derby doubt – BE GONE!

Last night at the start of training the lovely Sin Amen Whip asked how I was going and I told her I had felt off for the last couple of days. She commented that at Tuesdays training she noticed I was a little “off” and she was bang on! It was a very “it’s not you, it’s me” moment, with that god-damn derby doubt rearing its ugly head once again.


from: Emerge Already

It happens to ALL of us. Roller derby is such an emotional roller coaster ride and each of our derby journeys are so so personal that you really have to separate yourself from others and stop comparing yourself to them and stop harshly judging yourself.

I have played team sports all my life (basketball) and I’d like to think I can be a great asset of support and encouragement to whoever is on my team. But when it comes to individual goal setting and focussing on my own accomplishments, pfft, all common sense, rationale and focus tends to go AWOL at times.

I found a fantastic little blog post over on Varsity Derby League’s blog which referenced Circle City Derby Girls skater Bunnie Low-Browski and her (excuse my Oprah referencing) “Aha! Moment” post entitled Lesson Twenty-Four: No shame in my game. Seriously, go read it. A lot of you will be nodding your head in agreement as you read Bunnie’s words.

To quote Bunnie: “I wish all the time that I had a video of everyone’s first practice. Just so you know- everyone sucks at first. Even speed skaters have to learn to juke. Jam skaters have to learn some strategy. Everyone has to learn how to hit. And yes. There will always be someone better than you, but they weren’t always. They got that way the same way you will- practice, practice, and more practice. Hold your head up and know that this is a very hard sport. There is no shame in learning. With a little patience and a lot of determination you are well on your way to derby greatness.”

All of us will face some type of self-doubt through our derby journeys, IT IS inevitable. But it’s how you deal with it that will determine your overall experience with this sport.

Listening to Sin’s own derby experience of coming back from injury last year and how hard she’s been working to recover quickly was impressive. Everyone will have doubt – be it coming back from injury, seeing your team mates progress faster than you, or joining a new league and asking yourself if you’re any good at this anyway?

Last night I walked away from training on a high. I asked questions when we were doing drills, got some really useful feedback on some blocking techniques I needed to work on and skated 27 in 5 (after not doing ANY endurance since I left Adelaide!). That derby doubt had been thrown out the window and it was a nice feeling.

What do you do to combat your derby doubt when it rears its ugly head? Talk it out? Skate it out? Deal with it internally and brush it off like it’s just the normal ups and downs of derby?

I’m interested in how other people deal with this sort of thing. Comment…. and Go!

16 thoughts on “derby doubt – BE GONE!

  1. All of the above. I talk it out with someone who’s opinion I trust and who I know will be honest with me rather than just telling me I’m ace. I think about what I want to improve and set myself SMART goals to get there. Sometimes just a quiet Friday arvo session in an empty rink either by myself or with a friend can be enough to remind me why I love this sport, doubts and all.

    • You’re welcome! I look forward to reading your post about it all!
      It was just good timing for me also, reading someone else’s post about this and inspire me to write mine!

  2. It wouldn’t be Roller Derby without a little or even a lot of self doubt! That’s what drives us to be better, practice, practice, practice! Just remember that’s why you play the game you love, sometimes you need to step outside the comfort zone and try something new… sure you’ll fall on your ass, no doubt, but you get back up and try again until you look less of a dick and more like you know what your doing. Roller Derby is FUN!!!! Love you AKKA!!!

  3. One of the things that strikes me again and again about roller derby is the fact that there are so many universal experiences. Self-doubt, league drama, burnout, derby love, etc… many if not all skaters will experience these things at some point in their derby career. When I wrote the blog post for VDL that you reference in your post, it was really a pivotal moment for me. It was the point where I decided that I was going to keep pushing myself at training and refuse to give up. And it’s worked. When I wrote that post I was a very unskilled freshie, with so much to learn. Less than four months later I won my orange star and last month I played in my league’s debut bout. I still have days where I feel like I’m the most suckingest skater that ever sucked, but what my “a-ha!” moment achieved was changing the way I deal with those feelings of inadequacy. I skate it out, or go seek out an unsteady freshy and make sure she’s doing ok. Keeping perspective is really important I think. I’m really happy that you discovered the awesomeness of Bunnie, and I hope you hipcheck those self-doubts in the face!

