Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bad behavior and mean girls's derby's little secret.  No matter how much we tout sisterhood and strong women athletes, it's the horrible, nasty, embarrassing little character flaw in modern derby.  I'm not going to make a broad sweeping statement that every league out there has had issues with mean girls and crappy behavior, but if you're honest with yourself and your leaguemates, you know that you've faced this issue before.  Actually, depending who it was in your league, it's possible nobody FACED this problem, they just kind of hoped it would resolve itself because they didn't want to rock the boat. 

Personally, I think mean girls fester in derby leagues because people still treat derby like it's a family, as opposed to a sport and a business.  Everyone has a family member that is just barely tolerated; you might only see your creepy uncle Joey at Thanksgiving, so nobody wants to actually do something about his behavior, but a league is different.

The more roller derby is accepted in popular culture, the more people are watching.  The roller derby community is growing, but so many of us know each other, and we're sharing that knowledge more and more each day.  If you have someone representing your league who is a jerk, they've colored your entire league with that same brush.  People think you're a jerk by association!  You have a skater who is an ass every time she steps on the track, then you're all asses.  You have a skater who punches someone on the track? You've all committed that very offense.  It's really hard to undo the damage of one a-hole; your league could have Mother Theresa skating for you, but people will associate you with the most idiotic skater you have.

Bad behavior in public is one thing, but what if your league is harboring a "Mean Girl" who is making life miserable for several skaters?  Come on Q,  mean girls in adult life?  Are you serious?  After I posted about this topic on Facebook, I had over 30 private messages in the first two hours, talking about "This horrible skater in our league that just manipulates everyone and everything."  It made me sad to read the messages, but I was not shocked at all; it seems like derby is a perfect place for mean girls to hide.  Mean girls come in many flavors, but most of them share the same characteristics, which make them recognisable.  Read this list of defining traits and see if you might have a mean girl in your league.
Remember this movie?  Be a Veronica, not a Heather.  Original image found here.

1.  Mean girls make themselves irreplaceable to the league.  I like to think of a mean girl as an invading cancer, and she will fill all of the empty spaces in your league.  Is there a job or responsibility nobody wants?  She'll do it, especially is it's a behind the scenes kind of job.  Pretty soon your league won't be able to function without her.  Don't let that happen!  Make sure everyone in your league is doing a job; spread the responsibility and power.

2.  Mean girls bully, but indirectly.  Mean girls are good at manipulating people, and you can rarely pin down something definite that they've done.  Everything is done obliquely, and you can't define how she's bullying, but you know it's happening.  Snide comments, indirect insults, passive aggressive behaviors should not be tolerated by your league.  Leadership in your league should confront this behavior immediately; look the mean girl in the eye when you do.

3.  Mean girls are control freaks.  To be fair, a lot of skaters are control freaks; alpha personalities tend to seek out control, but a mean girl takes it farther than most.   Her control freak tendencies are focused on making her feel comfortable in her setting, and roller derby might be the only place where she can assert her control.  Daily life, her job, and her family might be beyond her ability to control, so she's trying as hard as she can in roller derby to feel comfortable.  This is why it's so important to spread that power and responsibility throughout the league.

4.  Mean girls make people feel important by being friendly to them.  Mean girls tend to "befriend" newer skaters immediately, or people who seem to be weaker than they are, either in personality or as a skater.  They build a network of subordinate personalities to help push their agendas.  Often these agendas are pushed outside of the league, such as in a social session.  Make sure league decisions and agendas are as transparent as possible; all policy decisions should be public and voted on by the entire league.

5.  Mean girls instinctively find weaknesses.  There are some people who can sum up your worst fear about yourself in one sentence.  That's the mean girl's super power.  Sometimes they can make the most casual insult cut you to the bone.  If you let this hurt you, then you're falling into her trap.

6.  Mean girls say "We" or "Us" when it's just her expressing her opinion.  This is a classic female bully tactic.  It makes the bully sound like she has several other people agreeing with her on her opinions or ideas, even when nobody else has weighed in on the topic.  The best thing you can do in this situation is question who the "we" is.  If she can't or won't tell you, then she's probably using that statement as a manipulation.

