Plateau: Riding your current skill set. The plus side of the plateau is that it gives you time to perfect those moves you’ve mastered. The bad side of the plateau (and let’s face it, plateaux/plateaus are bad) is that it means you are no longer pushing yourself to exceed your current ability.
Hitting the wall: Realizing the extent in which your skill set and fitness can take you. This awareness follows the plateau, you know that to move forward, you need to climb that wall. Hitting the wall can be frustrating because it’s a wake up call that you need to try harder. This might mean addressing your fitness plan, mental game, and/or strategic skill set. It means believing that you need to do more or change what you’re doing to reach that next summit.
We all hit the wall, it’s going to happen. The worst thing is if you don’t know if you hit the wall. Or even worse, that you don’t realize that hitting the wall and dealing with plateaux is a continuous process throughout your life. Like, not just roller-derby, people. IN EVERYTHING. IT NEVER ENDS.
That every skater you admire out there is currently dealing with a constant battle of plateaus and walls. There is no moment in time where you can stick your flag in the ground and say, I MADE IT. It might seem that way, you might see that skater’s guns and say, well, she no longer needs to work on that! Wrong, that person most likely has a complex set of goals she’s trying to reach and you’re only seeing a part of what she’s working on.
Having the ability to assess yourself in a positive way is an absolute must in terms of your personal critical development. You know your body and ability best. As much as you want to hear feedback from other people, you need to hone your perception of yourself. This alone will contribute to what kind of skater you can become. By leaning too hard on third party compliments or critiques, you aren’t developing your own mental drive and self-planning. There comes a balance with everything in life.
Step 1 – Battle the Negativity Monster
Even if this isn’t new to you, you’re going to hear the negativity monster whispering in your ear: “You’re not good enough, you’re too slow, you’re not strong…” Etc etc. We’ve all had this happen in some form of another. This is your first battle, you need to kill this voice. Whatever that voice is telling you is straight up wrong, you’re in control of the present and can plan for the future. Much of this comes with digging deep and finding a belief in oneself. I say this like it’s easy, it’s not. People spend their whole lives trying to find this.
But imagine this: Imagine you could talk to your former rookie self. The one that hasn’t even tried their skates on yet. You would tell them that they can’t even believe how much they are going to learn over just a few months. To keep it up, to keep trying, to not give up. See how rad that voice is? What a nice voice. You can be that voice for yourself.
A few years ago, I came back from divisionals and just cried. We played against some of the hardest teams in WFTDA and it was clear to me, I was not at that level. You know the feeling when you’re physically beat on the track, they be faster, smarter and physically stronger than you. I was so unhappy with my performance. I had a sulky 3-day period where I ate junk food, drank beer, watched the footage over and over so I could figure out where the lack was, and talked endlessly about it to my partner. After day 3, I picked my sorry self up from the couch, dusted off those chip crumbs and dragged myself to the gym. The moral of this story, I guess, is that I didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t feel good enough to have competed at that level. So I had a few options, sulk and throw up my arms. Or, I had to admit to myself that my current training plan was not pushing me enough to become a better skater. And I needed to put more time into cross-training and on-skates training. My inner voice said: You’re not at that level yet, but you will be. Because this sport has already made you the strongest you’ve ever been in your whole life. You can be stronger but you have to try harder.
I should note, something that is not an inherent trait of mine, is being blind towards my lack of progress. I’m an overly…critical person. Every day of my life is filled with, I’m not there yet and I’m not good enough yet but I will be, type sentiments. If you’re someone who is frustrated with people not recognizing your ability and yet you’re constantly patting yourself on the back, then you’re in need of re-evaluating how you self-assess.
I’m not saying you need to be negative all the time because I think it’s awesome to be positive about yourself. And I think women can sometimes struggle with balancing their negative and positive internal voice. But at the end of the day, as an ATHLETE, there is a realness one must face. Finding your constructive inner voice and learning to work WITH IT, not against it (“Nah, that voice is wrong, I’m GREAT and I’m going to stay as-is FOREVER!”) is key with you moving ahead and seeing progress in yourself.
You always have a choice. You can choose to stay the same, or you can brave change and grow.
Step 2 – Chip, Chip Away
After killing the above mentioned monster, you’re set to hit the road. This is the path to climb the wall and get to your next level. This is exciting. You can do this. Grab your backpack, pull on your skates and prepare yourself to feel fucking exhausted.
