Friday, October 10, 2014

Game Face

This season I have been thinking a lot about my Game Face.

First of all, what do I mean when I say Game Face? I use this term to mean the persona, that is the attitude as well as physical representation, of your skating person, what you are presenting to your fellow skaters. In derby we get to take on names and can even wear costumes of sorts or paint our faces, but what about our character? Who are you? How do you act? Is it just the same 'you' as every day? Or do you have a sports demeanour, all competition all the time, or are you self-effacing and giggly because of nerves, or perhaps you are tough as nails and serious till the last whistle.

So, let us all now take a moment to look in the mirror and assess our current Game Face. It's always best to know where you are starting from and get to know who you are when you are not thinking about it, then you can decide to change it or embrace it. Do you put on a new personality with purpose or do you just sort of get on the track and do what you do? Some questions to ask yourself:

~Have I ever even thought about this before?
 If not, likely you have no game face, you are who you are in practice or on the track. That could work out just fine for you, as long as you're ok with it. If you have thought about a Game Face, or what you're portraying on the track, then it is more possible that there are certain attitudes you are actually trying to put across, when you remember or think of it, or perhaps you already have a solid character that you put on with your skates every time.

~Are there things I do on the track (reactions I have, actions I take) that I don't like and would like to change?
These could be things like yelling out of frustration at the refs or carrying anger from calls, not communicating enough to your teammates, too friendly, not friendly enough, focus, quick tempered, too serious, not serious enough, more competitive, too competitive, slow reactions etc. It is good to think of these things very specifically, who do you NOT want to be on the track?

~What do you think are your character strengths that you like and want to make sure are always there being shown on the track?
These could be your communication skills, or you you like how tough you are, or you like how nice you are, etc. Each person is different and has different ideals of what is the perfect way to be on the track. Think about what your ideals are. When you are watching derby which girls do you notice for their attitudes on the track, and what are those attitudes? Looking to others for our ideals is an easy place to start when we are not sure what it is we are looking to be. Work to think of specific attributes, who do you want to be on the track?

My answers go something like this:
Yes, I've thought about this numerous times, though not always sure what it is I think is best to be on the track (I change my mind) and then I often forget to think about it on game days.
Yes, there are things on the track I would like to change. I am so good at being calm and rational in life and work and not holding on to anger but on the track I can be quick tempered and I know it can ruin games; holding on to aggravation from perceived bad calls etc. I want to change this. I'd like to be more even keeled ALL the time.
I can be a good a good communicator  but sometimes in games I forget, I need to make sure to always bring that to the track. I think that I also have to come to terms with the fact that I'm an intimidator. I don't really plan on being one, but I have learned from others that I am perceived like that. I think that I have to embrace that more, it's clearly just a part of who I am.

Now that I know more clearly the things I need to do, I can go about starting to make these things happen on the track. Like all good skills the first place these things need to happen is in practice. Any skill or habit just requires some repetition and eventually we create new paths in our brain and the actions turn into something we don't even have to think about. First make a list (a very succinct one) of the traits/actions you want to add to your repertoire. My list:
- calm
- each jam new jam
- OK Refs (my reminder to just always say OK and skate away when called on a penalty. I have started now at practice, no matter who calls me on what, to just look at them, say OK, and skate away. Because in the game it also doesn't matter if the call is "right" or "wrong" I have to take my penalty. Period. Getting used to being good about taking "bad" calls is the BEST way to be good at taking ALL calls.)
- Talk always
- you are scary

The same way we do three wall drills forever (you can always get better) to teach our muscles to know what to do in EVERY scenario possible, we can do 'calmness' drills or 'communication' drills to achieve the same goals. These are drills that you can run, for yourself (or with the aid of a coach), in practice. Of course you do not have to attack all of your items at once, you can pick a specific point and work on that at one time for some attributes and others, like taking penalties well, you can try to always do at every practice during all drills.

During scrimmage parts of your practice try to "put on your game face" be an EXTREME version of the things you want to be. If you want to communicate more talk CONSTANTLY during your practice drills, if you want to be tougher practice your stern face even when others may be giggling, if you talk back to Refs practice saying NOTHING AT ALL. Those are the biggest wins, when it's hard to do, and you do it anyway. Each of those times, when you hold your temper, or communicate consistently, or remain calm in the face of frustrating calls, you are building habits. The more you drill the wanted traits, the more likely they will become a part of your regular game face, as they will become an intrinsic part of who you are on the track.

The next part to bringing your Game Face to the game is having a proper and always the same Game Day Routine. If you already have this (which you should!) add "putting on your Game Face" to it. Think about when it is on game day that you are going to take the moment to go through what you are and what you are presenting. Is it going to be while your are sitting in the locker room before the game? Are you going to need to take a moment by yourself just at the side of the track before the first whistle? Or, is it something that you put on in the morning of Game Day? All of these are fine options and obviously as with all things, it depends on the individual. The important part is thinking about it, and PLANNING it, specifically, before Game Day, so that it becomes a part of your Game Day Routine and something that, eventually, you don't even have to think about.

When do you put on your Game Face? What does it look like? I would love to hear in the comments to help everyone see what other skaters are thinking about.

Can't wait to see your Game Faces on the track!

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