Sunday, March 29, 2015

Merit Badges of Derby Doom!

I was driving through the neighborhood the other day and saw a gaggle (flock? swarm? huddle?) of Girl Scouts doing some community service project and it got me thinking about derby. I mean, what doesn't get me thinking about derby at this point in my life? Anyway, I started thinking about all of the merit badges the Scout organizations have for people to earn and then I started thinking about the anti-merit badges people seem hell bent on earning in derby. Remember, you do NOT want to earn these merit badges!

1. Eye rolling merit badge- Congratulations! You have earned the eye rolling merit badge! Your eye rolls are amazing, especially when the coaches try to introduce a new skill or strategy. Your eye rolling is magnificent when you instantly reject feedback, so you have rightfully earned this badge for your sash! Wear it proudly, and try not to get dizzy.

2. Consistently the last person to get geared up merit badge- My oh my, you are dedicated dawdler if you earned this badge! Your determination to be the last skater on the floor has not gone unnoticed by your captains and coaches.  They can tell you are really in for the long haul on this one! Just sit there and admire this merit badge while the rest of your team is warming up.

3. I'm not trying that hard merit badge- You definitely have the right attitude for this badge! Don't try your hardest at practice; you might not do as well as you think you can, and you must save face no matter what.  Effort is for suckers, right?

4. I'm sitting out of endurance because, I can merit badge- Oh you, you're so amazing during scrimmage, but when somebody even mentions the word "endurance" you're sitting down and taking your gear off. Why bother with endurance, you skate ok, right?

5. It's all about me me me merit badge- Me me me me me! Let me sing the song of my people! MEEEEEEE! Did you see what I did there? Look at how awesome that block I made was! What do you mean my wall was good...did you see what I did?

6. The cameo merit badge- Hey, why go to practice when you're awesome? The rest of your team needs to the practice, not you! Who cares if they can get better with you being there; that's not your problem, right?

7. Refuse to change merit badge- This is how you've always played derby, and anyone who gives you feedback be damned! You've been playing derby for x amount of years, and how dare someone tell you how to play this sport you've been owning! Learning new strategies is for chumps.

8. Creating drama merit badge- This badge signifies your artistry in creating drama where there originally was none! Creation is the highest achievement in human existence, and drama is one of the noble pursuits. Derby isn't fun without drama, so we're lucky to have you!

Yes, I could have gone on forever, but the point is not to want to earn one of these merit badges of doom. Derby can be tough enough without being that kind of teammate.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

what your helmet choices say about you (not serious)

Most of the time when I write about helmets, I drag out my soap box, get my megaphone charged, and shout about head injuries until I'm hoarse. But today, I'm going to psychoanalyze you by what helmet you wear; after being in derby for seven years, I can tell you that the color and type of helmet you choose for yourself tells me all about you.

Ok, not really, but it's fun. Two things, this is done for fun, and if your team skates with a certain color of helmet, that doesn't count. It has to be the helmet you're drawn to without team alliances impacting you.

So here we go.

White helmets: You probably see yourself as the good guy, and you want other people to see you that way too. White helmets, you need to not worry about what other people think of you so much. By the way, you should call your parents. They're worried about you playing derby, and they'd love to hear from you.

Purple Helmets: Perverts. Nothing more needs to be said.

Blue Helmets: You like to dance to the beat of your own drummer, and sometimes brush your teeth in the shower. If you are a ref who wears a blue helmet by choice, you're probably in your first or second year of reffing; you've got long way to go, baby.

Pink Helmets:  My bet is you're a Lisa Frank fan and probably laugh at fart jokes. You wear pink because you're making a stand that pink can be tough too, even though everyone else hate your stand and your pink helmet. Your coach makes you be the pivot just so she can cover up your helmet. Go stand next to the purple helmets.

Green Helmets: All people who choose to wear green helmets are insane. The brighter the green, the more cuckoo you absolutely are. If you are drawn to dark green helmets, you're just a little you maybe have too many cats, and if you're wearing a neon green helmet, you probably want to be a cat. You also probably like to jam. (crazypants)
Look at those control freaks and the crazy helmet.

Red Helmets: You are a secret poet who writes long and moody odes to your derby blisters. You'd rather read a book in bed than scroll through Facebook. All people who wear red helmets are closeted control freaks. Don't hide in the closet anymore, we all know your dirty little secret,  bossy pants.

Brown Helmets: You are the anti Elvis and the anti-unicorn. Your favorite food is tacos and for fun, you play naked croquet at midnight with your neighbors. You probably love blocking one on one and your favorite sound in the world is a crunchy plow stop.

Yellow Helmets: Oh my, you are a special little snowflake, aren't you? You love the spotlight, and are known to break out into the song "Everything is Awesome" while waiting for a jam to start. You worry a lot about dental health and really wonder if you shouldn't floss more. You love to flash your winning smile when you're lead jammer.

