Derby Brain

derby on ice?

For the 403rd time, I have.no.sports.background.  Well, no team sports background, at least. Everything I’ve done up until skating has been a hobby/activity for me, not a sport. So I’m finding the mental aspects of playing roller derby to be endlessly fascinating. Obsessively. Specifically, two things are on my mind these days:

#1) Negative thoughts can affect performance, in big, persistent ways (I’ve written about this before). Self-doubt will make you play like crap. If your internal dialogue is about what you can’t do, then you won’t be able to do it. You have to take your whole strong, confident self out on to that track. I don’t care what your level of experience with derby is; lace up those skates, stomp out onto that track, and own it with every muscle fiber you have. Your work — your effort — is what matters, not your performance. If your effort is awesome, you’re awesome. Don’t let that little voice tell you anything else.

#2) While the game can be analyzed from a distance, it’s not the same type of analysis that has to happen during play; the game brain — the one that has to react quickly, almost automatically, and carry the body with it —  is something seems to only grow through more practice, not armchair analysis.

Get her NOW, Snark!  (I don’t think I did)

I’ve made quite a bit of progress on handling #1. I’ve learned to do one of two things when the mood is low, or self-talk is negative or wallow-y:  talk back and shut it off, or remove myself from the practice and do something else. Occasionally, it’s just not possible to shut out the crap in my head. But taking myself out of the situation that’s triggering those thoughts, by gardening or cooking or going for a bike ride or writing or even sometimes working takes care of it.

Dealing with #2 is a different challenge. I’ve been pushing myself to step forward more in practice/scrimmage: volunteer more quickly, get myself in the middle of more jams, jam when the panty is offered. I know that somewhere in my brain, those hours are stacking up. My feet may have well over 10,000 hours of movement on wheels, but derby hit the reset button on that. Fckn A. I’m also working on my own default strategy of sorts, based on what I think many of my teammates have just internalized about playing derby.  My brain can go straight to the strategy of odd/unusual situations, but there’s a big gap at the low end of my derby education; my analytical brain is too slow to draw on when I’m playing, but I haven’t really trained the game brain well enough. So I’m studying the game the way I’d study a new subject, but also just drilling basic situations over and over and over, trying to make them reflexes of a sort.

I can’t really talk about what that default strategy looks like… it’s too closely tied with my team’s/league’s training and strategy. But duh, watch derby, write it out, it’s fairly visible. And logical, if you think it through. And yet so amusingly challenging to really learn.

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