Battling Mental Warfare

Roller Derby the mental game

Your blood is pumping, the floor is pounding and catching a breath is beyond your capacity right now. Around you are 9 loud, sweaty girls who are skating fast and being awesome. They’re screaming with what sounds like every ounce of their being “Stay still” “GO! GO! GO!” “Stop” and it all becomes a mush of white noise. Even though it feels like it has only just started, the final four whistles blow and it’s all over before you had the chance to figure out what the heck was going on. Stop. Breathe. Reboot.

Your body has taken a beating while mastering the minimum skills and now it is your minds turn to take one. This sport is extremely complicated and constantly changing; it’s difficult to learn the strategies and even harder to keep up. As you transition from physical skills to a mental game your derby brain muscles will start flexing and they will hurt. The process is long, frustrating and upsetting but is necessary to help each skater understand the sport. The roadblock could be a particular skill, drill or strategy. This could be “Why do we want to front line?” or “Why can’t I chase the jammer down?” or my personal favourite “Why can’t I just poke her in the eye?” Hopefully these tips will help you see things differently, to evolve within the sport and within yourself. Here are my tips to help the penny drop.

  • Read the rules thoroughly and make sure you understand them. Try and read through from cover to cover and follow what’s going on; research the points that don’t make sense
  • Google your question. The Internet is full of roller derby discussion
  • Ask as many different coaches as possible. It is likely that someone will eventually explain it the way that makes sense to you
  • Strategy drills can evolve from simple (two blockers and a jammer) to complicated (a full pack) so follow and understand the transitions between the intensity levels. Watching the puzzle pieces be put together will break it down and may give you an insight you didn’t see before
  • Watch derby online, watch derby at training, watch derby live. Do what ever you can to see the concept you’re struggling with play out in front of you
  • Listen to your teammates; we are all in this together
  • Go to Team Zebra and the bench staff for insight. They have a different type of knowledge and an outsider’s perspective, which makes them the best people to ask “what would happen if she did ‘this’ instead of ‘that’?”
  • Never underestimate the importance of repetition. It may be frustrating but once you practice a skill enough it will become second nature and easier to apply in a game.

The most important tip is one that no one can teach you. We must be patient, understanding and easy on our minds. Our body and brain must work in harmony to achieve our goals and when we stop, breathe and reboot, the penny will have no option but to drop.

An article by Modern Warfare, originally published in Hit & Miss Magazine