Overthinking Means Underperforming

I have grown quite a bit as a jammer over the last 5 years.  Just recently, I was thinking about my good bouts vs my bad bouts.  What was different about them?  Why did some bouts feel like a constant mental struggle, while others flew by like the blink of an eye?  Although there are several factors that contribute to having a “bad bout”, I realized that I tend to perform much worse when I am trying too hard to make decisions during a jam.

My increased knowledge of strategy, defensive maneuvers, and offensive plays is great, but sometimes I can’t stop thinking about everything at once. When I line up for a jam, I sometimes find myself thinking about where the other jammer lined up, where my team is lined up, who might be playing offense for me, which opposing blocker might be playing offense for their jammer, where I should attack to have the best effect, how I should distract the blockers from helping their jammer, who might be prone to get a penalty off the line, and on and on…

I have realized that while this increased knowledge is great, focusing on it only made me perform worse. I would hesitate off the line, I would try to mess with the other jammer, and I would try to impede offense more than just focusing on getting out of the pack. It was (and still is) frustrating.

When I  first started jamming, all I cared about was getting out of the pack as quickly as I could.  When I was a rookie, I didn’t have that many decisions to make. I was unaware of the effect my movements and actions would have on the Nike-Just-Do-It-63.jpgrest of the pack. This lack of knowledge allowed me to focus on the present moment. Now, I am a much better skater because of the knowledge and skills I have gained, but I need to learn how to sometimes turn off my decision-making process and, in the wise words of Nike, to just do it.

The reason you practice basic skills over and over again is so you don’t have to think about them – they become automatic, and allow your mind to focus on other things. Thinking too much about things you already know how to do can limit the way you perform other tasks. One researcher, Sian Beilock, has termed this overthinking as “paralysis by analysis”.

For example, next time you are skating in a jam, try to think about your crossovers as you approach the pack. Focusing on something as automatic as crossovers will make it extremely difficult to focus on more highly skilled activities, such as juking the blocker, looking for offense, or taking a smart line around the pack.

Overthinking can be triggered by a variety of reasons – fear, lack of confidence, trying to be perfect, or under extremely competitive situations.

To avoid overthinking, try one (or all) of the following:

  • Use relaxation techniques before important competitions. Meditate, do yoga, or listen to some music before competing.
  • Start practicing under stressful situations.  Even if you’re just scrimmaging, try to imagine that it is a competition.  Put pressure on yourself to perform at your best.  Once you’ve garnered this feeling, train yourself to work through it, clear your mind, and focus on what’s important.
  • Give yourself mantras or breathing exercises to help lower anxiety in the moment. Even repeating something like “stay focused” or “be strong” can help you stop overthinking the situation.

Once you are able to recognize that you are overthinking, it becomes much easier to adjust your mindset.  You must learn to be confident with your actions on the track and trust your training and instincts will get done what needs to happen. Save your thinking for when you’re on the bench between jams and the analysis for the after party. When you’re on the track, be there mentally as well as physically!


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Be a Social Person, Not a Social Loafer

I spend a lot of time working out alone.  Sometimes it is hard to push myself when no one else is around.  So I love occasionally working out with a group.  It helps me stay accountable, push myself a little bit harder, and get through tough workouts that I might otherwise not get through.

However, sometimes working out with a group can have a negative effect on your motivation and exertion.  I’m sure everyone that plays derby can relate to this story: You’re at practice, there are around 25 of you today.  Everyone begins skating laps for an endurance drill.  You realize that most people aren’t pushing it that hard, so you “blend in” and just skate at a moderate pace.  Everyone around you seems to be doing the same thing.  You end up finishing the endurance workout, but you’ve barely worked hard.

When you are working out with a group, but the group is just big enough for you to not be individually noticed, it is very easy to succumb to something called social loafing.   Broadly defined, this is when you are not as motivated to work hard because you don’t perceive your individual effort to be that important.  The endurance workout will still get done, whether or not you are pushing yourself harder than anyone in the group.

Social loafing can be a challenge for coaches, when the power of the group’s laziness is more powerful than their screams of, “go faster!! try harder!!”  If you don’t have a critical mass of people who want to go faster and try harder, it doesn’t always happen.

However, there are some relatively easy ways to discourage social loafing, even when you are in a large group:

(1) Set goals for the group.  For example, if you’re sprinting for a minute straight around the track, give a number of laps that should be completed in that time.  Set the number high so skaters have to work hard to reach the goal.

