Monday, December 7, 2015

"Never Good Enough" By Dave Angle

 Ever wonder what your coach is thinking? Here's a window into their thought processes.

As an off skates/bench coach, I have run into many similar challenges with skaters. The "I can't"'s or "that doesn't apply to me" seem to come into play regularly, but the one that I find most challenging is "I'm not that good". There is the player who has worked hard, for years in some cases, and is a strong member of the team but doesn't think they deserve the accolades or praise put upon them. I'm not talking about a humble player who works hard and keeps their head down. I am speaking of the player who will spend more time beating themselves up for the mistimed block in the 3rd jam and how that cost the team 3 points instead of celebrating the devastating hit they laid upon an incoming jammer to save the game for their team (assuming they don't tell themselves the hit was weak and that they should be better).
Dave Angle
Off skates/Bench coach of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roller Radicals

I understand that it takes a while for each of us to believe we have acquired the skills we have strived to obtain for so long, especially as our goals become loftier and harder to reach. For certain individuals though, this particular hurdle is quite daunting. What is it that holds certain people back from believing they are who we see them as? Is it the vice-like-grip of perfection? Perhaps a crushing self esteem that initially led them to seek out the strength and resilience that roller derby offers?

Multitudes of past experiences can make a person see themselves as a weaker representation of who they are (or a stronger representation, though ego and bravado are a far different topic), but how do you help break someone of a (possibly crippling) mental block? How do you convince someone that what you see isn't being viewed through rose-colored lenses? How do you pat someone on the back without their feeling patronized when all you're trying to show them is the utmost appreciation of a job well done? 

The most successful route I've seen comes through a combination of strong teammates and time. A person alone will find it quite difficult (nearly impossible in some cases) to change patterns that have been ingrained in them for years, decades possibly. The love and encouragement of a team can NOT be overstated in the importance of this process. When a rookie cites you as the catalyst to their jumping their own first daunting hurdle or a seasoned vet requests you on their wall because they know you make them stronger, these are just a few of the many examples of how a seemingly insignificant action can create a step, and consequent steps, to helping a teammate finally climb the ladder to positive self-recognition. 

I pride myself on being honest with my players, sometimes brutally, so, when I pay compliments, it comes from a person who has watched you fall countless times and silently roots for you (unless this is one of those "rare" instances where I use my outside voice) to get back up each and every time. It comes from a person who is bursting with joy on the car ride home that you finally had your epiphany on stabilizing or jumped your first apex. Your coaches see more of your actions than you think, and any good coach will make sure you know what they see. Be them good or bad, a coach's comments will always come with the underlying belief that you WILL conquer any and all obstacles in your path. Heed their words, and let those words help light the path to your own enlightenment; and during those mentally tumultuous times use the belief they have in you! Don't be afraid to trust their belief in you when your own wavers.

In regard to these skaters, it's a hell of a lot easier to teach a skill than it is to teach them to believe they ARE what we see. It's also far easier to learn most skills than it is to accept your accomplishments. I'm here to tell you, my frustration in seeing you not give yourself the credit you deserve is at least equal to the frustration you feel for "not living up to expectations." Where were you 6 months ago? A year ago? The start of your fresh meat class? Now, look at how many hurdles you have overcome: the seemingly impossible, the unforgiving and the ones you attacked relentlessly until you succeeded....... Tell me you have not lived up to expectations!

The mental aspect of derby is just as integral to your success as the physical aspect. Just as you would celebrate passing MSR's or scoring the game winning point with your teammates after practice or at an after-party (whether it be with a beer or even a vegan smoothie of some sort), make sure to celebrate each of your accomplishments with yourself. Use this accomplishment as a reminder that, even if it seems like small potatoes to you or you didn't live up to your own expectations, there is someone somewhere telling themselves this same thing (passing those MSR's or scoring that game winning point) is the greatest thing that has ever happened to them. 

I can appreciate and expect the drive to succeed and the continued fight for excellence in my players, but there is a line that you cannot allow yourself to cross. That is the line between a healthy competitive hunger and an insatiable, unattainable goal set used to hold yourself to impossible standards. Give yourself some credit, because, if we're giving it to you, then it is well deserved.