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06

Dec

Recently Lost and Found: My Self-Belief

I have always been a fairly confident person when it comes to roller derby. And by this I mean I have always been confident that I could work on my weaknesses to improve, and always had a positive mindset. I also used to have a steely resolve when it came to games, and often thrived in those down to the wire games. 

For some reason I lost that on LRG’s West Coast Tour earlier in the year until about 3 days before Brawling set off to Play-Offs, and it’s one of those things that I didn’t realise it had ebbed away until I suddenly found it again. Phew! I am so glad I realised though!

I think a combination of things caused it: being away for the 2 weeks prior to the WCT with Southern Discomfort at The Big O, so missing those crucial last few sessions with the team (won’t be doing that ever again!), skating on awful sports court which I was really surprised just how much it affected my style, then putting a lot of pressure on myself to tweak a few things in my game, feeling frustrated at training when that didn’t happen, my pack-mates looking and seeming obviously a bit down about how we were working together (for some reason, something was just not clicking). I began to wonder if perhaps this was it for me, that I had reached my limit and perhaps the game was better left for the younger kids coming up. It was weird, because I have never felt like that before, so having these thoughts creep in after 6 years of always feeling like I was on an upward trajectory, made me believe these negative thoughts  might just be true.

I had always managed to problem solve and pinpoint where things weren’t quite working (as a coach it is something I pride myself in) however I couldn’t quite grasp it this time. It seemed like we were all overcompensating and trying so hard that it just wasn’t improving.

Enter my team-mate Kamikaze Kitten with her advice from The Inner Game of Tennis which talks about how sometimes trying harder does not equate to more success.  And how Analysis Paralysis can then set in. I was sceptical because I did firmly believe that if we didn’t at least discuss what we needed to do to improve, that we would essentially be just doing the same thing incorrectly over and over. Kami disagreed and said: ”If you try and break it all down too much then you stifle your natural ability to adapt.”

It was weird though, because I would go to SDRD (Southern Discomfort Roller Derby, the Men’s team I coach) training and feel completely capable and strong against guys double my size, but then go into my own training the next day and just feel like a total klutz, often second guessing myself and what I should be doing. The obvious answer is that at the guy’s practice, I had nothing to lose and so had the freedom to ‘just play’. You also need to have a base level of confidence going into playing against and with guys who are stronger than you. ‘If only I could harness that ability with my own team training!’, I remember thinking. But then I would go into training trying TOO hard.

At the same time, about a week from Play-Offs, we got our Bench Coach Ballistic Whistle to jam against our pack. He gave us 2 vital bits of information about how our defense as a pack could improve. It was nothing complex or something unachievable requiring us to learn something completely new. We already had all the skills to achieve it. It was really quite simple.   It was what our pack had been needing the whole time. Someone from outside our bubble to just say what they saw and for us to make an easy change. It was THEN that it allowed Kami’s ‘Quitened Mind’ to function free from inner judgement or over-thinking.

It all just clicked, and then we WERE able to be dynamic and adapt during gameplay. I had felt like I wanted a ‘one size fits all’ answer to how our wall should react in any one interaction, when what I really needed was just a couple of new foundation stones which we could then build on using our instinct.

We were also doing some sessions with the Dynamic Sports Academy on Mental Toughness Conditioning, and it felt like exactly the right information I needed to hear and reminded me how I used to be. It really knocked the sense back into me.

AND THANK GOD FOR THAT! JUST IN TIME FOR PLAY-OFFS!

Now I can see the wisdom in what Kami was trying to say. I just needed to get out of my ‘judgemental head’ first. So having someone outside looking in giving us 2 simple bits of objective feedback (rather than me beating myself up for failing) was all it took to allow my body to do what it knew how to. I have always known I play best when I feel confident but I had encountered a weird glitch where I didn’t think I had the right to feel confident because I was clearly not capable. This was totally the wrong way to look at it. I also needed to take some of my own medicine and realise that Brawlgust (3 x a week Brawling Only training in August) was probably tougher than any game could ever be. Playing against ourselves, knowing all our weaknesses and how to exploit them, was so mentally and physically challenging.

So in the week before Playoffs, every time I had a little seed of doubt, I would say ‘NO’ in my head and close down the negative image or feeling, and visualise instead our wall being super strong and holding up against the Rose City Jammers’ power. I didn’t think about winning the game***, I didn’t think in ‘What Ifs’, I cleared my mind to pretty much just be this one image of our wall (and my place in it) as rock solid.

