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.)