7.  Mean girls are charismatic.  There is nothing worse, than a mean girl that is likeable.  That's really the strength of her power. 

8.  Mean girls never think they're mean.  To be fair, mean girls are often insecure with many aspects of their lives, and are trying to exert control over one portion of it.  Unfortunately, they don't necessarily care about who they're hurting while they do this; when you deal with a mean girl, remember that she never sees herself as a villain, and is going to play the victim to others if you try to expose her as one.

Ah, but what if that skater is the best skater you have?  There's the rub.  People seem to put up with all kinds of crappy behavior from skaters with skills.  Isn't that the American way? Actually, most professional sports are cracking down on the outbursts of bad behavior, and I think it's time for roller derby to do the same.  If you have strong personalities in your league, and I know you do, you might have some issues that need to be addressed.  Ask yourself some of these questions about your league, and depending on the answers, you might have a serious issue that you need to discuss with your league.

1.  Is it ok for a talented skater to bully a lesser talented skater in your league? 

2.  Do you have a way of correcting a player's behavior, but it is never used?

3.  Is your board empowered to enforce the rules?

4.  Does your board enforce the rules for everyone?  Are there special cases in your league due to them being a great player or a scary mean girl?

5.  Do you let your vets haze your new skaters?

6.  Is there a pecking order in your league?  Are certain people allowed to act badly and not be corrected?

7.  Are some skaters more important than others?

8.  Are skaters afraid to express their opinions about bullying or favoritism in your league?

9.  Is there a perceived favoritism in your league?

10.  Does leadership make excuses for the behavior of certain skaters, such as "Oh, she's just having a bad day."?

My father said that it was important to guard your reputation, because it was so easy to tarnish it.  Of course, I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about derby at the time, but I agree with his point.  It's everyone's job to protect the reputation of your league.

If you have a serious question about bullying or bad behavior, you can contact these friendly folks at Blockers Not Bullies.  They also have a Facebook page.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Love your hooves, I mean feet.

Ever since I bought new boots and started breaking them in for the last ten days, I can tell you that my feet and their health has been on my mind.  Feet are so important when it comes to derby, and if you're taking care of your tootsies, you're going to have an easier time skating.  If you're not, then you're going to SUFFER!  I'm kidding, but I'm not.

1.  Check your skate fit.  A lot of newer skaters have skates that are a couple of sizes too big for them.  Push on the front of your toe while you're standing; if there is a gap between your toe and the end of the skate, then your skate is too big.  Many people have one foot that is bigger than the other, and some people even have a foot that is one size bigger than the other! If you're one of these people, it really behooves you to special order your skates.  Let's face it, skates are your most important piece of equipment, and so many newbies just get a basic pair without really thinking about it.

2.  Leather is the way to go.  I'm sorry vegans, but leather really is the best thing for your feet.  Synthetics don't tend to breathe well, stretch or conform to your feet the way leather can.  Spend the money and get the leather.  Once again, I apologize to the vegans for the crappy synthetics out there.  Maybe someone will economically solve this problem one day.

3.  Uh, oh.  Your skate isn't too big because you're losing your toenails.  Many skaters like to have tight support from their skates, and a convenient way to tighten your fit is to tie your laces tighter and tighter.  Unfortunately, this can put pressure on your toenails, and if you abuse them enough, you end up with black nails, or nails that fall off.  That's pretty damned disgusting, and I can say that because it's happened to me!  The best thing I can suggest in this case is lace your skates with two regular shoelaces instead of a long skate lace.  That way you can loosen the lower lace and save your toenails, and tighten the upper lace to give you more support.
This saved my nails.

4.  Your foot is growing a hoof.  Callouses are a necessary and important part of your skater foot, but you should still try to keep it under control.  Never cut a callous with clippers or scissors or a knife or a light saber, even if it seems like it's an inch thick on your pusher foot.  It's a great idea to use a pumice stone on your callous at least once a week, just to keep that thing under control.  You can read more about using a pumice stone on your feet here.  The article does suggest you use a moisturizer on your feet twice a day, but who has that kind of time?  I personally hate touching feet, so the idea of rubbing them with an alpha hydroxy moisturizer seems to be a little farfetched to me, but the rest of the article seems to be spot on.