(2) Keep individuals as accountable as you can.  For example, during an endurance drill, have the group pair up.  One person from the group can keep their partner’s time (per lap, per set, etc.)  and then read the times aloud to everyone before starting the next group.

(3) Be supportive of each other.  If you sense that everyone is slacking off a bit, speak up! Skate harder! Push everyone around you!  Don’t yell at your teammates, but acknowledge that everyone can work harder as a team (including you).

(4) Keep group sizes small. When doing drills or endurance workouts, break the team up into groups of 5-6 rather than 30.  It might take a bit longer to get through some workouts, but if the overall group effort is higher, they will need the extra time to rest anyway!

Social loafing is always going to occur, but it’s important to start recognizing how to limit it whenever possible.  And if you need a break from thinking about social loafing, check out cat loafingNote: cat loafing is not related to roller derby in any way…


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Offensive Derby Fans: When Do They Cross the Line?

The Minnesota All Stars played an away bout last Saturday. We were all excited to be traveling together for the weekend to play some derby. We even got surprised at the venue by some of our biggest fans from Minnesota – two young boys and their family who had come to see us play. We were all in good spirits and excited for some derby!

However, once our bout started there was a small group of fans – ones that were, of course, right next to the track – that started yelling pretty awful things at us during the bout (e.g., yelling “Cheater!” as we headed to the box; yelling “I hope you get hurt!” when we fell or were knocked down; yelling “This is boring!” as we skated through the pack).

And sure, yelling like this happens. It sucks, but I can deal with it. After the first few times of hearing the unruly fans, I was able to tune them out and move on, even though it was aggravating. And I assume that’s the fans’ goal – they’re trying to throw off our team by making us angry. Whatever. It’s fine.

As I was skating around at the end of the bout, giving high fives, I was feeling OK. My anger had subsided, there were lots of kids waiting for high-fives, and I saw lots of smiling faces.

But then I came around to the section of the track where the men had been yelling, and I hear: “F*ck you!” as I high five. It wasn’t a subtle, under-the-breath “f*ck you…” it was a “I want you to hear me say F*CK YOU to your face” kind of “f*ck you”.

I couldn’t believe it. It was such a shock that I dropped my hand for a second and just kept skating. I immediately regained my outward composure, but inside, I was devastated. How can someone be so cruel to another human being? During the heat of the bout, I can understand fans being unruly, but after the bout? How can they feel like this is OK? Did the children around them hear it? Will anyone correct his behavior?

Sure, fan aggression is a part of a lot of sports.  However, many sports don’t allow spectators to be so close to the fans, especially giving fans the opportunity to high five the athletes after the competition. So although fans can yell all kind of horrible things at athletes, many aren’t able to yell obscenities right in an athlete’s face.

On the 6 hour drive home, I kept thinking about 2×4 roller derby, the team from Argentina, who had played the same team the night before.  It made my stomach hurt to think that they could have come all the way to the U.S. and had to endure the same fans -the same disrespect – as our team had endured.’

And what about the young Minneapolis fans who had driven to the bout with their family – did they hear these words? Did it make them angry? Will they remember this in the future? Will their mom not allow them to come to the next bout?

It makes me so sad to think that a fan like that can show up at another bout, and possibly throw horrible insults at another visiting team. So cheer for your team! Cheer against the other team! But PLEASE never think verbal bullying is acceptable – in roller derby or in life.


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Take Pride (And a Role) in Your League

Last weekend I participated in (part of) a leadership retreat for the Minnesota RollerGirls.  Seeing all of these strong leaders in a room together made me realize how important it is to step up and take on a league job (outside of just playing roller derby, of course).

Most roller derby players are already over committed.  We work or go to school, many are raising children, and we are all constantly juggling other family and friend commitments.  Derby already takes up almost half of our evenings (and many weekends) for travel, practice, bouts, and other derby-related things.  However, derby is a skater-owned enterprise, and it is run by the hard work of volunteers and people committed to keeping the league and sport running. Therefore, it is important to harness a “yes” mentality – go to events, promote your league, agree to help wherever you can.

If you are new to your league (or just don’t know much about your league), take the time to learn about your leadership structure.  What are people doing behind the scenes?  And who are these people?

If you are already in a job with your league, make sure that you commit to fulfilling the job duties.  You should be proud of what you do for the league and how you keep it running!

If you don’t have much of a job, volunteer to go to events and do odd jobs: Set up chairs before a bout, pick up trash after practice, find the person organizing the event and ask what needs to happen.. It is amazing how much of an impact this has – even the slightest reprieve from a league commitment can help.