Multicolor or patterned Helmets: We didn't want to tell you this, but everyone is sick of your knock knock jokes in the locker room. Also, your impression of Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own, is tired, so so tired. Multicolor helmet wearers are capable of playing every position on the track, but they are drawn to the outside for some reason. Also, they tend to be hoarders of derby gear. Throw out those four year old mouth guards, and maybe you'll have more room in your gear bag.

Black helmets: Black is the basic girl helmet color. You like pumpkin latte spiced coffee, yoga pants, and selfies. It's ok, go back to your Pinterest account and skip the rest of this article; you'll feel better. I'm sure there is a Buzzfeed quiz for you to take out there.

Hey, this was done in good fun, and I hope I made some of you chuckle. I've worn several different helmets in derby, and now am sporting a black hockey helmet. I don't care what color it is that you decide to wear, as long as it is a protective one. Remember, you need to have a functioning brain to be able to appreciate silly humor.

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."

Sunday, March 1, 2015

An appeal for advice about returning from an injury

Derby causes injuries, and it's not always an easy or realistic thing for someone to expect to come back to this sport without anxiety. This anonymous poster has reached out to me to ask the derby community for advice. I think we all could spend some time pondering injuries, because our chances of being injured in this sport are pretty high. Recently, I broke a bone in my hand during a bout, and even though it was a minor injury compared to some, I felt vulnerable and mortal. I debated whether my hand injury was a gentle nudge from fate that it was time to wrap up my skating career. I'm still skating, for now, but major injuries do throw us for a loop. If you have any advice or a story to share, please post in the comments below.

Advice for Post-Injury Anxiety- by Anonymous

I am interested in feedback from the derby community - maybe we have skaters with an advanced understanding of psychology that can offer more details on this subject. I’m willing to take all the input I can get. First a little background…

I have returned from derby after a 2nd lower leg injury. Both injuries were freak accidents, like most roller derby injuries. I’ve watched a few people come back from similar injuries. In some ways, the physical healing of a 2nd ankle was easier with experience. With each break, I went through two surgeries, managed to keep my job, did a full course of PT, worked hard and came back when I knew my body was as ready as it was going to ever be. I’ve found there’s a period of relearning to trust your body, and that can be very challenging. The first time I injured myself, I was fairly new to derby and the return was a long process but in a good way - I had a long time of scrimmaging and conditioning before I bouted. I was confidently charging at goals without a second thought, but bouted only a few times before injuring the opposite leg at practice when someone fell across my leg. I never considered for a second it would happen again, to me.

The mental process is throwing me for a loop this time around. I trust my body and skills much less, even with plenty of support, feedback, and some skills intact.  I am again cleared to bout in a comparatively short period of time, and the reality is I need to polish up on some basic skills, form, and endurance. This is manageable, but it’s hard to focus and gain momentum. I am so haunted. I’ve had a life time of athletic injuries and I’ve never felt so affected. I’ve usually been able to get on the floor and work it out, and was in the process of doing just that, finding some pleasure in feeling like I could improve with each and every practice. I witnessed someone get hurt recently and I have had a hard time shaking the memory. The thought of following in her footsteps and earning a third break creeps in to casual thoughts throughout my day - whether I’m standing, moving, or sitting. I look at my gym bag, skate bag, whatever, and my chest clenches up with anxiety, down a spiral of what-if scenarios.  Progress in skills can’t keep away fluke accidents, and suddenly reasoning also sounds like bargaining to allow myself to continue playing a sport I love when I can strike all this internal drama. Someone else getting hurt has no bearing on my own health and future. But it’s like your own worst nightmare staring in to your face - one I lived through twice before. Just writing this copy has been enough to make me feel like an elephant is sitting on my chest.

How do I get past this?

I am seeking therapy, but I’m also interested in the perspective from the derby community, because it’s hard to find a therapist that gets it. It’s not easy to talk to people, I don’t want to appear compromised to teammates, and we all have our own shit going on. But those closest to me do know I’ve got something going on, despite the game face. I’ve never been a fraidy cat, and that is disorienting in itself. But now everything feels fragile. I mean, going to the gym or stepping down off a curb can inspire doubt, and I’ve been upright and mobile for six months, fully functional. And maybe talking about this, asking some of the tough questions, will help someone else, too.

I have been pretty much terrified of life for the last month or so, with my own nightmares creeping in to my waking thoughts almost constantly. I've tried to skate it off. I've tried to hibernate it off. I don’t want to go through life like this much less skate like this - and it’s creeping in to other areas of life. I'm running out of ideas. So, derby people, what would you recommend? Can anyone relate?