Thursday, January 23, 2014

Captain My Captain

What's it all about, this Captain thing?

When you begin your derby career choosing the Captain is not something you feel very sure about. You're still learning the game, you probably don't really know all the girls on your team yet and may not yet know the role of the Captain. It may seem like a popularity contest. For your first Captain vote you are likely to choose someone who you already actually know, and is nice, and has been playing longer then you.

As you continue your derby career you learn lots about game play and skills, and you learn about your team and league, and the duties which need to be fulfilled. You play more games with your team and it becomes apparent that the Captain actually does things. It's likely your Captain is the one who tells you whether you have been rostered for a game and what lines you are on. It's also hard to miss that during a game they and the Assistant Captain are the only ones who can call time outs or official reviews. They have a Captains meeting before the game. Your Captain will be the one leading your game warm up, trying to make you all look awesome and scary, as well as testing out the floor (with stops, lateral movements, transitions and quicks starts) so you know what you'll be dealing with as you skate the game. Your Captain is also likely to give a talk before the game, a sort of team spirit rah-rah-rah, and then a pick me up at the half to mention areas that are going well and what isn't and what to try in the second half. At the end of the game your Captain should give a game wrap up talk; super positive no matter win or lose, we did our best, feel good about yourself. There is time at the next practice and through team chats online to discuss areas that need work.

What sort of responsibilities your Captain has outside of the game depends a little bit on your league. Some Captains plan and lead practices, some work with a coach to do this or even have a coach that does this entirely. But, even if your Captain doesn't plan the practices she should be extra aware of what is going on during the games, how the games are being played, where the problems in the game are, who works well together, who is not working well together, what strategies are working well or not, areas the team is lacking and areas the team is excelling. She should also be paying attention to how her teammates react to practices and continue to try and build them to better fulfill the needs of her skaters (or pass this info on to the one who does). And, wether or not your Captain runs/plans practices there are things outside of the game which will fall in her lap. These are the things that are much more nebulous then having the duty of calling timeouts at a game, non-game duties are all about making sure the team is happy, cohesive and working hard.

A good Captain is always trying to find ways to make sure her team is motivated, and trying to push them higher. This means being critical, positive and fair; helping them to see where they need work and making sure to notice where they are doing well, applauding their effort and improvements. This also means that a good Captain is always doing their best to be the best example of a good player; attending practices, being a positive teammate, taking criticism well and always giving one hundred percent effort. No one said it was easy to be a good Captain.

A good Captain is paying attention and notices when there is unrest in her team and nips it in the bud before it becomes a problem. It is at times difficult to see problems, as skaters are trying to put their best foot forward in front of you and not complain or whine (if you're doing your job), but if you keep communication open and make sure to listen when skaters talk to you, problems become apparent. A good Captain pays attention to each team member as an individual, so she knows things like who gets nervous before the game and could use a hug, and who needs attention after the game to not beat themselves up over small errors.

So, if this is what a Captain is, what person would best fulfil this role? Well, first of all, no one will fulfill this role perfectly all the time. We are all but human and there is a lot of stuff on that list and I'm sure I will think of more things that I missed. But, when looking for someone to be the best Captain that they can be, there are a few personality traits that make sense. Your Captain is likely going to be a born leader. This is not to say that it would be impossible for a quieter, less leader-y type of person to do this job (and do it well), as with all things there is never only one way to do a job well, but generally speaking someone who is comfortable speaking in front of groups, and taking a leadership role is better suited to the Captain role. In derby, these type of alpha women are not hard to find, and it is usually those women who are nominated in the first place.

Another personality trait that lends itself very well to the Captain position is someone who is very good at remaining calm in chaotic situations. As we all know games can get our blood boiling, with bad calls (or calls we feel are bad) or difficult game play or frustrating surfaces (I hate you when I'm blocking sport court! Love you when I'm jamming). It is great to have someone on the bench who is not too emotional and can be the calming wave when emotions are running high. It is also fortuitous to have a Captain who is VERY positive. This does not mean a non-critical Captain, but one who is simply an all around positive person. There is nothing better then someone who can see the best in every situation for helping a team stay bright and looking to the best of any difficult game or practice situation.

