Saturday, October 24, 2015

Are you a sore loser?

Losing is pretty sucky. I know that from a young age we are told "don't be a sore loser." Who hasn't heard that? Whether or not we're good at losing, or good at dealing with losing, we're going to have to face it in roller derby. The nature of our sport is to have a winner and a loser and some of the time, you are going to lose. So how do you reign in that sore loser instinct?
Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami

1. Congratulate the winners immediately. Don't wait, because that old saying of attitude is gratitude is true. High five the winners, shake their hands, and tell them congrats. You might not mean it, but do it right right right away. Telling the winners congratulation helps take the spotlight off of you at that moment so you can go and nurse your wounds without the world judging your immediate reaction. Unfortunately, people do judge us. In derby, we don't always have the benefit of a nice, quiet locker room where we can possibly sulk or have some privacy. Even if you don't feel like slapping hands at the end of the game, just do it. People notice when you don't partake of the ritual.

2. It's ok to be mad or upset or whatever. Nobody said you can't be pissed off about losing a game; it's ok to be mad and disappointed. In fact, if you weren't disappointed in losing, you probably weren't busting your ass during practice. You are allowed to feel bad about a loss, but feelings aren't actions. Don't ACT on your feelings, but you are allowed to have them. The winners are allowed to have feelings of pride, so the losers of a game can feel disappointment, anger and sadness.

3. Give yourself a buffer. It's hard to work through negative emotions at an after party where people are celebrating, drinking, and carousing. If you need space, give yourself some space. There have been times in my derby career when I didn't go to an afterparty because I didn't want to be a smoldering wet blanket so to speak.  Sometimes you can create a safe buffer space at an after party with quieter people, or teammates who understand that you need some time to get over the loss.

4. Consider what kind of impact this loss has on your reality. Are you going to get a smaller paycheck? Nope. Are you going to be punished? Nope. We used to kid around and say "we're docking your pay" when someone was taking a loss particularly hard. Yes rankings count. Yes hard work and practice counts, but still in the end, it's not cancer. It's a game. It doesn't change who you are as a human being, unless you let it.

5. Celebrate your victories, even if they were small. It is a rare thing to play a game without any redeeming moments. You know you did something right during the game you lost. Pay attention to the things you did that were positive and worth celebrating. Whether it was sticking with your wall, performing a functional juke or even a killer plow stop. Don't forget the good things you and your team did, even if you lost.

6. Remember, we learn more from losing than winning. It sucks but it's true. I was listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me today, and he lost the game they made him play. They were giving him a bit of a hard time, but he said "If I didn't get those questions wrong, I wouldn't have learned anything today." He's one of the smartest people in popular culture, and if he can accept and learn from being wrong, you can learn from losing a game. How many times has your team won a game and you thought "It just clicked." What did you learn from the magical "clicking." Nothing repeatable, at least not as repeatable as the lessons you learn from loss.

Still, losing isn't fun at all, but you can have a different attitude about it. Learn from your losses and let them make you mighty, instead of tearing you down.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Do You Suck at Communicating?

Ah Dell! Photo by A Bot Named Tsunami
The longer I've been in derby, the more I am convinced that every problem a league has comes down to a problem in communications. Teammates not getting along? Communication issues. Committees not being productive? I'm going to bet that someone isn't communicating to the other members. Someone is butthurt? It's probably a communication issue.

Communication is tough under perfect circumstances, and when you add physical interactions, endurance issues, and just sheer fatigue, communication is one of those skills that just takes a veritable beating. It's hard to remind ourselves that we all want the same things; we want our leagues to be strong, healthy and a great place to be. Too bad our mouths get in the way sometimes!

Want to get better at communicating in your league? Follow these suggestions, and if you follow them in real life you might see improvements all across your daily interactions.

