice!  It is possible!
 Also, what feedback you might get on the track might not be in the sweetest and most dulcet tones you'll ever hear.  When you were a newbie learning to do stops, the people who were giving you feedback were NOT getting hit on the track; their adrenaline wasn't pumping high and fast, and they weren't frustrated with either your or their performance.  Things change when you're in the middle of a scrimmage, and a veteran skater yells "Get up front!" furiously at you.  It sucks when someone yells at you because you aren't doing something the right way!  We all hate getting that kind of feedback, but trust me rookie, now is NOT the time to be questioning why she wants you up front.  Do not resist someone's advice on the track, even if it is an ego crusher; I promise you that if you ask for an explanation after that jam, the veteran skater will tell you what was going on, and most likely, she was trying to implement a strategy that you might not understand yet.  I've seen rookies totally resist a shove from their own teammates because they didn't understand that the jammer was sneaking past them on the outside.  It's incredibly frustrating to have a teammate balk at advice on the track!

Team work means communicating and trusting your partner.

On a side note, sometimes there are skaters that relish knocking the snot out of rookies; I don't know why this happens, but it seems like each league has at least two of the skaters, and they will reset your clock.  Maybe they don't feel like they're strong enough as derby players, so they pick on the less experienced skaters, or they're "testing you",  or maybe they just think it's funny.  If you observe scrimmages, you probably will be able to pick these skaters out pretty easily; then you can keep an eye on them and make sure you're ready for any hit.

Now that you're a rookie, you might have to ask for more feedback than you are getting; derby peeps tend to get distracted by the shiny shiny jammer, or their own progress.  It helps if you ask a vet to watch you in a particular jam and give you precise feedback; it is awful to get feedback like "Stop falling down so much." or "You looked good out there."  Those statements are not good feedback; tell your observer what specific skill you are working on, you one that you feel you need help with, and they will be able to focus their feedback better.  "I feel like my hits aren't effective; can you watch me hit and point me in a better direction?"  "I'm always running twenty feet out front, how can I stop that?"  Ask a couple of vets to watch you, but don't get too butthurt if they don't have better advice than "Stay with your partner" or "Keep your feet moving."  Sometimes, you might not be ready to fully understand the feedback, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't listen.

See that player yelling?  I guarantee she isn't saying "Please" and "thank you!"
 Make specific goals for yourself and honestly hold yourself to them.  Even if you don't share them with anyone else, be brutally honest with how you're doing.  Over the break, I told myself that I was going to work on my right turn fast toe stops; my right turn is my weak side, and I loathe loathe loathe turning that way, but I knew it will make me more versatile, so I practiced it.  I didn't officially share my goal with anyone else, but I still held myself to that high standard, and I succeeded.  Some goals might be easier to conquer than others, but everyone in derby is always striving to improve herself, so you should be too.

Watch amazing footage whenever you can.  Find a skater you want to emulate and then watch watch watch her do her thing!  DNN has 24 hour streaming now, so why not take advantage?

Finally, take advantage of skating at invitationals if you can, or outside training.  Sometimes rookies get stereotyped in their own leagues.  "So and so is always easy to distract" or "Whoosy what's it can't take big hits."  If you decide to skate in an invitational, you may be skating against and with people who don't know anything about your style.  They don't make assumptions about your skill, and you won't be able to do that to them either.  One of the skaters in our league says she treats any unknown skater as if they skated for Gotham.  I've learned to do the same.  Also, outside training may give you a new and better way of improving yourself.  I try to go to outside training at least twice a year: this year I'm going to Bonnie D'stroir's boot camp down in Charleston.  Yes, you can be jealous!  But seriously, you should take advantage of outside training whenever you can, and maybe you'll be teaching those vets something at the next scrimmage!

All photos by A Boy Named Tsunami...cause he's just super awesome like that.

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