The problem of motivation and positive self thought.

I’ve been involved in roller derby for four years now. I’m not mins passed. I’ve not played any games. I’ve had a handful of scrimmages.

I start to ask myself why do I bother? Perhaps this isn’t for me. If I haven’t managed it in four years that might be a sign that I’m never meant to make it. Why do I keep coming back to this thing every weekend for four years when I’m still not allowed to play the game I’ve been training that long to play?

Then I realise why the hell wouldn’t I?

I don’t know what I’d do without this thing. I love it. I look forward to it every week. I’m surrounded by awesome people because of it. Why wouldn’t I keep at it?

I’m not bad at derby. The only thing holding me back is laps. I hate laps with a passion. My friend says “it’s almost like a right of passage” but I feel like it’s a skill that’s not entirely relevant in the game as it is now. I can strategise, I can block, I can even jam. I can play four jams on. I can play every jam on. The only thing holding me back is, now, one single lap.

It doesn’t matter whether or not I think that’s rubbish, the important thing is that I love this sport and I am good at it. It’s just hard to remember that when you watch so many people pass through before you. 

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There’s no sorry in roller derby.

It’s been a while since I made a blog post. I’m writing this one in reaction to a conversation I’ve just had. Roller derby is starting to gain a wider audience in England. For as long as I’ve been involved, leagues have been asking about how to get people involved. Now things seem to be changing. Roller derby is featured in the current This Girl Can campaign, so more people are seeing it, more organisations want to know about it and more people are curious about what we’re up to. Our recent home game had more people attending than I’ve ever seen before and our new intake last Sunday was huge. Almost intimidating!

When people first find roller derby, they tend to get really caught up in it. It’s a new exciting thing that you love and you can’t get enough of and you want to read everything about. And you’ll see things like this.

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(This is from an Etsy page which, unfortunately, sold it a long time ago!)

This is a really empowering statement when you start this sport. In England, we apologise for everything. I’ve been known to apologise to sections of walls when I’ve hit them with a bag. As a sport dominated by women, a lot of individuals struggle when they start roller derby with the contact side of things. Traditionally and stereotypically, women aren’t meant to be physical or aggressive, they aren’t supposed to barge into other people and take up space or play physical, contact sports. They aren’t supposed to be particularly competitive. In some representations, they aren’t even supposed to truly get along with other women. This is a lot to overcome! A lot of people start this sport and apologise to everyone they bump in to, accidentally or on purpose. They hold themselves back in fear of hurting other people or themselves. As a sport, we need to actively discourage this – it would be exhausting to apologise to everyone you made contact with and it’s unnecessary. We come to training on purpose as rational adults to take part in a contact sport. We literally signed up for this, no one needs to apologise for doing what we expect them to do. It’s hard to communicate all that, but it’s easy to say there’s no sorry in roller derby.

 

I don’t like this statement.

I’ve just apologised in advance to my league for myself today, simply so that I don’t have to do it for myself when I’m there. I’m ill. Only with a cold, but when combined with asthma colds make me very weak and very useless. This is exactly what I said and my lovely beautiful wonderful supportive team mates said it’s fine, I don’t need to apologise. But I do. We’re a team and I cannot do my best for my team today. That’s fine, I’ll still do as good as I can, but I might have to sit out of drills or drop out half way through so I cannot be what my team needs me to be today. I know not everyone will share that idea, I wouldn’t expect everyone to, but it’s important to me that I apologise.

I think there’s sorry in roller derby when you aren’t the best you can be for your team.

In our team, rule number 1 is DBAD – Don’t be a d***. I think there’s sorry in roller derby when you are a d*** (because we all are sometimes!)

There’s sorry in roller derby when you do something dangerous, accidentally or on purpose.

There’s sorry in roller derby when you hurt your teammates, even if it is a great, perfectly legal hit. (I’ve known people to break bones from great hits and they’re generally happy to celebrate that fact later, but apologies are always appropriate first.)

I’m a firm believer that there is indeed some sorry in roller derby and I think that needs to be stated as much as we encourage skaters not to apologise for playing the game. We are a team and we are there to support each other, part of that is recognising when we’ve done wrong and need to make amends.