1. Know that people come in one of four flavors when it comes to communicating in groups. Nobody is just one of these types by themselves, but when we interact in groups we tend to shake out as one of these four types of people.
  • "Why?" people want all the reasons for doing something. "Why are we doing this drill?" "Why are we doing this particular strategy?" "Why aren't we taking a water break now?" Why? Why? If you aren't a why person, dealing with the constant questions can seem like they're questioning your authority, but really, that's just how their minds work. Know that one in four of your teammates might be a why person, so be ready for the barrage of why questions when you introduce something new to the league. Don't get miffed with the why people; their questions can make you reexamine why you're making the decisions that you are.

  • "What?" people want all the facts about it. What people aren't as in your face as why people, but they do want to know all about the new thing you've introduced. What people tend to like minutiae too, so if you can come up with some interesting facts about the new strategy, like it was invented by the Texas Rollergirls to combat something Gotham was doing, they might take to the strategy faster. When What people are engaged and interested in something, they want to know all the things!

  • "How?" people want only the information they need to get it done. How people are pretty no nonsense and just want enough info to get the task completed. They're very task oriented and tend not to care about the trivia or the why your league is doing something. How people are excellent to have on a committee because they are doers! How people tend not to want to think about the consequences; they just want to get shit done. They also may find the what if, why and what people to be super annoying. Get. Shit. Done.

  • "What if?" people are more interested in the consequences of doing it. Rare as they are, what if people are excellent to have around in a league because they are long term planners and worriers about the future. When you have what if people on your committee, you can trust that they will be considering the future issues with what your league is attempting to do.  They can also totally derail a committee from making a decision because they have their thoughts too far into the future.

2. Know what you're good at and what your weaknesses are. Some people are natural face to face communicators, while others are much better at the written word and need to think out what they're going. Some people despise email, but if your team uses emails or some kind of forum to communicate, you have to check your emails! Some people believe that checking emails once a day is sufficient; I don't agree with this at all because sometimes things come up that are time sensitive! You might be missing an important announcement if you're only checking your league email once a day. If you suck at checking emails, know that this is a weakness, and force yourself to try to be more diligent. If you are terrible at face to face communication, then you need to attempt to engage the face to face communicators in person. It won't be easy, but if everyone is aware of their weaknesses and is working on them, communication is bound to improve.

3. Don't talk when someone else is talking. It's so basic, and yet we all are guilty of it at some point in a meeting or a practice. We get snarky, or tired, or we develop fatigue based ADHD. Derby definitely doesn't bring out the patience in everyone, and it takes patience to listen to people.  Even harder is not ignoring what the person who is talking is saying because you're concentrating on what you're going to say next. Nobody said derby was easy, so should you be surprised that communicating in derby can be difficult? Nope.

4. Don't blurt out the first thing that comes to your head. Think about what your statement adds to the discussion. When you're hanging out with your friends, sometimes blurting out the funny thought is amusing and refreshing, but when you're on a task, such as practice, committee meetings, or BOD meetings, blurting out and unformed statement will most likely derail the meeting. People will listen to you better if they think you're putting thought into what you say. 

5. Don't withdraw from the discussion. People who withdraw are very obviously displaying their distaste for the subject, or the group or the opinion of the group. Being withdrawn is a huge red flag that you are not happy, but you don't want to communicate and try to resolve the issue that is making you unhappy! Withdrawing is a very passive aggressive step people take when they are basically throwing a quiet tantrum. Please don't withdraw from a discussion; it has consequences for your team's ability to trust you and rely on you. Crossing your arms, leaning away from the person talking, or putting your hands on your hips can all be non verbal signs that you're checking out of the flow of conversation.

This list is not comprehensive, but it may help you and your league think about the communication issues you have; I'm betting you have at least a few, since most groups of humans do. No league is going to be perfectly in synch at all times, but if we can work at communication, we might cut back on the issues leagues face.

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    Sunday, October 4, 2015

    People you will meet in derby.

    Derby is such a diverse sport when it comes to personalities; it takes all kinds to make a team successful, and even more to make a league successful. After asking for input on this subject on Facebook, the floodgates opened! Some people took it as an opportunity to complain about some stereotypical people you run into derby, while others sang the praises of those amazing people who just make derby life worth all of the effort. Here are some of my favorites below, and thank you everyone for contributing! And now, the good, the bad, and the others!

