With the new year comes a new derby season, and while this isn’t exactly a derby blog, I do love to share my goals and planning with y’all. As you might be able to guess from the image above (credit to Michael Warrick Photography!) this year’s goals are all about staying connected with what I love most about the sport.
I’m a big nerd about planning — I love to look into the future and think about what might happen, what I would like to happen, and how I can position myself for the best possible results. It’s inspiring to think about the possibilities, and while I can’t quite predict the future, I’ve gotten a good taste of satisfaction from setting goals and working toward them. Practices and charter tryouts for the 2020 season haven’t started yet, but my training, planning and goal setting never really stop. In preparation for each new season, I set some intentions and priorities, and this year I took the time to get extra clear about how I want to show up over the next 12 months. In the past, my goals were more specific: Play in my first game; Play on a travel team; Make the charter; Survive the season. In 2019, I took my time finding my comfort zone with my new league and figuring out how I really want to play derby, and in 2020, I feel ready to commit to the type of player and teammate I want to be.
I will honor my body and my life by practicing, training, and playing in a way that supports my long term health and happiness.
I started playing derby in 2014, and while the sport has brought me immeasurable joy and personal growth, it’s also possible to really fuck up your life and your body playing it. I was warned before I started skating that it can become like a second, unpaid job, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how willing I would be to let that happen. I love skating. I love how powerful it feels to play a full contact sport. And I love seeing what my team can accomplish together when we all work hard. But I don’t love missing important events in the lives of my loved ones “because I have derby,” always being tired and sore, the weird intermittent foot and ankle pain and numb toes, and of course, the searing pain of SI joints when not properly cared for. For me, being able to continue playing derby means that while I will always be committed to my team and playing my best, I require a balanced approach. I am not one of those people who can go hard all the time. I am not what anyone would describe as a “hungry” skater, unless by that you mean literally hungry for a goddamn taco after practice. I did come to this sport to prove something to myself, but I proved it a long time ago, and now it’s time to play and train sustainably. I know what I’m capable of when I’m working my hardest 100% of the time, and now I want to see how far I can go if I take the slow and steady approach. I’m not particularly concerned about rankings at this point (which is not to say I don’t pay attention to them at all, but they aren’t the reason I play), but I want to see how long I can keep this up, how much I can grow, and what my team can do in the long run. I have an opportunity to give something meaningful to my community through coaching and being a good teammate and friend. These are the aspects of derby that I know will bring long-term satisfaction. I have occasionally felt pretty good after winning a game, but I’ve also felt miserable after winning because we didn’t win by enough points to support our ranking or because the team did great but I personally was unsatisfied with my performance. I have felt proud of myself for what my body can do, but I’ve also beat myself up for not pushing hard enough and felt shame about not getting stronger fast enough. I’m not doing that anymore. I don’t train through injuries. I don’t use pre-workout mixes that make me feel like my skin’s going to jump off. And I occasionally skip practice just because.
I will play for the love of the game, my team, and the greater community, and I will reflect it in my behavior on and off the track.
When I first started skating, I wasn’t doing it for the love of the game. How could I love a game I’d never played? I was doing it because I wanted to know if I could. I needed to prove to myself that I was brave, strong, capable, and everything else I thought derby skaters were. When I watched my first games, the women I saw on the track were my heroes. In comparison to them, I felt weak and afraid. When I started playing derby, I felt how much fear had controlled me all my life. As I became braver on the track, it was reflected in my life off the track. At the same time, something else was starting to show up, and it’s not something I’m very proud of. Where there was once fear, I started to find a sharp kind of proving-ness. I had this need to be tough all the time, partly because that was how I saw everyone around me. It was just the same old fear expressing itself as aggression rather than hiding the way I used to. It wasn’t really better, and it didn’t make me happy. It took some heartbreak and a good amount of time to soften those callouses. It’s no coincidence that my break from derby coincided with the completion of my yoga therapy training, a significant life re-evaluation, and starting work with a therapist. I had uncovered some stuff about myself that required examining. In the year I took away from the game, I never stopped missing skating. I dreaded going to practice, but I craved a community. I haunted every open skate in town, but I missed playing and teaching the game. When I returned to derby, it was with the clarity that I really do love it and the hope that I could find a place in a community that shared my values. When I first skated with Free State, I immediately felt like it was a place where I could be at home. On my first night, someone introduced herself and announced that we should be friends, and just like that, we were friends. I’ve also come to understand that it is the responsibility of every one of us to create the community we want to be part of, so I’ve made a bigger effort in the past year to keep that at the fore of my awareness when interacting with others. When I teach new skaters, I talk to them about working sustainably, honoring their bodies, practicing self care, and holding their own boundaries. I know personally that this sport can be deeply empowering, and that’s what I love about it, even more than hitting people and getting points.
