Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Watching yourself on footage

It happens to everyone; you had what you thought was the greatest move ever in the history of derby, and then you see the footage.  How could you have such a distorted memory of how you played?  It's human nature to exaggerate how badly or well we've done in a game; adrenaline makes fools of us all during game play, which is why it's such a great learning tool.  It's a reality check that can help you learn to evaluate your skill and game play level more accurately as you play more games.

This might be easier said than done for some people.  So many of us are over the top hypercritical of ourselves, and watching footage can be one of the most uncomfortable things we ever do in derby.  Some people would rather do suicides and burpees for an hour than watch themselves on the screen, especially in front of other people!  I have known people to go into a mild anxiety attack just thinking about watching themselves play, and I empathize, but it's a really great tool to have in your arsenal.  Watching footage can make you aware of both you faults as a player and your strengths.  It's hard the first couple of times you sit down to do it, but it is completely worth it.

The horror!  The horror!

1.  Watching footage will show you that even though you made mistakes in the game, you did some smart things too.  Yes, you may have gone to the box 6 times for silly penalties, or you may have ignored the jammer practically sitting on your butt in almost all of the jams, but nobody plays a game without doing one or two good things.  When you first start playing, you are going to make a lot of mistakes; being aware of them will make you a smarter player in the long run.

2.  You can see your form better.  How many times have you heard, "Get lower" in your derby career?  Now let's admit it, how many times have you thought "I'm as low as I can're just crazy!"  The truth is that if you can see how tall you're standing in the pack or on the track.  I can almost guarantee that you're standing way taller than you thought you were at any one moment in the game.  Use the footage to watch how you skate, if you hesitate when you enter the pack, or you use your forearms more than you want.  Keep those things in mind when you're practicing.  They won't be corrected over night, but with persistence, you can make improvements.

3.  You can see if you really earned those penalties.  Most skaters think they are persecuted in some bout, but footage doesn't lie, although the angle of the camera does come into play.  You can see if some of the calls you received during the game were deserved, so you can forgive that evil ref who clearly had it in for you.  Also, you can see the penalties that you didn't get called on, which I can guarantee are probably equal to the the "erroneous" ones you did receive! 

4.  You can witness how you present your emotions on the track.  Memory is a tricky tricky thing.  Sometimes we don't remember how we react to stressful situations, but if you're being filmed, you can see the reaction, along with everyone else who was watching or playing in the game.  Sometimes you can read exactly what you're thinking on your face, and that means the other team can too!  Learn to skate with a poker face if you can.

HOW YOU SHOULD DO IT!  (The pre step is to do it with paper and pencil!!!!!!)

1.  Watch footage by yourself or with a close friend first.  If you are one of these skaters who absolutely hyperventilates about seeing footage, make sure you do it in a "safe" place first.  If you can raise your comfort level and lower your fears of embarrassment and failure, you will have an easier time watching the footage.  You can get your "OMG" moments out.  Things that people usually say in the first five minutes of watching themselves play:  What was I thinking when I wore that?  Why did I line up like that?  I don't remember this jam!  Get over the minutiae and start concentrating on the game.  PS, it's absolutely ok to yell at yourself.  It will act as a release for some of your anxiety.

2.  Start noticing the things you did right.  This is the most important step to watching footage; you have to acknowledge what you did right.  We are so good at picking ourselves apart, that we forget to give ourselves the credit for doing the right things.  If you are absolutely incapable of giving yourself credit where credit is due, then you need to rely on your close friend to help you out.  It might work better at first to start by cross critiquing each other; you give her positive feedback on her performance and she can do the same for you.  Watch the footage that way one time, discuss it, and then swap roles.  It will be easier to see the positive things you do when someone else has just pointed them out to you.  After a couple of times of watching footage with the swap, you'll most likely be able to watch the footage on your own without someone else giving you positive feedback.  It is so crucial that we understand the moves that we're good at on the track!

3.  Notice patterns of your behavior.  Everyone does dumb and random things on the track at some point.  Sometimes you fall down for no reason; sometimes you go for a big hit that is completely out of character.  To really understand the patterns you fall into, sometimes you have to ignore the screwball "outlier" behavior we do on the track.  You're looking at patterns!  Are you always by yourself?  Are you always in the back?  Are you often the runt?  Are you often in the front booty blocking?  Are you in the box consistently for back blocking?  Are you aware of where both jammers are?  Once you notice the patterns you have when you skate, you can work on the skills to prevent yourself from falling into the same old bad habits.  If you always back block, you need to work on your footwork and your core strength.  If you're always in the back as a runt, you need to work on your endurance.  Are you always by yourself?  You need to work on trusting a partner and skating next to people in practice.  Just because you have bad habits doesn't mean you're a lost cause!

4.  Do NOT compare yourself to other skaters.   I don't care if you skate with Bonnie Thunders or Little A; you can only compare yourself to yourself.  To be fair to yourself and your teammates, you are your own yardstick.  You are absolutely allowed to compare your past performances with your more current ones.  When you do, acknowledge the improvement you have made, and the further improvement you need in your skating style.

5.  Watch it several times.  Yes, it takes a lot of time to watch footage, but you really need to watch it several times to look for several different things.  One viewing can be for positive things, one viewing can be for points to improve, and one viewing can be for your team's dynamics.  In my opinion, you should never just watch footage once.

So, if you're lucky enough to get footage of yourself, you should be excited to watch it!  Don't get upset, and don't make it into something bigger than it is.  It is a learning tool, and it can be a very valuable one at that!

PS...if you do have a videographer that works with your league, please remind him or her to take periodic shots of the scoreboard.  Sometimes it's hard to hear announcers, and not every league has fancy graphics to post the scores at the bottom of the screen.  Also, don't just follow the jammers out of the pack when they're just speed skating!  Sometimes the real action is from the blocking pack!

1 comment:

  1. Another vastly superlative blog entry Ms. Q Tion!! I would add another element to critically analyzing video of Roller Derby.... DO IT TO YOUR OPPONENTS!! Recently the London Roller Girls came over and caused a few upsets at the Eastern regionals. As I understand, these girls avidly study their opponents via video. It is not practical for them or their scouts to come watch Philly or Montreal live bouting so they watch old bouts on video of their opponents so to develop specific strategies to defeat them. Derby bouters may wish to take this to heart as your opponents will most likely be eyeballing any derby video out there of you!! In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with this, it only makes you, the player, your team and the entire sport much stronger and more enjoyable for everyone to watch. PS.... I DO film local bouts and yes, I DO make sure to film the scoreboard every once in a while!!