5.  You get a blister.   What does heat, plus friction, plus moisture equal?  Don't be a pervert, it's a blister!  When your skates don't fit well, or you are practicing a new move, chances are you might get a blister.  DO NOT POP IT.  Repeat, do not pop it.  DO NOT POP IT!  Five on Five has a great article about blister maintenance, and most articles I have read really stress not puncturing it unless you absolutely cannot walk.  If you really need to relieve the fluid build up in a very painful blister, then check out this site and follow the directions carefully.  The last thing you need on your feet is a MRSA infection.  I did a lot of reading about blisters and the best advice to dealing with a blister is to not get one in the first place.  Take off your skates and let the area dry and cool off before one develops.

6.  Soft corns, it's not just for dinner anymore.  Soft corns are areas of white moist skin between the toes. They most commonly occur between the fourth and fifth toes, and usually happen because of pressure on the bones in those toes, so the best way to relieve the pain of a soft corn is to use a soft pad or lamb's wool to relieve the pressure on the bone.  Keep the soft corn clean because they are easily prone to infection, yet another invitation for MRSA!

7.  Foot pain.  Foot pain comes in many flavors and causes, so I can't really tell you the best way  prevent it, but you should be exercising and stretching your feet on a daily basis.  Skating can do all sorts of horrible things to your musculature, so you should be stretching your Achilles tendons every day, strengthening your ankles, and moving your feet differently than you do when you are skating.  Two exercises I do to help my feet are picking up socks off of the floor with my toes, and sitting in a chair and rolling a weight around with the bottom of my foot.  The arch of my right foot is collapsing due to skating a severe ankle injury last year; the best thing I can do is perform these activities to keep it from getting worse.  If you are experiencing foot pain, please go see a medical professional!  It's not going to get better with all of the skating and abuse we put our feet through!

Friday, September 21, 2012

You know you've been watching too much derby when....

1.  You leave a derby butt groove in the couch.
2.  The computer overheats because you've watched all day Saturday.
3.  You forget what time zone you live in.
4.  You can call the majors before the announcers do.
5.  When you drive to practice the next day and pass five cars, you yell "GRAND SLAM" out the window.
6.  You call an officials' time out to grab a snack.
7. You send your kids to the penalty box instead of their rooms.
8.  You can imitate any announcer from any Region perfectly.
9.  When you try to call a meeting off at work by tapping your hips.
10.  You get caught streaming Regionals at work.  Oops.

Now go and watch Western Regionals!

Bracket found here!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

North Central Voodoo Bracket

How many people busted their brackets?  I was good until Saturday, and then my brackets went straight to hell!  Damn! I don't participate in the WFTDA bracket game, but I do take pride in getting my brackets mostly right.  I study the teams to the best of my abilities and make the best guesses I can, but this regional really screwed everyone up.

Sad but true. I know some of you out there feel my pain.
Because roller derby is still going through growing pains, I really wonder if any group can accurately predict a ranking for any team.  Derby teams often go through revolving rosters, and while they may have played another team when everyone was healthy, not pregnant and not league jumping, rosters can rapidly change as the season goes forth.  Just because team X beat team Y earlier in the year doesn't mean they are at that same caliber during Regionals.  Weird shifts that happen at Regionals should make people question the ranking process in general.

Even though I started this blog entry as a comic entry, I can't help but wonder if there is a better way to figure out the ranking.  I know the WFTDA is working on a new ranking system, but there are still other questions that come to mind.  I'm going to watch the rest of regionals and see if there are crazy upsets in the rest of them before I pursue these questions any further, but it is something to think about.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Strong Reactions to North Central Regionals

Well, the first set or Regionals is down, and now that I have finally peeled myself off of the couch and taken a shower, I would like to share some "gentle musings" I have gathered about what I observed over the weekend.

1.  STOP LOSING YOUR WHEELS!  Damn, people, why aren't you checking your gear before these super important bouts?  Look ladies, you have to pay attention to the maintenance of your skates.  It's not your coach's job, it's not the ref's job, and it's not the vendor's job, even though they've been awesome about fixing gear.  Please check your gear before you skate out; wheel loss is not acceptable!  Check your nuts, yo!  Seriously, it's the easiest thing to check on your skates.  If you can loosen them by hand, then it is time to replace them. 