#DBAD is a phrase everyone can live by, however!

Running

It’s been a while!

I’m trying to exercise more this year to try and finally pass my minimum skills. I’m so close! Now up to 25/26 laps in 5 minutes, so all I need is those last two laps. I’ve managed to pick this up with no effort other than working as a teacher and spending all my time on my feet running after small children, which got me thinking, what could I do if I actually tried?
It’s not that I don’t enjoy exercising, it’s more that with my training course and my career choice I end up coming home at 6ish every night too exhausted to do anything else. Judging by my fellow trainee teachers, it’s a miracle I manage to make time for myself to see my boyfriend and go to training. When I think about it, I have plenty of time in the evening to do something, even just half an hour of something.  It’s all about habits. So I’m taking up Trebles challenge of #exerciseeveryday and one of the things I’m trying is a Nike+ Run Club program.

To say I run would be a massive exaggeration. I mostly walk with the occassionally jog. But I have done parkrun before quite a few times, so I know I can cover 5k on a good day. I’ve never done street running, mostly because I am terrified. Every time I think of it, my anxiety cranks right up and starts catastrophic ingredients.  What if I’m hit by a car? What if I twist my ankle? What if someone stabs me or a dog mauls me or godzilla suddenly comes to rain down hell on my tiny town? All ridiculous worries but all very hard to overcome nonetheless. I asked for help and found that I’m not the only one who worries about this. And either omw advice and encouraging words I’ve made it out for 2 runs this week.

My first run looked like this. A solid walk with a bit of jogging! However, I was put of the door and going. It also helped me find a route I was relatively comfortable with. It was extremely icy, so part of the issue was a fear of slipping over. On top of that, I had a horrendous sore throat that felt like I’d swallowed a golf ball every time I swallowed! I wanted to start, but I had to start easy.

Yesterday, I went to the gym with my boyfriend who showed me how to deadlift. I managed a rough total of 20 reps (over a few sets) at 40kg. I also did cable rows and goblet squats, so this morning my body is full of aches and pains. Despite this, I made it out for my ‘benchmark’ run.

I managed much more jogging/running this time! The time recorded by the app is longer but I think I actually completed my mile faster – about 20 seconds at the end was spent wrestling to get my phone out of the arm band to end my workout!

My reason for this post was to make some notes that won’t fit in my fitness diary, because I noticed some progress and struggles that can’t be shown by these statistics.

  • My breathing was way off today. Maybe that’s because it’s cold and that’s upsetting my lungs or because I drank a whole bottle of wine last night, who knows! Maybe it was because I was pushing myself harder. I found myself coughing a lot!
  • I jogged lots more. I also jogged for longer than I thought I’d be able to. A few times I actually surprised myself that I was still going.
  • I managed to make my route a full mile so now I can measure how long a mile takes me ( and work up to being able to run a full mile!)
  • Despite my thigh based DOMS, my calves, shins and ankles aren’t hurting as much as they did after my first run. I’ll regret saying this tomorrow, I’m sure.
  • Running didn’t make those DOMS go away but it did soothe them for a bit. That’s important to remember in the future when I’m moaning about not being able to move.

Hopefully this continues! I moan about it but I’m actually really enjoying it. Here’s to 2017!

Mental Game

Sundays training was an interesting one. I had my first exam of my final year yesterday, and it was the one I was most worried about. Partly because it was on Maoist China, and I’m of the firm belief that no one really understands what happened – most of the official records are heavily locked down still, and even then, a lot of them are falsified or just simply not the full story, the people who lived through it barely seem to understand what went down and why, and a lot of the explanations for why things happened comes back to “because Mao wanted it”. And partly because it was our “special subject”; in my university, third year history students have to pick one module that goes super in depth into one topic, looking at primary sources and so on, so I had no idea what would be on it, or if I’d read enough to be able to answer any of the questions. I spent last week revising everything I could, but by Friday my brain was mush and I physically couldn’t read any more (no, really, I couldn’t read words), so I took the weekend off. Saturday, I hopped in a car with a few of my fellow skaters and went to High Wycombe for Big Bucks High Rollers’ B Team tournament ‘Diamonds are Forever’. That was super fun, and so interesting to watch! And Sunday, I went off to training.

