Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Taking Advice as a Veteran from Veterans

About a year ago, I wrote a blog for newbies about how to take advice in derby; often advice is given through clenched teeth and a harsh tone of voice, so it can be a little hard to swallow for newer skaters.  Now, add some experience and a little ego, and it can be that much harder for a veteran skater to take advice from another veteran skater.

There is definitely a pecking order in derby.  It starts with amount of experience, the number of games you've played, how much play time you get in, whether you jam or not, and skating skill.  Derby is competitive; people are not only competing against the other leagues, but for spots on a roster.  If you are in a very talented league, it's quite possible you keep an eye on the other players and step your own skills up to stay one step ahead of the competition.  Unfortunately, this atmosphere can hinder teammate to teammate communication when it comes to feedback; it can engender a lot of "Who the hell does she think she is?" reactions.

Nobody likes to hear that they aren't perfect, especially from a peer, but this is a sport where the number one complaint I hear from skaters is "I don't get enough feedback!"  We all would rather hear the feedback come from captains, coaches and refs, but sometimes you can learn the most from the people who skate right next to you in jam after jam.


1.  Listen.  What?  Exactly.  Most of us suck at listening to each other; we're in a hurry to get out what we want to say or defend ourselves.  Really listen to what your peer has to say.  You don't have to agree with everything she or he is saying, but the first step is listening.

2. Take it in.  Give the feedback a moment to sink in before you strap on your butthurt panties. Even if you think the person is full of crap, sometimes they have something worth saying and learning from.  I know it's hard when our emotions and adrenaline are running high, but take a moment and really think about what the person is saying to you.

3. Listen to the tone.  Is the person giving you feedback in a bitchy tone?  She's probably just venting, but if her tone isn't hostile, she's probably trying to help you out because you are her teammate.  Even if her tone is slightly hostile, you can still learn from the feedback.  PS anything said in the heat of a jam is probably not feedback.

4.  Consider the source.  Some skaters are quick to point out that you forearmed them in a hit, while they're sticking their elbows up your nose. Some skaters are hypercritical of others, and no matter how you interact with them, they are going to be negative.  On the other hand, there are those skaters who couldn't give good feedback if you paid them money.  Every move you make is "Awesome and amazing" even if you fell and tripped over your own feet on the way to the bathroom. That feedback is useless.

5.  Check your ego.  You aren't Bonnie Thunders, and you ain't perfect.  Get over your ego and maybe you'll learn something.


1.  Pick your time.  Right after someone kicks your feet out from under you is probably not the best time to offer "feedback".  Face it, you aren't going to be delivering it in any kind of tone or constructive manner if you're pissed off.  Take time to cool down.  Also, judge if they are ready to get feedback.  Right after they have jammed through a power jam may not be the best time to critique their blocking style!
This is probably not the time to offer feedback.  Photo by Joshua R. Craig

2.  Pick your battles.  Is this really important feedback, or are you being a bitch?  It's a fair question.  Is this a pet peeve YOU have or is it something that will dramatically cut down on her penalties or up her game?  Really think about it, because if it is something petty, then just zip your lip and move on.

3.  Consider having a third party deliver it.  This can be tricky, but if you know the person won't be receptive to a peer giving them feedback, then you might want to appeal to a higher power.  Talk to your coaches or captains; put your feedback in their hands, and they can judge if it is worth passing on.  Take yourself out of the equation and let those who get paid the big bucks handle it.  (I kid about the big bucks.)

4.  Let them know you're struggling with the same issues.  It helps to give feedback if you can share the same problem and offer solutions of how you've been dealing with it.  A problem shared is a problem halved!

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