Track your progress
If you need further affirmation, to kill the negative voice then be sure to create specific goals for yourself (use the SMART goal-setting theory) and log your progress. For myself, I didn’t feel quick enough a couple of years ago so I started running 3-5K intervals 3 times a week. Week by week, I closed the gap on time it took to run 5K, cutting off seconds each time I ran. After a month, I felt better. I felt more confident. When the next season hit, I found myself out of the lower-mid range of fast skaters on the team and had worked myself up to be ghosting behind our top jammers. It was a good feeling of success.
Keep it Consistent
When I first joined roller derby, I was straight up beat and worn out after tournaments. Tournaments kicked my ass. I found for myself, mentally and physically preparing for tournaments was really important. I wanted to walk away from each one feeling like I was stronger than the last time. Training for tournaments became important and it was a new thing for me.
If you’re slacking on your cross-training, you know that worried feeling you have when facing a game. Like, yikes, I hope I do okay. Listen, if you’re trying to become a better skater, you need to quash that fear prior to tournaments. “I hope I do OK” is not the confidence you’re looking for. Fear/Doubt + Tournaments are not an equation that will work to your favour. Trust me.
Consistency in training is empowering, if you have a consistent plan (where you know you’re pushing yourself) there is no way you can’t improve. It is physically impossible to not improve. There’s also a lot of self affirmation that can occur with a consistent program, where you know in your own heart that you’ve tried your hardest and have put in the time to prove it. And that you know following this tournament you’re going to keep at it and continuously work harder.
Brave the mountain, look up at the path of where you’re headed and feel good at the points you reach while climbing. You’re not going to reach the top in one day, one week, one month. It’s a season long process, it’s years of an ongoing effort.
3 – Know Yourself
Have you ever had a game where you felt beat by your opponents? That feeling is shitty. And you know what else? It’s not okay. It’s not okay to accept feeling beat by your opponents. To wipe your hands clean and say, “Well, I guess they are just better than me!” And laugh or shrug about it. With every jammer that is faster than you and evades your block, every blocker that manages to hit you to the ground. You need to find it within yourself to feel angry about that, and believe that you are going to keep that from happening ever again. With every. single. skater. that. you’re. up. against.
Yes. Even the best skater in your house-league. Even the travel-team skaters that you know. Even the top 5 teams in WFTDA. Even Sexy Slaydie, Scald Eagle, Fifi Nomenon, Smarty Pants. Everyone.
Which brings us to…
4 – Kill Your Idols
Roller derby is kind of amazing because we’ve created a sport where we are encouraged to celebrate women, women as athletes and leaders and all-around people worth admiring. In a world where there is a lack of this, in general, roller derby is built around this philosophy. It’s pretty beautiful. It’s part of what drew me to this sport.
THAT BEING SAID. There is one thing to admire roller derby athletes and there is another thing to make celebrities out of people. YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT. The fear you have with approaching a skater because you’re afraid because they are famous! They are sponsored! They are on a top 5 team! everybody knows their name! EEEEEEEK!
Heading into the World Cup, a league-mate mentioned Stefanie Mainey and said, “Nobody can stop her!”
To which I said, “Yeah, they can. Anyone can be stopped.”
Take those skaters off their pedestals, knock it to the floor. No one shits gold, no skill set is unattainable if you’re willing to put in the effort. And trust me, it may take years of effort. I don’t care how famous someone is or was or can be, as a skater training to be my personal best, I have to hone an internal voice that believes that I can be better than them. that I can effectively stop jammers or execute better strategy. This isn’t a narcissistic ego thing (and watch yo’self with that), it’s essential to believing that one has the ability to succeed.
Does this sound crazy impossible to you? You need to believe it’s not. You sincerely, sincerely do. Stop fan girl-ing and get to practice.
5 – Define Success
The ability to succeed. Define that for yourself, and what that means for you with every practice you attend, every bout you play, every tournament you enter and every season. You have your training goals but you also need to make attainable goals throughout your season to help benchmark your progress.
For myself, it changes. It might be to prevent skaters from beating me on the inside/outside lines. Last season, it was apex jumping so I could beat jammers to the front of the pack before they could escape for another lap of points. Previously it’s been working on my balance and strength so that when I’m hit, I can catch myself and prevent myself from being knocked to the ground.
Because throughout your self-critique to help drive yourself forward towards your potential, you do need to benchmark success. And you are succeeding. There are small wins throughout your progress and it’s important to be able to reflect on them.
6 – The Beat Goes On
Celebrating your development is super important. And it’s something I always need to remind myself to do. Because I’m always on the move to the next big thing. Keep in mind, this trek will be repeated throughout your time playing roller-derby. You’re going to go through routine periods of self-assessment and amping your training. Don’t feel discouraged, accept this challenge. Accept that this sport is about continuously growing and you’ll be fine. Wait, scratch that. You won’t be just fine. You’re going to be great.