My mind definitely wasn’t in it. There was a lot of focus on working on personal skills, rather than in partners or packs, and I think that allowed me to get too far into my own head. I started strong, but as the session went on I felt increasingly worse, and ended up having to take myself out to have a little sob in a corner. Luckily, I have wonderful team mates, who were full of hugs and encouraging words and were generally really comforting. Turns out they were right, I didn’t really have much to worry about and the exam went fine, but I couldn’t get out of my own head at that point in time, and everything I did was just reassuring me that I sucked at everything.

It’s funny what effect your brain can have on your physical performance – the more negative I felt about myself and the upcoming week, the more things went wrong for me. I couldn’t do an underpush (something I’ve always struggled with) and then my crossovers wouldn’t work at all, I couldn’t feel either push. My laterals were getting better, and then all of a sudden I could barely turn. Transitions got slower on my good side, and didn’t even exist on my bad one. That was around the time I burst into tears. It’s odd how, when you feel bad about yourself, your brain finds things to confirm that yep, you definitely suck.

However, now the stress cloud has cleared, I can see the positives. Something clicked Sunday that made my laterals so much better than they had been (I think that something is called weight distribution) and I ticked off positional blocking from my minimums. Which means all I need to get scrimmaging is my 25 laps. 3.25 to go!

Back on Track!

(No pun intended. Seriously!)

I’ve been through a tough time since new year as the stress of my last year of university finally caught up with me. My dissertation was due in February and I was massively behind, and that, combined with trying to keep up with my seminars, coursework and the internship I’d applied for back in winter when things weren’t so hectic, left me in a less-than-stable frame of mind. Anxiety is one hell of a bitch. I haven’t stopped skating, and it was, to be honest, the one thing that helped me release (or, at least, ignore for a day) all the concerns I had. I’m coming out the other side of it now (though, with my exams approaching, I’m finding my motivation lacking and my emotions becoming more erratic once again) but I’ve been feeling like I’ve slipped in a lot of areas of life. It’s times like this I’m especially glad to have an amazing supportive boyfriend, who has been the one definite constant in my life for more than six years now, but in all other areas, like academically and in fitness, I feel like I’ve taken a few steps back, and any attempt to move forward again is an uphill battle.

To some extent, it feels like a battle I’m winning, and I’m feeling kind of back on track. It’s hard, my body is constantly exhausted and I have to try and push through that to get anything done, but I feel like I’m doing it, just slowly. Even in derby I felt like I’d almost hit a wall, perhaps because we’ve focused on minimum skills for quite a while, but last week I felt like I was pushing myself and getting something out of it. I’m hoping this is a turn to better times.

So I’m hoping to pick up where I left off from here on. Where did we leave off? We were starting minimum skills testing, I think – I’ve past most of the pre 2013 minimums with the exception of my laps and positional blocking, and my rules test. I’m missing positional blocking because our coaches didn’t see me when they were ticking us off during the drill, and didn’t realise they’d missed me until we’d moved on. I got 41/50 on my rules test, and we need 43 at least. I was mostly tripped up by the wording more than not knowing the answer, and I think I’ll get that next time we try it. So that just leaves my laps. On my last attempt, I managed 21.75, which is a whole lap and a quarter faster than my previous (20.5) I’m getting there. I find my whole body starts to break down when I’m doing laps – my lungs stop working properly and from then out my limbs stop responding so much. I’ll get it. Hopefully soon. I want to get back to blocking and drills and hopefully actual proper scrimmages. That’s exciting!

I’ve also hurt my knee. Doctors tell me it’s a strain, but I’m not convinced in the slightest, and it’s bugging me because, as much as I try to ignore it, it is really holding me back.

I Shouldn’t Play Roller Derby Because… Part 1 – Danger

“I’d like to try roller derby, but it’s so dangerous!”

Our sport has as many safety precautions as your average building site.