I will do my best and recognize that my best changes every day.
I believe in playing to the best of my ability every time I get on the track, but my best is not the same from one day to the next. One day I might have all the energy in the world and feel totally unstoppable. Another time, getting to practice at all might be a struggle. The point is not that I have to be better every day than I was the day before. The point is to show up and do the work. The progress I made last week is not lost if I can’t practice this week. The progress my team made in one game is not invalidated if we lose the next one. The hours I have put into practice and self work over the past five+ years did not disappear into the ether. Those hours take root in the body as strength, reflex, muscle memory, and strategic instinct. When I’m in good condition, well rested, mentally clear, and connected with my team, things come together beautifully and even somewhat consistently. Still, being tired is ok. Being sick is ok. Being injured is ok. Showing up to help the team when I can’t skate is still helping the team. Working to clear the mental fog is still work. It’s all valid. It’s all good. My job is to be real about where I am on any given day and put in the effort that feels right. I know a lot of people can’t really get behind an intuitive training program … but for me, this is the only way. My training involves moving when my body wants to move and resting when it wants to rest; eating when I’m hungry and what I’m hungry for (not restricting calories ever); varying my types of exercise based on the time of year, my mood, and the skills I’m focused on at the moment; and meditating every day. Every day. Every day. Meditation is the one part of my training that I cannot do without. Some days, just sitting down to meditate is very hard because I’m too distracted or I don’t think I have time for it. On those days, I still do my best, even if it’s just a minute.
I will look for ways to help my teammates grow and excel, even/especially if it means they may surpass me.
In the highly competitive world of derby, it can be hard to be happy for others’ successes. I hate to admit that I’ve ever begrudged a teammate their success, but I have, and I’m probably not the only one. Thanks to my pseudo-retirement, I had the realization that I personally don’t care if I ever get to play in another playoff tournament, which is not to say that I don’t want my team to get there. In fact, I have hopes that my team could get there. I’ve seen us grow so much over the past year, and I’ve seen the strides taken by our outstanding leadership team to always uphold our mission of inclusivity and empowerment. Nothing would make me happier than to see a league with this kind of ethos playing at the top levels of the sport. But it will take time to do it right, and you never know what life will bring, so I’m not making any promises about being on the charter when that happens. I’m excited about being in a position to coach new skaters, the ones who will be on that charter. I’m mentally planning what to wear in case I get asked to help run lineups when the time comes. I’ve learned that being part of a team is more about building up the people around me than proving myself. Improving myself is something I did for me. Helping others up is what I do for my team.
I will be kind.
When I do eventually retire from skating for real, I want to look back on my experience and feel happy with who I was in the story. Life is a story, after all, and while we are not in control of the entire narrative, we do get to make some pretty big decisions about the kind of people we want to be and what we want to contribute to the stories of others. There are a lot of things we can aspire to offer in other’s lives, but I believe kindness is key. You really can’t have too much kindness. When you treat someone with kindness, you give them permission to see themselves as someone who is worthy of kindness. Kindness can be the start of so much growth while unkindness is almost always a seed for resentment and cruelty. I’m not just talking about derby here, but because derby is a uniquely tight-knit community full of passionate people and powerful connections, it’s an especially fertile ground. If every action is amplified by the number of people it affects, then our actions toward our derby community can be profound. There are enough people bringing training tips, strategy, and techniques we can learn, and I consider it my job to bring the love.
Oh, and of course there are physical goals — build endurance, get stronger, jam more often. But you probably could’ve guessed that part.
Happy skating in 2020~
Poly Wanna Crackya, #337 😉