In roller derby, teams sometimes go into bouts knowing that the chance of winning is very low. Of course, it would be amazing to win every bout, but when you’re a #30 team playing a #5 team, the odds are stacked against you. However, due to the ranking system in roller derby, you can still “win” when you play a higher level team, even if the score doesn’t show it: “We may have lost the bout, but we still win in rankings points!” These losses are generally easy to cope with.
Unfortunately, not all roller derby losses are as easy to stomach. These are the ones you walk away from saying, “We should have won that bout.” These losses hurt. They cause you to get angry and sad, and they take time to bounce back from. I have experienced quite a few of these losses over the past couple of years, and have developed a relatively consistent coping pattern:
(1) I have trouble sleeping for weeks after the bout because I keep replaying bad moments of the game in my head. Over and over and over and over.
(2) To cope with my loss of sleep, I begin to re-imagine the bout as us winning. Sometimes if I do this enough, I feel like I can trick myself into thinking we were actually successful.
(3) I can’t watch roller derby footage for a few weeks because it makes my armpits start sweating and my anxiety level rise. It usually takes me about a month before I can watch the footage of the bout we lost, and more like 2 months before I can watch the parts where I feel like I really screwed up. The pain is just too fresh.
(4) Eventually, I begin to realize I just need to move on and look to my teammates for comfort. I switch my focus to the next bout, and try to keep my focus on the bigger picture of the whole season.
The process I go through follows the same pattern as most grief. Although it is nothing compared to the loss of a friend or family member, the emotional experience is similar on a much smaller scale. For those of you not as familiar with the stages of grief, I have summarized it below:
5 Stages of Grief after Bout Loss: Roller Derby Edition
These stages are completely normal and healthy ways to deal with a hard loss. However, it is very important to not blame yourself for losses. There have been a few bouts in particular where I felt like it was my fault that we lost. I remember admitting this to a fellow teammate once, and she gave me the best response ever: “Oh honey, roller derby is so much bigger than you. You’re not nearly important enough to cause that loss.” While at first, I was a bit taken aback, I realized the truth in her words. If you find that you blame yourself for a loss, just remember that derby is a team sport, and everyone plays their part in the success or failure of the team.
In my previous post (Mental Strength to Last 2 Minutes), I discussed playing hard every jam (because every jam counts). So a less-than-stellar performance in the last couple of jams is not the deciding factor for a win or a loss. It’s the cumulative effort of blockers AND jammers for the whole hour of play.
Roller derby is such a team-driven sport, it is important not to place the blame on any one player. There were probably things we all could have done a bit better, and each moment of a bout helped contribute to the overall outcome. Remember that everyone loses games they should have won at some point – that’s what makes roller derby so exciting! Sometimes, you just have to be on the losing end of that excitement.