Sunday, August 24, 2014

What do you owe your competitive team?

This blog post was inspired by a recent blog I read by Punchy O'Guts. She discussed what it means to be competitive, and I just fell in love with her whole blog post. People often say they want to play on a competitive level, but do they always put their money where their mouth is? I contacted her about writing a blog post on the same subject. You can find hers here.  Seriously, read her blog, she's a smart and honest lady.
Punchy O'Guts, photo by Brian Fitzgerald

Throughout the last couple of years, the WFTDA has slowly been cranking up the competitive level in derby; with the introduction of the new ranking system, derby started to get more serious, and leagues have to look deep inside their souls and see what kind of commitment level they want to have to competitive sports.

Derby is in its awkward teenage phase, and skaters are trying to figure out what kind of commitment level they want to....well....commit to. Some people are gung ho, willing to commit just about everything they can to make their team the best it can be, while others haven't completely jumped on the "give everything you can to derby" bandwagon. It can be a serious point of contention when you have the "gung hos" and the "I dunno about all thats" on the same team.

I guess I fall into the gung ho category, especially because I've always had a competitive drive in my training; I don't like to do things halfway, but as I've gone through my years playing derby, I realize that not everyone's "Halfway" is defined in the same way. People think their commitment level is exactly the right one for whatever team they're on, and sometimes they don't realize that it isn't.

How can you tell if your commitment level isn't on par with what your team is asking for? Ask yourself these questions.

1. How is your attendance? Is it awesome? Is it good enough? Is it crappy?  If you're skating for a competitive team, they most likely have a minimum practice attendance policy. Yes, you can probably skate by (ha) with the minimum, but why would you want to do that? People who only go to the minimum of practices have the minimum improvement, the minimum endurance and the minimum time building a confident relationship with your teammates on the track. If you desire to skate for a competitive team, you need to start seriously considering getting to practice as much as possible. Have you heard of the old 10,000 hours rule? One of the Collision guys reminded me of it this week. Basically, if you're too lazy to click on the link, the idea is that you have to do something for 10,000 hours to be an expert at it. Whew. That's a lot of time on skates, and if you're barely making minimum practices, you're probably further away from expert level than someone who comes to as many practices as humanly possible. You can take it or leave the advice, but the longer you're on skates, the better you're going to be, and that means coming to practice.

2. Do you practice how you will play in a game? I know, everyone has had those off practices where you just couldn't commit to the drill, or weren't feeling your best. Hell, I had one last night where I couldn't stop yawning for the first half hour because I was exhausted from real life. I finally got my head back into the game and the practice, but it hurt my performance that night. I know people who actually say during practice, "well, in a game, I'd never do such and such" even while they're practicing a drill where they're doing EXACTLY the such and such. If you want to play for a competitive roster, give each drill, each skrill, each scrimmage the same kind of intensity you would give during a game. Believe it or not, we actually do play how we practice, and if you're half assing it the entire time, it's not going to help your game. If that's not what you want, then maybe you don't want to skate on a competitive team.

3. Do you constantly try to improve your skills, or are you ok with the level you play at now? I call it the "good enough" scenario, and it's ok to think that way if you're not playing with a competitive team. But, if you want to play on a competitive level, you really can't just rest on your laurels, impressive as you might think they are. If your team is competitive, then it has a goal to be the best they can be; are you helping your team by getting better, or are you being stagnant? Unfortunately, I see a lot of people who are ok with staying at the level they currently inhabit, until something changes. Maybe they get a talented transfer skater in their league, and suddenly people are worried about their spots on the roster.

4. Do you work on your fitness outside of practice? Some people go home from practice, and they don't exercise again until the next time they strap on skates. Being a semi athlete isn't going to cut it in competitive roller derby anymore. You have to work on your endurance, work on your strength and work on your flexibility. I know that leagues often have endurance practices, but if you're just relying on practice to get you where you need to be on a competitive team, you're not doing yourself any favors.

There is nothing wrong with answering no to some of these questions. Maybe you can't commit to a more competitive team right now, and that is perfectly fine. I always will say that real life has to come first; it's essential that we be human beings first before we be roller derby athletes. If you can't commit to the kind of training a competitive team is asking for, then that team isn't a good fit for you at that point in your life. If somebody has to step down from playing on the competitive league in my league, I have a lot of respect for them for making that decision. What boggles my mind is when a player can't make the requirements of the team, and then expects to be placed on a competitive roster over others who are making and exceeding the team's standards. Don't be that skater!

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