Alright, so that’s not true. But there’s a heck of a lot you don’t know about roller derby, because it all goes on behind the scenes. In this post, and any other in the series, I’m going to assume that my audience knows as much about derby as the average person off the street. At most, Hypothetical You has seen a bout once or knows a derby skated. At least, they’ve never even heard of it. In between are the Yous who have watched Whip It, have heard about it from your parents, or asks every derby skater if its anything like Rollerball (no, it’s not). So it might surprise you that safety is a huge thing in roller derby. Skaters train a lot, and new skaters often train for months before they even get near the track to play competitively. The rules that govern the sport are heavily centred on the safety of the skaters – most of the penalties skaters can be given are related to accidental but dangerous actions, and theres limits on where you can hit people and what with to stop people getting hurt. Protective padding, helmets and mouthguards are required and checked by the referees, not only at the start of each game, but even at the end of half time. If your safety gear isn’t up to scratch, you’re not allowed to play.

So first, training. I think a lot of people’s concern of the “danger” of roller derby comes from the thought that they’re just going to be chucked into the type of thing they’ve seen on Whip It or in real bouts and expected to deal with it. In reality, before you even get near competitive derby, you have to pass Minimum Skills Requirements. These are a list of skills set out by WFTDA that new skaters have to be able to do before they are allowed to play, partly in order to keep them safe, and partly so they can keep up with the other skaters. So if you decide to start roller derby, you’ll find yourself starting either what many refer to as a “fresh meat” course – a series of sessions intended to teach you everything you need to know – or a recreational league. Either way, for the first few weeks, you’ll be learning how to skate, fall, turn, stop, and so on. To cut a long story short, your league won’t allow you to start the contact part of this sport until they’re absolutely certain you are comfortable with the non-contact aspects. You’re taught how to fall safely, how to safely take and give hits. You’re taught how to stand properly in order to keep your balance and minimise the risk to yourself and all other skaters if you do fall. You are trained to do everything safely and minimise risk to yourself.

Alongside this, there’s the rules. You may have watched Whip It, and you may have heard many a derby skater complaining that the one legal move in the entire film wasn’t even made on track (Bliss’ hip heck on the girl on the staircase is wonderfully executed with perfect form.) The majority of WFTDA rules are there to make sure gameplay is as safe as possible, and the rest are there to make the game more interesting or clarify loopholes skaters and coaches have worked out along the way. For example, they define legal blocking and target zones – ie, what areas of your body you can hit with and where you can hit other people with it. They look like this

Atlanta Roller Girls’ illustration of legal target and blocking zones – ie. Where I can hit you, and with what part of my body!

Basically, I can’t elbow you in the ribs (illegal blocking zone to legal target zone) and I can’t hip check you in the back (legal blocking zone to illegal target zone). I certainly can’t punch you in the face or kick you in the shin. And I certainly couldn’t, say, turn around and stick my elbow out so you skate your face straight into it, regardless of what my bench coach told me to do. All three of those last examples would be full on expulsions.
Of course, accidents do happen – you come in too hot to the back of an opposing skater and hit them in the back, or you fall and accidentally kick an opposing skaters legs out from under them, or you try to shoulder check a particularly small skater and accidentally catch them in the face instead. These are all penalty worthy actions. In short – if you do something dangerous accidentally, it’s a penalty (7 penalties and you’re out for the rest of the bout). If you do it purposefully, it’s an expulsion. If you regularly do it, you’ll be suspended for a certain number of games. Smashley Simpson was a total liability and, if she hadn’t already been suspended from bouting, her coach never would have even rostered her because of her attitude.

I don’t think I need to go through safety equipment in any real detail – helmet, mouthguard elbow pads, wrist guards and knee pads are the minimum requirements for derby, even during training. People also wear padded shorts, shin guards, nose protectors and so on, depending on how concerned they are that they might get broken. If your safety equipment is not acceptable, you are not allowed to skate. Even if you’re sat in the penalty box, the only equipment you are allowed to remove is your mouth guard.