And everything about Play-Offs just suddenly FELT right. Walking into the Venue felt right. All the Backing Brawling photos people were posting felt right. From our pre-warmups with our pack, to team warmups, team meetings, to our bench communication pre-jam. It all fell into place without having to really think at all. I got over the hump, and now I feel like I am playing some of the best derby of my life. Hurrah!

I can’t WAIT for next season!

————————————————————————————————————————————(***In saying that, it was important that as a team we believed we COULD win. This was a turning point for us. Allowing ourselves to TRULY have self-belief that we could match ANY team in the World rather than just being happy to ‘get close’ to Top 10 teams.)

19

Sep

What Does It Take? Post #4

3. Commitment to Action/Accountability

The first entry I wrote about how important it was to have business structures in place to make your league run smoothly.

The next step on from that is that those structures mean nothing without a commitment to action and accountability for getting stuff done.

We all love roller derby, right? We all have a passion for it. But you’ll note I don’t include ‘passion’ as a recipe for a successful league. I believe plenty of skaters are passionate about roller derby, and their league, but it is our actions that are what turns your passion into the fruits of success.

Sure, you have to have passion to carry on even though you are tired, frustrated, annoyed-at-having-to-check-the-forum-on-a-Sunday-morning, but as this great blog entry that I literally just found, talks about, it’s the effort that counts:

http://blogmaverick.com/2012/03/18/dont-follow-your-passion-follow-your-effort/

A successful league will never say: ”But we’re just volunteers!” or use that fallback excuse of ”Well, it *is* meant to be fun after all!” when they continually lose games, if they are really wanting to improve. Absolutely, there are times when expectations warrant a ”Hey, I have a day job here, give me a break!” but the leagues that continue to build are the ones that really do just work their arses off and sacrifice their time, even when they would prefer to be doing something else.

So a commitment to action is not just having the big ideas, but the real, true commitment to getting it done and making it happen. Don’t just talk about it. Do it.

The next step of having a commitment to action is accountability. If we take on a task, we need to be realistic as to how much help we need with it, we need timelines and deadlines, and be able to delegate. We need to be accountable to someone/eachother. Whether it is the Board of Directors who take on tasks being accountable to the membership, or whether it is the person on Merch whose job it is to stocktake being accountable to their Committee Head, or a skater being accountable to her team by turning up to training.

What are the checks and balances in your league to make sure things get done? 

This isn’t about finger wagging and blaming people for not doing ‘enough’ work or being a martyr (”I do everything and no-one else does anything. That’s it. I am on strike!”. It’s about putting systems in place to make that work easier to achieve and taking personal responsibility.

It’s just a simple fact that if you have the people willing to put the time in to make something happen, you will see results.

28

Aug

What Does It Take? Post #3

2. Have Clear Values and Associated Behaviours as a League/Team

For me, this is actually where it all starts. All other decisions are based off of having a set of clear values and associated behaviours, as well as goals.

We talk a lot about goal setting in roller derby. So what does the ‘Values’ part mean? Values are things which are important to you. They will determine your priorities and deep down will be the things that satisfy you when they are being met.

Not having an understanding of your team/league’s values causes utter chaos.

The best way to tell this story is to give you my personal experience (the consequences of which have probably been the most rewarding and satisfying experiences as someone in a leadership position.)

Back in 2011, I became the Victorian Roller Derby League’s All Stars Captain and after having a couple of different Co-Captains, eventually Berzerker came back on board after having had a season off as Captain.

We realised we had a bit of a situation and were determined to put into place processes to change it. At the time, we had just switched to a ‘Top 30’ model where our A and B Teams trained together. The idea was that we were the Captains of the whole group of 30, and that B Team Captains would get chosen game-by-game.

We realised the huge difficulty in representing a large group of people who were on different pages. As Captains, we realised WE had assumed values that perhaps didn’t represent the whole group. For example: We wanted to be the best team in the country and play competitive WFTDA games and were willing to do whatever it took for that to happen. And we WERE winning games, however not everyone was necessarily happy with HOW we were winning them or how we trained with those goals in mind. We had skaters who thought it would be better if there was more even playing time, we had skaters untrusting of decision making processes (rosters, selection criteria, lineups, etc), we had skaters that didn’t like how ‘tough’ we were being in training. 

We realised that most, if not ALL, of our tension came from not addressing these broader issues of: ”Why are we here?” and ”What kind of team are we/do we want to be?”

