Many of us were likely unaware of the significance of February 4, for women involved in athletics. That day marked National Girls and Women in Sports Day. As someone who never considered herself an athlete by any stretch of the imagination, I can now recognize myself as an athlete and celebrate this day in February with pride thanks to roller derby.
AS WITH MANY, my journey into derby was disjointed and wrought with, what I perceived to be, hurdles.
As a rookie to any sport, there are many hurdles to jump in order to find yourself fully-vested, conditioned and committed. Lisa Beinetti (Wreck Star), has been skating for three years and is living proof that, “The commitment to yourself has to be there or else it would be too easy to quit.” She is witness to this truth as both a trainer and a skater—seeing first-hand the struggles new skaters face, and she sympathizes with those skaters finding it a struggle to stay on their path.
So, before you lace up for the first time, or if you have already made the commitment to a team, if you become mindful of the hurdles you will face both as a rookie and as a seasoned skater, you will be better prepared to juke over and around them.
In derby, as in life, you are constantly presented with challenges. As a skater, challenges present themselves mainly in three forms.
- Physical – Whether or not you know how to skate when you come into derby, it’s likely that the rudimentary skills will not come easy. Beinetti exemplifies this point stating, “Until you have tried to juke, push or otherwise muscle your way through an impenetrable wall, you will never understand how completely and utterly exhausting two minutes can be.“ The fact that we ask ourselves to push our body in a way it hasn’t been challenged before is enough to discourage rookies from continuing to skate. There is no one way to overcome this hurdle, but simply putting the time and effort into conditioning yourself and researching appropriate cross-training will give you a leg-up.
- Mental – Oftentimes we have destructive conversations with ourselves leading to the conclusion that we “just can’t do it.” Maybe you’re telling yourself that a drill is too hard or you’re struggling with a relationship with another skater. What is going on in our heads can cripple us to the point of not being able to perform. To combat this, the American Psychological Association recommends, “…mental strategies, such as visualization, self-talk and relaxation techniques, can help athletes overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential.”Another cloud that can loom over your mental health in derby is the fact that, unfortunately, injuries are common. This can influence a rookie’s mentality creating an apprehension to execute hitting and other drills that present higher-level physical challenges. Proper physical conditioning and cross training can help prevent most injuries along with having an experienced coaching staff.
- Situational – Life happens and work/family life does not always coincide well with derby pursuits. There will be times when you can’t commit to the level you want. The key is to give yourself permission to back off when you need to. Productive communication with people in your life that influence your decision making along with being able to communicate with the league can go a long way to preventing problems from arising.
STRATEGIES FOR MENTAL STRENGTH
- Focus only on what is within your control
- When anxiety prevents you from trying new things, step out of your comfort zone to continue to challenge yourself
- Practice behaving like the person you’d like to become (practice like you play)
- Always think about what to improve upon and visualize how to accomplish it
GO AHEAD AND JUMP
It’s impossible to avoid hurdles, but what will make all the difference is your motivation to overcome them. Married or single, working in or out of the home, it is the motivation we find in ourselves that prompts us to action.
A study titled Sports in the Lives of Working Women demonstrated that working women who participate in athletics assert that the more they exercise, in turn, the more motivated they become. Sports and fitness activities influence how women care for themselves, see themselves and how they approach their work and personal life.
Derby, for many, is difficult and being a rookie to the sport can push you to your limits. In the end, the benefits you glean –a community of supportive women, increased physical and mental health and elevating yourself to the level of athlete make juking and jumping the hurdles easier.