Are You Blocking for the Wrong Team?

Lemony Kickit and Kandy Kakes, Bronx Gridlock 2007. Photo by Asa Frye.

Lemony Kickit and Kandy Kakes, Bronx Gridlock 2007. Photo by Asa Frye.

Are you blocking for the wrong team? If you’re beating yourself up every time you make a mistake on the track, then basically: yes, you are. And taking yourself out of the game–knocking yourself down mentally and emotionally for not doing everything right–isn’t going to help your jammer or the rest of your team.

How do you respond when things don’t go the way you want, expect, or hope?

It’s important to be able to keep yourself in check mentally during a scrimmage or bout. It’s okay to have “oh shit!” moments, or to falter and feel down on yourself when you feel like you’ve screwed up on the track. It’s quite normal, in fact–as long as you don’t spend the rest of practice/the bout/the night obsessing over that one moment.

And if you do? You’re in good company. You’re not the only one who’s ever done this!

Here’s the thing: once you recognize it as a thing that you do, you’ve got the power to change it. Don’t let your mental game stop you from getting out there and doing your best. Your best isn’t going to be Scald Eagle’s best, or Bonnie Thunders’ best, or Smarty Pants’ best, and that’s PERFECT. You’re an amazing and perfectly imperfect human and skater who’s kicking ass at being YOU.

Need some ideas for how to make the shift in your mental game? Here are six!

  1. Remember that one moment (or two, or five) doesn’t make up the entirety of who you are as a skater or human being. You’re so much more than that time you let the jammer get past you, or the time you didn’t make your 27/5, or the fact that your hockey stops need work. Think of one thing (or two, or five) right now that you’ve improved or done well at practice (or in life)!
  2. Remind yourself why you started doing this thing–derby, yoga, whatever–in the first place! Sometimes you’ve got to keep coming back to those little things that you love (for me, it’s the feeling of skating fast and of friends) to get your head back into it.
  3. Check your self-talk. You don’t suck! You made a mistake. It happens. You aren’t a failure, or terrible at derby or yoga! You’re learning. There is always going to be much more to learn, and you’re doing it. Notice when thoughts like that come up, and see if you can revise them.
  4. Enlist the support of someone you trust. I recently asked some close friends to slap me from their respective corners of the globe if they here me utter the words, “I’m a failure.” It’s resulted in a number of ridiculous GIFs being sent to me of scenes from tv shows with epic slaps.

    via GIPHY
    What you need from someone for support might be different; figure out what it is and ask someone you trust. (And if you need extra encouraging messages from me, email me, and I am seriously happy to send them to you. I think you’re fucking awesome, and I think you’ve got this.)
  5. Build your focus so that you don’t get so distracted by the little things. Flat Mat Mental Game is here for you with meditation mp3s and the Meditation for People Who (Think They) Hate Meditating e-book–in other words, lots of ideas for you to start incorporating more mindfulness and a stronger mental game on and off the track.
  6. When all else fails, take a little time after the moment to wallow. Set a timer, eat ice cream, cry, scream, punch a pillow or a heavy bag–and when the timer is up, have a dance party.

You get to choose how you respond. Choose to feel like you can move forward and keep working and striving. Because you? You’ve got this.

What’s one way you’re going to try to change your patterns?

You Need to Up Your Mental Game

You want to get on the track and skate hard. You want to swing those kettlebells or lift weights. You want to work up a serious sweat. I know. I get it. I’ve been there.

Here’s the thing: you need to up your mental game, too.

27 in 5? Part physical, part mental.

Stopping that jammer so they don’t make the apex jump? Part physical, part mental.

Clearing the pack first and getting lead jammer? Part physical, part mental.

That doesn’t mean that you should take the hour that you were going to spend at the gym and instead sit in a dark room and clear your mind of all thoughts. Hell no.

It does mean that you need to spend a little time getting focused and calming your breath, also known as meditating.

How can meditation help your game?

  • It hones your focus. When you first start playing derby, it is overwhelming–and depending on how your day’s gone, it can feel like madness even when you’ve been skating for years. Especially if there’s a loud crowd in the background. If you’ve got a meditation practice, you’ll be able to better clear your mind and keep your head in the game so that you can kick more ass.
  • It slows your heart rate. When your heart rate gets over 175 bpm, your body kicks into survival mode. Complex motor skills? They start to disappear over 145 bpm. One way to slow your heart rate and keep that in check? Deep breaths. Hey, meditation!
  • It gets you in the zone. You want to find that state of being in flow: that combo of feeling confident, calm, and focused. If you’ve got a regular meditation practice, you’ll be better at keeping distractions out, as well as knowing that you’re ready to rock it.
  • It helps you feel better. There have been a lot of studies showing that meditation can help with stress and anxiety. That’s not to say it’ll fix everything, but there are proven benefits.

Ready to Get Started?

All you need is 1 – 5 minutes. Seriously. Start small!

  1. Get comfortable. Sit cross-legged on the floor. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lie on your back. Sit with your back against a wall. Find a way to be that feels like you can stay there for a few minutes–and if it turns out you need to shift around, don’t be afraid to do a little of that.
  2. Set a timer for 1 – 5 minutes. There are meditation timer apps (I use Insight Timer.), or you can set a timer on your phone, set an alarm, or even use the timer on your microwave. Set something, though, so you don’t need to keep looking at the clock.
  3. Turn away from your timer. Place your phone screen down or face away from your clock.
  4. Breathe. Inhale, one. Exhale, two. Inhale, three. Exhale, four. Count up to 50 in that way. If you make it to 50, start over at 1 again. If you don’t make it to 50 because your mind wandered off, no worries! Start over at 1 again.

That’s it: you’ve meditated!

Try this: before practice, before a bout, first thing when you wake up in the morning, before bed, when you’re sitting and waiting at the doctor’s office, when you’re on the bench after a jam (use the whistles as your timer), when you’re waiting for your coffee to be ready, after a frustrating meeting at work, before your skills assessment, before you need to have a hard conversation with a friend or teammate, when you have a few minutes before you need to leave the house…you get the idea.

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If the idea of rest days makes you twitchy–or if you’re recovering from an injury and are anxious to get moving again–you can use those opportunities to work on your focus and mental game. Check out Flat Mat Mental Game for some ways to get started!

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