People join roller derby for all sorts of reasons, and that is totally cool, but without some sort of joint understanding about the values or aims of your group, there will always be a tug of war when it comes to decision making.

So what did we do about it? We were determined to discover what the majority of the skater’s values were for our team. We were completely willing, if the majority of the team felt that way, to put aside our ambitions for the team (super competitive at a high level) if that wasn’t what the majority of our team wanted (though we secretly planned to step down as Captains if that was the case, because we knew we couldn’t Captain any other way).

Our actual process was one that was mapped out by Berzerker and I as a full on, ongoing process (that we later developed into a Seminar and Training Camp that we provided other leagues around Australia). But it started by getting the group together and deciding on our Team Values, and most importantly the ‘associated behaviours’ of these values. For example: It’s all well and good to say you value ‘Athleticism’, but that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So what does it mean to YOUR specific group? Does it mean ‘running 10kms to training and doing endurance drills with a weighted vest on’? Or ‘not being hungover at Sunday training?’ How as a group are you embodying ‘athleticism’?

Once you have your values and behaviours, you start to build a ‘culture’ around those values. It essentially allows you to say: ‘This is the kind of team/league we are!’, so then when new skaters want to join, they are fully aware of your purpose (other than just ‘playing roller derby, yay, girl power on wheels, woo!’ Everyone knows what is expected of them, including those in leadership positions. The values become your moral compass for decision making and will get you all working towards the same goals with enthusiasm and passion.

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If you would like to know more about this stuff, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. If you are interested in me coming out to your league to help you with this stuff, email me here: kitty@doublethreatskates.co.uk

19

Aug

What Does It Take? Post #2

Okaaaaaay! In my last post I talked about breaking down what I believe makes a ‘successful’ team/league. Here is the first secret:

1. Run Your League Like a Business

Here are some pointers about how you can make this happen:

A) Have a Strategic Plan

Set short term (0-6 months), mid-term (12-24 months) and long-term goals/plans (up to 5 years). With each of these, you need to set action timelines of all the little steps that need to be done to reach those goals. If you want your own warehouse venue within 12 months, you need to plan how that is going to happen or else it will always be a pie in the sky idea. Who needs to be involved to make it happen? What do they need to do? Who is overseeing it?

Ideally, the whole league should be part of the process in deciding these goals. You need to have buy-in from the people who are going to be donating their time to making something happen. Everyone needs to know the plan (make a copy of this available to new league members), and it needs to be referred to and used constantly, not just something you do and then forget about when there are changes of leadership or membership.

B) Have a Solid Committee and Worker Structure.

There needs to be clear departments and an understanding of how committees report to Directors/Executive Committees, and to the league.

Expectations of committee members is highly important.

Empowering Committee Heads to delegate tasks and to make decisions or recommendations is key. 

Make a Flow Chart of how your organisation works and have it available on your forum, handed out to new members, or up at your venue (if applicable).

It should be really clear what the roles of Board Members, Committee Heads, Captains, Committee Members are.

Tap into people’s day jobs, skills and contacts. Don’t let people’s skills go to waste!

C) Decision Making and Transperancy

How you make decisions in your league is really critical.

What type of things go to whole league vote?

Is it a simple majority?

Do you need a quorum for votes to pass?

What kind of league input is required before votes are posted?

What are the time periods involved?

I remember back in VRDL when I was on the Board, we didn’t really have a policy, so we bought in a quorum requirement but we were having trouble getting people to actually vote (even with an ‘Abstain’ option) which meant items stalled and it was really frustrating as we couldn’t move forward. So we decided to just make it a simple majority. It caused OUTRAGE! So we then had to go right back to basics and have a ”Vote Vote” to decide how we wanted to vote as a league once and for all!

POST MEETING MINUTES! I can’t stress how important this little bit is. Every Committee, especially Directors, should be posting their Meeting Minutes. In VRDL, we also required each committee meet once per month, which to be honest, often didn’t always happen, but as long as there was a little update to the league and Directors, it generally sufficed. Why is posting Minutes so important?

