It’s taking me a little longer than expected to prepare my “Overthinkers” post, so in the meantime, here are my class notes from my Overcoming Plateaus Rollercon Seminar.
1. Absolutely everything about playing roller derby is about muscle memory, including mental game. The only skills you can count on having on game day are the ones you can consistently do during practice.
2. No matter what your skill level is, you absolutely can reach all of your goals if you’re willing to do the work. The key is not to just grind out more skating practices hoping to randomly acquire more skills, but to be very deliberate and direct about what your next steps are in your training.
3. You must take responsibility for your own training. Roller derby skating is a craft, not a product to be quickly obtained and consumed (unless you are in the stands).
Common sources of plateaus:
• Physical plateaus – endurance/conditioning/gaps in skill set.
• Adjusting to being coached, following directions (and sometimes orders) from your coach, pivot, or teammates.
• Mental game – performance anxiety, over thinking, lack of confidence, anger (at self or at others who aren’t performing to your specifications), or not taking responsibility for your own shortcomings
This seminar will cover some specific strategies on how to fine tune your practice habits and training plan so that you can spend more time skating at your full potential.
Some basic things to get out of the way:
1. Roller derby is hard.
a. You had to learn to even skate first, which in itself is a huge deal. Do not underestimate how big of a deal (and sometimes how long of a road it is) to learn how to skate well.
b. Simultaneous offense and defense requires a high level of mental focus and teamwork, which is not learned overnight, or even in one or two seasons.
c. Our sport is evolving and escalating so fast that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and lost by the increasing skill demands of skaters
2. You’ll probably never develop as fast as you’d like to
a. Rushing through basic skills makes it difficult to adapt to the advancement of the sport.
b. If you have skills that you dread or have a lot of trouble with – make it a priority to learn them, even if you have to do it on your own time, or in creative ways
c. Practicing doing things the “right way” (or most effective way) is going to help you in the long run, rather than practicing in ways that seem effective in the short run.
d. Be progress focused, rather than “on a schedule”
e. Be nice to yourself during this whole journey.
3. Analyze the people who are really strong skaters
a. Look at their skating as individual skills rather than just attributing it to “awesomeness” or them being “a machine”
b. Take what they do, and do smaller versions of what they do to try to emulate their abilities
c. Watching what strong skaters do in practice may help you more than watching what they do in bouts (skill wise)
d. There is a huge difference between looking at other skaters’ skills sets, and comparing yourself to other skaters. Focus on the former and avoid the latter like the plague.
4. Elements of a strong skater:
b. Deep Skill Set
Physical Plateaus / Building Your Skill Set:
1. Minimum Skills are just that: the bare minimum to keep up in our sport, and is also made up of the most underrated tools.
a. Strong skaters practice their basic skills well beyond the scope of the “minimums”, and they practice them throughout their career.
b. The best skaters beat their opponents almost entirely by using the most basic skills. Stops, laterals, various transitions, jumps and strong skating form are major examples.
c. This is very important for bout preparation, as adrenaline, fatigue, and excitement will often cause people to get a much sloppier, especially toward end of game
2. Filling the skills gaps using deliberate practice (solo practice)
a. Set clearly defined goals and absolute numbers to set the purpose of your practice
b. “100 reps” example / highly focused on technique
c. Take a break if your technique starts to get sloppy
d. Practice isn’t over until you’ve met all of your practice goals
3. Deliberate practice means:
a. Breaking down the skills and practicing the broken down pieces
b. Practicing at a slower or less “awesome” feeling pace if necessary
c. NEVER practicing on autopilot – each attempt is being doing with full focus and attentiveness
d. Jerry Rice: “Today I will do what others won’t, so that tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.
e. Deliberate practice means that giving 100% does not necessarily mean go 100% hard. It means do 100% of the skill, all parts of it, and increase the intensity as you become more fluent.
f. Autopilot is your enemy. Never practice on autopilot.
4. Cross training will save your body:
a. Short routines of basic moves will make a huge difference – consistency trumps intensity.
b. Commit to cross-training 2-3 days per week, you can increase intensity over time as your body adjusts.
c. Find exercises that will strengthen your body to better do the skating skills you want
d. Stay consistent and you’ll be amazed how quickly it shows up on the track
e. When it starts to feel easy, find new routines to do. Stay sore.
f. BMW example. Well made, high performance cars can simply do more than a basic sedan. Build your BMW.
5. Speaking of staying sore:
a. You will grow so much faster as a skater if you skate through the reasonable discomfort and soreness that comes from training (as opposed to injury). This is what being an athlete is. Pushing limits.
b. Work on keeping up with people faster than you are. For blocking drills, get hit by the hard hitters and practice hitting the people who are really stable.
c. Try to block the fastest, most jukey jammers.
d. You will fail a lot, but once you get it, you’ll have it GOOD. You’ll be less fearful of failure.
e. “I have plenty of time” mindset will keep you from getting wound up and making errors.
Mental Game / Becoming Coachable
6. Coaching is not the same as teaching.
a. You may know what is needed, but your coach can see if you’re actually doing it. Trust the coach.
b. Telling your coach “I know” means you are not actually being receptive to the feedback. Even if you are frustrated or disagree, just follow their direction anyway, you might “accidentally” do something amazing.
c. If the coach is teaching a technique that is not your strongest version of the skill, practice their technique anyway. This increases versatility in game play.
d. Trust is everything. Trust your coach, trust your pivot, trust your teammates, and trust yourself.
7. Dog vs. Cat
a. Dogs are never too tired to do something for a treat
b. Dogs move swiftly and are constantly ready just in case you may want to give them a treat or take them out
c. Cats operate on their own time, spend way too much time deliberating if they want to walk through a doorway
d. Be a dog. You’re never too tired for derby.
8. If you’re having difficulty:
a. Practice forgiving yourself for making errors. This is a skill that must be practiced just like a skating skill. Dwelling on mistakes takes you straight out of the game.
b. Michael Jordan missed shots 9,000 times in his career (at least). If you miss jammers, whiff hits, or otherwise make mistakes, chalk it up to your 9,000 missed shots and be ready to try again.
c. Don’t make excuses. Don’t even bother speaking them out loud. Nobody cares about why you failed to do something you were supposed to do. They only care that you are willing to try again.
d. Pinpoint where exactly you are having the trouble. This will help the coach figure out what your next step should be. Be very specific.
e. You cannot change bad habits in one practice. You CAN make small, deliberate modifications to your practice habits that will turn into real change over time (usually weeks or months).
f. Anxiety: Using the 1-2-3 system to pull yourself out of a bad practice. If you’re having a 1 (shitty practice), what can you do to make it a 2?
g. Understand that overcoming a bad practice will help you in a tough game where everything is going wrong.
9. Goal setting:
a. “Goals are a bit like babies – they’re fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain.”
b. Find the 3 most important skills needing work and focus on those
c. Goals should be precise and measurable. Absolute numbers work well. How will you know when the goal has been reached?
d. Get feedback from coaches and captains on what your next goals should be
e. Make them your obsession.
10. Ways to check your skill level:
c. Pack Speed?
d. In the middle of the pack?
e. During scrimmage or game play?
f. While being engaged by tough opponent?
a. Watch your favorite derby clips before practice
b. Visualize doing badass things, with proper technique. Don’t forget to include your teammates in your visualizations!
c. Make lists of things you have accomplished in the past month or few months
d. Buddy up with someone to work on goals together
e. Take pride in your accomplishments – derby is a privilege. Many people wish they could do what we do.
“ People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.”