One of the most important things for a Captain to be is team oriented. That is, someone who really, truly is making decisions based on what she feels is best for the team. That means with rostering, making lines, deciding on strategies and figuring out practices. Things don't always work out the way we mean them to, and every decision a Captain makes is not going to be the right one, but if it is obvious to the team that those decisions are made FOR the team, with the TEAM's best in mind, that's a good Captain.

I have seen some great examples of good and bad Captains. The worst Captain I have personally seen was one who, in practices, was very laid back, didn't really plan very much (if anything) made out like it was no big deal if the team won or lost and didn't herself seem to be trying in the practices (in fact sometimes wouldn't even skate would just come and hang out). Then, come game time, she brought out the big guns. Yelling in the locker room at the team things like "you should know this!" and making the team feel like a big bunch of losers for not  knowing the plays or getting confused about game play and for not winning. So, she had created a situation and then was angry at her team for what she had created. Definitely not the kind of Captain you want.

I have also seen a number of Captains who have great points and some not so great points; too critical, not critical enough, not enough planning of practices, not enough positive feedback, not organized or not involved enough in the team (not taking the job seriously). But, none of us are perfect and it's always a balance between the "what's good" and "what's not" about whomever your Captain is. So, go ahead and vote for your Captains, but do think about what you need and what your team needs before you vote. As my good friend Keri Daway said, "It is not a personality contest and treating it as such belittles the job". It is an honour and should be treated as such, not only by the person who is in the role but also by those doing the voting.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Coach Daemon: Some Negatives of the Competitive Nature

One of the things I have to deal with all of the time as a Coach, with both juniors and adults, is "the competitive nature". The Competitive Nature is one which would really prefer to just be the best, all the time (as with all traits there is a spectrum); to skate the fastest, hit the hardest, juke the best, get the most points, take down the most girls etc.  Being competitive is not a bad thing, on it's face, and it is definitely a necessary thing in becoming the best in any endeavour. Even if you are only trying to outdo yourself, you must always be fighting to be better. There are many times I will talk about good ways to be competitive, and how important that is, but today it's about a couple of the cons.

One of the negative aspects can be that the competitive person develops a lack of empathy and/or lack of sympathy with those not at their level. These are the people who act like everyone could be as good as them, if they just tried a little. Those who pretend we are all on the same, level, playing field, just deciding where we get by our effort. We all know (deep down inside) that this is so incredibly not the case.

How could it be? Do we all have the same genes? Environment? Input?
In my juniors I have girls who are; very athletic and have come from other sports (often hockey or rugby), never played a sport until derby, athletic families, families who do sports together, families who don't do sports together, sedentary families, smart families, dumb families, supportive families, unsupportive families (these ones always hurt me to see), girls who had cancer and therapy and lost all of their muscle mass before they were 15, and girls who have led lucky healthy lives. Girls who could stand up from a knee from the beginning, and girls who couldn't. Lot's of differences. Lot's of choices thrust upon, not chosen. That's life. Different for everyone. We all only can do the best with what we have, and each new situation means a new time to make a better choice then the last time. There is no point in looking for sympathy for the hand you've been dealt (there will always be someone far worse off doing far better to humble you) better to just focus on your goals, grin through the pain knowing you're creating a future you want.

In the adult league I have seen more of that first type of negative of the competitive nature, those being judgemental based on their lack of empathy and being critical in a cruel way. In juniors it often manifests in a different and, I find, more difficult way to deal with, in that juniors who are ultra competitive often become emotional and upset when they are not the best and look for outward reasons for their lack of being at the top. She doesn't like, she was just being mean, she's out to get me, my blockers didn't help me enough, my strategy made more sense. Well, truthfully, I've seen this in the adult league as well but generally you just ignore it (or make minor comments making it clear that it was clean) and it goes away, which is a very different response then is required with youth.