2.  Belts are all the rage in the midwest.  I still hate them, but it seems like it works for the bigger players on some of these teams.  I still say they contribute to laziness on a blocker's part, finger injuries, and the possibility of getting spun around like a helicopter, but if it's your thing, then rock the belt.  Just remember, if you're slight of stature, there is a huge possibility that a bigger jammer can totally mess up your day by whipping you into oblivion.

3.  There is no such thing as a "natural" grand slam.  Ok announcers, please lose this phrase like Kitty LiquorBottom lost her wheel in Ohio's last game.  Yes, I realize that you are trying to differentiate between actual points on the floor and ghost points, but it just annoys me.  Five points is a grand slam, period.  Please stop trying to fancy it up. I just can't hear Dumptruck saying "NATURAL GRRRRRRRRAND SLLLLLLLAM!"  See?  Try it in your head.  It just sounds wrong.

4.  "Passive offense" breaks jammers or sends them to the box.  I know that the conga line or the bowling alley or whatever you call standing back and letting your jammers do all of the heavy lifting against a four wall or three wall gets your team points, but at what cost?  How many jammers are cutting their derby careers short because they're basically slamming into an unmoving wall for up to two minutes at a time.  Awesome.  Plus, it's really really really really really really really really boring as hell to watch.  Remember your fans?  Yeah.  Let's stop doing this.  All of you can skate...please SKATE!

5.  Sometimes rankings are just wrong.  I don't know how it happened, but things got all topsy turvy during this regionals, mostly because the team ranked tenth starting kicking all the ass.  Did they improve that much in the last two months?  Did the Chicago Outfit and Arch Rival drastically take a nose dive?  Doubtful.  Brewcity shocked fans and destroyed brackets right and left this year, and that makes me question how rankings are calculated in the first place.

6.  I love Windy City.  There, I said it. Minnesota put up a hell of fight, but Windy City is a class act  and I fell in love with them when Carolina scrimmaged them in May.  Sorry ladies, but that league wins Q's crush for the year.
Queen of the North?  Queen of my heart!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Are you watching all of the regionals?

It's one of the best times of the year to be an avid derby fan!  September marks the beginning of the WFTDA Regionals, and for five weekends, most of the hard core will be glued to their computer screens; if you're not one of the fortunate teams actually playing in Regionals, the next best thing you can do is watch each and every one of them online.  The best way to do this is to buy a full access pass to the events from the site.  Last year the WFTDA started offering the full access package to all of the Regionals and Championships, and although they had some bugs to work out, it was totally worth the purchase.

The full package is the way to go, because it allows you to go back and watch games again if you missed them or if you wanted to share them with your league during a bout viewing.  Each Regional competition costs $12 separately, and the Championships this year is $20, but if you get the total package, everything is included for $50.  That's a deal in my book!

Having people over to watch bouts on the weekend is fun as hell; we're a lucky sport, because this is like having five different Superbowls in a span of two months.  Sometimes you get overdosed with derby, but when is this a bad thing?  I have filled out a Regionals bracket every year, and I have screwed them up every year!  Someone in your league should definitely purchase this package and host viewing parties.  Become familiar with the far away members of the WFTDA!  "But Q, I don't care about any other Region than mine!"  Shame on you.  Just because you don't know someone on those teams, doesn't mean it isn't going to be kick ass derby to watch!  This is how we get to know what the West coast is doing without actually having to travel out there!  I have always considered Regionals a way of spreading derby viruses from one section of the country to another; it's gross but true.

So, forget your weekend plans for the next four weeks, invite people over, remember your time zone differences, and feast on the derby footage!  North Central Regionals start tomorrow, and you know I'll be cheering on Windy City!  DNN wrote a nice preview of the action here, including a link to the PDF of the bracket.  You can also catch the DNN power rankings link on the same page; who doesn't love it when the Regionals upset the rankings?  Don't miss it!

Image from

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to be a crappy captain.