I’m not saying injuries don’t happen, or that there isn’t an element of risk to the sport – as I’m typing this, I’ve read that one of my Facebook friends got a spiral fracture during her bout today. I’m just saying that the risk shouldn’t be overstated – everything in roller derby is designed to keep you as safe as physically possible. There’s no more danger than there is in any other full contact sport, but you wouldn’t tell anyone not to take up rugby, or American football, or any other sport because it could be dangerous, would you?

And at the end of the day, everything comes at a risk. I once knew a girl who tripped over uneven paving slabs and broke her collarbone. You could get injured doing anything, so you might as well take the risk and do something awesome.

5 Ways to Make Girls Interested in Sport

For those of you who are not up to date with British news and politics, there’s been concern lately over the lack of girls and women interested in sport, and brainstorming over how that can be corrected. Inspired by one local MP’s suggestion that girls should be encouraged to try ‘feminine sports’, I thought I’d expand and elaborate on her points, and come up with some more advice on how to get girls interested in sport.

1) Try feminine activities

Helen Grant advises that girls try feminine sports like ballet, cheerleading and rollerskating so they can still look “radiant” whilst doing them (I know that, after two hours on skates, I’m still fresh as a daisy!) I would like to suggest some other feminine activities that girls should try, such as Pram/Trolley Races, Shopping Bag Relay and the Five Metre High Heel Sprint.

If you want to do an activity but aren’t sure whether or not it’s ‘feminine’ enough, keep in mind this simple rule: if you’ve read it in any Jane Austen novel, its acceptably feminine for you. Such activities include taking a turn around the parlour, a stroll in the garden, or a hike across the Cotswalds.

And finally, if you absolutely have to do any more “masculine” activities, you should only do so if you can do it side saddle. Take up side-saddle horse riding. Work out how to ride a bike side-saddle. It’s the perfect way to get fit and look graceful and feminine while doing it!

2)Avoid sweat at all costs

Of course, no one has ever broken a sweat while doing ballet or cheerleading. It’s not as if they are high energy, physically demanding activities. My second piece of advice is to absolutely avoid asking girls to do any activity that might possibly make them sweaty, because they will refuse to do it – as everyone knows, even a drop of sweat turns the prettiest girl into a drooling ogre. Perhaps schedule activities such as car or motorbike racing, as long as you’re not asking them to put on hot and heavy leathers or helmets that’ll mess up their hair. For a less intense experience, why not try wheelchair sports, but get men to push the girls around so they don’t have to move at all. Alternatively, make sure every activity takes place either in water or out in the rain. That way, absolutely no sweat will stay on their skin, and that’ll make all the girls happy.

3)Make all sports co-ed

This one will make you look good on all fronts. It’ll look like a completely modern, revolutionary idea, a true step towards equality – breaking down those gender barriers that have long declared that girls aren’t fit to play alongside the big boys and allowing, nay, demanding that society changes its colours and makes way for the rise of the female. Good job! You’re the saviour of womankind!

Of course, this is just a face. In reality, the idea behind this one is to play on what motivates girls. And why do women do anything? For the men, of course! Introduce co-ed sport and girls will get involved with every and all sports as a chance to meet and impress men. Its a simple solution, really.

Or you could go the other way and….

4)Separate men and women entirely

Girls are afraid of looking sweaty, and as we’ve just discussed, the only possible reason behind this is they’re afraid the males, aka. Potential mates, will be utterly repelled by the sight of them. So if you don’t want to limit your girls to “feminine” activities, the only option is to eliminate the male factor altogether. Of course, we couldn’t get rid of the men (how would we womenfolk cope without men to run the country?), so I propose splitting the UK into three sections, separated by big, berlin-style walls. The men will live in one section, the women in another, and the third section in between for designated Breeding Periods. This way, women can do whatever they want, including sport, without the fear of men being repulsed by their actions, and ensure that the men only see them at their very best.

5) Give up on sport altogether

Alright, so that solution makes no sense, and if we’re honest, none of this advice is practical at all. I suppose our only option is to give up on sport altogether. Not just the women, either. The entire planet. We’ve all seen Wall-e, and frankly, I don’t think life on that ship looked too bad. If we can’t get women to exercise in a feminine, non-sweaty way, we might as well resign ourselves to that lifestyle. I’m booking my moving chair now.