Monday, May 26, 2014

Why go to outside coaching?

Last weekend I attended the Smarty Pants training clinic held in Virginia, at the Pivot Center.  If you live in a cave and have no idea who she is, you really should check out her site here.  I am not going to get into her strategies and secrets, but I will tell you about her awesome coaching style and how her clinic blew my derby mind, and that surprised me because this is my sixth year in the sport, and I thought I'd seen it all.
All the hitting.

And that's really the problem in our sport, the part about me thinking I've seen it all. As soon as we think thoughts like that, we stop growing as derby players. To be fair, I've been on the fence all year whether or not to retire next year, so I have been stuck in this weird place in my derby development. Part of me wants to just retire next year and leave the aches and pains behind, and part of me (the crazy part) wants me to keep doing this derby thing. I've had an internal debate going on for a couple of months, but being at the Smarty Pants clinic made me want to continue playing derby.

Yes, her clinic was that good.

Of course, not everyone has that profound of a reaction to a clinic or a training they go to. I've been to several over the last six years, and I've found some really excellent teachers, and some that are amazingly talented, but can't teach what they know.  Teaching people, coaching people, is a skill that many people do not have; of the many clinics I've gone to, the four that stand out as excellent are Smarty Pants, Carmen Getsome, Quadzilla, and Bonnie D'stroir. I can't recommend these coaches enough, and if they are anywhere near you and offering a training, you should definitely go. It's going to be completely worth it!

But how do you know a clinic is good? Here are some telltale signs that a clinic is going to teach you amazing things that may change the way you feel about derby in general, and is going to be worth the money you spent on it.

I wish my league had a space like this.
1.  The clinic is in a space that can support a derby track.  I've been to some trainings where the space itself is not conducive to derby in general. The track is a mini track, or it's hot as blazes, or they only have one bathroom. Most legitimate coaches go to legit places to teach. The Pivot Center is a really great space, with a great floor and bathrooms. Hooray!

2.  It isn't so crowded that you can't all participate for most of it. This doesn't count when you're at Rollercon, because I feel like the classes there give you a taste of what each coach can give you. In fact, that's where I first got to experience Smarty Pants as a coach, and I knew that if I had a chance to learn from her again, I would. If you are going and paying for a specific coach or coaches, the training should be limited to a workable number of people on the track.

3.  The coach has some street cred. They don't have to be on Team USA, but they should be experienced enough in derby to offer sound advice. I'm not saying they need to have close to a decade in derby experience, but some time in the trenches will help. It also means that they should be experienced at leading training. It helps if the league they come from has had some success too.

4.  The coach is great at explaining what he or she knows. This is a definite skill, and many people are completely incapable of it. Some coaches think they're being very clear, and they've lost half of the attending class with their incomplete explanations. You can find this out by watching videos they post, or reading articles they write, or follow their blogs. If they can't explain themselves in any of those ways, they probably aren't going to be the best coach to learn from.

5.  The coach has a clear plan. There should be a method to his or her madness, and they can lead you through the process. If this is their first clinic, you might not be getting the smoothest presentation of their ideas; teaching, like any other skill, takes practice for it to be good.

6. The clinic is honest about the level it is teaching to.  I've seen and been to some clinics that promise they are teaching to the intermediate and higher levels, and yet it turns out that the actual level of the information is more toward the beginner level. As derby develops, people are getting better at figuring out the exact level of the information they want to teach. Now, if you sign up for an intermediate or advanced clinic, and you aren't at that level yet, the fault lies with you. Be honest with yourself about where you are in your derby development.

7.  You leave the clinic with your mind blown. It doesn't have to be an overall mind implosion, but something you heard, saw, or experienced changed the way you think about derby. It took me a week to process the things I had learned at the Smarty Pants clinic, which is part of the reason I didn't write a blog last week. I feel like every clinic should offer one mind blowing experience that will make you change how you skate.

8.  The clinic is about teaching, and not the coach's ego. Some ego in derby is desirable, but if the clinic is going to be all about how awesome he or she is, then it's probably a clinic you can skip. If I want to stroke a derby player's ego, I'll go and see her game, but I won't pay for a clinic where I just hear about how awesome he or she is.

9.  You've heard good things about derby clinics from people who have previously attended. If you're not sure about the quality of the clinic, ask people. Go on Facebook and check with your extended derby network! If you ask for feedback about someone's clinic, most of us are eager to supply an opinion. We all know and understand just how expensive clinics can be, and you want to get the most bang for your buck.

I try and attend an outside training each year, and I've been incredibly lucky so far with my experiences. I'm also going to suggest that you don't let one bad experience at a clinic color your opinion of attending another outside training. Not all clinics are created equal.

Now go find Smarty Pants and get some amazing training.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Low Motivation

Sometimes it's hard to drag your ass to practice. I'm not going to sugar coat it; practice can be a real drain on your real life. Many of leagues have late practices, or the practice space is inconvenient, or traffic is a complete nightmare. It's not easy to drag your butt to practice day after day, but most of us end up doing it; we go to practice day in and day out, but sometimes we lose our focus.

I'd go to practice, but this couch is too awesome.

Because I'm the Training Director for our league this year, I get to monitor lovely things like the league's attendance. It waxes and wanes like the moon; when we're getting close to a bout, suddenly people come out of the woodwork. It happens, and I hate being an attendance tyrant, but sometimes people need to be reminded that practice isn't just because we have a box to tick off to be bout eligible; practice is there to make us all better derby players, and when the individual skaters in your league improve, so does your team.

Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you find yourself debating whether or not you should go to practice tonight if you're feeling kind of "enh."

Take pride and ownership of your practice time. You should be proud of yourself for going to practice; you're doing something that not a lot of other people have the opportunity or the testicular fortitude to try. Be proud of yourself for strapping those skates on.

