Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Shiny! Distractions on and off the track

Everyone has had one of those days where everything and everyone is a distraction to our game.  It's too hot at the venue, the fans are loud, your favorite handkerchief wasn't in your bag.  We let little things steal our attention; just think of distractions as mice nibbling away at your stash of attention cheese!  How do we keep our cheese in tact and keep the mice from stealing away one of the most important weapons we have in our arsenals?
Don't let this mofo get your cheese.

There are two kinds of distractions in derby; one is internal, and one is external.  Internal distractions are what we bring to the plate when we come to play.  Every single one of us has and evil monkey that lives in our heads, and he messes with our attention.  Do not feed your evil monkey!  Only you can fight him.  The second type of distractions we face are external distractions; we have little if no control over external distractions, but we can control our reactions to them. 

Internal distractions:

1.  You're having a bad day /bad week/ bad month.  It happens to the best of us.  I'm pretty sure that 2009 for me was one of my most miserable years, and when nothing seems to be going well in your life it can sap your ability to play the game.   The best advice to follow when this happens is to become very zen.  Lose yourself in the moment of skating; focus on what you're trying to achieve right this very minute, not what is going wrong in your life.  Focus on the NOW.

2.  You don't feel comfortable in your gear.  Once again, this can be a pretty common phenomena on the track.  You've put on something new, or you had something break, or you forgot something and had to borrow someone's gear while you played.  All of those things bleed our concentration away.  I used to skate on Lazer plates, and the first time some other skater stepped on them and broke a truck, I no longer completely trusted them.  In the back of my head I was worried that I would break them in the middle of a terrible fall or crazy maneuver, so I would limit myself to "safer" moves on the track.  After finally changing my plates out this year, I realized how limiting that concern was.  Get comfortable as you can with your gear.  Be prepared before practices and bouts; make sure you have everything packed and ready to go so you won't have to worry about it.  Also, try clothing and boutfits BEFORE you skate in a game.  Don't wait until game day to try that new pair of leggings, or booty shorts!  Try them out at practice!

3.  You're skating with someone who makes you feel like crap about your performance.  Hoo boy.  This one is tough, because even though that skater is putting out that vibe, you're letting her mess with your head.  Don't let this person be more important to you than she is to herself!  Remember, you're doing the best that you can, and if she cannot accept that, than the problem ultimately lies with her.  As much as I hate to say this, it might be a good idea to discount a lot of what she says until she settles down.  I don't like recommending this, because even a jerk can give good advice occasionally, but in self defense you might need to mentally shut her down for a while.  The best way I have done this is to say "Ok" when she unloads on you and to move away from her when possible.

4.  You lack confidence.  There have been games where I have been straight up terrified that I was playing against a certain team.  Fortunately most of those games happened early in my career and I have gotten inured to fear of failure.  Now when I step up to play another team, I know that I can only do what I have been trained to do.  I trust in my training, my teammates, my coaches and my skill.  I know I'm not alone out there, no matter what.  This is the best part about playing a team sport, the team support!

5.  You're not at your physical best.  There will be at least one game in your career where you will have some physical ailment.  You're sick, you have a headache, you pulled a muscle, or you have a huge blister burgeoning on your foot.   All of those things are going to distract you from your game; you need to acknowledge them and try to minimize their impact the best that you can.  Stay hydrated, use muscle balms, tape your blisters up the best that you can.  You're a human being, and you will not always feel perfect. 

External Distractions

1.  The venue is annoying.  In roller derby, you will never have the optimal skating venue.  We aren't there as a sport yet, so you have to be adaptable.  Is the floor wonky?  Adapt your skating style.  If it's too slick, take smaller steps.  If it's too sticky, change what kind of stops you do. I'm a firm believer in doing some research on venues where I'm going to skate.  I ask the home league questions; I ask other leagues who have played there what they experienced.  A little preparedness goes a long way.

2.  The fans are obnoxious.  Enh, they're fans.  They've come to have fun, and some of them are rabid supporters of the home leagues, so they might boo the visitors.  To combat this distraction, you have to completely be focused on the game at hand.  Eventually fan noise tends to become background noise for me because I'm concentrating on my teammates.

3.  The refs are terrible.  Ok.  Not all reffing is terrible, but I think it's a pretty common belief held by derby girls that no matter how they play, the reffing was bad.  Sometimes it is bad, but you can't do a thing about it.  You have to let that go and play your game.  If you find that there is a pattern of egregious ref calls, you have to communicate this to your captain and let her and the coach bring it up to the officials.  You yelling "BULLSHIT" at a ref is never going to solve the problem.  Trust in your captains and coaches to handle it.

4.  The other team is talking shit and being jerks.  This isn't typical silly talk on the track, I'm talking about when another team is relentless in the shit talk or celebrates an egregious penalty performed on one of your skaters.  I've seen it happen, and it can be really tough to ignore, but you have to do it.  This is an old sports tactic, and it's been around so long because it works!  I have seen teammates taken out of their mental game by snotty comments from the other team; they get angry and start revenge hitting, which is exactly what the other team wants!  Ignore them.  When the other team tries to talk to me in a hostile way, I just tune them out.  They sound like  Charlie Brown's teacher to me because I'm only concentrating on what my team is saying.  Also, if a team does do a lot of shit talking on the track, I tend to think that's all they have going for their game play, so I kind of pity them.

Hopefully this will help you protect your attention cheese from the distraction mice!  

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