    • Thanks heaps for your comment, and thank you for writing your post, it inspired me to write mine!
      I think putting things in to perspective really helps, sometimes it’s hard to look back at really how far we’ve all come in our own derby journeys… I guess I’ve been having my own little doubts due to feeling like I’m starting all over with a new league, new people, new skater levels etc… But I’m finding that support and “derby love” you do find everywhere and it’s helping a lot.
      I’m helping out with freshie training tomorrow which I’m really looking forward to, and hoping that I can also help some new skaters ease any of their own derby doubts!

  4. Akka! Loving your little blog here. How fortunate for me to find you on this day too. I certainly have a lot of derby doubt going on having just transferred to this new team as well. Coupled with the impatience that comes when you really wanna get settled and find your place in the team the derby doubt gets real tough! That will disappear once I get graded, though when that happens I’ll be training with new people so derby doubt will rage again as I find my place ( I can already see how this will drag on for me). It can be hard to talk it out because you don’t know what impressions and reactions that will leave when you’re only new. Each team has their own culture. Skating it out is great but any little health / fitness set-backs feel grossly exaggerated if you’re trying to prove yourself and I empathize with you there too. Brushing is healthy – here you really need to develop patience to wait it out till you’re finally settled – torture I know but it helps deal with the emotion. This is a skill area I need to embody more. I love a good reflection through internal work and self-talk. This is my favourite method by far! Thx dear xx Melissa

    • Melissa thanks for commenting! I so glad some of this is definitely ringing true for others and I’m loving hearing how other people deal with their doubt.
      So have you moved to Northside too? I sometimes forget that ALL freshies are coming in to a new league meeting new people and facing just the same doubts as perhaps someone just transferring leagues…
      So are you with Northside now? Have we met yet?? I lose track of names all the time! Please come say hello if you see my helmet skating around!!! 🙂 x

  5. Hey Akka, this post is so helpful. It’s nice to know we all anguish over this stuff. I’m a huge fan of goal setting to focus my anxieties. Nice small achievable goals like get low if someone’s coming in to hit me. I dont worry so much about the outcome just about whether I did what I set out to. Sometimes I set less derby-specific goals like to smile during a jam or to exhale while hitting. Again, I don’t worry about whether the hit was any good – just whether I exhaled or not.

    In terms of processing this stuff, about 20% of the posts I write never get published. I write about whatever’s stressing me and having to set it out with a beginning, guts and ending usually neutralizes the stress. Then I delete the draft and move on 🙂

    • I do wonder WHY we all anguish over this stuff? Why does it seem so prevalent throughout the derby community to have such derby-doubt… it’s not un-common, so why is that? Is it also with other sports do you think? I don’t think I ever struggled this much with other team sports I have played?

  6. God I’m stoked you wrote this post – Everyone always thinks they’re the only one with Derby Doubt and we forget even the most gifted, naturally talented skaters and athletes have their off days too; The one thing that gets rid of gnarly derby doubt for me every single time once I calm myself down, is that once you start using yourself as your own yardstick for measuring success and not the person skating next to, or some amazing girl from a more experienced league – that’s when the doubt flies out the window and everything you’ve achieved since first pulling on those skates for the first time comes into sharp focus – We get so focused on picking out our flaws and trying to strengthen them that we forget that It’s ok to pat yourself on the back and acknowledge your “High – 5” moments during training/scrimmage/bouting as well 🙂

    • Yeah totally! Good point… using yourself as your own yardstick to measure your improvements, that’s a great way to look at it! Definitely have to take stock more and reflect when we’ve had little wins… it does sometimes feel like a battle with the derby demons, but it really shouldn’t ever be hard work 🙂

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