Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Playing Up. Do It.

Man, I remember being on the B team in my league, the Bootleggers, and dreading scrimmaging against our Allstars.  I would dread that practice for days on end, and get really worried about the whole situation, especially when I first started playing.  I kept thinking, "Why the hell would the Allstars WANT to play us Bootleggers?"  I was convinced that they wanted to just pound the snot out of us for ego sake.  It was demoralizing, because when I first started, I just didn't have the skills to do anything but get my butt handed to me.  I couldn't even figure out what was happening because I was so new and inexperienced.  Poor newbie me!  I finally understood why scrimmage was called the blender.

Flash forward in time, and I was a seasoned skater with a pretty good selection of skills, but still on the Bootleggers.  When we had to scrimmage against the Allstars, I didn't dread it so much as be resigned to it.  Yes, we were going to get our butts kicked, but I wasn't as confused as I was when I was new.  I started to see what I needed to be working on, or what I needed to do to play against such an overwhelming force.  I started to see the holes when I was jamming, or how I could booty block a jammer and keep her longer.  Of course, seeing this kind of stuff is waaaaaay different from actually being able to do something about it, but my confidence was growing.  I didn't worry so much as say to myself "Man, this is going to suck, but you'll survive."

With even more experience and time on skates, I started not to hate scrimmaging the Allstars.  In fact, I started to look forward to it.  Crazy as it sounds, I enjoyed the small victories I was able to pull off on the track against them.  Did I get lead jammer?  Not necessarily, but I was able to make it out of the pack and make her call it after only four points.  That was a victory in my book at that time.  The Allstars started to notice, especially when I was a blocker in the pack; if I heard someone say "Get on Q" I knew I was doing a good job, and every time we scrimmaged, I was challenged and challenging!

Now that I'm on the A team, I'm an advocate for playing the B team once in a while. Everyone in your league should be training to get better, and playing against people who are better than you is an excellent way to improve your skills. Playing "up" is one of the best ways to get better in derby, period.  Unfortunately, it's also a great way of getting your spirit crushed if you're not ready mentally for the challenge, and since we all want to avoid butthurt, here are some ways to approach a scrimmage or even a game where you are going to get overwhelmed and possibly stomped on by a better team.
Hugging each other helps too.  Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami

1.  Accept that you are outclassed, but don't give into it.  Yes, they're a better team.  So what? Just because they're better than you are, that doesn't mean you suck.  A lot of people in derby think just because someone is better, then it automatically follows that the other person is terrible.  Everyone has different skills in derby, and you bring good stuff to the track too.  Don't let it get into your head that you suck, because you don't.

2.  Look for the small victories.  Did you hold that jammer by yourself?  Did your jammer make points?  Did you get away from that really amazing blocker?  Did you stop the other team from recycling?  These are all victories to savor.  It means you were being effective against a dominant team.  Sometimes the best victory you can hope for is a zero zero jam.  VICTORY!

3.  Each jam is its own jam.  When you're battling it out against a stronger team, you have to approach each jam as its own game.  If you start thinking "Man, we haven't gotten lead yet!" you're doomed.  Jamnesia, people. It's a thing.

4.  Don't get desperate.  People who are outclassed start trying to do anything they can to stop the bleeding.  Keep doing what you can do.  Don't start getting penalty happy just because you're being challenged.  It's an easy trap to fall into, so don't beat yourself up if you do!  Just be aware that it is out there, the desperation, waiting for you.  Avoid desperation and remember, you know how to skate derby!

5.  Don't take it personally.  Yes, getting hit over and over and over again sucks donkey genitalia.  It's frustrating, painful and it makes you feel weak, but it happens in derby.  People are doing their jobs on the track, and if you're wearing the jammer panty, you're their job, unfortunately.  Take it as a sign of respect that the stronger team isn't letting up on you.  It means they are treating you as a worthy foe.

Now that I'm on the Allstars, I try to follow two simple rules when I'm playing against the Bootleggers.  I do this because I respect them and I want them to get better, like I did.

1.  Don't make it personal.  I'm doing my job as a blocker or jammer, and I'm not going to gloat that I knocked you down.  I knocked you down because it was my task out there.  That's it.  If you feel I'm picking on you because I kept hitting you, I'm sorry, but that's what derby is.

2.  Show no mercy.  I don't play down when I'm in this situation.  I play like I'm playing Gotham.  It's the only way to show anyone any kind of respect in this sport.  Going easy on someone because they're less skilled is just douchey and really condescending.  It's just not how I roll, yo.

So there it is.  Do you play your A team vs. your B team?  How do you handle the situation? 


  1. Awesome post - sharing with my travel teams!

  2. Another Jim-Bo Dandy, Ms. Q Tion!!

  3. This is a great post. I play for a fairly new league whose A-team has yet to win a game in our 2nd season. We are ALWAYS playing up. Our last loss was particularly painful and we are about to play this weekend and most likely lose. I let the last loss really get to me, and took a lot of things personally. This helped me gain some perspective. Thank you :-) I'm sharing this in my team forum!

  4. Thank you. We are a super new league and the losses can be painful sometimes. It is good to put it into perspective. Especially when you are getting the crap beat out of you while jamming.

  5. I like how you mention that playing less than your best is doing a disservice to the new skaters because I believe that with all of my heart. It's disrespectful to go easy.