Growth in roller derby

Sunday officially marked the beginning of my fourth season playing roller derby. It’s hard to believe I’ve been playing for this long, particularly since I still have so much to learn. But as I’ve grown into my seasoned veteran status, I’ve immediately noticed something was different: my confidence.

As I look back at the past three seasons, I’ve realized how much I’ve actually grown. In my first season, I was petrified of getting hit and I barely understood the rules. In season two, I was recovering from breaking my collarbone and trying to learn all of the nuances of the game. In season three, I had transferred to a bigger league with renowned skaters and better training, which meant I was psyching myself out from day one. Season four has opened my eyes.

There are several things I’ve realized now that I’ve graduated into my big girl hotpants, and there are things I wish I had kept in mind rather than doubting my abilities as a skater.

  1. Your league-mates want you to succeed. The better player you are, the stronger your team will be. So don’t be afraid to ask questions. Work hard to understand the rules. Push yourself. Ask for advice on how to get better. Your team will thank you for it.
  2. The only thing stopping you from getting better is yourself. Like anything in life, you have to believe in yourself to do well. Roller derby is exactly the same. Self doubt is your worst enemy, so stay positive and believe in your abilities. Just make sure you’re putting in the hard work and effort it takes to do your best.
  3. It’s OK to make mistakes. Making mistakes is often how we learn not to repeat them in the future. If you’ve done something wrong, great! That means you can quickly fix it. Don’t be afraid to ask your teammates the best way to correct an error. They’ll be happy to give you advice and to know you want to improve. Along these same lines, don’t be afraid to fall. If you’re pushing yourself in skills drills, falling just means you’re trying to test your limits.
  4. Be yourself. I have often found myself getting frustrated if I couldn’t mimic the skills of more veteran skaters. Last season, I would tell my captains I was working on juking like s0-and-so and wishing I could do little tricks like somebody else. And then they said something that immediately clicked: why try to be someone else when you are you? They were right. We all have our own individual strengths and weaknesses. Find your strengths and develop them, and work on your weaknesses to become even stronger. In other words, become the skater you were meant to be—don’t try to be the one somebody else is.
  5. Have fun. In my first season, I was constantly frustrated with how I was playing, and it showed. These days, it’s easy to tell from the smile on my face—even during the hardest scrimmages—that I’m madly in love with this sport. If it’s not obvious you’re happy, you should re-evaluate what is standing in the way.

My biggest piece of advice is to be patient and to give yourself the time it takes to really understand roller derby. It’s a sport that’s not necessarily easy to pick up quickly, even for the most talented athletes. But once it clicks, your world will open up. No doubt about it.

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