When we look outward for fault it means we are unable or having difficulty finding fault within ourselves. That's an unfortunate way to be. Because we are so full of fault. There will be so many times in our lives where we will have to realize how we screwed something up, and learn from it, and move on. So. Many. Times. I'm only 38 and I don't think I'm a total idiot and I have lost count of how many times I have screwed up. There will be more. I try and learn. I try to improve. I want these girls to know it's ok not to be the best all the time. No one is. And when they are, it is fleeting. That doesn't mean it's not something great to strive for. Being the best, is, well, it's the best. If we can all have that feeling once or twice in our lives, we are lucky, a moment where we know, for real, deep down, that we are the best in that moment, at that thing.

But we still have to be ok with not being perfect, not all the time, at all the things. No one is. We can't allow our competitive nature overshadow a peaceful existence. The peace of knowing you won't be the best at all the things, all the time, and… that's ok. So much better to work to be the best that YOU can be. Better then YOUR best. Pushing to be the most amazing YOU that you are capable of being. That's the most you can ask of yourself. Be the best you.

Hit hard, every time.*

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year, New Blog

Well it's been a year and a half since I have even updated or added to this blog and many things have changed in that time. I must say that reading the last entry I made (in May of 2012!) was very nostalgic and also a nice reminder of how far I have come. It's easy to get caught up in the all the things you can't do, so having a view of the things you no longer suck at (or perhaps suck at less) is great.

So, let us take a little inventory of how things stand now as compared to that last entry. I had just played my first ever game with the Misfit Militia, having just made it into advanced practices and therefore getting rostered on the A team for the first time. I did continue to play with the A team for the rest of that season, getting lots of great experience and learning a lot (I particularly got a lot out of my first tournament (RDAC) that season). I became very involved with running the league, and coaching and training. I began a Grievance Committee and headed it for the league (and still do). I got nominated for League Pres and when it was a draw gave it up to the other choice (he was a good bloke). I still remained very involved on the board and in the runnings of the league.

This season began with my team, the league's A team, leaving the league, in a great time of upheaval for my then teammates and my league mates. I had to make some very, very difficult decisions which still haunt me. The decision about whether to stay or go was based on money (the new team became it's own league and would of course require league fees) and my Junior League's affiliation with the league I started with and my derby needs etc. etc. In the end I decided to stay with my first league (now down an A team) and say goodbye to my Misfits. It made me very sad and is still a sore point for me. I miss playing with those girls.

In the new world of my league (RDD) we needed an A Team and I became involved with that endeavour with others in the league. My juniors have been running along just fine this whole time, we didn't get any games in our first season 2012, but we had two games last season and a number of scrimmages and hope to have even more in the season ahead. I am VERY thankful to have awesome people helping me out as Coaches (Flyin' O'Brien, Keri Daway and Pink Slamminade) and administrative. My derby wife (oh yeah, I didn't used to have one of those either…) Go-Dive-A, is the second in command and she keeps everything organized and makes sure I'm doing what should be done. She also plays with my on the new A Team, the Striking Vikings, which I also Captain. So, it's been quite a trip.

Thinking now that it's been only one and a half years since I played my first game I actually feel a lot better about how I'm doing. I'm still slower then some to get certain skills, but, I remember it being a dream to get 25 laps in 5 minutes and now I'm shooting for 31. It's good to be reminded that hard work does pay off. I read lots about derby to learn to be better and smarter at it, and try hard to be a good coach, which is something I really enjoy doing.

In my fitness world much has changed. I used to try and get to the gym at least twice a week, with derby that would be four workouts per week (it's what I would shoot for) now I am six days a week, and often go the gym even when I have derby. I dream of being very strong and fast. I watch the super fit girl at the gym do pull ups. I want to be able to do pull ups. I have noticed that the super-fit-gym girl has no body fat either. Hahahaha…. I've still got a ways to go, but it's good to have goals.

Well that's it for up dates for now I think. I will be doing more entries about stuff rather then me, if you get my drift, stick around if you're interested. ;)