Remember why you're there. Why are you there? Practice is there to give you an opportunity to be a better player. Everyone's definition of better is different, but you know that when you spend time at practice, your skills improve. Who doesn't want to hit better on the track, or skate faster, or have an awesome hockey stop?

Stop waiting to feel motivated. I think a lot of people are waiting to feel motivated, when motivation has to come from within. Get your butt to practice, and you'll see that it was worth it. Inspiration isn't going to just strike you in the brain like a lighting bolt, sometimes it's just a habit. Get your butt to practice! Go!

Stop listening to that voice that's telling you not to go. An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and I'm pretty sure we evolved as humans to expel as little energy as possible. It's a survival method and it helped us make it through food shortages and such, but in modern society, we don't have to chase down our food anymore. You like exercise, otherwise you wouldn't have done derby in the first place, so get up and get your butt to practice.

Rewrite your inner voice's script. When we feel down, we talk down to ourselves. We get negative about everything under the sun, including practice, derby, work, our lives. Give yourself a break with the internal doomalogue. Try to say positive things to yourself; be kind to yourself. I know it's hard sometimes, but try it. It will help.

Clarify your goals. When you have a clear goal in mind, you are motivated to meet them. When you have an unclear goal, being motivated to work for it is much much harder. If you are conflicted about why you keep playing derby, your motivation to go to practice will probably stay low until you figure out what you want to do with your derby future.

If you're feeling burnt out, please read this carefully. I've researched this one a lot because I've felt it, my friends have felt it, and through the years most of my teammates have felt it at one point or another. The best thing you can do is get some rest and sleep. According to the experts, you need to rest and sleep...not party, not take a day off and goof off; get a good night's sleep! Evidently, our quality of sleep has a lot to do with our emotional barometer, and when we're lacking sleep, we tend to dive into the negative end of the spectrum. Seriously. Get. Some. Sleep.

Maybe some of these tips will help you regain your motivation when you find it lacking. Some days it's a struggle, and some days it's easy. Let's hope that most of your days are easy ones.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Some things I learned and relearned at the Beach Brawl Tournament

This weekend my team got to be a part of one of the largest tournaments in WFTDA history, Beach Brawl. Goldcoast, with Derbyology, put on an international tournament with 24 domestic and international teams, and they pulled it off beautifully! My hat is off to Goldcoast; the hotel was great, the venue was comfortable and everything ran on time, which is an almost impossible feat in and of itself. I can't imagine having to do that kind of scheduling, organization and patience for that kind of endeavor. Seriously, please stop by their Facebook page and give them some kudos.

The Things I Learned and Relearned on a Tournament Weekend

1. Just because the idea of having a "derby" personality and a normal personality has mostly fallen by the wayside, it doesn't mean that everyone has given up on it. I got to see a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde transformation this weekend, and I had a flash back to 2009.  Yes, people let their adrenaline show during a game, but don't use derby as an excuse to be a douchebag. We all have to take our uniforms and skates off at some point and walk amongst other humans. If you give reign to your "derby personality" during a game, don't be surprised if people don't want to forgive and forget your antics when you're without your skates on.

2. Being a jammer takes a lot of moxie. I don't jam anymore, unless I'm taking a panty pass from a jammer, so I really don't know how some ladies and gents step up to that line over and over again without feeling doubts or even a little fear. Jamming takes a special kind of fearlessness; now don't get me wrong, being a blocker is hard and scary too, but you have a three more blockers out there to mentally make you feel better. You don't have a target on your head, literally! I watched Team International's jammers fight and fight against Team USA's brutal blocking packs, and they never gave up. That's moxie, people.

3. Eating and sleeping and stretching should be the most important things during a tournament (after skating, of course). It's HARD to get a good night's sleep sometimes when you're on the road for an extended stay. People cram into hotel rooms, sometimes neighbors are noisy, your brain doesn't want to shut off, or you keep having to pee because you've been hydrating all night. I have found that cutting off caffeine after five pm helps me, as does taking Benadryl. Sometimes those things fail me, but not often. Naps are awesome if you can pull them off! 

After you skate in a game, you should be stretching; cool off!  This becomes even more important the more you have to skate during a short period of time, and obviously, the older you get. Yes, it will happen to you. Take the time to stretch; sometimes it's hard because you get distracted, or you have to get out of a locker room quickly, or you have a team meeting to go to, so try REALLY REALLY hard to work in that stretching.

Eating is essential, but eating during a tournament can make or break you. I have found that grocery stores have saved my budget and my stomach; if I can stock up on healthy snacks that will feed my body instead of tearing up my stomach, then I may refrain from being tempted to eat crap.  My go tos are avocados, bananas, yogurt, Diet Coke (don't judge) peanut butter, whole wheat bread, a salty snack and tart cherry juice. Now I'm hungry.

4. After you've given it your best, you have to unwind. Some people unwind by drinking, or acting goofy, or being quiet. Everyone has his or her own way to let off some steam, and after multiple games in a weekend, you need to find your own way.  Sometimes that way might be sitting in your room with some of your teammates watching Game of Thrones. For others, it might be a midnight swim in their jerseys. Don't judge each others methods, especially if they get your stress out. Sometimes playing in a tournament is incredibly stressful, whether you win or not, so learn to let that stress go. No, I'm not going to quote any Disney movies.

5. Finally, don't forget that a lot of athletes go through a dip in energy after a marathon athletic event. It makes sense, because you've spent the time training, anticipating, traveling, and performing. What's left? Sometimes it's a feeling of letdown, which can be like a mini depression. Once again, eating right, sleeping right and de-stressing can help. Also, looking forward to the next goal in your sights may help you lose those after derby blues.