  • Transperancy: there needs to be a culture of trust in your league for it to be successful. Often simply bringing things up for discussion or posting Minutes can simply serve as a communication tool so that league members know the pressing issues that the Board/Committees are dealing with, even if they don’t necessarily care about the particular topic. Especially with big leagues, you can often feel in the dark about the big picture if the Board don’t post their Minutes. If you are all working with your Strategic Plan, we like to know what is being done to make it happen. Make sure Minutes are edited and posted thoughtfully. Often our shorthand notes are rather brusk with no context. Be sure to make them clear enough that someone who wasn’t at the meeting won’t get the wrong end of the stick. (Anyone remember the Great Miscommunication of 2012, VRDL?!)
  • Inspiration!!! We want to create inspired, passionate skaters for the next generation. So you never know if the discussion or Minutes you have posted might pique someone’s interest to be the next fabulous WFTDA Rep or inspire them to create a new trailblazing attendance policy.

D) Have a Budget/Finance Committee

Sending a team to the U.S costs tens of thousands of dollars/pounds.

Renting a warehouse space the same.

Spending £25,000AUS to put a bout on is a BIG DEAL.

All of these things require sound understanding of finances.

Clear financial forecasting and budgeting will allow you to book your season accordingly, plan for fundraisers, as well as league growth. You absolutely cannot just run piece-meal when it comes to league cashola.

Posting Bout P&L’s (Profit and Loss) to your league is really important too.

E) Don’t be afraid to outsource. If you need to and can afford to hire a book-keeper, do it. If you need to sub-contract an Events Manager for a one off event, because you don’t have anyone with those skills, do it!

14

Aug

WHAT DOES IT TAKE? #1

Brawling just came back from doing a training camp up in Edinburgh and we did a Q&A at the end of the session and we were asked a really interesting question (and one that has been repeatedly asked in varying but similar ways to me over the years as part of LRG and VRDL):

'How do you become a successful league who does things like compete at international level, get your own warehouse venue, and be at the top of your game?' (Not a direct quote, apologies, I can't remember the exact words used.)

Whenever I have been asked this, I am always slightly hesitant in answering because it feels like I am being facetious and assuming other leagues don’t do any of the things. EG: Train hard! DUH!!!! No shit. Thanks for the words of wisdom ;)

So I have had a big old think about this and have come up with a list of the main things that contribute to a league that gets shit done, both on and off the track.

1. Run Your League Like a Business.

2. Have Clear Values and Goals.

3. Strong Commitment to Action/Accountability.

4. Group Dynamics: Positive Peer Pressure, Collaboration, Leadership.

5. Getting the Most Out of Training: Innovation, Dedication and Commitment to Bringing Everyone to the Top.

So my next few blogs will be explaining in detail the ‘how’s’ of the above 5 elements, known as the Magical Unicorn Knowledge.

Well Hello!

It has been quite a while since I last wrote.

Reason: Oh you know, moved countries, (re)-joined London Rollergirls, Bench Coaching for Southern Discomfort, opened a skate shop, etc.

You would think this would be perfect blog fodder but to be honest, I only really feel like writing public things when I am sure of stuff…or at least sure of my unsuredness and find it an interesting reflection, but coming back to LRG has been really intense…re-joining the league I started playing roller derby with, coming back to my old friends…but after being gone for 2.5 years, who knew how it would turn out? So I have really just been focusing on the moment.

I’ve been back in London for almost a year now, and finally put pen to paper….

12

Jul

Roller Derby...the secrets uncovered....!

Click on the link

11

Jul

10

Jul

On Running Up the Score

This is actually not a term we really use in Australia. Nor is it actually a concept in Australian pro sport. I wonder what the cultural difference is?

Here’s an interesting link on Wikipedia about ”running up the score”, and I will quote below an excerpt from it talking specifically about Aussie Rules football:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Running_up_the_score

Australian Rules Football

Running up the score is a common practice in Australian rules football. The only tiebreaker used in most leagues is the percentage of points for versus points against; as such, margins frequently become large. This occurs in all levels of play, particularly in metropolitan and country leagues, where weaker teams can often be beaten by as much as 200 points. Significantly, the sport lacks any obvious means to kill off a match quickly and painlessly, and time-wasting is both unpopular with fans and discouraged by the laws of the game. Junk time is also a key contributing factor. In finals games, where percentage is no longer relevant, teams do occasionally attract criticism for running up the score. The most extreme recorded example of running up the score was theWilliamstown Seagulls' score of 110.27 (687) against Geelong West Roosters in a 1983 VFA Under-19s game.

Now what the heck does this have to do with roller derby, you ask?

Well, it seems to be a bit of a hot topic, even in Australian roller derby.

So let’s look at what Wikipedia says about why teams run up the score and try to look at it in a derby context:

(***Disclaimer: I am talking about Travel Team games specifically here.)

