This past few weeks I have been thinking a bit about what is like when you are good at derby. This would apply a great to deal to an all around talented derby player, either right at the beginning of their derby career as a fresh meat superstar or later on, at some point becoming a great derby player.
Those skaters who started derby and seemed to just immediately know what to do have a particular set of obstacles to come up against, mostly the attitude and treatment of their freshmeat mates. Most often the fresh skaters who are amazing will have come from some other sport, hockey or figure skating, where in their crossover to derby skate skills were not something they needed to learn, just the sport. But, now and again, it's just someone who had never been on skates but thought derby looked cool and turned out to be awesome at it.
I'm sure we've all met one or two skaters like this (and some of you may be them) there is usually at least one in every fresh meat class. I have met a number thus far in my training and skating career and I'm always interested to watch how other skaters react to it, and how the skater herself deals with it. Of course as with all things human it depends on the individual a great deal as to how others deal with them. An arrogant person is an arrogant person, and whether they are awesome or not people are likely to find issue with them. But what about the nice people who are awesome, do we like them?
I haven't done any clinical studies of course but in derby I have to say generally we do like them, from my anecdotal experience, but many are still jealous, there is no getting away from this factor when you are talented at something. There will always be people trying to put you down, or belittle your talents because they don't have them and they want to find reasons to somehow invalidate them so that they can, in turn, validate their own lack of skill or effort.
It is not easy being the person who everyone thinks is amazing when you internally are still nervous about things and feel like you suck, which is most often what really superstar fresh meat people think about themselves. Because, as we all know, it is not difficult to look around and see skaters who are so much better then you, to humble your opinion of your own skills. This puts a lot of pressure on the superstars to be awesome. This means that when they are not awesome, when they are more sort of just regular, it's a big failure. That's tough and can often be magnified by their own self-judgement which is generally fairly harsh.
And, this may seem counter intuitive, but it can be very hard to hear people telling you how awesome you are all the time. We all enjoy being told we are good, but when we hear it all the time it loses meaning and what happens is we start not to believe any of it. This is a common issue with kids who are highly talented at something, the input becomes meaningless to them because even when you do something that you know is not very good (for you) someone will fawn over you for it. Sadly this sort of behaviour over time erodes your belief in the compliments and eventually invalidates all the compliments you receive as you realize they are not meaningful (or they don't seem to be as people who are giving them out are not necessarily very good judges of the skill).
The reason the superstars are awesome is always twofold, it's through hard work or luck their bodies have come fairly well balanced and muscled enough to learn how to skate well quickly but it's also always because they try hard. So, they are the kind of person who applies themselves to the task, in this case, learning derby. They are always working on a skill, you'll see them on the sidelines one foot weaving or practicing their transitions to make them faster or getting better at tomahawks. They push themselves, they want to be good. They are not the girls who come to practice and have to be pushed into the drills, when the whistle blows they are the first ones there, ready to try out a new skill or get even better at an old one.
It's Good to Try Hard. Isn't it?
We are not in high school anymore (right?) and hopefully are not trying to underrepresent our talents so as to fit in or be "cool" (which sadly in high school for many means being an underachiever) or...are we?
This is a question I am often thinking of when I coach and have just explained a drill and am waiting for the skaters to take their place on the track to now run the drill. It is SO often that I have to more then twice call for skaters to set up for the drill, but there are ALWAYS those few girls who are going to jump and get on the track anytime they can, as soon as they can, to do a drill or run a scrimmage. (I do!) Nearly always those girls who are jumping on the track as fast as they can, are the girls who are the already better players or those who are getting to be good very quickly. So, why are the other girls NOT doing that?
It's not hard to see how it works, you try hard, you get results. Of course, that is not to say that there aren't skaters who are trying hard and not seeing the results as quickly, that's the part about how everyone is different. If you came to derby already athletic of course you are going to learn the skate skills faster, you will be able to apply your athleticism to the new application and teach your already knowledgeable muscles to do some new things. This is why we should NOT be comparing our journey to others, we all have our own hurdles to overcome, some far more then others. So, if you were not an awesome figure skater before derby, it may take you more time then the girl who is to learn to do beautiful transitions and jumps. It doesn't mean you won't get it, but she'll get it first, (as she should!!) coming with an applicable skill set, so you couldn't compare yourself to her, it would be apples to oranges.
So, when you are trying to be good you want every opportunity to practice and play. So, now you feel like, am I shithead because I am always jumping on the track? Shouldn't those other girls do this drill? Why are they not getting on the track? I'm gonna go if no one else is, I want to get better.
And what are those other skaters thinking, while they do not move? Likely things like; I don't really know if I get how to do this, I'm worried I will suck at this, I totally don't know how to do this, I'm not very good at this, I wonder if I'm understanding this correctly I'd like to see it to understand completely. etc. Pretty different thought patterns. So, to answer my question above, generally the other girls are NOT getting on the track right away basically because they feel inadequate or unsure in some way.
Part of being a good player, and good teammate/leaguemate is being very supportive. This applies to any skater. It is especially important for players who are good. Your talent (though it is due to hard work of course!!) puts you in a position of power, whether you want it or not. When you are good you will also have the spotlight foisted upon you. This is fine for many skaters who enjoy the warmth of that glow, but MANY skaters are very uncomfortable with the attention it brings and find this part very difficult. These are things that are just part of the hand you've been dealt. It is important that you actively help push up the other skaters, if you do not you will be seen as thinking you are better then everyone else. This means if you are shy or quiet this is an obstacle you will have to deal with; either push your limits to be more social or have some skaters think you think you're better then everyone else.
But, it IS good to try hard. I want to be awesome. I try hard. I get on the track as soon as I can whenever I can. I work out six days a week to grow muscles I don't have yet so I can do skills I can't do yet. I watch the skaters around me who are better then me (and I've got some great skaters around me) and I try to learn what I can from them. I watch what they do, and I try and do it. I try hard not to compare myself to them but to my own previous accomplishments, to remember just how far I have come. I have so much further to go, and I will never stop thinking that, because that's how I will get better. I did not start out fantastic, but it's my goal.
So, take away from today's lesson:
1. Stop worrying about whether you will suck and GET ON THE TRACK!!! We all suck at stuff at one time or another, who cares, you will only get better by doing. Just do it.
2. If you are good, make sure to be supportive to your league mates and teammates.
3. Never stop trying to be better.
4. DO NOT compare yourself to anyone else, particularly not the superstars (why hurt yourself in this way???). Compare yourself to YOU.
5. Definitely try to outdo yourself!!! Push yourself to be better. Track your improvements so that you can be proud when you have achieved them and know when to set new goals.
Remember, you are amazing. For realz.