Some people are natural leaders, even in derby where most leagues are filled with alpha personalities.  If your league has natural leaders, then you have a great asset which should be nourished, but what about the rest of us who would like to accept the mantel and try our hands at one of the most difficult jobs in the league?  I've been a captain at least once a year during my derby career, and I can tell you that while I'm not always the most amazingest bestest captain ever, each experience has taught me something of how to be a good or a horrible captain.  Below is a list of ways you can be the worst captain ever.  Hopefully, none of you will find yourself doing these things, but we are all human and each time you captain, you will learn something that will make you a better leader next time.

How to be a crappy captain in seven easy steps

1.  Get super butt hurt that not everyone voted for you.  Some leagues have a transparent voting process where the final results are posted; usually this includes the number of votes for and against and the abstentions.  I applaud every league that does this, because then there are fewer questions, but I've still heard people get their feelings hurt because they may have won by a narrow margin, which just blows my mind.  People vote the way they do for all sorts of reasons; some make sense and some are more random.  If you're going to start your term as captain being upset because "not everyone has faith in you" then you should probably step down and let someone else do it.  I often wonder if every president that has ever served the United States worried about the people who didn't vote for him.

2.  Be unapproachable.  Sometimes captains are afraid that if they take excessive feedback from their team they will seem weak and indecisive.  Just because you have been elected captain doesn't mean that you are infallible and all of your decisions are perfect.  Be firm in your decisions, but listen to your teammates; there is a lot of derby knowledge on your team, use it!

3.  Don't communicate feedback with your team.  Players on your team have every right to ask you for feedback because you are the captain.  In fact, a lot of players will crave it from you, because they want to please you and be noticed by you!  If someone asks why they aren't in that many line ups, or why they aren't jamming, or whatever the question is, don't get offended!  I understand that dealing with rosters and line ups can be an emotional mind field for everyone involved, but as captain, you need to give them some feedback.  Make it specific.  Please don't give the same generic feedback to every player.  Form letters don't help anyone's game get better.

4.  Be unprepared for practice and the game.  Sometimes captains have to plan practices, or circumstances change and captains have to jump to an alternative plan.  If you aren't prepared for practices, people will lose faith in your leadership abilities.  If you have no idea what the timeline is for the upcoming travel game, then people feel like you aren't organized.  Being prepared also means you need to know the rules; derby has a lot of detailed rules that you should be more than passing familiar with.  Being a prepared captain means you're also prepared to discuss and train your teammates on the rules.

5.  Try to do all of the jobs ever.  Some of us in derby are control freaks.  Who me?  Hell yes I am!  It's a horrible habit to get into, and even more difficult to work successfully in when you're in the heat of a game.  Trust your co captain, your bench coaches, and your trainers.  Let each person do his job.  When I'm in a game, I turn over the line ups to my bench coaches so I can think about strategy and talking to the refs when needed.  I trust my bench coaches to do their jobs so I can concentrate on mine.

6.  Be a rotten example.  Are you someone who loses her temper easily?  Well, as captain, you really don't have that luxury because you have to be an example for your team.  If I feel like my captain is agitated, I get nervous as a player.  Captains set the tone emotionally for practices, games and any other derby events, so think twice before you run.  If you tend to let your emotions rule you, learn to practice sounding calm and collected, even though you're seething.  Sometimes you can fake it until you make it!

7.  Never admit that you made a mistake.  Oh captain my captain!  Hey, just because you're in charge, doesn't mean you aren't going to make a mistake or two.  It happens.  Pick up the shattered pieces of your ego and own up to it.  People will admire you more if you own your mistakes and learn from them.  Nobody wants to hear the endless list of justifications that cover your oopsie.

Finally, if you find yourself constantly captaining, I think it's a good idea to take a break once in a while.  It's healthier for you and your league to step down and let someone else take a crack at it.  People tend to get severely burned out after captaining long term, which can attribute to their derby burn out.  Also, if the same people are constantly in charge, the chances of your league growing through new ideas is slim.  I think it's best to let your league develop leaders of all kinds, and captaining is a good way to do that.

C is for captain...that's good enough for me,

Monday, September 10, 2012

Zombie wheels.

