Sunday, March 8, 2015

Shit you should never say (or email) to your captains and coaches.

 We all say and do silly things at times in derby. I've been told by a few players that "they didn't get
Coaches should be hugged. Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami
into derby to think." Honestly, I totally understand that sentiment, because sometimes I don't want to think much either. Sometimes I just want to be a brute brute brute and not worry about strategy, game plans and social niceties. Thinking is so so hard. Unfortunately, when we don't think about what we say to coaches, we're setting ourselves up either piss them off, or make them feel like you don't care about the effort they're putting in to make practices successful. Do we try and say these things on purpose? Probably not, but as a captain and training director, I've heard my fill of the following statements. Try to avoid them at all costs!

1. Never email a coach and ask "Are we doing anything important at practice tonight? If we aren't, I might stay home because I've been really busy....blah blah blah." If you email this to your coaches and captains, the only reaction you should expect is serious eye rolling. I really have never met a coach or a captain that believes any practice they planned are unimportant. How would you like to be in charge of an event and have one of the participants say "Is this really worth it?" I'm pretty sure you would find it pretty insulting. Coaches are volunteers, and they're there to help the league get better; don't make them feel like they're wasting their time.

2. "I can't" What coaches and captains hear is "I won't" or "I'm scared" or "I don't want to take a risk." Recently at the Team North Carolina tryouts, one of the coaches made the entire group do fifteen push ups because someone said the "C" word, the C word being "I can't." We throw that phrase around a lot in derby; I can't jam, I can't do endurance right now, I can't block like that, and I can't cross train. Try to not verbalize the "I can't" when you're working on your sport, and focus more on the "I will."

3. "I don't think this drill is relevant" before trying it. Ah derby players, we're so very very strong minded and opinionated. Sometimes we think we know it all, especially when we've been playing derby for more than a few years. We get into a mindset that we have such limited time to practice, or even play this sport, that we don't want to waste any of it. Maybe we should be more open-minded and have faith that our coaches have really worked at creating a drill that is beneficial. I mean, at least TRY it first. Maybe it won't be the best and most perfect drill ever, but drills evolve through tweaking; if you don't give a drill a chance, how do you know if it sucks or not?

4. I didn't give this drill 100%." The only thing that makes this more annoying is when someone says it and then basically laughs about it. I know that we have defensive coping mechanisms built in, but it really can make a coach feel like you're not trying hard because you don't care, instead of not trying your best because you're afraid to fail.

5."I know!" When a coach is giving you feedback, and instead of accepting the feedback, you say "I know!" We don't like to accept feedback, especially when it is about something we're doing that isn't perfect. We want to let our coaches know we know that we're STILL doing it wrong, but what we think of as acknowledging feedback actually sounds like we're dismissing it.

6. I can't jam. GUILTY OF THIS ONE! I used to be a jammer, a long long time ago, but alas, I don't think my skill set works as a jammer with this rule set. When anyone says "I don't jam" what it usually means is "I'm not your best choice for this position" or "hey coach, how badly do you want to win this game/scrimmage/jam?" Sometimes coaches want to see what you can do, sometimes coaches want to see what walls do against you, and every once in a while a coach has run out of willing jammers and is desperately trying to get someone, ANYONE out to jam. Don't leave your coach in the lurch, as one of my favorite skater coaches used to say, "you can do anything for two minutes."


  1. I'm super guilty of the "I know"... usually when they are telling me I need to get to the front. Thanks for posting this! Another great blog as usual.. :)

  2. To add to the I can't jam. Sometimes you physically can't... I have asthma and jamming does a number on my lungs, I'll push through a jam in scrimmage no problem, but if I get knocked down a ton, I literally cannot breath, I start to have an attack. Which means I'm almost done for the rest of the night if I'm not quick enough to get through the pack.

    Blocking is taxing yes, but not in the same way as jamming. The relentless pounding and just physical capacity required for jamming is totally different. I can handle a tough blocking over and over, my lungs can recover from that, but not a tough jam.

    So while I generally agree with the I can't jam statement, the body does physically have limitations. So for scrimmage, sure sign me up coach, but in a bout I'd rather not as you could loose me a blocker for the rest of the bout. In the end I'd do it if I had to, but... you run the risk of losing me for the rest of the game.

  3. Any suggestions for what to say instead of these cringe-worthy statements? I know for most of them, the obvious answer would be to say nothing and just do it, haha. The criticism one confuses me as well, because I'm guilty of just saying "Ok", thinking that it's acknowledgment that I listened to the coach and will work on it, but it does come off as dismissive. Saying nothing would probably seem dismissive as well.

    1. I don't know what to do with those either. Like, okay, Coach has told me I need to do a thing. I know I need to do the thing. However, where I am in the learning/developing process, I am not yet capable of effectively doing the thing. Explaining that sounds like making excuses. Saying "okay" or "I know" is dismissive. Saying nothing is sullen and bitchy. So how is one supposed to respond to feedback in such a way that the coach understands "I am acknowledging what you have said and I promise you that I do want to do the thing you want me to do, and I'm not allowed to say that I can't do it but I don't want you to think I'm just willfully NOT doing it, but right now my brain/foot coordination hasn't gotten to that point."

    2. I stole the statement "I'll do my best" from the old Iron Chef Japan. I don't say it ironically. :)