(New) Beginnings – How to grow as a skater

Keep pushing forward (credit @Quickdraw photography)

Hi all!

Well, it’s been a while since I put pen to paper, and wrote about my derby experiences. I had a very interesting season last year, and am just starting this 2018 season so I thought it’d be a good time to check in.

Last time I wrote on this blog was one year ago. At this time last year, I had not played as part of the travel B team yet. I was figuring out how to skate safely with my wonky right ankle that I kept spraining over and over and over and over, and I also needed to fix my plantar faciatiis in my left foot. We had our first home game, and I played despite having pulled a muscle in my groin a few days earlier, so I did not perform great that night. In the grand scheme of things though, I honestly wasn’t sure if I was cut for derby, or if derby was cut for me. I always felt a bit out of my comfort zone, not because I couldn’t sustain the physicality of the game itself, but mostly because I did not see progress in my own performance. I questioned a lot whether I should primarily jam or block. I did not see results that reinforced or built any kind of confidence as a jammer, and I did not really know how to block, so I felt like I was stalling.

Obviously this kind of self mental assessment of my growth as an athlete within the league left me extremely scared. I would not say that I had lost my motivation, but I had too many questions which did not have answers, and I found it hard not to know what to do. I went to a league mate, and talked things out with her. She had more experience, and understood my doubts and fears. She told me straight off the bat to keep working as a jammer. I had the endurance, I could move my feet and run on my skates, and I had proven in the past that I could be a valuable asset to the team and score points. The rest, she said, would come with practice.

You know I always feel defeated when I watch other skaters around me progress faster than I think I am progressing. I really truly feel sometimes like I’m skating the same. Whether it’s a home game, or an away game, even a scrimmage during practice, I had to learn to reset my brain, and shut up the voice that kept telling me I was not good enough.

Everything starts with your mental game. Whether you are a freshie, and learn transitions or are desperately trying to pass the 27/5, or you have been skating for years and are prepping for a big tournament, if you keep doubting yourself, you won’t go anywhere. Skills take time to perfect. They take practice. Yet, it’s not just your physical skills that require practice. Your mental skills require time too! And they probably need more attention that you think they do.

I can judge my performance all day long. I can be hard on myself all day long. I can ruin an entire practice or game just by focusing on all the negatives. Meanwhile, I’ve grown so much as a skater, and I forget how much. Three years ago, I could not skate, less hit people while on skates. I could not stop. I could not turn around. I could not go backwards. I could not exercise for hours, hitting, doing laps, jumping… What do you mean cross-train? I thought I was fit when I joined derby, pfffft. Give me a break.

I forget all of those things, and I take them for granted, instead of looking at them like gains, positives, things I should be proud of. I focus so hard on the results, instead of the journey, I can destroy hours and hours of work in a matter of seconds. I found myself time and time again wanting to quit all together because I did not feel up to par with that imaginary player I attempted to be in thirty seconds.

It’s been three years, and I am now starting to feel comfortable on my skates. It’s been three years, and I now enjoy skating outside, any surface, any terrain, anything skateable I’ll skate it. It’s been three years, and only now do I not hyperventilate like a maniac before a game. It’s been three years since I decided to do this thing, and I’m only now starting to hit my true potential.

Do you think I would have hit my potential on week 2 of Freshie practice? Do you think it would have been wise to quit after failing Minimum Skills testing? Do you think I should have packed my gear away after not making it to 27 laps in five short minutes?

There are times where I want to kick my helmet across the rink. There are times where I feel so down, because I know what I can do, and I didn’t have the chance to showcase it. I feel so stupid, so slow, so negative… I have to stop. I have to consciously tell myself to shut up.

There is no perfection in this sport. There is no perfection anywhere. The secret to awesomeness is practice. The secret to having a grand time is to shut the negative voice up, and be present. Be in the moment. Practice that move countless times, and think of it as if it were the very first time you were doing it. Feel the response of your body with every stride, and gather this information as a learning experience, not as a “let’s see how much I can beat myself up today” experience.

Take a breath. No matter how advanced you are as a skater, you will never stop improving. You should never stop improving. You should never rest on the laurels of past achievements. And I’m saying this because you’re going to have good and bad days. One team is going to be easier to beat than another. One night you will feel like you have energy for days, and another night you won’t even want to put on your skates. You will get injured, and have to rehab from that. Recovery will take time, a lot of time, sometimes too much time.

Just embrace it. All of it. Don’t stay stuck on stupid. Don’t tell yourself you suck, and quit. If you love this sport, you will stick around. You will overcome doubt, fears, frustration. You will cry with your teammates, or alone, you will laugh and hug, and jump, and you will get pissed off, but you will experience all of it, and you’ll learn from it.

Not long after the season opener home game last year, I was rostered to play my very first game as part of the travel team. I was on the ALT list, until a jammer couldn’t make it, and I took her spot. I jammed that night. I got two back to back track cuts during my first jam, then I didn’t get lead, and then I got lead twice, and scored twice. Do you think I should have stopped after getting these two track cuts? I was scared to death. I really thought I couldn’t do it. But I took a breath, and I said to myself to shut up and try again. Start fresh at the next jam, and try.

You won’t win every time. You won’t be spectacular every time. But you will grow oh so much.

I am a Fresh Meat mom now on my league. I teach new skaters how to skate, how to fall, how to do all the basics. Looking at challenges from the perspective of a brand new derby player, reminds me of my own, and shows me how much progress I truly made. This is not a competition of who can show off their skills the best. This is an opportunity for you to learn to trust yourself, and love yourself, because your body can do so many amazing things out there.

Keep moving forward. You got this.

Keeks

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