Did I even mention that I've got a wheel fetish?  I love looking at wheels, buying new wheels, asking people about which wheels they like to use and so on.  For the last three seasons, I've been a staunch consumer of Atom Wheels, specifically the Omega style.  They do so well on so many surfaces, but lately I've seen a lot of "chunking" of the edges of my wheels.  That might be because of manufacturer issues, or it could be how the game and my skating style has changed.  Either way, I've been pretty unhappy about the condition my edges are in.  It's been no secret that I've been keeping my eyes out for a new type of wheel that might work better for me.

Enter Shocker Khan into my derby life.  Shocker Khan owns the 2N1 Skate Shoppe, and she offered to let me try certain products in order to write about them in my blog.  Of course I jumped at the chance to try the new Sure Grip Zombie Wheels that everyone has been drooling about on Facebook.  I was a little leery of switching brands because I was so used to Atom Wheels, but I am trying to broaden my horizons and I tried the wheels.
Oh, who doesn't get excited when new gear comes in the mail?
First of all, the wheels themselves are black, and I know that a lot of you are probably excited about that.  Many skaters seem to object to the various colors of wheels out there, and sometimes even dye their wheels black.  You won't have that issue with the Zombie wheels.  Also, the wheels come with aluminum hubs, which is a lot nicer than having plastic hubs.  The aluminum hubs also make changing out bearings very easy.  I didn't even need a bearing press!

The style of Zombie wheels I tried came in a 92a hardness and the 58 millimeter height; I was concerned about skating on shorter wheels because I do a lot of speed skating in my training, and shorter wheels mean more effort in a speed line.  I adapted to them fairly quickly, but I found them to be less grippy than my Atom Omegas, which supposedly have a comparable hardness to the the 92 Zombies.  I also found them to take a little longer to break in; normally I can break in a set of Omegas in two days, but the Zombie took me about three practices to really get comfortable on them.  One of the bonuses of the Zombie wheels I noticed was that my hockey stops were much crisper than they normally were.  I believe that can be attributed to a combination of the wheel surface and the shorter height.  I've definitely grown fond of them, and I might have found a substitute for my Omegas.

If you read the description of the Zombie wheels, it states that Sure Grip guarantees that all of their wheels will perform the same as any past set you have purchased.  In other words, they promise consistency, which is something I have found lacking in other brands of skate wheels.  Plus, they're on sale right now!

If you are a Facebook fanatic, please "like" Shocker Khan's skate shop page here.  2N1 Skate Shoppe is putting together a goodie bag worth around $100 to give away to one lucky customer once they get 1,000 "Likes" on FaceBook. Tell your friends! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Derby Confessions

Last week I posted a question to my Facebook derby family about their derby confessions; how have we sinned against the spirit of derby?  I was surprised about how many people answered my post, and how many of them answered my post by messaging me their answers.  "Please don't tell anyone this was me, but...."  Because of all of those messages, I'm going to own all of our bad behavior and ask to be forgiven.

Forgive us Derby Spirit, for we have sinned against this sport.  It has been 8+ years since our last confession.

We have not iced our joints after practice, and we have neglected to air our gear after each practice as well.
We have crop dusted deliberately on the track, and blamed it on the other team.
We have talked shit to another team and then have been butthurt when they have talked shit to us.
We have taken referees' names in vain.
We have used the same mouth guard for a year, and have kept that mouth guard in the bottom of our skate bag.
We have rolled our eyes at our fellow skaters and their performances.
We have brought our personal crap out on the track and ruined practice for our teammates.
We have given up at practice, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly.
We have coveted another skater's gear and talents.
We have turned the sport into a sorority at times.
We have abused our teammates.
We have shirked our committee duties.
We have not stretched after practice.
We have fouled in derby, and complain horribly when others foul against us.
We have made regretful choices in our derby apparel.
We haven't tried our hardest to learn new skills.
We have spent hours looking at derby pictures of ourselves.
We haven't had the grace to thank our volunteers for all the work they do.
We have eaten loads of crappy foods after practice because "We earned it."