There are not many sports where you have to both practice the sport and organize your own competitions – everything from setting up the track to filing league taxes.  This should be exciting and empowering – you get to be a part of an organization, learn how it runs, and see your hard work pay off.  Taking on a role might even help you build skills that transfer to other areas of your life.

What if you’re already in a leadership position and your league is having trouble recruiting volunteers? Here are a few pointers:

1. Allow for short-term commitments.  If someone tells me that my volunteer commitment is for the next 3 years, I’ll most likely say no.  But if it is clear that the expectation is shorter, or you are free to stop committing whenever you need to, it is much easier to say yes.

2. Don’t just take anyone that wants to fill a volunteer position.  If that role is something that requires a special skill, it might be better to have veterans step up to help until you find the right volunteer.  It will be harder to work with someone who cannot do the job as opposed to just chipping in a little extra work until you find someone who can do the job on his/her own.

3. Make sure the volunteer positions are clearly defined.  What are the duties?  How many hours will be devoted to the position?  Who else will you be working with?  Who is a good contact for help with questions?  Sometimes, people are afraid to volunteer for “big” sounding positions because they don’t know what is involved.  It could be that once the position is explained, they will find themselves more than capable of doing the job.

4. Ask people directly to fill a certain role.  Usually sending out blast emails about open volunteer jobs will not suffice.  Find people in your league who do not have volunteer positions yet (because everyone should have a volunteer position, amiright?) and ask them personally if they would be willing to fill a position.  Going back to #1 – even if they aren’t willing to do it forever, they might agree to a shorter time frame, which will give your league more time to find a good fit for the role.

5. If people have been asked to fill a volunteer position but they still have not volunteered for one, maybe it’s best not to pressure them too hard into taking on more tasks.  Having disdain for a commitment or building resentment for a job that must be done is not healthy for your league.

6. Make sure to publicly thank your volunteers…both the skaters and the non-skaters.  They are a huge part of the league family and deserve to be recognized for their hard work!

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It should feel great to help your league grow and succeed.  I love the feeling of meeting with a group of others, talking about goals, dividing up tasks, and making things happen.  It’s so cool that such a diverse group of people can accomplish so much, and all because they care about roller derby.  So get out there and help your league!


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Train For Your Sport: Roller Derby Agility Workout

Roller derby requires a lot of twisting, turning, and torquing.  We are never just skating in a forward direction the whole time.  Therefore, we should incorporate non-linear workouts into our fitness routines.  These types of workouts will help build strength and reduce the chance of injury while playing derby.  Below, I’ve described a great agility workout that I love to do a couple of times each month.  All it requires is a track or an open field. I call it…Alphabet Aerobics.  Not to be confused with this Alphabet Aerobics (although feel free to listen to this song on repeat while doing this workout).  This workout was adapted from a PT program given to my husband by Judy Gelber, PT, DPT, OCS.

This workout has four parts (and takes about 45 minutes):

  1. Alphabet agility
  2. Sprint
  3. Line drills
  4. Recovery/jog a lap

 PART 1 – ALPHABET AGILITY

On a track (or open field), find a square area (such as below):

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In this space, you will “write” the letters of the alphabet while running.  You will run the first three letters (A-B-C) while always facing forward (so no turning around).  For example, “A” would look like this:

Picture2

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You will then do the next three letters (D-E-F).  On these letters, you can turn so you are always running forward, no backwards running or side shuffling.  For example, “E” would look like this:

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Once you’ve gone through six letters (A-B-C, D-E-F), you are done with Part 1!


PART 2 – SPRINT

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Sprint forward about 20 meters, quickly transition into a side shuffle for 10 meters, and then sprint forward another 20 meters.  Do this two times, down and back.


 PART 3 – LINE DRILLS

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Do some combination of agility line drills (your choice).  Here are some examples of drills I do:

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fwdback

For more line agility ideas, you can check out this great website.


 PART 4 – RECOVERY

Jog anywhere from 200 to 800 meters to “rest”.


 AND THEN REPEAT!

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Do this workout as fast (or as slow) as you need.  Hopefully it will help keep your stops fast, your jukes sharp, and your legs injury-free!


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Do You Have to Be Crazy to Play Derby? Maybe a Little…

I was recently visiting a friend with a very cute cat. At one point in the evening, I was petting the cat when he suddenly started biting and clawing me. Instead of getting angry or pushing the cat away (which is probably what most non-cat lovers would do), I just stayed there and dealt with the pain until the cat finally released its claws. The claws and teeth were painful – but it was a pain I was willing to risk so I could feel that soft fur.

