I am playing at the Big O tournament this weekend, and am undoubtedly a little nervous. I am confident in myself and my team, but there is always some fear that creeps in before big bouts. It is not fear of the opponents or of the physical exertion, but fear that I will hold myself back.
As you grow as a skater, you constantly have to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself to try new things and learn new skills. My fear sometimes keeps me in that comfort zone, keeps me grounded, and keeps me doing the things I know best. However, that’s not what roller derby is about, is it?! We should be pushing the boundaries of strategy, moving our bodies in ways that don’t seem possible, and becoming strong forces to be reckoned with!
When I first started playing roller derby in 2011, I had no idea how to roller skate. I did not know the strategy or any basic skills. However, I was determined to learn, which means put any fear of falling, failing, or messing up completely out of my mind.
Even now, after playing for 4 1/2 years, I give myself pep talks before trying new and scary things. Like approaching a 4-wall at full speed, or doing a crazy maneuver on the line, or going for an apex jump. It is part of what makes this sport so great – even when you think you’ve hit a plateau, there are skaters out there doing new things and trying new strategy that you can learn, adapt to and grow from. It just takes a bit of motivation to overcome that fear and push yourself to try something new.
In general, there are three stages to learning a new skill:
Stage 1: Learning. You must identify what you want to learn and how the skill should be performed. Most skaters do this through watching teammates, watching footage, and going through the movement step by step.
Stage 2: Trying. After you’ve identified the skill and gotten down the basic movements, you must TRY to utilize the skill. This includes awkward trial and error, learning how to make your body move in different ways, utter failure (and sometimes success).
Stage 3: Mastering. After you’ve tried the skill over and over again, you should get to a point when the skill becomes automatic. You know how to do the skill without thinking and you are adept at using it in various situations. Keep in mind – mastering a new skill can sometimes take years. A lot of failure must come before mastery.
Most of us are very comfortable with Stage 1. We love watching footage and trying new things in controlled situations. However, Stage 2, actually learning how to do the skill, is where fear can impede. I know tons of skaters (including myself) who are afraid to try new things during scrimmage because they don’t want to fail, look silly, or exert themselves too much. But scrimmages, active blocking drills, and even some small bouts are where you should throw your fear aside and GO FOR IT!
If you ever want to get to Stage 3, you have to learn to recognize and control your fear. So if you have a few skills in mind that you haven’t yet incorporated into your bout-day maneuvers, start adding them in! By overcoming your fear, you can become a better skater!