Posts Tagged ‘ confidence ’

What is Success, Anyway?

Stuck in the oh-so-familiar low part of the derby loop again, I’ve been thinking about trying to escape it by resetting some expectations for myself in this sport. I’ve been thinking about people whom I admire, and about how they manage the feelings that seem to cripple me. I see them channel anxiety into focused, powerful action, and they soar. I’d always thought they just didn’t have the same fears, but in talking to them, I find instead that they use fear as fuel.

Much of the time, I feel like a giant fail in derby: I’m not fast enough (not as fast as anyone else on my team), not agile enough (ditto), I’m still not in the shape I should be in despite the training, and I’m still slow on the recovery. Sure, I’m a brick wall, and if I can trap a jammer she’s effectively stuck behind the width of two blockers — for a couple seconds, at least. And if my timing is right, I can take an offensive blocker out along with her jammer. But those moments don’t happen with nearly enough frequency for me; not as much as I expect, nor my teammates, probably. And when those moments aren’t happening, I feel like I’m letting a lot of people down. It sucks to feel like a failure at something you love and work so hard for, over and over. It’s hard to sit in that feeling and wait until it passes, to keep coming around to it after the high of each bout subsides.

But when I’m feeling good about derby and can let go of the worries, I really enjoy it. I approach bouts differently now than I used to: I’ve built new bout day rituals around boosting my confidence and focus instead of studying Xs and Os. I don’t review strategies or scenarios, or think about things I have trouble with, or worry about anything in particular. I pump myself up, prepare mind and body throughout the day or so beforehand, and try to revel in the energy of the bout from the start until the last long whistle. But my confidence always bottoms out the next day or so.

So back to #derbyfail. In the midst of my latest post-bout derbysuckfest, I’ve been thinking that I maybe should just accept that my perseverance with derby — in spite of the failures — is my success, in and of itself. I’m getting better, not worse. I’m not injured. I’m still having fun, on balance. I’m learning more every day about how to work with my team to accomplish things on the track, together. It’s a great motivator for my training, and it pushes me to constantly venture outside my comfort zone. I get dozens of positive things out of derby, and the negative things don’t outweigh them.

It’s not the head of the pack that I’m looking for; I just want to play, to be a part of things, contribute, stay in the mix, and have my share of moments. Moments other than skating as fast as I can just to stay in a paceline drill.

The last time I remember being in this position, it was Sophomore year of college and I was killing myself to try to raise a B- in Organic Chemistry. After a couple of semesters of banging my head against a heavy stack of Bio/Chem textbooks and lab paperwork, I dropped the double major and switched to art & theatre instead. Seriously. For the most part, lack of success has prompted a U-turn in my life. And that’s ok sometimes. I’m good at plenty of other things — but not derby, not science, not playing stringed instruments, and definitely not running or cycling or skating fast, ha.

But derby is just hard, for me at least. And I’m sure it is for everyone, in their own way. Even for those who don’t find it hard to stay in the middle of the pack have their own challenges, I know that. One of my teammates wrote recently about athletes recalibrating their idea of success, in a great post on sports psychology and academia. I guess I’m just still figuring out the recalibration part. But I haven’t taken that U-turn yet, and I need to take some comfort in that.

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.