    1. The Derby Gypsy- This is a player who moves from one league to the next, either because she's just a nomad in real life, or looking for something she just hasn't found yet. Either she wants to step up to a more competitive league, or a closer league, or a newer league. Maybe she just likes to travel, but the Derby Gypsy can be a breath of fresh air in your league, or a disruptive force; it just depends.

    2. The Brett Favre- The Brett Favre is the great player who retires, unretires, retires again, comes back and just can't make up her mind. Retiring from derby is a huge issue that some people seriously struggle with, but the mistake that the Brett Favre makes is announcing every time she retires. Just take a break, or if you do decide to retire for real this time, do it quietly. Or, just don't use the word retirement!

    3. The Prodigy- The Prodigy comes in as fresh meat to the sport, but does everything well and is destined to be on the A-team. Part of you wants to hate her, but she's nice and humble, and just naturally better at skating than other people. You're not in competition with her, but you can use her success to inspire yourself to train harder!

    4. The Rudy- The Rudy is the opposite of the Prodigy when it comes to natural talent, but The Rudy is one of the hardest working skaters in your league and will develop skills and talent through sheer repetition and practice! People tend to underestimate The Rudy, but don't! They're very inspiring teammates to have. Hopefully each and every one of you reading this has The Rudy as your spirit animal.

    Curve Appeal is our Grace Under Fire. Photo by Kathryn Wall
    5. The Grace Under Fire - When a serious injury happens, she's right there coaching the injured person through, telling you what needs to be done, and generally kicking ass. The Grace Under Fire is a great person to be on the Board as well, since she is the one that tends to see situations without any of that pesky emotional thinking happening. Anyone can be The Grace Under Fire: coaches, NSOs, refs, skaters or volunteers. Your league is truly blessed if you have more than one!

    6. The Angel Minion- This is person who loves the sport but has decided that skating isn't for them, so they volunteer A LOT.  Read this three times folks, we could NOT have roller derby without Angel Minions. Nope. No way. No way in hell! They support the sport, put a lot of effort into running a game as a ref or announcer or volunteer or NSO, but they don't do it for personal glory. Make sure you're appreciating your Angel Minions, or they might go extinct.

    7. The Bad Seed (aka The Storm Cloud)- These are skaters who come into practice is a craptacular mood and proceed to infect everyone else with their shitty mood or attitude. Sometimes they say snarky things under their breath, or they make faces, or they just give up in a huff and sit out drills. I'm a big fan of not bringing your problems to practice, but some people just cannot separate their personal issues from practice time. Hopefully The Bad Seed in your league either figures out that she's bringing down the rest of the league and changes her attitude, or she'll eventually decide she just doesn't like derby.

    8. The Ghost- The Ghost teammate is supposed to be an active skater, but only shows up on picture day or when the media is coming to practice to do a story. The Ghost really doesn't hurt a league, but some skaters really find them irritating. I like to give Ghosts the benefit of the doubt; maybe this is exactly what makes them happy about roller derby? Who am I to judge?

    9. The Lip Service- The Lip Service makes statements like " we all need to cross train and we should all be committed to this!" but when the time comes she's not there, or she's busy, or excuse excuse excuse. Lip Service people always get others fired up, but I can't help but roll my eyes a bit when I hear them be all gung ho about something, especially when 99% of the time they won't be a part of the activity, no matter what it is.

    Glenn Hurr, the Equipment Guru.
    10. The Equipment Guru- They can tell you everything about every wheel, bearing, and/or pad, and they have the tools and toolbox to save your skates when they decide to fall apart right before the big game. They also usually have the perfect set of wheels to let your jammers borrow if they didn't bring the right ones for the floor you're on. Every team needs an Equipment Guru, but skaters should LEARN from them and become responsible for their own skate maintenance. Don't worry! The Equipment Guru would love to talk to you about gear for hours, and hours, and hours.