Sunday, January 11, 2015

Coming up with a better way to ask for feedback

Roller derby has come a long way, but we still fall down in certain areas, such as the area of feedback. We suck at giving and asking for feedback. Yeah yeah, we've gotten a little better about it, but I know it's still a sore subject for a lot of skaters. We still don't feel satisfied when it comes to getting feedback. Here are some tips....I've shared some of them before, but I've added to the list. Enjoy.
1. Ask for specific feedback.
When you ask for feedback, you can't say "what am I doing wrong?" That's a really vague question, and you're probably going to get vague feedback. Ask specific questions like "My hits don't seem effective, can you watch me and see what I could do to make better contact?" Or, "When I jam, I'm having issues getting through a wall, can you watch me and give me some tips that I could work on?" Give people something to focus on; many skaters suffer from what I call "wheel ADHD." They get on wheels and suddenly can't stay focused on anything for more than fifteen seconds, thirty if you're lucky. Having an objective to focus on will help refine their feedback.
2. Know the person you're asking for feedback.
Ok. I'm definitely a "glass is half empty" kind of gal; it's been the story of my life. I focus on the things that I need to improve, not the things I do well. It's been that way when I draw, when I play the piano, and when I write. I see flaws easier than I see positives, so if you ask me for feedback, you will get an overview of the skills you need to work on. If you are someone who doesn't enjoy hearing about what you need to improve, or you need a spoon full of sugar to help that all go down, I'm probably not the person you want to ask.
Also know that there are people out there who will tell you that everything you are doing is amazing and don't change a thing. If you think hearing that you are a special special unicorn that farts rainbows is a great way to improve your skating, well, I don't know if you should read the rest of this article. I wouldn't want to crush your cupcake dreams.

You know the skaters in your league, and you know their personalities. Find someone you that will hit your balance of sweet and sour for feedback.

3. Be open to criticism
If you don't ask for feedback, you may never get any, and that means you won't improve as quickly. Some skaters are reluctant to ask for feedback because they don't want to hear anything negative. Others don't do well at receiving unsolicited critiques; I mean, the last thing you want to hear when you come off the track after a crappy jam, is how your plow stop isn't strong enough. I'm going to say that you have to toughen up a little if you want to improve; people are going to tell you things in your derby career that you don't want to hear. Or worse yet, nobody says anything helpful to you because you react so negatively to pointers. I know it can really wreck your ego to hear that you aren't perfect at everything derby related, but if we don't know our faults, then how can we improve?
4. Ask more than one person.
Please tag me if you use my art
Don't pester every member of you league on the same day, but ask different people for different feedback. Not everyone does a particular skill the same way, or even at the same level. Asking different skaters for feedback can give you a wider range of things to work on. Don't be surprised if you hear conflicting feedback from skaters. Very few skaters in derby skate the same exact way, so they may have different ways of explaining skills. Yeah, it can be confusing, but it also shows you how many different ways there are to do everything in derby. The hard part getting different viewpoints is having to figure out which one can work the best for you.

5. Video yourself
 When you don't have someone who can watch you skate at that moment, see if you can take video of yourself performing a skill. Remember all of those times when someone told you to get lower and in your head you were like "I AM AS LOW AS I CAN GET!" You probably won't feel that way after you've watched yourself.

6. Ask at the right time
Asking people for feedback when they're busy doing something else, or are completely distracted is just not going to garner you quality feedback. Ask before practice, and find out when it would be best time to ask for feedback. It helps to remind people that you're still looking for feedback periodically during the practice. Even the best of us get the shiny squirrel syndrome and forget what we're supposed to be doing. A nice polite reminder sometimes helps.

7. Know that what feedback you get might not be satisfying.
Please heed what I'm about to say; EVERYONE CRAVES FEEDBACK! Everyone. I don't care what level skater you are, you seriously want feedback. The quality of the feedback you get might not be satisfying at all. You may be expecting a major opus, whereas the person only gives you a Tweet. Just because a skater is amazing on the track, doesn't mean he or she is great at giving feedback. It's a skill that many people don't practice, and it's yet just another reason to ask several people for feedback. Also, sometimes the best feedback someone can give you might sound like they didn't think it through. I had a very skilled jammer once tell me, "never hesitate" when I asked her for feedback in jamming. I was like "Seriously? That's it???" It took me a while to appreciate what she was talking about, and it was excellent advice. Unfortunately, it didn't feel like excellent advice at the time, but as I gained more experience in derby, I realized how true it was.

I hope this helps you gain the feedback you're looking for!

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