1. To improve the first team players’ game stamina, so they are better prepared for later games, e.g. high school teams that are dominant through regular season, but will face much stronger teams when playing for state championship.

Derby Context: If you want your ”starting” lineups to perform when faced with difficult opponents, they need to have played a full game at the intensity required down the track. If you take the foot off the pedal when facing weaker opposition, you’ll never know what it’s like to really have to bust it out.


2. To demonstrate domination of one’s opponents, and intimidate them and future opponents.

Derby Context: If you can manage to do this prior to the game, it’s already half won. From a technical standpoint as well, teams like London absolutely needed to beat Auld Reekie by the amount they did so they could demonstrate they still deserve a place at Regionals.


3. To demonstrate respect for the opposing team by not easing up.

Derby Context: I feel like this is the most important for our growing community. I hear it said around the traps that teams *should* ease up, but then in the same breath folks talk about newer teams wanting to ”learn” when they play the top teams. So I ask you—-what is a better lesson? Playing a team at it’s best, or playing a team you know has gone easy on you? I know which one I would learn best from!


4. To gain an advantage where play statistics (such as points scored or point differential) are kept and used for professional advancement or as part of a tiebreaking system.

OR

To improve rankings and thus a better placement in a championship picture

Derby Context: As could be seen at TGSS where 2 teams would advance on points differential. Also with no fully scheduled ”season” in WFTDA play where all teams play eachother a certain amount of times, we rely on triangulation of scores, so you really always want to win by the biggest margin possible.


5. To allow the ”first” team to work on unproven/untested plays or allow untested players first team repetitions.

Derby Context: This is key for me. Continuing to run up the score is not about ”humiliation” or trying to embarrass the other team. I’ve never been part of team goal setting for a game where this has been a goal. It has ALWAYS been about doing what we need to do to become a better team. When we played at Dust Devil, we spoke about IF we were ever ahead by a significant margin, if we would then try using our non-primary jammers or rest our top players. We decided we wouldn’t, that we would use the game to perfect our team work so that we felt like an even more solid unit going into the next game—-we decided we should play every game like we would a ”final” against a tough opponent so we could get the rhythm right. I have heard it mentioned that if we had have rested players during the Assassination City game once we were far enough ahead, that we could have possibly beaten Angel City.

I disagree completely. I think it was only due to the growing momentum and having the chance to get it ”right” in the game against Assassination, that we were able to make that comeback against Angel. If our ”starting” lineups hadn’t have had that time together, we would have felt like deer in headlights. 

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For me, what it boils down to is your team goal setting. What does your team want to get out of the game? Is it an opponent you know you’re definitely going to beat? Maybe you want to give some of your up and coming skaters some track time so you can develop them? Maybe you have a really tough opponent not long after this coming game and you need to iron out some kinks with your ”starting” lineups?

 There is absolutely nothing wrong with your team’s plan to get a good lead and then ease up (rest players, try different rotations, play your rookies, etc), the important things is that it’s about what YOU need as a team to develop in the way you want to.

I also think that just because you’re ”winning” a game doesn’t mean you’re playing the way you want to. We knew what we wanted to see from our team at TGSS to make us feel confident if we made it to the final. Sure we won against Auckland, but there were quite a few errors we made that we knew we needed to fix if we wanted to take home the Golden Thong. Playing Newcastle, we started to get into the groove, but they definitely tested us in a few areas (THANKS LADIES!), which again we deconstructed and set goals to improve on when we played CRDL. We are extremely critical of ourselves as a team, and therefore it’s not about ”winning” but about ”playing the perfect game”—-for ourselves. Because we want to continually push our own boundaries. My point being, your team’s goals should be about what YOU want to get out of a game.

Is that unfair on your opponent? Unsportsperson-like? I dunno. I would feel more unfair or unsportsy if I dumbed down our team’s game so as not to ”offend” anyone. Just don’t be an arsehole about it :)


P.S: yeah yeah I know there’s another angle here I am not touching on, and that is whether a blow-out is good for fans to watch, but I’m not going near THAT discussion with a 20 foot pole!!!

P.P.S: Auckland just reminded me of something—-I have been on both sides of the fence too. We got beat by Rat City and TXRG’s Hotrod Honeys both by about 140 points—-and it was AMAZING!

09

Jul

Derby Direction (Team Building and Coaching)

Click here to find out about how Berzerker and I can help your team be as awesome as you want it to be!