Just like in roller derby, most people understand the risks they are taking when they skate onto the track. You are putting yourself in a dangerous and possibly painful situation, but you know it will be worth it.

For me, I don’t understand why everyone wouldn’t want to try roller derby at some point in their lives. I love the challenge, the teamwork, the ability to hit others and fight for your ground on the track. So when I tell people they should give roller derby a try, I am surprised how many people say, “No way!” almost immediately.  People who don’t like cats are probably not willing to put up with being clawed merely to pet one, and many people probably have no desire to choose a painful sport like roller derby. And realistically, the people that DON’T play roller derby are probably a little more sane than most of us.

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15k trail race – fell three times and had to dig rocks out of my wounds, but it was so much fun!

Athletes, especially ones that endure pain during competition, have a very different attitude towards pain than others. Research has shown that most athletes are able to tolerate more pain and stay cognitively sharp even when they are in a painful situation. Last week, I mentioned dissociating yourself from your pain in order to get through a hard workout. However, the opposite of dissociation – association – is being able to concentrate on what you are doing and ignore everything else, including pain.

You’re on the track – lined up with your fellow blockers. The start whistle is about to blow and you know you need to hold back the opposing jammer no matter what. Right as the whistle blows, you dig in and the jammer hits you HARD. You feel the pain for just a second, but you quickly push it out of your mind to concentrate on digging, keeping your strong brace, and tracking the jammer across the track.

This scenario is extremely common in derby – in fact, something similar to this probably happens every jam. So roller derby players have learned to adapt and react to pain in a way that most people would not tolerate.

*NOTE: Pain is not the same as injury pain. If you are injured, you should take care of your body!*

An interesting article in the Association for Applied Sport Psychology notes two ways athletes interpret pain.  I think most (if not all) derby players relate more with #2:

13631401_10154383227199974_2249004366979780835_n#1: You interpret your pain as threatening: You focus on the pain rather than concentrate on your sport, and pain interferes with your performance.

#2: You interpret the pain as an ally: The pain is a necessary and a natural part of the sport. It is a sign of working hard and it does not interfere with your performance.

So in contact sports like roller derby, you must be able to accept that pain is part of the sport. Don’t be surprised if you get knocked off your feet by a blocker! Just shake it off and get back on the track. “When pain shows up, be willing to feel it fully as part of your experience.” (O’Connor, 2016).

And if you’re crazy like me, the harder you get hit, the more fun it becomes.


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Embrace Your Wild Imagination

picDuring an especially grueling (and delightful) workout at AX Fitness, we were running sprints while starting from a plank position.  The sprints were fine – a familiar pain – but the planks were becoming more and more intense as my quads and abs started to burn and my breath was hard to catch.  At one point during a plank, I thought I would have to put my knees down, go into downward dog, do something to stop the pain.  Then our trainer says something along the lines of, “Everyone hold this plank!  The more you twitch, the longer we hold it!  Everyone in plank now!”

In that moment when my abs and quads were burning and all I wanted to do was stop, I didn’t distract myself by thinking about the strength I was building, or how much better this would make me at roller derby – I started imagining myself as the main character in the fantasy novel I am currently reading.

Side note: I love fantasy novels.  I’m not as drawn to science-fiction or murder mysteries, but I LOVE high-fantasy.  These fantasy novels all have the same general story line – there is a young guy or gal from a poor upbringing, who then discovers he/she is actually some magical human or chosen one that has to then save the world (or worlds, depending on what book you’re reading).  I get so entranced by these types of stories.  When the fantasy series are especially long (such as the Wheel of Time, 14 books with an average of 830 pages each), I feel like I’ve lost friends when the series are over.

So back to my plank situation – I am enduring physical discomfort by comparing it to the physical trials endured by the characters in my novel.  This plank may be painful, but it’s not as bad as holding onto the side of a ledge for dear life, or fighting the ultimate enemy to save the world.  Imagining these intense situations helped me dig just a bit deeper, focus on my breathing and endure more physical discomfort than I thought I could.

Of course, wanting to make sure I wasn’t crazy, I started researching the psychology behind this type of mental imagery.  After some searching, I was delighted to discover a research article in which they found that “reading a novel invokes neural activity that is associated with bodily sensations,” referred to as “embodied semantics” (Berns et al., 2013).