As our Penance, we promise to clean up our gear, do our committee work, practice hard.  We will also do 100 dips, two minute planks, and 50 "Hello Dollies".  We promise to be better teammates and not treat our league mates and others like lesser beings.  And finally, we promise to stop eating greasy, fattening foods after much....sometimes....once in a while.
Can I just do extra planks and horde my Sour Patch kids?


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fear of Failure: It's not just about you.

How many times have you stopped yourself before trying a new skill? Picture this, you're at practice learning a new skill, and you have such anxiety that you keep getting in your own way.  Fear of failure is one of the most disgusting and insidious mind blocks we face as derby players.  I would personally rather take on the biggest, scariest blocker than admit that I have a fear of failure.

To make your fear of failure not be as large in your mind, you need to really examine why you're in derby.  If your fear of failure is crippling your game play, then you probably are extremely focused on what other people think about you and your skating. Some people don't come into derby with that fear, but some leagues foster it in their skaters.  In fact, if your league is a very critical one, you are definitely handicapping your players' mental game.  Read the following heartfelt explanation of fear of failure from an anonymous skater who has done a lot of thinking about stereotype threat.

The idea of stereotype threat is one that has had a huge impact on my teaching and also on how I try to help new skaters, act as a coach, and on how I understand my reactions to certain coaching situations where I feel like I am failing. Basically it says that if you perceive that someone expects you to fail, you begin to mentally monitor that, which leaves you less mental space to focus on the task, and hence leads to you failing.   (Read that sentence again. That is a huge key to why some skaters fear failure.)  The corollary is that affect matters: how you make people feel affects their ability to succeed. So I pay far more attention to how I say things, and to being positive and encouraging when I teach, saving my nicest and most encouraging for the days we are doing the hardest things.

How this related to derby is obvious, I think. If people perceive that there is the expectation that they will fail, they will be more likely to. Some folks say things like "I don't want to let me team down," but there's already a problem with that. If a team pays attention to affect, then the only way to "let them down" is to not try your best, or to give up. Trying and failing shouldn't be the same as letting your team down. I know that when I am around certain skaters and coaches, I feel threatened by them, and I am "on alert" with respect to them, and need to work extra hard to focus on the job at hand. I use this idea to work on my self-talk (because it's still my job to keep myself on task and focused), by saying things like "The only person thinking about you right now is you, you've learned much harder things, you can do this." or "Focus on the steps: what step is keeping you from getting this? Work on getting that right...."

I have a tale of woe and despair that makes most people want to go punch my elementary gym teacher in the face; I battle it every time we do something new, or someone new comes to practice, and under some other circumstances. Having a rational explanation for it, and some strategies for handling it internally helps. It's not perfect and sometimes it fails as a strategy (which usually means I go home from practice feeling like an asshole for acting like one). But it's not about fear of failure. I fail at things all the time. It's fear of being judge by others for failing. Or being accused of not trying because I am failing, and therefore meeting their expectations of me failing.

So what can we do about our fears?  First of all, look at your fear.  Is it rational?  Most fears aren't.  Are you afraid because you really think you are a terrible derby player, or are you afraid of what others might think of your skills?  I'm not Bonnie Thunders, but I have accepted that and try to work on what I'm good at.  If someone hands me the jammer panty, I may make an "UGH" face, but I'm going to go out there and do the best that I can.  I think to myself "My coach wouldn't give me this if she didn't have faith in me."  Sometimes that thought works; I'm lucky to have people in my league who support my growth as a skater and don't always criticize my abilities.  Nothing sucks the confidence out of a skater quicker than a constant listing of your faults.  

If you are a league that has a lot of anxious skaters, maybe you should start looking at your league's culture.  Are people constantly harping on mistakes?  Are they dismissive?   Do people make comments like "So and so always cuts the track, we can't have her jam" in front of other skaters?  Stop doing it!  If I were the skater who always cuts the track, I would already be in failure mode in my head.  That skater is probably just thinking about "Don't cut the track!  Don't cut the track!" and then that's exactly what she's going to do!  It's interesting.  We tend to remember failures of others and how they affected us way more than we remember the great things others do on the track.  Maybe we need to be less self focused and start being a little more supportive of our fellow teammates.  I mean, that's what being a team is all about, right?

Too bad the jammer fairy doesn't really exist, I'd have her bring everyone confidence!