|At her first invitational!|
"I've trained fresh meat for about a year and a half now... there are two things I've learned about training them. First, don't accept anyone's bullshit or insecurities. THEY are the ones that had enough brass to get some skates and try for it, and that's the hardest part. The reality of derby isn't for everyone (it's not just looking cool in a slutty costume, it cracks me up when this dawns on someone after their first "real" practice). If they make it back for at least three practices then I want them to fight for whatever it is that got them there. Eventually every single person I've worked with has gone through a hard time, asking themselves if it's worth it, if they can hack it, etc. For my part, as a trainer/coach it's my job to let them each know I have faith in their abilities. Some people aren't ever going to be an all star, might never even get rostered, but if they can handle that kind of reality and still want to try because it's something they enjoy then shut up and do it. Yes you can get up, yes you can lift your foot off the ground for more than a millisecond, yes you can do a crossover with some level of success... all that crap feeds into a person's level of self confidence, and if someone believes in themselves enough and has at least one person in the background that they trust saying they are capable of something then they're already a better skater. Every once in a while I'll shut down my "watch derby/think derby" channel and instead just compare a skaters' athletic abilities with her self confidence... It's really surprising how many mediocre skaters there are that succeed because they have spines made of diamonds. Then there are those that come off as terrible skaters but actually have some great skills, just no brass.
Second thing, kinda tied to that, is stay positive. As a trainer. I'm human, there are days I'm hard on myself and don't think I can do anything personally, but if I walk in the door and try to tell my baby birds they can fly it's going to get ugly. Some people do take longer to get to some levels and it's frustrating, even to me. A while back I had a friend that was dying from lung and brain cancer. It was awful to get my daily message from her sister about it, then somehow put on my happy face and go tell people that they needed to lift their right foot higher... I mean seriously, she's literally drowning to death in cancer cells plus she can't recognize her own family anymore, and you are telling me you CAN'T LIFT YOUR F-ING FOOT?!?!?! Um, yeah, it was hard to not scream that at a couple people. What's funny is there aren't a lot of people that knew about it, I didn't talk about it and tried really hard to keep that away from derby. I tested my patience, but worse it made it hard to still be positive and encouraging. I had to remind myself that cancer sucks, dying sucks, my friends dying sucks, that's my life right now. The skater in front of me has a little voice in her head telling her she's not good enough to do this one tiny thing that seems big and scary. I can dwell on the suck or I can be the only voice she hears aside from her own. I can be part of the reason she finds a pinch of good in some piece of life.
I like to think I'm a good coach for fresh meat because I focus on encouragement and seeing what someone can do. I know where just about every skater I've trained is right now in their derby career, I follow what they accomplish, and I get all lame and teared up sometimes when I go to an event and see them do something that I know for a fact I taught them. Once my baby birds leave the nest I can't really teach much more, but I love to watch them fly."
Even a dedicated fresh meat coach is still at odds with her philosophy. Is there an answer that makes the fresh meat feel accepted and loved without coddling them? It's so hard because we all are so new at derby. We don't have the traditions and tried and proven coaching plans for ANYONE. As derby progresses, hopefully someone will crack the code on the best way to train everyone! Until then, we all just have to keep on trying the best that we can.