As noted in a follow-up review of this article, embodied semantics is akin to the visualization used in sports imagery: “…reading fiction was found to improve the reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination in a way that is similar to the visualization of a muscle memory in sports” (Bergland, 2014).  So just as mental imagery of a sport can actually help your skills improve, you can also improve your physical stamina through imagined scenarios.

If you feel like you struggle with mental imagery in sport scenarios, try practicing mental imagery with fantasy-like situations.  Being able to master this type of imagery may make effective sports imagery much easier for you.  Imagining fantasy scenarios might not improve your roller derby skills, but it may help you work harder during workouts.

So next time you sit down on the couch and get ready to turn on the TV, grab a novel with a strong main character instead!  It just may help you both improve your mental imagery in sports and also help you persist through your grueling workouts.


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Fixed or Growth: What’s Your Derby Mindset?

Sometimes when I am at practice, I get embarrassed and frustrated when I don’t do well.  Maybe I can’t get through a hard 4-wall, or maybe I fall during a relatively simple footwork drill.  During these moments, sometimes I realize the thoughts that creep in my mind are alarming:  “Maybe I would be happier if I played for a less competitive league, where I didn’t have to work so hard to be successful.  Maybe I have reached the limits of my physical ability and there is no point in trying to get better.”

531872_10151863136114974_363669233_nHowever, I have started adjusting my mindset when I am in these situations: “It is exciting that I am pushing myself to my physical limits!  It is awesome that I’m on a team with such amazing 4-walls!”  Having this type of mindset can change the way we feel during practices and bouts, and keep us constantly growing as athletes.

Dr. Carol Dweck, from Stanford University, has identified two different mindsets that athletes tend to have (and that reflect my two thought processes above): the growth mindset and the fixed mindset.  In a fixed mindset, you believe you have certain amount of inherent ability, and that’s it.  You avoid failure at all costs because only success confirms your ability. In a growth mindset, you believe your ability can be improved through hard work.  So you believe that failures help you learn and improve, and you thrive on challenging situations. Determining which mindset you may have and learning to change your practice and performance methods might help you achieve more success as a derby athlete.

Dr. Dweck outlined three important components of the fixed vs growth mindset:

(1) For people with a fixed mindset, they believe that looking successful is much more important than learning new skills.  Roller derby players with a fixed mindset might not try new things or push themselves out of their comfort zones because they are afraid to fall or look silly.  On the other hand, if you have a growth mindset, you will continue to challenge yourself even when you might not succeed.  You are much more interested in learning new skills as opposed to never failing.

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Workin’ out at AX Fitness before practice!

(2) People with a fixed mindset believe they have innate abilities and as a result may think that they don’t need to practice that much.  They don’t like to challenge themselves or push themselves too hard because for them success is a matter of whether you have talent or not – if you don’t have talent, practice won’t help. People with the growth mindset, however, realize how important it is to push their bodies to their limits and exhaust themselves from time to time.  In derby, there are quite a few of us that will do hard off-skates workouts right before going to practice.  Sure, we may not be able to perform as well as we usually do at practice, but we know this tired training is exactly what we need to succeed at tournaments.  People with a growth mindset think of long-term benefits of their hard work, even if it means physical discomfort.

12661761_10208376995163138_2606574424844337304_n(3) People with a fixed mindset do not cope with mistakes or losses well.  Since they feel as though they have innate abilities to be successful, any mistakes or losses are taken very personally; it is an indication that they don’t have skills.  They shut down when they do something wrong, blame everyone but themselves, and do not learn from mistakes.  However, if you have a growth mindset, you take mistakes and losses as learning tools.  Since roller derby strategy changes throughout the season, it is essential to watch footage, reflect on bouts, and learn how to improve your past mistakes.  Without this growth mindset, your play will become stagnant and you will not be able to keep up with the top players.

If you are reading through this and are suddenly worried that you have fixed mindset, don’t worry!  Dweck’s research has also shown that you can change your mindset.  By identifying how you feel about certain situations and adjusting your outlook and goals, you can learn to embrace the growth mindset in roller derby.  So next time you find yourself avoiding a drill because you don’t want to fail, or getting mad at someone because they pointed out your mistake, try to change your mindset and remember that getting feedback is the only way you will grow.  Embrace your mistakes as chances to learn, challenge yourself even when it means failing in front of others, and push the limits of your physical capabilities!

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The Material Aspect of Roller Derby Confidence

When I was competing in triathlons, I got to see some incredibly amazing road bikes. Some were worth more than my car (and probably lighter than my shoes). Although it was fun to “ooh” and “ahh” the bikes as I prepared for my own race, these bikes also reminded me of one of the most frustrating aspects of triathlons. These bikes not only looked fast, they were fast, and they provided somewhat of an advantage.

Sure, I might be able to keep up on the swim and hold my own during the run, but I did not have the nicest bike. It wasn’t that I didn’t want one – I just didn’t have an extra $4,000 lying around.

Sometimes, after a race, I used to think, “If I had an all-carbon frame, ergonomically designed triathlon bike, I would have done much better.” It became rather frustrating to show up to a race and know you already had a disadvantage and could most likely not win – all because of your equipment.

When I went to triathlons, having a nice road bike implied one of two things:

(1) you really love triathlons and you have tons of money sitting around to spend.
(2) you have invested serious time and energy into being a triathlete and your investment in a bike is just part of your athletic investment.

I have learned that these same principles apply to roller derby, but on a much smaller scale. For road bikes, the price difference between a nice bike and a not-so-nice bike is thousands of dollars. However, you can buy a somewhat nice skate setup for only a few hundred dollars more than a not-so-nice setup.

When you start roller derby, the skates on your feet don’t really matter. You are just learning the basics, getting comfortable on skates, and building confidence on the track. However, there has to be a point where you decide to make a serious commitment to the equipment you own. Once you’ve grown as a skater, you don’t want to be held back or frustrated by the skates on your feet.  Your equipment should make you confident and help you play your best, not worry you and bring you down.

Feeling confident on your skates does not mean spending $1000 on a skate set up. It just means you should do your research, try out different skates, plates, toe stops, etc. and find out what type of setup works for you.  Ask to try on your teammate’s skates.  Look for skate shops near you.  Read reviews, watch videos, and take the time to find what you want.  Even though your skates may not have a huge influence on your skating ability, having skates that are comfortable just means one less thing to worry about on the track.

So if you’re at a point in your derby career where you are ready to invest in new skates, figure out what makes you comfortable, confident, and happy on the track.  Although staying mentally strong in derby is difficult, it becomes just that much easier when you aren’t being held back by what you have on your feet.


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The More (or Less) You Know

During the derby season, sometimes ddyou become bombarded (or obsessed) with learning what others think of your team. You could be constantly checking Flat Track Stats, reading bout prediction posts, or seeing comments posted on social media.  Although these might all be positive news, they can also all lead to distraction, anxiety, and unneeded competitive pressure leading up to a bout.

While some people tend to thrive on this sort of information – they feel like negative comments “fuel the fire” and positive ones help boost their competitive motivation –  not everyone responds like this.  These sort of distractions tend to consume mental energy.  This mental energy is important for both concentration and a positive mental attitude during a bout. (U.S. Sports Academy, 2008).

There are many professional athletes who will avoid reading anything about themselves in the days before competition.  While although most of us don’t have a fan base of thousands of people and media following us around for interviews, even the smallest negative comments you come across can seep into your thoughts.

These types of outside influences, even though they may seem minor, can have a major impact on performance.  Maybe your team has a bad jam but you know everyone has predicted that your team wins the game.  Maybe you are up by 100 points at half time but you know Flat Track Stats has predicted that you win by 200 points.  All of these types of scenarios cause extra stress and anxiety that use up mental energy and hinder your performance.  To be playing your best, you should be putting all of your mental (and physical) energy into executing skills, recognizing plays, and staying focused on what is in front of you.

So what do you do if you’ve already succumbed to the pressures of media, stats, and outside perspectives on your upcoming bouts?

Here are a few tips:

(1) Write down any negative posts, comments, articles, etc. that you have read and how you feel about them.  Sometimes just getting these things down on paper allows your mind to stop dwelling on them.

(2) Make sure you go through all of your pre-bout rituals.  Keeping your focus on these rituals may help distract you from outside thoughts.

(3) Give yourself a mantra to repeat if you feel like your mind is wandering.  This could be something simple like, “I’m awesome” or “We can do this” or “Stay focused”.  Just repeat the mantra over and over again when you find outside anxieties or angers seeping in.

If being more informed is something that keeps you performing the best on the track, then there is no reason to change your habits.  However, if you feel like you have a tendency to play distracted or not “in the moment” because of outside influences from social media, news, or websites, then it might be good to try blocking those out for awhile.  Just as you prepare yourself physically for a bout by drinking water, avoiding alcohol, stretching, taking ice baths, etc., start preparing yourself mentally as well by staying off of derby news websites, avoiding Facebook, and keeping your focus on the bout ahead of you.


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